The Baptism of Jesus / Call of the Disciples: 30th April 2021

Joshua 17:1-18:28

The Israelites struck a blow for women’s rights as the daughters of the tribe of Manasseh received an inheritance among the sons (v.6).

The land of Gilead was assigned to the rest of the descendants of Manasseh. They went on to make a renowned rare, perfumed healing balm that inspired this beautiful song. The Balm of Gilead is interpreted as a spiritual medicine that is able to heal Israel (and sinners in general) i.e. Jesus’ Christ’s precious blood that he poured out for us on the cross.

The Canaanites put up strong resistance in areas that they were determined not to give up (v.12), However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labour (v.13). The Canaanites were a sophisticated fighting force and had iron chariots (v.16) – formidably effective when fighting on a plain. Joshua encouraged the people of Joseph: ‘You are numerous and very powerful’ (v.17). They would be able to conquer the land with God’s help despite the chariots of their enemies.

The tent of meeting was set up at Shiloh (18:1). Seven tribes were still to receive an inheritance and so three men from each tribe were sent out to survey the land. It would then be split into seven parts and allocated by lot. The only proviso was that the tribe of Joseph would remain in the North and Judah would remain in the South. Joshua showed his wisdom and trust in the Lord. Casting lots, in the presence of the Lord, would ensure that the land was allocated as God desired. God can influence the role of the dice when required. Amongst my many sins as a teenager, I used to play the role-playing game: ‘Dungeons and Dragons‘. I have since renounced and repented of such activities. Before starting, you have to choose to play as one of 12 character classes, such as fighters, clerics or sorcerers (I told you this was a dodgy activity). You then make decisions, while imagining you are this fantasy character, about how to progress in various adventures (made up by an imaginative friend, termed a ‘Dungeon Master’). The idea is to progress through various adventures, nurturing your character, making him (or her) stronger and gathering treasure by battling legendary creatures. The outcome of fights are determined by rolling various strangely-shaped multicoloured dice. I always choose to be a paladin – a charismatic / fancy type of knight. I was always particularly attracted to the word ‘charisma’. One day, our ‘Dungeon Master’ was in a particularly vindictive mood and set up our adventure so we would have to fight the powerful demon, Asmodeus, one of the Biblical big-hitters in the book of Tobit. He basically wanted to kill off all our characters whom we had nurtured for months. I waded into battle – a certain suicide mission as I would have to roll sixes continually on a normal dice to win. However, there was an option to invoke the angel Gabriel for help in the battle and, lo and behold, after asking for angelic assistance every time I rolled the dice in fantasy ‘combat’ with the demon, I rolled a six. I rolled about twenty sixes in a row and defeated this virtually invincible foe. The probability of this occurring is infinitesimally small. Someone was controlling the outcome of those dice rolls to show that when I ask for help, evil can be defeated no matter how impossible it seems. There are other forces in the room when people play games like this. Don’t do it kids, stick to less ‘spiritual’ games. I would say ‘Monopoly’ but that combines being immoral with being incredibly dull. Maybe kick a football around outside instead.

John 1:29-51

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and proclaimed ‘Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ The Holy Spirit residing in John gave him a prophetic word of knowledge allowing him to tell the future of his holy relative. The blood of the Passover lambs applied to the door frames and lintels of the Israelites’ houses in Egypt protected them from death as the destroying angel passed over. Jesus’ blood saves us from our sins, destroying death and opening the gates of heaven for us.

Even though Jesus was born six months after John, Jesus was ‘before him’ (v.30) as ‘he was with God in the beginning’ of all things (v.2).

John revealed the reason he had been baptizing. It was so that Jesus ‘might be revealed to Israel’ (v.31). John had seen the Holy Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Jesus. John testified that Jesus ‘is the Son of God’ (v.34). Jesus was 100% God and 100% human – a unique mathematical mystery.

Some pastors say that Jesus didn’t perform any miracles before the Holy Spirit descended on him at his baptism. I don’t think we can be so sure as Jesus was 100% filled with the Holy Spirit from the time of his conception. If he didn’t perform miracles in his ‘hidden years’, it would have been because he freely chose to lay aside his supernatural Godly powers until he was publicly revealed as the Son of God. We will find out more of the story when we get to heaven. I remember Monty Python publishing an amusing school report for God that complained about Him parting the waters of the swimming pool, ‘which was both unsporting and dangerous’: https://friarminor.blogspot.com/2009/09/monty-pythons-report-card-for-god.html

Andrew was the first disciple to follow Jesus. Verse 35 shows that he was originally John’s disciple but went after Jesus when John identified him as ‘the Lamb of God’. I have visited Saint Andrew’s tomb in Edinburgh cathedral. The first thing that Andrew did after finding Jesus was to find his brother, Simon and tell him ‘We have found the Messiah’ (v.41). Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, who renamed him ‘Peter’, which translates as rock. It is one of our roles as disciples to bring people to meet Christ. Jesus will have a great future mapped out for them.

The next day Jesus finds Philip and asks him to follow him. Philip found Nathanael (who many people think is the same person as Bartholomew) and told him to ‘come and see Jesus’ (v.46). Church tradition is that Nathanael / Bartholomew later carried a translation of Matthew’s gospel to India.

Nathanael was sceptical about Jesus when he heard that he was from Nazareth. ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (v.46). My wife pours a similar amount of light-hearted scorn on me for growing up in Essex. Nazareth did not have a good reputation see: https://www.gotquestions.org/Matthew-2-23-Jesus-Nazarene.html

Jesus was able to instantly assess Nathanael’s character, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false’ (v.47). He had seen him under a fig tree before Philip had called him.

Nathanael blurted out, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’ (v.49). Both Jesus and these early disciples are all being moved by the Holy Spirit to utter prophetic words of knowledge.

Jesus saw in Nathanael some of the qualities of the patriarch Jacob and promised him the same sort of vision that Jacob had experienced: ‘You shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’ (v.51).

It is touching to read how these disciples started their life with Jesus and remember how they kept their faith until their violent deaths. Saint Andrew was crucified on 30 November 60AD, by order of the Roman governor Aegeas. He was tied to an X-shaped cross in Greece, and this is represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag. Saint Peter was crucified upside down in Rome during the reign of the tyrannical Emperor Nero. Saint Philip was scourged and crucified in Egypt. Nathanael / Bartholomew the apostle was either flayed alive and beheaded in Armenia or crucified upside down (head downward) like Saint Peter. Even if they could have foreseen their eventual appaling fate, this men would still have chosen to follow Jesus. https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/64320/Local-News/How-did-the-apostles-die

Many people go on holidays and unwisely visit temples that are not Christian – from which you can bring back unholy oppressing spirits. It is much better to visit great Christian cathedrals and shrines when you are are abroad. So far in my life, I have visited various magnificent cathedrals preserving the relics of Saints Peter, Mark and Andrew. I have also visited the relatively simple grave of Saint Patrick in Northern Ireland that was being guarded by an impressive raven. I would love to visit Santiago de Compostela in Spain to visit the tomb of Saint James. Why go on holiday and just bake on a beach when you can enhance your Christian faith by seeing that these heroes of faith were real people? They battled for Jesus and heroically died for their faith. As far as God is concerned, they are still alive They will intercede for us in heaven, we just have to think about them and ask them in prayer.

Proverbs 10

The book of Proverbs often mentions wisdom. God had bestowed Solomon with more wisdom than anyone else on the planet but Solomon still messed up his life – through being seduced by his hundreds of foreign wives to worship their deities.

Before his fall from grace, his temporarily righteous mouth did bring forth wisdom (v.1)

The mouth of the wicked knows only what is perverse. We may have strange thoughts pop into our minds during the day. Lewd jokes or scurrilous gossip. We should bat these thoughts away in the name of Jesus as they only take on a life of their own when we actually vocalise them. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can know what is fitting to say.

God hates people who cheat others (11:1). We should be guided by our integrity.

Our wealth will be no use to us when faced with death or the end of the world. We will only be rescued by righteousness, which we have obtained through the precious blood of Christ. This righteousness makes a straight way for us and delivers us from death and decay. Christ’s righteousness will rescue us from trouble. Our hope does not perish when we die, we hope for everlasting life through the mercy of God because of our belief in his son, Jesus.

Image: Ottavio Vannini (1585-c. 1643), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Word Became Flesh / John the Baptist Denies being the Christ: April 29th 2021

Joshua 15:1-16:10

The captured areas of the promised land were allotted to the tribes of Israel. Some of the land had very evocative names: ‘The Salt Sea, crossed south of the Scorpion Pass’ (v.2).

Caleb drove out three Anakites (giants) from Hebron named Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai (v.14). Caleb was very assertive when he claimed Hebron as his inheritance. He had seen the area forty-five years ago and had made Moses promise to give the territory to him. He had dreamed about it ever since. We need to have a Caleb-like attitude to our faith. We have all been told about what Jesus did for us on the cross, so we need to grab from him the gift of eternal life through our faith in him. We have been told about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit so let us grab all of them / snatching them in the name of Jesus. There are sufficient gifts for all – Jesus will multiple the gifts so there will be hampers left of them after everyone is satisfied. We won’t be depriving anyone else. When it comes to receiving the gifts of God, we need to take action, we don’t want to be meek and mild.

