Jesus Intercedes

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).

God cares about your worries and struggles more than we think. Jesus can relate to our weaknesses and has been tempted in every way that we experience, and because He can relate, He sits next to his father daily making intercession for us. Imagine that, Jesus is praying for us, that we remain strong and overcome our struggles.

In Luke 22:31, he cautioned Peter that the devil was after the disciples to sift them as wheat, but that he had prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. Jesus asked Peter to strengthen his brothers once he was restored.

Satan’s lie is that God does not care, that he does not see or understand our need, but this is far from the truth. He will not cause us to be tempted more than we can bear and he has attached to every trial and temptation a way of escape.

Look for that escape because there is a way even when you don’t see it. God is able, He loves you, He cares for you and we will overcome when we keep trusting and believing. Often we pray to overcome challenges, to escape trials and difficulties and this can cause us to feel far away from God. Nothing can separate us from a God who is acquainted with our sorrow and it is when we are being tested when God looks after us the most. In fact, Jesus is constantly calling our names to the father.

Stay in the word of God and in his presence, knowing that he is nearest to you when you feel your heart is breaking. And those times when you are so deeply burdened with anguish, that you do not know what to pray, God understands tears and Jesus is constantly calling your name to the father.
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

A.P.-Y.

A Fortified City

“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land” (Jeremiah 1:18).

The word fortified relates to being provided with defensive works, as protection against attack. Jeremiah’s call came at a time when he was young, insecure and worried about his ability to influence his people. God encouraged Jeremiah of the strength and authority that he had invested in him.

God spoke to Jeremiah concerning what he was called to do. God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and gave him the power to proclaim his word to the people. “See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10).

Jeremiah’s battle was not against flesh and blood, but against systems and structures which stood against the laws of God. The Israelites had transgressed against God and so they would be taken into captivity. God anointed prophets who were his messengers to the people, to warn of impending danger and judgment. The prophets were often held in high esteem, because of their relationship with God. At other times they were hated, because they had to relay messages of judgement, which the people didn’t always want to hear.

Jeremiah was one of those prophets, who faced much prosecution from those in authority and also false prophets. These prophets prophesied lies to the people and were angry, when Jeremiah’s message contradicted theirs. At the start of his ministry, God warned and encouraged Jeremiah about what he would experience. “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).

God needed Jeremiah to be assured, that the word which he was sending him to proclaim, would not cause him to be a favourite of Kings, officials and even Priests. God wanted Jeremiah to know that he would protect him against their attacks. The attacks were sure to come, but would not prevail because God would deliver.

A.P.-Y.

How the Gospel Spread to Africa

“And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27).

At the time after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples were zealous for God and travelled the region, spreading the gospel to different parts of the world. Phillip preached in the regions of Samaria and one day an angel instructed him to travel to the south towards a road that goes down from Jerusalem towards Gaza (Acts 8:26).

When Phillip got there he saw the Ethiopian eunuch, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, returning in his chariot while reading the writings of the Prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit prompted Phillip to join the eunuch and on approaching he heard him reading. Phillip asked if he understood what he was reading. Phillip proceeds to explain to the eunuch that Isaiah prophesied about Jesus Christ. Of his birth, ministry, crucifixion and his ascension into heaven (Acts 8:27-35).

The eunuch is so excited about hearing the good news. “And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptised”(Acts 8:36)? The eunuch was baptised and went on his way rejoicing, having received the good news of Jesus Christ.

The eunuch’s position within Ethiopia was strategic, given his influence and ability to spread the gospel within the northern regions of Africa. At that time in the gospels, we saw the disciples being sent to strategic people, with influence within their own societies, who could proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people have the erroneous perception that Christianity originated in Rome or in Europe. The paintings of Jesus by Michelangelo and other European artists did not help matters. For many years, drawings, paintings and television shows have depicted Jesus as European.

This may not seem like a big deal for some people, however the issues of identity and visible representations of different cultures is a historical issue. Many children have grown up with identity crisis as depictions of beauty have wrongly emphasised European features and standards. Persons who fall outside of these ideals, have felt inadequate or pressured into meeting these standards. Physical appearance is one dimension of this argument. The other important aspect is the spiritual significance and the need that people have, to be able to identify with a spiritual figure.

God created us in his own image and he made us all equal in his sight. Man made inventions and systems have created race, class and other divisions. This has negatively associated some people with superiority, while ascribing an inferior status to other people. These systems were created by the devil himself and need to be dismantled through the blood of Jesus Christ. My point is to highlight God’s love for all people from different ethnicities, cultures, languages and countries. God was so concerned for his people, that he allowed the apostles to share the gospel with people, who could through their influence, spread the gospel to the world. Through Phillips meeting with the eunuch, the gospel spread to Africa.

A.P.-Y.

