David Destroys the Amalekites / Jesus’ Empty Tomb: May 31st 2021

The Philistine commanders questioned the loyalty of David. He had killed many Philistines in his time from their champion, Goliath, to the two hundred he had slaughtered just to harvest their foreskins. Achish, the Philistine king, was pleased with David (1 Samuel 29: 9) but instructed him not to go into battle with them and turn back to the land of the Philistines. This was fortuitous. David was destined to be the ruler of Israel and so it was sensible for him not to have the blood of Israelites on his hands.

David returned to the Philistine town where he lived, Ziklag, only to find that the evil Amalekites had raided it in his absence, set it on fire and carried off all their families including David’s two wives. David’s men talked about stoning him because he had left their families unprotected.

David asked the Lord, utilising the ephod (priestly apron), whether he should pursue the Amalekites and God told him he would be successful in this rescue mission. David and his six hundred men set off in pursuit but he had to leave two hundred men at a ravine because they were exhausted. David found an escaped slave, gave him food and drink and he then led them to the Amalekite raiders.

David fought the Amalekites, rescued all his people and took their flocks and herds. Some of his men did not want to share the spoils of their battle with the two hundred exhausted men who had not fought but David over-ruled them and gave everyone an equal share (1 Samuel 30:24-25). David also shared some of the plunder with the elders of Judah and all the other places who had been kind to David while he roamed in the desert.

In summary, God stopped David from attacking the Israelites which would have looked very bad on his CV. David then started acting in a much more regal and responsible fashion. He asked God what he should do. He bravely went off to rescue his subjects. He fed and sheltered a refugee. He nearly wiped out one of God’s least favourite nations. He was kind to all his people – even the exhausted ones who could not fight. He was generous with his resources in order to forge closer alliances with friendly neighbours. This was a very promising chapter in David’s gradual development just as Saul is about to meet his demise.

The Philistines fought against Israel and all Saul’s sons were killed, including David’s best friend Jonathan. Saul was critically injured and fell on his own sword. The Israelites abandoned their towns and fled. It was a total slaughter, which God had sensibly kept David from participating in. The Philistines put the armour of Saul in the temple of their demonic fertility deity. They fastened his headless body, and the bodies of his sons, to the wall of a town called Beth Shan. Despite the danger, the Israelites from Jabesh Gilead were not prepared to accept this final insult to their king and they valiantly journeyed through the night to retrieve the bodies, cremate them and bury them. They then fasted seven days out of respect.

The first king of Israel, Saul, had died. He had started well but fell out with God due to his disobedience and eventually plunged to a new low in spiritual relations by consulting a witch. However, even people he unjustly persecuted, like David, had still respected him. The Israelites were grieved to see him go despite his faults. Both Saul and his son Jonathan were tremendous warriors and they were loved and gracious (2 Sam. 1:23). Israel would now enter a period of civil war to determine the next unifying king of Israel.

John 19:28-20:9

Jesus, while suffering on the cross, was given a drink of vinegar, which fulfilled the prophecy in Psalms 69.21.

When Jesus died, he made us righteous in the sight of God by taking all our past, present and future sins on him. He became sin for our salvation and broke its power: ‘It is finished’. Jesus breathed out his spirit as he died (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit now lives within all baptised and believing Christians.

To check he was dead, the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side and there was ‘a sudden flow of blood and water’ (John 19:34). Crucifixion is a horrible death and during the process: ‘the decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion)’. Jesus probably literally died from a broken heart as the lack of oxygen in the body of a victim of crucifixion can cause the heart to burst. Jesus had been betrayed by the people he had come to save. Even though he revealed God to us as the God of love and he never sinned, he died due to our sin / envy / jealousy and hatred.

https://www.apu.edu/articles/the-science-of-the-crucifixion/#:~:text=When%20they%20came%20to%20Jesus,surrounding%20the%20heart%20and%20lungs.

The blood and water from Jesus’ side fell onto the ground of Golgotha and soaked Adam’s buried bones. Jesus’ life was in the blood. Jesus told us the Holy Spirit, now living within us, would give us streams of living water. ‘The water flowing from the heart of Jesus will heal, cleanse and energise us all’ (NG, p.317) Jesus would then descend into hell and rescue his old friends, Adam and Eve, from their chains.

Jesus’ body was taken by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. He and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’ body with spices (myrrh and aloes) in strips of linen and laid his body in a new tomb.

On the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene found that the stone had been removed from the entrance to the tomb. She told Simon Peter and John and they both ran to the tomb.

Simon Peter saw the strips of linen that had covered Jesus’ body lying there as well as ‘the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head’ (John 20:7). This cloth has been preserved through the millennia as a holy relic and is known as the ‘Sudarium of Oviedo’. Both the Shroud of Turin – the cloth that wrapped up Jesus’ body and the Sudarium – the cloth that covered his head prior to the shroud – have been proved to have been in contact with each other and both have traces of myrrh and aloes on them.

Simon Peter ‘saw and believed’ (John 20:8). We are especially blessed these days when we believe without seeing (John 20:29).

Psalm 68:28-35

When we pray with faith and pray in the Spirit, God will show us his healing and delivering strength.

As the gospel has spread to the ends of the earth, the global faithful have sung praise to God.

We need to continue to proclaim God’s awesome power (Psalm 68:34).

The awesome Holy Spirit resides inside of us on account of our baptism. He gives power and strength to us, his people. To release his power through us, we must pray he blesses us with a full measure of gifts and pray in faith for others (Ps. 68:35).

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/empty-tomb-nazareth-israel-3326100/

Saul and the Witch of Endor / Jesus is Flogged and Crucified: May 30th 2021

1 Samuel 26:1-28:25

Saul started chasing David around the countryside again. Saul could not resist the temptation to try to kill David just as we can return to the same habitual sins if we don’t ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and strengthen us.

David and one of his brave soldiers, Abishai, crept into Saul’s camp at night, while everyone was sleeping and took Saul’s spear and the water jug that was near his head. David was protected on this mission ‘because the Lord had put them all into a deep sleep’ (1 Samuel 26:12). David steadfastly refused to kill a king, who had been appointed by God.

David shouted to Saul and his men from a wide distance away and asked Saul why he was pursuing him again. Saul admitted he had sinned again and blessed David.

David wisely escaped to the land of the Philistines as Saul clearly could not be trusted. David and his men would go on raiding parties from there to acquire livestock and other goods. He ruthlessly exterminated all the men and women in the areas he raided for fear they might inform on him. It was a horrendously blood-thirsty time to live. It would have been nice to read that David granted people mercy but the sheer horror of some sections of the Bible demonstrates its truth. All the unpleasant bits that might make us question the morals of some of the main characters have been left in. However, God really didn’t like the Amalekites and, in his wrath, wanted them all dead. God had completely turned away from Saul for sparing just a single Amalekite, the king. Presumably, they were impenitent child-sacrificing monsters worshipping evil demonic entities and had broken so many of God’s laws they could not be redeemed in this Covenant. God needed them to die so that Jesus could come to preach to them in hell after his crucifixion.

The Philistine king, Achish, trusted David because he thought that the Israelites hated him so much that he would be his servant for ever. He even made David his bodyguard when the Philistines were preparing to fight against Israel.

