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Timothy’s Mixed Upbringing – May 23, 2020

Timothy’s mixed upbringing is well-known. In Acts 16:1 we’re told he was “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.” Verse 3 goes on to tell us that Paul “took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” This was probably as much for Timothy’s sake as setting the Jews’ minds to rest because he comes across as a timid young man. It wouldn’t have been good for him for the Jews to cause problems based on his Greek heritage, so Paul made sure they knew he placed importance in his Jewish heritage. (more…)

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The Overflowing Grace of God – May 22, 2020

Paul’s purpose in writing his first epistle to Timothy is for Timothy to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). One of the things these “certain persons” were doing was misinterpreting the Law of Moses. Paul says they are “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (v7). Paul was very well qualified to advise Timothy on this matter because he had been one of those false teachers before his conversion. (more…)

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The Spirit of Godly Rule – May 21, 2020

What sort of ruler will Christ be and what is expected of us as we prepare ourselves to reign as kings and priests? There’s an interesting answer to that question in our reading in Isaiah 11, which is a vision of the Kingdom. At the beginning of the chapter we read about the spirit with which Christ will rule: “the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (v.2). There are seven spirits listed in this verse, which forms the following chiastic structure: (more…)

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Rebuilding Jericho – May 20, 2020

In today’s reading from Joshua 6 we have the account of the destruction of Jericho. There’s something unique about this first conquest in Canaan because at the end of the chapter Joshua makes the following announcement: “Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. ‘At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.’” Why was it so important that nobody rebuild Jericho? We have the answer in verse 17 which says, “And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction.” The destruction of the city represents the need to deal with sin. Sin isn’t something we can make compromises with; it needs to be utterly demolished. (more…)

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Immortality – May 19, 2020

What is it going to be like to be immortal? It’s not something we’ll be able to get close to understanding before we experience it in the Kingdom of God, but we have little hints of what it will be like throughout scripture. One of those is in our reading from Joshua 3 when the children of Israel crossed the river Jordan. When they entered the Promised Land after their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness it points forward to the time when we will have finished our time of preparation before entering the Kingdom of God. Look at how the miracle of crossing the Jordan is described: “the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off.“ (Josh. 3:16). Unlike when they crossed the Red Sea, when the waters were parted to provide an avenue through the sea, this time the water actually stopped flowing. The flow of the Jordan river is like the descent (Jordan means “descender”) of man from birth to death. At its bottom end is the Dead Sea but notice the verse from Joshua says it stopped from the city of Adam. It’s a picture of the natural flow of man towards death being stopped. (more…)

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A Scarlet Thread – May 18, 2020

If you were putting together Matthew’s genealogy at the beginning of his gospel record and thought to yourself “I think I’ll include a selection of the wives of some of the men in Messiah’s line” someone like Abraham’s wife Sarah might come to mind, a dedicated wife and woman of faith. You probably wouldn’t choose someone who played the harlot, an actual harlot, a Gentile banned from the congregation of Israel, someone who committed adultery, and someone accused of having their child out of wedlock. Yet those are the five women – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary – Matthew chose to include. (more…)

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Yahweh Saves – May 17, 2020

The book of Joshua opens with a double emphasis on the fact that Moses has just died. The very first words are “After the death of Moses” and then in verse 2, Joshua is again reminded by God that “Moses my servant is dead.” Why are we told this twice? We’ve just read at the end of Deuteronomy about the death of Moses and how Joshua was chosen to take over leadership of the children of Israel. Moses himself “the LORD knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). The same verse says, “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses”. He was a man of God, the meekest man who had ever lived, and commended in Hebrews 11 for his faithfulness. But he died before entering the Promised Land for one mistake, when he struck the rock with his staff instead of speaking to it. (more…)

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An Eternal Perspective – May 16, 2020

Our reading for today in Colossians 3 has one of those dual lists of negative works of the flesh followed by positive works of the spirit. It’s easy to read through these sorts of lists, think “that’s an interesting list of qualities” and move on without thinking about them much. How do we stop doing things like “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (v.5) and instead put on things like “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (v.12)? (more…)

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The Danger of Dogma

Death by crucifixion, aside from being immensely painful, was a humiliating experience. It was a punishment reserved for criminals. They were tied or nailed to the cross naked, and the cross placed in a location for passers by to see. It was a deterrent, shaming the criminals so that others might heed the warning. (more…)

