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March 2019

Feature image food for thought

Articles for Easter

Three of the articles I wrote for Joy! Magazine between 2008 and 2014 are worth repeating as a build up to the Passover season of 2019.

The first article concerns Passover, or what many now call Good Friday, and links it to the Lords Table we regularly celebrate in church. The second covers territory not often traversed because the Bible does not directly address what happened between Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday. And the third article focuses on an Easter phenomenon often debated in the media this time each year; the Shroud of Turin.

I have written dozens of other articles relating to this time of year, but I have selected these three because they are not the usual ‘bread’ served up at Easter, and could therefore provide new ‘food for thought’. I do hope they nourish your spirit as we approach the most sacred time on the Christian calendar.

Passover, Good Friday, and Communion

Last Supper PicThe death of their firstborn was the final judgement that persuaded Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. God instructed the Israelites to paint the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. He said that when He saw the blood, He would pass over that household and not strike their first-born.

Passover gets its name from this ‘passing over’ the homes of the people of God.

It is a graphic foreshadowing of how Jesus, the Lamb of God, would shed His blood for the salvation of all who believe.
Every year thereafter, through to the time of Jesus, the people of God celebrated Passover with a special meal. On the Thursday evening that started what we now call Good Friday (the Jewish day starts at six pm the previous evening), Jesus met with His disciples to celebrate Passover with them.

From the details given in the Gospels, it seems they reclined at a low table arranged in a typical Roman format; a sort of square U shape with two short sides and a longer middle section. According to the custom of the day, the one responsible for the meal would sit at the extreme end of one of the short lengths, next to him would be the host, and next to him the guest of honour. The other guests would then sit in order of importance, with the least important sitting at the end of the other short length, directly opposite the organizer. For the Last Supper, the organiser would have been John, the host Jesus, and the guest of honour Judas. Yes Judas! It was protocol for the host to have the guest of honour seated on his left, and to demonstrate favour by serving him with a piece of bread dipped in the stew. Jesus announced to his startled disciples that one of them was about to betray him. John 13:21-26 records how Peter signalled to John to catch his attention and then asked him to inquire of Jesus who His betrayer was. John leaned back against Jesus and asked him. Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread , he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.’

What incredible grace! Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him yet he chose to make him the guest of honour.

He placed Judas, the least of all, in the highest position, and poor Peter, the leader elect, in the lowest position at the very end of the table. What a lesson for us. Before starting the meal, Jesus had washed his disciples’ feet. He had made it clear that He was setting them an example of servant leadership (John 13:15). Peter must have been very ashamed because he was sitting in the least important seat, and custom demanded that the least at the table serve the others. Jesus had nominated Peter as His successor yet He afforded Peter the least privilege and expected of him the greatest service.

Jesus went from the Upper Room to the Cross. In the Upper Room He washed His disciples’ feet with water, but at Golgotha He washed their souls with His blood. And not just them but all of us who accept His sacrifice.

In the Upper Room, Jesus gave up His dignity to serve, and at Golgotha He gave up His life to save.
When we take communion, we should remember its origins and ponder the depth of the message it conveys. Communion is a stylised recreation of the Last Supper, which was itself a commemoration of the Passover. The wine of Communion reminds us that Jesus gave his lifeblood for us, and the bread reminds us that we are part of the body that He birthed through His death. In Communion, we honour Jesus and serve each other.  We, who are by nature rebels and betrayers, are given the highest honour, yet we are called to take the place of least honour and to serve each other.

Between Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday

Empty tomb picI wrote this article on the day after Resurrection Sunday. I don’t usually like to call it Easter Sunday – why should we give the pagan goddess Ishtar any credit. Friday embodies the glorious truth that Jesus settled the penalty clause of the violated covenant between God and humanity. I guess that is why some call it ‘good’ Friday. Sunday represents the equally awesome truth that through Jesus we can be born-again of the Spirit. On the cross of Calvary Jesus Christ brought to an end the line of Adam’s sin. As He walked out of the tomb, He started a new spiritual lineage for all who will believe. ‘So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.’ (1 Corinthians 15:45)

The message of Friday is clear. The truth that Sunday conveys is equally obvious. What, though, is the significance of Saturday?

