December 2016

Looking into 2017

The end of another year is upon us and if you are anything like me you are finding yourselves looking back and then trying to look forward.

“How did I do this year Lord?” we murmur as we consider the triumphs, failures, joys, and sorrows of a year that can never be relived. “Well, we made it through 2016 Lord, now what awaits us in the year to come?” But He doesn’t often answer that prayer does He? Perhaps it is just as well that we don’t know what lies ahead, for Jesus did say; “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

hope or despairFor us here in South Africa, 2016 has been a troubled year on a number of levels, but I guess those living in Europe or the United States would say the same. The economy is not likely to improve much in the year ahead and the political situation will no doubt remain tense. Americans will have to adjust to a new, and very different President; the British will have to come to terms with Brexit; Europeans will have to endure ongoing terrorism; and we in the RSA… well, we have the Robbing Hood and his merry men-in-power to deal with.

Here is the thing though:

do we believe that no matter what happens in 2017 we can make huge progress towards fulfilling our life’s goal?
No matter who we are, what resources we have or don’t have, or how healthy or stressed or challenged we are, we all have the same fundamental mission in life. We are called to know Jesus, to become as much like Him as we can in this lifetime, and to help others to do likewise. For those who don’t yet have an eternal relationship with Him, then changing THAT is the highest priority for 2017. For those who do know Jesus as saviour and Lord the mission in the year ahead is to know Him better and more deeply and, by manifesting His resurrected life in and through us, to become more like Him. And this glorious quest is never undertaken in isolation, for as we live out the Christian life we try as best we can to help others to know Jesus and to become like Him.

2017Now tell me, can hardship, illness, or adversity stop this from happening? NO, to the contrary, challenges and tests provide a powerful means for knowing Jesus and becoming like Him. Paul expressed something of this idea when he wrote; ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead’ (Philippians 3:10-11). Prosperity can be a means of achieving our ‘growth’ goal, but so can poverty; Health can be a means, but so can sickness. Peace can be a sought after means, but conflict can provide a challenge that accelerates our growth in Christ Jesus.

‘No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:37-39).

I can’t get back one second of the year that has gone, but I can redeem the time that lies ahead IF I can comprehend God the Father’s purpose for, in, and through me, resolve to walk with the Lord Jesus through the days to come, and learn to depend on the guidance and sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.

I won’t end with, ‘May God be with you in the year to come’; I would rather affirm the truth that God IS with you now and in the days that lie ahead.

Looking into 2017 Read More »

Be Blessed in 2016

Be Blessed in 2017

Be Blessed in 2017

As we get to the end of 2016 I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who, having gained something from what I have written this year, have let me know; it is a great encouragement. Please continue to interact with me via email, or comments.

Chris SantaNow is a good time for everyone to re-group, re-prioritise, catch-up and generally “chill out”, so you might like to catch up on any sermons, podcasts, videos, posts and articles you may have missed over the year.

If you would like to listen to SERMONS then go to my Sermons page by CLICKING HERE where you will also find the sermon notes

To listen to my TruthTalks PODCASTS (audio talks) then go HERE where you will find them in the TruthMedia section of www.truthistheword.com

To WATCH some video’s then HERE is the place

An archive of all my POSTS can be found in the blog section of TruthIsTheWord or by clicking HERE

For ARTICLES I’ve written, click HERE

God Bless you, and here’s to a Christ-filled 2017!

 

Be Blessed in 2017 Read More »

Magi at Christ

Something MAGIcal

Top image Something MAGicalHave you ever wondered if Jesus was really born on the 25th December?

Would shepherds and their sheep be outdoors in the fields in the middle of winter? And what are we supposed to make of the cynics who say that the Christmas birth story is just a variation of the ancient myth of the god of wine, Dionysus (also known as Bacchus, or Iacchus) supposedly born of a virgin mother on that day? Perhaps we, like the ancient Magi of the Christmas story, should look to the heavens for the answers.

The autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere is on the 22nd September, and this month is a far more likely candidate for the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ than is December, here’s why:  Interestingly, on the 22nd September 3 BC the planet Mercury was in the constellation of Virgo at sunrise (as seen from Bethlehem).  Above Mercury stood Venus, in almost perfect alignment, and above that, in the constellation of Leo, stood Jupiter in conjunction with the star Regulus This would have been a significant astronomical event to the ancient wise men, the Magi, who would probably have attributed great religious significance to it.  One week earlier, the planets Venus and Mercury were in perfect conjunction at dawn, and this would also have attracted the attention of ancient astronomers.  So, if we are looking for a suitable date for the birth of Jesus Christ, the 22nd September 3 BC would fit nicely.
Leo is Israel

There has been a lot of speculation about the nature of the Star of Bethlehem. Some think it was a comet, others that it was a supernova, and yet others that it was a specially created miraculous stellar phenomenon. I have read several articles on this subject, but none of the explanations given satisfies me.

