Advent 4. The Angel’s Story

 The fourth Advent candle represents love. In some traditions peace. It is called the “Angel’s Candle.” 

The group ABBA sang a song titled “I believe in angels”.

Do you believe in angels?

Did you know that there are 196 references to angels throughout scripture commencing in Genesis and ending in Revelation?

Angels played an important role in the Christmas story as we saw in our last session.

Luke 1:26-35: Matthew 1:18-25

Photo by cottonbro studio:


We know from traditional readings at Christmas time of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds out in the fields. But angels were involved right from the the very conception of the Christ child.

An angel appeared to an unmarried teenage girl to inform her that she was to become pregnant. She would give birth to a son. Her child would be special, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High,…” (Luke 1:32 NET)

She was understandably confused because she had not been intimate with any man.

The angel explains, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NET)

Ladies how would you react to such a message?

Mary’s response to this unexpected news was simply amazing. “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NET)


When Mary’s fiancé, Joseph became aware of his beloved’s pregnancy he was also confused.  But, “Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. ” (Matthew 1:19 NET)

Once again God sent an angel to explain to Joseph what had happened. Whereas Mary actually saw an angel, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream”. (Matthew 1:20a NET)

The angel explains. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20b NET)

The words of the prophet Isaiah were about to be fulfilled, (Isaiah 7:14)  “Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23 NET)

When Joseph woke up his confusion had been cleared. So he went ahead and married Mary. However, they did not have marital relations until she gave birth to a son, whom Joseph named Jesus.


When Jesus was almost two years old they were visited in their home in Bethlehem by a group of wise men from the east. Unfortunately they had come via King Herod in Jerusalem. When they did not report back to him he sent his soldiers to kill all children under the age of two.

Once again God sent an angel to this special couple. “…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13 NET)

Joseph packed up their belongings and he and his little family fled to Egypt where they stayed until after Herod’s death. Then “an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream….Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:19,20 NET)

Angels certainly played an important role in communicating God’s will to this young couple.


When God has an important message for us he pulls out the stops to make His will absolutely clear. God has a plan for each of our lives and it is His responsibility to make His will known to us. It is our responsibility to then obey.

Our passages also show God’s protective love of His own. At times we wonder at God’s protection when confronted by alarming situations. But we need to be thankful that because He loves us there are many other situations that God actually shields us from.

Within a few days we again celebrate Christ’s birth. Close the session by joining in a carol about the angels—Angels from the realms of glory.

And if you haven’t been following this series, you might like to take a look at the other posts.

Advent 3. Shepherds receive joyful news

On the third Sunday of Advent, a pink candle symbolizes Joy. This candle is also called the ‘Shepherds Candle’. 

Luke 2:8-20

Photo by Brigitte Tohm


If you wanted people to know that the promised Messiah had been born, you would surely choose the most influential person you could think of, wouldn’t you?  How amazing that God choose to share the joyful news of the Saviour’s birth first with a group of lowly shepherds.

Apart from certain Old Testament heroes very few people had actually seen an angel. Then one night an angel appeared to a small group of shepherds.


In those days, religious people for various reasons despised the shepherds:

  • They were regarded as spiritually unclean. Because their sheep required their constant attention they were unable to observe all the details of the ceremonial law. They could not observe the meticulous hand washings, rules and regulations.

  • They were regarded as unreliable witnesses and so were not allowed to give evidence before a judge.

On the positive side, these men and boys may have been special shepherds. There’s a strong possibility that they were actually caring for sheep, destined to be sacrificed in the temple.

It is a beautiful thought that the shepherds who perhaps cared for the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


Those shepherds may well have had a special relationship with God. David was a shepherd boy. He wrote many of his psalms out on the hillside, watching his father’s sheep, aware of God’s presence.

Regardless of whether they were in charge of the temple flocks or not, those shepherds would still have been regarded by most as the lowest of the low. Yet God chose them—despite their lack of education, and their poor living conditions. He gave them the amazing honour of being messengers of good news, in fact the best news ever.