Saul had previously followed God’s law (Exodus 22:18) and ‘expelled all the mediums and spiritists from the land’ (1 Samuel 28:3). However, he was now terrified of the Philistine invasion and none of the approved methods of communicating with God were working (1 Sam. 28:6). God had withdrawn the Holy Spirit from Saul and was allowing him to be plagued by an evil spirit. The primary occupation of an evil spirit is to tempt people and Saul was now tempted to consult a medium. It is a fundamental breach of God’s law to consult practitioners of the occult. If we do this, demons gain a legal right to oppress and even possess us and it may take a person with a very high level of spiritual authority and / or faith to deliver us from them. Dabbling in the occult attracts the big-hitting Biblical demons with personal names and they don’t usually travel alone.

The medium that Saul consulted brought up the recently deceased spirit of the prophet Samuel. Samuel was not happy at being disturbed. He reminded Saul that God had turned away from him and become his enemy. The Lord had torn the kingdom from his hands and given it to David. Samuel prophesied the loss of Israel to the Philistines and Saul’s own death (1 Samuel 28:19).

The witch made Saul eat something before he left. He had fallen full length on the ground in fear and his strength had gone. She was probably worried he might never leave and change his mind about not killing her. She slaughtered her fattened calf and baked bread for him and his men. He was an honoured guest in her house and part of her occult club now that she had conducted a séance for him. She only had to worry about him until the next day according to Samuel’s proclamation of his impending demise.

John 19:1-27

Pilate had Jesus flogged. I only realised the full horror of this experience when I watched ‘The Passion of the Christ’. This event is of particularly significance in Pentecostal belief because it is preached that all of our illnesses became embedded into the bloody grooves that were scourged into our Saviour’s back: Isaiah 53:5. See also, 1 Peter 2:24 which the NIV Bible translates as ‘by his wounds you have been healed‘, which sounds like the wounds of crucifixion, but other Bibles proclaim: ‘by whose stripes you were healed’ (NKJV). We can boldly pray for healing by virtue of Jesus’ taking all our our infirmities and diseases into the stripes / bloody thumps / grooves on his back. Jesus not only conquered death, but by being scourged he also conquered sickness and infirmity.

Pilate desperately tried to set Jesus free but the hostile crowd gave him no room for manoeuvre. He finally gave into their demands. He should have stood up for justice and released Jesus no matter what the consequences. He was a weak judge. These days, many biased people bay for blood to forward their own political agendas. We are so fortunate if we live in a land with a relatively impartial and just legal system, with a right to appeal our sentences. We must pray for our lawyers and judges that they are not tempted to deny justice to the innocent.

Jesus was crucified at the place of the skull, Golgotha. Jesus’ cross, according to legend, was right on top of where Adam’s skeleton (and skull) was buried. The blood and water from Jesus’ side would fall down onto the ground and soak Adam’s dry bones. When Jesus died, he descended down into hell on the most audacious rescue mission ever to rescue his old friends and ancestors, Adam and Eve, and lead them to heaven. Jesus had walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden. They were his friends and he had promised them, when they were expelled from Eden, that he would make things right. Jesus rescued them as both their creator and their descendant.

The sign on Jesus’ cross proclaiming him as ‘King of the Jews’ was written in the three different Biblical languages. Up to September 2020, the full Bible has been translated into 704 languages and the New Testament translated into another 1,551 languages. New ones are being added all the time. My wife’s Godfather has recently finished translating the original Hebrew Bible into Cornish. When we are given the supernatural gift of speaking in tongues, we might start speaking in an earthly or a heavenly language. People can be given the supernatural gift of understanding what we are saying or they might recognise their native language. Some people have English as their supernatural language – despite never having been taught any it.

John 19:25 mentions Jesus’ ‘mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas’ standing near the cross. Saint Jerome (347-420), argued that the so-called brothers of Jesus (James, Simon, Jude and Joses or Joseph) were children of Mary of Clopas making them first cousins of Jesus. I prefer the Eastern church’s tradition that the ‘brothers of Jesus’ were older sons of the widower Joseph from his deceased first wife. Either way, Mary, mother of Jesus, never had any other children as her vocation since birth was to be a temple virgin. Joseph, her elderly husband, was her strong, silent protector.

Even though Jesus was being crucified, he still cared for others. He ensured that his mother, Mary, would always be looked after by John – the disciple whom he loved (John 19:26-27). Mary, as the mother of God, is mother to all of us in the church. She is still our number one intercessor with privileged access to her son and our saviour. Praying to Mary is the same as asking your Pastor / Priest to pray for you but usually far more effective. Jesus remains the one mediator between human and God bridging the gulf between heaven and earth and opening up heaven for the righteous but both the living and the dead can pray for us. No-one is ever dead in God’s eyes, we are all living to him (Luke 20:38). The saints are twiddling their heavenly thumbs waiting for us to call for help. Demons are terrified of Mary as her prayers are so effective. She often intervenes in exorcisms to wrestle people from Satan’s grasp. It is the tragedy of the fractured and splintered church that so many people do not know they can request her powerful prayers.

Psalm 68:21-27

We should loudly praise God in all of our congregations (Psalm 68:26).

Sin and the devil are the enemies of us all. Jesus wiped out punishment for our sins by his death on the cross. He became incarnate to destroy the works of the devil. By her prayers, his mother Mary crushes the heads of the devil and the demons under her heel.

God will always be triumphant.

Image: Salvator Rosa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

David meets Abigail / Jesus is Truth: May 29th 2021

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44

Saul needed a quick break from chasing David around the desert and went into a cave ‘to relieve himself’. David and his men were hiding far back in the same cave! David could easily have killed Saul, his persecutor, but instead crept up and cut off the corner of his robe (1 Sam. 24:4). David felt guilty even for doing that and prevented his men from attacking Saul.

After Saul left the cave, David shouted after him: ‘My Lord the king!‘ and explained to Saul that he had spared his life and was innocent of plotting against him.

Saul wept aloud and admitted he had treated David badly. He prophesied that David would be king and establish the kingdom of Israel forever but made him swear that he would look after Saul’s descendants (1 Sam. 24:21). Saul returned home and David and his small army went to his stronghold.

Samuel the prophet died and was buried at Ramah.

While David and his men had been hiding in the Desert of Moan, he had protected shepherds working for a wealthy man called Nabal. Now, David sent men to Nabal to ask for provisions. Even though he was prosperous, Nabal was miserly and refused. David was furious at this lack of respect and vowed to kill Nabal and all the males in his household.

Fortunately, Nabal’s wife Abigail had more sense. She was horrified that her foolish husband had refused David’s request and she knew this would mean disaster, She loaded an enormous amount of food onto donkeys and rushed off to placate David, who was descending a mountain ravine to kill her household. She called David her master and said she was relieving David of having needless bloodshed and revenge on his conscience. David accepted her generosity and apology. It probably helped that she was intelligent and beautiful just as the beautiful Esther would later save all the Jews. We all need an Abigail in our lives to soothe us and talk us out of taking actions that we might later regret.

Abigail told her husband the next morning how close he had come to death ‘and his heart failed him and he became like a stone’ (1 Sam. 25:37). Ten days later he was dead. David was pleased that the Lord had avenged him. David invited Abigail to be his second wife (he had already married Ahinoam of Jezreel). Saul had given David’s original wife. Michal, to another man. There were complicated marriage set-ups back in the Old Testament – most of which didn’t end well due to envy / jealousy/ duplicity. Christians in the New Testament are strictly monogamous. God hates adultery.

John 18:25-40

Peter denied Jesus for the third time as Jesus had prophesied. Peter is a great example to us as despite all his failures and ill-judged comments he remained faithful to Jesus and full of zeal. He was personally forgiven by Jesus and became the leader of the church, a dynamic Spirit-filled apostle.