The biblical data is as follows. The wise men reported to King Herod that they were searching for the recently born Jewish Messiah because they had seen ‘his star rising in the east…’ (Matthew 2:2). The account in Matthew’s Gospel goes on to say that Herod inquired of these Magi the ‘exact time the star had appeared.’ On the advice of his scholars, he then directed the Magi to Bethlehem, and the star ‘went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.’  The wise men then entered the house where Mary was. Note the use of the word ‘house’ and not ‘stable’. The account tells us that the Magi saw a ‘child’, not a ‘baby’, and bowed down and worshipped him. The wise men then did not tell Herod where the child was living, and so the evil king ordered the slaughter of all boys of two years old or under living in or around Bethlehem.

What we can glean from this data is firstly, that the star was observed ‘rising in the east’. The Magi most probably came from Babylonia, where the priestly class of scientists studied astronomy. Their practice was to observe the heavenly bodies at dawn each morning. They noted and interpreted the meaning of the constellation and planets which appeared on the eastern horizon as the sun rose. To them, each star sign signified a nation, and each planet and first order star had a special significance. The ancients regarded the planets as ‘wandering stars’ because they did not know the scientific differences between stars and planets, and merely observed that the planets appeared to wander across the night sky while other stars stood still in the heavens.

The second piece of information we have from the biblical data is that the star of Bethlehem appeared to move and then to stand still. This rules out the supernova theory, because that would appear as a sudden and stationary burst of light in one particular location.
The third thing we can gather from the data is that Jesus was no longer a newborn baby when the Magi visited. Mary was living in a house, not a stable, and Herod ordered the murder of all boys of two years old and under. Had Jesus been a baby, then it would have sufficed to kill only babes in arms. After all, Herod knew the exact time the star signalling the birth of the Messiah had appeared.

I used a computerised astronomy programme called Skyglobe (No longer easily available but Stellarium is an excellent current equivalent – http://www.stellarium.org/), and came up with the following interesting findings. At dawn on the 12th August 3 BC, the Magi would have observed Jupiter and Venus rising over the eastern horizon in conjunction with each other in the constellation of Leo. When planets are in conjunction, it means they appear to overlap as one bright object in the night sky. The Babylonian Magi knew Leo as the Royal Constellation. These ancient astronomer–priests assigned different star signs to different nations and Leo represented the nation of Israel. The conjunction of the two planets was just above the star Regulus, known to the ancients as the ‘king’s star’. These observations could have indicated to the Magi that a king was to be born in Israel.

It is unlikely, however, that the Babylonian wise men would have embarked on the long journey to Israel on that information alone. Then something very unusual happened.  Jupiter has an elliptical orbit of long duration and sometimes appears, from our earthly vantage point, to pause in the heavens and then to retrace its path. In the sixteen months between 12th September 3 BC and 25th December 2 BC, it did more than just pause in the heavens.

Something Magical

On the 12th September 3 BC Jupiter (1) came into conjunction with the star Regulus in the constellation of Leo. Mercury and Venus were also in Leo on that day, close together and between the horizon and Jupiter. To an observer in Babylon, the three planets would have appeared as three lights, each one above the other, between the horizon and Regulus. Jupiter then appeared to continue on its westward journey through the heavens. Then on the 1st December 3 BC (2) it appeared to stop. Within a few days, it started to retrace its path through the night sky, heading in a roughly easterly direction. On the 17th February 2 BC (3) it was once again in conjunction with Regulus in the constellation of Leo. It continued on, heading east, until on the 27th March 2 BC (4) it once again stopped. Jupiter then appeared to head back west until on the 3rd of May 2 BC (5) it came into an extraordinary third conjunction with Regulus. It must have appeared to the Magi that Jupiter had circled Regulus, like Phoenix, the mythical celestial bird, before heading off once again towards the west. Surely this would have been the sign to them that a great king had been born in Israel.

Jesus was most likely born just ten days after the first conjunction of Jupiter with Regulus, the King’s Star. The Magi waited for the confirmation of the third conjunction before setting off for the land of Israel, to their West. They would have arrived in Jerusalem in late December of the year 2 BC because on the 25th December 2 BC (6) the planet Jupiter appeared to come to a stop in the night sky for an amazing third time.

