What is discipleship anyway?

This is a long post. It is not the typical blog post, but it is me spilling my innermost thoughts on a matter close to my heart. I hope you will read it none the less and that you will allow it to challenge you.

Studying course material on “Exploring Biblical Discipleship”, I have started on a journey of re-determining what discipleship is to me; what the functions of the church are with regards to the topic; where I stand in all of this and what the biblical demands are and what possibilities with regards to enhancing His kingdom are contained therein.

My frame of reference to churches exercising ‘discipleship’ is relatively small, regarding the fact that I have merely been a member of the Lutheran Church, the Pentecostal church movement and the Charismatic church movement, having visited merely one of each throughout my life. However the picture seems somewhat too similar to miss.

If the topic of discipleship even arose it mostly consisted of measures to make people better members, help them understand the doctrines at hand more easily, gain a life filled to a greater deal with freedom God has for us, and propagating conformity to ‘our style’ of church through and by the use of courses, participation in programs, short (often not more an one hour per week, sometimes a day) impact moments that in turn were supposed to transform lives.

If I am honest, I find all these approaches have failed in most of all instances. Looking at my own life, I admit I have often gained knowledge and have achieved becoming a better member, co-worker and participant in the specific denomination I was in. I have learned how to pray, worship, preach, socialize and talk the lingo of the community of that church. I have even acquired disciplines related to that. But I have not necessarily become a better follower of Christ. I have experienced conformity to church rather than to Christ. I have adopted pride for my church, believing I was more holy and godly than before and in that pride hindered myself from becoming more Christ-like.

If I think of discipleship as an apprenticeship however, I notice how momentary events, programs and courses fail to fulfill this task. Watching my mother bake bread, or even helping her mix the dough, will as a standalone event that might happens once in a while, not make me a baker. Following a recipe of Jamie Oliver, to the point, will not allow me to be a cook as good as he is, even if I cook one of his recipes once a week and soon might get the gist of the procedures.

Apprenticeship is just so much more.

I have been involved in and participated in so called discipleship programs, courses or events for the past 18 years (the first nine years on and off, the latter on a continuous basis). I have gained much knowledge, attained some disciplines (some of which were only applicable in a certain type of church) and learned to speak the lingo, be a profitable member to any church and yes, I got to know God more;

It recently dawned on me, that although I have been involved in disciple-making and being discipled the past nine years, my life and walk with God has changed the most when I spent three years teaching at a small private school in Swakopmund. I learned more about the fruit of the spirit in the first year of teaching a grade 5 class, than I have in seven years of being involved in a church. And while spending numerous hours together with my learners in various subject classes, they soon became a thermometer to my walk with Christ by reflecting my attitudes, my moods, my passions, my abilities and disabilities that I unknowingly imparted into them.

If you would ask me today, when I have most likely succeeded in ever making true disciples, it was in those three years, spending my time, my energy, my heart, dedicating and directing my prayers and fasting, my visions and ideas, and investing it into the lives of primary school students.

Why would I say such a thing, when I was taught that true discipleship happens in a church program?

I see the effects, the after-math of my time there. The contact I still have with some of my students; the fact that they confide in me; that their parents contact me when needing advice on their child’s dating; that they ask for prayer – even over a facebook chat and are overjoyed when I take the time to answer some of the difficult questions in life or just listen to them; when they honour me by mentioning me in the best possible contexts without me ever knowing beforehand that that is how they see the impact that I had in their lives and that it pointed them to Jesus, then I am truly humbled, then I stand fearing God, knowing I didn’t pray enough for them, that I have failed giving them my best in so many instances and yet Gods grace was sufficient to allow a divine impartation to their lives through mine.

These facts let me question how we do discipleship. They urge me to reconsider my stand point.

I have read much about discipleship be it in articles, books or the Bible. I have listened to teachings, participated in courses and am even now again participating in a course that seems to revolutionize my view completely. However most of the material, out on the market, seems to propagate a discipleship I have also encountered and described above. Some of the material has challenged me to stop, think and critically review my own take on the matter, which leads me to my current philosophy of discipleship. I say current, because I acknowledge finding myself in a process of conversion and reviewing this topic as one of many on my journey with Christ and becoming more Christ-like. I deem it necessary to remain teachable in all this, but at the same time stand firmly rooted on the revelational truth I have thus far.

I carry an ever expanding dream within me. A dream that shouts ‘discipleship’ at the top of its lungs. A dream that seems impossible to realize by humanly power, yet seems so much more like a possibility to redeem our culture, our humanity and enhance His kingdom.