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The Conservative-Liberal Divide

One of the intriguing things about living in America is witnessing the stark political divide between liberals and conservatives. I’ve noticed it even more lately flipping between CNN and Fox News’ coverage of the pandemic. It’s almost as if the American Civil War never ended, only people are being a little more… civil about it nowadays. But the hostility we see here isn’t unique to America, which is why what God did two thousand years ago is a remarkable thing. Fifteen hundred years before that, during the time of the exodus, God formally separated Jew and Gentile by rescuing the Hebrews from Egypt and making them His people. He gave them a Law which further differentiated them from the other nations and for centuries the Jewish people lived separate lives. (more…)

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Gathering Sticks – May 13, 2020

We’re living through a difficult situation. The stay at home order is getting old, real fast, even as the threat of the pandemic is always just one cough from a non-masked stranger at the grocery store away. It’s not as bad, however, as being involved in a shipwreck. Or being bitten by a venomous snake. Paul experienced both of those things and the natives of Malta who witnessed his misfortune made the logical conclusion, after seeing Paul being bitten by the snake, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” (Acts 28:4). In a sense they were correct; he was a murderer, or at least had been. If they had known the story of him as Saul of Tarsus, going about arresting Christians and putting them to death, they would have felt vindicated in their conclusion. If the sea didn’t get him the snake would and justice would be served. But Paul survived. (more…)

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Earthquake, Wind and Fire – May 12, 2020

Don’t you sometimes wish you could do something dramatic to convince the world about God? When you see the immorality and atheism in the world, for instance, and could shake the world up? How much better would our preaching efforts go if we could perform miracles like they did in the first century? But faith doesn’t work like that. What we see with our eyes, however amazing it might be, can’t generate faith. That was the experience of the children of Israel who wandered through the wilderness. Look at the emphasis on “seeing” in the opening verses of our reading from Deuteronomy 29 – “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders.” (v.2-3). You’d think, having seen all the plagues, crossing the Red Sea and all the other miracles, that they would be a people who were immensely faithful. But the very next verse says, “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” Despite all they saw with their natural eyes, they hadn’t comprehended God. (more…)

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Kicking Against the Goads – May 11, 2020

What did Jesus mean when he said the following words to Saul on the road to Damascus? “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14). The usual explanation is that Paul was experiencing pricks of conscience because of what happened to Stephen. Something Stephen said in his defense got through to Saul and he had nagging feelings at the back of his mind. The idea of a goad is a stick used to direct an animal and several lexicons state that the term “kick against the goads” is idiomatic for exactly that. It’s as if Jesus was working in Saul’s life to goad him into accepting the truth. There is merit to that explanation, but there may be something else going on here as well. (more…)

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Led of the Spirit – May 10, 2020

In our reading today from Acts 23 we see Paul in the middle of a journey towards Jerusalem he began in chapter 21. But by the time we come to chapter 23 it is a journey over which he has no control. He is continually moved from one place to another, first by a mob and then by soldiers protecting him from the mob. For instance, in verse 10 the tribune, afraid Paul would “be torn to pieces” by the mob, “commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.” Here Paul is experiencing something very similar to the Lord Jesus Christ. A couple of verses later we learn “the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.” And later, in verse 31, Paul continues to be bustled along – “So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris.” (more…)

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Don’t Waste Words – May 9, 2020

The way that Ananias addressed Saul, recorded in Acts 22:13 – “Brother Saul”, is almost unique in Scripture. In fact, the only other occurrence where someone is called “Brother” or “Sister” before their name in Scripture is in Acts 9:17, which is also referring to Paul in Acts 22. And what is even more interesting is this was before he was baptized. In Christadelphia we often refer to someone as “Brother” or “Sister” before using their name, but we it’s hard to really show it’s a scriptural practice. And it can become one of those things where an important word or concept loses its meaning through overuse or over familiarity. (more…)