Jesus admitted to Pilate that he was a king, but his kingdom was not of this world. He came into the world to testify to the truth. ‘Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’ (John 18:37). Jesus is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6).

When we have the Holy Spirit living inside us, He confirms the truth to us. It can be frustrating to mix with the secular world who often refuse to listen to the truth. I once had to stand up in front of a major trade union conference, being held in a large arena, as the seemingly solo voice against abortion. I wasn’t allowed to use the word: ‘unborn child’ in my speech. The woman chairing the meeting kept shutting off my microphone saying that the term was ‘offensive’. Abortion is the state-approved disposal of unwanted children – that’s the offensive truth. There are many tragic aspects to each and every case and our hearts go out to everyone involved but the basic truth remains. Secular people, living in a morally compromised culture of death, can’t handle the truth.

Pilate offered to release Jesus or the rebel, Barabbas. Barabbas’ full name was ‘Jesus Barabbas’ with Barabbas meaning Son of the Father. So the question to the crowd was: ‘Should I release Jesus, the king the Jews and the true Son of the Father or Jesus Barabbas (the false Son of the Father)’. The crowd chose the false option. Barabbas deserved his sentence due to his crimes but the innocent Jesus died instead of him. We hope that Barabbas believed in Jesus after his crucifixion and was saved. We were all like Barabbas before our baptism and belief in Jesus. We were destined to die because of our sins. Jesus died as our substitute and washed away our sins with his perfect, precious blood.

Psalm 68:15-20

Why gaze in envy, O rugged mountains’ (Psalm 68:16). Mountains can’t have feelings we declare. This must be ‘figurative language’. However, God is in all of his creation. Everything that is alive comes from dust / rock fragments including Adam the first man. Jesus said that if the people on Palm Sunday had kept quiet, then the stones would have cried out (Luke 19:40). The natural world – with each element beautifully created by Jesus – may well be a lot more alive than we give it credit for.

God daily bears our burdens. If we have the same depressing, anxious thoughts going through our brain – the cure is praise, worship and prayer. The last time I was mentally laid low was because I had let myself get into a spiritual rut. God let the devil attack me mentally. I became seriously ill. God allowed this trial so I could find myself in a new church – a dynamic Pentecostal church – where the Spirit delivered me into peace.

We might go through trials and tribulations but only so good can come out of it in the end. God refines us like silver and disciplines us because he loves us. He prunes us so that we can bear more fruit.

He is a God who saves. Praise the Lord!

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

Saul Pursues David / Jesus Arrested: May 28th 2021

1 Samuel 21:1-23:29

David visited Ahimelech the priest, at Nob, and asked for food. David lied to Ahimelech and told him he was on a secret mission for the king. Ahimelech did not have any ordinary bread. He had ‘consecrated bread; that had been removed from before the Lord’s presence and replaced by hot bread. This was only meant to be eaten by priests. Also, David had fled from Saul with no weapons and so he also took Goliath’s sword that had been stored there. One of Saul’s servants, Doeg the Edomite, witnessed these things.

David went to Achish, king of Gath, but found he was already too well-known there. The servants referred to him as ‘the king of Israel’ (1 Sam 21:11). David feigned insanity to escape to the cave of Adullam where he gathered four hundred followers. He had a rag-tag army of ‘those who were in distress or in debt or discontented’ (1 Sam 22:2). As Christians, we should welcome all wounded people into our ranks to form the army of Christ.

David sent his parents to safety with the king of Moab and was advised by a prophet to go into the land of Judah.

Saul was told by Doeg that the priest, Ahimelech, had given David provisions and a sword and so he confronted him. Ahimelech was innocent of conspiring against Saul because he had been falsely told by David that he was still working for the king. The king ordered his guards to kill all the priests but they refused. Instead, Doeg killed eighty-five priests and put the whole priestly town of Nob to the sword. Saul had now clearly set himself against God.

Abiathar, son of Ahimelech, escaped to David who realised that Doeg had reported him. However, David knew this would happen and so David felt responsible for the death of all the priests.

The Philistines were attaching the town of Keilah and David asks the Lord, for the first time as a leader, what he should do. God told him to attack the Philistines and save Keilah. The priest that had fled to David, Abiathar, had brought the official priestly ephod (priestly vestment) with him. David’s men were already frightened of Saul and weren’t keen to pick a fight with another nation. David asked God again, who confirmed that He ‘would give the Philistines into your hand’ (1 Sam 23:4). David and his men rescued Keilah, fighting the Philistines and carrying off their livestock.

David, with the priest and the ephod, again asked God the future. God confirmed that if he stayed in Keilah, Saul would come to attack him and the citizens of the town would hand him over. David escaped – now with six hundred men – and kept moving from place to place. Day after day, Saul searched for him but David was able to hide in the desert as he was protected by God.

Saul’s son, Jonathan, went to find David at Horesh. Jonathan loved David so much that he was happy for David to take his birth-right in the future, to become king. Jonathan wanted to be second to him. They made a covenant together before the Lord (1 Sam 23:18). We need to loyally help all our friends when they are being persecuted, particularly those who have no-one else to rely on.

The Ziphites informed Saul that David was hiding in their territory. Saul asked them to come back with definite information as to his location. Saul went off to the desert of Mon and was closing in on David and his men when a messenger arrived and announced that the Philistines were raiding the land (1 Sam 23:27). Saul was diverted to fight the invading forces. It is amazing how God used a pagan nation, the Philistines, to intervene at precisely the right moment to save one of his faithful servants.

John 18:1-24

Judas guided a detachment of soldiers and religious officials to arrest Jesus. When Jesus confirmed his name, ‘they drew back and fell to the ground’ (John 18:6). We should aim to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that evil people cannot stand to be with us and will fall to the floor as we approach. It would be fantastic to be able to deliver people from evil spirits just by walking into a room due to the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

Jesus did not try to hide or pretend to be someone else. He was proud to be Jesus Christ with the name above all other names (Phil. 2:9). Jesus did not care for his own safety, he handed himself over and wanted all his disciples to be be set free.

Simon Peter cut off the priest’s servant’s ear with a sword. According to Luke, Jesus then healed him (Luke 22:51). The injured man, Malchus, was healed by a saviour he didn’t believe in and wanted to imprison. Jesus wants to heal and forgive all of us, even when we are still working for the devil. By healing Malchis, Jesus also stopped Simon Peter being convicted of violence.

Jesus was struck in the face for speaking the truth. Speaking the truth can bring both physical and mental attacks. However, we have no choice as disciples of Jesus but to bear witness to the truth. We have the Spirit of Truth living within us and he helps us to discern right from wrong.

As baptized, believing Christians we should not worry about what to say when we are prosecuted for our faith. The Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say (Luke 12:11-12).

Proverbs 13:10-19

We should never be too proud to take advice. We can be turned away from death by the teaching of the wise (Prov. 13:14). Ignoring good advice can bring poverty and shame (Prov.13:18). Love and humility can prevent a lot of pointless quarrels.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves (Prov. 13:11).

We should always live in hope: hope of having all our prayers granted; hope of enjoying everlasting life in heaven. When God answers our prayers, it is sweet to our souls. We need to persevere in prayer. Endurance will bring character. To combat temporary disappointments we need to live in permanent gratitude. Give God praise and glory for the wonderful gifts he has delivered in our lives.