I dream of a church that is the center of connecting ministries that we wouldn’t even call such in our current churches:

Imagine all teachers that are part of the church come together regularly to pray; over their challenges, for their students, for colleagues, for curriculums, for families, etc. no matter which school they teach at. Imagine their teaching to be fully acknowledged a ministry of the church, even though it might not be a ministry in the church. Imagine that ministry being backed up by intercessors, feedback, and treated as a branch of the church where discipleship happens without the condition of constantly speaking of Christ and people coming to church first. Yet living Christ and allowing through work appropriate transparency to make one’s own faith tangibly visible.

Now imagine doing that with many other professions also. Imagine the impact we could have!

I dream of a church where family becomes an intentional ministry within itself and also to replenish where our community lacks. Imagine, men of all trades in church, rising not only as priests of their own households, but even rising to replenish something where our society is broken, becoming fathers to the fatherless and considering that a full ministry with all it needs.

Imagine young university students, pitching at the netball and rugby matches of school going learners, supporting them, cheering them on, and celebrating their lives through that. Imagine the lasting relationships that would be build and the spiritual impact that could and would happen at the side of such a field, when suddenly teachers, friends, parents and even enemies would notice the impact in that sportsman’s life.

Imagine the church instead of protesting in front of abortion clinics offering a home for the next 12 months to these women (no matter whether they abort or not) to live with families or couples (of course with a certain reasonable and appropriate contract) in the time of finding their feet in life (whether healing emotionally after an abortion, or learning to be a parent). Either way it would be offering a solution, rather than condemning them and leaving them alone in a stigmatized society trying to find their feet and survive.

Imagine a church that connects people to real life experiences like these and many more – for ideas in this respect seem endless. I dream of a church where discipleship is not a word, a course or project or seminar, but where it becomes a way of life. A church where the Sunday sermons and the time of fellowship before and after are merely a mean to rejoice, receive some teaching and instruction, but likewise to make connections that enable true life relationship, apprenticeship, yes discipleship to happen. A church that is church more outside of the Sunday services, than it is now.

Only such a church enables apprenticeship that leads to a transformation to our master, Jesus Christ. We would find ourselves outside of our comfort zones, living closer together than we deem socially the norm, being more transparent than we feel comfortable with and constantly challenged by the reflection in the lives of those around us that reflect the impact we make, and give constant live-feedback on our own discipleship progress through conversion on all levels.

I do not have a plan how to change our lives and church experiences to match such a philosophy of discipleship.

I know that one step I am taking myself, is returning to teaching in the upcoming year. Considering the impact this changed view will have on the kingdom of God right there where I will be, fills my heart with anticipation and fear of God recognizing my own depravity in the light of who I am and who He is.

As I continue to journey, a mere disciple of Christ, helping and facilitating others to become disciples also, I find I have much yet to learn. But I trust, that by His grace, we will be able to redeem ‘discipleship’ for His kingdom in a way, that is worthy of our Lord and God, our master, our King.

Dare to dream bigger, dare to trust God and go, LIVE discipleship with all you are and have!

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Social prejudice causing gender confusion

We all have prejudices – we just seem unable to prevent it. However how we allow them to influence us is a matter of choice.

In our churches, I sometimes find that prejudice causes tremendous harm to the body of Christ.

Allow me to illustrate some of the prejudice I am talking of by giving a few illustrated examples:

  1. If a young man loves to play rugby, soccer or tennis we are 100% fine with that.

If a young man loves to do pantomime, clownery, theater… well that                         is odd, but ok.

However if a young man loves to do ballet, rhythmic dancing or the                           likes, we presume he is homosexual.

  1. If a lady decides to choose to be a hairdresser, teacher or secretary, we seem ok with it.

What if a woman chooses to become a car mechanic for trucks and                              big machinery… and does so with absolute passion?

  1. If teenage boys hold hands to express their friendship and give hugs to one another to express their friendship when greeting one another…
  2. If men love knitting, sowing wedding dresses, become a make-up artist, …
  3. If woman become the president of a huge corporate company full of men in the management department, or if a woman becomes the president…
  4. If a young boy loves playing with dolls for a change …

What would your honest and most inward reaction be? Can you see how some of these touch on prejudice you carry?

While I am sure, we all have prejudice regarding some matters, and while I agree that at large we need to redeem the purpose and meaning and office of true manhood or womanhood, this is not the matter at stake here.

I have met young men in churches, who passionately worship God with rhythmic dance. They are men of God, in love with Jesus and fully steadfast in their gender as a man. However they are stigmatized due to our humanistic societal view of such behavior. They struggle, and if it weren’t for their love for God, they’d probably had left long ago.

But now let us stop and think here for a minute:

Would that not mean that we as a church are somewhat an “exclusive club” where people need to fit into pattern A or B? Do we thus perhaps even promote gender confusion?