Suddenly, unexpectedly “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…” The suddenness and splendour of this appearance threw the shepherds into a state of panic, but the angel was quick to set their minds at rest, “Don’t be afraid!”

Having given them the good news of Christ’s birth the angel went on to give them a sign’ which would help them to recognize the baby. In Bethlehem that night there were probably several newborn babies “wrapped in cloths” but there would only be one “lying in a manger.”

A heavenly choir praising God joined that one angel. In those days when a boy was born, the local musicians gathered at the house to greet his birth with simple music. Isn’t it wonderful to think that a heavenly choir took the place of local musicians when Jesus was born? That the angels sang songs for Jesus when the earthly singers were not available!


When the angels had left them the shepherds were quick to act. “They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in a manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word…The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen…”

The joy of having seen the Christ child was something they could not be bottled up—they “spread the word.”


God has a message for each one of us. He will use whatever means necessary to get that message across to us. But we have to be listening!

  • We have to be reading His Word for Him to speak through it.

  • We need to be in Christian company—listening to His chosen messengers.

  • We must spend time in prayer – and have times of quiet before God.

Does God want to speak to you today?  He certainly does.

Let’s make this Christmas season a special one—a time when we hear God speaking to us. Let’s be available, and listening, for His personal message to us this Christmas season. Like the shepherds let us be ready to respond.

In closing here’s a catchy song about the shepherds to sing along with—‘Shepherd’s Song’.

And if you haven’t been following this series, you might like to take a look at the other posts.

Advent 2. Joseph wondered why?

On the second Sunday of Advent, the Peace candle is lit. Some traditions call it the Faith candle. Like the first candle, it is also purple and is often referred to as the ‘Bethlehem Candle’.

Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7


Joseph, husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus Christ appears only briefly in Scripture. Yet during his brief appearance he teaches us some important lessons about being a true follower of Christ.

Try to imagine what it must have been like to discover that the woman you to are intending to marry has become pregnant. And she claims that she had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

Though Joseph did find this story difficult to accept, the power of his love for Mary overcame the confusion in his mind. So out of love he decided to quietly call off the wedding. (Matthew 1:19 CEV)

God came to Mary’s rescue and sent an angel to confirm that Mary’s story was true. Only then did Joseph begin to experience peace of mind.

Truly our hearts will never be healthy and at peace unless we learn to accept, receive and abide in God’s unfailing love through total obedience. Click To Tweet


In several places we read that Mary wondered at the things that were happening. (Luke 1:29; 2:19) Joseph must also have wondered and had a number of ‘Why?’ questions.

Why didn’t the Holy Spirit impregnate Mary after our marriage?

Legally Joseph could have had Mary stoned to death for being unfaithful to her betrothal vow. Instead he obeyed the angel’s instruction to Go ahead and marry her.


Eventually, when the dust had settled, a government decree required them to make a long tedious journey at the height of Mary’s pregnancy.

Why Lord, Why did Caesar Augustus’ decree have to coincide with the end of Mary’s pregnancy? 

Joseph and Mary made that five-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem only to discover that all available accommodation had been taken up because of the census. They ended up in a stable amongst the domestic animals.

It was probably a cold, damp, dark, dirty and unhealthy cave, which served as a stable for the innkeeper, as well as for his guest’s donkeys. A hollowed out feeding trough or manger, was the only available cradle for the newborn child.

 Why Bethlehem? And a stable of all places ?


Once the census was over Joseph was able to get more comfortable lodgings in Bethlehem. But their peace of mind was disturbed yet again.

Just short of their infant son’s second birthday they were visited by the Magi from the east with amazing gifts for the one born to be king – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Their visitors had no sooner departed when Joseph was warned by an angel of Herod’s assassination plot to kill their child and they were forced to flee to Egypt until after Herod’s death.

Why was Herod’s scheme not thwarted before he could implement it?