The tribe of Judah were allocated dozens of towns and villages as their inheritance. However, they ‘could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem’ (v.63). So even their future capital city could not be cleansed from people who worshipped demonic entities. The Jebusites lived there with the people of Judah. It was going to prove impossible for the Israelites not to be influenced by their new neighbours. Several important Biblical characters: Zadok the Priest, Nathan the Prophet and Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon were Jebusites. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and conspired for her husband to be killed. Having a Canaanite tribe living with the Israelites opened them up to so many temptations that even their God-fearing King succumbed.

The same thing happened to the other tribes. The tribe of Ephraim, descendants of Joseph, was not able to dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezar (v.10). The Canaanites continued to live among them but were ‘required to do forced labour’ (v.10).

John 1:1-28

Jesus existed as God, the second person of the Trinity, from the beginning of all time. He created the earth and everything on it: ‘Through him all things were made’ (v.3). He is our life and our light that shines in the darkness. People who choose to live in darkness still do not understand him.

The world does not recognises its creator (v.10). Even famous naturalists today, like Sir David Attenborough, have totally failed to recognise or acknowledge the creator despite being blessed with an extraordinary life and privileged access to the wonders of the natural world.

If we choose to receive him, he gives us the right to become children of God (v.12).

Jesus became flesh and lived among us. He lived a life full of grace and truth (v.14). The law was given through Moses but Jesus is the new Moses, the ultimate representative of God being truly God himself, to reveal the nature of the Father to us. He revealed truth to us.

Nicky Gumbel (p.249) writes: ‘The purpose of John’s gospel is to lead you into an experience of communion with God through friendship with Jesus. John wrote that: ‘No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only (Jesus), who is at the Father’s side, has made him known’. Exodus states that: ‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (Exod. 33:11). This means that it must have been Jesus meeting with Moses in the tent of the meeting, who made Moses’ face shine with light. Jesus wants to be our best friend, to meet with us, empower us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to do his work and lead us into everlasting communion with our heavenly Father. It is wonderful to have a friend who is always with him. Without the constant presence of Jesus we would literally fall apart: ‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:17).

If we refuse to acknowledge Jesus, we are hiding from the truth. Demons are liars and refuse to acknowledge the truth except when they are compelled to in the name of Jesus. When they are expelled by the solemn Rite of Exorcism, it’s as if the truth of the resurrection of Christ is poured down their throats (https://spiritualdirection.com/2021/04/27/exorcist-diary-we-won-he-didnt-rise).

John the Baptist issued in the new age of truth by freely confessing, ‘I am not the Christ’ (v.20). He prepared the way for Jesus by baptising people for the repentance of sins (Matthew 3:11). Repentance and confession are fabulous but many people do not ‘feel any different’ after confessing their sins. If they have made a sincere confession, they will have had God’s priceless forgiveness and received his grace. However, many people soon commit the same selection of sins again and months later find themselves confessing in exactly the same way. Jesus came to baptise us with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11). The Holy Spirit will build us up / edify us and strengthen us so that our old sinful habits lose their attraction. We won’t feel like turning to drink or having illicit sex. Our interior person will be stronger. Once baptized, we simply need to pray to the Holy Spirit to come powerfully into our life and activate his gifts within us. The longer we pray in the spirit / pray in tongues each day, the more we will be strengthened and led away from sin. Resisting sin by ourselves is virtually impossible. When we hand over our prayer life to God, we will receive supernatural strength.

Psalm 53:1-6

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”. Rejecting God is the most foolish and illogical thing that anyone could ever do. Many people buy lottery tickets despite there being an infinitesimal chance of winning a substantial sum. There is no logic or sense to buying one. However, many of the same people don’t take a chance on Jesus being the universal saviour. Even if there were a one in a million chance of spending everlasting life in heaven, should Christians actually be telling the truth, rather than everlasting torture in hell then we all should take a chance and believe. In the worst case scenario, we would spend our life being generous and nice to people before degrading into compost. If the gospel is true and thousands of martyrs have died to demonstrate that it is, we would become children of God and rise to life everlasting.

Most of our society is corrupt and vile ways are acceptable to our secular society – as long at ‘they don’t hurt anybody else’. However, all sin hurts everybody else. There is no such thing as a private sin. We are all sinners and deserve death but through believing in Jesus we can become sinless in the eyes of God, because of the perfect righteousness of Jesus. We can commune with God through being friends with Jesus.

When God looks down from heaven, let us stand up and be counted as people who seek God.

Image: By Anton Raphael Mengs – 1. ngHjvgNHHmV4zA at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum2. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, online collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78613515

The Ascension Of Christ: April 28th 2021

Joshua 13:1-14:15

Joshua was now incredibly old. He had wandered around in the desert for forty years under Moses’ leadership before he was finally allowed to lead the Israelites into the promised land. God pointed out that there were still large areas of land to be taken over (v.1). The Israelites had not yet faced one of their toughest adversaries – the Philistines. God said that he himself would drive out another tribe, the Sidonians (v.6) on behalf of the Israelites.

The captured land was all fairly divided among the tribes of Israel. The Levites, from whom the priests came, did not receive an allocation of farmland to pass down their generations. God was their inheritance (v.32). They were given ‘towns to live in, with pasture-lands for their flocks and herds’ (14:4).

Caleb had been one of the original twelve spies forty-five years ago sent into the promised land and had set his heart on living in Hebron. Moses had sworn to Caleb that this area would be his inheritance. It is wonderful that Caleb, at the age of eighty-five, still had his middle-aged ambition to conquer Hebron and he had kept his mind and body fit to achieve his dream: ‘I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then’ (v.11). Even though it was populated by giants, the Anakites, living in large and fortified cities he was confident that with the Lord helping him: ‘I will drive them out just as he said’ (v.12). He demanded that his inheritance should be delivered to him: ‘Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day’ (v.12). This shows we should never give up chasing our Godly dreams. With God’s help, we can do anything. We can finish our lives still full of character and strength and power. We should never retire from the work of God. There is always more territory to wrestle from the enemy. With God on our side, who can stand against us?

Joshua was true to Moses’ word. He blessed Caleb and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. Caleb had been a tremendously faithful assistant to both Moses and Joshua. With a small army of Calebs, imagine what good we could do in the world. Hebron has belonged to his descendants ever since ‘because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly’ (v.14). It is no good being wishy-washy lukewarm followers of the Lord. God wants dynamic, wholehearted followers who always put his righteous ways at the top of their agenda.

Luke 24:36-53

Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you’ (v.36). We can only find true peace when we know that Jesus is present in our heart as our Lord and guide.

The disciples were able to physically touch Jesus. He was fully alive even though he could mysteriously appear and disappear and still bore the marks of his crucifixion. He had flesh and bones and ate ‘a piece of broiled fish’ (v.42). Interestingly, Jesus said: ‘A ghost does not have flesh and bones’. He did not say, ‘There is no such thing as ghosts’. So we have Jesus himself confirming what humans have long experienced. Spirits of deceased people can occasionally haunt people and locations. Not only are there ghosts, Fortea (p.89) states that ‘the souls of the condemned can possess someone in exactly the same way as a demon’. They insist that they are deceased human beings even when commanded, in the name of Jesus, to tell the truth.

Jesus confirmed that he was written about in the Old Testament in ‘the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’ (v.44). He opened the minds of the disciples so that ‘they could understand the scriptures’ (v.45). Every day, we should pray to God, before our Bible study, for him to open our minds and teach us the deeper meaning of the Word of God.

The disciples must preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations, starting in Jerusalem (v.47). They were instructed to stay in the city until they received the Holy Spirit: ‘until you have been clothed with power from on high (v.49). Once we have been baptized and have prayed for the Holy Spirit to give us a full measure of all of his gifts, pressed down, shaken and overflowing in our lives, we can demonstrate this same power from on high.

Jesus ascended into heaven near Bethany. He was taken up into heaven while he was blessing his disciples. ‘They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy’ (v.52). The disciples obediently remained in the city, praising God continually at the temple. They had witnessed awesome sites and soon it would be time for them to be empowered to spread the gospel to the rest of the world, willingly suffering persecution and death to share the message of salvation with us all.

Psalm 52:1-9

It is not wise to boast of evil. We should guard what comes out of our mouths: ‘Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?’ Boasting is not necessary. We should give God all the glory for the great things he has done in our life.

Our tongue is the most powerful organ in our body and can be used for good or deceitful evil, ‘Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor’ (v.2).

Many people these days ‘love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth’ (v.3).

God will bring deceitful, wealthy boasters to ruin, particularly those who grow strong at the expense of others.

If we trust in God’s unfailing love, we will flourish like a fruitful olive tree. Instead of boasting of ‘our own’ achievements, we should praise God ‘for ever for what you have done’ (v.9). We place our hope in the very good name of Jesus; the name that is above all other names. I praise Jesus, in the presence of his saints, for his life, teaching, death and resurrection. Thanks be to God.

Image: Sharon Mollerus, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Resurrection / The Road to Emmaus: April 27th 2021

Joshua 11:1-12:24

All the Northern kings came together to fight the invading Israelites. They joined forces at Merom (v.5).

God told Joshua not to be afraid because, by the next day, they would all be handed over to Israel, slain (v.6). Joshua was instructed to burn their chariots and hamstring their horses after their defeat. This meant cutting the large tendon on the back of the horses’ knees, which made them unusable for warfare. Sounds horrible but this is a fight for survival. This may have been a test from God because horses and chariots would have been very useful when invading the promised land. Perhaps, the Israelites had no experience of chariot warfare or God still wanted them to walk into battle, completely dependent on him.