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Godly Sorrow – May 8, 2020

Our reading today from Acts 20 is a sad one. The apostle Paul journeyed to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, tried, imprisoned and ultimately put to death. On his way he called for the elders of the ecclesia in Ephesus to give them a final farewell telling them among other things, “none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again” (v.25). Afterwards “he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again.” (v.36-38). This was a touching moment and we can understand the sentiment of the Ephesian brethren for the beloved apostle Paul. He had spent three years with them (see verse 31) and they must have developed a close bond. While we’re isolating ourselves during the pandemic, I am missing my brothers and sisters very much, and the lack of interaction is difficult. But we know it will end soon, and we can be together again. That wasn’t true for Paul and the Ephesians though; this was a final goodbye. (more…)

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Jew and Gentile Worshipped the Same God – May 7, 2020

In our reading from Acts 18-19 we find Paul deep in Gentile territory, having crossed over from Asia Minor to Europe. Here was the land of pagan idolatry and Paul’s mission to turn Gentiles to the one true God was an immense task. But there’s an interesting connection between his visits to Corinth, recorded in chapter 18, and Ephesus, in chapter 19, that speaks about the power of another god which is still very much with us today, a god worshiped by Jew and Gentile alike. (more…)

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Our Transcendent God – May 6, 2020

We’ve just finished reading Ecclesiastes which opens with the premise “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9), but how true is that? Let’s take the example of the science versus religion debate of the modern era. Ever since Darwin presented his thesis about the origin of life there has been a backlash from the religious community. We’ve ended up today with two extremes and two new words to coin them – scientism and creationism. At one end of the spectrum we have those who are viciously anti-theist and say science is the answer to everything. On the other end we have your stereotypical religious fundamentalist who is close-minded and blindly offers pseudo-scientific arguments that have become the laughingstock of the academic community. As Christadelphians we have traditionally, for the most part, stood in between both extremes, defending our core belief in the Creator but having a healthy respect for science. (more…)

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Finding the Right Balance – May 5, 2020

Acts 15 is a turning point in the history of the early ecclesia. The joining together of two very different cultures – Jew and Gentile – had brought many challenges, one of which is introduced at the beginning of the chapter when some Jewish Christians (we learn they were Pharisees in verse 5) declared, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (v.1). This of course caused a lot of “dissension and debate” (v.2) followed by the Jerusalem conference which decided the matter. (more…)

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It Takes One to Know One – May 4, 2020

There are a number of reasons why Saul of Tarsus was a great choice to preach the gospel message. His Bible knowledge, zeal and courage being some of them. But perhaps one of the most important reasons was his perspective. He had his eyes opened by the Lord Jesus Christ, but he never forgot where he had come from. He had authority to say, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win the Jews… To those outside the law I became as one outside the law” (1 Cor. 9:20-21), because he knew what it was like. He understood how different people thought and what their perspectives were, because he had been there. (more…)

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The Bible is Not a Self-Help Guide – May 3, 2020

In our reading today from Ecclesiastes 12 the Preacher finally ends his struggle to find meaning in life with a very simple yet profound conclusion – “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (v.13). But what is it that makes the commandments of God, contained in the Bible, stand apart from any other wisdom this world offers? The Preacher has analyzed everything for us throughout the book and come to this conclusion, which is preceded with a warning – “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (v.11-12). (more…)

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When Religion Goes Wrong – May 2, 2020

Today we read about the cities of refuge which were set up to protect someone who killed a person accidently. But if it was not an accident and wasmurder which was committed, the murderer would not be allowed in the city and be at the mercy of the avenger of blood to “purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel” (Deut. 19:13). The principal of the cities of refuge ironically really comes out in the life of Ahab. Our attention is first drawn to the cities of refuge when Ahab asks Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth gilead?” (1 Kings 22:4). The city of Ramoth-gilead had been taken by the Syrians and Ahab wanted it back. But Ramoth-gilead happened to be one of those cities of refuge. (more…)

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Going Blind is a Real Eye Opener – May 1, 2020

It’s not very easy to admit you’re wrong. In fact, sometimes you need something very dramatic to happen in your life to have your eyes opened, and that’s what happened to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. He was made blind so that he might see that he was on completely the wrong path. And that was despite the absolute certainty in his mind that he was right and doing God’s will. By persecuting the followers of Jesus, he thought he was “offering service to God” (John 16:2), but he learned that the truth was entirely different. (more…)

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The Secrets of the Heart – April 30, 2020

