THE BAKER OF
a new novel,
plays out in the time of Jesus. How does the baker
of the village perceive the young rabbi?
Equipped for service
Enthusiasm for a game or feast can move people to peaks of excitement.
However, after the great occasion has passed, emotions soon wind down and
participants proceed with normal life.
followers of Jesus is about to experience a new kind of enthusiasm that
will last. As directed by Jesus, they assemble daily for prayer. Ten days
after Jesus ascended to heaven, 120 of them are together for the daily
prayer meeting. Then it happens.
a swishing gust of wind shakes the building. Their feeling of anxiety is
instantly replaced by an overwhelming sense of indescribable joy. Flames
descend on their heads and set their hearts on fire.
an irresistible urge to share their love, joy and peace with others. Fear
for enemies gives way to bold testifying about the salvation in Jesus
Christ. As they fan out in the Holy City, all talk at once, some in
by the commotion, people realize that something extraordinary is taking
place. People of foreign tongue residing in the city hear the good news in
their own language. Amazement spreads among the growing crowd. Some try to
play down the excitement by saying these joyful people had too much wine.
Spirit spurs Peter to leadership. He takes his stand on a high point where
all can see and hear him. He delivers an excellent impromptu sermon.
Smiling, he remarks that his friends can’t be drunk—it is only 9 am.
from scripture that Joel’s prophecy is being fulfilled: God is pouring out
his Spirit on all flesh. Referring to Psalm 16, he explains that the words
about God’s Holy One, who would not see corruption in the grave, are not
true of David but of Jesus.
invites his audience to accept Christ as Saviour, and 3000 respond,
strengthening the numbers of the Jesus-followers dramatically.
his crucifixion, Jesus said that the Spirit of truth would lead his
disciples into the whole truth. This prophecy is now being fulfilled as
they begin to understand the redemptive work of Christ: why he lived,
died, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
also told them that the Holy Spirit would give them power to be his
witnesses. That too is now becoming a reality. They enjoy the gift the
Spirit grants to all: agape-love (Rom. 5:5).
as time passes they realize that the church is like a body: though each
part is unique, all parts work together to sustain the body as a whole (1
Cor. 12). The Spirit gives specific gifts to each believer to fulfill a
unique purpose in the church. The Spirit inspires believers to serve with
The pain of goodbyes
dread goodbyes, especially when the visitors live far away and you know you
won’t see them soon again. The house has been filled with the joy of
togetherness, and now it feels like an empty nest. Your heart aches with
yearning for those you love.
his followers would feel the same when he returned to his Father. So, the
night before the crucifixion, he comforted them with the intimate teaching
recorded in John 13 through 17.
them he is going to prepare a place for them and will return to take them
with him. In the meantime, he would not leave them as orphans but give them
a Helper to be in and with them.
on Calvary took him away for a few days, but he returned in a new body.
Before his final departure, there were 40 days of occasional contact. They
got time to grow into the idea that he will not be with them physically for
much longer. However, spiritually he would be nearer to them than before: he
would be in them through the Spirit.
the last day of his life on earth arrived. They gathered on the Mount of
Olives near Jerusalem. It might have been the occasion when 500 followers
saw the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15).
last words he urged them to forget about earthly kingdoms and to focus on
the kingdom of God. They had to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the
Spirit who would empower them to tell the good news of salvation world-wide.
blessing them, he ascended into the sky until clouds hid him from their
gaze. Psalm 110 was being fulfilled: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my
right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.’ ”
would guide them to grasp the meaning of Christ’s ascension. Their beloved
Master would henceforth intercede for them at the Father’s throne (Rom.
8:34, 1 John 2:1).
High Priest, he went into the Most Holy of the heavenly Tabernacle to atone
for their sins with his own blood (Heb. 9:12).
John called both Jesus and the Spirit Parakletos, meaning
Helper, Advocate, and Comforter. Jesus pleads for them in heaven; the Spirit
pleads through them on earth (Rom. 8:26-27).
disciples returned to Jerusalem in a sad farewell mood. Jesus was gone. In
prayer, they waited for the Spirit, but they did not know what to expect.