What if a young man, were to leave church, find social acceptance in a society outside of church, to just be able to live their passion? And if with that comes the deception of the world, tempting them to enter sin as an unfortunate, yet life-destroying add-on to their passion?

I fear, many do.

I say, in that way we as a church fail all too often. We collect burning coals on our heads, as a consequence of our ignorance and lack of Christ-likeness, driving those seeking to sin.

What if today a lesbian couple were to enter our church, with an earnest longing for God. Would we facilitate an encounter for them, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict of sin? Or would we treat them as lepers and try doing the job of the Holy Spirit ourselves?

We as a church should be different from the world but without the help of God, we will be no different. Changing our reactions to prejudice, facilitating God encounters for everyone, and creating space for people who are different, even if they might be just as broken and imperfect as we are, is something that needs divine enablement!

Let us be the change so longed for by a broken world. Let us love in spite of prejudice, let us embrace difference as what it is: Gods beauty in diversity on display.

And let us stand in unity on a path of conversion and transformation, where incomplete, broken people come to stand side by side to – by the grace of God – achieve advancement of His kingdom!

I am not saying, let us approve of sin, but I am taking a stand, that we should be able to discern when it is our lack of sensitivity and love, that keeps people from God.

Let us seek His face and trust for Him to reveal to us, where we can become more Christ-like in our daily walks, in our churches and communities.

May God bless you abundantly!

Wild, pruned or crippled

I was walking through a spring-time city to work this morning, noticing gardens that clearly have been pruned over many years and bearing the beauty of it all. I also walked past some mostly untouched nature and I remembered some gardens I have seen elsewhere in the world.

However this post is not on gardening, but on human beings.

I have seen beauty in wild nature, in ‘untouched’ nature… just as I have in humans that have a somewhat pure hearted wildness to them. They seem to reflect the beauty of a rough diamond, yet sometimes it becomes abundantly clear that some shaping and friction that will duly follow as a consequence of this wildness will have the power to bring forth in them the stunning beauty hidden within, or destroy them utterly.

Jesus speaks of the wine stock, how it must be pruned regularly to bear worthwhile and good fruit. He likens us to that wine stock; He also makes use of the example of clay to illustrate this point, undergoing a process of moulding and shaping, mostly through people God puts into our lives, to bring out Christ-likeness more.

As every good gardener, He knows, how much to cut away, to make providence for a unique taste and quality of its fruit. As every excellent artist He knows, just how much to chip away of the material, to conform it to the wanted image, yet maintain its uniqueness.

I have found that good leaders possess this quality of a good gardener too. They discover the passionate heart and prune it in a way, that it remains uniquely beautiful, yet most effective and useful to the kingdom of God.

However sometimes having the ability is just not enough to be a good gardener as well.

I have also seen leaders, that prune not to conform to Christ, but to mould people as stepping stones to own glory, to push them into moulds of ‘perfect little Christians’ and crippled they souls while shackling their spirits instead.

With skill comes a power, that when abused causes destruction and has an utter crippling effect to the whole person.

How can you and I avoid crippling, yet allow appropriate pruning in our walks with Christ?

  1. I would say as a Christian (a person that follows Christ that HEARS and OBEYS His voice) you first of all should ask for His guidance when choosing a church.
  2. Once you have chosen a church, and are assured that is where God wants you, submit to your leadership and their pruning. Trusting that GOD is in control throughout, knowing what He is doing.
  3. Hold still while being pruned appropriately, if we withdraw from the artist or gardener unfinished or in a moulding/chipping/pruning process, we are bound to get hurt!
  4. Remain teachable. Yes, stay in conversation with God to make sure you are where you should be, that pruning is happening and that your heart remains teachable.

God is not confused, He is not surprised by who you are, He is not even surprised by your own agenda in matters. Trust Him. Submit to Him. His agenda is to prune you… to Christ-likeness… on a daily basis.

This will at times cause spiritual ‘growing pains’. Allow them, embrace them and take them for what they are. Rejoice over correction; celebrate when sin gets exposed, knowing God does so to set you free of it; and continue to seek His face daily in the most intimate possible to you!

May God bless you!

Another way of using Facebook

I have spent plenty hours in my life on Facebook, and I presume, so have you. At the same time, I am a professing Christian and I desire to share the Gospel of Christ.

In the midst of all the turmoil our world finds itself in, I find it shocking how most facebook posts merely satisfy a sickening hunger for sensationalism. Whether it be posts depicting mutilated animals, videos of atrocities of war, posts with photos of parties gone out of hand with people being hectically drunk and obscene… the list continues and I am sure you have your own few you could add.