According to The Apostles Creed, as we now have it, after dying on the cross Jesus ‘descended into hell’. However, the earliest versions of that creed do not contain this clause. When Rufinus introduced it in 390AD it seems that he understood the word ‘hell’ simply to mean ‘grave’. Notwithstanding this, some theologians have developed a complex doctrine of Christ’s decent into the devil’s abode. The primary texts they use are Acts 2:27, Romans 10:6-7, Ephesians 4:8-9, 1 Peter 3:18-20, and 1 Peter 4:6. Wayne Grudem has an excellent section on this topic in his ‘Systematic Theology’ (pages 586 – 594). His concluding sentence reads, ‘concerning the doctrinal question of whether Christ did descend into hell after he died, the answer from several passages of Scripture seems clearly to be no.’

From the descent into Hell doctrine has come the teaching that Jesus had to die both physically on the cross and spiritually in Hell. Saturday, for those who believe this, stands for Jesus’ torment in Hades and his eventual victory, as He was ‘born again’ from the devil’s dungeon. There are plenty of problems with this view. Was Jesus then less than ’God’ that He could be tortured by the devil? Was His death on the cross less than adequate for our salvation? (See 1 Corinthians 1:17)

Colossians 2:13(b) -15 contains a more satisfactory explanation of what Passover Saturday represents. ‘He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.’ The language used in this passage evokes the scene of a military court-martial. They bring the offending officer to stand before his troops. The supreme commander then strips him of the symbols of his authority and expels him. Jesus settled the death penalty of the ancient covenant and proceeded to the heavenly throne room of God the Father. There Satan stood in shame before all the angels of heaven. Jesus stripped him of his authority and expelled him from heaven. The accuser of the brethren no longer has access to the presence of God. Hallelujah! This is what the Saturday between Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday stands for.

So, instead of descending into Hell, Jesus ascended into Heaven! Instead of the devil tormenting Him, He expelled the devil! How could some get it so wrong? Part of the answer lies in how we interpret the Bible. I deal with this in the second half of my latest book ‘Truth is the Word – restoring a lost focus’.

The Sign of Jonah – or a Whale of a Tale

Shroud pic“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”’  

Over the years, I have been keeping reasonably up to date on the findings and theories concerning the shroud of Turin. Every year something new emerges as various scientists seek to understand this enigmatic burial shroud.

The shroud put in its first recorded appearance in 1356 at a time when religious relics and superstitions were rife in medieval Europe. Some researchers claim to be able to trace it back to the sixth century and one even claims that there is reasonable evidence for it coming out of the first century. Whatever its recorded history, many religious people think it is the authentic burial cloth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Recently the Pope went to pray before the shroud, so clearly he believes it has significance.

No matter what one thinks of the shroud, it certainly is a mystery. In 1898 it was photographed for the first time and this led to an intriguing discovery: the image in the shroud is a ‘photographic’ negative. Up to that time, most sceptics had thought that the image was simply the work of a skilled medieval artist trying to cash in on the relics market. However, the discovery that the image was actually a negative put this idea under a lot of pressure. More recently, artists and scientists have attempted to reproduce such an image using pigments, dyes, rubs, heat treatments, and so on. Their results are interesting, but far from compelling. Besides, current microscopic examination of the fabric shows no evidence at all of any pigments.

In 1988, carbon 14 dating seemed to indicate that the shroud originated in the middle ages. More recently, however, facts have immerged which prove that the dating process was seriously flawed and that the cloth could well date back to the first century.

Since 2003, a number of articles have appeared in reputable scientific journals seeking to make sense of the shroud and its image. A popular hypothesis is that the image was formed by ammonia derivatives from a human body interacting with carbohydrate residue in the fabric (the Maillard reaction). But, this doesn’t fully explain the remarkable image. It seems that the image in the shroud is a sort of 3D terrain map of the body it covered. Because of this quality, researchers have been able to use modern computer techniques to develop a full reproduction of the body. In 2010, the History channel aired a documentary showing the results of this process. The resultant 3D image shows a man with abrasions in his face, shoulder, and knees. The scourge marks of a cat-o-nine tails are visible and the wound in the side, wrists and feet are unmistakable.

The consensus opinion at this time is that the shroud of Turin is genuine in that it carries within its fibres the image of a man who died by crucifixion and that in all probability the material can be dated back far earlier than the medieval era. Is it the burial shroud of Jesus? No one can be sure of this, but it is true that the wounds shown in the image conform to the Gospel record of the crucifixion.

Some scientists are still not satisfied with the chemical interaction theory of how the image was formed. They claim that a catalytic event must have caused such a reaction. They theorise that some form of energy must have passed through the fabric to trigger a chemical reaction. One hypothesis is that the units of matter called nuceons must have decoupled causing a dematerialisation of the body. Simply put, the body passed through the fabric of the shroud.