Though Joseph’s involvement in the nativity story was a brief one, he is a model to us of obedience.

  • When and angel gave him a message from God in a dream to marry Mary he was ready to obey.
  • When Jesus’ life was threatened by Herod’s assassination plot, he had another dream involving an angel and he immediately packed up his wife and son and headed for Egypt.
  • Yet a third time after Herod’s death he was instructed in a dream to return with his family to Galilee in Israel.

How often do we pay any attention to our dreams?

Joseph experienced peace each time he obeyed God’s warning.

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. (John 14:23 NET)

Joseph’s love for Mary and obedience to the will of God played a major role in the Christmas story.

In closing I invite you to sing along with the carol ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem.”




Advent 1. Hope for the world

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent.

The candle that is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, is usually purple and represents ‘Hope’.

 Isaiah 52:1-10;  Luke 2:21-38

Image by 41330 from Pixabay

  • With 2022 drawing to a close what do you hope for most in 2023?


The prophet Isaiah ministered in Judah. He presents a very clear picture of the sins of the kingdom of Judah—idolatry, hypocrisy, materialism, and the oppression of the poor. Sound familiar?

But his message was not entirely negative; the prophet also promised God’s people redemption, offering them hope for a glorious future, particularly when their Messiah arrived.

With these promises in mind as well as other prophecies, the people held onto the hope of their fulfillment during their lifetime. Sadly, however, because of their sins they succumbed to enemy forces and were taken into captivity.

Even then, through the prophets the Lord promised that a remnant would return to the Promised Land. This return took place during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.


What do you do when you have prayed for a situation or a person for a long time and yet the Lord seems to ignore your request?

Do you lose hope?

Do you give up and stop praying?

The years passed.  Israel’s hope for the promised Messiah who would bring redemption and salvation faded into the background. By the time the Romans took control of the Promised Land, all hope for a coming Messiah had faded.

Yet certain individuals were still hoping for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

A part of the story that is not so well known is the part that we read about in Luke 2:21-38.


According to Jewish tradition when a baby boy was eight days old, he had to be circumcised. After a period of purification for Mary, Joseph and Mary took Jesus, as their firstborn son, to Jerusalem to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. (Luke 2:23)

Amazing, even though Jesus was God in the flesh his parents obeyed God’s law and had Him dedicated to God.

In the temple, Joseph and Mary met Simeon who had not lost hope.

Luke recorded, “At this time a man named Simeon was living in Jerusalem. Simeon was a good man. He loved God and was waiting for God to save the people of Israel. God’s Spirit came to him.” (Verses 25b ,26 CEV)

He took the baby Jesus in his arms and announced “Lord, I am your servant, and now I can die in peace, because you have kept your promise to me. With my own eyes I have seen what you have done to save your people, and foreign nations will also see this.” (Verses 29-32)

Do you sense his incredible joy, at his hope being fulfilled?


But the story continues. Next, they were approached by Anna, an 84-year-old prophetess, who, since her husband’s passing in her youth, had spent day and night in the temple fasting and praying hoping to see the promised Messiah.

When she saw Mary and Joseph and the Christ child she too knew her hope had been fulfilled.

Simeon and Anna’s hopes were satisfied because their hopes were based on God’s promise through the prophets.

What are you hoping for?

If what you are hoping and praying for is biblically based, God is committed to providing an answer.

It may not be the answer you hope for, but it will be the best answer because it is God's answer. Click To Tweet


The coming of Christ and the formation of the Christian Church has introduced many wonderful benefits to mankind, yet as we know, this world is still a shockingly evil place. Each day’s news informs us of just what a selfish, wicked, corrupt, and violent society we live in. And it’s not only in our own lands.

So then where is the promised redemption and salvation?

As was the case with many Old Testament prophecies, Isaiah’s promise looked to a double fulfillment.

  • The first fulfillment was the coming of Israel’s Messiah, as the babe of Bethlehem – the Christ of Calvary.

