Thursday, October 25, 2018

What do you want Me to do for you?

Job 42:1-6, 1-17    Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22    Hebrews 7:23-28    Mark 10:46-52

One of the things I find fascinating about the Bible is that regardless of how many times you read it, it still delivers up new undiscovered gems ever so often. Today’s Gospel passage is a perfect example.

Last week we read about James and John who came to Jesus with a request. “Teacher”, they said, “we want You to do us a favour.” To which Jesus responded, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

In todays’ reading we read about Blind Bartimaeus who came to Jesus with a request. “Son of David,” he cried, “have mercy on me!” To which Jesus responded, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

In some of our English translations, the fact that Jesus uses the exact same words doesn’t always come through…but I checked it in the Greek and guess what…Jesus uses the exact same words in both cases. “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Anglican scholar, Tom Wright believes that Mark is deliberately presenting us with a contrast…and I think he is right. (In fact Wright is always Wright even when he is wrong, but in this case I believe he is right as well as Wright.) When Jesus asked James and John, “What do you want Me to do for you?” they asked for fame, fortune, and glory…or power and prestige, as Wright puts it. When Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want Me to do for you?” the reply was simply, “My Rabbi, that I might see again.” The contrast could not be clearer…

In many ways, Bartimaeus became a model to imitate. Unlike the disciples who seemed to see Jesus as a cash cow, if you will…a means to a powerful political end…Bartimaeus saw Jesus for what He was: The Son of David. The Messiah. The Saviour. In this sense, the healing of the blind man was a sign for the disciples…they were the ones who were blind and needed sight. They had been with Jesus for at least three years and they still did not really see Him for who He was…they saw Him as they wanted to see Him…a revolutionary warrior King who would restore the geo-political kingdom of Israel after getting rid of their Roman overlords…not the Saviour of the world Who was on His way to Jerusalem to give up His life for their lives ad our lives.

It is interesting to note that Bartimaeus cast aside his cloak before going to Jesus. You need to understand that this piece of cloth was not for warmth (although he more than likely slept in it)…no, it was mostly used for begging. It was his cloak that received the coins tossed his way. So there’s faith in this action…it tells us that he was expecting Jesus to do something that would change him from a beggar into something different…an individual who could work and provide for himself. You see, Bartimaeus was willing to leave everything…as little as what it was, it was all he had…but he was willing to give it up to receive and embrace whatever Jesus would give to him. That is faith in action. And the narrative ends with him following Jesus in the way. I don’t believe it is coincidental that Mark uses the words “in the way” as the believers were known as “Followers of the Way” in the early years of the Church. It is only later in Antioch that they were called Christians. And also remember where Jesus was heading…to Jerusalem to be crucified. That was His “way”…and Bartimaeus followed Him in that way.

Now, the passage we read from in Job has often been used to comfort many people in times of hardship and suffering. Job lost it all, but after being vindicated by God, his fortunes were restored – in fact he was better off than he was before his awful ordeal. But I will never forget what a very wise woman once said to me when I used this passage to encourage her in her personal struggles. She looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “That’s nice for Job. But what about Lazarus?”

The Lazarus she was talking about was the poor sick man who lay at a rich man’s gate and who died in his misery and poverty…there was no “good ending” for him. What she meant was that Job’s experience is not a universal rule…in fact, if you read the Scriptures his was more the exception to the rule. Think of how many biblical characters did not have their fortunes restored to them.

Hebrews 11 tells us of those who “were tortured refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawn in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, YET NONE OF THEM RECEIVED ALL THAT GOD HAD PROMISED. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”

The lesson of the book of Job is not that God will make you richer than you were before your suffering. It is not a liberation theology treatise or a social gospel manifesto. No, it is rather that God uses suffering to open our spiritually blind eyes so that we move from head knowledge (knowing ABOUT Him) to heart knowledge (really knowing Him personally).

I have always appreciated the words of the prophet Habakkuk at the end of his book. Basically he said this: “Even if I lose everything…even if total economic disaster comes upon me and my people…I will still serve and praise my God!” God is still God and He is still good and merciful and kind and loving and compassionate whether He gives us what we want or not…right?

The example of Jesus Himself comes to mind. Faced with the awful, painful death on the cross, He begged His Father to take the bitter cup away from Him. But He hastened to add, “Nevertheless, not My will be done, but Your will be done.” And He went on to the cross, offering Himself up as the sacrifice for sin once for all …your sin…my sin…and won for us the victory over sin, death, and Satan.

Ultimately, the story of Blind Bartimaeus serves as a contrast for more than just the disciples. They were blinded by their ambition for power and prestige, as were the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate who could not see truth even when He stood right in front of him. We too are often blinded by various things in life, thinking that if I only had this or if I only was like that then I would be fulfilled. But fulfilment comes with godly contentment and godly contentment only comes from knowing God for Who He is, not for what He can give us.

So, as you come to our Lord’s Table today once again to participate in this clear portrait of His love for you, think on this. If Jesus were to ask you today, “What do you want Me to do for you?” what would be your reply?

