Jesus gives us Living Water: May 4th 2021

Judges 1:1-2:5

The Book of Judges starts positively with all the Israelites consulting God as to who should attack the Canaanites first (v.1). God told them that the tribe of Judah would fight first.

The men of Judah asked the Simeonites to help free their territory and promised to return the favour in the future (v.3). They struck down ten thousand of their enemies and captured the Canaanite king, Adoni-Bezek. They adopted the cruel Canaanite method of crippling high-ranking captives: cutting off his thumbs and big toes (v.6). Adoni-Bezek was philosophical about this: ‘God has paid me back’ (v.7) as he had done the same to seventy Canaanite kings previously. Maybe if he had shown mercy to his captives, he wouldn’t have received the same punishment.

The men of Judah captured Jerusalem and put it on fire (v.8).

The tribes of Israel had notable success against the Canaanites but, in some areas, the Canaanites were determined to cling onto their land. The Israelites compromised and allowed the persistent survivors m to live with them. This was totally contrary to God’s instructions. God knew that these foreign people would be Israel’s downfall and he wanted them all gone. The Israelites would be lured into worshipping their demonic entities. If they couldn’t win the battle through their own strength, they should have prayed to God to prevail.

An angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal – where Joshua had set up the twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan – to talk to the Israelites at Bokim. He told the Israelites they had already broken their covenant with God. God had banned them from making a covenant with the people of the land and ordered them to break down their altars – which they had failed to do (2:2). We have only just started the second chapter after the death of Joshua and the Israelites were already in big trouble. The Israelites knew they had disobeyed God and they wept aloud. God would no longer drive their enemies out before them, ‘they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you’ (v.3). The penitent Israelites offered sacrifices to God. However, God does not want sacrifices, he wants obedience. We are surrounded by similar spiritual snares today from well-meaning friends: offering to take us to yoga (in effect worshipping Hindu deities); suggesting we try reiki healing (the invocation of Shinto serpent demons into us through the kundalini spot at the base of our spines) or karate (channelling the mysterious demonic destructive force of ‘ki’). https://www.chess.com/clubs/forum/view/exposing-the-dangers-of-maritial-arts2. When anyone is depressed or stressed, even an official government health service might suggest mindfulness – which may be appropriate if you are already a Buddhist but not if you are a Christian. All therapies / pastimes developed from non-Christian religions have the potential to lead us down the dark alley of demonic oppression. We need to repent and renounce of any such activities that are coaxing us down the pathway of lost souls, perform a screeching handbrake turn in our lives and start to journey back to God.

John 4:1-26

Chapter 4 clarifies yesterday’s suggestion that Jesus baptized people (3:22). ‘It was not Jesus that baptised, but his disciples’ (v.2). The Pharisees were counting which team of disciples were more ‘productive’. Jesus was not interested in a rivalry with John the Baptist’s disciples. Jesus and his team withdrew from the area and headed for Galilee.

Jesus travelled through Samaria and asked a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink of water. Jews traditionally did not associate with Samaritans and religious leaders did not speak to lone women. However, Jesus was a rule breaker when it came to saving people. He didn’t care about our race, sex or lifestyle. He wants to rescue each individual one of us.

Jesus described how he can provide ‘living water’. ‘Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (v.14). The Holy Spirit is sent to believers by both the Father and Jesus, the Son. If we pray for Jesus to send him, the Holy Spirit will give us his gifts, guide, comfort and console us. He is the living water, residing in us; transforming and empowering us to witness to the world.

Through a supernatural word of wisdom, imparted by the Holy Spirit, Jesus told the woman she had already had five husbands. A word of knowledge like this, if we are brave enough to vocalise what the Holy Spirit has told us about someone can break open a non-believer’s hardened heart making them receptive to the gospel.

Salvation is from Jesus and so ‘salvation is from the Jews’ (v.22). If you visit a thriving Pentecostal church, you will witness what worshipping the Father in spirit and truth looks like. God doesn’t want miserable people in an empty church mumbling a depressing hymn into a hymn book. He wants people to worship him with energy and dynamism with a pure sense of gratitude for all the blessings he has bestowed. After an hour of that you will feel the atmosphere in the church change. Peace will settle on the congregation as the Spirit arrives. Only then is it time for prayer. If you want to ask God to do something, you have to make sure he is in the room first.