He came not only for the redemption and salvation of a particular nation, but to offer redemption and salvation for all those who put their trust in Him.

At the same time, Jesus made it abundantly clear that following Him would be no picnic , It would not guarantee us freedom from hardship, suffering, and pain.


  • The second fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy will take place in the future at the return of Jesus, the hope of the world.

As Paul wrote; “you surely know that the Lord’s return will be as a thief coming at night…So we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet.  God doesn’t intend to punish us, but wants us to be saved by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, 8, 9.)

The Greek word used for ‘hope’ is more than just “wishful thinking”. It means ‘confident expectation’.

Our Christian confident expectation is that:

  • We were saved the moment we opened our lives to Jesus.

  • Throughout our earthly life we will continue the process of being saved.

  • Ultimately when we either go to be with Jesus through death, or Jesus makes His second appearance on earth to fetch us, our salvation will be complete.

Jesus Christ “hope of the world” has come. Praise God this same Jesus who was born as the babe of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago will one day return as our Redeemer, the focus of our hope.

  • Is your life focused on Jesus Christ the hope of the world?

Please close this session by joining me in this prayer. 

God of hope fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in You, so that I may overflow with a message of hope towards others through the power of the Holy Spirit.








26. A Man Called Peter

Did you ever read the book ‘A man called Peter’?

 “A man called Peter” was written by Catherine Marshall about her deceased husband Peter Marshall, a Presbyterian minister who had been chaplain to the President of the United States.

Our readings this session focus on another man called Peter.  There are three major highlights in his life, although there are many other passages that mention him.

Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 22: 54-62; John 21:15-22

The Apostle Peter – Photo by Marina Gr:


Like a number of other disciples of Jesus, Simon Peter was a fisherman.

Andrew, his brother was a disciple of John the Baptist. One day Jesus approached as John was baptizing folks in the Jordan River at Bethabara. John proclaimed to his followers, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36b) Andrew and John, another of John’s disciples followed Jesus and spent the rest of the day with Him.

Andrew then went and found his brother Simon and introduced him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter) (John 1:42).

Although from the outset of his gospel John calls him Simon Peter it would appear that his name was actually Simon until Jesus renamed him Peter.

Like many others, I have been puzzled at the seeming clash between John’s account of Peter’s calling as above and what we read in Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew states, “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.   And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18,19 ESV)


In an article with the title immediately above, Charles Spurgeon explains the dilemma. He points out that John’s account is of Peter’s initial conversion and calling to become Jesus’s disciple.

Then in Matthew, we have an account of a second, later calling. After a miraculous catch of fish along with Andrew, James, and John, Jesus called them to become evangelists—fishers of men.

Spurgeon sees Peter’s third calling as when he was called to be a leader—one of the twelve Apostles who would become the founders of a new religion—Christianity.


On one occasion when Jesus and His disciples were able to get away from the crowds, they were in the area of  Caesarea Philippi. Jesus took the opportunity to cross-question the disciples. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  His disciples came up with several answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.

Then Jesus made it personal, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 ESV)

It was Peter who came up with the reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  

To which Jesus responded, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!” (Matthew 16:17 NET)


The twelve were gathered together with Jesus in the Upper Room for the Passover meal. During the meal, Jesus washed their feet. Jesus then announced that one of them would betray Him and the others would desert Him.

Jesus informed Peter, “Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31,32 GNB)

Peter’s immediate  response was, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and to die with you!” (Verse 33 GNB)

But Jesus answered, “The rooster will not crow tonight until you have said three times that you do not know me.” (Verse 34 GNB)


After the Passover meal, the eleven of us along with Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spent time in agonizing prayer. We were so tired we fell asleep. Suddenly Judas was there with a number of temple guards who promptly arrested Jesus.

The other disciples fled, but John and I followed at a distance. Jesus was taken to the home of the high priest. I was outside at the gate until John fetched me.