Many people are hostile to the gospel and do not want to radically change their lifestyles (Prov. 13:19). Praying for our family, friends, colleagues will result in miracles as God works on their hardened hearts and removes the scales from their eyes.

Image: Unterlinden Museum, CC BY 2.0

David Escapes from Saul / Jesus Prays for all Believers: May 27th 2021

1 Samuel 19:1-20:42

‘(King) Saul told his son Jonathan and all his attendants to kill David’ (1 Samuel 19:1). However, Jonathan was very fond of David and advised him to go into hiding while he pleaded his case. David had risked his life fighting Goliath to save Israel. He was a national hero and did not deserve to be persecuted. Saul listened to the intercession of his son and promised not to put David to death (1 Sam19:6).

David was reconciled to Saul. David successfully fought the Philistines again but before long Saul tried to kill him again, when an evil spirit ‘came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand’ (1 Sam 19:9). It isn’t wise to have weapons in the house. If people are being oppressed by evil spirits and they can easily get their hands on a lethal weapon, terrible events can occur.

David fled to the prophet Samuel and told him the king was trying to kill him. Whenever Saul’s men approached their location, the Spirit of God came upon them and they prophesied. This happened to Saul himself when he travelled there. Even though Saul’s thoughts were on murder, the Spirit temporarily gave him a supernatural gift of prophesy.

David went to his friend Jonathan and asked why Saul was trying to assassinate him again. Jonathan endeavoured to find out at the New Moon Festival. However, Saul guessed that Jonathan was working with David and tried to spear him too. Jonathan sent a pre-arranged signal to David by firing arrows to confirm that his life was definitely in danger. Jonathan and David met up, said goodbye and wept together. They had sworn friendship between them and their descendants forever.

David left. He was a wanted man. He had friends in high places, Jonathan and Saul’s daughter, but the king wanted him dead. However, God was on his side and so these stressful trials would refine him and make him stronger. We can sometimes face persecution even though we are loyal and innocent. God has great plans for us. He will develop our character so that we can achieve great glory for God in the future.

John 17:6-26

As Christians, we are a different species from other humans. We have been pulled out from the world by Jesus. Everyone, believers and non-believers belong to God. He can do with us what he wants. However, believing Christians have been taken out of the world and given to Jesus. He now owns us and wants us to be with him for eternity (John 17:24).

The words that Jesus spoke came from God the Father. We believe for certain that God sent Jesus.

Jesus prayed for us that we will be protected from the evil one. Jesus knew that the devil could even attack the people closest to him. Judas was the one doomed to destruction ‘so that scripture would be fulfilled’ (John 17:12).

We are made holy (sanctified) by the word of God, which is truth. Through our baptism, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth sets up home within us.

We need to have close friends from all different denominations and work together on projects / evangelisation. All churches need to be warm and welcoming and ready to learn from and love each other. I love to attend churches of all different denominations and go weekly to both a Catholic and a Pentecostal church. If you are a Protestant, make sure you regularly go to a Catholic church and vice versa. Jesus wants all Christians to be together as one, in complete unity (John 17:23).

God loved Jesus, his son, before the creation of the world. Jesus spreads the love that the Father has for him into us. Jesus himself lives within us by the Holy Spirit (John 17:26).

Let us unite to spread his full measure of joy to the whole world.

Psalm 68:7-14

When God marches out before his people the earth shook and the heavens poured with rain (Psalm 68:7-8).

God is so generous that his bounteous world can provide for the poor. We just need to rein in our greed and selfishness in order to share our resources.

We are in a great company of billions of other Christians when we proclaim the world. Pagan kings and armies have fled in haste before the truth of God’s word.

The Holy Spirit shines within us, even while we are sleeping. He watches over us, protects us and prays for us.

Image: Public Domain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_(1_Samuel)

David and Goliath / The Work of the Holy Spirit: May 26th 2021

1 Samuel 17:38-18:30

David tried on Saul’s tunic and armour but they were too cumbersome. He couldn’t move around freely because he wasn’t used to them. When we start a ministry we can’t let other people lay their burdens and expectations on us to weigh us down. We can’t impersonate others – we need to do what authentically suits our individual minds and bodies. People respond to truth and integrity.

David went to attack Goliath in his normal light-weight tunic, with his shepherd’s bag and his sling. Goliath despised him on sight and was insulted that such a young man had been sent to challenge him. Goliath cursed David by his Pagan gods but David came against him: ‘in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied’ (v.45). David had total faith that ‘the Lord will hand you over to me’ (v.46) and that the whole Philistine army would be defeated so that everyone would know there is God in Israel.

David killed Goliath with a perfect shot from his sling and then chopped off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The Bible doesn’t say whether Goliath even got a chance to throw his enormous javelin at David. If David had tried to fight Goliath with just a sword, he would have been easily defeated. However, servants of God have superior weapons and we can defeat evil at a distance. Exorcists had successfully deliver people via a telephone conversation. David had a slingshot – basically a forerunner of a rifle – and had honed his skill with it over many years under the guidance of God. When we are fighting evil these days, we can put on the full spiritual armour of God to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Our sword is ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:10-17).

After Goliath was dead, the Israelites were able to chase and slaughter the Philistines and plunder their camp. David brought the head of Goliath to Saul.

Saul’s son, Jonathan, ‘became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself’ (18:1). There was mutual love between Jonathan and David. When Jonathan eventually died in battle (1 Samuel 1:26), David grieved for his dear friend: ‘Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women’. One reason it was more wonderful than that of women was that David and Jonathan’s relationship was pure celibate, friendship love (know as ‘philia’) rather than romantic love (known as ‘eros’). Pure friendship is extremely rare in the modern world. Men, in particular, can sometimes just have acquaintances based on shared experiences such as school or college or from mutual interests such as sport, drinking or hobbies. Many men have never had a lasting spirit bond with another male. Jesus will always love us whatever we do but, if we obey his commands, we will not be his servants, we will be his friends (15:14).

In contrast to friendship, a romantic / sexual love complicates relationships and David got into terrible trouble with God over his adulterous (eros) affair with Bathsheba. When we have sex with someone our soul gets supernaturally tied to theirs (a ‘soul-tie’) and anything that affects one of the pair spiritually can get transferred over to the other party. This is why you should never have sex with someone tied up with the occult. Their soul is likely to get ensnared by demonic forces which can transfer over to you. Soul ties are broken by prayer and people should always pray to break all soul-ties with others before they get married.

David and Jonathan were one in spirit and in love, yet they were purely friends. The most pure kind of love is to ‘love another as we love ourselves’. Sex does not have to go with love, which is a very difficult concept for modern society to live with. We can love people of either sex and never dream of having sex with them – we just have to live in the Spirit and pray to maintain a natural state of chaste friendship. Jesus never had sex with anyone, yet he loved us all so much he laid down his life for both men and women while we were still sinners. He loves us with unconditional selfless love (know as ‘agape’). If we live in union with the Holy Spirit and allow the Spirit to pray through us, he will show us the truth and lead us into a natural and pure way of life.

David was so successful in all his military missions that Saul gave him a high rank in the army (18:5). However, the Israelites started to revere David more than Saul. This made Saul jealous and he hurled a spear at David twice (v.11). Saul sent him on dangerous missions expecting the Philistines to kill David but, in everything he did, David had great success. He was seemingly invincible. Saul tried to give his older daughter to David in marriage but David was too humble to accept. Saul tried again with his daughter, Michal, and David was then happy to comply with Saul’s risky challenge to provide a hundred Philistine foreskins as a price for the bride. David and his men daringly killed two hundred Philistines so that he might become the king’s son-in-law (v.27). David had a great work ethic, even when it came to gruesome tasks. He was a formidable foe.

