David anointed King / Jesus Appears to his Disciples: June 1st 2021

2 Samuel 1:1-2:7

A man escaped from the Israelite camp and told David that Saul and his son Jonathan were dead. The man brought Saul’s crown and his arm-band with him. David and his men mourned, wept and fasted (2 Sam. 1:12). However, David was not comfortable about some aspects of the man’s story. The messenger admitted he was an Amalekite and David had just come back from slaughtering the Amalekites. He also claimed to have finished off the mortally wounded Saul, which was a lie, presumably to win favour with David. Even though Saul had frequently tried to kill him, David still respected God’s anointed king and did not approve of anyone lifting a sword against him (2 Sam. 1:14). David ordered that the hapless messenger should be killed in punishment for allegedly killing Saul.

David lamented the death of Saul and Jonathan: ‘How the mighty have fallen!’ (2 Sam. 1:19). He especially grieved for Jonathan. They had a pure loving friendship, which is exceedingly rare these days (2 Sam. 1:26). Jonathan had loved David as himself (1 Sam. 18:3). Jesus told us that we were to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39) and he demonstrated how God extended this type of love to the whole world.

Eventually, David asked the Lord whether he should visit Judah. God told him to go to Hebron. David took his wives and his men there and settled in Hebron and its towns. He was anointed king of Judah (2 Sam.2:4).

David sent an encouraging message to the town of Jabesh Gilead to thank them for burying Saul (2 Sam. 2:6-7).

The king of Israel was dead, long live David the king – just of Judah so far but it was a good start.

John 20:10-31

Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb crying after Peter and John had gone back to their homes. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had delivered Mary from a terrible demonic oppression and, as a result, she loved Jesus tremendously and was one of his most devoted followers. She was the sister of Lazarus and Martha and had previously wet Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:38), drying them with her hair. She had recently anointed his feet again in preparation for his burial in her own house in Bethany (John 12:3). We should all have a tender love for Jesus like Mary Magdalene had, being forever grateful that he has wiped away our sins and longing to spend time with him.

Mary looked inside the tomb and saw two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been. They did not understand why she was crying. The knew about Jesus’ resurrection and so expected the world to be rejoicing. Turning around, she thought the gardener was standing there but it was Jesus. Jesus’ first word after being resurrected was ‘Mary’ (John 20:16). Jesus knows us all as individuals and calls out our names so we can come to him and be saved.

Jesus reiterated that we can now call God our Father. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus, co-heirs with Christ (John 20:17). Mary joyfully took this good news back to the disciples. She had seen the resurrected living Lord.

The disciples had locked themselves in. They were quaking ‘for fear of the Jews’ (John 20:19). They weren’t going to get far in spreading the gospel with this attitude and so Jesus appeared to them and breathed on them to give them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). The Holy Spirit at Pentecost would later empower them to become supercharged, powerful apostles. At our baptism, which might have happened to us as infants, we receive both the Holy Spirit and a supernatural seal on our hearts flagging that we belong to God. However, this small deposit of the Holy Spirit may not burst into flames and energise us until we experience our own personal Pentecost – the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’. We need to pray directly to the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, on a daily basis and ask him to fire up all his gifts within us so we can be the best witness we can be to the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory of God.

The disciples were overjoyed to see Jesus again. Jesus took away their terror and gave them peace (John 20:19). He was sending them out into the world, once he had empowered them with the Holy Spirit. just as the Father had sent him (John 20:21).

Jesus told them that if they forgave anyone their sins, they would be forgiven (John 20:23). From this comes the tradition of the Mother Church of believers confessing to a priest their sins so that he will grant them absolution on account of his spiritual authority handed down in an unbroken chain from the first apostles through the laying on of hands. It is wonderful to hear these holy words: ‘God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.‘ It is like receiving a loving embrace from our Father:

Other denominations teach that you can ask God the Father directly for absolution but that would be missing out the human mediation that Jesus stipulated in John 20:23, Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18. The Mother Church teaches that we can ask God directly for absolution in exceptional circumstances – immediate danger of death or a global pandemic – but we have to ask him with ‘perfect contrition’, rather than just a fear of hell, and promise to visit a priest as soon as circumstances allow. Perfect contrition is ‘sorrow for sin arising from perfect love. In perfect contrition the sinner detests sin more than any other evil, because it offends God, who is supremely good and deserving of all human lovehttps://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=35519

‘Doubting’ Thomas missed Jesus’ appearance and refused to believe it happened. A week later, though the doors were locked Jesus came again and stood among the disciples. He told Thomas to stop doubting and believe. As full recognition and faith dawned, Thomas uttered the beautiful phrase: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:27-28). We should be able to say this with heartfelt thanks when we consider how many times God has rescued us during our lives. Jesus will forgive us too for having doubts. He will demonstrate time and again in our lives that it is not fate, karma or good luck that steers our lives. Jesus is walking with us demonstrating his constant love for us.

We are particularly blessed when we believe based on hearing the gospel alone rather than having to see Jesus with our own eyes (John 20:29).

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples. John listed a sufficient number of major miracles in his gospel for us to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

Belief is a simple choice. I can turn on the TV, watch the news and choose to believe the newscaster. Similarly, we can choose to believe the Bible and the two thousands years of Christian witness. martyrdom and teaching since it was written or think we know better through foolish pride. Belief leads to eternal life. Choosing not to believe leads to eternal separation from God. It really shouldn’t be a difficult decision but the spirit of unbelief is rampant in the world at the moment – just consider how fairly sensible people have refused to believe scientists about the Covid pandemic and made a fuss about social distancing and wearing masks. God solves problems these days through people. He inspired scientists to produce a miracle vaccine. We just have to choose to believe in his provenance.

By believing, we will have life in his name (John 20:31).

Proverbs 13:20-14:4

We should pick our company carefully (Prov.13:20).

Many of the great heroes in the Bible: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Daniel were wealthy men. The righteous will receive a reward (Prov. 13:21). We are all righteous in the sight of God due to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and so we can claim our reward of prosperity.

Poverty isn’t a blessing. We want to be able to help future generations of our family (Prov. 13:22).

Injustice in the world keeps people poor. We should fight for social justice to lift people out of poverty.

God loves us and so will discipline us and allow us to go through trials to refine us like silver, give us endurance, makes us stronger and build our character. No test, no worthwhile testimony.

Devious people despise the Lord (Prov. 14:2). Christians respect his awesome power and love.

Image: National Gallery of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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/

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)

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/

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