The first verse of our reading today in Acts 8 tells us “Saul approved of his [Stephen’s] execution.” He was there when Stephen was stoned to death, but didn’t physically join in the execution, instead “the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58). But even though Saul didn’t throw any of the stones, the fact that he approved of his death makes him guilty. Saul himself was a persecutor. The subsequent verses in Acts 8 show this approval of the actions taken against Stephen caused Saul to take action himself. “Saul was ravaging the ecclesia” (v.3) and “he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” (more…)

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Power Corrupts – April 29, 2020

It was Sir John Dalberg-Acton who uttered the famous phrase “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” Which makes me think of today’s readings, the trial of Stephen and the extreme injustice he received at the hands of men in a position of power and authority. Think about what happened to this man of “good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). He was a man “full of grace” (v.8) and it was members of the “synagogue of the Freedmen” (v.9) who disputed with him but “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (v.10). (more…)

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Empathy – April 28, 2020

One of the reasons why God puts us through trials is for us to develop empathy with others. In Deuteronomy 15 the principle is explained in the law about how Israelites were to treat their slaves. During the year of release, they were to “let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed.You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress.” (v.13-14). Why were they do to this? Because “As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you” (v.14-15). God allowed his people to suffer in Egypt, and experience the joy of release from that bondage, that they might learn empathy and treat others in the right way. (more…)

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The Power and Wisdom of God – April 27, 2020

In Acts 4 we read of a prayer which helps us understand how God works with us. It begins in verse 24 with “Sovereign Lord” and what follows is a prayer displaying the apostles’ complete trust in the power and wisdom of God. They’ve just experienced persecution at the hands of the authorities but they put it all down to God being in control of the situation and continued to “speak the word of God with boldness” (v.31). What a wonderful mindset they had, and something to think about as we continue to deal with the situation we’re all going through. (more…)

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“Ecclesial Life” – April 26, 2020

I don’t like the phrase “ecclesial life” even though I find myself using it from time to time. Using it betrays the fact we can fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our lives. We have an ecclesial life and we have a home life and a work life. But it shouldn’t be like that – we should have one life under the sovereignty of aligning ourselves with the purpose of God. For the first century ecclesia just prior to the death and resurrection of Chris that’s the sort of life they had. Luke records that our early brethren spent their time “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes” (Acts 2:46). (more…)

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Producing Fruit – April 25, 2020

One of the things we have a hard time fully convincing ourselves of is that life in Christ is so much better than life in the world. We cling onto the world just as the children of Israel clung onto Egypt throughout the wilderness. In our reading from Deuteronomy 11 Moses tells the new generation that the land they’re about to enter is so much better than anything they remembered, or were told by their parents and grandparents, about Egypt. (more…)

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The Point of Life – April 24, 2020

What is the point of life? In Ecclesiastes the Preacher asks that same question and the answer for those who live under the sun is not very encouraging: “I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” (Ecc. 3:18-20). (more…)

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Deuteronomy – April 23, 2020

The book of Deuteronomy is written in the form of an ancient covenant treaty that were commonly written up between a Suzerain (a ruling state in Old Testament times that had control over other internally autonomous states) and vassal (a state ruled by the Suzerain). Those covenants began with a preamble illustrating the historical dealings between the Suzerain and his vassal. What followed were the stipulations of the covenant – what the vassal was required to do – and ended with a list of blessings should the vassal keep the terms of the covenant, and curses if they did not. (more…)

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The Spanish Flu – April 22, 2020

Even though the normality of our daily lives has been disrupted during the past several weeks, we are not in a unique situation. Almost exactly one hundred years ago the world suffered from the Spanish Flu, which killed millions. And a few centuries before that the Black Death killed a third of the population of Europe. We tend to think our situations are unique when they’re out of the norm, but history is really one long cycle of events repeating themselves over and over again. As the Preacher says in our reading from Ecclesiastes 1, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (v.9). (more…)

