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What Would He Say Now?

When the Pharisees saw some of Yeshua’s disciples eating bread with unwashed hands, they criticised them, because the Pharisees, and all the Jews, didn’t eat unless they wash their hands to the elbow. It was a tradition. (Not a command from God).
And there are many other things, which they’ve received from one another, and which they hold to — immersions of cups, and of jugs, and of copper pots, and of beds.

Then they started on Yeshua, as if it was his fault because they were his disciples. “Why don’t your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders? They eat bread with unwashed hands.”
Yeshua answered… “Yisheyah (Isaiah) prophesied well about you. Hypocrites. As it’s been written, ‘This people honours me with their lips but their heart is far from me. And they futilely revere me, teaching teachings which are the commands of people.’ For you’ve left the command of God behind, and you hold to the tradition of people — immersions of jugs, and of cups — and you do many other such things as these.”
“You set the command of God aside well, so you can keep your own tradition. For Moshe said, ‘Honour your father and your mother.’ And, ‘Let the one who speaks evil of a father or a mother be put to death.’ But you say that if a person says to their father or to their mother, ‘Whatever you- might have benefitted from me is korban, (which is an offering)’, then you no longer let them do anything for their father or their mother — invalidating the message of God for your tradition which you’ve handed down. And you do many such things as these.”

Hundreds of years before, a very young king Josiah was trying to restore the temple to what it should be. As part of that the high priest searched the tabernacle and found the Book of the Law.
The priests had lost the Book of the Law and forgotten what it said!
When Josiah heard about that he was devastated. But he decided on the spot that they needed to repent and follow God’s commands immediately.
The king stood by the pillar, and made a covenant before Yahweh, to walk after Yahweh, and to keep his commandments, his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and all his soul, to confirm the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and all the people agreed to the covenant.
They brought out of Yahweh’s temple all the vessels that were made for Baal, for the Asherah, and for all the army of the sky, and he burned them. He got rid of the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the army of the sky. He brought out the Asherah from Yahweh’s house and burned it. He broke down the houses of the male shrine prostitutes that were in Yahweh’s house, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah.

How far they had fallen! Worshiping Baal, worshipping the gods of the world, in the house of Yahweh! And thinking that it’s all OK.

Hopefully we’re not that far gone, but compare the early church you read about in the Bible, with the one you’re part of now.
They’re not the same are they.

We attend church and follow the same pattern week after week. We have CEOs, we run it like a business, we market and manipulate, we entertain and then send them home pumped up for another week, (but not pumped by the Holy Spirit, just by our marketing).
Not to mention Christmas, Easter, and the way we elevate the priests to such a high status, and present them as an infallible separate class of Christian.
We build fancy buildings just like the world does. We (sometimes) dress our priests in special robes, just like the world does. And we entertain the masses, just like the world does.
Yeshua would say the same thing to us he said to the Pharisees. “You’ve left the command of God behind and you hold the traditions of people.”

Yeshua gave us two commands. Love God. Love others.
That’s all we have to do.
How would your church change if it trimmed back to just that. If you removed every man made tradition. Every single one. How would it look?

Can you justify not doing that?

Do you need to follow the example of Josiah and repent? If you do, do it now. And get rid of everything in your church which shouldn’t be there. Or explain to Yahweh why you didn’t.


Equal, not the Same

Time to compare another couple of images.
What do you see this time?

One of them is based on being right, on judgement, on self-righteousness, the other is based on love, on justice, on not thinking too highly of yourself.
The one on the left justifies itself with, “we all have the same”. It’s not my fault that other people can’t survive with what I have. It’s about valuing people by what they can achieve for themselves.
The one on the right is trying to bring justice to everyone. It’s trying to be loving. It requires sacrifice. It involves someone going without something. Maybe even going without something they earned, something they have every right to keep. But almost certainly, something they don’t really need.
It involves someone else getting more than they “deserve”.
But it’s about valuing everyone equally and being willing to put love into action to make that a reality.
Love requires sacrifice. It requires self-denial. It requires you being willing to be the one who is wronged. The one who goes without.
Usually this topic has been called “Giving”, but for Christians, instead of asking, “How much are you giving?” it is much more useful to have in mind, “How much are you keeping?”.
Christians are taught a lot about giving. Give in secret. Give cheerfully and not reluctantly. Give generously... I don’t think we struggle with understanding any of this. The only question I usually hear about giving is, “How much do I have to give?”.
The short answer is... zero. You don’t have to give anything.
The long answer is... zero. You don’t have anything to give.
Read carefully if you missed it. They’re different.
One of our modern Christian misconceptions is that we own things. Everything we have, all the stuff we think we own, all the income we receive, all of it, is not ours. It all belongs to God. God has simply given it to us to look after for him. We are stewards, not owners. A steward is someone who looks after someone else’s property or money on their behalf.
Get it? It’s all God’s money. We have just been entrusted with looking after some of it.
If you “get” this, it will change your whole attitude to giving. Instead of thinking of giving, you will think of keeping.
Of course God expects you to keep some of it to provide for your own needs, and those of your family. But even those considered generous amongst most modern Christians that I have talked with, keep 90% or more of what God has entrusted them with.
Now, before we get all high and mighty about that. Remember that each Christian should give what they have decided in their own heart. It’s not up to you to tell anyone else how much to keep. It’s not up to me either. It’s God’s money, if he thinks they are keeping too much he can deal with them himself.
But how about you? Do you think you are keeping too much? If God asked you to explain why you kept so much for yourself would you feel comfortable?
Do you feel like you are being generous?
One day Yeshua watched people giving at the temple. (In those days they had a big box for giving, and didn’t “pass the plate/bag” like we do now). The rich man made a big fuss about putting in 10% of his fortune. The poor widow humbly put in 2 small copper coins. But it was all she had to live on. Yeshua said that she gave much more. She put in about a 60th of a day’s pay, a few dollars. He put in what was probably equivalent to thousands of dollars. But she gave more. Because she only had a few dollars.
How much should you keep?
It depends on your situation - how much you have, and how much you need. Do you think you keeping more than you need to?
Ultimately, it depends on why you are keeping the amount you do.
Just like every action for Christians. It does not matter what you do. It matters why you do it.
Are you being generous? Or are you being selfish?
Are you cheerful about giving? Or are you struggling, and only giving begrudgingly because you love money?
Are you reluctant to give because you rely on money for your security instead of relying on God?
So, how much should you give?
Think about how much do you need to keep? And think about why.
Develop that attitude that it’s not your money. This will help you keep a loose hold on money, and give it a loose hold on you.
And then you will be free to give. You will be able to keep giving until you feel like you have been generous.
And then, you will be able to give cheerfully.
When you can give generously, cheerfully, without even keeping count, then you’re probably not keeping too much. When you can do that, you’re more focused on loving others than on being right about what percentage you are justified in keeping.
When you can do that, you’re giving in love.



Me too. ☹️

Thoughts of death and suicide can be triggered by all sorts of things.

Bad health which seems to have no chance of ever getting better.
No cure. No medications. No relief. No end.

A spouse who is abusive. A loveless marriage.
You want to do the right thing and see out “to death do us part” but you hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Divorce is a legal option, and more accepted these days even in the church. But not one you want to take. After all, you promised Yahweh that you wouldn’t.