Joshua obeyed God completely and none of his enemies survived. ‘He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots’ (v.9). God hardened the hearts of the enemies of Israel to keep waging war against Israel so that they might be eliminated completely (v.20). Only the sneaky Gibeonites had managed to make a peace treaty through their subterfuge. Joshua wiped out the enemies of God as Jesus wiped out the demons that he encountered. Both sets of enemies would have quaked at their names. Joshua means exactly the same as the name Jesus: ‘the Lord saves’. Joshua worked with God to conquer all the Israelites’ enemies during the time that he led them. Jesus conquered all of humankind’s past, present and future enemies through his death on the cross.

Joshua destroyed the race of giants from the hill country, the Anakites (v.21). The Anakites were descendants of the mysterious Nephilim. The Nephilim may have been genetically engineered as part of a demonic plan. It has long been debated as to whether demons can have sex with people. Traditionally, a ‘male’ demon, an incubus, develops an obsession with a young woman and oppresses her, visiting her in the night to rape her and jealously attacking any male human who tries to have a relationship with her (see the book of Tobit). Meanwhile, the ‘female’ equivalent, the succubus, visits men at night to have sex with them. Demons can’t create new life / eggs or sperm themselves so what is the point? Many people think this was the first attempt at IVF and that the incubus and succubus are the same creature and can morph from one to another. The ‘female’ succubus harvests sperm from men, the sperm then has it’s DNA manipulated before it is used to inseminate a human woman, by the same demon changing into an incubus. The result is a human woman becoming pregnant with demonically manipulated sperm. The resultant child has strange powers and is loyal to and controlled by the fallen angels. These progeny were of great height and strength – the Nephilim. This is why God wanted them wiped out as they were demon-worshipping abominations. They were present both before and after the flood, because the demons simply engineered more of them after the first generation were drowned.

‘Joshua took the whole land’. ‘Then the land had rest from war’ (v.23).

Luke 24:1-35

The women visited the tomb on the first day of the week (our Sunday) to anoint Jesus’ body. This is why Christians rest and worship on Sunday (and not on the Old Testament Sabbath / Saturday). The stone was rolled away from the tomb and the body had gone. Two angels ‘in clothes that gleamed like lightning’ (v.4) reminded the shocked women that Jesus had said he would rise on the third day.

‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ (v.5). Jesus had achieved the greatest ever victory over the devil when his death on the cross wiped out our sin, making us righteous before God and opening the gates of heaven so we may have eternal life. Now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he had been raised from the dead and death had been defeated forever.

The apostles did not believe them. Not because they were women but ‘because their words seemed to them like nonsense’ (v.11). Here we can clearly see that James is not Jesus’s actual brother. Mary, the mother of James in verse 10 is ‘Mary of Clopas’. Mary was an extremely common name. Mary, the Mother of Jesus / God, remained a virgin for her entire life. She had been dedicated to the temple as a vocational virgin at a very young age. Being a virgin was her job.

It was wonderful that Peter, the human leader of the church, should be so excited by the women’s reports that he alone got up and ran to the tomb (v.12). He saw the strips of linen lying by themselves – which may, according to legend, be still with us today as the Turin shroud. Jesus’ image was burnt onto them by intense UV as he was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘The only known explanation for the formation of the image is an intense burst of vacuum ultraviolet radiation (equivalent to the output of 14,000 excimer lasers) emitted from every three-dimensional point of the body in the Shroud’ https://www.simplycatholic.com/shroud-of-turin-evidence-of-jesus-resurrection/.

Jesus joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus but ‘they were kept from recognising him’ (v.16). God can prevent people from recognising Jesus and his works and he can also harden people’s hearts so they choose not to come to him. This is a mystery. If we have not been given the gift of faith we should pray to receive it after first making a decision to ‘believe’ the gospel. Belief comes first and then we tell people about it – stepping out in faith. Then our faith will grow. ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.’ The spirit of unbelief is rife at the moment. Look at how people have denied Covid. We should bind this spirit, in the name of Jesus, and pray that our ugly, hardened, unbelieving heart can transfigure into a beautiful, childlike, trusting one. ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).

The two disciples were treated to the greatest scripture lesson of all time as Jesus, ‘explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself’ (v.27). It caused their hearts to burn within them as he ‘opened the scriptures to them’ (v.32). We should get just as excited at reading our Bibles on a daily basis as the word of God cuts into our life like a double-edged sword. I got so excited recently when I realised that Jesus himself frequently appeared in the Old Testament (these appearances are called Christophanies). Jesus not only created Adam and Eve in his image, giving them life by breathing into Adam’s nostrils, he loved to spend time with them and walk with them in the cool of the evening. He lovingly clothed them with garments of skin after their fall. The first animals to die in Eden had to shed their blood to cover man’s sins. Now, with his own death, Jesus restored Adam and Eve back to their right relationship with God by washing away their sin with his precious blood.

The Emmaus disciples still did not recognise Jesus until ‘he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them’ (v.30). They got up and rushed back to tell the disciples. When we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we encounter Jesus in the breaking of bread. We should rush to tell others when we have finally recognised Jesus and our eyes have been opened.

Psalm 51:10-19

This is King David’s penitential prayer after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. David was truly penitent for this terrible sins. He acknowledged his iniquity and so still qualified as a man who pleased God. We too can be forgiven, no matter what sins we have committed, if we humbly renounce them and repent.

We should pray that God should purify our heart and renew our spirit (v.10). By praying in tongues on a daily basis, the Holy Spirit will edify us. He will build us up, strengthen us and make us steadfast (resolutely firm and unwavering).

It would be disastrous if God were to cast us from our presence or take his Holy Spirit from us. God can restore to us the joy of his salvation and will sustain us, through our willing spirit (v.12). When we visit a Pentecostal church we can witness to the joy of salvation. It is fitting for us to praise God joyfully ever day of our lives.

In return for all that God has done for us, we need to teach people who do not yet know him his ways. Sinners will turn back to him (v.13). Our songs will sing of his righteousness because Jesus bought our salvation, he paid for our guilt, through the sacrifice of his perfect and holy blood.

When we pray in the Spirit, we can more effectively declare our praise for God. God is close to the broken hearted. He sometimes lets our spirit become broken, humble and contrite so that we will turn to him and become stronger and more effective at being his witnesses throughout society. God works for the good for all that love him.

Image: National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus dies on the Cross: April 26th 2021

Joshua 9:16-10:43

The Israelites finally found out they had been deceived by the Gibeonites, who had pretended they lived very far away but were actually neighbours (living only three days away). The cunning Gibeonites had conned the Israelite leaders into swearing an oath not to destroy them.

The Israelites had to conform to their oath but used the ‘small print’ to put the Gibeonites under a curse enslaving them as woodcutters and water-carriers forever. This was better than being annihilated and they were now allied to the winning side.

News of this frightened the king of Jerusalem, Adoni-Zedek, because Gibeon was an important city, much bigger than the conquered city of Ai and the Gibeonites were good fighters (10:2). Yet, they had simply given up and begged for peace with Israel. He joined forces up with the other four Amorite kings and marched on Gibeon to attack it as a punishment for selling out to the Israelites.

The Gibeonites asked for help from Joshua, as they were now the servants of the Israelites, and Joshua came to their rescue with his entire army. God approved this plan. They took the Amorite forces by surprise who were also thrown into confusion by God. The Amorite survivors fled and ‘the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky’ (v.11).

Joshua said to God, in the presence of all the Israelites: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon’ (v.12) and God obliged. ‘The sun stopped in the middle of the day and delayed going down about a full day’ (v.14). The Lord demonstrated he was fighting for Israel by listening to Joshua’s faithful prayer and acting on it. God controls the movements of all the celestial objects. He sent a star to appear over where Jesus was born, which would have caused a massive upheaval in the entire solar system.

Joshua captured and killed the five kings who had attacked him and went from city to city conquering them, subduing the whole region in one campaign and leaving no survivors. ‘He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded’ (v.40). Here, we can clearly see that God is not to be messed around with. He loves us but he is a fearsome, awesome God. He had left these Amorite cities to build themselves up and become prosperous but they never turned to him in gratitude and worship. They had prostituted themselves by worshipping demonic entities and performing human sacrifices. Eventually, just as the inhabitants of the world were wiped out by the flood, apart from Noah and his close family, God’s divine justice and retribution will come. We all need to ensure that we have fully turned to God and we revere and worship him before our death and / or before the end of the world – which could be tomorrow if God so desires.

Luke 23:26-56

The soldiers made Simon from Cyrene carry Jesus’ cross for him. According to medieval legend, the word for this cross had come from the tree of mercy in the garden of Eden. Adam’s son, Seth, had journeyed back to the entrance of Eden to find help when Adam was dying. Of course, the angels would not let him in but Saint Michael gave him a branch from the tree of mercy. Seth brought it back to Adam but it was too late. Adam had died. Adam was buried at Golgotha, under where Jesus’ would die on the cross and soak Adam’s dry bones with his blood and water. Seth planted the branch over Adam’s grave and it grew into a miraculous tree. King Solomon tried to use the timber for making the temple but it was too supple and so he made it into a bridge. The Queen of Sheba refused to cross this bridge because she foresaw that the wood would cause the end of the Jews. King Solomon cut down the tree and buried the wood deep underground from which a miraculous healing spring came which fed the pool of Bethesda, where healing miracles took place (John 5:1-9). Eventually, a large log of wood floated up to the top of the pool and this wood was eventually used for Jesus’ cross. Several centuries after Jesus’ death, the cross was retrieved by the Empress Helena and taken back to Rome. Fragments of the true cross were distributed around the world. I have seen two fragments: one in an exhibition at the British museum and another at Lluc monastery in Majorca.

