faith

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Perspective

In these times of national crisis, we need a Jesus perspective, a glimpse of the big picture and a shift in focus.

From a cripple to a powerful preacher

When Joni Erickson Tada was just 17 years old she dived into shallow water and broke her neck. Although she was a quadriplegic from then on, she became one of the most well-known and effective Christian motivational speakers in the world.

These of some of the more memorable things she said:

“Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves”.

“True wisdom is found in trusting God where you can’t figure things out”.

“Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life”.

The last quote is particularly pertinent to this article. Perspective is the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance, and we certainly need this in the days in which we live. These are times when we can’t figure things out and so need to trust God for what we cannot understand.

Vital texts rather than tired cliches

I am not going to suggest that you see the glass as half full instead of half empty, or that you learn to make lemonade from lemons. Cliches like this are not particularly helpful when you are facing life’s challenges, are they? Rather, I would like to take you to two passages of scripture that give us wonderful perspective.

Elisha’s servants change in perspective

The first passage is 2 Kings 6:15-17, which tells the story of Arams at war with Israel. Elisha the prophet was Israel’s secret weapon and each time the king of Aram sent out his army Elisha told his king exactly where the enemy soldiers would be. Eventually, the king of Aram found out what was happening and immediately sent a battalion to capture Elisha. One morning the prophet’s servant awoke, went outside, and to his horror saw that their village was surrounded. Verses 15-17: ‘”Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha’.

The servant saw the enemy cavalry and was afraid, but Elisha saw things from a different perspective, “Don’t be afraid”, he said, “ those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then he prayed that God would give his servant the same perspective and God opened the man’s eyes and he saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire.

The two realities

Two realities are presented here; a real hostile enemy and real spiritual beings of greater power and number. The servant got perspective when he moved his attention and focus from the physical to the spiritual; from the army of Aram to the army of Heaven; from the threat to God’s provision.

So, with this glimpse of perspective shining in our eyes let’s move to the New Testament account of two disciples traveling the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday.

The unrecognised fellow traveler

Jesus died at 3 pm on Passover Friday and only 40 hours later two unknown disciples left Jerusalem to return home to Emmaus, a 2-hour journey by foot. The scriptural account does not say that these two were returning home, but they likely were. They must have been afraid, disappointed, confused, sad, and angry. Their Messiah had died, their leaders were in hiding behind locked doors (level 5 Lockdown), and the dream was over. I can imagine them saying, “Let’s leave Jerusalem and go home before we too get arrested!”. Luke 24:13-32 tells the story.

As they walked they commiserated with each other. Jesus joined them, probably just after they left Jerusalem, but they were so busy ‘looking down’ that they didn’t recognise him. Jesus asked why they were so downcast and one of them replied: “Are you the only one living in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” Now consider for a moment just how outrageous this question was. They proceeded to tell Jesus what had happened to him! Forgive me, but this sounds a lot like how we sometimes pray; we tell Jesus all about our difficult circumstances as if he doesn’t already know and hasn’t experienced far worse.

The greatest bible study ever

Jesus’ response is recorded in verses 25-27: ‘”How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’.

Jesus gives them perspective by showing them the big picture presented in the scriptures. But the greatest moment of revelation for them came when they sat down to eat supper together. As Jesus broke the bread they must have seen his nail-pierced wrists and realised just who their companion was. The one who had given them biblical perspective was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

As a result of this encounter with a greater reality, these two men got up and rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the Apostles what had happened and to be part of what God was doing there. They were filled with enthusiasm and passion and keen to once again be with God’s people. And how blessed they must have felt because God was about to birth the church in the greatest Holy Spirit revival ever!

Perspective on the road we walk

In our strange and distressing times, we too need to see the big picture, the Jesus-perspective. We need to realise that something bigger is happening of which we can be part. Perhaps God is sounding out the last great warning that he will give to rebellious humanity; a trumpet blast of “Repent and turn to me!”

Perhaps millions will heed his call and turn back to God and we will see and be part of the greatest revival seen on this planet since the day of Pentecost!