Poverty. Constant poverty with no chance of ever escaping it can be incredibly difficult to face day after day.
All around the world, all over the media we constantly see people with massive wealth.
But even the average person in developed countries like the USA and Australia is in the top 10% of wealthy people in the world!
If you’re not, that’s hard to deal with. And especially so if you live in one of those wealthy countries and you’re struggling to rent a liveable house and to put food on the table for your children.

Maybe you’re not suicidal in the sense that you are thinking of how you can take your own life and end this suffering. But maybe you’re just hoping Yahweh does it for you. Today.

Would it surprise you that Paulus, the Bible guy who wrote a lot of the New Testament, felt the same way?
For sure his suffering was beyond anything most of us will ever experience.
But he wanted it to end. And he could see that death was the only way out.
And that for himself, he would literally be better off dead.

“For to me — to be living is the Anointed, but to have died is gain. But if for me to live in the flesh will be a fruitful work, then which will I choose? I don’t know, for I’m torn between the two — having the desire to depart and to be united with the Anointed, for that’s far better, but it’s more necessary for you that I remain in the flesh.”

He wanted to die and be with his lord for eternity, free from this suffering and pain of life.
But he knew that if he stayed alive he could help so many people, either find salvation, or just help them in their walk as Christians. So he was willing to continue to endure the suffering, for them.

How about you?
Are there any people who could be benefitted from your continued life?
Do you love them enough to endure that for their sake?

There could also be other reasons Yahweh is asking you to prolong your life.

Perhaps like Job, he’s refining your character.
Who you are is way more important than what you do. Even if what you do is all for God. He wants to build your character. And sometimes the only way to get through to you is through adversity.
And perhaps like Job, you’ll never know while you’re alive that this is even happening, and that it’s all been orchestrated by God.
But perhaps like Job, you’ll accept your suffering. Acknowledging that Yahweh is free to choose whatever life he wants for you. And whatever his choice, it is based on love, and choosing whatever is ultimately for your best.

Perhaps like the man in John 5 who had been ill for 38 years. And was suddenly healed by Yeshua to show everyone that he really is the son of Yahweh… Perhaps your suffering is not endless after all? I’m sure it feels like it is, but perhaps relief for you suffering is somewhere in the future? Perhaps your suffering is somehow bringing glory to God?

Whatever the reason. Whatever your suffering is.
Death will certainly be a release.
For you.

But you don’t want to realise 5 seconds later that you should have endured for a greater prize. And brought benefit to others and glory to God.

Hang in there. Yahweh will release you when it’s time.
Endure, and glorify him until then.


Your Part of the Wall

At first glance Nehemiah 3 looks like one of those boring Old Testament chapters which lists out people by name in a tedious but methodical manner, kind of like a legal document, so descendants can say, “see, my ancestors did their bit”.

But this chapter is one of the best illustrations for how the church should work.
For how we should build the church. (The body of Yeshua, not the buildings it meets in).

Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them.
     The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.

Maybe the gates themselves needed some professional carpenters. And for sure, some parts of church building do need people with special skills and some experience to be able to do them properly.
But in general it wasn’t rebuilt by some elite group of professional builders. Generally nobody needed to be told what to do or how to do it. Stack the stones securely on top of each other until the wall is solid. Off you go.

All they knew was that they needed to rebuild the bit of the wall which was near their house. And you know they’ll do a good job because if that’s the weak part of the wall, then their family will be the first casualties in an attack.

As Christians this is what we need to do as well.
Everybody in the church should be involved in building the church.
Usually not everyone preaches. Not everyone is a counsellor. Not everyone looks after the finances. But everyone should build the bit of the church near them.

How about you? Are you building the bit of the church near you?

You like cooking? You have some gift there?
Invite people over, from in the church and outside.
Share meals. Help build relationships between them.
One year, twice a week, we invited two families from church for dinner who didn’t seem to know each other. Over dinner they got to know each other, and the church gradually grew closer together.

You like fishing?
One of our friends loves fishing, and has a boat. He takes people out on his boat and gets to know them. They have a wonderful time, (and usually even come back with fish for a week). And again, the church is built.

You know stuff about the Bible? About how to be a Christian in this modern world?
Disciple someone. Anyone. Just share your life with them.
It doesn’t have to be formal study every Tuesday night.
But share your life. Let them see how you live.
Let them ask questions when they become relevant to them.
You’ll change a life.

You had a few babies and raised wonderful teens?
Share that with the young parents in church.
The world is bombarding them with advice on how to raise kids. And it’s mostly wrong.
Let them see how you guys live.
Just before I had kids one of the elders in my church invited us around for dinner at least once a week. And Sunday lunch. And just for a coffee… and we got to see how they raised their 5 children.
It was SO different to what I was used to. And I learned so much without a single actual lesson.

So, what is your part of the wall?
How can you build that?
What do you love doing? Who do you love hanging out with?

We’re all different. And that’s no accident.
God deliberately designed us that way because we all contribute to building different parts of the church. Just like those New Testament chapters where the church is described as a body and we’re all the different parts, each doing our own bit towards helping the whole body function as it should.

How can you use the gifts God has given you, and be the person he has made you into, to build the part of the church which is near you?


Your Soul

I guess by soul we mean the spiritual part of you. Some people might call it the real you.
I know some people argue about whether your spirit and your soul are different. But let’s just not get into that here.

Imagine for a minute a time hundreds of years from now, where technology has improved to the point that we can now transfer the “real you” into a computer.

Do you think that this might actually be a possibility sometime way in the future? Maybe way way in the future?
If you do, then you have an idea about what defines “your soul”.

This real you which is transferred into new hardware is what I’m calling “your soul”.

But so what?

If you agree that you have a soul, which one day could live on in a computer without your body, then the question we need to ask then is...
If your soul is the real you which currently lives inside your body, then what happens to your soul when your body dies?

Have you ever thought about that?
Does it stop existing too?

Does it keep existing?

The Bible says it keeps existing.
And that it faces judgement.
If you’ve done bad things during this lifetime in your body… your soul is sent to Hell. A place of eternal suffering.
(Sounds horrible, and maybe a bit extreme, but that’s the rules).

If you’ve done good things as well your suffering might be less, but you still head there.
If you’ve only done good things, and never done anything bad… you’re lying, or misguided.
Nobody can claim that.

Well… there was one person:
Yeshua, the son of Yahweh, (God), did lead a perfect life. He never did anything wrong his whole life.
He showed us what we should have done.

Technically the Jews could have been saved by keeping their laws, (things like the ten commandments), but up until Yeshua 2,000 years ago, nobody had ever done it. Everyone failed somewhere. (I fail pretty much every day ☹️)

But then after earning his own salvation, Yeshua sacrificed himself and paid the price for anyone who would trust in him.
So for me, I have done some bad stuff. Maybe even worse than you.
But I’m sure I’ll be heading into Heaven, to spend eternity with Yeshua and the other Christians.
Just because I’ve accepted his offer to be punished in my place so I have no debt left to Yahweh.

You can make the same choice.
You can be guaranteed entry to Heaven just by accepting that sacrifice on your part.
I know it sounds too good to be true. But it’s true.

