Tuesday, November 20, 2018

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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

For what are we thankful? Wow. That's a long list. The Lord has been very good to us this year...the more than three year long drought seems to be coming to an end. The dam that supplies our village with water was full to overflowing! The larger and more well-known Theewaterkloof dam is over 50% full. We are truly grateful.




Health-wise we are doing good. Our children and grandchildren are fine...actually they are flourishing. The disciple-making ministry is moving forward, perhaps a little slower than we had hoped, but this is heart changing work and that is better slower and deeper.

Although we are still not fully funded, the Lord has provided for our every need. We haven't lacked anything.

Our dear partners in ministry...that's you! We are so thankful for you. Without your love and support and encouragement and prayers we would not be here. It is through the few faithful givers who never tire of blessing us even when it means sacrificing their own comforts that we are able to reach many with the liberating Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is probably the thing I am most grateful for...our Lord's immeasurable love for His world.

Our prayers are with you all at this time...may you too find more than enough reason to be grateful and thankful to our gracious God and King...not just on Thanksgiving Day, but on every day from now until eternity.

He is worthy of our thanks and praise!

Sending you cyber hugs and blessings.
Johann and Louise
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Johann and Louise spent two years helping to develop the St. Frumentius Seminary in Gambella, Ethiopia. At present, they are mostly working in Southern Africa where they are serving in seven southern African countries, although they continue to work with the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa as well as other southern and northern 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

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Discipling Through Devotionals (4)

Teaching in the Synagogue of Capernaum authenticated by Healing of the Demoniac
Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31b-37

Besides coming to reconcile the world to the Father through His substitutionary sacrifice of Himself on the cross offered once for all, the main focus of Jesus’ ministry appears to have been to mobilise a disciple making movement by transferring His spiritual DNA, as it were, to those who followed Him, primarily through teaching and modelling. Jesus did not only teach them what they needed to know, He showed them how to apply truth to ordinary every day situations as well as situations that were rather out of the ordinary.

Neither Mark nor Luke recorded the precise content of Jesus teaching at the synagogue that day. The reason for this apparent omission is simple: it was not their primary focus. His authority was. “The authority of Jesus’ teaching is a major theme in this unit. This is highlighted quite explicitly: people are amazed at Jesus’ authority at the beginning of the scene, and they comment on it again at the end. The exorcism itself visibly demonstrates the theme.”[1]

Jesus’ authority was two-fold – His teaching and His authority over demonic forces. Both were totally unlike what would have been considered the norm at the time. Exorcisms were usually performed by means of rituals or incantations.[2] In stark contrast, Jesus simply told the demon to be silent and to leave the man. “There had been no technique, no spells or incantations, no symbolic act. There had been only the word…(the people had) been confronted by a word invested with power to which there were no analogies in their experience.”[3] Likewise, when we encounter the demonic there need not be any elaborate methodology employed. Jesus has given us His authority and His power to deliver possessed and oppressed people from the demonic.[4]

It seems that Mark was making a statement about Jesus from the very beginning of the Gospel bearing his name. Jesus had come to restore creation – He had come to take what was lost through the disobedience of our ancestors away from the usurper.[5] In Genesis chapters one and two, we are told that God created humankind to be His vice-regents over His creation.  By submitting to the authority of Satan rather than to that of God, our common ancestors forfeited this role and Satan became what Jesus called “the god of this world”, ruling over the hearts and minds of all people. But God promised that someday the “Seed of the woman” would come to reverse the effects of what is commonly referred to as the “Fall” by bruising the head (i.e. permanently damaging the authority) of the devil.

As we have already seen in the section on the wilderness temptations, Jesus bound the strongman so that He could plunder his household. The true King had come and one of the signs that His Kingdom had arrived was the casting out of demons.[6]

There are two very interesting aspects to this particular story. The first is simply the location. The demoniac was found in a place of worship, namely the synagogue. The lesson learned is that we will find non-believers in religious places as well as non-religious places.