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Friendship – April 21, 2020

One of the things I didn’t really think about, when it comes to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, was how much he depended on companionship and friendship. In our readings in John we’re with our Lord in the upper room, but he is not alone. Three years previously he purposefully chose twelve disciples, companions to go on the journey together with him. Our Lord needed these men just as much as he needed all the other things in his life. The supernatural power of God, relationship with his heavenly father and angelic ministration strengthened our Lord, but the friendship of his disciples and the shared experiences were extremely important to him and to his success fulfilling his purpose. When he went up into the mount of Transfiguration, he didn’t go alone but took Peter, James and John with him. He took the same men into the garden of Gethsemane during his darkest hours. He needed companionship and friendship just as much as all of us do. (more…)

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Recession – April 20, 2020

If there’s one thing that scares a lot of people even more than an invisible virus which is killing thousands, it’s the economic recession – or even depression – which is already upon us, costing millions of jobs and sending world economies into a tailspin. Here in America, the land of opportunity where the Almighty Dollar rules, people are nervous. The president is fighting a war between the commonsense advice of the medical community and those lobbying for the economy with whom he has much more empathy, and who want to get the American money-making machine up and running again as soon as possible. I read the words of one state governor a few days ago who said losing more lives because of the virus was the lesser of two evils compared with letting the economy tank. Meanwhile protestors are on the rise, people want to get back to work, everyone needs money. It’s as if the lifeblood of society, money, is being starved of oxygen and the ventilator of trillion dollars of stimulus isn’t going to work. People are afraid that society will die. (more…)

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The Second Coming – April 19, 2020

The second coming of Christ will be a momentous event, far bigger than anything we’ve ever experienced. The world as we know it will come to an end, possibly comparable to this temporary pause in normality we’re currently experiencing. A friend of mine recently suggested that what we’re experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic could be a “practice run” for whatever God has in store for us before the return of our Lord. That idea is not without scriptural precedent. In our reading from Deuteronomy 2 the Israelites are right on the brink of crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land. Forty years have passed since the spies brought back their negative report and they started their wilderness wandering. The situation in the land hasn’t changed since then; it’s still as scary as it was before, full of giants. But what this new generation has just experienced is a practice run. (more…)

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“Even his prayer is an abomination” – April 18, 2020

In our Proverbs reading for today it says, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (v.9). Often, we only think about the act of praying without considering that prayer involves two intertwined aspects. Prayer is not just us communicating with God but equally considering what he has communicated to us. How can we expect God to listen to us if we’re not listening to him? Which is why reading the Bible and meditating on God’s message to us needs to be as important a part of our daily life as prayer. So, why does failing to listen to God change our prayers into an abomination? (more…)

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Introspection – April 17, 2020

When we go through a major experience we tend to do some introspection. So, during this time of worldwide pandemic one of the things you may be thinking about is what it is we’re meant to be doing with our lives. There’s not a lot we can do at the moment, stuck in our homes, other than of course making daring trips to the grocery store armed with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. We’re thankful for the technology like Zoom which allows us to do the readings together and hold Bible classes. (more…)

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The Truth Will Set You Free – April 16, 2020

One of Jesus’ most profound teachings is found in today’s reading in John 8 – “the truth will set you free” (v.32). What do you think that means? Free from what? And what is the truth? It’s maybe easy to have a simplistic view that the truth Jesus is talking about is referring to having sound doctrine – assenting to a list of fundamental Bible teachings we call “The Truth”, is what will set us free. While sound doctrine is important, Jesus’ words go deeper than that. The people he was talking to were the equivalent of Christadelphians – people who would have claimed to “have the truth”, Bible students who had separated themselves from mainstream religion. But Jesus told them “you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (v.37). (more…)

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Eternity – April 15, 2020

If you didn’t know who wrote the book of Proverbs, you’d probably think it was a priest or prophet who had compiled a book of thoughts to live by. They’re the sort of people we normally associate with wise teaching. But it was written by a king, primarily Solomon (1:1) and in today’s reading we have a collection of Solomon’s proverbs copied out by the servants of another king, Hezekiah (25:1). Kings today aren’t necessarily associated with academic inquiry and wisdom. But if you think about it from a biblical perspective it makes sense. We’ve been called to rule with Christ in the coming kingdom of God, fulfilling the very reason man was created – to have dominion (Gen. 1:28). (more…)

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The Hardest Temptation for Jesus – April 14, 2020

We often consider how Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, but have you ever thought about what might have been the most difficult temptation for Jesus? Perhaps there’s a clue in our reading today from John 6. In verse 15 it says, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” Why do you think when the people finally recognized he was a king did he need time alone? (more…)

