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

Joshua 15:1-16:10

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

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

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

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

John 1:1-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 53:1-6

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

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

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

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

The Ascension Of Christ: April 28th 2021

Joshua 13:1-14:15

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

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

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

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

Luke 24:36-53

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 52:1-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refusing to enter the Promised Land and Jesus, the Chief Exorcist: March 22nd 2021

Numbers 13:26-14:45

The spies returned from the promised land after 40 days and gave a truthful report to Moses. Caleb was all for going in and taking possession of it. He wasn’t afraid of any giants.

The other spies were scared. They didn’t believe that God would keep to his promises and help them to conquer the current inhabitants: ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are (v.31)’

All the spies, except Caleb and Joshua, told blatant exaggerations and lies about the land to the Israelites, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. ‘All the people we saw there are of great size’ (v.32). Lies can be very powerful when they are exaggerations of the truth. Some of the people they saw were of great size, but not all.

The mysterious Nephilim were mentioned (v.33) from which the giants are descended – see also Genesis 6:4, where they are describe as ‘heroes of old, men of renown‘. The enormous Philistine, Goliath, who fights David (1 Samuel 17) is thought to have descended from this race of giants.

The whole community rebelled again showing just how quick they were to disbelieve God’s promises.

The Israelites proposed going back to Egypt – where they lived in bondage and their baby boys were being executed. They wanted to go back to certain slavery instead of even testing God’s promise of freedom.

Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb tried to persuade them how fantastic the land was and that they will ‘swallow‘ up the current inhabitants of the promised land because ‘their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us’ (v.9). There was no reason for the Israelites to be afraid with God on their side.

The moaning of the Israelites annoyed the Lord again even though he is ‘slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion’ (v.18) and He was going to strike them down with a plague and destroy them. Moses told him that this would be bad for his image. People would say that God was not able to bring the Israelites into the promised land and so slaughtered them instead.

Moses asked God to forgive the grumbling Israelites, which he quickly did but they still had to face punishment. None of the current adult Israelites (twenty years old or more) – apart from Caleb (and Joshua) would be allowed to see the promised land due to their contempt and disobedience. Caleb ‘has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly’ (v.24), said God. We should all try to have a ‘Caleb-spirit’ and enthusiastically follow and obey the Lord. Everyone was sentenced to be suffering shepherds in the desert for 40 years (including poor Joshua and Caleb).

The spies who had spread the bad report about the land were struck down with a plague and died.

When Moses told the Israelites about their 40 year sentence they mourned, realised they had sinned and headed off towards the promised land. Too late! We have to learn to seize the gifts of God when they are offered, not throw them back in His face, later regret our actions and then try to take them in our own time.

The disobedient Israelites refused to turn back to the Red Sea and headed off into the promised land without Moses, the ark and (most importantly) God’s help even though they were warned it would end in disaster. They were duly attacked and defeated. It’s easy to understand why God was so annoyed with them but I am sure we have all blundered around in our own lives, been disobedient and ungrateful to God and later tried to do things all by ourselves. We need to listen to God, follow him exactly when he wants us to and rely on his promise to help and deliver us.

Luke 4:14-37

‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit’ (v.14). His ministry starts out so well, ‘everyone praised him’ (v.15).

Jesus predicted that he won’t get much of a reception in his home town with reference to the difficult ministries of Elijah and Elisha. We can find preaching to our own friends and relatives the most difficult task of evangelisation. If we have been born again after a secular childhood. they may think we are still the old sinful people they grew up with and were comfortable with. They can become furious with the suggestion that they too can turn their lives around and confront their own sins.

We are meant to proclaim good news (the gospel) to the world as anointed, baptized, confirmed, Baptized in the Spirit, born-again Christians, having received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus used ‘gracious words’ (v.22). It can be tempting to become heated when people simply do not acknowledge the greatness of love of God. We should just sow little gracious seeds in their hearts and show patience and kindness.

The crowd want to throw Jesus off a cliff, ‘But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way’ (v.30). Jesus was under supernatural protection up until the time of his crucifixion. His guardian angel was the captain of the angelic army, Saint Michael and Jesus was also fully filled with the Holy Spirit. If we are working on God’s business, the Holy Spirit can make us invisible / not noticeable to our enemies or He can throw our enemies into total confusion meaning that we, as servants of God, can slip by, crossing borders / passing through checkpoints with impunity. Our pastor thinks nothing of visiting countries in the midst of civil wars as she firmly believes that machine-gun toting rebels simply won’t notice her.

Jesus is instantly recognised by a demon ‘I know who you are – the Holy One of God’ (v.34)‘. Trendy theologians might try to suggest the ‘possessed man’ was mentally ill but this not correct. The man was possessed by a fallen angel who knew full well who Jesus was. Jesus lovingly created all the angels (‘through him all things were made’ John 1:3). Each individual angel forms its own unique species and they all ‘have intelligence and will; they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures’ (CCC. 330). The fallen angel recognised his creator, which most humans fail to do today. However, angels are a lot smarter than we are and have been around since creation (CCC, 332). Jesus in his role of Chief Exorcist swiftly delivers the possessed man. We can do the same if we invoke the name of Jesus in faith: ‘Be quiet! Come out of him, in Jesus’ name!’

(Incidentally, what directions should be give to an exorcised Spirit? Where should they go? We don’t want them hanging around or coming back. ‘Go to the foot of the cross for Lord Jesus to judge you as you are, in Jesus’ name’). Jesus is the judge, not us.

People were amazed at Jesus’ authority and power as they should be amazed today at God’s power wielded through Holy Spirit filled Christians delivering people through the name of Jesus for the glory of God.

Psalm 36:1-12.

We have to pray to the Holy Spirit to reveal to us how we have sinned and continue to sin otherwise there is a danger of flattering ourselves and not detecting or hating our sin. The Holy Spirit wants to continuously sanctify us – making us holy enough to enter heaven and once we have asked Him into our lives, He will nudge and guide us to give up habits we might be unaware were a problem. We can’t earn a place in heaven by being holy but God hates sin and if we want to hear from him in this lifetime we want to have clean hands and a pure heart. Since praying for longer period of time in the Spirit, I have been nudged to give up secular music, most films and most newspapers and I receive more frequent flashes of inspiration / words of knowledge as I purify my life.

God loves us just as we are (‘how priceless is your unfailing love!’ v.7) and salvation is a priceless gift from God that cannot be earned – but the more we try to become like his Son the more the Holy Spirit communicates and works through us.

We should lie on our beds and plot good, committing ourselves to un-sinful courses. God allows the devil to tempt us but always gives us enough grace to conquer all temptations, rejecting that is wrong.

King David marvels at God’s love. faithfulness, righteousness and justice. There is no favouritism with God, ‘Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings’ (v.7).

When Jesus fed the 5,000, there were baskets of food left over. There is always an over-abundance of provision from God: a ‘feast’ (v.8), a ‘river of delights’ (v.8) and a ‘fountain of life’ (v.9).

Image by falco from Pixabay

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