Here are the verses linked to this article. From the Little Watchman Translation.

John 3:16
    For in this way God loved the world — he gave his only born son so that everyone who trusts in him won’t be destroyed but may have everlasting life. 

John 5:24
    Amen, amen, I say to you=, that the one who hears my message and trusts the one who sent me has everlasting life, and won’t come into judgement but has crossed over from death to life. 

Acts 2:37-41
    But when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they said to Petros and the rest of the ambassadors, “What should we do? Men? Brothers?” But Petros declared to them, “Repent and be immersed, each of you=, on the name of Yeshua the Anointed, into the pardoning of sins. And you’ll= receive the gift of the holy spirit. For the promise is to you= and to your= children, and also to all those who are far away, as many as Yahweh our god will call to himself.” And with many other messages he pleaded with and entreated them, saying, “Be saved from this twisted generation.” Indeed then, those who gladly welcomed his message were immersed, and about three thousand souls were added on that day.

Romans 3:21-26
    But now, the righteousness of God, apart from the law, has been manifested, being testified to by the law and the prophets — the righteousness of God through faith in Yeshua the Anointed into all and on all those who trust. For there’s no distinction because all have sinned and lack the glory of God, but are being freely declared righteous by his grace through the redemption which is in Anointed Yeshua, whom God set forth, a propitiation through faith in his blood, in order to display his righteousness — because of the overlooking of the sins committed before now, in the tolerance of God, to display his righteousness in the present time, to show him as righteous, and as the one who declares righteous by the faith of Yeshua.  

Mail me if you want to discuss it, or to ask questions.
But at least talk it over with a Christian. Like a Pastor or a Priest… or a Christian friend.


Suffering One Day at a Time

Sometimes when we’re suffering we just want to make it through tonight and get to tomorrow.
Life is hard when it drags on like that. No end of your suffering in sight. And all you can do is endure the night. And sometimes even praying that you won’t wake up tomorrow, because you have the expectation that you will wake in the morning only to have to endure tomorrow as well.

And for Job, suffering the loss of his entire family, and all his wealth, and then even his own health. “Comforted” by all his so called friends… gathering around and basically telling him to repent, because he must have sinned pretty badly if God is doing all this to him!

One of the great lessons from the story of Job, is that looking back now at the end of the story, we can see that his suffering did have a purpose. He just didn’t know what it was at the time. And it was not brought on him by his sin, or by any failing of his at all.
In fact, it was God showing Satan how faithful and righteous Job really was, and this suffering was a way of glorifying Yahweh.
Satan just wanted Job to curse God and die. But Job refused because he trusted Yahweh completely.

And like the blind man in John 9, … born blind, blind for at least 30 years, (since he’s now “of age”), despised and put down by all who passed by, “either him, or his parents… somebody sinned if he’s suffering that much”…

But in the end, it was so Yeshua could walk past one day and heal him to prove that he really is the son of Yahweh. Because up until then, nobody had ever been able to heal someone who had been born blind.
But Yeshua showed that he’s not just some guy. He’s not just some prophet like all the others. He’s the son of Yahweh, and he can heal anyone, of anything, anytime.

How do you think that blind man feels about it all now?

In fact both these stories challenge the “wisdom of the wise”. In both stories the supposed religious experts of the day assumed the suffering only occurs if you sin. But in both cases, totally wrong.
Sometimes very sinful people don’t suffer.
Sometimes very good people do.
Even Yeshua himself. 100% sinless, and suffered totally undeserved beatings, humiliation, even death.

Job’s “friends” must have all been hypocrites too. Spouting that it was because of his sin, and not wondering why they weren’t suffering worse than Job themselves. Because they knew Job. They knew what a godly and upright man he was.
They knew that Job was way more righteous than they were. But they couldn’t possibly be wrong, so he must have some secret sin.

Oh the self righteous are always like that aren’t they. Totally oblivious to their own failures.
All they want to do is point out the failings of others to make themselves feel better about their own miserable lives.

And some of us suffer directly because we’re Christians standing up for God.
Like those in 1 Peter 2, who were beaten by their masters even though they did nothing wrong.
Or those in 1 Peter 3 who are suffering even though they totally do not deserve it. But who choose to shine for Yeshua regardless.

So, … if you’re suffering. Hang in there.

Yahweh does have a purpose. He knows what you’re going through.
He loves you. Honestly he does. More than you can actually imagine.

If he asked you in advance, “would you suffer this much so I can glorify myself through you?”… would you have accepted?

Shine like Job. Shine like the blind man in John 9.
Look for the day when you see your saviour face to face and you get to see him thank you for what you did for him.

And, if your friend is suffering like this… be there for them. Go through it with them.
Don’t be self righteous, just do what you can to help them and so they know they’re not alone.


Smarter Than You

Some dogs seem really smart.
They can learn things like, “sit”, “lie down”, “go outside”, “come”, … and the names of all their toys, and can “get foxy” or “get doggy” on command.

But clearly you’re a lot smarter than a dog.
People are a whole other level of smart compared to even the smartest animal on the planet. (Yeah I know we do some really dumb things sometimes, but we’re still a whole level smarter than animals)

And we’re starting to unlock the secrets of the universe.
Learning how things work. Even how some parts of the human body work.
We’re even exploring deep in the ocean and parts of the universe beyond our planet.

But what we need most is humility.
God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Honestly, just like you and your dog…
Yahweh is a whole level smarter than you.
A whole level smarter than the smartest person on the planet.

In fact, the comparison between you and a pet, is insignificant compared to the comparison between Yahweh and you.
He doesn’t just understand how the universe works. All of it.
He can make one, just by speaking.

Aș Paulus said in 1 Corinthians “the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of people.”
And “Don’t let anybody deceive themselves, if anyone among you thinks they’re wise in this age, let them become foolish so they may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God, for it’s been written “He’s the one who catches the wise in their craftiness.” And again, “Yahweh perceives the thinking of the wise — that it’s futile.””

We are so arrogant. We think we’re so smart, so clever because we can build a few things, we can fix a few things if they break, and we’ve understood a few things.
But in reality, compared with God, we’re no smarter than a dog.

In our wisdom we announce that there is no god. But all that does is confirm our ignorance.

So… if you feel like you don’t measure up to the “super smart” of the world - don’t despair. It probably means you’re actually way smarter than they are, and you have opportunities to serve Yahweh that they will never have.
“God has selected the foolish of the world so that he may disgrace the wise, and God has selected the weak of the world so that he may disgrace the strong.”

So, ignore the “wisdom” of this world.
Listen to God. And do things his way.

We think were always right, but he actually is.


Three in One

Most Christians can quote Genesis 1:1
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

The word translated “God” in that verse is “Elohim”

In English we differentiate between singular and plural. Usually we add an “s”.
One god.
Two or more gods.

In Hebrew, they differentiate between one, two, and three or more.
Elohim literally means “three or more gods”.

In English we also conjugate many verbs differently depending on who is doing it.
Most languages do that.
Hebrew does too.

So in English we say things like, “I am, he is, they are, … “

But here’s something interesting.
Genesis 1:1 says “Gods (3 or more) created (singular) … “
So technically that looks like bad Hebrew grammar.
Like saying, “they is” in English.