Not Ashamed

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’s coming and gave ample descriptions, of the life that he would live. He grew up like a young plant, like a root out of a dry ground, with no form or majesty that we should look at him, or any beauty that we should esteem him. He was despised, rejected, sorrowful, grief stricken and people hid their faces from him. Jesus was pierced and crushed by our sins, he took on chastisement so that we can have peace and his wounds brought us healing. He was oppressed and afflicted, judged a sinner and cut off from the earth.

He was crucified among the wicked although he committed no sins. “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus was made a public spectacle in front of people, a public display of martyrdom. He was not afraid to die, although he asked God if his cup could pass. His blood was poured out for for the guilty, although he was guiltless.

People hated Jesus although he went about doing good. The devil hates us and anyone who belongs to God. He will use circumstances to create dysfunctions and shame. Many communities historically used shame based forms of parenting styles to raise children. The idea is that the child would change their behaviour, through having negative thoughts and feelings about themselves. The reality is that this concept does not work and what it does, is to create low self-esteem and people with dysfunctional patterns. The alternative to shame based parenting is positive parenting. This is where a parent focuses on the positive attributes and strengths of a child.

My point in explaining this concept is that, many adults are walking around daily with feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy. These emotions were often generated in childhood, from negative parenting styles and have remained into adulthood. The good news is that our God knows what it feels like to be despised and rejected. He took quite a beating leading to his crucifixion. He was mocked, jeered, scorned and disdained. He can relate to our negative emotions and he died to set us free from guilt and shame. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

A.P.-Y.

Against Evil Works

“Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil”(Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Solomon spoke in Ecclesiastes 8, about keeping the King’s command. He said that a man’s wisdom makes his face shine and it changes the hardness of his face. He said to keep the King’s rules because of God’s oath to him. “Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way” (Ecclesiastes 8:5). There is a time and place for everything, although man’s trouble weighs him down. This is because he does not know what to do, as he does not know what lies ahead of him. Solomon later said that those who fear God will do well.He saw the burial of the wicked, who they were praised when they went in and out of the temple.

The conclusion was that the sentence against an evil deed was not always executed speedily. As a result of this, people set their hearts to do evil. Although a sinner did evil a hundred times and continued to live, nevertheless it will be well with those who fear God. “But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God” (Ecclesiastes 8:13). Solomon’s conclusion is that man cannot know or predict the ways of God. He spoke of vanity taking place in the earth which is ‘excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements’ (OxfordLanguages).

As a result of this vanity, wicked people are affected by the righteous and the righteous are affected by the wicked. Solomon’s advice was that we find joy, because there is no way of knowing about all the things of God. David also said, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3). We can see where Solomon got his philosophical nature from and his ability to observe the ways of people. David also observed how the wicked appeared, to have no trouble and seemed to live long lives. As he continued to observe, he soon understood God’s reward for the wicked.

“Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin” (Psalm 73:18). In the end, the wicked are destroyed like grass and cut off from the living. There is indeed a way that seems right to a man, but the end is death (Proverbs 14:12). There are people who are playing church and have lived a double life for many years. Many people are fooled into believing, that they are getting away with their unrepentant and presumptuous sins. God is not mocked, he is a jealous God and many sins are visited upon the children of the wicked, up to the third and forth generation. No sin goes unpunished and either people repent or they will reap the consequences. Presumptuous sins can lead to a lifetime in eternal damnation and can also create consequences for the next generation.

A.P.-Y.

Christlike Compassion

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14).

In Matthew 9, as Jesus advanced his ministry, he healed many people who were sick and restored others to life. He first healed a paralytic man who was brought to him on a bed. The scribes felt that Jesus had blasphemed, because he forgave the man of his sins. Around the same time, Jesus called Matthew who was a Tax Collector, to join his ministry. The Pharisees also criticised Jesus for eating at Matthew’s house. “But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The sickness which Jesus was referring to in this instance, was sin sickness which Matthew was delivered from.

Jesus then followed a man whose daughter was ill, in order to pray for her. On his way there, he was stopped by a woman with an issue of blood, who touched his garment and was healed. While he was delayed, the man’s daughter died. Nevertheless, Jesus went to her house, took her by the hand and commanded her to come back to life. As he went on his journey, two blind men called out to him for help. He touched their eyes and their sight was restored. As he continued on his journey, a man was brought to him who was demon possessed and mute. Jesus cast out the demon and the man spoke.

Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and affliction. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The next thing that Jesus said to his disciples, was that the harvest was ripe, but the labourers were few. He asked them to pray for God to send labourers into the harvest. Jesus was making reference to the harvest of lost souls. On many occasions, when he ministered, his attitude was described as compassionate.