The questions I need to ask myself and suggest you ask yourself are:

what feelings get promoted by such sensationalism? Is it a hunger to share the Gospel, to pray, to love, … or is it mostly shock, disgust, anger, frustration, fear, hatred, judgmental opinion and a sense of being better than ‘they’ are, …

what do I want others to witness when they think of me (even on FB)? Is it such sensationalism, judgmental opinion, anger and bitterness towards others that act and think otehrwise… or it is a desire for them to seek a loving God, who forgives, reconciles and calls us to love and pray and be the change this world desires.

what can I do about all this? Is it the right choice to just “fast” FB for a while… or should I rather learn to use it effectively for the building of His kingdom on earth? Or do I decide that God has no say in my usage of facebook?

I decided I need to do something about my usage of facebook so it honours God. I do share truth (but never without the necessary love for all parties involved.), I however also decided I would use facebook to witness. So I came up with an idea that I will share with you today, hoping some of my readers here might catch onto it and will follow in a similar attempt.

I decided to post a testimony a day. (Brutally honest and vulnerable at times.)

Yes, I literally have a post on my wall saying “Testomony Day …” and then I testify in short of one thing that God has done for me today.

Some days it is challenging to find a testimony I deem worthwhile, but there always is one. Why? Because I serve a living God with whom I have relationship… and with that there is always something happening.

Why do I prefer to share a testimony a day than other things that cause sensationalism?

I find sensationalism counterproductive. Let us be honest… seeing enough mutilated animals does not promote our love for animals… it merely promotes our hate for people who act like that.

I decided that sharing a testimony a day, is a way of flooding the facebook with testimonies of people like myself, who are fallible, who are imperfect, who have fault; but who none the less can testify of Gods love and patience, grace and forgiveness and how His provision comes through daily.

My prayer is that at least one of these testimonies will make the one of other facebook friend think about whether they can have a relationship with God too, whether there might be a God after all, and perhaps even admit that Jesus might be exactly what they need in their lives. 

For those that are Christians already I pray the posts are encouraging and exhorting to their lives.

Perhaps you will join me with a similar endeavor of using your facebook to witness. If so, let me know about it… share it in the comment section… .

Let’s BE the change, by being a living testimony even in the virtual world.

God bless you!

Helping Christians in Iraq

Relief Life banner Iraq

Hi,

I am turning to you, praying you will support this effort. The Bible is clear, that as one member of the body suffers, all suffer.

Please visit the website http://www.relieflife.org or their FB page. This organisation does the following:

Relief.Life in partnership with Samaritans Purse, as well as the Anglican Church of Iraq, will be helping the 800 000 persecuted and displaced people of Iraq through assisting with the provision of shelter and supplies. With this combined initiative we are able to respond appropriately and efficiently to the victims of Iraq.  

However we need your help.

Please get involved. Make people aware through your FB status, let your church know and let us support relief life with our finances, prayers and other involvement!

Let us demonstrate how we as Christians stand together as one, in unity, crying out to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ in prayer AND supporting with what we have, to our best abilities!

May God bless you abundantly!

Feedback from yet another mission trip

I have been part of a mission trip to Switzerland and Germany. The following is a summary and intends to encourage you to go on missions and outreaches more.

We departed from Cape Town International Airport and met for the first time as a whole team right there at the airport. Our desire was that God would knit together our hearts so that His love and unity would become evident to all though our lives and as a team. Well God has been faithful to the full extend!

We flew with Emirates Airline via Dubai to Zurich, then took a rental car and continued to Kerns, the area where we were supposed to hold the Europe Shofar Conference. (Shofar is the short form for Shofar Christian Church, which I am a member of.) God moved mightily and we all arrived in a sort of youth hostel in the midst of the European Alps. Surrounded by lush green, huge trees, mountains, meadows, rivers with icy water and cows that carry big bells around their necks.

P1150711

There we met up with Pastor Jaco from Shofar London and his team as well as the people from Switzerland. We were a very multicultural and international group and it was a miracle how God immediately knit our hearts together. I think one could rightfully claim that we instantly loved one another.

P1150697

We spent the whole weekend together, fellowshipped, did some children ministry for their accompanying children and had numerous sessions with the adults where we gave testimony of Gods goodness and the pastors shared messages with all. It was a time of exhortation and encouragement. We also went on a hike along one of those icy rivers:

P1150764 The good news: those rivers are icy cold, BUT there are no snakes, scorpions, huge spiders or thorns.

After a wonderful weekend together, we drove to Stuttgart by bus and then continued by rental car again to Gaildorf, a smallish town in the middle of fields of southern Germany.

