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

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

Joshua 1:1-2:24

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 21:5-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 10:11-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Generous and Gather God’s Chicks: April 11th 2021

Deuteronomy 15:1 – 16:20

The Israelites were instructed to cancel debts to each other every 7 years (v.1). A commendable system, which would make many people’s lives much better if we applied it today to mortgages. The promised land was going to be so productive, God expected there to be no poor among them ‘if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. (v.4).’

By the time Jesus arrived, there were many poor people indicating how far away from God’s intentions the people had come. Jesus said, ‘the poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me (Matthew 26:11).

God decreed how financially secure the Jews would become, ‘you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none (v.6).

God called the Israelites to be generous to their less fortunate brothers and ‘freely lend him whatever he needs (v.8)’. They should do so ‘without a grudging heart’ (v.10) then God would bless them in everything they did. God states there will ‘always be poor people in the land’ (v.11). He may have been predicting the Israelites would not carefully follow all his commands or He was referring to widows, orphans and newly-arrived migrants who would rely on the charity of others.

Hebrew servants had to be freed in the seventh year (v.12) and supplied liberally with provisions. The Israelites must remember how they were liberated from Egypt and were given riches by the Egyptian on departure. Slaves could chose to stay with their master if they loved them and were well treated.

The Jews were to eat the firstborn of their herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord (v.20). At Passover, they were to eat unleavened bread – because they had to leave Egypt in haste. No yeast must be found in their possession for seven days (v.4). Yeast also represents sin. It starts as just a tiny amount, grows its tentacles into everything, making problems rise and grow. I read an article in which people complained that supermarkets had run out of yeast in lockdown. This amused microbiologists who pointed out the world can never run out of yeast. To get some, you just have to leave out an uncovered bowl of flour and water and the yeast will find you. The Israelites would have been eating sourdough, with natural yeast cultures blown to them by the desert winds. If we leave ourselves uncovered by the blood of Jesus, sin will also infect and start to grow in us.

‘No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed’ (16:16). We should all give to the Lord in proportion to the way we have prospered.

Justice must be a top priority. Officials must judge fairly with no partiality and must not accept bribes. The kingdom of heaven has the the most honest courts in creation. We would have been condemned for all eternity as sinners if Jesus’ death had not justified us in the sight of God.

Luke 13:31-14:14

Some Pharisees still had enough respect for Jesus that they warned him about Herod. Jesus was not intimidated by Herod wanting to kill him (v.32), even though he knew he was a cunning adversary. Jesus was used to people trying to kill him. Herod’s father had plotted to kill Jesus as soon as he was born. Jesus knew his Father would protect him until exactly the right moment he chose to lay down his life.

Jesus mourned over the spiritual state of Jerusalem. Its people had long rebelled, killing all God’s messenger sent to gather them back to him. Jesus longed to tenderly gather its children together ‘as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings’ (v.34). However, God does not make it compulsory for us to love Him. He gave us free will so that we can freely choose to love, because He loved us first. A hen will give up her life for her chicks and defend them against danger, but it can’t run after each chick. They have to be aware of where she is and run to her at the slightest hint of trouble. It is heart-breaking that churches can offer such a wonderful place of refuge for people, but the great majority chose not to go. We should give the warmest, genuine welcome to both old and new visitors to our church to make them feel they have been gathered under the protective and living wings of God.

Jesus would make a glorious entrance to the city on Palm Sunday, prior to Calvary. The people of Jerusalem would praise him for a day, before turning on him.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath again. He pointed out that the Pharisees would always rescue one of their children or animals on a Sabbath. Why shouldn’t Jesus rescue the people he created if they were in distress? The Pharisees were using the Sabbath regulations as a way to trap and criticise people rather than following the spirit of this day of rest.

We should always take a seat of low importance at a function. We can always be moved to a more prestigious one. Jesus came to serve, not to be served and we should emulate his humility.

We will be blessed if we host people who have no means of paying us back. If we just provide hospitality to our prosperous neighbours and they host us in return, we have given nothing. We need to help the poor and the needy in imitation of Jesus.

Psalm 44:1-12

King David recalled how God helped the Israelites conquer the promised land. The stories had been faithfully handed down by previous generations. God helped them because He loved them (v.3).

David did not trust his own strength or weapons to win battles (v.6). He relied on God.

All victories are due to God’s assistance and for the glory of God. Thanks be to God.

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