Proverbs 11:9-18

Godless people specialise in slandering people (v.1). They can even bring down cities with their evil words (v.11). When such people perish and face judgement, ‘there are shouts of joy’ (v.10).

When righteous people prosper, ‘the city rejoices’ (v.10). The example we provide by living positively can change our entire neighbourhood.

We shouldn’t be hasty to speak. We should gather all the facts before we come to any conclusions about people’s actions. We should demonstrate our trustworthiness by keeping people’s secrets (v.13).

If we are in a position of power, consulting with many different people will help us secure victories (v.14). People respect the kind-hearted (v.16) and giving out kindness benefits ourselves the most (v.17).

Ruthless and wicked men can gain wealth but it is deceptive. It will not profit us after our death. If we spend our life sowing righteousness, we will reap an everlasting sure reward in heaven.

Image: Stefano Erardi, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Ten healed of Leprosy: April 16th 2021

Deuteronomy 26:1-28:14

The Israelites were to bring some of the firstfruits from the promised land to the altar. They were told to ‘rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you (v.11). Once they had given their tithe as stipulated and had done everything else the Lord had commanded, they were able to call on God to bless them and their land (v.15).

The Israelites were the treasured possession of the Lord (v.18) and would be holy people (v.19). They were told to write the words of the law on large plastered stones after they had crossed the Jordan into the promised land (27:8).

If the Israelites committed certain sins they would be cursed (v.14-26). If they fully obeyed God and carefully followed all his commands they would be ‘set high above all the nations on earth‘ and be richly blessed (28:1-6).

The list of blessings is so wonderful that one wonders how the Israelites managed to mess this up. How could anyone spurn the wonderful gifts and blessings of God and go their own way? Their fall from grace was due to our inbuilt damaged human nature and freewill to sin. We experience temptation everyday. God will always give us grace to resist but, within a entire nation, some will always be weak links. We have all been weak links in our time. The Israelites were doomed to failure when it came to perfectly obeying the law. A perfect saviour would be required to rescue us all from the curse of sin to make us a new creation, holy and righteous in the sight of God.

Luke 17:11-37

Jesus cured ten men with leprosy. He told them to take action, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests’ (v.14) and as they went, they were healed. This is the difference between belief and faith. The lepers believed that Jesus could heal them but they were only healed when they added action to their belief and went in faith. Only one returned to say thank you to Jesus ‘and he was a Samaritan’ (v.16). His faith had made him well.

We should always return to Jesus and give praise to God for what he has done for us. God loves worship, praise, obedience and gratitude. We should thank God throughout the day for the wonderful things he has done for each of us.

Jesus explained that, ‘the Kingdom of God is within you‘ (v.21). Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gift of Praying in the Spirit demonstrates that God, is living within us.

Many people do not believe in the existence of heaven, ignorant to the fact that whenever they talk to a baptized, born again Christian, they are in close proximity to the Kingdom of God. We need to make the Kingdom visible to the people around us by the joyful way we live our lives.

Jesus talked about his second coming (v.30-35). It will happen without warning, while people are going about their normal daily business or ‘safely’ tucked up in bed. Each individual will have to stand in front of God and receive their personal judgement. We can’t rely on the faith or good works of anyone else to save us. We will rely on our personal faith in Jesus as our saviour who justified us with God through his death on the cross. He is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1).

Psalm 46:1-11

At the second visible coming of Jesus, even though ‘nations are in uproar‘ and ‘kingdoms fall‘ (v.6), the Lord will be with us, as he is now – our strength, refuge and fortress. We will not fear judgement because we know we are beloved children of God – made righteous through the precious blood of Christ.

He will end all wars (v.9). He will banish all articles of war.