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The Son of God – April 13, 2020

Why is Jesus sometimes called “Son of God” and sometimes “Son of Man”? Yes, we understand that he was a man, born of a virgin by the power of God. So generally we believe he’s called the Son of God because God is his father and the Son of Man because Mary is his mother. But is there any more to it? For instance, in today’s reading from John 5 he changes from referring to himself as Son of God to Son of Man in the same thought: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” (v.25-27). Jesus didn’t use empty words. (more…)

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The Woman of Samaria – April 12, 2020

Today’s reading of Jesus’ interaction with the woman of Samaria is interesting from several angles, especially if we consider it from a first century Jewish perspective. For one thing, we see a man who broke through social boundaries because of his compassion. A man talking to a woman in public, according to rabbis in the first century, was questionable, but especially on theological issues. It was even frowned upon for a man to talk to his wife in public. (more…)

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Making Vows – April 11, 2020

We have an interesting quandary in our reading from Numbers 30 where it is very clear how seriously God views it when we make a vow: “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (v.2). The principle behind this law is of course a good one – we ought to be people of our word and when we promise something, we should keep those promises. Of course, we then find in Scripture several examples where people got into trouble making vows. The most famous vow is the one made by Jephthah, but the two I want to examine more closely are Herod’s, where it cost the head of John the Baptist, and Saul’s. (more…)

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Expectations – April 10, 2020

It’s times like this when our expectation of the return of Christ is heightened. It was no different in the first century for the Jews who were in full expectation of the coming of their Messiah. In John chapter 1 when we read about Andrew going to his brother Simon and saying, “We have found the Messiah” (v.41) the excitement in his voice is probably lost in translation. Later another disciples, Nathanael, expressed his understanding of who Jesus was – “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (more…)

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A Heavenly Perspective – April 9, 2020

One of the tremendous exhortation themes in Paul’s epistles is about whether we have an earthly or heavenly perspective. Do we think short term or long term? Paul addresses the issue in Philippians 3 by first talking about his own example. He had been a top religious Jew, outlining his resume with things like “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (v.5). But now, in Christ, those things were counted “as rubbish” (v.8). Paul had followed the example of his Lord, outlined in chapter 2, who “emptied himself” (2:7) of his status as the Son of God in order to submit to the humiliation of death on a cross. (more…)

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Imprisonment – April 8, 2020

In the first chapter of Philippians Paul mentions “my imprisonment” (v.14), which is just one of a whole catalogue of difficult situations Paul found himself in because of the gospel. We know a little bit about how he was feeling at the time, or at least where his thoughts were, from a little hidden Bible echo in verse 19 where he writes, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” The phrase “will turn out for my deliverance” is the exact same phrase as the Greek translation of Job 13:16 (“This will be my salvation” in the ESV), a chapter in which Job, in the midst of his suffering, feels like he’s in prison – “You put my feet in the stocks” (v.27). (more…)

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Time to Wake Up! – April 7, 2020

Does it feel to you, with what’s been happening in the world, that our Lord is busy prodding us awake? Something momentous is about to happen and we need to wake up! In Ephesians 5 Paul writes, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead” (v.14). The context should remind us of one of the parables of the Lord. In the next verse we are exhorted to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” and then in verse 17 “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The echo with the parable of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, is clear. (more…)

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Underestimating God – April 6, 2020

It’s easy for us to underestimate God. Maybe that’s why Paul uses such powerful language to describe him and his son in Ephesians. For instance, in our reading today in chapter 3 he mentions “the manifold wisdom of God” (v.10), “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8) and “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (v.19). Back in chapter 1 he also mentions “the immeasurable greatness of his power” (v.19). God’s wisdom is manifold, which means it is multi-dimensional. The wisdom of God is applicable to every situation we can think of, as we’re seeing in the multitude of applications of wisdom in the book of Proverbs we’re reading this month. Then there’s the unsearchable riches of Christ. What we’re offered in Christ can’t be quantified. (more…)

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Reassurance – April 5, 2020

In uncertain times it’s nice to have some reassurance and we have loads of it in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. For instance, he says, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) and throughout the chapter reminds us that God does all things according to his purpose which he had from the beginning. Everything is going according to God’s plan and we have the blessing of “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (v.18) – there is light at the end of the tunnel and God has shown us what that is. There are such amazing things ahead of us if we cling onto the promises God made. (more…)

