September 2020

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I Will Lift Up My Eyes

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I would like to re-introduce you to one of the top 5 best-known Psalms in the bible; the one that starts with the words, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills…’

Psalm 121:
(1) I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? (2) My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (3) He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; (4) indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (5) The LORD watches over you — the LORD is your shade at your right hand; (6) the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. (7) The LORD will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; (8) the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
The Title of the Psalm

In most bibles, this Psalm is called ‘A song of ascents’. Those journeying up to Jerusalem for the annual festivals would sing it along with other Psalms. Some scholars believe that its origins date back to the Babylonian exile when the Jews there longed to make the journey home.

However, the word ‘ascents’ can also translate to ‘steps’ and there are two senses in which this can apply to the Psalm. Its structure suggests ascending steps reaching the highest point in the final two verses.

However, of more practical value is its applicability to the steps of our life-journey through this world. It is an encouragement to look higher and to trust the most-high God more.
Question or Statement

We can read verse 1 as either a question or a statement. The question would be, ‘do I look to the hills for my source of help?’ Pagan altars were built on hills and so the insinuation is that some people look to these false gods for help. Verse 2 then constitutes an emphatic, ‘No! My help comes from the creator God Jehovah.

As a statement, verse 1 would paraphrase as: ‘I lift my eyes up to the temple of God on the hills of Jerusalem for my help comes from him.’

Another Way of Seeing Things

Let me suggest another way of seeing things in a manner that you will not find in any commentary or Study Bible that I have ever read… with one exception.

In your minds-eye, be a traveller journeying up to Jerusalem at night. Up ahead of you the Holy City shines in the dark like a lamp on a pedestal. On Mount Moria, one of the five hills of Jerusalem, the temple glows with warm golden light.

Now look even higher into the stary vault of the heavens; up, up, until you come to the very centre of the heavens. From our earthly vantage, the constellations appear to rotate in a slow circle around an axis point. This axis is the bright Polar Star situated in the constellation of Ursa Minor.

On modern astronomy star-charts, this constellation is pictured as a bear with a ridiculously long and curvy tail. However, it wasn’t always so for in Old Testament times it was pictured as a mountain range. This is the Mount of Assembly, The Sacred Mountain of God immortalised both in scripture and Greek, Roman, and Nordic myth.

Just above this mountain is the constellation of Cephus, pictured as a king sitting on a throne. In his hands, he holds a rolled-up scroll and his foot rests on the polar star, the centre of the heavens. No wonder that John the Revelator starts his description of a series of dramatic visions with the words; ‘At once I was in the spirit and there before me was a throne in the heavens with someone sitting on it’.

So, I will lift up my eyes to the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, the one who sits enthroned in the centre of his creation; the one from whom my help comes.

Slipping, Slumbering, and Shading

Verses three, four, and five all evoke vivid pictures and constitute strong assurances. The first is the assurance that God will not let our feet slip on the rocky path of life. The picture evoked is of a person walking up a steep and sometimes rocky path. When we get to the slippery or loose bits then the Lord comes alongside, steadies and holds us up. He is watching over us night and day and he never sleeps on the job.

The second picture, relating to God not slumbering, is of Elijah taking on the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He makes an altar, sacrifices an animal, dowses both the altar and sacrifice with water and then challenges the pagan prophets to evoke their god. If Baal is god, he contends, then he will send fire from heaven. So the prophets start wailing, dancing, cutting themselves, and crying out to Baal to act. No response. So Elijah taunts them with the words: “Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or travelling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). We all know how the story ends: Baal doesn’t show up and Elijah calls on God to act and he does so by sending fire from heaven to consume both the sacrifice and the altar!

The third assurance is that God will be our shade at our right hand. The picture is that of a soldier who holds his shield in his left hand and is therefore unprotected on his right side. So, God prevents us from slipping, watches over us day and night, and protects us as we journey over the sometimes hard and dangerous path of life.

The Highest Point of the Psalm and the Big Question
Verses 7 and 8 contain the great assurance that ‘the Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life.’