I went to sit with the servants and temple police, who were trying to keep themselves warm in front of a charcoal fire. Three times someone accused me of being part of Jesus’s group. Each time I denied this.  After the third time. a rooster crowed and I noticed Jesus turn and give me a long look. Then I remembered what he had said about me denying him. I felt awful. I went away and wept.

Although I heard what was happening to Jesus,  I couldn’t bring myself to go to Calvary. I couldn’t bear to see them crucify him.


After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples were told to meet Him in Galilee. Peter’s spirit was still wounded by his denials, so Jesus deliberately reconstructed a whole series of events to bring that troubling memory to the surface. (See session 12 – Deja vu.)

Then after breakfast, Jesus singled Peter out and began His healing therapy.

  • How many times did Peter deny Jesus?

Three times Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Three times Jesus asks Peter the same question, “…do you truly love me?” ( John 21:15,16,17)  Twice Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (Verses 15,16)

The third time Peter responded, “Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.” ((John 21:17 The Message)

Three times he tells Jesus “I love you.

By this threefold challenge not only was Peter assured of his restoration but he was also re-commissioned by Jesus. In effect, Jesus said, “Love me… go and care for my flock”

Then Peter heard again those wonderful words, he first heard years before alongside that same Galilean Sea, “Follow me!” (John 21:19)

Peter went on to become a faithful and influential leader in the New Testament church.


We’ve all failed our Lord. Like Peter, we need the assurance that all is forgiven.

Just as Jesus went to amazing lengths to restore Peter our Lord wants us to be assured of forgiveness and restoration.

Until those hurtful memories of your failure are dealt with, you can never be the person that God intends you to be. Click To Tweet

In closing, I suggest you bring any areas of hurt to Jesus in prayer and ask Him to bring about a healing. Pray along with this song.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

25. He stoops to conquer

What is the most surprising thing that has happened to you?

Our reading describes an occasion when Jesus washed His disciples’ dirty feet.

I’m sure that took them by surprise!

John 13:1-17

Photo by Luis Quintero:

The scene was a large upstairs room on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The atmosphere was uncomfortable and unpleasant. There were two reasons for the unpleasant atmosphere


The Palestinian roads were dirty and dusty. The disciples wore sandals.  Although the owner of this upstairs room had provided for the rest of their needs, he may have been unable to afford servants to wash their feet upon arrival. But none of the disciples was prepared to wash those smelly, grimy feet.


In his account of the Last Supper, Luke gives us a hint that another contributing factor to the uncomfortable atmosphere was an argument over who was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Not the first time this debate had raised its ugly head (Luke 9:46-48; Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37).

Jesus and His twelve disciples were eating the Passover meal. The tense atmosphere increased as all eyes were fixed on Jesus who suddenly—unexpectedly—rose from the table. Discussion ceased. You could have heard a pin drop. Was there something wrong with the Passover preparations?


Without a word, Jesus got up and moved across the room to the large water jar standing near the front door. He stripped off His outer garments, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Jesus was about to act out a parable. “Having loved his own…He now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1b). Clad only in the garments of a slave, Jesus began to wash His disciple’s feet.

Peter reacted: “No way Lord—you shall never wash my feet!”—“Lord, I’m not fit to have you wash my feet.”—I can’t let you be my servant.”

Jesus’s reply shook the disciples. “Peter, If I do not wash your feet, you will no longer be my disciple” (John 13:8b GNB).

Typical of act-before-you-think Peter, the fisherman replied, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head too” (Verse 9).

Jesus use this everyday practice of foot washing to teach His disciples a spiritual truth. “Anyone who has had a bath is completely clean and does not have to wash himself, except for his feet” (Verse 10).

We who trust Jesus have been washed clean of all past sins. Yet, we are constantly contaminated through our contact with the sinful practices of the world. We need Jesus’s continual washing of those daily sins that attach themselves to our lives. “Having loved His own…He began to wash His disciple’s feet” (John 13:1a, 5).


Several lessons can be learnt from Jesus’s actions that evening.

True greatness

Jesus gave them a demonstration of true greatness by humbling himself and washing their feet.