But we know that Moshe knew Hebrew, and in fact he was very well educated.
And scholars over the years could have corrected it if it was wrong.
So, is something else going on?

It’s saying, “The three person God” acted as one and created the heavens and the earth.

God is 3 beings, acting as one.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit…

We see something about this in the New Testament too.
In 1 John 1 we read, “That which was from the beginning, which we’ve heard, which we’ve looked upon with our eyes, which we gazed upon, and our hands have felt, concerning the message of life. And the life was manifested, and we’ve seen, and we testify, and we report to you the everlasting life, who was with the father and was manifested to us. We report to you what we’ve seen and heard, so that you also may have partnership with us. And our partnership is with the father, and with his son Yeshua the Anointed.”

The disciples believed that Yeshua had eternal existence, and that he was with Yahweh in the beginning. They were both involved in creating the world we live in.
The two are really one.
We read also of the holy spirit, who was sent from the father to become one with Yeshua when he was baptised by Yohannes.
And who returned to the father when Yeshua gave up his life for us and died on the stake.

We have marriage which makes us one “entity”. But the unity of father, son and spirit, is something really amazing, and difficult for us to fully comprehend due to our physical limitations which stop us becoming truly and totally one with another person.

When I was investigating Christianity, one thing I was sure of… if any god is real, then they always existed.
So at first I was sceptical about Yeshua, because I thought he had only existed for 2,000 years.
But the more I read, the more I realised that Yeshua had in fact existed even before Creation, and that he is in fact, really the son of Yahweh as he claimed to be. And the Bible itself confirms that right from the very beginning!


Allah is Not Yahweh

Yahweh is the god who created the universe, and everything in it.
Yahweh is the god who revealed himself to Abraham.
Yahweh is the god who revealed himself to Abraham’s descendants, Isaac and Yaakov.
Yahweh is the god of the Jews.

Abraham had a son, (Ishmael), with a slave woman, (Hagar), and they were both banished.
Allah is the god of Ishmael.

Allah claims to be the god who created the universe, and everything in it.
Allah claims to be the god who revealed himself to Abraham.
And Allah is the god of the descendants of Ishmael. The exiled branch of the family of Abraham.

My name is Paul. In Greek I would be Παύλος (Paulus), in Japanese ポール (Poru).
They’re all the same, in Japan I’m called Poru, in Greece I’m called Paulus…
But Allah is not just the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew name Yahweh.
Allah is not Yahweh. They are very different.

Allah is a spiritual force pretending to be Yahweh.
Allah did not create the universe and everything in it.

Noah built an altar to Yahweh
Yahweh said to Noah, “Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem.”

He (God) said to Abram, “I am Yahweh who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it.”

Allah is very strict. Not known for being loving or forgiving.
Yahweh is also strict, but he is known for being loving and forgiving.
When Yahweh punishes his people it is to discipline them, to correct them.
When Allah punishes it is only judgement.

Before Ishmael and Isaac were born, God called himself Yahweh. He still does.
After Ishmael was exiled by Abraham, why would God suddenly start calling himself Allah?
Why would God start dealing with mankind in a different way after Ishmael was exiled?

Yahweh promised Abraham to give him and his descendants the land of Israel.
(Which is why I think Allah claims to be Yahweh… if he is, then Allah is claiming that Israel belongs to Ishmael, not to Isaac).
But after Ishmael was exiled we read how Yahweh tested Abraham to see if he would sacrifice his only son - Isaac.
He was willing to do that for Yahweh, but Yahweh sent a lamb in Isaac’s place.

Yahweh showed that he is still the god of Isaac.
He went to to show that he is the god of Yaakov.
Allah is some spiritual force… pretending to be Yahweh, but he is NOT Yahweh.
You do the math.

If Allah is Yahweh, then why is his way of dealing with his people so different before and after Ishmael was exiled?
And why is Yahweh’s way of dealing with the Jews so consistent before and after Ishmael was exiled?

And… if Allah is Yahweh, then Yeshua was either made up or lying, and Christians aren’t saved at all.
Muslims do not believe that Yeshua is the son of the one true god. We do. We cannot both be right.
Yeshua is the son of Yahweh, and Allah is not Yahweh.

Yahweh later appeared to Moshe. This is how we have the first 5 books of the Bible.
It is a pivotal story in the history of the Jews. It’s how they got their land back after years of exile in Egypt.
It was a step of the fulfilment of Yahweh’s promise to Abraham centuries before.

1 Chronicles 16 has this line:
For great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised. He also is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but Yahweh made the heavens.

Only Yahweh is really God. Only Yahweh is a real god at all.

And only Yahweh is in a position to promise a land to a people.
And he promised Israel to the Jews.

And because of that, they will have it.
Regardless of what any of the false gods of this world try to do to prevent that from happening.
Regardless who they can deceive.
The Jews will have Israel, all of Israel, as their land. As only their land.

If that upsets you, perhaps you better check who you’re following.

So, what do you do if you think Allah is not Yahweh. That Allah is not a real god?
You choose to be like Daniel and stand up for Yahweh regardless of any consequences that might happen to you.


3D Posters

Some of you might remember these posters from the 1990’s?
Look far away, like you’re trying to see through the poster, and suddenly they’ll start to become a clear 3D image.
Some of you might have grandparents who remember 😊.

(Tap the image to open it bigger on its own if you want to try to see it now. Or zoom in a few times. This thumbnail sized image doesn’t work properly because ¾ of the pixels are missing.)

People can tell you what it is… and you can believe them, and you can try to see it.
But some people really struggle to see it. To the point that they sometimes doubt that it’s real. (Especially back in the 90’s when these first came out). They start to think it’s a trick, and then no matter how much people try to reassure them that it’s a real thing and the “hidden” 3D image is really there, they will have doubts if they can’t see it for themselves.

But for most people, one day they will be staring at the image, and suddenly they will see it for themselves… and from then on, they know that it’s real.
There will never be any doubt again.

The gospel of Yeshua is like that.
People can tell you what it is. And you can believe them.
But suddenly one day God himself will show you a Bible verse, or something will happen in your life…
And in a split second you will suddenly see it for yourself, and you will know that it is real.

Then, like Petros did in that Matthew 16 story… you will be able to answer the question that Yeshua is asking.
“Who do you say that I am?”
Not who do others say that he is, who do you say that Yeshua is?

And you will know that it is true, just like Petros did, because flesh and blood didn’t reveal it to you, but Yeshua’s father (God), who’s in the heavens revealed it to you himself.

Have you seen it?


No Ritual?

What is it about rituals that makes us feel like something spiritual is happening?
What is it about rituals that if there is no ritual we think nothing spiritual is happening?

Man made religion is all about rituals and “show”…

Remember Naaman… He was a big army commander in Babylon but somehow he caught leprosy. He travelled down to Israel to meet this prophet whom he had heard could heal people, and to see him work a miracle and heal him.
He was sure that Elisha would come out to him, and stand there, and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal him, (the leper).
And Elisha didn’t even come to see him! He just sent a messenger who said, “go and wash in the Jordan 7 times and you’ll be healed”.