When we crossed the border, I felt a supernatural excitement rising inside of me! I was literally running around in the bus from one team member to the next telling them the obvious – that we are in Germany now.

I have known hospitality in Germany for years… but what we encountered there was SO much more than I ever knew existed. We were welcomed with absolutely wonderful foods!

That same evening we met with the leaders for dinner and then for a praise and worship evening. It left us absolutely in awe and filled us with joy to discover how at ease we all worshipped in Spirit and in Truth. There was instant unity through the Holy Spirit and it was a wonderful night of worshiping our Lord and Saviour.

Tuesday we as a team went to a hill that looks upon the town. The initial plan was to pray for Gaildorf. We did – later – but what preceded it was even more special than any one of us had imagined. We as a team, alone, worshipped in an open field; then God would reveal to somebody some area He wanted to bring healing or deliverance to; next whoever felt that was for them lifted their hand and two others would come alongside that person and pray for him/her. It was a morning of many tears… tears that brought healing to us. The prayer for Gaildorf that followed was absolutely amazing and prophetic! How interesting, that God would take us more than 9200km and would allow us to pay so much money in South African Rand to find deliverance and healing for ourselves there on that hill.

That evening we had a repeat of what we had experienced on the hill for the congregation. We worshipped and just like on the hill, God would reveal what He desired to heal, deliver from or bring to fruitition. Many had an encounter with our loving and almighty God.

Wednesday morning half of our team travelled on to the Netherlands, while 6 of us remained with Jan as our leader to continue ministry.

Wednesday we went out with a number of congregants in smaller groups to do street evangelism. The group I was with consisted of two men, a teenage boy and myself. We went to a hostel for asylum seekers and experienced how we were invited into the home of a Muslim to pray for his sick wife and were able to establish relationships.

Wednesday night we again had a service. I was the translator of our team since we had gotten to Germany as almost no one spoke German in the team. That night my speech-centre froze to the laughter of a whole congregation as I started translating from German to German. i.e. I had translated from English or Afrikaans to German and back all the time. Now I was hearing German, in my mind the words got translated to English and when I opened my mouth out came only German. The harder I tried to get it right, the worse it got. So I took a short break after which all was fine again.

Thursday was our day off as a team. We visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber for a touristy day off. That evening we were invited to the German equivalent of a braai/barbeque.

P1150803 P1150808 P1150811  Pictures taken during our trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

I must admit… we all probably gained weight. The food was absolutely stunningly over the top amazingly “lekker”! Our hosts were the most loving and precious people and such a blessing to us!

Friday we had our last day in Gaildorf. We started by anointing the farm and the hosts where I had stayed with the other single ladies of our team! It was such a precious moment of consecration and mutual trust. God really touched their lives as a family!!!

Friday night we started the service at 19h30. At 23h30 the whole congregation was still present, and no one was prepared to leave … the Holy Spirit was ministering to us all. I have seldom experienced his presence as powerfully!

We left Saturday morning for Frankfurt, where I was privileged to meet my brother Ruben for a cup of coffee (he’s a soldier in the German army and I hadn’t seen him in more than a year!)

Our flight back was pleasant though long and our goodbyes to one another sincere.

What I take home is the sense of deep gratitude to have been privileged to be part of this mission trip, to serve, to laugh, to cry and to minister among brethren in a foreign country that is at the same time the country of my birth.

I can only encourage you to go, the next time an opportunity like this one comes around.

Please feel free to visit youtube and view our two short videos of all our action. Type in “Shofar Missions Outreach Switzerland June 2014” and “Shofar Missions Outreach Germany June 2014” .

I trust you will enjoy the videos.

Abundant blessings!

Getting the most out of your daily Bible study.

As promised earlier, here two methods of how to get the most out of your daily Bible study.

Method 1:

This method is easy and can be applied equally by children, youth, adults, students, professors and pastors. I learned it recently from a mentor and friend.

The method can be summarised in 4 simple steps:

1. Read the scripture. Re-read it. Then either write it out or paraphrase it in writing.

2. What does the scripture say? (i.e. write down, what the scripture says to you about God, about yourself, about humanity, … .)

3. What will you obey? (i.e. write down very specifically “I will …….. by ……”.)

4. Whom will you share this with? (i.e. write down very specifically “I will share …………… with…………….. by ……………” .)

Do not underestimate the impact this method will have on your reading of scripture! Specifically the 3rd and 4th point, make it a method of high impact, provided you have someone keeping you accountable to it!

Method 2:

This method takes time. It is good for intensive Bible study. (I have learned about this method in an STI seminar in Stellenbosch, South Africa and have since profited from this method a lot in my private Bible studies).