Jesus is mourned by women as he passed by. He predicted that the Jews would go through terrible traumas after he is gone. Jesus prayed for God to forgive the people responsible for his crucifixion: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (v.34). However, we are all responsible for Jesus’ death because we are all sinners. He died to become sin for us and make us righteous and justified before God.

People sneered at Jesus saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One’ (v.35). They missed the point. Jesus freely gave up his life to save us from our sins. God would have sent a legion of angels to prevent Jesus being arrested but Jesus did not want this to happen. He wanted to obey God’s plan for the redemption of mankind. Notice the demonic ‘if’ in the verse. This reminds me of Satan using the word during Jesus’ forty days in the desert: ‘If you are Son of God, tell this stone to become bread’ (Luke 4:3). we need to make sure we never use a demonic ‘if’ when we are talking about the Holy Trinity or our faith.

One of the criminals on the cross says the beautiful, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (v.42). He will be the first person to go to paradise with Jesus. Jesus, as fully God is omnipresent, and so would be in heaven with him. Jesus, was also fully man, and, as a man who had taken on all our sins to become sin, would have to journey down to hell. God the Father had temporarily turned his back on him until he was resurrected by the Holy Spirit. Jesus journeyed to hell on the most audacious rescue mission of all time to rescue Adam and Eve as both their saviour and their son. Jesus died for people, past, present and future. He journeyed to hell to preach the gospel to all the faithful that had gone before him allowing them to go to heaven. What a fantastic reunion it must have been with all the patriarchs: Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, David etc. as Jesus rescued them from their chains while Satan impotently watched his kingdom being emptied.

Jesus promises the criminal on the cross that he will go to heaven even though it is likely he wasn’t baptized. Just the desire for baptism is sufficient and God can do what he likes. Of course, we want to be submerged completely at baptism if this is logistically possible but God is not going to quibble about the amount of water used or which parts of our body were submerged or that we can’t get to any water because we are nailed to a cross.

We have to reflect on whether we will turn to Jesus as the wiser criminal did or reject, sneer, insult and mock him as the other one did and foolishly remain unconverted until our dying breath.

‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two’ (v.45) showing that any Christian can now approach God, our Father. No longer could only the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies just once a year to offer sacrifices to cover our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice wiped away our sin once and for all.

The centurion, a gentile, witnessed Jesus’ death, as the sun stopped shining and darkness came over the whole land and concluded: ‘Surely this was a righteous man’ ‘(v.47).

Jesus was buried by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. According to legend, Joseph was a tin merchant who looked after Mary and Jesus, after Mary was widowed. The hymn ‘Jerusalem‘ is based on the legend that Jesus and Joseph visited England during the ‘hidden years’ before Jesus started his public ministry. Jesus may have been very well travelled and may have gone on a world tour before his ministry to assess how best to reach the people of the world. The Orthodox Ethiopian church maintain that Jesus and his mother, Mary, visited Tana in Ethiopia during their four year flight from Israel.

Another medieval legend is that Joseph of Arimathea made a staff from the thorn tree from which Jesus’ crown of the thorns was fashioned. The actual crown of thorns is normally kept in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris but was removed for safe keeping during the fire in 2019 https://www.eutouring.com/crown_of_thorns_notre_dame.html.

Following Jesus’ death, the legend is that Joseph travelled to Glastonbury in England with the staff and the holy grail – the cup from which Jesus drank at the last supper. On Wearyall Hill, Joseph planted his staff and it miraculously grew back into a tree – the Glastonbury holy thorn. It always flowered at both Christmas and Easter. Unfortunately, this is one of the most vandalised trees in the world. It was first cut down by Puritans, during the England Civil War, who wanted to wipe out religious superstition causing millions of pounds of loss to our historical inheritance. Fortunately, cuttings had been taken from the tree and it grew back. However, the original tree kept having its branches lopped off. It may not be a coincidence that Glastonbury is a centre for New Age, witchcraft and a major music festival, that doesn’t have an overly Christian ethos. Fortunately, other cuttings survive and the current ‘sacred tree’ is in the grounds of St. Johns churchyard. A flowering sprig is cut from it every December and sent to the Queen to decorate her Christmas table https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-16072789.

Proverbs 10:21-30

Words from the lips of wise people, or messages within their blogs(!), nourish many (v.21). People of understanding ‘delight in wisdom’ (v.23) whereas foolish people die because they fail to judge between good and bad (v.21). We see this today when people fail to come to Jesus, because they fall for one of the most basic traps of the devil: they look at the sexual scandals within the church and conclude that Christianity is worthless. People are weak and Christians are all people struggling with sin. Every profession has had issues with trusted individuals letting the majority down. There have been multiple doctors and nurses who have murdered their patients. There have been hundreds of school teachers who have seduced their pupils. All types of professionals have committed evil acts. Foolish people would not refuse to go to hospital or send their children to school because of them. However, they seize on any scandal identified in the church as proof that Christianity isn’t worth following: ‘A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct’ (v.23).

We have a clear statement that the Lord’s blessing can bring wealth (v.22). Many of God’s friends over the generations have been exceedingly wealthy: Abraham, Daniel, Joseph, Jacob, Job, David, Solomon. God doesn’t have a problem with money, ‘he adds no trouble to it’ (v.22). He has a problem with people who love money more than they love him.

The righteous will get what they desire (v.24). They will stand firm for ever (v.25), take refuge in the Lord (v.29) and never be uprooted (v.30). The fear of the Lord adds length to life (v.27).

When we are sent to people, we must never be lazy so we don’t irritate them (v.25). We must be a blessing and show people that ‘the prospect of the righteous is joy’ (v.28).

The Gibeonite Deception / Jesus before Pilate: April 25th 2021

Joshua 8:1-9:15

God reassured Joshua that he was back on his side, now that the disobedience of Achan (who stole articles from Jericho that had devoted to demonic entities) had been dealt with: ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’ (v.1).

We can all rely on God’s promises when he clearly speaks to us. God told Joshua that the city of Ai had been delivered into the hands of the Israelites – all they had to do was attach it. After the upcoming victory, the Israelites would be allowed to take all their possessions and livestock from the defeated city. Ai had obviously not been quite as corrupt as Jericho. God is a master strategist and the Holy Spirit, the master of wisdom, will tell us the best way to accomplish any holy task. Joshua was instructed to set an ambush behind the city.

Joshua drew out all the fighting men from Ai and made them pursue the Israelites. Every single man unwisely left the city, It was a simple matter for the Israelite ambush hidden to the West to enter the undefended city, capture it and set it on fire. The main army of the Israelites turned to fight their pursuers once the city had been captured and the men from the Israelite ambush left the captured city and attacked the army of Ai from behind. God had formulated a perfect military strategy. The Israelites killed all the 12,000 inhabitants and hung the king of Ai on a tree. The city was turned into a permanent heap of ruins. Killing all the men and women sounds harsh by modern standards but they were all worshippers of demonic entities and they couldn’t be allowed to pollute the faith of the Israelites and corrupt them. The Israelites had to follow God’s precise instructions to preserve their precious relationship with him. They depended on his favour completely. They took all the livestock and plunder from the devastated city but only because God had permitted them to do so (v.27).

Joshua renewed the covenant with God at Mount Ebal. He built an altar of uncut stones on which they offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings (v.31). Joshua copied the law of Moses onto stones and he read out all the law again to the whole assembly, including women and children and foreigners who lived among them (v.35).

Things were looking up for the Israelites again. If they kept being obedient to God, following his laws and carrying out his instructions perfectly, everything would work out easily for them.

All the kings West of the Jordan heard about the total annihilation of Jericho and Ai and came together to make war against Israel. So what! They didn’t have the one true God fighting for them. Bring it on. It was similar to when the modern nation of Israel was established in 1948. The Jews were almost immediately attacked by Arab armies from five countries: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The aggressors were never going to win. The Israelites are God’s holy people and he had promised that territory to them.

The people of Gibeon decided they could only survive the onslaught of the Israelites by trickery. They sent a very ragged delegation, pretended that they were from a ‘distant country’ and asked for a treaty (9:6).

The Israelites were slightly dubious, They couldn’t make a treaty with someone who lived near them. as they would need to take over their territory and annihilate them. The Gibeonites said they were from ‘a very distant country’ (v.9). They pretended they had travelled for weeks by packing mouldy bread, worn-out sacks, old wineskins and by wearing old clothes and patched sandals.

The Israelites made yet another terrible mistake. They did not ask the Lord whether the Gibeonites were telling the truth before Joshua made a peace treaty with them (v.15). Moses would have asked the Lord. We should consult with God throughout the day about any decisions we have to make. The Holy Spirit living within us will let us know what is true and what is our best course of action. Secular people say: ‘follow your gut feeling’. As baptized Christians, we know that the font of all knowledge, the Holy Spirit, does not live in our guts. He lives in our hearts.