He couldn’t accept that all he had to do was bathe in a river… and not even a fantastic river like the ones back home in Babylon.
But if Elisha had performed some fancy ritual he would have believed it. And he even expected that he would have to make a massive donation, and to perform some special religious act himself… but just bathe in an ordinary river! No way! He’s thinking for sure the guy’s a fraud.

And actually it was 100% the opposite. All the other people he had ever been to. All of them, had done their fancy rituals, and they had all taken his money accepted his donations. And gotten him to do special rituals himself.
But none of them had healed him. Otherwise he wouldn’t be here asking some foreign God as recommended by a slave girl they had capture from here when they invaded.

All the ritual based ones were just selling snake oil.
This guy, the one with no ritual at all, was the genuine prophet. He was the only one who actually could do miracles. (Read them in 2 Kings, he did some amazing miracles).
The guys doing their fancy rituals were the frauds.

Christianity has no rituals. It’s so not about ritual. All you have to do is trust in Yeshua. Period. You’re saved.

Even baptism was more like Naaman’s experience. Just get someone to dip you in a river, a lake, a bath, anything wet. And you’re baptised. Doesn’t really matter who does it for you, or how fancy their clothes are, or if they have a special title.
The water is just a token really, what really matters is, “Are you committed to following Yeshua the rest of your life?” Did you get wet somehow, (submerged is better, but not absolutely essential)? Then, you’re baptised.

And the one we call “Communion”… when we’re already constantly in communion with our saviour through his spirit.
We drink some wine, we eat some bread. Doesn’t matter if someone gulps down a bit and someone else just sips it. And if someone breaks off a big chunk of bread and someone else just takes a crumb.
Are you remembering what Yeshua did for you? When it was his blood, and his body on the line. Laid down so you could be saved?
Or are you turning it into a ritual and not even paying attention? Thinking more about Warcraft, or this afternoon’s football match?

And when you/they pray in church… do they love to stand and pray to be seen by others?
Yeshua says that makes them hypocrites. They have their reward. They have their glory.
But their prayer won’t be answered the way ours will. The way the prayer of someone who quietly prays at home, from the heart, will be.

Do you fast? You probably should, (unless you have some medical reason).
Does anyone else know you fast? They shouldn’t. (Maybe your partner, or your parents if they prepare meals for you, or with you).
Or do you let everyone know. Do you stand up the front and say “let’s fast together”, so they all know you’re doing it?
Sometimes we should all fast, if it’s something which affects us all… but do what you can to keep your fasting secret.
Just like your prayers.

If your Christianity is all about rituals, then it’s probably fake. It’s probably man made.
If your Christianity is all about doing things in front of others, in fancy clothes, in fancy buildings, then it’s probably fake. It’s almost certainly man made.

If your church is like that, then ask God at home by yourself, and then read the Bible for yourself, and you decide whether rituals are important or not.
You decide whether they’re for you. Whether they’re for anyone really.

Or have you been missing the point, and getting caught up in something which has no power at all?
Something which looks impressive, but which really, leads people further away from Yeshua, instead of closer to him?

Read Matthew 6.
Don’t by a hypocrite.


New Wineskins

This article isn’t based on the book, “The Problem of Wine Skins” by Howard Snyder, but I do recommend reading that book if you can find a copy. It has a lot of insight into church structures and where we have fallen into the traps I have also mentioned in this article. And I love the opening sentence: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that today one of the greatest roadblocks to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the institutional church.”

Do you think that’s true?

The Old Testament way of “doing church” was to go along to an incredibly elaborate, amazingly decorated, awe inspiring building, where a separated group of men, priests, who did nothing but serve in that special building, would perform very detailed and highly regulated rituals on your behalf.

The old wine was the Law. A huge list of over 600 rules that you must keep or if you break then you will at least be punished/disciplined/fined, or at worst, be stoned to death for your crime.

The priests themselves had heaps of rules regulating their daily life, and governing who could and couldn’t do certain things.
And the Old Testament is full of stories of people breaking those rules and Yahweh’s anger being unleashed on them because of that. Time and time again they would repent and beg for another chance. He would relent and give them one, and they would always, always, break the rules again and receive the outpouring of his anger yet again.

And it’s not that they were like a new puppy who just doesn’t seem to understand the rules yet. They knew what the rules were, and they understood the consequences. They were just never able to keep them the way they had to to receive God’s full blessing and approval.

And, in their defence, we’re no better. There is no way any of us would have kept all those rules either. We all have the same basic, fundamental problem. As you probably know, breaking any of those rules is called “sinning”. And deep down, we love sin.
We say we hate it. But honestly… we don’t. We might hate some sin. But those will be the ones we don’t do ourselves. And each of us will have one or two sins that we do regularly, and deep down the problem is, we do them because we love them.

This is why Yeshua came. He showed us that it is actually possible to live a life and keep every rule.
And by his sacrificing his own life he made it possible for the times we have broken those rules to be forgiven.
He also made it possible for Yahweh to send his holy spirit to live with us. To guide us. To teach us. To change us. To empower us.
This is the new wine.

The people were asking why Yeshua’s disciples didn’t do things the old way like the priests.
“Because you don’t put new wine in old wineskins. You need new wineskins.”
We have to do things differently than they did before Yeshua came.

And if you look at the way they did church in the New Testament you’ll see that they very much did use new wineskins. The way they did church was nothing like the way they did the temple with the old wine.

The priests were gone. Everyone is now a priest. There is no elite group who run the whole show.
In the new wineskins there is no clergy who do everything.

There are no elaborate buildings which glorify God by their magnificence. Because that’s the old way. It’s not the new way. Church can be anywhere, even in someone’s home. Even outside. Palatial temples are no longer the way to glorify God.

There is still prayer. But anyone can pray. Anyone can talk with God directly. Again we don’t need an elite clergy to do that for us, or to perform any rituals on our behalf.

If we want to have bread and wine, we can just pass a loaf and a cup around the table. It doesn’t need to be a gold or silver chalice. It can be a dirty old mug if that is all we have.

How about your church?
Is the church you are part of a new wineskin?
Or an old one?

Yeshua said that if it’s an old one, then the new wine will break it.
I honestly hope it does. The new wineskins are so much better.

I think this is why so many old wineskin churches stifle and suppress the new wine. They like the old ways. Especially how it makes them feel more important and special. But honestly, I think they’re only considered important and special by people of the world. Not people who have the new wine, who are no longer impressed by such things. Who recognise that pomp and ceremony are old wine, from long gone times for Christians. Worldly people think a gold covered church is something amazing. New wine people usually think it’s a waste of money, and they recognise it as belonging to the old wineskin way of impressing people.

The old wineskin rulers of churches know that if they let the new wine have freedom, their wineskin will break, their way of doing church will be gone. They won’t be elite and special any longer.
It will be replaced with a new wineskin church where everyone is special.

It will become somewhere where people are healed. Where lives are transformed. And where believers are born again.
And where they all rely on the holy spirit of God for everything they do, and they all work together as a body, glorifying Yahweh by everything they do together.

If you can’t convince your old wineskin church to change… then leave it. And find one which has.
Your life will never be the same again.

See if you can find a copy of Howard Snyder’s book and read it.