These are the basic steps that are followed:

1. prioritising the text: read the text, rather than comments of others first.

2. getting the big picture: understand the big picture, before zooming in on the details.

3. respecting the original context: the significance of the text in the ‘here & now’ is dependent on the meaning of the text in the ‘there & then’.

4. using progressing repetition: read the text repeatedly and progressively add more contextual information.

5. Interpretation: progress of elimination.

To clarify these five steps, allow me to do so on a very easy example:

1. Read the whole book of Jude (preferably without verse numbers, sub titles/headings, and as one solid text). Read it again. DO NOT READ footnotes etc.

2. Read it again and then try and categorize the text portions yourself, giving it your own outline.

3. Now read the outline on Jude in a study Bible. Then read the text again. Do you see how it changes?

4. Read the comments of a study Bible on Jude, then re-read the book of Jude again.

With all this reading you will have gained a fully new understanding of the book. You will have experienced the joy of discovering meaning behind a text and will have memorized some content of it even.

When I say this method takes time, you now probably see why. Doing this with a short book like the book of Jude is fairly easy. Doing it with the book of Acts can be somewhat time consuming. Still it is definitely worthwhile doing so!

Let me know how you are finding these methods. Feel free to post comments of your experiences on FB or here in the comment section.

May God bless you abundantly!

 

How to interpret the Bible

(the content consists partially of notes I have taken at an STI seminar in Stellenbosch, South Africa)

I have often been asked why it is that we seem to take some portions of scripture literally and others we seem to interpret. It seems random to the onlooker. However there is system and science behind it. This is a blog post that tries to describe the basics in simple words, easy to apply yourself.

There are three types of Bible translations:

1. word for word i.e. literal translations (‘formal equivalents’) [e.g. NASB, KJV, Amplified, ESV, NRSV]

2. interpretative thought for thought translations (‘dynamic equivalents’) [e.g. NIV, HCS, TEV, (NLT)]

3. paraphrased translations (a very loose translation) [e.g. LB, Message Bible]

They are not all used for the same purposes. Bible translations that fall under 1 are best used for Bible study. Bible translations that fall under 2 are used mostly for reading. Those categorized under 3 are sometimes interesting to get a new angle on matters previously read or studied in another translation but are unsuitable for Bible studies or daily Bible reading.

When studying the Bible, all text needs to undergo the same process of interpretation. (At the end of it, some will turn out to be literal, other parts may turn out to need interpretation.)

How to interpret the Bible:

A. The meaning is determined by the context.

1. list all possible meanings

2. historic + literary context eliminates impossible + improbable meanings.

Here an example of how to do that with the word “trunk”.

1. all possible meanings: car boot, suitcase, phone call, tree, elephant nose

Let’s assume it is part of a Jane Austin novel (which play in the 1800’s in England).

2. process of eliminating the impossible:

– trunk call (the phone was not invented then)

– car boot ( they still had carriages)

3. Process of eliminating the improbable:

– elephant trunk (it might be possible as India was English colony, but it is highly unlikely)

The use of the work within the sentence helps us eliminate even more options: “and she folded her clothes carefully and placed them in a trunk.”

  • eliminates the tree trunk and the elephant trunk completely.

This leaves us with only ONE meaning of trunk in this context: “suitcase”.

B. Word study

1. meanings of words change over time (they undergo a historical development)

2. meanings in the here and now might differ from their original meaning greatly

3. etymology of words can help or mislead us.

We need to look at three aspects:

1. history of the word.

2. historical context (author and audience in the original).

3. literary context.

one example: the word ‘nice’ used to mean ‘ignorant’, now it means ‘pleasant’.

If you are required to do in depth word study on a regular basis, getting a good Bible Study Software like ‘Mounces Complete Expository Dictionary of OT + NT’; e-sword software; or Olive Tree, will be a helpful starting point.

When you look at any Biblical text, it has 2 audiences:

the original audience that the author wrote to (there & then),

and the contemporary/modern audience (here & now).

We must always look at the original audience first, before we ponder over the meaning for the contemporary audience.

Any interpretation of the Bible intends to be a bridge between the “there & then” and the “here & now”.

Any good interpretation discovers the meaning and intention of the author in the text. A good interpretation tries to get information OUT OF the text. We call this ‘exegesis’.

Any bad interpretation does the opposite. It imposes the readers invention/or wanted meaning, on the text, i.e. tries to read stuff INTO the text. We call this ‘eisegesis’.

Sources of authority for interpretation are:

1. scripture itself (this is the highest authority and is the only infallible authority)

2. tradition, reason, experience (all these are important for interpretation but are fallible.