Luke 22:63-23:25

The chief priests asked their captive, Jesus, ‘Are you then the Son of God?‘ Jesus replied ‘You are right in saying I am.’ (v.70).

‘I am’ is a reference to the most holy name of God revealed in Exodus 3:13-14: ‘God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you’.

In John 8:58, Jesus said, ‘before Abraham was born, I am’. He was claiming equality with God by using the holy name.

I totally agree with the Jews that no-one should ever say the formal name of God, the one beginning with a ‘Y’. It is totally holy and worthy of our utmost respect. We should always say ‘The Lord’ instead.

The chief priests tried to have Jesus condemned by Pilate by falsely accusing Jesus of opposing ‘payment of taxes to Caesar’ (23:2). They thought that a threat to the Roman income would be a good way to get Pilate fired up.

Pilate was keen to release Jesus. Pilate had no concern for a dispute about someone claiming to be king of a conquered nation: ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man’ (23:4).

However, Pilate was too weak to let Jesus go straight away. He sent him to the evil Herod for a second opinion. This Herod was the son of the King Herod who had tried to kill Jesus, as soon as he was born, by massacring all the young male children in the surrounding area.

Herod was ‘greatly pleased’ (v.8) to see Jesus. He had enjoyed listening to John the Baptist, until he had his head cut off. Many evil people are fascinated by holy men. They are drawn to the power and truth of their words. God always draws people to him, no matter what their background and reputation is. Herod wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle to order as a kind of parlour magic trick. ‘Jesus gave him no answer’ (v.11) so Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. They sent Jesus back to Pilate and that day, the former enemies, Herod and Pilate were reconciled. Quite often, evil people who hate God find they can get on with other groups or individuals they normally dislike if they can unite in support of an evil act, such as abortion,

Both Pilate and Herod were prepared to let Jesus go after unfairly ‘punishing him’ to show off their power. There was ‘no basis for your charges against him’ (v.14).

The crowd shouted for a convicted murderer, Barabbas, to be released instead of the innocent Jesus (v.18-19).

Barabbas’s full name was actually ‘Jesus Barabbas’ – as Jesus was a relatively popular name at the time. Jesus meaning ‘God is salvation’. Barabbas is an Aramaic name meaning ‘Son of the Father’. So the choice for the crowd was between two men both named Jesus, one called ‘Son of the Father’ and the other one actually son of the Father.

Jesus died in place of a convicted murderer as he was also dying to release the entire human race from the death sentence for our sins.

For the third time, Pilate tried to release Jesus but the shouts of the crooked crowd prevailed. Pilate caved in to the pressure. He decided to crucify our innocent saviour just because the crowd kept on shouting. Pilate was guilty. Leaders have to continue with the strength of their convictions, they cannot cave in to pressure.

We have to keep our faith to our final breath and refrain from mortal sin that could jeopardise our place in heaven. Many pastors teach, ‘Once saved, always saved’ but that is nonsense. When we are saved, we have to stop sinning to remain saved. A person cannot say they are saved and then continue to work in an abortion clinic killing unborn children everyday. They will go to hell without full renouncement of their profession and repentance. A serial killer can’t continue with their crimes after meeting Jesus without divine retribution. The biggest threats to our everlasting salvation are the grave sins of adultery and murder that are so commonplace in our modern society. Everyday medical practices such as IVF, or the morning-after contraceptive pill, open up the opportunity to kill a human being just as the baying crowd participated in our innocent Saviour being killed. Every fertilised embryo is a human being. If we have helped created them, we need to be very careful what happens to each and every one of them.

The Mother Church teaches that no-one can be certain of their salvation. We know that baptism is necessary to be saved but the judgement on our individual salvation belongs to God. Presumption is a sin and exists in two kinds. We can presume upon on our own goodness (hoping to able to save ourselves without help from above) or we presume ‘upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit) (CCC,2092). We all have to hope in God’s mercy and die with ‘God, have mercy on me a sinner’ on our lips.

Psalm 51:1-9

We have a beautiful psalm today containing a wonderful everyday prayer: ‘Have mercy on me O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin’ (v:1-2).

A Catholic priest prays for this washing and cleansing before the prayer of consecration in the Holy Mass. The priest must wash his hands at this point because he is about to touch the very bread of life himself.

We were all sinful at birth (v.5), sinful from the time our mothers conceived us because we inherited ‘original sin’ from our ancestor Adam. We are all born with an in-built urge to do bad things and be disobedient to God. We are all born with a sin which is ‘the death of the soul’ (CCC, 403). We have an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence”. When we are baptized, all original sin and personal sin is erased and we turn back to God. However, we remain weakened and inclined to evil and so need to invite the Holy Spirit fully into our life to give us power to overcome sin. The Holy Spirit living in our hearts will sanctify us (make us holy) if we allow him to.

The Holy Spirit will also teach us wisdom in our most inmost place (v.6).

When we are baptized we are cleansed from all sin and are ‘whiter than snow’ (v.7).

When we make a valid confession, it is like receiving a loving hug from our Father, welcoming us back home. Our sins aren’t just forgotten, they are completely deleted. If you are ever asked to attend an exorcism, be warned; a demon possessing someone likes to name out loud the sins of everyone else present in the room. The more embarrassing and incriminating the better. It’s as if a demon can just read our sins out from a book. We must be sure to attend an exorcism with no unconfessed sins. Then the demon can say nothing about us, our sins have been deleted from God’s face. God has blotted out our iniquity (v.9). Thanks be to God.

Image: National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fall of Jericho / Betrayal of Christ: April 24th 2021

Joshua 5:13-7:26

One of the pleasures of reading the Old Testament is to spot when Jesus unexpectedly turns up. On several occasions, Jesus (the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God) makes an actual physical appearance and does or says something significant. These Old Testament appearances are known as ‘Christophanies’.

Jesus became incarnate of the Virgin Mary in the era of New Testament but one of the hardest concepts to grasp in the Bible is that time means nothing to God. The past, present and future are all the same to him. He knows what we are going to choose to do before we do it as he knows the future. So, as James pointed out (James 2:21-24), Abraham was not considered righteous just because of his faith. Abraham was considered righteous because he, in the future, would offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice on an altar. God mashes our faith and our future deeds together: ‘You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone (James 2:24). Similarly, even though Jesus didn’t become a baby until the year AD 1, he was able to travel back in time as both God and Man to create the world in Genesis 1, walk with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8), talk to Abraham (Genesis 18:1-33), wrestle with Jacob (Genesis 32:22-31) and abort the assassination of Moses (Exodus 4:24-36).

When it comes to Joshua 5:13-15, the jury is out as to whether this is actually Jesus talking to Joshua or an angel. Some pastors think this is Jesus because ‘Joshua fell face down in reverence’ (v.14). The argument is that an angel would have told Joshua to stand back up because angels are not to be worshipped. However, there is a big difference between reverence and worship. Reverence is to show ‘deep respect’ for someone or something and so it is legitimate to revere an angel – particularly this one because he is obviously none other than my boss, Saint Michael, ‘the commander of the army of the Lord’ (v.14). I belong to the Order of the Knights of Saint Michael and so I am a big fan. Saint Michael obviously thought it was fine for Joshua to fall face down because ‘the place where you are standing is holy’ (v.15). He told Joshua to take his shoes off as well.

However, here is some further confusion. One minute, it is Saint Michael holding a drawn sword in his hand speaking to Joshua but from the beginning of Chapter 6 it says, ‘Then the Lord said to Joshua… ‘. So the mystery person may have been Jesus after all. Maybe both Jesus and Saint Michael were there. The author has not explained this clearly enough. If I was marking Chapter 6, I would highlight it in red and write, ‘Joshua, you must try harder!’

God / Jesus told Joshua how to defeat the besieged city of Jericho. It was already a done deal: ‘I have delivered Jericho into your hands’ (6:2). The Israelites had to march around the city blowing trumpets once a day for six days but on the seventh day, they had to march around it seven times. Then, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall of the city would collapse and every man could rush straight in (6:2-5). The Israelites had started a working partnership with God. If they carried out certain actions to show their faith, he would carry out the supernatural miracle to enable the task to be completed. The plan might sound far-fetched but as the river Jordan had just dried up in front of them, the Israelites had full faith in both God and Joshua.

Joshua commanded that Rahab and her family would be the only inhabitants of Jericho to be spared because she had hidden the Israelite spies (v.17). As the walls were due to collapse, I would have been nervous for Rahab who actually lived in the wall of the city but her house was left standing (v.22). The Israelites shouted, the wall collapsed, they all rushed into the city and destroyed every living thing (apart from Rahab, her parents and her family). From being the disgrace of the family, because of her profession, she became their saviour because she recognised who the true God was and that he was fighting with his people. She had faith in the God of the Israelites. Rahab, and her family, had to stay outside the Israelite camp (v.23) as they had been contaminated by the devil worship in the city and their lifestyles. Eventually, Rahab was assimilated into society and became one of Jesus’s ancestors after she married a Jew named Salmon and gave birth to Boaz.

The Israelites burned the city to the ground and Jacob cursed it so it could never be rebuilt. With this second major miracle, Joshua’s ‘fame spread throughout the land’ (v.27).