Jesus said, “The greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant” (Luke 22:26 GNB).


None can serve Jesus meaningfully until we have let Him serve us. Until we allow Jesus to wash us clean of all sin, our good works count for nothing. We need to allow Jesus’s act of sacrifice to impact upon our lives.

Only once we acknowledge His sacrifice and surrender our lives totally to Him, can we begin to serve others effectively for Him.


What Jesus did physically that evening He wants to do spiritually today. He cares for you and me. He wants to meet our needs. Jesus wants to serve you—to wash those who have. . . . .

Tired feet

You feel weak and worn out. Battling to cope. Things are getting you down. Jesus wants to restore your strength.

Dirty feet

Things have crept into your life that ought not to be there. Skeletons are in your cupboard that Jesus wants to help bury today. He died on that cross to set us free from these things.

Wounded feet

Wounded at some time, in some way

  • in childhood by the actions of a parent or relative.

  • by someone who betrayed a trust we placed in him or her.

  • through the unfaithfulness of a marriage partner.

  •  as a result of words or actions of a church leader.

  • due to bad, crippling experiences which have left you confused and bewildered.

Our wounded spirit needs inner healing. The scars will always be there. But the hurting , the raw wounds can be healed. That’s why Jesus went to the cross. He was wounded for us so that our wounds may be healed.

For many the problem is Busy feet.

  • Too busy to spend time with the Lord.

  • Too many things going on in your life.

  • A constant need to keep busy and working. Maybe we can identify with Martha.

Don’t forget, Jesus told Martha that she was losing out by being too busy and not spending more time with Him like her sister, Mary. Busyness does not necessarily equal effectiveness.

Let Jesus bathe your busy feet as you admit your business and ask Him to show you where to cut back to make more time for Him.

Finally, some have Ugly feet.

  • Are you discouraged and disappointed in yourself?

  • Do you seem to be lacking in gifts to use to serve Jesus or others?

  • Have you thought, If you could look behind my mask, you would have nothing to do with me. I am not a pleasant person to be around. I’ve got ugly feet!

Jesus says to you, “Allow me to wash those ugly feet. I want to make them beautiful!”

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation...(Isaiah 52:7 ESV) Click To Tweet

No matter which category of feet you identify with today, remember that Jesus died to give you abundant life. He came to save sinners, to heal the wounded, to restore the brokenhearted.

Admit that you have tired—dirty—wounded—busy—or ugly feet and ask Jesus to wash them for you today.


After washing the disciple’s feet Jesus said, “I have set an example for you so that you will do just what I have done for you.”

Jesus did not mean that we’re to literally wash one another’s feet, but serve one another. Serving  is a two-way street. I need to come alongside you and allow you to be open with me. But in return, I must be open with you, and let you come alongside me.

Once we have been washed by Jesus, He commissions us to make ourselves available to wash, to minister to, to come alongside, those who need to be washed clean of the things that have contaminated their lives.

Praise God that Jesus came to save us and make our lives beautiful for Him. Now we can confidently proclaim “Our God reigns” in the words of this song, ‘How lovely on the mountains’ based on Isaiah 52:7.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.



24. Famous last words

The famous last words of some of the world’s great people are an inspiration to us:

  • Sir Walter Raleigh shortly before being beheaded is recorded as saying, “It matters little how the head lies if the heart is right.”

  • Joan of Arc, claimed to have seen visions and heard angels instructing her. She was condemned to death by burning. Amid the flames, she cried out, “Yes, my voices were from God. My voices have not deceived me – Jesus!”

  • The great Italian painter and sculptor, Michelangelo’s last words were, “Throughout life remember the sufferings of Jesus.”

Jesus’s life and ministry were rapidly drawing to a close. For a third time, He warned his disciples of his impending death (Matthew 20:17-19). With time running short, what important last words did Jesus have for His disciples?

During those last few days, Jesus told a series of five parables.  Our reading covers one of them.