The only things that help protect you (besides the Holy Spirit guiding you) from misinterpretation are to remember that you have to

– be conscious of your traditions

– remember that reasoning has limitations

– remember that experience is always subject to interpretation and thus is prone to mistakes.

The blog posts that follow will allow you to try out two different methods of getting the most out of your daily Bible study.

May God bless you abundantly and enrich your study of His word, whilst making you vigilant not to be deceived by wrong teachers of our times.

When God says ‘yes’.

Just as there are times, when God says no, there are those miraculous times of His saying yes. Often an unexpected yes followed by a series of miracles that establish a completely new basis of trust in our relationship to our Saviour.

After receiving a determining “no” from God last year in May, I then encountered His “yes” when September came around. This post is the testimony of that “yes” that came about.

It was mid September (the 19th I think) when I received news that I would be going to South Africa to the head quarters of my congregation to take a youth and student pastor training. I had been unaware of them considering such an option and had just settled to going back to teaching for an undetermined amount of time. So my response of utter surprise was “sounds great, but what are we talking about?”

I was filled in only on the idea that I would be taking a youth pastor training as of January 2014. The few other details I received said nothing about what my training would entail, what would be required of me, how I would get around financially, etc. and it left plenty room for insecurities, frenzies of panic, an amount of reluctance and frustration.

Well, matter of fact was that after that short conversation, there seemed to be NO way of getting more information. A convergence conference was on, after that a week-long pastor’s summit. And all the people I urgently wanted to speak to were unavailable. The school I was working at, had a policy of resigning before the 1st of October. I was in the middle of my planning for a field trip that was about to leave with 18 youngsters on 29th September. That left me with 10 days of not knowing more and having to make a decision.

Sometimes God’s “yes” come in packages that challenge us to walk on water. I fasted and I prayed. And even though my heart was settled on staying a teacher right where I was, I heard God saying “yes” to the offer I had received.

I had a choice to make. Either I could stay and remain with the securities I wanted. Or I could take a leap of faith in accordance of what I had heard from God and been unable to discuss much. I did what the world would call foolish, I took the leap. The day I departed for the field trip, I handed in my formal resignation at the school. I left with a sense of relief… so now the adventure would start.

The “yes” I had heard was a definite “yes” from God. Leaders around me had the wisdom not to advise what to do, but to advise to seek God’s counsel on the decisions. i.e. they refused to do the job of the Holy Spirit; and I am still grateful for that!

None of the doors since then just stood wide open, but all were unlocked. By that I mean… every single door caused spiritual growing pains in me. Every single door required me to walk on water a bit more. And every single door brought me closer to God, to the calling on my life and formed and transformed my character to be more Christ-like.

There were moments of struggling with God, there have been moments of desperation, moments of offence with God (for, as He showed me, He placed the leaders I have in my life, so any offence I’d take through them, I actually take through God) and working through it to the place of surrender and forgiveness.

And there were moments of rejoicing, of deepest satisfaction about what I am doing, moments of awe and gratitude toward who He is and what He is busy with.

When God gives His “yes”…

  • do not expect a walk in the park.
  • first hear from GOD about matters.
  • expect growing pains.
  • expect Him to be glorified through it.
  • decide to trust.

We live in a society where we sometimes want God’s “yes” to be like a candy shop. But candy shops only produce obesity. God desires us to grow closer to Him, He desires to be glorified and He will walk alongside you on the waters.

This is the most exciting, fulfilling and rewarding adventure God has ever taken me on. Yes, I am still on that adventure. What comes after that, only He knows. It is SO worth it! When God invites you to a “yes”, then go for it – if you are willing to grow, you will not regret it!

A thought on why Christmas is special (prophecies fulfilled)

We celebrate Christmas 2013 today. 

If we look to our cities, shops and neighbourhoods it all seems to be about Santa Clause, Christmas trees etc.

However the background is quite a different one. And even though “Christmas” as we know it from its start had pagan roots, Christians all around the world consider it one of their biggest celebrations in the year. So instead of discussing its roots today or ways of celebrating….

When you and I as Christians celebrate this Christmas… let us not only remember the nativity story from Luke chapter 2. Let us remember WHAT was so significant about this man being born. Let us remember the cross of Calvary as well as the crib. Let usremember that he was no ordinary man but the promised Messiah to the Jews that would bring salvation ultimately to everyone who believed in Him. Let us remember how he – until now remaining unprecedented – has fullfilled all the prophecies given about his life. Most of which could not be influenced by himself. Let us remember the power of deliverance, healing, liberty, freedom, peace, love he proclaims and carries within His name.

And Most importantly: LET US PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS OF WHO JESUS WAS AND IS!