An Israelite called Achan looted from Jericho some of the items that had been devoted to demonic entities. This was strictly banned. This made God very angry just as he gets very angry if we bring back dubious souvenirs from abroad such as Buddha statues or African masks, which might be infested by all sorts of evil spirits. Putting the wrong types of objects in your house can put a curse on it. My wife and I are rejoicing that now that my children have moved out we can get rid of all the dubious childhood items they collected that might affect the atmosphere in the house: Harry Potter books, Pokémon cards, soft toys, dolls, videos and music. We have had a complete clear-out. I need to stock up on holy water to bless the newly organised cupboards.

Incidentally, many children are scared of the cupboards in their bedroom. If demonic activity is going to start anywhere in a child’s room, it is often in a cupboard. It is dark for a start and these creatures avoid the light, but also kids store their commercial rubbish in these cupboards. Many items have dodgy spiritual associations. Cupboard doors often open ‘by themselves’, items fall off shelves and roll out of the cupboard. On the other side of my city in a council house, there was reputed to be an incubus, a sexual demon focused on women. This one kept organising the shoes of its young female victim in her cupboard. I talked to an exorcist from London at a conference once and he said the two most common locations he found demons were in council houses and hospitals. Pubs weren’t far behind.

The Israelites were expecting an easy victory against the inhabitants of the city of Ai but, unbeknownst to them, God was no longer protecting them due to Achan’s sin. Achan had secretly taken some of the plunder from Jericho and hidden it under his tent. When the Israelites attacked Ai, they were routed and thirty-six of them died. This is what happens to society when individuals start sinning. Many people think what they do in the privacy of their own house or bedroom won’t hurt anyone else. However, God sees everything. If he is upset at the sins people are carrying out – other people get hurt as he withdraws their protection and stops answering people’s prayers. God tells Joshua that the Israelites will not be able to stand against their enemies until any objects devoted to demonic entities are removed. God whittled down the Israelites through a selection process to show Achan was the guilty party. Only then did he admit to coveting items from Jericho, taking them and hiding them.

Achan, the devoted items, and all his belongings, including his sons and daughters were taken out to a valley and destroyed. This seems harsh as it was only recently in Deut: 24:16 that Moses declared; ‘parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for your parents; each will die for their own sin’.

However, Achan had let a whole nation down. The Israelites had been given a fresh start with God, yet almost immediately covetous greed started up and, as a result, innocent people died. Sin kills and God takes it incredibly seriously. Sin affects the whole of society. There is no such thing as a secret sin that doesn’t affect others. Think of humanity as a beautiful hot air balloon ascending up to heaven. If everyone in the world lived a faultless life, we would keep on rising together. However, whenever anyone sins, even in the ‘privacy’ of their own bedroom, a little bit of warm air is leaked from our balloon and eventually the whole of society starts sinking towards an inevitable crash. We might be personally trying to live a God fearing life and keep confessing our sins as soon as they happen, but next door there might be someone committing adultery or taking home abortion bills with no apology to God. The billions of hidden sins that take place every day in our world are why only the ultimate sacrifice of God’s beloved son, Jesus Christ, was sufficient to atone for our iniquities.

Luke 22:39-62

Jesus had long known he was going to die a horrendous death. I have an icon on my kitchen wall, ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’ which depicts Jesus as a tiny child being comforted by his mother Mary after two archangels had shown him the objects of his crucifixion. He didn’t just die – like you and I will. He was converted into sin – every sin that anyone would ever carry out, past, present and future. If any of us should murder someone or commit adultery tomorrow or next week, Jesus suffered pain because of that particular sin when he was on the cross.

Jesus would rather not have been tortured in this way but he totally submitted to the will of God, ‘yet not my will, but yours be done’ (v.42). ‘An angel from heaven appeared to him strengthened him’ (v.43).

Jesus was adamant that his disciples should pray that they should not fall into temptation. This should also be our daily prayer. We have to keep strong to the end without the stain of unconfessed serious sin on us.

Even when Jesus was betrayed by his friend and arrested, he still cared for his enemies. He healed the servant of the high priest, Malchus, whose ear had been cut off in the fracas. This is Jesus’ last miracle before his resurrection. One would hope that Malchus would have testified in Jesus’ defence at his trial or at least convert to Christianity.

Peter reached the all time low point in his life when he lied and disowned Jesus three times. As soon as Jesus was arrested, Peter fell back and ‘followed at a distance’ (v.54). Many people follow Christianity at a distance today. They want to have one foot in the camp of eternal life and the other foot in the secular world. We need to commit to Christ or it is too easy and tempting to slip away. Imagine if Peter had fought to the death to prevent Jesus being taken. He could have been a hero but he quickly obeyed Jesus’ call to drop his weapons. However, we know Peter eventually recovered in spectacular fashion after being empowered with the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His temporary weakness made him stronger in the end and compassionate to sinners. Peter gives hope to all disciples that we can repent, receive tender forgiveness, dust ourselves off and still achieve wonders for the glory of God through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Psalm 50:16-23

Wicked people today hate God’s instruction and laws (v.17). They use their mouth for evil, condoning adultery and abortion and try to eliminate religion from all spheres of society. They want to forget the historical facts of Jesus’ life and even try to use terms such as the year 2021 CE rather than AD – because the term ‘AD’ (‘Anno Domini’, the year of our Lord) is an everyday reminder that God became man 2,021 years ago to save humanity. By using the term CE, you are denying that Jesus is Lord and choosing to consign yourself to everlasting suffering in hell.

Many people call bad things good and accuse good things of being bad. They harness their tongue to deceit (v.19).

Most secular people have no idea how far away from God they have become. They are being gently led down the path to everlasting destruction thinking they are not as bad as infamous murderers, thieves or paedophiles yet they cheat with regards to their financial affairs, commit adultery with their eyes and cheat on God with man-made idols. If they do not repent, they will be torn to pieces.

Our first step back to God is to give him thanks. We need to apologise if we have forgotten him when things were going well. We owe all the good things in our life to our heavenly Father. God is always looking out for us, with outstretched arms and will run to gather us up when we sincerely turn to him. We just have to renounce, repent and hand over control of our life to him.

Saint Paul wrote that when we confess. ‘Jesus is Lord‘ with our mouth and believe that God raised him from the dead in our heart, we will be saved (Romans 10:10). However, Jesus said: ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’ (Matthew 16:16). The church has always believed that baptism, or at least the desire for baptism is vital for our salvation. As Jesus commanded us to be baptised, our desire to follow his wishes proves that when we confessed ‘Jesus is Lord’ we actually meant it. If we refuse to be baptized, Jesus obviously isn’t our Lord as we are rejecting his command. As James pointed out, we are considered righteous by what we do e.g. requesting to be baptized, not by faith alone (James 2:24).

Jesus won our salvation through his sacrifice on the cross. It is tragic when people have their hearts so hardened by sin, they do not turn to him and ask to be saved.

Image: Unterlinden Museum, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Crossing the Jordan / The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: 23rd April 2021

Joshua 3:1-5:12

Joshua was full of faith in his new role as leader. He told the Israelites to ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you (v.5).

The Lord told Joshua that the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, should stand in the river Jordan. The river was in full flood – the worst time of the year to cross it. God loves a challenge. Joshua prophesied that the water flowing downstream in the river would ‘be cut off and stand up in a heap’ (v.13).

The water piled up ‘a great distance away, at a town called Adam’ (v.16). The priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood in the middle of the river bed, while all Israel passed by on dry ground. This shows how God can manipulate the elements just as Jesus walked on the water. Water has a very special role and significance in the church. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea to their new life away from slavery and this foreshadowed our freedom from sin when we are baptized in water. The Israelites were once again ‘baptized’ by walking through the Jordan – after a forty year sentence for disobedience. They were back on the right track being led by God. It was an auspicious new start. How did this miracle work? Did the holiness of the ark of the covenant repel the water? Water is a creature of God and can be affected by positive or negative spirits. God built his greatest mysteries on water. The church blesses water and priests can also exorcise it for use in baptisms, exorcisms etc. If water requires exorcism, it can obviously be affected by negative spirits: https://www.romancatholicman.com/exorcism-blessing-for-salt-and-water/

Exorcism and Blessing of Water

P: O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father (+) Almighty, and in the name of Jesus (+) Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy (+) Spirit. I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that enemy with his apostate angels, through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

R: Amen.

Joshua appointed a man from each of the twelve tribes to pick up on their shoulders a stone from the middle of the Jordan and set them up as a memorial in their camp (at Gilgal). The Bible says ‘they are there to this day’ (v.9) but according to the internet, not many people know where they are. Maybe they have been submerged in mud from the flooding of the Jordan? https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/304063412312620676/

It must have been terrifying for the inhabitants of Jericho to see the major river next to their city dry up and watch 40,000 hostile fighting men marching towards them across the dry river bed. This awesome miracle made the hearts of all the Amorite and Canaanite kings sink and they ‘no longer had the courage to face the Israelites’ (5:1).

As soon as the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, set their feet on dry land the river waters ‘returned to their place and ran in flood as before’ (v.18).

This one miracle from the Lord sealed Joshua’s reputation and the Israelites ‘revered him all the days of his life’ (v.14).