So many people these days seem to spend every spare minute they have playing computer games like Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto.
And most of the ones who just read that sentence and said “young people”… probably spend all their time watching TV.
And be honest, most of what’s on TV is mindless garbage.

And so many spend hours every day following “influencers” on TikTok or Facebook. And dreaming of becoming one.
I even heard of some recently who just broadcast their morning routine. And they have millions of followers!

Let me be blunt. And just ask:
Are you wasting your life?

If I asked you to list your biggest achievements from the last 10 years… would you even have any?
What if God asked you? Would you have any that impressed him?

If all your dreams came true, what would you achieve?
What would you become? What would that look like for you?
Would you be a world explorer? A famous scientist? An astronaut?
Or would you just reach level 60 in Warcraft? Or have a million followers on TikTok?
Would you just have tons of money and be “rich and famous”? And just not have to work, ever.

Is there anyone in the Bible you would want to be like? Do you have a Biblical hero you look up to and aspire to be like?
Paulus … changing the face of discipleship, and evangelising the world? Actually writing a huge part of the New Testament.
Saul … his country’s first king, rich, powerful? Thousands of servants. I’m sure his horses were the equivalent of owning Ferrari’s.
What about being like Ruth … poor, faithful to her mother in law, and becoming an ancestor of Yeshua?

My feeling is that most people would choose Saul from that list. But he’s the one who was furthest from God.
He wasn’t God’s choice for a king, but the worldly people if Israel chose Saul instead, because they wanted to be like the people of the countries all around them. (They wanted to be cool).

Are you obsessed with what you’re missing out on? Obsessing over what other people are getting that you’re not?

What are you willing to do to change that outcome?
Or do you expect it to just land in your lap without any effort or sacrifice on your part?
Do you really think you’re that special that it will work like that?

Spend a few minutes doing this:
Compare the you you are, with the you you could be.
And think about which of those two, (if either), is the you you should be?

If you’re always distracted by the world. Playing computer games, following influencers on TikTok, or even just spending every evening watching mindless TV… you probably don’t spend anywhere near enough time thinking about who God wants you to be.
Maybe this article is his wake up call to you… to get your attention and snap you out of the life you have blended into, to begin a new life with him. A life of adventure. A life with meaning, and satisfaction.
Maybe a tough life. Maybe a poor life. (Maybe not).
But a life you can look back on later and feel like it wasn’t wasted.

Petros, and his brother Andreas, were probably pretty happy being fishermen in Galilee.
Working hard every day, but building their family business.
But then Yeshua came along and called them to follow him.
They walked away from that life. Literally leaving it all behind.

Is Yeshua calling you?
If he is, then he’s calling you to be different to everyone else?
To stop wasting this life he’s given you, and to follow him.

Are you willing to look back on your death bed and see nothing but waste, and feel nothing but regret?
Or are you willing to walk away from it all now, and live your life to its fullest potential following Yeshua?


Left Behind?

If you’re reading this because most of your Christian friends have suddenly disappeared, and the world seems to have gone crazy and you’re wondering how you’re going to keep going…

Then it could be true. They’re gone, and you were left behind.
Yeshua has taken all his people, the Christians, out of this world and is about to send seven years of judgement on the heads of those who remain. Famines, earthquakes, asteroids, so many things. Billions of people will die. Literally billions.
They will be given chances to turn to him, but most will persist in their wilful ignorance and rebellion against him.

If this hasn’t happened yet, then can I please implore you to be 100% sure that the message of Christianity is wrong before you just reject it out of hand without actually checking it out for yourself.
Even if you think you’re a Christian, … read the New Testament and make sure.
If you think you don’t have time, then just get started by reading the few chapters linked with this article.

Honestly, until I was 25 I thought I was a Christian because I’d been brought up in a Christian country, and I’d gone to Sunday School when I was younger, and I’d been baptised when I was born. Then a disaster of my own making happened and the only people who stuck by me were Christians, so I ended up going with them to church.
And one Sunday, sitting alone because my friends were all away on a camp, I saw the bread and wine at the front of the church and suddenly realised that I belong to Yeshua.
Totally changed my life. Totally saved my life.

I still wasn’t perfect, but I was forgiven. I was loved, I was accepted. I had a purpose. I had a destiny.
I knew 100% for sure that after death I would be in heaven until the New Earth was created, and then I would live there forever with Yeshua as king. Wow.

So please. Make sure. Be convinced either way, why you are, or why you aren’t a Christian.
If you choose to not be that it’s totally up to you. But be sure.
You don’t want to read this after we’re all gone and wish you had.


Family Photos

This article is based on a story my daughter wrote when she was 16.

Kate Middleton, (Princess of Wales), just got into trouble for editing her family photo.
Not that doing that is illegal, or even wrong. But the media is desperate for a story these days and so driven by conspiracy theories that they will overreact to anything.
And the media, so caught up in its own hype that Princess Kate is gravely ill, panicked when their AI bot detected that the family photo had been edited. And thought that was somehow proof that they were right, and she really is ill.

But any of us who has Photoshop or other editing tools would happily edit our family photo if we thought it needed tweaking a little.
Even ten years ago, we would do little things like removing flash reflections in someone’s eyes.
Now we can do much more, and these days there are even AI tools which can open their eyes if someone blinked, or even turn frowns into smiles!

But even before all these amazing software tools, we always edited the family photo.
We just did it before it was taken.
It was always fake.

We always posed/staged it to make it look good.
Everyone wore their best clothes. All immaculately groomed with fresh haircuts, and perfect make up.
Everyone would always be smiling, laughing, looking incredibly happy.
We would even stand people on boxes to adjust their height to make them fit in better.

When other people see our family we want them to think it’s perfect.
When deep down, it’s just the same as everyone else’s.
We argue, we fight and yell, sometimes we even cry.
Sometimes we even wish we were part of a different family.
(But then we cool down, and we realise how fortunate we are to be part of the one we’re in).

But in our family photo we do our best to hide all that.
We are desperate to hide all the stuff going on that nobody outside the family knows about.
And we end up with a beautiful photo. A lovely memory for years to come.

It’s a nice memory, but it isn’t real.

Most families do the same thing with church.
We might have been screaming at the kids to get ready or we’ll be late.
We might have been arguing all the way to church in the car.
But the second we step in that door… it’s all smiles. Everyone is happy. We’re the perfect Christian family.

But the same problem. It’s not real.

And the problem with that, is that it makes everyone else feel pressured that they need to be that perfect family too.
All the time. Not just when they take photos or come to church.
If they have issues, they think they’re the only ones, because all the other families at church are so perfect.

And not just families.
We all put on an act at church because we want to be seen to be “good Christians” even when we’re not.

Let’s stop doing that.
Being renewed is a process, and it takes time. Nobody is perfect already.

Our church is our spiritual family.
We can be honest with them.
We can tell them that it’s not all perfect, and we’re having issues we’d like some help dealing with.

And they will still love us.
They will still accept us.

And as a church, let’s be real with each other.
And show that our love and acceptance goes beyond only being for those who pretend to be perfect.
Let’s show that it extends to everyone.

Even if their family photo is unedited and a little bit scary.



What’s your favourite song?
Perhaps “Lord, You’re Beautiful”?
Perhaps you even have a favourite band who plays your favourite song?