Compassion is having concern for the suffering and misfortune of others. It is also described as suffering with others. The bible teaches us to weep with those who weep, and to bear one another’s burden (Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:2). Our society has become individualistic and people are taught to ‘mind their own business’ and ‘don’t get involved in what doesn’t concern you.’ This was not Jesus’s way of ministry and he was not afraid of getting into other people’s business. The Acts church were together, shared everything and had all things in common (Acts 2:44). Compassion is a requirement for ministry, in order to meet the needs of others.

Your ministry will become powerful and impactful, when you develop love and compassion. You won’t reach people with your ministry if you don’t love them. Most people can see through pretence and can discern if someone really cares about them. Our ministries have to be driven by love and a desire to lead people to Christ, so that they can have everlasting life. Love isn’t easy and we sometimes have to pray to be able to see people through God’s eyes. Some of the people who are the hardest to love, are the people most in need of healing and deliverance.

A.P.-Y.

Always Rejoicing

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he encouraged them to rejoice in the Lord at all times. Is it humanly possible to always be joyful and find a reason to rejoice? What about those times when we are hurting or going through trials and difficulties? Paul went on to say that we do not need to be anxious about anything. His encouragement was to pray about everything with supplication and thanksgiving. Why do we pray about everything with thanksgiving? So that the peace of God, which is not possible to explain with human logic, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).

Peace is our ultimate pursuit which gives us confidence that God is with us. If we have peace with God then we have peace with ourselves and with everyone else. When we have peace then there is no reason why we cannot rejoice and be joyful in God. We can rejoice when we have surrendered our worries and cares to God because we know that he cares for us. For example, if you take your car to the garage, you are no longer worried about the car because you trust that it is in capable hands. You also know that the mechanics are trained to take care of it and to fix the fault with the car. Similarly, if we have approached God in prayer concerning a problem, we can rest assured that our problems are in capable hands and he will fix it for us.

“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands” (Psalms 138:8). If we are being honest, we have to admit that we sometimes place a lot more faith in the things that we can see with our physical eyes, than we do in God. This is why faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of the things which we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). There are some areas of our lives that are easier for us to trust God with than others. Those areas where we lack faith are the areas that we most need to surrender. Oftentimes this relates to areas where we have experienced hurt or a deficit and it makes it harder to trust God.

Let us not miss out on the peace which is available when we fully surrender. Every new day that we live to see, brings a reason to rejoice. Gratitude is a powerful human emotion and a great antidote for stress. It is impossible to remain overwhelmed and burdened by our trials when we sing praises and rejoice in the Lord. “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Psalm 92:4).

A.P.-Y.

Godly Discipline (2)

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

Paul was expounding to the Galatians about christian virtues. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). When we consider self-control, we can get the idea that we have something to do with our ability to be good. There are many choices that are left to our free will and when we decide to discipline ourselves, the result is good fruit.

There are some traits however, that are harder for us to temper and we have to rely on the work of the Holy Spirit to transform us. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). Our part in developing godly discipline is to listen and obey. This is obedience beyond what makes sense to our human reasoning. Often God will ask us to make decisions that go against our nature. His word to the person who is extremely proactive may come in the form of an instruction to be still and to wait for him to move.

Being asked to do what goes against our very nature can feel like a small death to parts of our natural selves. Very often God is saving us from ourselves because we sometimes don’t know our limitations. God will often challenge us in the areas where we need to grow. Left to our own devices, we would wear ourselves out trying to solve most problems on our own. There are things that we are responsible for. After we have done what we were told to do by God, we then have to surrender and wait. Wait for God to do what only he can do.

There is a strength beyond our strength; an understanding beyond what we can see; and wisdom beyond our human comprehension that only comes from God.

“Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

A.P.-Y.

Godly Discipline (1)

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Paul spoke to the Corinthians about his work in ministry. He made reference to the Christian journey being a race which each person runs to win. He made further reference to how athletes discipline their bodies in order to maintain the physical stamina for racing. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

While it is important for us to maintain good physical health through diet and exercising, Paul’s reference relates to our spiritual well-being. As we live for God, we should grow in Christlike maturity and overtime lose the appetite for things that are contrary to the will of God. Similar to babies, Christians who are new to the faith need the word broken down in simple terms for them to understand. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” (1 Peter 2:2).

As we mature in God, there is an expectation that we grow in spiritual strength and develop the stamina for sound doctrine. Those who are mature in God should be in a position to not only read and understand the word, but to teach the word to others. Moreover, the mature have a responsibility to demonstrate behaviour which serves as an example to newborns and those who are unsaved to follow.

Paul also spoke about adjusting to accommodate those around him for the sake of the gospel. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). God will continue to develop character in us and allow us to be tested in order that we will grow. Most parents don’t take pleasure in disciplining their children, but they are wise enough to understand that it is necessary to ensure that their children become valuable members of society.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

A.P.-Y.