Saul became even more jealous when both the Lord and his own daughter loved David. He feared David’s popularity and became David’s enemy. However, this loathing was totally one-sided. David had no intention of seizing Saul’s crown and was a loyal subject. He was an asset, not a threat. Similarly, the Chief Priests and Pharisees envied Jesus, even though he was no threat to them. The Lord was with Jesus and people he helped loved him. The Pharisees should have embraced Jesus and celebrated his miracles rather than plot his death to assuage their own fear, jealousy and envy.

John 16:4-17:5

It was for our own good that Jesus died and returned to the Father. He was then able to send the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor and Comforter, to reside in each one of us. Jesus, as an incarnate man, could only be in one place at one time. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent and can fill the hearts of each of the seven billion inhabitants of the earth – if they believe. The Holy Spirit points out to us that unbelief is sin. When we believe, he activates his gifts in our heart. None of us can earn our righteousness through good deeds. We could never get to heaven by our own efforts. We are only made right with the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus’ precious blood. The devil and all his demons are condemned forever. God cannot stop loving any of his creatures but the demons knew God existed, they had full knowledge and yet still chose to rebel and so they can never be reconciled to their creator. They freely chose separation for eternity.

The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. He will guide us into making the right decisions. We will feel unsettled internally when we are considering making an unwise decision. Jesus had much more to say to us, more than the disciples could bear (v.12). This is why we should not just rely on the Bible but also pay attention to the truths that the Holy Spirit has revealed to the saints over the last two thousand years.

No-one can take away our joy at the resurrection of our Lord. The Secular world might try to lessen Easter by making it about chocolate, chicks and rabbits but true Christians know the wonder of the risen Lord. Our Good Friday grief was turned into everlasting Easter Sunday joy.

God will give us anything we ask in Jesus’ name. There is immense power in the name of Jesus. Jesus overcame the world so that we might have inner peace no matter what issues we may be facing. Praying in Tongues to God through the Holy Spirit when we feel stressed is a gift from God that restores our inner calm and builds up our strength and defences. The Holy Spirit facilitates our intimate relationship with God our loving Father.

God, the Father, was always with Jesus until Jesus was dying on the cross. Jesus took on all our sins and became sin: ‘My God, my God, what have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15: 34). God cannot look upon sin and so he had to turn his back on his son as he died, bearing all our past, present and future sins.

God showed his glory through Jesus’ life, miracles, death and resurrection. All we have is his and we should use all our talents and resources for the glory of his name.

Psalm 68:1-6

The wicked will melt like wax and be blown away like smoke by the wind. The rebellious will be ‘sun-scorched’ (v.6). and won’t be refreshed by streams of living water.

We are made righteous through the perfect sacrifice of Christ and so we should be happy and glad to rejoice joyfully before God. We sing praise to his name and pray to him: ‘Hallowed be your name’. I agree with the Jews that God’s formal name should never be vocalised. It is too holy. We should use ‘The Lord’, ‘God’ or ‘Father’ instead.

God is ‘a father to the fatherless’ and ‘a defender of widows’ (v.5). He gives the lonely a family. The church should provide a loving and welcoming family to us all. We can never have enough friends. We have all been prisoners locked in sin. God will release us from spiritual chains and lead us out singing through the supernatural grace afforded by our baptism.

Image: Nicolas Régnier, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Samuel anoints David / The Vine and the Branches: May 25th 2021

1 Samuel 16:1-17:37

The Lord sent Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem. God had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be king, instead of Saul.

Samuel wondered which of Jesse’s multiple sons the Lord had chosen but he could not work it out: ‘Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (v.7).

Samuel knew that the Lord had not chosen any of the seven sons he had already seen and asked if there were any more. David, the eighth and youngest, was still out tending the sheep and so he was sent for. God clearly told Samuel that David was the chosen one and he should be anointed.

‘From that day on, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power’ (v.13). In the New Covenant, baptized Christians all have the Holy Spirit permanently living within us. He will give us power if we fully accept Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Saviour and ask the Holy Spirit to enkindle the fire of his gifts within us. We can also be commissioned / receive additional gifts by being anointed / prayed over by holy individuals. The evangelist, Ros Powell, once prayed over me to instantly receive an additional prayer language. She went around a circle of volunteers and briefly touched each one of us on our head as she prayed for us. We all started to pray in a new language as soon as she touched us, a machine-gun-like deliverance language for fighting the enemy. Some people have been given a gift of imparting supernatural gifts onto others.

The Spirit of the Lord was now resting on David but had departed from King Saul and instead: ‘an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him’ (v.14). It must have been very sad for King Saul to lose the Spirit of God. When I first started praying in tongues, I was fascinated about how I was in control of exercising this gift. When I opened my mouth and allowed the Spirit of God to speak, he did; and when I wanted to stop, he stopped. Sometimes during corporate prayer in a church, when many people are speaking in tongues, the Holy Spirit will synchronise everyone and people will all gently grind to a halt at the same time. It’s a perfect union when we work together with God to pray what has to be be prayed. I was given the gift of tongues one evening but the very next morning while in the shower, I opened my mouth to practice this new gift and nothing came out. I was bereft and nearly in tears that this beautiful gift of God had temporarily come and then disappeared. A couple of hours later, it was back. I was so happy. I think God was demonstrating how much of a genuine supernatural gift this was and I could do nothing without him. I couldn’t pray in tongues by myself. He was testing me to see how much value I placed on having the Holy Spirit active within my heart. I discussed this with a charismatic priest and he said, in the New Covenant, God never permanently removes his gifts once they have been gifted. I am slightly wary of 1 Corinthians (13:8): ‘Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where they are tongues, they will be stilled’ but reassured by 2 Corinthians (1:21-22): ‘He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’ and Ephesians 1:13-14: ‘When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory’.

Saul’s servants discerned that if someone played the harp when the evil spirit was present, then Saul would feel better. Evil spirits hate beauty of all kind and so beautiful music can chase them away. They of course, absolutely hate praise and worship songs. When it comes to sounds repelling evil spirits, there is a long tradition of using bells. Church bells are exorcised and blessed with an official rite: ‘Bless, O Lord, this water with a heavenly benediction, and may the power of the Holy Ghost come upon it, so that when this vessel, prepared to call together the children of the Holy Church, has been washed with it, there may be kept far away from wheresoever this bell may sound, the power of those lying in wait, the shadow of spectres, the ravages of whirlwinds, the stroke of lightning, the damage of thunder, the disaster of tempests, and every breath of storm’ https://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2013/08/compendium-of-1961-revision-of_14.html#.YKuJlqhKg2w

One of Saul’s servants had seen David, son of Jesse, play the harp. He also had many other qualities. He was brave, a warrior, spoke well and was good-looking. He became one of Saul’s armour-bearers. Whenever the ‘spirit from God came upon Saul’ (v.23), David would play his harp, Saul would feel better and the evil spirit would leave. It is interesting that it is ‘an evil spirit from the Lord’ that tormented Saul. These days we would say that an evil spirit reports to the devil as part of the hierarchy of evil spirits. However, nothing is allowed to happen unless God permits it. So if someone is oppressed or even possessed by a demon, even though it is under the day-to-day command of the devil, it is only allowed to perform evil because God has permitted it to. God doesn’t want any creature to carry out evil but he will permit it if greater good will come out of it. By allowing this spirit to torment Saul, David now had access to the ruler of Israel.