Johannes W H van der Bijl © 2018-10-22

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

September/October Newsletter 2018

Johann and Louise: Training Disciples to Make Disciples in Southern Africa

Canadian based philosopher and author of Lalibela’s Wise Man, Matshona Dhliwayo, once said: “Time crawls when you are bored; walks when you are occupied; runs when you are busy; but flies when you are having fun.” 

We just can’t believe we are half way through October…and we haven’t had the time to write a newsletter or to update our blog posts! We have been having so much fun training folks how to make disciple makers!

September started off with Strategy Training (the disciple making model of Jesus) for members of the Rondebosch Archdeaconry. This is a phenomenal group of dynamic people and they were so energised by what they learned that they were planning ways to get the information out to more members of their churches even before we had completed the training! You’ve got to love folks who are so positive…they are such an inspiration to us!

We continue to be involved at our local church in Villiersdorp. Johann presides over the Eucharist every second and fourth Sundays when we are here and we lead a disciple making group on Tuesday evenings. This is a mixed group, ethnically, linguilly, and denominationally. Cool, huh? Louise is getting more involved in local outreach as well, especially in the local schools. We are also praying about our disciple group getting more involved in the informal settlement in our area…and organising an interdenominational carolling event for the whole village.

We drove up to Johannesburg to attend the J-Life Regional Summit the third week in September. We took the Queen along as she has a sister in Pretoria…they hadn’t seen each other for many years and we thought it would be a good opportunity to do two important things at once! They had a grand time together, talking about the past and laughing about so many things. It was a very good idea and we are thrilled we were able to give them this gift.

The J-Life Summit was absolutely awesome. We met with representatives from many southern African countries and had an opportunity to share stories of how we train disciples and thus learn from each other. We spent quite a bit of time in prayer and waiting on the Lord. At one such time, we felt the Lord impress on us the need to share this training with more southern African countries as well as north African countries.

We have already trained some folks in Ethiopia and Egypt, but there are many north African countries that could benefit from this training. In particular South Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. We also feel that our Lord is leading us to take this training to Rwanda…and to train disciple makers in every country in between. This is a dream for 2020 as we are already booked solid for 2019…if this is from the Lord, it will come to pass. Please pray with us.

We hardly had time to catch our breath when we had to turn the Godmobile around and head on up to Durban for the Anglicans Ablaze Conference. While in Durban, we managed to meet up with Johann’s oldest brother, Eldon. They had not seen each other since their mum’s decease in 1993! It was an amazing reunion.

Just over 2000 people attended the Anglicans Ablaze Conference. Johann had an oportunity to do two workshops on Mobilizing Disciple Making Movements and to deliver a Bible Study on the development of Simon Peter as a disciple maker. There were so many awesome speakers including Archbishop Moon Hing from Indonesia and South African pastor and author Africa Mhlophe. The Holy Spirit certainly made His presence known through our time there.


We returned home elated but plumb tuckered out, as our dear friend Lowell Hughes says. There were so many things we needed to attend to before leaving yet again for a short retreat with one of the churches in the Rondebosch deanery. This was a great time for follow-up. The theme was Speaking Life…being intentionally positive in all we do and say…building up ourselves and others with positive statements based on what God says about us in Scripture.

So many people are negative in South Africa now because of the various situations facing the nation…but God has not abdicated nor has He abandoned us! He is still doing amazing things as we saw at our trainings, the J-Life Summit, and at Anglicans Ablaze. So, we choose to focus on the positive.

One of our Gambela students is attending the Discipleship Training School at YWAM in Muizenberg. We will be picking Ajikune up and bringing him home for the weekend…showing him so many things and exposing him to some South African cuisine. Pray for him! J

Louise is currently doing biblical studies by correspondence through George Whitefield College, one of my alma maters. It is aptly named “Explore”. She has just started and will be writing her first exams in November. Keep her in your prayers!

Praise the Lord with us for changed lives. So many people in the Anglican Church are becoming intentional about making disciples. God is on the move throughout southern Africa. People are hungry for the true Gospel.

Pray for more opportunities to train. We have plans for training in the Cape Town area next month.

Pray for the various difficult situations facing the nation of South Africa.

Pray for continued good health for us so that we can do the work the Lord has given us to do. Unfortunately our eyes have deteriorated quite a bit and we need new spectacles, but that’s all part of the old wear and tear, no?

Pray for the many opportunities we have now to minister to members of our respective families.

Pray with us for our children and grandchildren in the US. We miss them so much and sometimes feel so cut off from them. Praise the Lord for FaceTime…but sometimes one just wants to hug them.

We love you all and thank the Lord for you all.

Many blessings
Johann and Louise

Support Us
Johann and Louise spent two years helping to develop the St. Frumentius Seminary in Gambella, Ethiopia. They are working in the Province of Southern Africa where they are serving in seven southern African countries through engaging in a disciple making movement in order to grow the body of Christ. They are partnering with J-Life and other like-minded ministries. This ministry is massive and has the ability to reach thousands.
We are sent  through the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, a missionary sending community, engaging in building relationships with the worldwide church to experience the broken restored, the wounded healed, the hungry fed, and the lost found through the love and power of Jesus Christ. 
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Attention to: Johann and Louise van der Bijl