Light in the Darkness – something to think about at Christmas-time

This is adapted from a talk given to some teenagers in December 2011. The setting was the main room in the church with all the lights off and one tea-light candle lit on a table in the very centre of the room.

One of the people who wrote about Jesus in the Bible said this:

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

We have a candle. In a very big, dark room. But there is nothing the darkness can do to put out the candle. (more…)

Questions about Angels

In December 2014 Jon the freelance theologian did an interview with UCB Radio about angels. Here are some answers to the questions he was asked.

What are angels?

In Christian theology and tradition, angels are spiritual beings sent by God to convey messages or perform certain tasks. The word ‘angel’ is (more…)

God’s protection for believers

Question 206, from Michelle, USA

If God favours a person and has a mission for them, will God protect this person from others who want to harm or stop them?

This is a hard question to answer as it draws up questions of free will and whether God prevents people from acting freely to prevent them causing harm.

There are examples in the Bible of God protecting leaders and prophets of Israel from harm, often by causing confusion amongst their enemies. For example, in 1 Samuel chapter 14, soldiers in the Philistine army turns on each other in confusion before the Israelite army arrive. (more…)

Applying Matthew 7.13-14 today (the narrow and wide gate)

Question 205, from Mark, United Kingdom

In Matthew chapter 7, verses 13-14 Jesus said…
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
I’ve been thinking about these words quite a bit recently and just wondering if you have any thoughts about context and application for us today.

The idea that there are two ways to choose was common in Jewish thought and stems from Deuteronomy chapter 30, verse 15, where the Israelites are given a choice between “life and prosperity” and “death and destruction”. The words ascribed to Jesus in this passage in Matthew follow this pattern and are used to show how Jesus is fulfilling the Jewish Law by replicating its key teachings.

These verses then introduce the main concerns of this passage – that there are ‘false prophets’ who could lead the disciples astray (verse 15). The disciples are told to judge people ‘by their fruit’ (verse 16). There follows a warning of destruction for ‘trees’ that bear bad fruit and the statement that not everybody who calls Jesus ‘Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (more…)

Dreams, interpretations and scientific evidence

Question 204, from Ben

What was the ancient Jewish viewpoint of dreams and their interpretations? How ought we read Biblical passages referencing dreams in light of this and in light of Modern Scientific Understanding?

There are several accounts in both the Old and New Testament of people receiving premonitions and warnings ‘in dreams’, with the idea that God revealed truth to people through their dreams. Some examples include Joseph of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame, the prophet Samuel, Daniel, Joseph the adoptive father of Jesus, and even people like the unnamed wife of Pilate (Matthew chapter 27).

In the Bible, dreams are regarded as a way that God communicates. For example,they are part of the prophetic vision of the fully consummated world in the book of Joel – where young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams of God (Joel chapter 2, verse 28). (more…)

Living radically for Jesus in a normal life

Question 203, asked via Twitter

How can I live radically for Jesus if I’m middle class, have a good job, house, 2.4 children and lead a ‘comfortable’ life?

This is an interesting, practical question that affects a number of Christians. It does, however, reveal a ‘sacred-secular divide’. The unwritten subtext in the question seems to be that radical faith is something spiritual, while the family, house and career are in fact compromises made with normal life. This tension has always been a part of the Christian faith, modelled by the disciples who left their fishing boats – their livelihoods – to follow Jesus. (more…)

Christians and the Sabbath

Question 202, from Ben, United Kingdom

What’s the summary of the Biblical teaching regarding the observance of the Sabbath? Particularly with regard to if it is binding on Christians today and what day it ought to be observed.

The Sabbath was established in the Old Testament, and was listed in the Ten Commandments with the order to ‘keep it holy’. The instructions regarding the Sabbath can be found in Exodus chapter 20, verses 8-12, where all work by the entire household and even non-Jews in the area is banned.

The reasoning given alongside the Sabbath instructions links the working week to the six days of creation in the book of Genesis, and the Sabbath to the ‘seventh day’ when God rested from the work of creation. A different reason is given when the Ten Commandments are included at the start of Deuteronomy (chapter 5, verses 12-15), where it is linked to giving servants a day to rest (more…)

Did Jesus suffer more than any other human being?

Question 201, from S, Lebanon

Is Jesus the person that has been most hurt? Aren’t people dead and being destroyed by war more hurt than Jesus (e.g. the loss of innocent children)? Jesus did miracles while he was on earth – why doesn’t he do interventions on wars or at least keep innocent people safe while war?

The idea that Jesus suffered more than any other human being often appears in Christian writings, however it is an impossible claim to prove. (more…)

A review of ‘Signs in the Heavens: Blood moons are coming to Israel’ – a DVD by Mark Biltz

Reviewed by request from Ken, United Kingdom

This presentation by Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries was filmed at the Pikes Peak Prophecy Summit, 2013. ‘Blood moons’ have been in the news of late, even making the front pages of the newspapers in the UK, and Biltz’s ideas have been used by well-known end times author John Hagee to link observations of near-space phenomena with political upheaval of eschatological significance.

A ‘blood moon’ is caused when the earth passes between the moon and the sun. Unable to reflect the usual amount of sunlight, the moon turns red. They are fairly common, but what Mark Biltz highlights is that in 2014-15 there will be four blood moons in close succession, including one that will be seen in Israel. (more…)

Seven Biblical tips for living a joy-filled life

This is adapted from a Sunday talk at Glenwood Church – listen to the talk here

Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians chapter 5, verses 22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

The fruits of the Spirit are the things that grow in our lives as we live in step with the Holy Spirit as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We need to grow this fruit called joy, because generally speaking the perception is that Christians are the opposite of joyful. Christians seem to be thought of as serious and judgemental and frowning at everything. (more…)