The Israelites were once again at war with the Philistines. Each day for forty days, the nine-foot-tall giant Goliath, came out from the Philistine ranks and challenged the Israelites to send one man to fight him instead of an all-out battle. Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified by his size and weaponry (17:11).

David had come to the army camp to bring his brothers, who were in the Israelite army, some provisions. David saw Goliath offer his daily challenge and was very interested to know what the reward would be for killing this uncircumcised Philistine, who was defying and disgracing the armies of the loving God.

David offered to risk his life to fight shrugging off the disrespect of his oldest brother and the doubts of Saul. Unkind members of our own families are often our harshest critics. We should just turn away from their hurtful remarks without retaliation while praying that they will be saved in the end. David pointed out he was an experienced lion and bear killer thanks to his normal day job as a shepherd. David could hardly have imagined when he was fighting an enormous bear that God was training him to fight a giant Philistine in the future. God likes to make use of our secular experience and skills, once we start working for him.

David was so confident that the Lord, who had delivered him from both the lion and the bear, would also deliver him from this Philistine that Saul agreed he could fight: ‘Go, and the Lord be with you’ (v.37). Saul must have been impressed with David’s self-confidence and attitude. When Samuel had tried to announce Saul as king, Saul had hidden himself amongst the Israelites baggage. In contrast, David, a young shepherd, had marched into the king’s presence and volunteered to fight a heavily armed giant in front of two armies. He was heroically bold.

Just like David, when an opportunity to work for God comes up that matches our skillsets we should seize the chance with full faith. When we have been anointed by God and have the Holy Spirit living within us, we too can carry out mighty deeds.

John 15:1-16:4

Jesus is the ‘true vine’. The people of Israel are often also described as ‘the vine’ in the Bible. We can only bear fruit if we remain in Jesus. God will cut off any branch that does not bear fruit. If we do bear fruit, he will prune us so we become even more fruitful. Being ‘pruned’ by sickness, unemployment, disappointment etc. is painful but it will give us endurance and endurance will give us character.

Jesus told his disciples that they were ‘already clean’ (v.3) because of the word he had spoken to them. They were now his friends, rather than disciples. Following Jesus, believing in him and listening to his words can make us clean.

If we choose to cut ourselves off from Jesus, God will respect our freewill. However, we will wither and then be picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. When we remain in Jesus, obey his commands and his words remain in us, we can ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us so that God can be glorified.

We show ourselves to be disciples by joyfully bearing much fruit for the glory of God.

Jesus commanded us to love each other as he loved us. ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ (v.13). Jesus laid down his life for us, even while we were still sinners. He has appointed us to ‘go and bear fruit – fruit that will last’. When we bear lasting fruit ‘then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my (Jesus’) name (v.16).

As baptized, believing Christians, we no longer belong to the world. The world will hate us and persecute us as it hated and persecuted Jesus without reason. Persecution doesn’t have to be violent. Many people would like simply to silence Christians and ignore them. Non-believers have no excuse for their lack of faith because Jesus performed miracles to demonstrate he was the Son of God. If they hate Jesus, they also hate God and God will allow them to remain separate from him for eternity. If they should turn to him in this life, he will always be willing to forgive and embrace them but they must do this before it is too late.

The Holy Spirit is our Counsellor. He is the Spirit of truth who goes out from both God, the Father, and Jesus. The Holy Spirit testifies to us about Jesus and we must, in turn, testify to others. The Holy Spirit turns us into a bold soldier in God’s army, fearlessly testifying to the truth.

Saint Paul, before his dramatic road to Damascus conversion, thought that he was offering a service to God by arresting and killing Christians. When Jesus spoke to him, Paul recognised that up until that moment he had never known the Father or Jesus.

Psalm 67:1-7

It is wonderful to be blessed by God, when he is gracious to us and his face shines upon us. The Gospel message has been spread among the nations by wonderful, empowered missionaries, under the guidance and care of the Holy Spirit.

True Christians are glad and sing for joy despite any trials and tribulations they may be facing. When we know God’s ways that lead to salvation we will forever praise him.

When all the peoples of the earth praise God in reverent fear, then we will really see a harvest of blessings.

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

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit: May 24th 2021

1 Samuel 14:24-15:35

Saul had bound his army under a curse and stipulated that no-one was allowed to eat anything until evening. This seems very unreasonable as an army ‘marches on its stomach’. No-one told Jonathan, Saul’s son, about this and so when he came across some wild honey he ate a little ‘and his eyes brightened’ (v.27). When told about the curse for eating, Jonathan denounced it as a bad idea.

Other solders started to eat some of the livestock they had plundered from the Amalekites, together with its blood – which is strictly against God’s rules. Saul pointed out their error: ‘You have broken faith’ (v.33). He made them butcher the animals in accordance with Jewish law and set up his first altar.

Saul asked God if his army should continue to raid the Philistines. God was silent on the matter. Sin was blocking communication. Saul prayed to God and cast lots to find out who in his whole army had sinned. He found out that it was his son, Jonathan.

Jonathan thought it was very unfair that he should be sentenced to death for innocently eating a little honey and all of the army agreed. Jonathan had been the hero who had initiated the victorious assault on the Philistines. The loyal army rescued Jonathan ‘and he was not put to death’ (v.45).

After Saul had assumed rule over Israel, he successfully inflicted punishment all the nation’s enemies on every side. He drafted mighty men into his service.

Samuel gave Saul God’s instructions to attack the wicked Amalekites and destroy everything that belonged to them (15:3).

Saul assembled a massive army and conquered them but he spared Agag, the Amalekite king, and the best of the livestock. God was sorry that he had made Saul king because he had not carried out his instructions. We might say: he had not carried out his instructions ‘fully’. However, nearly is not good enough for God. We have to comply with his requests to the letter.

Samuel was troubled by God complaining about Saul’s disobedience and rushed off to visit him. Saul was oblivious to his sin and jubilantly said: ‘I have carried out the Lord’s instructions’ (v.13). Samuel pointed out that the bleating of the Amalekite sheep and the lowing of their cattle indicated that he hadn’t. Saul then made the excuse that they had spared the best animals to sacrifice them to the Lord. However, the Lord demands obedience not sacrifice. ‘Rebellion is like the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry’ (v.25). We must always heed God’s word and never dare to think that we know best.

Saul finally admitted his sin. He had ‘violated the Lord’s command and your instructions’ (v.24). He said he had been ‘afraid of the people and so I gave in to them’ (v.24). Saul begged Samuel to forgive him and go back with him and even tore the edge of Samuel’s robe in desperation. Samuel refused to listen. He said that God had rejected Saul as king over Israel and ‘he does not lie or change his mind’ (v.29). However, in the book of Jonah, God does relent from destroying the great city, Nineveh, after the Ninevites proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth. He proved then that he is a gracious and compassionate God.

Saul humbly declared he had sinned and begged Samuel to come back to Gilgal with him so that he could worship the Lord. Samuel agreed but he himself put Agag, the king of the Amalekites, to death. Samuel and Saul then separated and did not see each other again. Samuel mourned for Saul and ‘the Lord was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel’ (v.35).

The main point of the story seems to be that we should practice total obedience to God. Praise the Lord that we now have the Sacrament of Reconciliation / Confession that allows us to ask for God’s forgiveness when we have been less than perfect. Our righteousness has been granted to us through the precious blood sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 14:1-31

Jesus told us not to let our hearts be troubled (v.1). We should trust in God and trust in Jesus. Jesus will prepare a place for us in his Father’s house, which has many rooms. Jesus will come back and take us to be with him.