All this is interesting but far from conclusive, so why am I interested in it, and why should you be? Luke 11 and Matthew 16 record Jesus’ words concerning the only sign He was prepared to give an unbelieving generation. Matthew 12:38-41 records, ‘Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”’  Whether or not scientific evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the sign for our age is debateable. What is certain however is that research continues, TV channels continue to produce documentaries, people write books, but the mystery remains. The crucifixion and resurrection remain in the public’s eye.

Every Easter, the Christian church remembers the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am grateful that scientists and sceptics, although they may not believe, continue to wrestle with the possibility that this pivotal event in biblical history may well be historically and scientifically verified. If it was verifiable, would this effect my faith in any way? No, but it sure would make an unbelieving world sit up and take notice.

For anyone interested in learning more about the shroud, HERE is the January 2019 updates to the major site on the subject.

Some mages courtesy of Brooklyn Museum / and wikipedia/commons

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TruthTalks Sermons

TruthTalks Sermon – A Time for Prayer and Godly Action

Several weeks ago, I preached a sermon titled, ‘A Time for Prayer and Godly Action’ based on Nehemiah chapters 1 – 9. The purpose of the message was to encourage Christians to think and act positively in this time of national instability leading up to the elections. Simply put, our personal attitude in 2019 can either be ‘doom and gloom’ or bright Godly optimism in what we say and do.

The account of how Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem contains several parallels between Israel then and South Africa now. For instance, the tactics of those who opposed national renewal are echoed today in South Africa, and some of the ways to counter these destructive tactics still apply.

Some of the points made in the sermon are:

  • All responses to problems, crisis and the like, must start with a proper awareness of the problem: If we are not aware of the problem at hand then how can we pray, speak and act? However, after awareness must come informed knowledge of the actual conditions
  • Nehemiah took the matter to God in prayer. He (a) Mourned – emotional engagement, (b) Fasted – physical response, and (c) Spoke – engaged with God. He also acknowledged to God his own role in the nation’s sorry condition and confessed that they had all offended God. Note particularly how his prayer concluded; Nehemiah 1:11 “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king’. He asked God to work in the mind and heart of the king, Nehemiah’s primary contact of influence.
We all have Circles of influence of some sort.
  • We expect instant responses, but Nehemiah only had the opportunity of speaking to the king three months later – a time of preparation of both the king and Nehemiah and then a Kairos moment when the time was right.
  • After speaking to the king, Nehemiah acted; he asked for a letter of authority and resources, but then he ACTED – took his letters, gathered resources and left for Jerusalem
  • Some of the principles and dynamics WE need to note and which apply to us today are:
    • Become aware, become informed, and give careful thought to our situation.
    • Pray before and during the whole process in the assurance that God is favoring us.
    • Pray and then act in word and deed – not one or the other, but both. Praying is not a substitute for action and action is not a replacement for dependent prayer.
    • We pray and seek God’s wisdom, guidance, and intervention and then we act on His specific response and not just on standard principles or recommendations e.g. in the case of the South African May elections: inform yourself, pray for guidance, vote according to His response and not because of those who say that all Christians must vote for a particular party.
  • When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he first surveyed the situation and then he spoke to the people. Note how he spoke – positively and constructively. Not “Come let us flee” but “come let us build’. Witnessed to God’s favor.
  • Immediately the opposition sprang into action but Nehemiah continued to pray, strategise, and work towards the reformation of Jerusalem.

Now, this is how the story of the wall ends: They competed for the wall Nehemiah 6:16 ‘When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God.’ But wait, there is more! The exiles started returning And more! The nation publically returned to The Word of God.

Are we not in such a time right now?… A time for Prayer and godly action! A time to oppose the enemies of our nation without violence. A time to turn as a nation to the Word God… The Bible and JESUS!
We can adopt one of two attitudes: dark and gloomy or bright with hope, optimism, and trust in God … It’s our choice.

You can listen to or download the sermon by clicking on the play button below or subscribing to the podcast. You can also listen or download other sermons HERE.

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TruthTalks Wrapping Up Feature Image

TruthTalks: Wrapping Up – The Church Jesus would Attend Series

TruthTalks Wrapping Up Top Image


Here is the audio of the last in the TruthTalks series: The Church Jesus would Attend.

In this TruthTalk I take you through my final 3 criteria and give an overview and general conclusion.
If you have missed this series and would like to start from the first post, click HERE, or the first audio post, click HERE. Then to follow the series chronologically simply scroll down to under the “Related Posts” section where you will see the NEXT POST button. Click this and it will take you to the next post in the series.