They must have felt lonely, abandoned, left behind, scared, and overwhelmed
to his Father on their behalf, and within ten days they had a fantastic
Stunning friend and foe
they had him where they wanted him: dead and buried in a sealed and guarded
tomb. When small humans arrogantly throw off God’s rule, he laughs at their
impudence (Ps. 2). His Son will shatter them to pieces like clay pots. The
humor of Easter began.
earthquake, followed by the blinding light of an angel descending on the
empty tomb, stuns intrepid soldiers. Regaining their breath, they scatter
like rats — not to the fortress but to the temple, hoping the priests will
explain the supernatural to their cynical officers. The story concocted by
the priests confirms the resurrection: No one will believe that the fearful
disciples stole the body from under the noses of the Roman guard.
splashes even onto the followers of Jesus. The frightened women are puzzled
by the simple question of two strange men: “Why do you seek the living among
Magdalene spins a story about grave-robbers, but fails to realize they left
the linen-wrappings behind. Peter and John arrive out of breath at the empty
tomb without grasping the obvious.
followers on their way to Emmaus are enthralled by the scripture lesson of a
foreigner. The disciples refuse to believe the women’s thrilling story that
Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them. Thomas vows he won’t believe
unless he touches the risen Lord.
the disciples steam in their unbelief until nightfall. He has already shown
himself in his new body to Mary Magdalene, other women, the men in Emmaus,
and to Peter. He surprises the other disciples by entering the room while
the doors are locked. A week later, even doubting Thomas worships him.
fish and honey to show he is not a ghost. He allows them to touch him. His
body is physical but different from theirs. He enlightens them with
scripture: what happened to him had been foretold by the prophets.
them to Galilee. He meets them again where he called them to be his
disciples. After a night of fruitless fishing he helps them to make a huge
catch. Without him, they can’t be fishers of men either. He provides
breakfast for them on the shore of the lake where he calmed the storm and
walked on water.
Peter three times about his love for him, a self-search the others have to
apply as well. He charges them to make disciples in all nations.
resurrection proved to them he is the Christ, who performs the first and
second resurrection (John 5:24-25). They will become like him (Phil.
For more on the resurrection, click on END-TIME.
Catastrophe or Development?
Gwynne Dyer’s article, A third option for
mankind (Herald, 2013.04.28), is more than enlightening—it’s shock
therapy for a planet in crisis. According to economic experts, Dyer says,
the world is heading for either massive recession or environmental
disaster—real and imminent dangers looming on the horizon.
We have seen how unrealistic high
mortgages (“home bubble”) brought some banks to their knees in 2008.
Economists predict that if we stop using fossil fuels now, many banks will
again fall because of unrealistic high loans to oil companies (“oil
bubble”). These loans are based on the value of oil and coal still
unexploited. If we are not going to use that fossil fuel, it will lose its
value, and banks will lose their investments.
On the other hand, if we keep on burning
fossil fuels to prevent another recession, we will create environmental
disasters decades later that will be much worse than a recession. Droughts
and storms will probably kill millions either directly or by destroying food
sources. Dyer thinks that because of indecision we will eventually suffer
Maybe we can avoid both scenarios by a
gradual shift from one natural commodity to another. If polluting oil and
coal have financial value, pollution-free hydrogen should have more. The
market value of oil and coal reserves should gradually be replaced by the
market value of hydrogen reserves—oceans full of it.
Oil companies should redefine themselves as
energy companies. When they use their industry to produce hydrogen from
water for road, rail, water, and air transport, and to produce electricity
and heating, they will prevent both the recession and the environmental
disaster. The depletion of an exhaustible, dirty energy resource will be
replaced by a recyclable, clean energy resource. When hydrogen burns, the
only by-product is water—no harmful emissions. The amount of water on earth
will not change.
At the University of Calgary a new, cheaper
method for hydrogen production from water was recently invented. When we
start to move towards hydrogen, industries and public will adapt and embrace
clean energy. In the process, many new jobs will be created to develop
hydrogen infrastructure and to modify engines.
Then the win/win scenario prevails over the
Bullies and terrorists
While all know what bullying
is, formulating an inclusive definition is not easy. Bullying takes on many
forms. It is a social phenomenon that has physical, emotional, spiritual and
legal repercussions for the victims, culprits, and bystanders.
Whenever the stronger harasses
the weaker, it is a form of bullying. It may include physical or verbal
attacks. Besides the victim, his/her possessions or family may be targeted
as well to inflict pain to the victim. Humiliation of the victim and
ego-boosting for the culprit seems to be the main goals of this caustic
behaviour. Taunting is often part of the torture. Because the bully derives
pleasure from harming someone, this behaviour can be described as sadistic.
Smart-phones with cameras,
linked to social networking, have moved bullying into the public domain.