The below list is not exhaustive… its just something to start you thinking and researching. It is a quoted list… for details to the webpage please see below.

1 Messiah would be born of a woman. Genesis 3:15 Matthew 1:20 Galatians 4:4

2 Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 Matthew 2:1 Luke 2:4-6

3 Messiah would be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:22-23 Luke 1:26-31

Messiah would come from the line of Abraham. Genesis 12:3 Genesis 22:18 Matthew 1:1 Romans 9:5

Messiah would be a descendant of Isaac. Genesis 17:19 Genesis 21:12 Luke 3:34

Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob. Numbers 24:17 Matthew 1:2

Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. Genesis 49:10 Luke 3:33 Hebrews 7:14

Messiah would be heir to King David’s throne. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 Isaiah 9:7 Luke 1:32-33 Romans 1:3

Messiah’s throne will be anointed and eternal. Psalm 45:6-7 Daniel 2:44 Luke 1:33 Hebrews 1:8-12

10 Messiah would be called Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:23

11 Messiah would spend a season in Egypt. Hosea 11:1 Matthew 2:14-15

12 A massacre of children would happen at Messiah’s birthplace. Jeremiah 31:15 Matthew 2:16-18

13 A messenger would prepare the way for Messiah Isaiah 40:3-5 Luke 3:3-6

14 Messiah would be rejected by his own people. Psalm 69:8 Isaiah 53:3 John 1:11 John 7:5

15 Messiah would be a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:15 Acts 3:20-22

16 Messiah would be preceded by Elijah. Malachi 4:5-6 Matthew 11:13-14

17 Messiah would be declared the Son of God. Psalm 2:7 Matthew 3:16-17

18 Messiah would be called a Nazarene. Isaiah 11:1 Matthew 2:23

19 Messiah would bring light to Galilee. Isaiah 9:1-2 Matthew 4:13-16

20 Messiah would speak in parables. Psalm 78:2-4 Isaiah 6:9-10 Matthew 13:10-15,34-35

21 Messiah would be sent to heal the brokenhearted. Isaiah 61:1-2 Luke 4:18-19

22 Messiah would be a priest after the order ofMelchizedek. Psalm 110:4 Hebrews 5:5-6

23 Messiah would be called King. Psalm 2:6 Zechariah 9:9 Matthew 27:37 Mark 11:7-11

24 Messiah would be praised by little children. Psalm 8:2 Matthew 21:16

25 Messiah would be betrayed. Psalm 41:9 Zechariah 11:12-13 Luke 22:47-48 Matthew 26:14-16

26 Messiah’s price money would be used to buy a potter’s field. Zechariah 11:12-13 Matthew 27:9-10

27 Messiah would be falsely accused. Psalm 35:11 Mark 14:57-58

28 Messiah would be silent before his accusers. Isaiah 53:7 Mark 15:4-5

29 Messiah would be spat upon and struck. Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67

30 Messiah would be hated without cause. Psalm 35:19 Psalm 69:4 John 15:24-25

31 Messiah would be crucified with criminals. Isaiah 53:12 Matthew 27:38 Mark 15:27-28

32 Messiah would be given vinegar to drink. Psalm 69:21 Matthew 27:34 John 19:28-30

33 Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced. Psalm 22:16 Zechariah 12:10 John 20:25-27

34 Messiah would be mocked and ridiculed. Psalm 22:7-8 Luke 23:35

35 Soldiers would gamble for Messiah’s garments. Psalm 22:18 Luke 23:34 Matthew 27:35-36

36 Messiah’s bones would not be broken. Exodus 12:46 Psalm 34:20 John 19:33-36

37 Messiah would be forsaken by God. Psalm 22:1 Matthew 27:46

38 Messiah would pray for his enemies. Psalm 109:4 Luke 23:34

39 Soldiers would pierce Messiah’s side. Zechariah 12:10 John 19:34

40 Messiah would be buried with the rich. Isaiah 53:9 Matthew 27:57-60

41 Messiah would resurrect from the dead. Psalm 16:10 Psalm 49:15 Matthew 28:2-7 Acts 2:22-32

42 Messiah would ascend to heaven. Psalm 24:7-10 Mark 16:19 Luke 24:51

43 Messiah would be seated at God’s right hand. Psalm 68:18 Psalm 110:1 Mark 16:19 Matthew 22:44

44 Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin. Isaiah 53:5-12 Romans 5:6-8

(list quoted from “Prophecies Jesus Fulfilled – 44 Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ” By Mary Fairchild)

May you spend these days, becoming LOVERS OF CHRIST and allowing that change within you to change all that is surrounding you to bring light to this world.

Blessed Christmas.