Sowing and Reaping / Jesus, ‘The Saviour of the World’: May 5th 2021

Judges 2:6-3:31

The Israelites proved to have a short memory. After their remaining great leaders had died: ‘another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel’ (v.11).

They started to follow the demonic entities that the people around them worshipped and forsook the Lord. In his righteous fury, God handed the Israelites over to raiders who plundered them (v.14). He made sure they were defeated in every battle.

When they were in great distress, groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them, God would raise up a judge to save them from their enemies. God was with the judges while they were alive but each time one died, the Israelites returned to ways even more corrupt that those of their fathers: ‘following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways’ (v.19). Our society will be like this as the Covid pandemic recedes. Covid shut down the nightclubs and the pubs where people worshipped alcohol and sex. People stopped spending money on frivolous items at department stores, theoretically freeing up disposable income to give to charity. God heard the cry of the frightened and bereaved and sorted out vaccines. Once we have been delivered, people will rush back to the pubs to corrupt themselves even more than before.

God decided not to drive any more enemy nations from the promised land keeping them in place to constantly test Israel’s loyalty to him. The Israelites failed the test. They intermarried with the pagan nations and served their gods.

The first judge was Othniel, a nephew of the legendary warrior Caleb. ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon him’ (3:10). He defeated the king of Aram and Israel had peace for 40 years until Othniel died. Notice that the Holy Spirit came upon Othniel and empowered him for this leadership task. How much more are Christians empowered today because we have the Holy Spirit living permanently within us? We just have to co-operate and pray for him to activate his gifts within us.

The Israelites committed evil again and so were handed over to the king of Moab for eighteen years. God gave them a new deliverer, Ehud, who stabbed the evil king with a double-edged sword: ‘I have a message from God for you’ (v.20). The Bible tells us that the word of God is a double-edged sword that we can use to metaphorically stab our enemies. Jesus stabbed Satan with sacred scripture during his temptations in the desert. The Israelites followed their new strong leader into battle and Moab was defeated. Then ‘the land had peace for eighty years’ (v.30).

The Holy Spirit gave certain judges supernatural strength and endurance in battle. The next one, Shamgar, stuck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad and saved Israel (v.31).

John 4:27-42

The Samaritan woman went back to her town and said: ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ The Samaritans listened to her and came out of the town to see Jesus. After Jesus’ resurrection, when Mary Magdalene told the weeping and mourning disciples that she had see the risen Jesus, ‘they did not believe it’ (v.11). It is wonderful that Gentile Samaritans were hungrily looking for the Messiah when so many Jews had rejected him. We should tell as many people as we can to ‘come and see’ and invite them to a Spirit filled dynamic church so that their lives can be changed.

Jesus sent us out to preach the gospel to the end of the world. Covid has shut down travel to a great extent but we can still tell people about Jesus via the internet. Greetings to my readers right across the world. Our food is to finish his work and proclaim the saving power of Christ.

Jesus saw the town’s people making their way towards him. ‘Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest’ (v.36). Someone must have previously sown faith in the Samaritans hearts that made them long for the Christ. Jesus, and his disciples, could now harvest these believers for eternal life. So many people taught me different bits of the Bible as I grew up; not least, the Anglican vicar who gave me intensive tuition on Christianity before my wedding in a High Anglican church. We might not see any growth or harvest as we talk to people about Jesus but God’s word will germinate in their hearts allowing others in the future to harvest them into heaven.

Just from the woman’s testimony, many Samaritans believed in him (v.39). The Holy Spirit can give us supernatural words of knowledge about people that can not only convert an individual, they can convert others to Christ through that convert’s powerful testimony. The Samaritans urged Jesus to stay with them. He agreed, stayed for 2 days and many more became believers. Hearing Jesus for themselves strengthened their belief in the woman’s testimony enabling them to declare that he really was the Saviour of the world (v.42).

It must have been so refreshing for Jesus to teach people who wanted him there. This is the kind of refreshment we can enjoy when we attend a faith-filled church or go on a Christian retreat. Sometimes, we all need our batteries charged up with positivity which will give us renewed strength to face more challenging audiences.

Psalm 56:1-13

Even kings can be afraid. When King David was afraid, he chose to trust in God (v.3). If God is for us, what can mortal man do to us (v.4) ?

People watch Christians intently. They conspire as they lurk in the shadows, plotting to twist our words, looking for faults. Many people have fallen for the most basic trap of the devil by rejecting Christianity as nonsense due to the terrible sexual sins carried out by a tiny minority of religious professionals. Yet, they would never withdraw their child from school or not attend hospital despite the thousands of teachers, doctors and nurses that have abused the people entrusted to them.

When David called on God for help he had expectant faith that his enemies would turn back (v.9). He vowed not be afraid of any man because of his trust in God. Christians have vowed our lives to God and we should praise and thank him for his saving grace. Jesus has delivered us from death by his sacrifice on the cross. When we believe and are baptized we can forever walk before God, our Father, in the light of life. The Holy Spirit inside us will stop us from stumbling on our journey. God will deliver us from our enemies, ourselves and from death itself.

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/cereals-corn-stalks-spike-grain-4357683/

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

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

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