The second is that, while human individuals did not identify Jesus’ divinity, the demons did. “That the demonic powers possess a certain knowledge of Jesus’ identity is clear from the cry of recognition, ‘I know who You are, the Holy One of God.’”[7] In recording this, Mark was clearly telling his readers right from the start that Jesus was no ordinary human, even though His followers only realised the fact much later. His absolute authority over the demons revealed Who He was…“For one dramatic moment the curtain is parted and everyone sees who is really on the throne.”[8]

The lesson here seems to be that while the real identity of Jesus is known in the spiritual realm, it is not always clearly seen by people. Some may be quite willing to acknowledge Him as a good person or a great moral teacher, but not as God.

Jesus was and still is both God and Man.[9] The same authority displayed here in the synagogue in Capernaum is ours in His Name.[10] Like Jesus, we who walk as He walked are called to announce His kingdom come in bearing witness to His authority as legitimate owner of this world through teaching, healing, and resisting the demonic forces and principalities of darkness.




[1] Interpreting Gospel Narratives: Scenes, People, and Theology, Timothy Wiarda, B&H Academic, Nashville, TN, 2010, 82
[2] For a good summary see: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5942-exorcism#anchor1
[3] The Gospel of Mark, NICNT, William L. Lane, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1974, 76.
[4] Cf. Matthew 10:8, Luke 9:1, Acts 5:16; 8:7; 19:11-12.
[5] “For Jesus and the evangelists, they (the exorcisms) signaled something far deeper that was going on, namely, the real battle of the ministry, which was not a round of fierce debates with the keepers of orthodoxy, but head-on war with the satan.” Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN, 1996, 195
[6] See Matthew 12:28-29.
[7] Lane 73-74
[8] Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Ann Spangler, Lois Tverberg, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2018, 199.
[9] Cf. Luke 24:39; Acts 1:9; 1 Corinthians 15:50
[10] Cf. Ephesians 6:9; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9

Friday, November 16, 2018

Discipling Through Devotionals (3)


Call of the Four
Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11

Disciple making is a process that begins simply with the development of relationships. In the case of Jesus’ disciples, their relationship with Him began quite a while before they made the final decision to drop their nets[1] and to follow Him…and even then, that commitment was tried and tested on several occasions right up to Jesus’ death and resurrection![2]

As far as Andrew, perhaps John, and Simon Peter were concerned, this relationship began shortly after Jesus’ baptism and temptation and before Jesus began His public ministry (cf. John 1:35-42) with a simple invitation to “come and see”. John the Baptist was baptising at Bethany beyond the Jordan, just north of the Dead Sea. Every Jew would have understood the significance of this location as it was the same area where Joshua[3] crossed the Jordan after the generation of the unfaithful had died during the 40 year long wilderness wandering period. Messiah fever was high at the time John made his first appearance and his call to repentance would have been interpreted in terms of a preparation for some form of renewal or reconstruction of the nation[4]. So we can only imagine what must have been going through the minds of those who heard John preach! No wonder they were flocking to him to be washed clean in preparation for God’s intervention!

We know that Andrew, Simon’s brother was a follower of John the Baptist[5]. After hearing the witness of the Baptist regarding the Spirit anointing Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world”[6], they met with Jesus and spent a few hours with Him. We don’t know what they talked about, but something was said that convinced Andrew that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah because he immediately left to find Simon, his brother. If Simon was not a follower of John the Baptist (there is no indication in the text that he was) then this “finding” would have involved a three or more day trip back and forth to Galilee!

Andrew told his brother that they had found the Messiah and Simon immediately went with him to meet Jesus. The first meeting is interesting as it involved the giving of a name or a nickname[7]. Names were always significant in the culture at the time as with many African cultures still today.[8] At this point one would have expected Simon to respond with some statement of gratitude or surprise or perhaps the question why? But strangely and perhaps uncharacteristically, Simon said nothing and he did nothing. He obviously did not drop everything to follow Jesus as the next time the two met, Simon was still fishing.[9]

The second meeting with Jesus went a little deeper. In Mark 1:16-18 Jesus’ challenge was no longer simply “come and see”; He now called them to “come follow Me and I will show you how to fish for people”.[10] Simon, Andrew, James, and John immediately followed Jesus and for a time watched Him fish for people. They heard Him teach and preach, they saw Him heal and perform exorcisms, they witnessed His compassion for people, and they heard Him challenge them to “pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more labourers into the harvest field.”