We also need to grasp the fact that the spiritual world in which we live is just as real as the physical world on which we usually focus.

We need to realise that in this alternate reality the forces of God are greater than the forces of destruction confronting us in the material realm.
Do you recall what Jesus said to Peter regarding this when the Apostle cut off the High Priests servant’s ear in Gethsemane? He said,

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels (70,000)?

Finally, the greatest shift in perspective we need at this time, is that the one who could command 70,000 angels in a moment is the same one who walks with us on our Emmaus road through this strange world. His name is Jesus and he has told us that “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!

“Yes Joni Erickson Tada, perspective is everything… if it is a Jesus-perspective”.

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TruthTalks: A Psalm Today

Top ImageIf you are struggling to stay upbeat in the strange landscape that is the World and COVID-19, and if you even sometimes feel a little hopeless, then do yourself and favor and listen to this TruthTalks episode. It  gives us not only hope but also direction on how to keep your spirits up.

How are YOU dealing with it?

How do you think God wants us to deal with it?

The original post is HERE, otherwise, take a listen to Dr Christopher Peppler talking on this subject by clicking on the play button below.

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TruthTalks Sermon: Jesus in the Perfect Storm

Top ImageThe Covid-19 virus has now hit South Africa, as it has so many other parts of the world. Instead of panicking, we should look to the Lord Jesus both as our example and object of faith.

I was so pleased to have been able to preach the first sermon from our church’s online platform designed especially for the period of national lock-down. The text is Mark 4:35-41 and the title says it all.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the “play” button below and if you want to share it with your friends and family then please do so by simply clicking on one or more of the social media icons at the foot of this post.

If you prefer watching me preaching this message (although I don’t know why anyone would want to  ) then just click HERE. You can also read the article I wrote as a transcription of the sermon by clicking HERE.

May God be with us all and keep us safe and spiritually vigorous during these very challenging times.

TruthTalks Sermon: Jesus in the Perfect Storm Read More »

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Jesus in the Perfect Storm

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A perfect storm occurs when a warm wind collides with a cold wind over a warm and wet area. The result is often a very intense and destructive storm.

Here in South Africa, we seem to be experiencing our own ‘perfect storm’. For some time now our nation has been ‘warm and wet’ with corruption, crime, recession, and the like. Then came the warm wind of even more electricity load shedding than last year, followed closely by the cold wind of Covid-19. The results of the ensuing storm are stock exchange and rand collapse, rapidly deepening economic crisis… and panic! Like three apocalyptic horse-men with the 4th grim reaper not far behind!

So, in this brief article, I want to take the account of Jesus in the storm as a model of how we should behave in these crazy times.

The Mark 4:35-4 Account of Jesus in the Storm

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”  NIV
The storm that Jesus’ disciples found themselves in was furious with waves crashing over their boat and threatening to swamp them. Luke 8 records that ‘they were in great danger’. Very much like a localised micro version of the storm that currently besets us and the whole world.

It Happens Suddenly

One of the details I want to highlight is given in the Matthew 8 account, which records that it all happened suddenly. Here in South Africa, we could track the Covid-19 events unfolding first in China and then in Italy and other countries. We got some idea of the health risks, but we had very little grasp on just how suddenly it would arrive, how quickly it would spread, and how devastating it would be to the economy. It happened suddenly.

I will pick up on other necessary responses in a moment, but here I want to touch on a less obvious response required from us – the need to be adaptable. Now, Covid-19 is physically hardest on the over 70’s age group and it is this same demographic that has the most trouble learning to adapt. Adaptability is the capacity to rapidly change our attitudes, actions, and lifestyles to meet the challenges of new situations. So, 70 years older or not, we all need to acquire this ability, and for this to happen we need to be humble and obediently dependant on the Holy Spirit.