Posting pictures or video online of the victim’s humiliation attracts many
curious eyes to the crime, thus increasing the pain of the victim and the
sadistic pleasure of the culprits. Some methods of the paparazzi can be seen
as bullying. This abuse is all the more loathsome when a group of cowards
inflicts this pain on one person. Gang rapes are becoming more frequent.
Victims may be either female or male.
The goals and means of
terrorists may be on larger scale than those used by bullies, but primarily
terrorists also try to force their will on others by creating fear through
injury. In both cases the wicked mind wants to dominate vulnerable human
beings. In case of terrorism, it looks as if the weak takes on the strong,
but in the perverted minds of the terrorists they feel strong when they can
harm a country.
Bullying is not limited to
schools. Causing deliberate harm to opponents in sports, business, or
politics falls in the same category. Attack-ads of political parties on
their opposition sometimes border on bullying. Political leaders with
integrity should debate the opportunities and problems of their country, and
the one with the best policy in the eyes of the voters should lead the
country. Today, some parties try to destroy the image of their opponents
even before those opponents had a fair chance to state their policies.
Eliminating the opposition by
mean tricks is being practiced in all walks of life. It has been part of
warfare for millennia, and we see it even in wild-life documentaries.
Predators and prey try to outmaneuver each other, but eventually the weak
succumbs to the strong.
Bullying is the exact opposite
of the Great Commandment of Jesus: Love your neighbour as yourself. The
devil is the biggest bully of all, misleading people and landing them in
dire straits. If bullies and terrorists want to be on the devil’s side, it
is their foolish choice. However, it is the responsibility of authorities to
thwart bullies and terrorists in all possible ways by preventative measures
and by enforcing justice on culprits. The general public and victimized
individuals must remain firm in their resolve not to cave in to the mean
methods of bullies and terrorists, but to maintain a firm front by standing
together. We must not ignore or give in to this cancer in society. We have
to put up a brave fight and mobilize all possible help. It will cost us
money, time, and effort, but doing nothing will cost us much more.
Character and behaviour
Our character should dictate our behaviour, but sadly it is not always so.
Sometimes we act out of character, ignore the true self, and violate our
deepest convictions. It makes us feel bad about ourselves. This guilty
feeling can incite defensive reactions that do not address the real problem.
To protect our self-image, we may lie, deny, distort, blame, rationalize, or
fantasize. In fact, we are running circles around the problem without
admitting it and dealing with it. We can silence the conscience temporarily,
but it will haunt us continually.
If we don’t rectify the wrong, persistent guilty feelings may harm our
self-image. We may resort to self-blame, beating ourselves up by
name-calling. It will affect everything we do. It may distract and drain us
so much that we function at a lower level we are capable of, or we may
over-compensate by aiming too high and over-stretching our resources and
People who don’t know our real character watch our conduct and make
conclusions about our character. Sometimes we make the same mistake by not
discerning between what we ARE and what we DO. If a student has been taking
it easy for a while, a teacher can reinforce the negative self-image by
telling the student, “You are a failure!” However, the teacher can appeal to
the true character of the student by saying, “The quality of your work has
decreased; I know you can do better; do yourself a favor by resuming your
former quality.” The same situations may occur in work, sport, or home.
When we have acted out of character, the real solution is to get clarity
about who we really are, and to bring our behaviour in line with our true
character. It is easier said than done, but it is the only way that will pay
dividends in the long run. Students, workers, spouses, and prisoners have to
ask themselves what kind of persons they are and want to be, and then start
working on their practical behaviour.
After King David committed adultery and murder he paddled along for nine
months as if nothing had happened. Then the child was born, and the prophet
Nathan confronted his king. Nathan’s questions focused on David’s behaviour,
and he had to decide if it reflected his true self. David’s suppressed guilt
erupted, and his relationship with God was restored by repentance and
Saul of Tarsus tried to wipe out the early church. Near Damascus he was
confronted by Christ, who referred to his behaviour: “Why do you persecute
me?” Saul came to insight and repentance, and a few days later he was
informed that he was Christ’s chosen instrument to carry the gospel
to Jews and Gentiles. When he discovered his true self, Saul the persecutor
became Paul the missionary and writer who laid the foundations of New
The ultimate weapon
Iran and North Korea keep testing the patience and resolve of the world
regarding their nuclear ambitions. For the past seventy years, nuclear power
has been idolized as the ultimate weapon. The eight countries having it
enjoy a false sense of security, hoping their nuclear arsenal will deter
attacks from others. Although no country can dare to use nuclear weapons,
these destructive devices are coveted as an insurance policy.