With this assurance comes a big question, often unspoken, but asked by almost everyone. The question is: ‘Will God protect me from all harm, both physical as well as spiritual, or does his protection only apply to my spiritual life?’ In attempting to answer this, firstly note that the word ‘keep’, used in this Psalm, also translates as ‘watches over’. God certainly watches over us because Jesus said, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). However, the word ‘keep’ also means ‘protect’, so the question is real; will God protect me from physical harm? From considering the full scope of scripture, what Jesus taught and modelled, and the example of biblical characters such as Paul, the answer must be – spiritual protection always and physical protection most times.

Paul’s Take on the Matter

Here is something Paul wrote that sheds light on the subject – Romans 8:35-39:

‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  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’.

So, Pauls take on the matter is that life is often full of dangers, hardships, and suffering that we need to endure. Despite these things, God will protect the integrity of our spiritual existence and destiny. Paul knew that God had always been with him and had brought him through some very hard patches on his life-road. Paul faced stoning, wild animals, and even failing eye-sight, yet God helped, protected and led him through until he could say: ‘the time has come for my departure.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Our Default Position

I believe that we should expect physical protection from God when we ask and trust in him. I contend that our default position should be the same as it is when it comes to healing. If someone asks me to pray for and minister healing to them, I do not say, ‘Well, let me first check and see if God perhaps doesn’t want to heal you.’ Jesus never refused anyone who came to him and he is our example. So I pray and minister in expectant trust in God – that is my privilege and obligation and the result is entirely up to him. Just so when it comes to asking for protection.

We ask for and expect God’s protection because we know that he loves us and because we love him. Our dependence on him is an expression of our love for him, for did not Paul describe love as something that ‘always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’? (1 Corinthians 13:7)

And Finally

So, if you go through tough times you do so knowing that Jesus is with you by his Spirit, that he loves you, watches over you and wants the very best for you. And the best for you is always, and in every situation, to come to know him better, grow to be more like him, and to help others to do likewise. Because he loves us and we love him, we ask for and trust him for protection as we walk the path of life.

If you ever doubt the truth of this, then just think back on your life so far: remember the many times that God has protected, healed, and picked you up. Then give him thanks for this, expect his help in your present situation, and trust him for your future wellbeing.

TruthTalks Sermon: Jesus Reveals Himself

Following THIS post about how Jesus reveals Himself, Dr Christopher Peppler preached on John 21:1-14 for the Village Church.

You can listen to the audio below, and please like the podcast, subscribe to it and pass it along to those who need to hear it.

With thanks

Karen, Admin

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Jesus Reveals Himself

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The most essential characteristic of the bible is that it provides a ‘place’ where Jesus reveals himself and where we can encounter him.

I know that some people find reading the bible a rather dull and unrewarding exercise. I also know many folks who love to study the bible. In both cases, most fail to encounter Jesus in and through the scriptures. This article is my attempt to provide some remedy to this situation.

The Way we are Programmed

I think that the Western education system most of us have experienced bears some blame. It has trained us to value knowledge above relationship, yet at the same time, it has largely failed to teach us to think analytically, critically, and creatively. The legacy of this is a belief that studying is about knowledge without necessarily knowing, and reading without revelation.

Little wonder then that we tend to default to a knowledge-acquisition mode when reading the bible.
The Bible’s Primary Purpose

However, the bible is not just a repository of knowledge or a rule book; it is primarily a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. A knowledge-acquisition mindset tends to exclude relationship. We can’t have a relationship with a book, no matter how inspired we believe it to be.

But we can and should have a relationship with its author and main subject, the Living Word, Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to the Pharisees of his day: ”You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40). The scriptures they had at that time consisted only of what we call the Old Testament. How much more would the Lord’s words apply to us who have the Gospels and the epistles, yet still fail to encounter him in and through the bible? So, this article is about how we can remedy this condition. The passage I have selected to showcase what I propose is John 21:1-14.