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Freedom in Christ – April 4, 2020

A lot of people in the world feel trapped in their homes right now. And when you do leave your house to go to the store there are restrictions on what stores are open and what you’re allowed to buy. Here in Ventura County, for instance, stores like Walmart and Target are permitted to sell groceries and pharmacy items but non-essential goods have been cordoned off. Go the HOA facility in our neighborhood and you can’t use the tennis or basketball court and kids can’t use the playground equipment. (Adults can’t either, by the way, before you ask.) And if you happen upon another human being while you’re outside you can’t get within six feet of them. (more…)

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The Power of Faith – April 3, 2020

In some ways what the world is going through might be a little less disconcerting if we could easily see the enemy. If all the people who had the virus showed clear symptoms. If they weren’t contagious until after showing these obvious symptoms. But because it’s been so hard to diagnose, especially the asymptomatic cases, people have been trying to help us see the virus through its effects. I have lost count of the number of graphs and charts that have been put out showing the rate of infections and so forth. I guess because there are no sports happening then we have replaced it with coronavirus statistics. The USA is winning, by the way. (more…)

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True Religion – April 2, 2020

We can’t meet as ecclesias at the moment, so perhaps this is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what true religion is all about separate from what we normally do on Sunday mornings or midweek class. It’s something the Galatian ecclesias had to think about because they were in danger of losing the Truth altogether. Paul was the perfect person to deal with what was going on with the Galatians. Having become brothers and sisters in Christ they were going back to what they had previously left behind – the Law of Moses and rites like circumcision, along with many Jewish traditions. (more…)

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Once in a Lifetime – April 1, 2020

If I told you a couple of months ago half the world would be in lock down mode along with everything else that’s happened, you probably wouldn’t have believed a time could be possible. Things like this are a once in a generation experience. I read one article which said the world hasn’t been in such turmoil since the Second World War – 75 years ago. We’re just not used to this sort of thing and we’ve had to experience it to believe it.

What about a once in the history of the world experience? (more…)

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The Gates of Hell – March 31, 2020

You would think Pilate, as the representative of the Roman Empire in Judea, held a lot of power. But when faced with the Jewish crowds crying “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21) he gave in, despite the fact he acknowledged the innocence of Jesus. Notice what it says in verse 23 – “their voices prevailed”. The voices of the Jews or, as some versions bring out, especially the voices of the chief priests, were more powerful than Pilate at this point in time. And for a short while Jesus came under the combined power of the enemy – the Jewish and Roman authorities. (more…)

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Aerophobia – March 30, 2020

I’m the sort of person who feels uneasy if I am not in control of a situation. I think that’s why I suffer from aerophobia. If I was at the controls of the airplane, then I would probably feel safer. Although since I have no flight training, I wouldn’t recommend getting on the plane with me.

One of the things that is unsettling about our current situation is how out of control the virus seems to be in places like Italy and New York. We can do our little bit to bring control in our lives, by quarantining and social distancing, but there’s still the uneasy thought that our invisible enemy could strike at any moment.

(more…)

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Two Periods of Time – March 29, 2020

Our thought for the day today is just a little excerpt from the exhortation I gave this morning from Luke 21. Our Lord speaks of two periods of time, one the end of the Jewish world in AD 70, and the other the end of our world. Both times are scary, with anxiety and foreboding about things coming on the world. But Jesus put a positive spin on things despite what would appear, from worldly point of view, to be doom and gloom.