Do let me know your thought on the topic of “The Church Jesus would Attend” and, of course, all questions are welcome.

Click on the “play” button below to listen to the final word on this matter, for now.

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Feature Image Wrapping Up

Wrapping Up The Church Jesus would Attend Series

Top image Wrapping UpIn this eighth and final post in the current series, I intend to wrap things up by summarising a little and by dealing briefly with the last three items on my original list of indicators of and responses to the presence of God.

Right up front, I stated that in this series I would limit myself to the manifest presence of God in our corporate church meetings. The church is more than its Sunday gatherings, but these worship services are a focal point of its life.

I posed the question, “How do we know if ‘the Lord is in the house’? What are the indicators of His presence?” In response, I identified the following indicators:

The Nine Indicators

  1. Reverent and adoring worship
  2. Passionate prayer
  3. Serious attention to biblical preaching
  4. An attitude of faith
  5. Ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit
  6. Anointed leadership
  7. Expressions of love
  8. An impartation of life and wholeness
  9. A desire to share the presence of God with others

Over the last four months, I have written successively about worship, prayer, preaching, faith, ministry, and leadership. Now, as I consider the last three on the list, I appreciate that they do not stand alone, but rather form part of each of the preceding six.

Here are the final 3:

Expressions of Love

Jesus gave love as a defining mark of His church. His best-known statement is in John 13:34-35, which records Jesus as saying; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

I don’t want to differentiate between brotherly love and self-sacrificing love, but it must be reasonably obvious that love, in one form or another, is the binding agent in a corporate gathering of the church. We worship together because we love God and we love each other enough to want to join with each other in worship to the Lord. Similarly, prayer flows from a love of God and corporate prayer includes a love for each other, of being of one mind and contributing to a group expression of prayer. Biblical preaching, from the preacher’s perspective, is based on a love for God and His Words as well as a love for the people strong enough to motivate him/her to extensive, time-consuming preparation.

Faith is a little different from the other indicators, but we cannot separate faith from love; we have faith in the God we love or we have no biblical faith at all.
Ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit would just be a self-serving sham if it did not flow out of a desire to bless others with the Gifts of the Spirit. Lastly, anointed leadership is, in essence, a service of love for God and His people and if it does not issue from this then it is just a disgraceful display of ego and manipulation.

An Impartation of Life and Wholeness

When we preach, minister, or lead, we do it from a desire to impart life and wholeness to others. Once again, if this is not an underlying motive then these are self-serving shams.

Love is the essential source of imparting life; love of God and love for fellow members of His family.
When I teach young preachers, I make a point of ensuring that they understand that the purpose of a sermon is more than just informing, persuading, or motivating. In addition to these, it is to impart life to the hearers. A sermon should not simply entertain or educate, it should impart a life-changing message laden with the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.

I remember so well my first experience of receiving a powerful infilling by and from the Holy Spirit, and how for several minutes after this experience I stood with my hands cupped in front of me. It seemed in my spirit-charged imagination that God had poured a precious liquid into my hands and that I needed to carry it carefully, without spilling any, until I could give it to someone in need.

A desire to Share the Presence of God with Others

To love is to want to give, be it to God or others. Love is best seen in outward actions. We give money to the church, family, and those in need because we care deeply for them and we only give our time and attention freely to things and people we love.

Now the most valuable thing we have is our eternal relationship with Jesus. So, because we care, we seek to share this with others.
We, in many church circles, have tended to regard witnessing and evangelising as the source merit for duty performed. If we are ‘driven’ to speak out the Gospel from a sense of religious duty, or guilt, or a desire for recognition by our church leaders, then we have missed the point entirely. Surely, we share the Gospel because we love who the Gospel is all about and we care enough for others to want to share this love with them? Why then do we need tracts, methodologies, and training sessions?!

From the Church Service to the World

I have focused on what happens in a Sunday service, but this gathering cannot contain our life-in-Christ. If this life is true to both its definition and its source, then it needs to be shared outside of the church meetings. When the final “amen” sounds and the worship group sing one last song, the people who constitute the ‘church’ spill out into the world to share their love, their faith, and their hope. The Sunday service is when the local family of God come together to worship, pray, learn, minister and build each other up. Monday through Saturday is when that family, the local church, do what Jesus instructed when He said;

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”. (Mark 16:15  ESV)

I hope you have benefited in some way from this series and that you will keep watching this space for what is to come. Better still, subscribe to the site and we will e-mail you with each new post.

Wrapping Up The Church Jesus would Attend Series 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.