Have you ever looked forward to something with great anticipation only to find that when it arrives it’s a bit disappointing? I’ve been watching Line of Duty, a TV programme about rooting out corruption in the police force, since series one. Last Sunday was the final episode of series six in which a corrupt officer, […]
‘…We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved…’ Acts 15:11 (NIVUK)
The Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15 is widely recognised as a watershed moment standing at the centre of the book of Acts theologically. Finally the issue of Gentile inclusion into the purposes of God is addressed and resolved.
Did you read in the news this week of an attempted robbery that took place in Augusta, Georgia? At around 4am one morning a hooded man smashed his way into Diablo’s Southwest Grill, grabbed the till, which was empty, and fled.
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him… Luke 23:33 (NIVUK)
The evening was getting worse. Jesus was betrayed. One by one he was abandoned by his disciples and left to face a sham trial alone. He was beaten. Mocked. Ferried between Herod, Pilate and the Sanhedrin. Bound as a common criminal, he was treated no better than an animal. Exhausted, wounded, and humiliated, the Son of God was crucified. He died an agonising, slow and public death, surrounded by mocking enemies, a heartbroken family and a few disciples watching from the edge of the crowd.
‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.’ Luke 16:19-21(NIVUK)
The parable of ‘Lazarus and the Rich Man’ is unique because it is the only parable in which Jesus names one of the characters. This has led many Bible commentators to conclude that this isn’t a parable at all but rather a true story about the nature of the afterlife. But I would suggest that this interpretation of Jesus’s story entirely misses the point. The parables of Jesus frequently used Second Temple Jewish beliefs to challenge his hearers, and this parable is no different.
This week’s celebration of Commonwealth Day included a speech by The Prince of Wales, in which he said,
The essence of the Commonwealth is its remarkable diversity; a family of some 2.4 billion people from 54 nations across 6 continents, whose traditions, knowledge, and talents offer an incomparable richness of ideas and perspectives on the world we share.
As [Jesus]was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Luke 9:29 (NIVUK)
I like watching films that have some twists and turns in them and it can be annoying when someone spoils the dramatic conclusion. So, spoiler alert: can you imagine if we saw Bruce Willis’s widow standing by his graveside at the beginning of the film The Sixth Sense? Or 15 minutes into Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker that his father is Darth Vader? Not a good ploy for filmmakers…
Marcel Marceau was a French mime artist most famous for his portrayal of ‘Bip the Clown’ in what he described as the ‘art of silence.’ I had watched him perform on television on many occasions, but it was only last week when I watched the film Resistance, a biographical drama about Marceau, that I learned about his time in the French Resistance during the Second World War.
So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den… Daniel 6:16 (NIVUK)
No, the title isn’t a misprint. Daniel in the lions’ den is a well-known and loved story that is included in many children’s books. But what is not well-known and is rarely identified is that Daniel’s encounter with the lions isn’t just a scary incident in Daniel’s life but is a story that prefigures the rejection, trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the spread of the gospel message. Here are some comparisons to think about:
He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him…All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. Luke 4:15, […]
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:20 (NIVUK)
‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’
Hebrews 13:5 (NIVUK)
I’m a fan of 1960s’ pop music so it was sad this week to hear of the death of Gerry Marsden, the lead singer of the Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers. They had many hits including ‘Ferry ’cross the Mersey’ and ‘I like it’, but perhaps their most famous song was ‘You’ll never walk alone’.
There is a song sung on New Year’s Eve around the world which you may well have joined in with or at least heard and yet few people know what it means. Its title is Auld Lang Syne which sounds as if it’s in a foreign language and for all intents and purposes it is since it’s a phrase in the Scots language of the 18th century. The title means ‘old long since’, or as we might say today ‘in days gone by’, or ‘a long time ago’.
Over the last week, we’ve had Black Friday, the time of the year when retailers are supposed to move from operating ‘in the red’ (at a loss) to operating ‘in the black’ (making a profit). Then we’ve had Cyber Monday, encouraging us to spend online. It seems everyone is after our money. Then we’ve had Giving Tuesday. Now we can move away from consumerism as the focus is on giving to a good cause. That makes me feel better – or does it?
Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have instructed a widow there to supply you with food. (1 Kings 17:9 NIVUK)
There was a famine in Israel and God tells Elijah that he is going to save his life through a widow at Zarephath. To understand how shocking this would have been to Elijah, when Jesus referred to this incident in his first sermon (Luke 4:24-29) the religious people tried to kill him. What was so shocking about this incident?
Most people have someone who is an inspiration in their lives – maybe it is a parent, or a teacher, or some charismatic character from the pages of history. One person who has inspired me is Corrie Ten Boom.
This week marked the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ under the theme of ‘My Voice, Our Equal Future,’ commemorating 25 years since the adoption of the ‘Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’ – the global agenda for advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls everywhere.
When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?” (Exodus 32:1 The Message)
Moses has been on the mountain for a long time. Where is he? What is he doing up there? More to the point, what is God doing? The people are impatient, begin doubting and feel they need something more tangible to hold on to. So, they ask Aaron to make them a god who will be there and lead them. After all, with Moses AWOL how were they to know whether God was still interested in them?
This week Jennifer Lopez’s 12-year-old daughter, Emme Muniz, published a Christian children’s book on prayer called ‘Lord Help Me.’ With a wisdom beyond her years, she told People magazine that she has been passionate about prayer since she was five-years-old and believes that prayer has helped her get through small challenges like getting along with her brother to the bigger ones like helping to save the planet and its creatures. In her interview, she said, “I really hope children are able to learn to pray, share the book and spread the power of prayer after reading it.”
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (John 4:7 ESV)
A normal daily trip to collect water turned into a rather unexpected encounter. Jesus strikes up a conversation with this woman and very quickly she realises that he knows all about her. He knows of her complex past, and about her current situation and yet he is more than comfortable to ask her for a drink and to have a chat about faith.
‘They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’ (John 6:42 NIVUK)
When people made this comment about Jesus, they were implying that he is one of us. And in a sense, they were right. Jesus is like one of us. He knows what it is like to grow up in a home. He knows what it is to be single and have friends. He knows what it is like to learn and to work.