Jesus is ‘the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’ (v.6). The disciples had seen Jesus and so had also seen God the Father. The Holy Trinity are all enmeshed together: Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both of them.

If we have faith, we can carry out the miracles that Jesus did and we can ‘do even greater things than these’ (v.12). Jesus returned to God after three short years of public ministry and we have our entire lifetime to carry out miracles for the glory of God.

Jesus will do whatever we ask him in his name (v.13-14).

The Holy Spirit, the Counsellor and the Spirit of Truth, will be with us forever after we have been baptized. He will live in us and be with us. The secular world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. The Holy Spirit gives us supernatural power and love. The entry gift to unlocking that power is the gift of praying in tongues, which edifies us, building up our spirit within us to work for God.

Jesus also lives in us and we should become more like him every day by obeying his teaching / his commands of love. When we love Jesus, we are also loved by the Father. Jesus will show himself to us (v.21).

The Holy Spirit ‘will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’ said Jesus (v.26). This passage is at odds with some Christians who will only take their teaching directly from the words of the Bible. There has been almost two thousand years since Jesus died and in that time the Holy Spirit has gradually taught humans thousands of things that are only hinted at in the Bible. Jesus did not want us to set the Bible in stone and for the Holy Spirit not to evolve his teaching as we became more ready for it. Of course, scripture is the supreme authority and we should never believe something that is in opposition to it. The most famous example is the belief that Mary, Mother of Jesus, was within sin from the moment of her conception. That wasn’t confirmed as the truth until 1854. It is a logical deduction from scripture that someone can’t be the mother of the sinless son of God, unless she is herself within sin. This has long been the belief of lay people because it’s obvious. However, the Holy Spirit had to work on the head of the church for eighteen hundred years before it was finally confirmed as the truth. If you don’t believe this because it isn’t explicitly written in the Bible, you are eighteen hundred years behind the rest of us. Mary is also a very valuable ally. She is our powerful and compassionate friend and intercessor whenever we are fighting the devil. Demons are terrified of her and she will always come to our help. As Mother of God, she is mother of us all.

Jesus gave us his peace. The world tries to give us stress, worry and anxiety. However, we should not be troubled or afraid (v.27).

The ‘prince of the world’ (v.30), the devil, was on his way to fall into God’s trap by ensuring Jesus’ death on the cross. The devil had no hold on Jesus because Jesus never sinned. To remain out of the devil’s clutches we have to remain in a state of grace. As soon as we commit the smallest sin, we should pray to God for forgiveness so we keep ourselves from being soiled by the world. Small sins can become habitual and give a legal right for the devil to set up camp within us. We need to nip sin in the bud and ask God to forgive us on account of the precious blood of Jesus that wipes all sin away.

Jesus lived in total obedience to God even up to willingly accepting his death on the cross because: ‘the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me’ (v.31).

Proverbs 12:28-13:9

Jesus made us righteous in God’s eyes through his death on the cross. The light of the righteous shines brightly (v.9). Jesus is the light of the world.

We can never be wholly righteous through our own efforts but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. There is life in the way of righteousness, ‘along that path is immortality’ (v.28). ‘The righteous hate what is false’ (v.5).

If we are wise, we heed instruction (13:1). If we are gracious and loving with our words, we will enjoy good things. We should guard our lips and not speak rashly.

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

Jonathan attacks the Philistines / Jesus Predicts Betrayal and Denial: May 23rd 2021

1 Samuel 13:1-14:23

Saul reigned over Israel for forty-two years from the age of thirty (v.1).

The Israelites attacked a Philistine army outpost and so, in retaliation, a massive Philistine army advanced on them. Saul waited for the prophet Samuel at Gilgal for seven days, while his troops quaked with fear, and, in the end, made the disastrous mistake of offering up the burnt offering to God in place of Samuel. Of course, Samuel arrived just as he finished. Samuel was not pleased and informed Saul that because he had not kept God’s command, Saul’s kingdom would not endure. Saul should have been more concerned with obedience to God rather than his army starting to scatter. The process to replace Saul had already started and the Lord had now ‘sought out a man after his own heart’ (v.13) and appointed him leader instead.

I feel sorry for Saul at this stage in the story. If Samuel had been on time, the sacrifices would have been carried out by him, a priest, in accordance with the law. Saul was under a lot of pressure and feeling desperate prior to a major battle. However, God demands faith, patience and obedience. There are many sacraments today that can only be carried out by fully ordained priests: Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation and formal exorcisms. Lay people are allowed to carry out other informal private prayers including prayers of deliverance due to our baptismal roles as priests, prophets and kings. However, we are not allowed to start presiding over one of the priestly functions just because a priest is late. We have to wait / delay until a fully ordained minister is present.

Saul had a tiny army (six hundred men) and only he and his son, Jonathan, had a sword or a spear. The Philistines had wisely not allowed any blacksmiths to work in Israel for fear that the Israelites would arm themselves.

Jonathan and his armour bearer walked towards a Philistine outpost and Jonathan prophesied that if the Philistines invited them to climb a cliff to fight them, then the Lord would deliver them into their hands. The Philistines shouted: ‘Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson’ (v.12). Jonathan and his assistant climbed up and killed twenty of them. Jonathan was full of faith that the Lord had given them into the hand of Israel.

The rest of the Philistine army panicked as the ground shook. ‘It was a panic sent by God’ (v.15). Saul and his men assembled and joined the battle and found the Philistines ‘in total confusion, striking each other with their swords’ (v.20). God had rescued the Israelite army that day but it took one man, Jonathan, to start the battle with great faith. Only then did God join in and decisively alter the course of history. If Jonathan had not attacked first, the Israelites may well have been defeated. To win victories, we need to step out in faith believing that God will hold to his promises and back us up, giving us a seemingly impossible victory for his everlasting glory.

John 13:18-38

When we accept our fellow Christians sent by Jesus, we also accept Jesus himself and God the Father. We should strive to work with, love and respect Christians of all denominations. We all have so much in common. A mark of being filled with the Holy Spirit is a desire to create a single unified church and mix with all other types of Christians.

As soon as Jesus gave a dipped piece of bread to Judas Iscariot ‘Satan entered into him (Judas)’ (v.27). Jesus fed the very one who would betray him into death. Judas was sitting next to Jesus, the Chief Exorcist, yet the most evil creature in history was still able to set up home in him. Jesus could have exorcised him but only if Judas wanted him to. We cannot deliver people who willingly give themselves over to demons and don’t want to be helped. Judas went outside into the night where he probably felt a lot more at home. He now had the ultimate darkness within him and wanted to be as far away from Jesus, the light of the world, as he could.

People will know we are Jesus’ disciples if they can see we love everyone. We prove this by deeds not just words. We must love one another as Jesus loves us. Attend churches where people show genuine love and are pleased to see each other and bring this love to other churches you visit. Don’t stick to one denomination, go and make friends with Christians of all varieties. We all need each other and have different strengths and weaknesses. Together we make up the complete body of the church. Imagine our journey to God as a bicycle wheel. We start out on the outer rim and move inwards on our own individual spoke towards God in the centre. As we move in closer to God, we also get closer to other Christians, travelling on their own spokes, as they make their own journeys towards God.

Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times that very night. Peter had just said: ‘I will lay down my life for you’ (v.37).