The Passage

(1)‘Afterward, Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: (2) Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. (3) “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (4) Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (5) He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. (6) He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (7) Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (8) The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.   (9) When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (10) Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” ( 11) Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. (12) Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (13) Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. (14) This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead’.

A Knowledge-acquisition Approach

Now, if we adopt a knowledge-acquisition approach to this passage then these are the sort of things we will probably experience:

  1. We start reading and in verse 1 it has, ‘Jesus appeared again’. Straight away our minds click into analysis gear and we wonder to ourselves, ‘how many post-resurrection appearances were there?’ So we stop reading and consult a commentary or the notes in our reference bible. But tell me, how does knowing that there were three such appearances help us to relate to Jesus here and now?
  2. Then in verse 7, we find the words, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ and we wonder who that was. If it was John then why didn’t he just write that? Perhaps it was one of the others? But how does the answer to this help US to love Jesus more?
  3. Verse 11 contains the most obvious example of all where it mentions that there were exactly 153 large fish in the net. Why such a precise number? What does it signify? We immediately dive down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland and try to chase down an answer in the commentaries and reference books. 153 fish species in lake Galilee symbolic of all the people in the region? Not likely. Perhaps the square number of the sum of 1 to 17? Yes, but so what? How does this all add to our relationship with Jesus?
These things may be interesting, but they are so often distractions that focus us on acquiring knowledge about Jesus rather than knowing Jesus himself.

No, we need another approach to reading the bible. Study certainly has a place, and analysis has a place, but surely we must give first place to knowing Jesus in and through the bible?

An Alternative Approach

I want to demonstrate an alternative approach that uses sanctified imagination sparked, and not snuffed out, by logical deduction. So, first I will shed a different and more relational light on the passage, and then I will show how we can see Jesus in and through it.

Relational Insights

The narrative starts with seven disciples leaving Jerusalem and going down to Lake Galilee. Peter was not necessarily running away because he was ashamed, but rather because Jesus had previously told him that after he rose from the dead he would go ahead of them to Galilee (Matthew 26:32). The angel at the empty tomb had then confirmed this to Mary and instructed her to tell this to Peter and the others (Matthew 28:7  Mark 16:7). So Peter was simply obeying the Lord and going down to the lake expecting to meet Jesus.

It seems that this meeting did not immediately occur because at some point Peter says, “I’m going out to fish” and all seven of them went off in a boat and fished the entire night. They caught nothing, but as dawn was breaking a man appeared on the shore, about 90 meters away and called out to them: “You don’t have any fish do you?”.  The light was poor and he was far away so they could not recognise him yet his voice was strangely familiar. Then the man called, “Throw your nets on the right side and you will”. And they did! Now, why did they obey? They must have been tired and frustrated. The man was on the shore with a worse view of the water around the boat than they had. Yet they immediately cast their net on the right side of the boat. Why?

Well, perhaps you will recall the passage describing when Jesus called Peter and John to follow him some 42 months earlier? If not, look it up in Luke 5:1-11. They had been fishing all night but had caught nothing. They pulled the boats up onto the shore and started mending their nets when Jesus approached. He told them to go out one more time, they did, and caught so may fish that the boats were swamped and in danger of sinking. On that occasion, Jesus had invited Peter and John to follow him and to become ‘fishers of men’. Now here they were again, in remarkably similar circumstances. Imagine Peter and John exchanging glances as the unspoken question hung in the air; “Could this man be Jesus?”

They started pulling in the net and felt the weight of fish in it. As it neared the surface, they must have seen the fish jumping and squirming in it. John turns to Peter and exclaims, “It IS the Lord!” and Peter does something very strange. He has been fishing all night in his loincloth (underpants) but now he pulls on his robe and jumps into the water to swim the 90 meters to the shore. Why would he do this? Have you ever tried to swim in a robe or something similar? Well, when Jesus had called Peter three and a half years earlier, Peter had fallen on his knees amid the fish in the boat and had cried out: “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man!” Peter had profound respect for Jesus and no way was he going to stand before his Lord dressed only in his underpants.