We Are Not Alone

A second point that I want to draw from the account of Jesus in the storm is the fact that the disciples were not alone. They had each other in the boat and they were accompanied by other boats. In South Africa, we are fortunate to be able to draw on the collective knowledge and experience of the best minds in the entire world. Not only are they in similar boats to us, but they have been longer in the storm. We are not the only ones dealing with a financial collapse, health risks, and social isolation. And in addition to this, we as Christians are together in the boats of our local churches and the same Jesus who accompanied the first disciples is the one who said, “Surely. I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”

What Do We Expect Jesus To Do?

Those first followers seemed not to grasp this reality because they were terrified and cried out, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Of course, Jesus cared for them just as He cares for us. However, a more valid question occurs to me: ‘what did they expect him to do? And by extension, what do we expect him to do in our storm?

Well, it’s clear from their reaction after Jesus supernaturally calmed the storm with a word that they hadn’t expected him to do that. Perhaps they expected him to help them bail, trim the sails, toss out anchors and so on – “wake up rabbi, all hands on deck or we all perish!”

Practical As Well as Faith-Filled

Note, by the way, that although Jesus rebuked the storm and their lack of faith, he did not rebuke their efforts to save the situation. I realise that I am ‘reading a little between the lines’ here, but it is a reasonable deduction. Some of the disciples were seasoned fishermen and would hardly be having a prayer meeting in the boat during a terrible storm.

We, like them, need to be practical as well as ‘spiritual’ in times like this. This is consistent with what Peter later wrote in 1 Peter 4:7 and 5:8: ‘The end of all things is near. You must be self-controlled and alert, to be able to pray… Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant, and cautious at all times.

So, my take away here is that we too need to be wise and responsible, thoughtful and purposeful. Not in place of being faith-filled, but in addition to it – Faith and responsible action working together. Here is what Martin Luther wrote to his fellow pastors when the Bubonic Plague struck Wittenburg in 1527:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us… then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If my neighbour needs me however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely.”

Fear is an Enemy

Unfortunately, our response to a crisis is often either presumptuous ‘faith’ or debilitating fear. Some shout at the devil and bind storm-demons, while other cower and have panic attacks – “Master, master, we’re going to drown!” Now fear triggers a fight or flight reaction that can save our lives if we are being mugged, but in a prolonged crisis, it clouds our judgement, precipitates rash actions, and is the enemy of faith. And if you don’t think that otherwise reasonable people can respond to fear like that then consider:

  • Those who buy-up everything in the supermarkets including all the toilet rolls
  • And those who sell their equities at 30% down from last year’s values and thus ensure that they actualise their losses.
  • What about those who run off at the mouth with every imaginable conspiracy theory and disastrous scenario, effectively spreading their fear to others.
  • Not to mention the young and middle-aged who swamp the doctors and clinics with demands for testing and treatment when they know they only have about a 1 in 100 chance of getting really sick and thus putting the people who need to be tested at risk.
What did Jesus say to his disciples concerning this? “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

What is Faith?

Once again a question suggests itself to me: ‘What did Jesus mean by faith?’ By logical deduction, he could not have meant that they should have calmed the storm themselves, by faith. They had no idea at that time that such a thing was even possible for Jesus to perform, let alone themselves. Equally, Jesus surely could not have meant that they should have had faith in their physical seamanship abilities to save the boat. He would also not have meant ‘faith in faith itself’ because this aberrant doctrine had not yet been dreamed. Only one meaning appears to be reasonable –“Where is your faith in me?”

He was in the boat with them all the time and if they had faith in who he was then they would not have been so scared. And so it is with us: Jesus must be the sole and only reasonable object of our faith.

The Climax of the Story

Now for the climax of the story. Jesus rose from his rest, rebuked the storm with a word… and it obeyed him! God displayed His awesome power and glory and the result was:

  1. The storm died as suddenly as it has come to life,
  2. His disciples realised just who this Jesus was and wondrously proclaimed, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

We can get so caught up with our preparations and responsible actions that we lose sight of the huge potential of our situation for God to act miraculously. Could this national and international crisis be a time when we will see God arise, speak forth His word, and act? Could this be a time ripe for revival?