From the vantage point of Jerusalem, it would have seemed as though the planet was standing still in the heavens to the south, directly above… Bethlehem!
Star over BethlehemAnd to crown it all, at dawn of that date Jupiter was in the constellation of Virgo, the virgin. During their journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, Jupiter would have appeared to be literally going before them and they would have followed it in a westerly direction. Just imagine their delight and wonder when the wandering ‘star’ stopped in the heavens directly above Bethlehem, the ancestral home of the royal family of David, and the very place indicated by Herod’s theologians.

The 25th December may not be Jesus’ birthday, but it is nevertheless a significant day. On that day the Magi, representing the wisdom, wealth, and power of the world, came and bowed before the Lord. This still happens in our day.

On ‘Christmas day’, the world still bows before the Saviour.
People, both the religious and irreligious buy presents and before opening them millions of them flock to church to pay homage to Jesus Christ the Saviour, just as the ancient Magi had done so long ago.. Glory to God!

Something MAGIcal Read More »

Mary did you know?

Mary … did you know

Mary did you know

On the 25th December each year most Christians choose to celebrate the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ.Shopping malls used to be festooned with decorations, Christmas trees stood in the windows of most stores, and carols filled the air.

Not any more. Now, at best, you see a token decoration and a ‘Happy Holidays’ sign in the odd shop window.

But do you remember the little carved nativity scenes? The baby Jesus in a crib, donkeys and assorted livestock peering in along with a token shepherd; Oh, and Joseph and Mary standing behind the crib. Mary doesn’t usually feature much in our modern Christmas celebrations but I want to focus on her in this article… and no, I haven’t converted to Roman Catholicism 🙂

The Gospels record two genealogies for Jesus of Nazareth.

  1. The one in Matthew starts with Abraham, through King David, and ends with Jacob. Well, actually the last person mentioned in the royal line is… Mary. Joseph is simply listed as ‘the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ’.
  2. The other genealogy, recorded in Luke’s gospel, starts with the words, ‘He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli…’

The reason for the way these lists are presented is that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father. Mary was a virgin and the angel Gabriel foretold her divine impregnation with these wonderfully mysterious words;

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).
Joseph provided Jesus’ valid claim to the throne of David, but God the Father provided the divine lineage.

Mary played a hugely important role in the unfolding of God’s great plan of salvation.

In Eden, Adam and Eve rebelled against the Almighty, and as a result became separated from God’s life, knowledge, and presence. But from that horrendously fateful moment onwards, God initiated a plan to bring His lost children back into relationship with himself. This plan took thousands of our years to play out and involved the cooperation of a nation, a tribe, and a person. The nation was Israel, the tribe was Judah, and the person was… Mary.Mary did you know

Mary was the finest product of humanity as represented by the Old Testament people of God. She was a very special young lady. The angel greeted her with these words; “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28) and this surprised the humble Mary and made her fearful. The angel then explained that God himself was going to cause His son to be born into the world with and through her. Her response to this marvelously outrageous news was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant”.

I wonder how a less pure, humble, and dedicated person might have reacted.
Over her remaining life, Mary saw and heard many wonderful things which she treasured in her heart (Luke 2:19,51) but she also had to deal with the incomprehensible and the emotionally painful. Perhaps when she had given birth to Jesus she had whispered to herself ‘It has started’, but just over 33 years later she heard her beloved son say “It is finished” (John 19:30).

No, Mary was not herself born without a human father, and no, Mary did not ascend bodily into heaven without dying, but nevertheless Mary is to be honoured and remembered; she herself declared that, “from now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48)

When I consider the life of Mary I am always freshly impacted by two things.I am awed by God’s meticulous plan for saving humanity from rebellion and shame. How patiently and perfectly He worked with Israel, His chosen people, until all things were ready for the coming of the Saviour into the world. And all the threads of destiny came together in one young woman, Mary. The other thing that impresses me so is that God, who can do anything to anyone at any time and in any way, selected a method of bringing about reconciliation and new life that involved a woman. Without a woman’s willing participation there would be no Jesus of Nazareth, fully divine yet fully human, and without Jesus, the Son of God, the son of Mary, there would be no salvation for you and me. Cynics and detractors claim that God must be a male misogynist and that Christianity is patriarchal and biased… not so!

Here are the words of a song I appreciate greatly, and I have also given you the link to the video HERE.  Enjoy it this Christmas season.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will someday walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

 

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

 

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

 

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.

 

Mary … did you know Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.