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.
… a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5 NIV)
Wouldn’t it have been a great privilege to be a part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples? To be in the garden of Gethsemane to watch while Jesus prayed “(Matthew 26:37)”, to be present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter “(Mark 5:37)” and here to witness Jesus, Moses and Elijah transfigured before your very eyes; what an honour! Or was it?
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1–2 NIV)
Where do you stand on Brexit?
Are you a remoaner who wants a people’s vote to try and reverse the decision? Are you a hard Brexiteer who would just be happy to leave the EU whether there is a deal or not?
The referendum in 2016 left the country divided and there is little indication that some 2 ½ years later we are less divided. How should a Christian view all of this?
‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10 NIV)
The call to be still and know that I am God comes within a chapter that proclaims the power of God and the security he brings. The issue for the psalmist is not explicitly stated but seemingly it relates to a plea to God to end an on-going war “(v.9)”. Whilst most of the Psalm is written in the third person as the writer speaks about God, God’s voice comes through in verse 10.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23–24 NIV)
You may have been shocked as I was to see the pictures of Prince Philip’s recent car crash. As he pulled out of a driveway his Land Rover collided with a Kia and flipped over. The 97-year-old prince was fortunate to get out alive, whilst Ms Fairweather, a passenger in the Kia, suffered a broken wrist.
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17 NIV)
I was going to repent once, but then I changed my mind.
That may be a humorous quip but it contains an important point. The word ‘repentance’ that we find in the New Testament is the Greek word metanoeó which has the meaning ‘change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God).’
Remember Lot’s wife! (Luke 17:32 NIV)
Lot and his family had settled into the culture and society of Sodom and when warned by the angels to flee because of its imminent destruction they seemed reticent at first “(Genesis 19:16-19)”. Nevertheless the angels insisted that they get out as soon as possible and as they went they were not to look back to the burning cities “(v.17)”.
‘Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ (Matthew 4:1 NIV)
Oscar Wilde once quipped, ‘”I can resist anything but temptation.”’* Thankfully this was not true of Jesus who was “‘tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin’ (Hebrews 4:15)”.
It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gates, beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. In the UK as we look back to 2018 we probably recall the entanglements of the Brexit negotiations and as we look ahead to 2019 we may wonder how it’s all going to be resolved.
On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 NIV)
It has been said that if the wise men were women they would have brought Mary and Jesus nappies, baby wipes and milk formula rather than the impractical gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. However impractical these gifts may seem to be they were of considerable significance, and what’s more, they were gifts not just for Christmas.
Christmas is all about timing.
Festive music in the supermarkets from late November seems too early; rushing around on the 24th of December for the present you forgot seems too late. Will those Christmas cards sent to Australia arrive in time? If you are travelling to be at home for Christmas, will you get there on time? Then there’s the Christmas dinner. Will the turkey be ready before the Queen’s message? Have the brussel sprouts been left on too long? How many hours does it take for a Christmas pudding to simmer?