Have you ever heard the Insyderz version of “Lord You’re Beautiful”? (On YouTube) (Click it, so you understand what I’m saying here).

It’s a bit of a heavier beat than you might be used to.
But isn’t that still worship music?

You personally don’t have to like it. But for the ones who do, it’s still people worshipping God with their hearts. Right?
The words are the same as the ones you use. You just prefer a different music style. A different genre.

Most of us have a favourite song, or at least a favourite band.
But yours and mine could be so different.
We might not even agree on genre.

So why is it BTW, that most modern churches have exactly the same style of “worship” music? When, if you ask the congregation what genre of music they like to listen to they will have many different answers.
Maybe too many people would freak out if they got to church and the Insyderz were doing worship today.

But they’re all music. They all inspire someone. They all reach people’s hearts.
Does it matter if your genre is different to mine?

Can’t we agree that music is amazing? Sometimes life changing. Often deep, heart touching, mind altering.
We can be united in that. Even though my style and yours are probably so different. We agree that music is music.

So let’s be Christians who like to do things in different ways, but who are united and agree that we are all Christians.
That Yahweh is the only god. That Yeshua is his only son. That we are his spiritual children, and we are all saved by Yeshua’s sacrifice and not our own effort. That we are brothers and sisters.
That we’re family.

I’m different from my physical brother. But he’s still my brother.
I’m different from my spiritual brothers, but they’re still my brothers.
Even if they “do” Christianity differently from me.

No wonder the world is confused when we split into so many denominations, and faction after faction, but preach peace and unity.
Let’s focus on what we have in common instead of dividing over where we’re different.

What stops us? What makes us insist that our “denomination” is the only true one? That we’re the only ones that have everything right? Isn’t that just pride? Arrogance? Man’s thinking, not God’s enlightenment?
Does the start of Ephesians 4 describe you? “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, being tolerant of one another in love, being diligent to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace”?

We’re a body. Yeshua’s body. How can a body function properly if it’s at war with itself?
“In one spirit we’ve all been immersed into one body”

Let’s show the world the unified body of Christ.

Paulus faced the same problem. Some followed him, some followed Apollos.
We should follow Christ!
Paulus’ answer… “Is Christ divided?”

Are you?


Conflict Resolution

Read through each chapter.
Ask God to show you what you need to see.
Discuss anything that seems interesting and see where it takes you.
As you read each new chapter, look for common themes, and also discuss how it relates to the others.

And finally ask yourself, “So what?”
Was this just some interesting information? Or is it life changing?
What are you going to do differently from now on?
What choices are you going to need to change?
How is this study going to influence your lifestyle?

How do these chapters help you with how to respond to conflict?

When should you forgive?
When should you stand your ground?
When should you compromise?

What was so important about Acts 15 and the conclusions they reached?

Have you ever been wronged? How did you respond?
What else could you have done? Good or bad… what would have been the likely outcome?
How about looking back now? Is it still important to you?
What would you do now if someone wronged you in the same way?

Have you ever been the other way around where you have wronged someone?
How did they respond?
How did that make you feel?
How should they have responded?

Do you count yourself as a strong, mature Christian? Or a weak, immature one?
Does that matter? Does it change how you should respond in a conflict?

Would churches be different if we all lived like this?
Would your church be different?
Would your own life be different?

How would this affect your stress levels?
How would it affect your general contentment with life?

How would you react if Yeshua was standing next to you?
What if he was the one who you thought had wronged you?
What if you had wronged him? How would you feel?
How do you think he would respond?
Does that make him weak?


Press On

Joseph thought he was special.
He thought God was going to bless him and raise him up to be a very important person. A person that other people, even his own family, would bow down to and worship.

He was right! But he wasn’t very tactful when he told his family about it.
He was 17. The second youngest in a family of 12 boys and several sisters.
How would you think it would go if he said, “I had a dream, and you’re all going to bow down and worship me.”
He was special, but he wouldn’t have scored well on an Emotional Intelligence test.

The brothers reacted badly. Really badly.
They decided to kill him!
They threw him into a hole in the ground while they worked out what to do.
But they felt bad, because after all, he was their brother.
So in the end they only sold him into slavery. But told his father that he had been killed by a wild animal.

They sold their own brother for 20 days pay, and broke their own father’s heart.
All because they were offended by the message - instead of realising that even though it had been poorly delivered. The message was in fact the truth.

So, Joseph.
Sold as a slave by his own brothers.
Dragged off to a foreign country to be sold to people who didn’t even speak his language.
Ends up owned by an important person in Pharaoh’s household.

He works hard, shows character and integrity, and is given a lot of responsibility.
Maybe things have turned out OK for him after all.
Then his owner’s wife tries to seduce him, and when he refuses, she falsely accuses him of rape and he’s thrown into prison.
Was it worth it? Should he have just slept with her as she was demanding?
Is God out to get him? Is he cursed?
What would you think if you were Joseph in this situation?

We don’t read of Joseph having these thoughts.
He might have had them. But he pressed on.
He continued to shine out his character and integrity.
And eventually he was again given more responsibility and freedom. But still in the prison.

There he meets two of Pharaoh’s close attendants, who have been thrown in prison because Pharaoh was in a bad mood.
He interprets a dream for them and one, the cup bearer, is released but the other, the baker, is beheaded.
(Pharaoh was in a really bad mood).
The cup bearer promises to remember him, and to put in a good word with Pharaoh.

But he forgets. For two years!
Joseph has been let down again by people who should have done better.
He’s been abandoned again, just when it looked like things were turning around.
It would have been reasonable for Joseph to start packing. Ready for his release.
Maybe he did. We don’t know.

How would you have felt if that happened to you?
Maybe it has. Maybe someone let you down badly and should have done better?
But Joseph. Betrayed again. Presses on.
Would you? Would you have ended it in prison? Suicide can be pretty tempting when hope is shattered like that.

Two years later Pharaoh has a dream and the cup bearer suddenly remembers Joseph.
They send for him. He interprets Pharaoh’s dream. And is finally released!
Pharaoh puts him in charge of the palace.
Things are looking up.

Years later. Maybe ten? But at least more than 7, because the years of plenty are over and the famine is getting bad.
His brothers turn up in Egypt asking to buy grain. And they unknowingly bow down to the brother they sold into slavery. Just like Joseph had dreamed all those years ago.

What would you do to get even?
Is it revenge time? Just say, “no grain for you”. Have them killed? Take their money and send them away?

But Joseph has a different view of life than most of us today.
“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is today, to save many people alive.”

Wow. In all of that. In all the things which happened to him. All those unfair and unjust things. He still saw that the hand of God was working for good.
Instead of revenge, Joseph repays them with forgiveness and blessing, and he ends up saving his family from the famine which was sweeping the world.
If he hadn’t, there might have been no Jews today. They might have all died in the famine 3,500 years ago in Canaan.
He could have chosen revenge and had them killed. He had that power.
But he chose forgiveness. Because he recognised the hand of God when he saw it.

If God asked you, “Do you mind if I make your life totally miserable for 20 years or so, in order to bring about great blessing for others?” How would you react? Would you accept?
What if he didn’t tell you the last part. Just said, “Do you mind if I make your life totally miserable?” Would that be the same?
What if he just did it, and didn’t ask you?
Would you be willing to trust him, like Joseph did, that he was doing something good. Even when the evidence around you was looking like God had abandoned you?