Matthew 21:23-32

Image by Pexels from Pixabay


While Jesus was busy teaching in the temple court, “the chief priests and the elders of the people challenged Him, `By what authority are you doing these things and who gave this authority?'”

In Jesus’s day as in ours, people looked for an outward sign of authority—education, title, position, and connections. But Jesus’s authority came from who He was, not from any outward superficial trappings.

If Jesus had said that his authority came from God they would have accused Him of blasphemy. If He had said that He was acting under His own authority, the crowds would have believed in the Pharisees.

Jesus turned the tables on the Pharisees by asking a seemingly unrelated question, which exposed their real motives (Matthew 21:25). Whichever way they chose to answer His question, would put them in a poor light with the crowds, so they answered “We don’t know.”

Jesus saw this as an opportunity to tell another story.


The parable of the Two Sons is a very human story. We all know of children who have responded to instructions in a similar way.

There was a great deal of work to be done in a vineyard, so the owner approached his first son for help. He flatly refused to do the work, but had second thoughts later and got stuck in. Upon being turned down by the first son the man asked his second son, who very politely said, “I will sir,” but went away and forgot about his promise.

“Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?” Jesus asked.


The answer to Jesus’s question may seem perfectly clear to us.  Although the religious leaders answered correctly, this was not the usual attitude amongst the Jews.

A missionary in Israel told this parable and then asked the question, “Who did the will of his father?”  To his great surprise, the crowd unanimously answered, “The man who said he would go and did not.”  When he asked them why, they said, “A day’s work in the vineyard is a little thing, but to say `No’ to your father’s beard is a grievous sin.”

The teaching of Jesus is the exact opposite. He maintained that lip service could never be a substitute for action.


In this story, the first son represented the tax collectors and sinners such as Matthew and Mary Magdalene. Their lives at first indicated a direct refusal to have anything to do with God. Yet when Jesus came, they listened to Him and their lives were transformed.

The second son represented the very people who had questioned Jesus’ authority—the Scribes and the Pharisees.  They professed to serve God and obey His commandments and yet when He sent His Son they didn’t accept His authority.

Jesus was in effect saying to them, “All your lives you have been making a great profession of your love and devotion to God, but your attitude undermines your profession. The people that you brand as sinners have repented and turned back to God and been accepted into His kingdom but you choose to remain outside the Kingdom.”


This parable underlines the saying actions speak louder than words. Neither son’s actions supported their words, but their actions did reveal the extent of their love for their father.

These two sons stand for different kinds of people. The second represents those who say one thing but their lives tell another story.


Open-air preacher Dick Sheppard once said, “the greatest handicap the Church has is the unsatisfactory lives of professing Christians.”

I heard it once said of a person who claimed to be a Christian, “I cannot hear what he says for listening to how he acts.”

  • Do you claim to love the Lord Jesus? Do you live up to it?


The opposite is also true. There are people like the first son, whose actions are better than their  words. They make no claim to being a Christian and yet they live good clean lives.

I once knew a man who was a friendly, clean living, man of integrity. He would have nothing to do with shady deals, but he wasn’t a Christian.


The reaction of neither of the sons was ideal. Both of them caused their father heartache.

  • Having said “Yes” to Jesus are you doing what He wants you to do?

The son and daughter who really bring joy to their heavenly father are the ones who willingly hear and gladly obey the instructions He gives.

Amongst Jesus’ last words to His disciples were words of encouragement to be doers of His word. “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21)

In closing think about, what are you doing to grow the kingdom of God?

The words of this popular hymn remind us that we need to both trust and obey.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

23. Turning failure into success

Do you rate yourself as a successful Christian or are your failures dragging you down?

 Several years back for the first time in many years a South African won the Comrades Marathon. However, he was disqualified days later for having used a banned substance.

Many have made great strides in politics, business, the theatre, society, and even in the ministry, only to have their success crumble as a result of something they’ve done or failed to do.