And yet, in Luke 5:1-11 we find them fishing for fish once again. We don’t really know why Simon Peter appeared to be reluctant to follow Jesus. Perhaps he was not fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Many had made that claim before and had met with a rather sticky end (cf. Acts 5:36-37). Or perhaps he was concerned that he would not be able to adequately provide for his family. Or perhaps he was fearful that he was not disciple making material and that he would fail.

In this account of the miraculous draught of fishes, Jesus touched on all of Simon’s possible fears. After having used Simon’s boat as a makeshift pulpit, Jesus told the seasoned fisherman to launch out for a catch. Luke filled in the background to this story by telling us that they had been fishing all night long[11] and that they had not caught as much as a single fin. So it is not surprising that at first Simon objected to the Lord’s suggestion. What exactly changed his mind we do not know, but they did launch out and we know what happened…the nets filled to breaking point and Simon had an “aha!” moment.

In this single event, Jesus addressed all of Simon’s concerns. He demonstrated quite clearly that He had power over the created order and was not a mere carpenter/stonemason/itinerant preacher and teacher – He was the Messiah and there was no longer any reason to doubt that. Secondly, He proved to Simon that He could provide exceedingly abundantly more than he and his wife would need. No need to fret about finances or food in the future! And finally, He dispelled the fear of failure by telling Simon Peter that He would make him what he needed to be…there need be no fear as he would receive personal, one-on-one, on the job training.

It is Jesus Who makes disciple makers…they do not make themselves. No one need ever be afraid, as Jesus will make us the kind of people we need to be and He has promised to complete the good work He began in us! All we need to do is walk as He walked…follow His lead…learn and imitate what He did in the Gospels…be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He was…and stay connected to the Father through constant prayer. [12]


[1] See Matthew 19:27 - Dropping their nets and following Jesus for the fishermen meant leaving behind a lucrative business. We would do well to remember that Simon Peter owned his own boat (Luke 5:3) as well as his own home (Luke 4:38 - more like a compound where family members and often those of the same trade lived together in a shared space called an insula), had business partners (Luke 5:10), and perhaps even hired hands (Mark 1:2).
[2] See John 21:3 where Simon Peter apparently decided to return to his old vocation.
[3] The name יֵשׁוּעַ “Yeshua” (Jesus) is a late form of the Biblical Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ “Yehoshua” (Joshua). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeshua
[4] Joshua had called for a cleansing of the nation in this same area and renewal of the covenant.
[5] There is another unnamed disciple many scholars believe to have been John, the beloved disciple.
[6] The allusion to the Passover Lamb of the Exodus would hardly have gone unnoticed.
[7] The name Simon had been revived during the Maccabean period and may have carried overtones of national renewal. Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory: The New Testament Apostle in the Early Church, Markus Bockmuehl, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 21. In this passage, Jesus tells Simon that he will be called Cephas (Kephah), an Aramaic word meaning stone or rock – in Greek it is Petros and in English Peter.
[8] Two quick examples would be the change from Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel.
[9] Rule #1 for making disciples is always build real relationships with unbelievers over time. People generally do not respond the first time we meet them! Disciple making is a process.
[10] This process of ever increasing commitment is important to the disciple maker. It begins with the disciple maker showing the disciple how to do the work of the ministry while the disciple passively watches. But this must move on to where the disciple actively begins to help and slowly take over under supervision until he or she is able to do the work on his or her own. The best way to train others to make disciples is through modelling, to demonstrate first hand the model we find in the Gospels.
[11] In that part of the world, those in the know always did net fishing at night, as they knew the fish would move into the deeper cooler depths once the sun started to bake on the surface.
[12] This devotion was largely taken from an unpublished paper of mine, entitled Breakfast on the Beach: The Making of Simon Peter, © 2018