Most people would have had a joyous party to celebrate crossing the Jordan in this manner but the Lord was preparing the Israelites for battle. All the fighting men now had to be painfully circumcised to seal the covenant with God. None of the young men had been circumcised during the forty years the Israelites had been compelled to wander about in the desert, which shows how disobedient they had been. This was a clear breach of the Abrahamic covenant with God and I am surprised that Moses had let it happen as he was nearly killed by God at the start of his ministry for not insisting that his own son was circumcised. The whole nation had let standards slip over the previous forty years. Imagine if spies from Jericho had sneaked into the camp to see what the Jews were doing to be faced with 40,000 bloody, adult foreskins. Actually, 39,998 because Joshua and Caleb would have been circumcised before they left Egypt. This act made them renewed in the sight of God again, freed from the slavery of Egypt and delivered into the promised land. It signalled a new start for them.

Now that the Jews had been circumcised, they were able to celebrate the Passover. The day after they ate some of the produce from the promised land, their daily supplies manna stopped raining down from heaven. After forty long years of directly supplying their food, God had brought them into the promised land, a land overflowing with milk and honey, and it was now up to the Israelites to subdue it and sustain themselves from it – with assistance from the mighty hand of God. As soon as the Israelites had a secure supply of food, God stopped feeding them. He didn’t want the Israelites becoming lazy. They now had wonderfully productive land and could support themselves. As soon as I had enough money to retire, God arranged for me to stop my secular job. I could have built up more in the bank – but I didn’t need it. He gave me exactly the right amount of money to lead a comfortable, healthy life but he didn’t give me excess riches to lead a lazy, ostentatious lifestyle. God doesn’t waste resources. Immediately, I had sufficient funds he diverted his money pipeline to someone else. Praise the Lord for his infinite wisdom.

Luke 22:1-38

Judas agreed to betray Jesus – the most notorious betrayal in history. There are many theories as to why he did this. Maybe Jesus had not turned out to be the military, violent leader that Judas had hoped for. He may have held the traditional view that the Messiah would arrive to kick the Romans out of Israel and had witnessed that Jesus didn’t match that stereotype. Maybe, Judas just loved money. Verse 3 says that ‘Satan entered Judas’ and that totally evil demonic presence whispering to him all day wouldn’t have helped. However, Judas could have simply turned to Jesus, the Chief Exorcist, for help. God always gives us sufficient grace to resist any temptation and Jesus never turned down a request for healing. Judas could have been forgiven, rescued and redeemed by Jesus but he chose not to be. It was prophesied that Jesus would die and God had planned this to happen to redeem us from our sins, but Judas had free will not to be the one that betrayed our Lord.

Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples in the upper room – the last supper. He gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to them. This represents his holy body being broken on the cross for us all, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’ (v.19). The cup of wine was ‘the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (v.20).

Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’ (John 5:51). The following text means a lot to Mother Church Christians: ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them (John 6:53-56).

This passage and others in John Gospel clearly back up the Catholic church’s claim that the bread and wine during the Holy Mass are taken up to heaven by the angel who is permanently stationed at the altar in a Catholic church and he brings back down from heaven the actual body and blood of Jesus for the faithful to eat. The bread and wine, which humans made on earth, become the holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is immense. In fact, we should really approach the church on our knees in trembling awe because some of Jesus’ actual body and blood is permanently stored in the tabernacle. I cross myself whenever I go past a Catholic church in respect. When I first became a confirmed Christian, I could feel the supernatural power coming from the body and blood. Sometimes, a consecrated wafer (the Holy Body) is displayed in a round circular glass case, a monstrance, which is ornately decorated and displayed on the altar. This is called ‘Veneration of the Blessed Sacrament’. In my early days as a new Christian, I could feel waves of radiation coming from the Blessed Sacrament throbbing against the temples of my head. However, I was still heavily demonised having just come out of forty years in the spiritual wilderness, which could have been a factor in this spiritual discernment. Often a possessed person can’t go into a church or eat the Blessed Sacrament, probably because they are terrified of the actual presence of Jesus within it.

The tragedy is that apart from Catholics, the main segment of society that believe that the actual body and blood is present in a Catholic church are witches and devil worshippers. To join many witchcraft covens, a person has to steal a consecrated wafer, the actual body of Jesus, and take it a Satanic ceremony for it to be abused / profaned. In olden days, the priest would place the body on your tongue and you would have to eat it in front of him. Now, in the days of hygiene, a priest will lay it on your hands and so it can be easily smuggled out of the church. This is a mortal sin – which will send a person to hell if they do not renounce and repent their actions before death.

The irony is that many Catholics, who piece by tiny piece consume the body and blood of Jesus and so, in theory, turn their body physically into Jesus’ body week by week often show very little life and enthusiasm when it comes to worship. Whereas Pentecostals, who use any bread and sacrilegiously use grape juice instead of wine are absolutely full of the Holy Spirit and brimming with life and good works. I cannot deny that my lovely Pentecostal brethren are born again, saved and in the queue for heaven. That’s why I hang around with them and try to take back some of their enthusiasm to the Catholics – so far with little success. This week, I tried to organise a six week Catholic course on Baptism in the Spirit, to activate the tiny dormant seed of the Holy Spirit that my Catholic brethren have received at baptism and done absolutely nothing with. I did not get a single subscriber to my totally free and professionally produced course. So if you belong to any denomination and want to know more about activating the gifts of the Spirit, contact me. Just as Gentile Jews were sent to make to the Jews jealous with their spiritual gifts, I think spirit-filled denominations like the Pentecostals are here to make the Catholics jealous. However, it it very difficult to get them to even listen to the message that there is more to eternal life than their standard miserable Lent-like, low-intensity worship. Many Catholics never access more than a tiny fraction of the spiritual power and life that they have privileged access to.

I became a Knight of Saint Michael a few years ago, which is a religious order with a specific aim of fighting the devil and his minions. One of the side benefits of being in this army, is that the angels take special care of you and accompany you en masse at specific times. Whenever I get up from my pew in a Catholic church to walk up to receive the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have an angel from each of the nine choirs accompanying me. Literally, I say, ‘Lets go, guys’ to the immensely powerful Seraphim, Cherubim, Throne, Dominion, Power, Virtue, Principality, Archangel and Angel who are with me. The angels must look on with awe as I eat Jesus’ Body and Blood. They would love to do it themselves. They must be totally shocked at how millions of Christians spurn the opportunity to do this through distrust and unbelief in their Mother Church.

Jesus chose to lay down his life, to die for us all. He knew Judas was about to betray him. Jesus could have saved himself and left the city. However, Jesus always submitted obediently to God’s plan for his life and death. We are justified and made righteous in God’s eyes through the precious blood sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Everyday, pray for Jesus’ precious blood to be poured out on you, your family, your fellow church members and everyone you know. It will bring healing, deliverance and faith.

Even at a wondrous occasion like this disagreements can take place. A dispute arose as to which disciple was the greatest (v.24). Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

Satan had asked to sift Simon Peter ‘as wheat’ (v.31). The most evil demon in existence knew precisely who Peter was and wanted to use all his powers to make him lose faith. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times but he prayed for him to recover without his faith failing, ‘And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers’ (v.32). Jesus and the Holy Spirit have highly effective prayers. God the Father listens to them above all others. Peter would go on to lead the fledgling church after its first birthday at Pentecost, becoming the first Pope. Peter could have resisted denying Jesus three times but he was weak. Supported by Jesus’ prayers, he recovered. Once the Holy Spirit entered him at Pentecost, he became supercharged in the faith – the rock on which the entire Christian church was built.

Jesus told the disciples to equip themselves with money, luggage and weapons. It was nearly time for him to depart and for the disciples to start spreading the gospel around the world. Jesus would always be with them but missionaries do need to make practical plans to support themselves.

Psalm 50:1-5

Everything in creation, from the rising of the sun to its setting, obeys predictable natural laws because of the word of God (v.1). He is our righteous judge and will gather us, the ‘consecrated ones’ (v.5) to him. He made a new covenant with us through the blood sacrifice of his precious only son, Jesus Christ.

God didn’t need the Israelites to sacrifice animals to him because every creature in the world belongs to him already, including us. He is not dependent on us but wants to be our most trusted friend and father. God likes us to honour him with our worship, praise and thanksgiving.

He particularly likes it when we recall how awesome he was rescuing the Israelites from Egypt and safely delivering them to the promised land.

If we make a vow to God, he wants us to fulfil it (v.14).

When we make God the centre of our life and worship him alone it is second nature to call on him when we are in trouble. He will deliver us and we will honour him (v.15).

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/maundy-thursday-last-supper-6145303/

Rahab and the Spies / Fall of Jerusalem: April 22nd 2021

Joshua 1:1-2:24

It was time for Joshua to step up and replace the Old Testament’s greatest leader, Moses. No pressure! He had to lead millions of people across the Jordan to conquer the promised land. They must wrestle it from well organised hostile tribes, some of whom were giants, living in walled cities. This was a task impossible for men, but nothing is impossible for God!

God promised to never leave his new servant Joshua or forsake him (v.5). The Israelites, in return, just had to obey the law that Moses had given them. The Israelites all exhorted themselves and their leader to be ‘strong and courageous’ (v.18). They knew the challenge ahead of them.

God would give Joshua ‘every place where you place your foot’ (v.3). Joshua had to have enough courageous faith in God that we would actually step into enemy territory. He couldn’t just wait on the safe side of the Jordan and believe the land would be given to him. Joshua actually had to boldly step out in faith, in partnership with God, to conquer the land.