Before the days of gun powder, opposing armies and fleets hurled rocks or
fireballs with catapults at each other, or set fire with burning arrows and
spears. Cross-bows increased the range and accuracy of arrows.
The use of fire-arms and artillery caused more harm and from a greater
distance. Thin stone walls were replaced by thick soil-filled walls that
could absorb the impact of bombs. As soon as bombs started flying over the
walls, hiding in a fortified city was not safe anymore. Trenches, landmines,
canons, planes and missiles became more effective for slowing down advancing
Scarce commodities like oil as well as trade boycotts have been used as
effective weapons to coerce obstinate countries into compliance. It causes a
chain reaction: the country’s economy suffers and its currency loses value.
The suffering of the population forces the regime to make changes or face
defeat in elections. Over the centuries, lovers have used the withholding of
love as a weapon to get their way. Parents discipline their children by
taking away privileges temporarily.
Terrorism has introduced a new kind of warfare. The culprits hide among the
population, so there is not a visible enemy to take on. Initially, they used
homemade bombs to inflict injury and terror. Later, they used passenger
planes to destroy the Twin Towers. Disrupting mass transportation has become
one of their favorite weapons. By invoking fear, they try to force regimes
to make concessions.
The tactics of the defenders also changed. Armed drones and secret strike
missions have eliminated many of the terrorist leadership. However, the
low-tech methods of the terrorists have defied the sophisticated methods of
the defenders. Roadside bombs have killed many soldiers in Afghanistan. The
terrorists’ cruelty is an effective weapon for intimidating the local
population so that they do not give vital information to those who hunt the
When David faced Goliath, the ultimate weapon was not sling-and-stone but
the power of the Almighty who responded to the faith of a shepherd boy.
David confirmed it clearly to his adversary: “You come to me with a sword
and spear and javelin, but I come to you in the Name of the LORD Almighty.”
Maybe it is time for us to fall back on this ultimate weapon. It can’t be
obtained and used in arrogance, only pleaded for in humility.
Who’s the culprit?
The eastern parts of America and Canada have
recently been hit hard by repeated destructive storms. We have been warned
over decades that the excessive use of fossil fuels will cause devastating
climate changes, but our efforts to rectify the problem were pathetic and
totally inefficient. We are all guilty of aggravating storms world-wide by
unwise energy consumption.
Coal has been used for heating and
cooking through the ages, but its use increased dramatically during the
industrial revolution when steam-engines became the main source of power for
factories and transport. The use of oil products escalated with the
production of automobiles and airplanes.
Carbon is stored in living plants and animals
and their remains are stored as fossil fuels in the crust of the earth.
Burning carbon produces carbon dioxide. It is seen as the main source
of climate change because it creates a hothouse effect around the globe,
warming and acidifying land and sea.
Fossil fuels are not renewable: when the
existing resources have been used they are done. With growing industrial
development in populous countries like China, India, Indonesia and Brazil,
the demand for fossil fuels rises at a time when its availability is
declining. Unavoidably, the price of oil products will increase to the point
where serious efforts will be made to develop alternative energy sources.
Generating electricity from clean and
renewable sources like sun, wind, and water, is seen as the best
alternative for oil products. However, this source of power fluctuates with
the availability of sun, wind, and water; therefore, it will probably never
be able to replace fossil fuel energy completely. The capacity and longevity
of batteries are still far from satisfactory, especially for use in cars.
There is a clean, abundant, and renewable
alternative: hydrogen. Water consists of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O).
Seventy percent of the globe is covered by water. All the water of Noah’s
flood is still here (Ps. 104:5-9). Using water for hydrogen production will
not deplete the earth’s water, because when hydrogen burns, it unites with
oxygen to form water. There are no harmful by-products—the ideal
fuel! The Lord provided this source of energy when he created earth, but
mankind was too stupid to realize it.
As soon as the oil-price really hurts,
scientists will more urgently search for cheaper technology to extract
hydrogen from water. At the moment such efforts are frustrated by oil
companies and governments who first want to make money from the black
gold. However, when the price and availability of oil reach crisis levels,
they will quickly change their tune.
Unfortunately, the transition to hydrogen
cannot be made overnight. Infrastructure must be developed. Production
points have to be erected all over the country so that hydrogen does not
need to be transported long distances. Filling stations have to be equipped
to disperse hydrogen to the public. Car manufacturers have to make and test
replacement kits so that their vehicles can be converted to run on hydrogen.
Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and BMW have already proven that the internal
combustion engine can run on hydrogen. When hydrogen and the conversion
kits are available at reasonable cost, many motorists will make the shift
from dirty oil products to clean renewable energy.