In our readings for this session, we read of a man who had great potential for success but whose life ended in failure.

Read the following two passages – John 12;1-6;13:18-30

Image by yogesh more from Pixabay

  • What determines success or failure?

A dictionary definition of Failure is ‘the non-occurrence, non-performance, neglect to do something’.

Success is ‘the attainment of one’s object’


The Word of God is very honest in its record of the successes as well as the failures of its chief characters. Even some well-known Bible heroes have made the transition from success to failure. Both Kings Saul and David, come to mind. God chose them both to become king of Israel.

Initially, King Saul was God-fearing but he disobeyed God’s instruction to totally annihilate the enemy (1 Samuel 15:3,9). Then God told Samuel “Saul has stopped obeying me, and I’m sorry that I made him king.” (Verse 11)

King David had so much potential—an accomplished musician, poet, herdsman, and marksman, and chosen to replace Saul as Israel’s king. He had everything going for him, but in a weak moment or days, he sinned. He neglected his troops, committed adultery, and had his lover’s husband murdered.

Although Saul and David were chosen by God, they both fell short of God’s standard for living a God-glorifying life.

Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). That includes me, and it includes you.

  • Are you achieving your potential for God?


Jesus did not make his choice of the Apostles lightly; he spent a whole night in prayer before choosing his twelve-man team. (Luke 6:12-16) One of the chosen twelve was Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

Along with the rest of the team, Judas was appointed to “announce that the kingdom of heaven will soon be here.  Heal the sick, raise the dead to life, heal people who have leprosy, and force out demons.” (Matthew 10:7,8 CEV) So not only did Judas hear Jesus’s amazing teaching, and witness the miracles that Jesus performed, but he actually experienced the wonder of being personally powerfully used by God.

Our first reading informs us that he was the treasurer of the group of Apostles and inclined to pocket some of the proceeds for himself (John 12:6). But the fact that he was appointed treasurer, indicates he started off well. He was a successful team member. Yet like so many other followers of the Master, he had a wrong concept of Jesus’s mission here on earth.


His final act of failure showed up at the Last Supper. When Jesus did not fall in line with his expectations, Judas tried to force the Lord into setting up a coup against Rome, by betraying him to the religious leaders who saw Jesus as a threat to their authority.

Jesus gave him every opportunity to turn from his godless plan, but he didn’t. His plan failed miserably. Instead Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and condemned to death. When Judas realised what a dreadful mistake he’d made, it was too late. And he committed suicide (Matthew 27:5). How sad. For a man who started out with such potential.

  • Are you achieving your potential for God?


Could Judas’s failure have been reversed? Yes! I believe it could. If only he had accepted the olive branch Jesus offered him at that last supper. If only he had repented and sought God’s forgiveness and returned the money. If only he had not betrayed his Lord.

Could God possibly still have work for David to do after his adultery with Bathsheba? Yes God graciously restored David after he pleaded for forgiveness in that wonderful Psalm of repentance: Psalm 51. Despite his failure, the shepherd, soldier, singer, sinner, and sovereign went on to become a successful, dedicated servant of God.

Of the twelve men Jesus chose, his right-hand man denied him, Judas betrayed Him, and nine of the others deserted Him—a 91% failure rate. Only John was present until the end. Yet after Jesus’ resurrection and the Pentecost anointing, eleven of them became a success in their witness for Christ, laying a firm foundation that has enabled the Gospel to be spread worldwide.


Becoming a Christian does not automatically turn us into perfect people. We are all still sinners—forgiven sinners. We are banded together to try to serve God.

Perhaps you have tried to live a successful Christian life but find that so often you fall short. So often you lapse back into doing things your way, not God’s.

You only have one life to live here on earth. There is no second opportunity to serve the Lord. Click To Tweet

You need to make your life count for God. 

Admit your failures. Ask God through Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse you, and to show you what He wants you to do for Him today.

In closing let’s celebrate together that we can be successful Christians through the singing of this beautiful hymn: My Life is in You Lord!

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.