Joshua sent out two spies who are hidden by the wise prostitute, Rahab, who lived in Jericho. The great walled city, Jericho, was first on the list to be conquered. Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was descended from Rahab. She reformed her ways after she teamed up with the Israelites and married a man called Salmon. They were the parents of Boaz – a key figure in the book of Ruth (see the genealogy in Matthew 1:5).

Rahab was courageous enough to defy the king of Jericho by hiding the Jewish spies. She knew that the Israelites would conquer the city, ‘for the Lord your God is heaven above and on the earth below (v.11). The news of God drying up the Red Sea and defeating the kings of the Amorites had gone before them. By her faith, courage, and (let’s face it) lies for a good cause, Rahab saved both herself and her entire family. The Israelite spies promised her and her family would be spared when when the city was overthrown.

The spies told Joshua that the Lord had given the whole land into their hands because ‘all the people are melting in fear because of us’ (v.24). We should feel as positive as those spies when we pray for people to be delivered from demonic powers. We have power and authority over them because of the name of Jesus, which is above all other names. At the name of Jesus, all evil spirits melt with fear.

Luke 21:5-38

Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple in AD 70 by the Romans. All architecture and nature itself will come to an end at the final judgement. Everything on this earth is temporary.

Jesus predicted that there would be wars and great trials: ‘earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven (v.11) before he came again. Before this, Christians will be persecuted. We should not worry about how to defend ourselves (v.14). Jesus will give us ‘words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict’ (v.15).

Jesus warned Christians that ‘all men will hate you because of me’ (v.17). It certainly feels like this when we campaign for pro-life issues and stand up for basic morality. Jesus strengthens us not to give up and join in with modern secular society, the society of death, ‘by standing firm you will gain life’ (v.19).

After great signs in the heavens, Jesus will come ‘in a cloud with power and great glory’ (v.27). Most of the world will be terrified at this site but not Christians. We will stand up and lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near (v.28). This passage seems to imply there is no such thing as ‘the rapture’, when some think Christians will float off up into the air before the second coming of Jesus. Jesus said we will need to stand up and lift up our heads – which we couldn’t do if we had already floated up into space.

We must not be weighed down with depression, lack of energy, drunkenness and anxieties (v.34). We must keep soldiering on positively until the end, watching out and praying that we will be able to stand confidently before Jesus when he arrives.

Jesus was a fantastic teacher speaking anointed words. People got up early in the morning and flocked to the temple to hear him. His words will never pass away and are enshrined in the precious Bible. Let us get up early each morning and rush to read his word. It is the perfect start. Each day, we can reflect on what we have learned and apply it to that day’s experiences.

Proverbs 10:11-20

If we choose to say words that are righteous, we can bring life to people (v.1).

There is a lot of dissension in the world stirred up by hatred. In contrast, ‘love covers over all wrongs’ (v.12).

If we work in a worthwhile job, we will thrive. We should not earn an income by damaging the environment or acting immorally, ‘the income of the wicked brings them punishment’ (v.16).

We should heed positive criticism and discipline. Persistent rule-breakers lead others astray (v.17). It is easy to say to ourselves, ‘well, everyone else is doing it’ about an illegal or immoral act.

We need to forgive others – with both our lips and our hearts as ‘he who conceals his hatred has lying lips’ (v.18). It is wise to keep quiet when we don’t have anything good to say about people. Before speaking, we should ask ourselves: ‘is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?’ Our words should build people up, not slander them in a sinful way: ‘the tongue of the righteous is choice silver’ (v.20). A wicked heart is of little value but baptized Christians have the Holy Spirit residing in their hearts, sanctifying them and making them holier day by day.

Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Death of Moses / The Widow’s Offering: April 21st 2021

Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

Moses blessed each individual tribe of Israelites before his death. God would ride on the heavens to help them (v.26). The eternal God would be their refuge and drive out their cowering enemies before them (v.27), before trampling down where their enemies worshipped their demonic gods (the ‘high places’ (v.29)).

The nation of Israel was blessed – ‘a people saved by the Lord’ (v.29). God would be their ‘shield and helper’ (v.29).

Moses climbed Mount Nebo and, before he died, God showed him the whole of the promised land. It must have been so emotional for Moses to see the beautiful, fertile land that God had promised his people.

Moses died at the age of one hundred and twenty in remarkably good shape. ‘His eyes were not weak nor his strength gone’ (34:7). That’s what working diligently for God does for you. It’s retirement that will age you. Never retire. Keep doing something positive for God.

Moses was buried in the valley of Beth Poar by God and no-one knows exactly where his grave is. God did not want his tomb to become an idol for the Jews. The book of Jude (v.9) tells of a dispute between Saint Michael, the archangel, and the devil ‘about the body of Moses’. I presume that Michael was arranging the burial for God and the devil was trying to set up Moses’ tomb as an idol. Jude remarked at how polite Michael was during this tense encounter merely saying, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’.

The Israelites grieved for Moses for thirty days. He had been a fantastic leader, a great man of God, willing to put his own life on the line to save his people. The Lord knew him ‘face to face’ (v.10).

Moses had laid his hands on his successor Joshua and imparted to him ‘the spirit of wisdom’ (v.9) i.e. the Holy Spirit. Because he had been given the Spirit, ‘the Israelites listened to him’ (v.9).

He remains the most important prophet for the Jews: ‘For no-one has ever shown the mighty power of performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel’ (v.12). However, Jesus said that John the Baptist, who bridged the Old and New Testament was greater: ‘among those born of women there has never risen anyone greater than John the Baptist’ (Matthew 11:11). As baptized Christians justified and made righteous in the sight of God through the death of Jesus, we have all entered the kingdom of God: ‘yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (v.11). We have the Holy Spirit actually living within us. God resides in us. Jesus is the greatest prophet, Lord and Saviour. His name is above any other name in heaven or on earth. Hallelujah.

Luke 20:27-21:4

Jesus said that the immortal God’s children, the people of the resurrection, ‘will neither marry nor be given in marriage; ‘for they are like the angels’ (v.35).

He then confirmed that we can pray to the dead to intercede between us and God. Just as we can ask our living priest or pastor to pray for us, we can pray to any historical saint – or even Moses – to pray on our behalf to God because to God they aren’t dead. They are just as alive as when they were on the earth: ‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive’ (v.38). Saints in heaven are just twiddling their thumbs hoping someone will turn to them in prayer and ask them to do something for us. Many people have favourite saints and others are great for specific topics. For example, if we need help as a father, we can pray to Saint Joseph. Some saints have privileged access to the Trinity. Prayers to Mary, Mother of God, are particularly effective as she has such a direct line to her son. Exorcists have a particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as she is so effective at crushing the head of the demonic.

Jesus warned us against ostentatious forms of religiosity, funded by bequests from widows who presumed their money would earn them salvation. Godly people shouldn’t place themselves on a pedestal to be admired. Christians should be mainly undercover, wearing ordinary clothes and mixing with ordinary people. If people ask them to pray for us, we should mainly do this in our private place with God – we don’t need to do it in the open to show off.

The poor widow showed her total trust in God. She gave to the temple ‘all she had to live on’ (v.4). When Jesus taught the disciples to pray he said, ‘Give us each day our daily bread’ (Luke 11:3). Of course, there were wealthy people who followed God: Abraham, David and Solomon (until he went rogue) and they didn’t give away all their wealth. Their ‘daily bread’ must have been more spiritual. They realised that wealth and status weren’t important. They didn’t ‘trust in their wealth or boast of their great riches’ (Psalm 49:6). What mattered was their daily relationship with God, that brought them fresh inspiration, love, comfort and internal joy every new day. They trusted in God, not their money.

The rich people were giving into the treasury: ‘gifts out of their wealth‘ (v.4) These donations were obviously a public spectacle with onlookers able to see what each person was donating. The rich would have got some smug satisfaction from showing off in front of the crowds with their large offerings. However, they should have diverted some of their money to the widow and given the rest in secret. Jesus loves orphans and widows. ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself being polluted by the world’ (James 1:17).

Psalm 49:1-20

We can’t redeem anyone’s life with money (v.7). ‘The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough’ (v.8).

Even the richest billionaire in the world is going to die no matter what plastic surgery or medical interventions they afford. We can’t take earthly riches with us – there are no pockets in a shroud.

Jesus won for us the priceless gift of eternal life through his death on the cross. When we die, our wealth is left to others. I gave up my secular job so I could write this blog. When I was working I was just building up wealth to leave for others. Of course, I could have carried on working just to give my wages to the poor and maybe I might do that some day – but I would also want to work in a Godly worthwhile job.

We shouldn’t trust in ourselves or our wealth. We should only trust in God to raise us from the dead. The psalmist was confident that, ‘God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself’ (v.15). He must have received this prophetic word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit living within us raised Jesus and he will raise us as well. The gifts of the Holy Spirit we exhibit, such as praying in other languages, are the initial deposit guaranteeing our resurrection from dead.

It is wonderful to be blessed by God and have a comfortable roof over our heads and food on the table but he has blessed us far more than that. He sacrificed his precious son to give us eternal life. We must not have ‘riches without understanding’ (v.20). Our real riches are the eternal ones we build up in heaven by working for God.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/8186047545/

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