May God move the minds and hearts of
politicians, scientists, industrialists, media, and the public to make
timely preparations for the day when we will no longer abuse planet earth
but instead start to be good custodians of the only habitat we have.
A preschool child can tell you that a dam will
run empty if outflow exceeds inflow. Every household has to live within its
means to avoid serious trouble. How on earth is it possible that the best
brains in a country can’t balance the national budget?
The conservative side wants to decrease
spending, and the liberal side wants to increase revenue. Both sides say
they have to compromise, so obviously the spending must be decreased
moderately, and the revenue must be increased moderately. Then big egos
start to split hairs about exactly how much each side will sacrifice.
Fearing they may lose votes if they give too much, they nickel and dime each
other to the edge of the fiscal cliff. The nation and the world shake their
heads in disbelief about the lack of wisdom.
Before we drag them to the guillotine, let us
consider how difficult it is for a family to balance their books. They draw
up a list of items such as: payments on mortgage and car; expenses for
health-care, utilities, local tax, gas, power, phones, and television;
purchase of food, clothes, and toiletries; money for sports, recreation, and
bus fare. Each one of the family will plead for a little extra here and
there. When all the wish-lists are in, the cost far exceeds the income.
Now they have to cut. Luxuries are the first to
be deleted, but there is no agreement on what luxury is and what it is not.
Jane wants John to forget about new skates, but she does not want to let go
of her dreams about an awesome dress for an upcoming party. John feels just
the opposite. Dad wants his football tickets and mom pleads for a better
refrigerator. It may take firm discipline, yelling, and tears before the
most necessary expenses are squeezed into the parameters of available
Oops! They forgot something: unforeseen crises!
Something must be put away for the rainy day. What if the car or an
appliance suddenly breaks down and throws the smooth running of the
household in jeopardy? And those once-a-year fees are so easily forgotten,
like school, taxes, birthdays, and Christmas.
Now if it is so difficult to balance the budget
for a household, how much more mind-boggling must it be for the government
to balance the books of the country with thousands of items that are
important to the welfare of the citizens? The unforeseen expenses for
oil-spills, hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes can run into billions.
When the legislators have made their cuts and
raised their taxes you will hear a lot of moaning and groaning form those
who get less and those who pay more. And they may take revenge at the next
election. Maybe we should show a little more patience with the politicians,
and do a little more praying for them.
pressure and personal choice
When many do something wrong, does it
legitimize the wrong? If many athletes use drugs to enhance their
performance, does it make doping acceptable? If many couples in a subculture
cheat on each other, does it condone adultery? If many resort to cannibalism
during a famine, does it sanctify this survival strategy?
Because we want to fit in and feel accepted
peer-group pressure easily sucks us in. We defend our spineless compliance
by saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
We have watched this folly play out on TV in
many forms: Cheating in marriage, sports, banks, taxes, politics, and even
among clergy. When doping, corruption, fraud, embezzlement, inebriety,
immorality and perversion become general phenomena, it paralyzes the social
conscience, which in turn erodes personal values.
Therefore, when you land in a group that does
things contrary to your values, distance yourself from them mentally and
physically lest you become like them. Wrong company corrupts good values. If
you have to live with them for a time, stay true to your values despite the
group’s urging and mocking.
The root of this decadence is located in the
lie of democracy, namely that the majority is right. Jesus exposed this lie
when he said that most people are on the broad road leading to destruction,
and few are on the narrow road leading to life.
When humanity got extremely perverted, God
wiped them out with the Flood while he spared only Noah and his family. The
majority was dead wrong. Ten of Joseph’s brothers turned against him and
sold him as a slave, but God used Joseph to save the whole family in a
severe drought. When the teenage David volunteered to fight the giant
Goliath, his brothers and the king sneered at his youthful over-confidence.
However, God was on David’s side, and that day made him famous for the past
three thousand years.
Jeremiah was the only person through whom God
counseled Judah, and in the end he was right and the nation and their
leaders went into exile. John the Baptist was a voice calling in the desert:
the leaders rejected him and only a minority heeded his words about the
When Jesus was brought to trial, only the judge
tried to defend him, while the leaders and their supporters shouted for the
execution of the innocent. In the last judgment, Christ will be the judge,
separating the sheep from the goats. The majority will have no say.
When you stay true to your real self and decide
to do the right thing, you will often stand alone against a majority. Take
your cue from God’s Book that does not change, not from the majority that
can be swayed by the fashions and propaganda of the day.