Eventually, they were both right. Peter did deny Jesus three times but wept bitterly afterwards and was personally forgiven by Jesus. After being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, becoming one of the most dynamic Christian evangelists of all time, Peter would eventually lay down his life for Jesus. He was crucified upside-down on the orders of the evil emperor, Nero, in Rome.

Psalm 66:13-20

If we make vows to God while we are in trouble, we have to honour and fulfil them when he rescues us.

We must tell others our testimonies of what our Father has done for us. Faith comes from hearing.

When we cry out to God, we need to do it against a background of regularly praising him. If we cherish sin in our heart, our prayers will not be listened to (v.18). It is especially important to forgive and love all who have wronged us. Pray for them and ask that God’s blessing will descend upon them and their families and that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit and led to eternal life.

If we continually live in God’s grace, he will not reject our prayer or withhold his love from us.

Praise be to God!

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

Jesus Washes his Disciples’ Feet: May 22nd 2021

1 Samuel 10:9-12:25

‘As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart’ (v.9). It’s a common theme in the Bible that when someone starts to obey God’s instructions, a miracle suddenly happens. God works with us – he doesn’t just change us as we sit still passively. He loves obedience and faith. We must step out in faith and start to do something, believing that prophecies and the answers to prayers will come to pass.

The Spirit of God came upon Saul in power and he started prophesying. The Holy Spirit came down upon characters in the Old Testament for limited periods so that they could perform a supernatural task. Nowadays, in the New Covenant through our baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit resides inside us permanently. He will allow us to work supernaturally according to our level of faith.

Samuel was going to reveal Saul as the new King in front of all the Israelites but Saul seemed to become shy at the prospect and disappeared. They asked God where he was and we can imagine God laughing as he said: ‘He has hidden himself among the baggage’ (v.22). This was not the most auspicious start to Saul’s kingship. It was difficult for Saul to hide for long because he was a head taller than everybody else. We don’t want to emulate him and ‘hide amongst the baggage’ when we need to rise to the occasion.

Samuel wrote down the ‘regulations of the kingship’ (v.25) and deposited it before the Lord, after the people had shouted ‘Long live the king!’

Everyone was dismissed to their own home but already there were troublemakers slandering Saul. First, the Israelites wanted a king. Immediately after they had one, some started working against him. It is very rare for a group of people to be in total harmony.

Saul went back to working on his fields, even though he had been proclaimed ‘king’, but was offered a chance to rescue the besieged city of Jabesh Gilead. He cut a pair of oxen into pieces and sent them throughout the kingdom. This was to show them what would happen to all the Israelite’s oxen if they didn’t follow him and Samuel. This would have reminded the Israelites of the horrible incident of the the Levite and his concubine in Judges (19:1-29). Saul assembled three hundred and thirty thousand fighting men and they slaughtered their Ammonite enemies.

The Israelites wanted to put to death the people who had doubted Saul’s leadership but Saul would not allow this. He correctly attributed the military victory to God. The people confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the Lord at Gilgal. Saul had started his reign well.

Samuel gave a farewell speech and asked the Israelites to confirm that he had acted fairly all his life. It would be great if everyone we had ever dealt with throughout our lives was able to give us such a glowing reference as the Israelites provided for Samuel.

Samuel warned them and Saul, the king they had requested, to follow the Lord your God. If they did not, his hand would be against them again. Samuel called on God to send thunder and rain to demonstrate what a foolish and evil thing they had done, choosing a human king rather then God. Even though it was not the season for these weather conditions, God responded to Samuel’s faith and ‘the people stood in awe’ (v.18).

Samuel instructed them not to turn away after useless idols (v.21). For the sake of God’s great name, God would not reject the Israelites as long they served him faithfully and remembered the great things he had done for them. If they failed to do this, both they and their new king would ‘be swept away’ (v.25).

How many people in our country serve God faithfully and ruminate on what great things he has done for them? In the UK, we are only just clinging on to being a Christian country. Just a small praying minority is keeping us all from being swept away by God’s wrath. Samuel continually prayed for the Israelites – it was his vocation to do so. We should be thankful for the holy men and women of God in our country who continue to pray for us despite the idol-worship of the majority.

John 12:37-13:17

Despite Jesus’ miracles, many people still wouldn’t believe in him. God had ‘blinded their eyes’ and ‘deadened their hearts’ (v.40). There are still people in our society today with spiritually blind eyes and dead hearts like stone. We must sow the seed of the gospel in them and pray that God will remove the scales from their eyes and give them a new heart of flesh.

Many others believed in Jesus but were ashamed to announce this ‘for fear they would be put out of the synagogue’ (v.42). We must never care more for the opinion of people than we do about the opinion of God. If we are embarrassed to stand up for Jesus, he will not stand up for us.

When we look at Jesus, we see God the Father who sent him. Jesus came into the world as a light, so that we will be taken out of darkness when we believe in him (v.46). Jesus came to save the world! (v.47).

Jesus showed his disciples how much he loved them by washing their feet. He even washed the feet of Judas despite knowing the devil had already prompted Judas to betray him (13:2). Jesus knew his beloved friend and disciple had been lost. Judas would have been provided with the strength to resist all temptations and he could have turned to Jesus for help but he had hardened his heart to betray God.

Jesus would soon die on the cross and wash us all clean of sin through the sacrifice of his perfect blood. When we are baptized we are washed free of all sins. However, soon afterwards we start to sin again – our feet start to get dirty as we are soiled by the secular world. By repenting and renouncing our sins through the sacrament of reconciliation – we become totally clean again. Jesus will always wash our feet in forgiveness.

Peter gave us another lovely example of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was offended by the idea of Jesus washing his feet but relented obediently when Jesus told him it was necessary. Peter is a wonderful example for us all. He walked on the water for a little bit but then nearly drowned. He said the wrong thing at the Transfiguration. He denied Jesus three times but Jesus personally forgave him. Peter was transformed into a mighty apostle by the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit. Peter holds the keys of the church and became the first Pope. He showed us we can recover from any wrong action, word or thought if we renounce / repent and turn back to God.

We should be kind, chatty, helpful and respectful to everyone we meet. Society has often ranked some jobs as less prestigious than others but the Covid pandemic turned this around. The heroes have been some of our lowest paid workers: the nurses / the supermarket workers / the delivery drivers. Anyone working in even the lowliest job might be in closer harmony with Jesus than us and will be able to teach us eternal truths of God’s kingdom.

Jesus came to serve and not to be served. We should show our love for others by never being proud or arrogant. We should be happy to carry out the most basic loving tasks for our brothers and sisters. He will give us the strength to serve even when we are exhausted. We must follow his awesome example of humility. Jesus is within us and urges us to cheerfully emulate all his humble behaviour.

Psalm 66:1-12

God loves it when we proclaim how awesome his deeds are and we praise his glorious name. He particularly likes it when we recall the awesome miracles he performed while rescuing the Israelites from Egypt. We should always marvel at how he turned the sea into dry land.

All the earth bows down to God because of his great power. We rejoice that he will rule for ever.

Each day, we should be glad that he has preserved our lives. He might give us testing trials – putting us into prison, laying burdens on our backs and sending us through fire and water but this is because he loves us. Through our trials, we become purified and refined like silver (v.10). We will gain faith and endurance. Then we can support, encourage and pray effectively for our brothers and sisters.

Once we are conformed to the likeness of his son, God will bring us to a place of abundance. How awesome are his works on our behalf!

Image: Prof. emeritus Hans Schneider (Geyersberg), CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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