 

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When Darkness Falls

Top Image‘When Darkness Falls’ is an appropriate title for this article because all of us living in South Africa have once again been subjected to rolling blackouts, euphemistically referred to as Load Shedding.

It is not just that this is inconvenient, annoying, and disruptive to us as individuals, it is also hugely damaging to our nation. Businesses lose sales, industries lose production, labourers lose jobs, and the country will very soon lose the last remnant of its investment-grade status. Of course, all this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg because Load Shedding is but one symptom of a nation in crisis. Sigh!

In the midst of this ‘controllable crisis’, as the government minister calls it, the jokers, quippers,  and cartoonists are emerging. Many of their efforts are really funny and I wish I could see the smile on my wife’s face when she reads them on her smartphone, but I can’t because it’s too darn dark (just kidding). Making light of something is one of our ways of dealing with fear and hardship. If we can’t get the lights on, we can at least get lighthearted, right?

However, humour doesn’t help to actually solve our problems, personal or national. What we need are visionary leaders, well-conceived plans, competent managers, and a national will to make things work. But we need even more than this, we need both realism and faith, hope, and love.

Why realism?

We need to be realistic in our expectations. Eskom is not going to transform into a model energy provider in a few months or even a few years. As a nation, we will undoubtedly fall fully into the ‘junk’ investment status and that will add another blow to our staggering economy. The political smog of war will not suddenly clear revealing a great saviour figure. Rather, the ruling party will continue for quite some time to wage their internal power-struggle and the opposition parties will continue to be opportunistic snipers and disruptors. Crime levels will not even stabilise until a great number of jobs are created and the police and judicial systems cleaned up and revitalised.

Yes, it’s dark now, and it is bound to get darker before the dawn. And after that, well, I am still optimistic that with God’s grace and help we can realise our hope for a just and prospering South Africa.

Love

Ok, so much for realism, but what about faith? The three prime virtues of the Christian Faith are Love, Hope, and Faith  Love for our nation is called nationalism and whilst pride in and love for our nation is a heart-stirring ideal, it is more the result than the cause of transformational change. Our politicians can make any number of nation-inspiring speeches (even if we had inspirational leaders), but talk does not create reality. However, we can and should love our fellow citizens of all races, genders, and religions and help each other through the dark times. This we can all do, and perhaps “many hands make ‘light’ work” after all.

Hope

Hope is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19); an anchor cast into the future that we grasp to pull our life-boat forward. However, hope must be based on trust and trust is based on positive past performance. Hope in something or someone we cannot trust is just wishful thinking and a ‘paper anchor’. But, there is one person we can trust, who’s past performance makes Him worthy of our trust, and that is Jesus Christ. We can and should put our hope in Him – in what He has done in giving us new spiritual life, in the example of His life and works, and in what He teaches us to be and do. We can place our hope in Him, and we can try as best we can to share this hope with those around us, both Christians and non-Christians alike.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)

Faith

The third of the golden-three is Faith.  Christian faith goes beyond the more reasoned concept of hope to fully embrace the goodness, reliability, and divine perfection of God.  It is a certainty that yields unconditional surrender to the object of our faith. And that object of our faith is not wealth, or education, or a politician, or ourselves, or even faith itself. The ‘object’ of our faith must and can only be the Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate and eternally with us. This faith comes in part from a rational appreciation of the biblical evidence, but more so from the witness of the Holy Spirit within us. We can share this faith with others in our nation by helping them to ask for and receive the rebirth of their spirits in and through Jesus Christ.

So what can WE do in these dark times? We can be realistic about the prospects and time frame of national reconstruction, and we can be those who practice, share, and teach Faith, Hope and Love; and this we can do. And guess what? As we do this, WE can play a part in restoring our nation and making it a great place for our grandchildren.

Two scriptures that speak so powerfully to us in these days are Isaiah 60:1-2 and Matthew 5:14-16. Here they are. God bless you, dear reader. Be encouraged as you end 2019 and enter the new year that lies ahead.

Isaiah 60:1-2 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you  and his glory appears over you. NIV
Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  NIV

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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.