[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that.
I never thought that when I started ministering to a tribe with no knowledge of Jesus Christ or Christian theology, my own understanding of the gospel would be so deepened. There’s no need in ministry here to dig and strive for a new concept to teach every few days, as even the most basic concepts are brand new. Even recently, when I made the statement, “Jesus is the son of God,” the response of my disciple who was translating was, “That’s too complicated—they don’t know what God is.”
And so, for the past two years, I’ve been teaching the most simple, most profound thing I could; God, who created everything, loves you and became human to be near to you. He died in your place so he could give you his life and fill you with his very own spirit.
In Luke chapter 4, Jesus reads the scroll from the prophet Isaiah (specifically what we now call chapter 61) about the spirit of the Lord being on him to preach good news to the poor, liberty for captives, sight to the blind, and so on. Then he sits down and gives what may be the simplest sermon ever spoken: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
These nine words, simple as they are, have a profound effect on everything we know. This statement breathes life to the beautiful, hopeful words of Isaiah 61. Good news has come for the poor. Sight is available to the blind. Freedom is available to the oppressed. Joy and beauty are available to those whose lives are in ashes. Redemption isn’t something we hope for, but instead something we trust in. When we simply teach the story of God’s redemption, we’re not avoiding or ignoring the hardships of life; we’re actually unleashing the potential for true, genuine transformation, which can only come through the power of Christ.
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
This is from last night, as the sun was setting over the banks of Stonehaven, with droplets clinging to petals after the refreshing rain.
I’ve been making my way through Kings, and the other day I noticed anew how God provides — even if it’s in unconventional ways.
In 1 Kings 17, He provides for Elijah by sending crows to bring him food. Then the stream dries up and Elijah has to walk through the desert for more than 120km — without further mention of food or water.
When he arrives at the widow’s house he insists on being fed, despite the fact that she and her son are starving.
She feeds him and her jars of clay are filled with oil (a pretty cool testimony about provision and anointing, if you ask me) and all seems well.
Until her son becomes ill.
Yet, even in that — God has a plan, and He provides.
As I read this piece from 1 Kings 18 (below), I kept thinking about the water crisis in Cape Town and the extensive drought in our country — and this is the promise: THE LORD WILL SEND RAIN.
Does He have to explain His plans to man?
But in time, He will send rain.
It was now three years since it had rained. A message came to Elijah from the Lord. He said, “Go. Speak to Ahab. Then I will send rain on the land.”