When the others got to the shore with the catch of fish that Jesus had provided for them, what did they find? Jesus was cooking them breakfast of braaied fish and bread. He blessed the food and served them.

Peter had covered himself up but Jesus laid himself bare, revealing his nature and character to them – caring, serving, providing, and loving.

Step into the Scene

Ok, now that you have a sense of what was probably happening in the narrative, why not take a step further; instead of just observing, why not BE there? At the start of the passage, it names just five of the seven disciples, so the other two were probably not members of the original twelve but rather just ordinary folks like you and me. So, be one of them as they sit around the fire at dawn on that memorable morning. Feel the warmth of the fire, hear the sizzle of the fish, and smell that fresh bread. Hear the way Jesus is speaking and see the expression on his face. How do you feel? Do you sense the reverence of that group as they eat with Jesus, the resurrected Lord of creation?

Now, why not speak to him in prayer? Ask him what you will, tell him how you are, or just express how grateful you are to be there with him. Then listen, because perhaps he has something to say to you or show you. 
It is All About Jesus

The bible is God-breathed and contains information, wisdom, and direction. But it’s primary purpose is to reveal Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In and through its pages God reveals himself to us so that we might know him now and eternally. The last verse of John chapter 20, just before the start of this Galilee narrative, contains these words: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’

A Prayer

My prayer for myself and everyone who reads this article is just what Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus:

‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.’

As in the words of the song known to so many of us:

‘Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus. To reach out and touch him, and say that we love him. Open our ears Lord, and help us to listen. Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus.’

TruthTalks: Unpacking a Package

How do YOU read and understand the Bible?

In this TruthTalks podcast, Dr Christopher Peppler, based on THIS post, “unpacks” Luke 4:14-30 for us. He goes through the full meaning of these verses and then most importantly, he explains how WE can also read the Bible and understand passages the correct way.

I know I tend to either:
  • Skim through, or,
  • Get bogged down in the detail, wandering off into paths that lead me away from the passage I’m studying and create more confusion.

So for me it’s great to hear this and also how to apply a passage of the bible’s practical application in my life. Listen below and please like us, write a review on iTunes, subscribe… just get the word out, because of course… Truth is The Word.

Until next time, Admin

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More of the Tour

Hello, in this short series of alternate posts (we normally do one a week but I’m sneaking these in on Fridays) I want to show you some of the fabulous new features on the new website. Today we continue the tour.


1At the top of the page under the banner and the big buttons we spoke about last week are all the most recent posts. These are updated at least weekly and will appear here with the most recent one on the left. We keep as regular a schedule as possible with posting an article/blog post one week and then a TruthTalks audio version the next week. You can read the recent posts by clicking on either the name or the button.
2Click on “View All” to go to the archive of all the posts..
3This little arrow will follow you down any page you are on and is so that you can get back to the top of the page with ease.


4Speaking of the top of the page, I hope you have noticed that there is a menu at the very top of the site which quickly navigates you to all the “main” site areas. Always click on HOME to get back to this starting page if you get lost.
5At the top right you will find a search function. Simply type in a phrase and hit enter. It will show you all the results containing that word, starting from the latest post.
6 I typed in “Jesus” as my keyword so there are obviously a LOT of posts.
7allows you to find Christopher Peppler and Truth is The Word on social media sites and
8 gives you a list of the most recent posts and when they were published to the site.

That leaves me with one more note for today. When you open a post (read a published blog post) there are 2 special features:


9links to the bible verse which opens in a new tab in case you want to read the entire verse for yourself. You may have noticed that only the name of the book and the chapter number is hyperlinked and this is your admin putting what I’ve read on this site into action, it’s to remind ourselves to read all verses in context. And finally
10 is also courtesy of your non-theologically minded administrator. When you hover your mouse over a word with a dashed line it will show you an explanation of the term used.

I hope you are getting something out of these posts and enjoying the new site.

All the best, Admin

Please tell your friends about the site, along with the weekly God-inspired messages, we will be featuring some of Dr Christopher Pepplers books soon, and are looking at a giveaway amongst other exciting feature, so please pass the message along.

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.