The Holy Spirit within us makes us glad with his streams of living water. As Christians, our hearts are ‘the holy place where the Most High dwells‘ (v.4). When we come to our Father in prayer, it is a precious time to ‘be still‘ and know that He is God (v.10). God is our ‘ever-present help’ (v.1). The billions of Christians throughout the world join in with our worship, exalting him among the nations (v.10).

Image: Sailko, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mary visits Elizabeth: March 15th 2021

Number 2: 10-3:51

The Tent of Meeting (where Moses could talk to God) and the camp of the Levites (who were to take care of the tabernacle) were placed right in the centre of the Israelite camp (2:17) and what an awesome camp it must have been. The census counted 603,440 men over 20 years in age and so adding women and children there must have been over 2 million people in the Israelite camp. I don’t think any modern-day logistics experts could supply provisions to a mobile group this large. No wonder, they had to rely on God’s miraculous daily provision of food (manna) and water.

Aaron and his sons were to serve as priests and were given special access privileges. ‘Anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death‘ (3:10). We are amazingly blessed today that we can have the Holy Spirit permanently dwelling within us and address God as ‘Father’, after the death of Jesus allowed us all to be God’s adopted children.

God had earlier stipulated that all Israelite first born males belonged to him but he now swaps them for the Levites. He is God, he can change his mind and do what he wants. Unfortunately, there weren’t quite enough Levites (22,000) when compared to 22,273 firstborn males. So 5 shekels (worth 10 dollars at today’s price of silver) had to be paid to redeem each of the additional 273 firstborn. This money was given to the priests. Even in the middle of the desert, hard cash is obviously necessary to keep a religious enterprise going.

Luke 1:39-56

Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth. The jury seems to be out on exactly how they were related. Elizabeth may have been Mary’s aunt (due to the age gap) or cousin. If she was a cousin this would have made Elizabeth’s son (John the Baptist) Jesus’ second cousin.

When I first started attending Church weekly, verse (41), ‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb‘ absolutely stunned me. The fact that baby John (the Baptist) in the womb (filled from conception with the Holy Spirit) leaped with joy when the foetal Jesus came into the house is stunning. And here we have a second person in the New Testament (Elizabeth) being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit‘. The Spirit didn’t ‘come upon her’ as happened temporarily to prophets in the Old Testament, it actually filled her – as we can be filled today, if we just ask. She instantly displayed one of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, a word of knowledge, identifying that both Mary and Jesus were blessed and that Jesus was ‘Lord’. The Holy Spirit gives this supernatural gift to some believers today and it’s a powerful weapon in converting people. When I first visited a Pentecostal church, I was overwhelmed with emotion when a church elder (with his back to me at the front of the church) pinpointed the agony I was currently going through and reassured me that God would deliver me. Which He did. Alleluia.

Elizabeth also recognises Mary’s outstanding level of faith. Mary fully believes that what God has said to her will come true.

The meeting between the two holy foetuses and their mothers is one of the most joyous occasions in the Bible. This is the last time I will use the word ‘foetus’ because I never use the word normally. I use the term ‘unborn child’ or ‘unborn baby’. The word ‘foetus’ has been hijacked by the Devil to sanitise the horrific practice of abortion. Modern society sorts unborn children into either ‘babies’ when they are wanted and ‘foetuses’ when they are to be disposed of. For I believe that someone else was watching this joyous meeting of the unborn. Someone who was intensely interested in the upsurge in activity in the angelic realm and was tracking both Mary and Elizabeth. Satan himself. He would have loved to have murdered Jesus and John in the womb but they were protected by powerful guardian angels. Saint Michael, the Prince of the Angels, had been assigned to permanently guard Jesus during his life on earth. Satan had been defeated by Saint Michael before (Revelation 12:7).

Satan has been waging war on the unborn ever since in revenge for not managing to kill the greatest prophet and the Son of God in the womb. According to the World Health Organisation, at least 42.6 million unborn children were killed in 2020 (https://www.spuc.org.uk/News/ID/384687/426-million-abortions-in-2020-the-leading-cause-of-death-worldwide). 22% of pregnancies in the USA are aborted and abortion is now the leading cause of death worldwide. The numbers are increasing.

