Did you see in the news this week that Christmas has come early, 149 days early, as Selfridges in London opened its Christmas shop claiming to be the first in the world to have a Christmas section? I thought it was bad enough having all the Christmas paraphernalia in the shops at the end October never mind the end of July! Soon, it seems, Christmas will be in our stores all year round, and the pop group Wizard, who belt out their song every year, will get their wish for Christmas to be every day.
‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’ (Matthew 25:13 NIV)
Christian preacher and broadcaster Harold Camping predicted, based on his calculations of dates in Bible prophecy that the world would end on 21 May 2011. If you’re reading this devotion, he was mistaken. He wasn’t the first to predict the date of the end of world and the return of Christ and no doubt won’t be the last. The imminence of Christ’s second coming was heralded in the 1990s by the popular Left Behind series. Back in 1970 Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth identifying apocalyptic symbols, primarily from the book of Daniel, as indications that the end was coming in his day. And way back in 1844 the Millerite movement experienced ‘The Great Disappointment’ after Jesus failed to return to earth in what William Miller called ‘The Advent.’
‘thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)
“Cricket’s coming home, it’s coming home.” After over 40 years of hurt England’s men have won the cricket world cup for the first time as they defeated New Zealand. Sunday 14 July 2019 will go down in cricket history as the closest, most tense final ever. With scores tied after both innings and tied after the deciding ‘super over’ England won on a count back of the most boundaries scored in the match. After seven weeks of pulsating cricket victory came with the last ball bowled; it could not have been more dramatic. In the darkest hour of the match for England they needed a hero to step up and lead them to victory. Cometh the hour cometh Ben Stokes! His undefeated 84 earned him the man of the match award, paving the way for England’s success and for jubilant celebrations from English fans.
‘His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 3:10 NIV)
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘church?’ Today we have the ‘virtual church,’ the ‘liquid church,’ the ‘messy church,’ the ‘domesticated church’ (alright I made that one up), and a whole host of other ‘churches.’ For the Apostle Paul the church is ‘the wisdom of God.’ God’s specific intention for the church is to make abundantly clear the multitudinous wisdom of God, and not just to the watching world but to the ‘the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.’ This is God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus (v.11). In the context of this chapter, and the wider letter to the Ephesians, this ‘wisdom’ that is to be shown is the bringing together of Jews and Gentiles as one in unity, prefiguring the bringing together of all things, when everything will be all-in-all in God “(1 Corinthians 15:28)”.
‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’ (Romans 12:19 KJV)
Nearly every time I have heard the above verse quoted it has been in brutal and revengeful terms. God will get his revenge on all those who have done evil in this world. Hardly ever are the next verses quoted to give the context of this statement: “‘Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:20-21)”.
Should Boris Johnson appear in TV debates to discuss his leadership credentials? Should he answer questions about his private life? Does the public care? Do Conservative Party members, who will select the next party leader and Prime Minister, care? Maybe Boris feels to do so would make him vulnerable to attack with no mercy shown by press and public alike? As a result his rival in the leadership campaign, Jeremy Hunt, has called Boris a coward for not addressing these issues.
This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed…. (Amos 2:6–7 NIV)
Today when we think of morality we often think of it in terms of sex. The two words are commonly placed alongside one another and we talk of sexual-morality. But in the era of Amos the prophet, the greatest immorality he addressed was injustice to the poor, to strangers and those who were destitute. The plight of the poor and disenfranchised is central to his prophesies.
Last Friday, 7 June 2019, marked the end of Theresa May’s tenure of office as Conservative Party leader, though she will stay on as Prime Minister in a caretaker capacity until her party selects a new leader. For some her premiership has failed because of compromise with the EU and her failure to deliver the Brexit people wanted. For others she made a valiant effort to secure a withdrawal agreement and was let down by a lack of support from Parliament. History will no doubt reflect on the extremely difficult task of delivering Brexit, whoever the Prime Minister.
On 6 June 1944 the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II took place. Codenamed Operation Neptune and often referred to as D-Day, it was the largest combined naval, air and land operation in history. The invasion established a crucial second front in the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation, ultimately leading to victory in 1945.
‘but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.’
(Isaiah 40:31 ESV)
One of the universal experiences common to human beings is that of waiting. Students take exams and then have to wait for the results. Expectant mothers have to wait for their baby’s arrival. The greater part of our lives seems to be taken up with waiting for the next thing to happen: For the bus that never comes, the mortgage to come through, or that elusive job opening to materialise. And of course we can either wait impatiently, like a child on a long car journey continually asking ‘are we there yet?’ Or we can wait creatively making use of the time available to do something positive.
There has not been a lot of good news around recently. Headlines have been filled with terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, Paris was hit with the fire at Notre Dame, and in Waltham Forest, the London Borough where I live, knife crime has rapidly increased and in the last few days two young women were abducted and raped.
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Exodus 17:10–13 NIV)
In the past whenever I read about this incident in Israel’s history I tended to limit it to the need for me to support my spiritual leaders, maybe through prayer or providing financial support, so that they could fight and win important battles. The trouble with this approach is that it leads to the idea that we are successful in our battles by our own human strength.
‘I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you’ (1 Corinthians 15:1 NIV)
What was the gospel Paul preached, upon which the Corinthian Christians took their stand “(1 Corinthians 15:1)”, are saved “(1 Corinthians 15:2)”, and if it is not held to firmly then they had believed in vain “(1 Corinthians 15:2)”?
Do you remember your first love? The infatuation, the thrill of the chase, the need to have what your heart desired; oh the joy of discovering chocolate!
‘let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.’ (Psalm 98:9 NIV)
The last judgment can strike fear into people, especially if they are they are thinking about a post-apocalyptic world where God wreaks vengeance on the disobedient. Perhaps our perspective of the last judgment will alter when we realise that the judge of the earth is none other than the Saviour of the world who included all of humanity in his death “(John 5:22)”. This judge gave forgiveness, dispensed grace, and condemned sin and death not humanity “(John 3:16-17)”.
‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’ (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
Joseph’s brothers were already envious of him because he was the father’s favourite, and to make matters worse he boasted about the revelations God had given him concerning his brothers bowing down to him. Little wonder that they were irritated by Joseph and upset with him.
‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’ (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)
Have you ever blurted something out and then immediately regretted saying it? I know I have. I realised as the words were coming out of my mouth that I should not be saying them but it was too late and I couldn’t pull the words back into my mouth once they have been spoken. There is an old saying that I learnt at school, “‘Sticks and bones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’” The trouble is that’s simply not true. Our words can be a great source of comfort, encouragement and restoration, but they can also cause pain, suffering and hurt. Truly as the proverb advises us, “‘The tongue has the power of life and death…’ (Proverbs 18:21)”.
‘Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept’ (Genesis 33:4 NIV)
Esau always seems to get a bad press among Christians. After all he was the one who came in famished from a day’s hunting and despised his birthright by selling it for a bowl of stew “(Genesis 25:29-34)”.
Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” (Genesis 27:19 NIV)
Sadly deception is a common feature in everyday life. Some MPs have been caught cheating on expenses, lying about speeding tickets, or misleading parliament with their statements. Top executives have been found out embezzling funds from their company, and students have been discovered cheating on their exams. ‘Twas ever thus.’
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)
Many millions of people all around the world watched the Oscars this week. It’s an evening filled with laughter, music, dance, creativity, surprises, tears, and a few dodgy speeches. People just seem to like the joy of living in a make-believe world for a few hours. But just about the time everyone is getting into the show we become aware of a disturbing reality. A touching tribute was paid to those show-business stars who had died during the last year.