Are we concerned about people?

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no-one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’” (John 5:1-3,5-7 NIV)

This incident gives us a glimpse into a day of Jesus’ life from which we can draw several lessons as his disciples today.

Notice, first if all, that Jesus was in the habit of attending the Jewish festivals. These, we know, were required of all Jewish men and this one would seem to be the Passover (I place this in AD 28). During these years he was teaching in Galilee, but these festivals took precedence over what he was normally doing. Continue reading “Are we concerned about people?”

Deserting Jesus

Jesus’ last evening with his disciples had highs and lows. They shared a Passover meal and Jesus changed the emphasis. They sang hymns together. But Jesus knew that it was not going to be a good night for the disciples: before it ended they would all have turned their backs on him.

“‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written: ‘ “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’ Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.” (Mark 14:27-31 NIV)

It must have been sad for Jesus to have to tell his disciples these things, and even more sad to listen to their denials that they would never forsake him. And of course there is Peter, insisting strenuously that even if he had to die he would never disown his Master. But notice that it wasn’t just Peter saying this – they all did. Continue reading “Deserting Jesus”

Four steps to eternity

Walter Scott was a pioneer preacher. Born in Scotland, Scott immigrated to the United States in 1818 and subsequently moved west. Scott famously contrasted the tenets of Calvinism with a five-finger exercise.

When he came to preach in a community, Scott would teach children that Acts 2:38 teaches (1) faith, (2) repentance, (3) baptism, (4) forgiveness, and (5) the gift of the Holy Spirit. He’d then tell the children to tell their parents that he would be preaching that message later on in the day.

Scott’s mnemonic device is imminently scriptural, and provides a basis for more teaching on how God saves man. He helped people find salvation in Christ using this teaching method. However, if we are not careful, it can transform into something resembling a check-list, which after completion obligates God and satisfies our service.

I want to suggest a complement of sorts. Consider, if you will, four steps that will take you from where you are to eternity. Continue reading “Four steps to eternity”

Restoring what was missing

When Hezekiah became king he reversed what his father Ahaz had been doing and started to lead the nation of Judah back to worshipping God. He was 25 when he became king and his first recorded act, in the first month of his reign, was to put God’s temple in order. This required quite a bit of work in several areas.

First there was the physical building of the temple. Through many years of neglect it was in need of repair. Following this it needed to be consecrated, cleansed of anything that would make it ceremonially unclean. Hezekiah’s father Ahaz had set up idols to be worshipped in the temple and had even moved God’s altar from its central position to be replaced with one to a pagan god. Anything that had been associated with idolatry needed to be removed. What they hadn’t been doing – offering incense and burnt offerings to God – needed to begin to happen again. Continue reading “Restoring what was missing”

Doctor treats patient in hospital bed.

See what makes me tick, God

Men are notorious for avoiding doctors and dentists. (Most certainly, it’s a generalization.) They often wait until the problem is unavoidable or the pain is unbearable. They hate anyone prodding or poking at them.

Most people, both men and women, dislike revealing inner thoughts. Some few wear their feelings on the sleeves and tell their life stories to anyone who will listen, but they are avoided by the majority.

Even more, most people avoid even thinking about God knowing their every thought and impulse. They certainly would not offer up David’s prayer of invitation. Continue reading “See what makes me tick, God”

God’s patience

Although we realise that God is different from us and so much more than we are, often we place our human limitations and thoughts in how we think of him. Two verses that should bring us back to our senses are found in 2 Peter 3.

“Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9 NET)

There are two thoughts here that radically distinguish God from humans. Continue reading “God’s patience”

Change your heart

“Write to the messenger of the congregation in Pergamus: ‘He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things: I know you are holding fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of my faithful martyr Antipas, who was killed among you, where Satan lives.’” (Revelation 2:12-13 McCord)

When we begin examining the Christians in Pergamus (or Pergamum), we discover what looks to be an exemplary group of Christians. They were standing up for Jesus, even though they were being persecuted. Even when some were being killed, presumably because they would not deny Jesus, they still were true to Jesus – and at least one Christian had been killed. This was taking place “where Satan lives” and Satan was the evil behind what these Christians were going through.

When you find Christians who have such a strong faith, you would think that they would not allow anything or anyone to undermine their faith. Sadly, this was not the case. Continue reading “Change your heart”

26 Biblical points on sex and marriage

To accompany a recent sermon on sexual immorality, I wrote the following summary points on sex and marriage, focusing especially on the former. They have been translated from Portuguese.

These are basically bullet points designed for people who are coming to know God’s will. They’re designed to be starting points for further study. Continue reading “26 Biblical points on sex and marriage”

Little things

“And the Lord did so. Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt. The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies” (Exodus 8:24 NKJV).

I was standing recently under the shade of a mango tree in an Asian country and noticed several flies swarming around. When I looked more closely I saw many large flies sitting on the leaves and fruit. Other insects were also flying about, but the flies were especially numerous. Almost without thinking I moved back several feet to get away from them. Continue reading “Little things”

A radical message

“…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan River, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…So John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance, and don’t begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’” (Luke 3:1-9 NET)

John caused quite a stir when he began preaching and baptising. Can you imagine what that would have been like? For the past 400 years there had not been a prophet in Israel. The country had been invaded many times but no word from God. And then this ‘wild’ man began to preach what might have been considered a ‘harsh’ message. Can you imagine being called the “offspring of vipers”? Continue reading “A radical message”