When it comes to supporting abortion, adults tend to be too sophisticated. Very few adults would label themselves as ‘pro-death’ or even ‘pro-abortion’, they try to take a more nuanced approach and come up with the most twisted scenarios to try to convince themselves that sometimes it is a ‘necessary evil’ particularly if babies are conceived in terrible, tragic circumstances. However, God is much more straightforward. In matters of morals, there is no wriggle room. We have to look at the situation through the eyes of a child. I would hope that the vast proportion of children if asked about a baby growing in a mother’s womb would agree that it cannot be killed deliberately under any circumstances. So should we. Killing an unborn child is a grave sin. Of course, God will always forgive and welcome back the perfectly contrite from any circumstances but if people don’t repent and renounce this practice, there are everlasting and terrible consequences for them.

Christians can’t be smug and theoretically disapprove of abortion, while failing to publicly voice this opinion or do anything about it. Lack of action, against a global outrage, is a sin. You don’t have to stand outside an abortion clinic yourself – even though this has saved many lives. At the very least, write to your MP whenever there is a debate about abortion and express your opinion about the universal right to life. Join an organisation like the ‘Society for the Protection of Unborn Children‘ (https://www.spuc.org.uk/). If you don’t do something positive to fight this practice, you are morally complicit in it.

Back to the positive. Mary’s song ‘The Magnificat‘ is beautiful and echoes Hannah’s prayer in (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Trendy theologians – from which you should run a mile – come out with terrible slurs about Mary and ask how could a illiterate, teenager write such a magnificent prayer? Maybe it was written later by someone else? However, I agree with the legend that Mary had been raised in the temple from the age of 3 to at least 12. She had an intimate knowledge of the scriptures and was extremely eloquent and well educated. Who do you think Jesus learnt all his scripture from?

Nicky Gumbel makes the touching observation that half of Jesus’ DNA came from Mary and so he probably looked like her in some ways. Maybe when we look into Jesus’ eyes, we will recognise his mother in them.

I want this song at my funeral (not a morbid thought when you are born again)

Psalm 34:1-10

I was in such a good mood from the Magnificat that I found every single verse of this psalm beautiful.

Those who look to him are radiant‘ (v. 5). I watched a cookery competition the other day, ‘Junior Bake-off‘. The competitors had to bake something to represent their ideal future career. One girl baked a cross as she said her father was a Pastor and she wanted to be one too. We all cheered at home in delighted surprise but looking at her we could have guessed. Her face radiated love, peace and joy. If all the contestants had lined up and we had been asked to choose the really Christian child, we would have selected her. The other contestants were of course beautiful in their own ways but ‘slightly less radiant’.

Moses always had a radiant face after communing with God and had to wear a veil to damp down the brightness. I remember reading at church once from a high pulpit (which is rare in trendy modern churches) and I could feel my face glowing afterwards. You really can tell joyous Christians from their radiant faces. My Pastor says that bitterness and unbelief makes lines on your face. People don’t need to spend money on expensive face-creams (especially if they are made from foetal cells https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/nov/3/aborted-fetus-cells-used-in-anti-aging-products/ ) they just have to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit fully into their lives. They will make us beautiful both internally and externally.

I have been ‘saved out of all my troubles’ (v.6) by the Lord. How many troubles is the poor man saved from? All his troubles! Shout it out loud.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them‘. Amazing. Give thanks to your Guardian angel. He is your best friend and protector, leading you and willing you to eternal life. Show him some gratitude.

Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing‘. If you’re seeking the Lord, you probably won’t win the lottery or be given a sportscar but, by definition, these things can’t have been good for you. Because, if they were good for you, you wouldn’t lack them. In contrast: ‘those who fear the Lord lack nothing‘. By the time you have stopped seeking the Lord, found him and now fear him (have awe and respect for him) you have realised that an expensive car will just get scratched, depreciate and rust and winning the lottery would present quite a few difficulties. Your definition of needs and wants will have evolved and worthless consumerist desires will have dropped away. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in the Lord and not in his possessions.

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