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The Signpost of Israel – March 28, 2020

It’s wonderful how our Lord Jesus Christ teaches. Very often he says something very puzzling, rather than just spoon feeding us information. He wants us to think, mull over his words and figure out what principles are behind his message. We have an example of that in today’s reading from Luke 20. Having just quoted Psalm 118 – “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v.17) he goes on to say, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (v.18). What did Jesus mean by that? (more…)

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The End of the World – March 27, 2020

It’s very easy to think that what we’re experiencing with the pandemic is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. I had the same feeling in 1991 when Saddam Hussein started sending scud missiles into Israel. I remember exactly where I was and what I was thinking – Jesus is going to come back any moment. It’s now almost 30 years later though and we still await our Lord’s return. All of which brings us to our reading in Luke 19. (more…)

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The Power of Prayer – March 26, 2020

If you had access to one of the greatest powers in the universe, and could legitimately use it any time you wanted, 24/7, and it had the power to bring you peace of mind, what would you do? Well as a matter of fact we have such a power but for some reason we human beings struggle to use it. The power I am talking about is prayer and is the topic of Jesus’ words in the first half of our New Testament chapter for the day, Luke 18. (more…)

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Two for One – March 25, 2020

The readings today made it really difficult to decide which one to talk about. We have the priestly blessing in Number 6, one of my favorite Bible passages in Proverbs 3, and Jesus’ words in Luke 17 which fit perfectly with our current situation. Being the sort of person who is terrible at making decisions like this I am going to have to do two thoughts today. (more…)

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Time – March 24, 2020

As we settle into our new reality it’s useful to try to put a positive spin on what we’re experiencing. God has given us time inside our homes, with our families, time that we didn’t have before. And time is one of the most precious resources of life. What are we doing with that resource – and our other resources for that matter – not just now, but how have we spent it before? During this time of reflection let’s think about the lessons from the parables from yesterday’s reading in Luke 15 and today’s in chapter 16. (more…)

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Welcome to Spring – March 23, 2020

Welcome to Spring! How do we know it’s Spring? Forget the calendar – we’ve just finished Psalms and now we’re starting Proverbs. Let the Bible be your barometer! And since we’re starting Proverbs, I thought we could look at wisdom’s advice in chapter 1. There’s obviously a lot of very practical advice in the book and much of it we can apply to the situation we’re experiencing at the moment. (more…)

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God is Great – March 22, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about the greatness of God lately, something you may have gathered from these thoughts for the day. And today is no different because I want us to think about the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14. This is one of those parables that cuts right to the heart of the difficulty we all have with seeing the invisible. If Jesus was here right now, and invited us into the Kingdom, how many of us would make excuses? (more…)

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Glory to God – March 21, 2020

As I look out of my window it’s a beautiful sunny day in Simi Valley. And today is a day to glorify God, which ties in with our reading today in Psalm 145. It’s hard to take a break from Luke, especially since chapter 12 has sections on anxiety and being ready for our Lord’s return. I am sure right now we have a heightened sense of awareness of the closeness of Christ’s return but when present circumstances are over and if he hasn’t returned by that time, let’s take the spirit of Psalm 145 into our hearts not just now but when things get better in however many weeks or months it takes and we can breathe a sigh of relief. (more…)

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The Lord’s Prayer – March 20, 2020

Hi everyone. I write these thoughts during my lunch hour and I have just finished eating a half rack of BBQ ribs leftover from TGI Friday’s from last night (take out!) They were delicious and I feel well fed. All of which is a segue into today’s reading from Luke 11 and the Lord’s Prayer. (more…)

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Welcome to My Life – March 19, 2020

Yeah, that’s me. Welcome to my life, everyone .

Viruses are tiny. They’re much smaller than human cells and even smaller than bacteria. You can only see the very largest of them through a powerful microscope so they’re basically invisible. It’s no wonder, then, that people in the ancient near east didn’t know what was causing them to get sick. Hence the concept of demon possession to explain the phenomenon. (more…)

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Transformation – March 18, 2020

Hi everyone. If you’re like me, getting a little (or a lot!) freaked out by this whole coronavirus thing, then this thought for the day is for you. (more…)

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Parable of the Sower – March 17, 2020

How is everyone doing today? Hope you’re finding these thoughts helpful as we wait this thing out.

I see in our reading from Luke 8 that the theme of the power of the word of God, which we considered in relation to the centurion, continues in the Parable of the Sower. Have you ever noticed the connection between the different kinds of ground the seed falls into? (more…)

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Caged Birds – March 16, 2020

Few of us have experienced something like what the whole world is focused on right now with the Coronavirus. There is uncertainty and fear and everything might feel a little surreal with whole countries on lock down as an invisible virus wreaks havoc on society. So to help keep our minds focused I thought it might be a nice idea to send out a short thought for the day, something to think about while we wait out the current situation. (more…)