What if he asked you to be a poor blind beggar for 30 years. Like Bartimaeus.
To have to beg for a living every day. To endure people’s hatred and abuse, day after day for 30 years, because you, or your parents, must have sinned and done something despicable to deserve this life that you have.
Would you be willing to endure all that for 30 years, just so Yeshua could reveal that he is really the son of Yahweh, and prove it by healing you?

Who knows what God is doing in your life. Who knows what his goal is in putting you through the things he is allowing to happen to you.
We know that he wants to build your character. He wants you to press on. To persevere. Because in persevering you build character. You become more like his son. You bring him glory.
And in building character you strengthen your faith.
But what else is he bringing about through your life?
Who knows. Joseph didn’t know what was going on through his life until it finally happened. But he trusted God all the way.

Like the people in James 4, we make our plans to go to this or that city. To make money. To do a particular job. But our plans don’t always work out.
Sometimes someone else gets the job.
Sometimes the job just vanishes because of some global virus pandemic, like COVID19, that we can’t even see.
Sometimes things totally out of our control smash our dreams and ambitions.

We make our plans. But Yahweh determines our steps.
We can choose to get angry and frustrated because things aren’t turning out the way we want.
We can even choose to walk away from God altogether.
Or we can be like Joseph and trust that God loves us, and he knows what he’s doing.

We can be like the disciples. Who gave up and went home.
They went back to being fishermen as soon as they thought Yeshua’s plan had gone wrong.
They went from thinking they were going to be sitting on the left and right of Yeshua, king of Israel, back to just being fishermen on a lake in country Galilee.
They walked away from their dreams of being significant people in the kingdom of God, to being content with just being insignificant.
All because they didn’t realise that God unfolds his plans differently than we do.
For God, it doesn’t have to all go smoothly. It doesn’t have to be in accordance with our limited dreams and expectations.
For God those “hiccups” and roadblocks along the way are all part of the original plan.
Not just to achieve some small purpose, but to pull together a thousand purposes into one story. To change lives, to change people. Permanently. From the inside.

Like Romans 8. God has a long term view of things, and in the end, everything turns out for the benefit of those who love him. Everything.

Let’s be like Joseph. Let’s press on when things don’t go as we expected. Or as we wanted them to.
Let’s trust Yahweh. That he does love us. That he is in control. And that nothing. Not a single breath. Nothing happens that he wasn’t expecting or which wasn’t part of his plan right from the beginning.
Everything that happens is the only way to achieve what he is doing through us and through our lives as we live for him, no matter what.

Press on.


The Witch of Endor

I heard this contrast in a recent sermon by Steve Nicholson. It’s a really challenging idea.

1 Samuel 28 has the account of a Philistine invasion during the reign of Saul.
Saul is on the throne, appointed by men as the king of Israel.
David is not yet king, but he’s already anointed by Yahweh to be the king of Israel.
There’s a whole sermon in those two sentences, but … for another time.

In 1 Samuel 28, the Philistines have invaded and are demanding attention.
When Saul sees them he’s afraid. He doesn’t know what to do.
He asks Yahweh, but Yahweh doesn’t answer. So Saul goes to a witch!
And from the story, it seems she was a witch with actual power.That she really did summon up the spirit of Samuel. The prophet of Yahweh who had died several years before.

But this is no surprise. Saul was only on the throne because the people had rebelled against Yahweh and said, “We want a king like all the countries around us do”. So they elected their own. Strong. Powerful. Able. The kind of king that you would expect worldly people to choose. Someone who looked good on the outside.
But on the inside Saul was weak, insecure, even dishonest.

Sadly this is often how we elect our leaders now too. Too much about the outward appearance, and not so much about the inner integrity, about honour, or about their willingness to serve our country rather than serving their own ends.

Back in 1 Samuel 17 there is another account of a Philistine invasion. The one with Goliath. When David was just a boy.
When David saw the Philistines he was angry because they were insulting Yahweh.
Outwardly David is “just a boy”. But a boy with integrity, honour, and a faith and a deep respect for Yahweh that Saul had probably never even contemplated for himself. And even though just a boy, David had already defeated a bear, and a lion. He might not have looked it, but this boy was a warrior.

How about you?
When you have a big decision to make. When you need help of advice. Where do you go?
Musicians? TV stars? Astrologers? Peers who probably know even less than you do?
Do you think money, or promotion, or a bigger house will solve all your problems?

Or do you go only to Yahweh, and trust his advice with your whole life.
Even if you make less money. Even if you lose power and influence.
Even if the World looks at you and thinks, “loser”.

Learn from history.
David won that day. David won the rest of his life.
Sure he messed up, big time. But at the end of his life, Yahweh said, “look at David, a man after my own heart”.

At the end of your life, isn’t that what you want Yahweh to say that about you?


The Gods of This World

In 2 Chronicles 25 we read how Amaziah, king of Judah, went to battle and defeated the Edomites.
He returned home with the “loot”, which included their gods.
So, for some reason, even though those gods hadn’t been able to stop him defeating the Edomites, he set them up in his own house as his own gods. (Instead of Yahweh).

That didn’t turn out too well for him.

It got me thinking, … what are the gods of this world?
How have we as Christians taken them into our own houses and set them up for ourselves?

#1 would be money?

In Australia where I live, houses are ridiculously expensive.
Almost everyone borrows a huge mortgage to buy one, and then spends almost all their income for twenty years paying it back.
Just so they can own a house.
But not just any house. Houses here are bigger than they are in most countries. And modern. Flashy.
They want to show off their house. There is a lot of pride in houses here.
Because house prices have been steadily increasing for decades, there is the view that they always will.
So people pay way more than they are really worth, because they think it will be worth even more in the future.
They don’t want to miss out.

On the stock market too, I also see a lot of businesses which are valued way above where they should be based on their income, and their assets. There is a lot of speculation about how much a company might be worth one day if things go well for it, and today’s price actually reflects the price that investors think it might be worth in the future. They don’t want to miss out.

We’re all about money.
We’re all about being “successful”.

BTW: When Amaziah was going to fight Ephraim, the prophet told him not to go because Yahweh wasn’t with him.
His answer? “But I already spent 100 talents on the army”.
You can tell where his heart was.

And, in fact, we seem to be very much about being seen to be successful.
(Even if we’re not).

Like Hong Kong people and their cars. (No disrespect to HK, but just an observation).
Hong Kongers always drive expensive cars, Mercedes, BMW, that kind of car.
They wouldn’t be seen dead in a 10 year old Ford.
Because if they did that, people would know they didn’t have lots of money and their business wasn’t as successful as it seems.
So even if they really can’t afford it, they buy a luxury car.
It’s all about the appearance of wealth.

There is honestly nothing wrong with being wealthy. Abraham was wealthy. David was wealthy.
It’s your attitude to it that turns it into a god.

Yeshua was pretty clear. He said, “You cannot worship Yahweh and money.”
You have to choose.

If you chose money then you did not choose Yahweh.
You cannot choose both.


Your Life in God’s Hands

The basis of this article came from an illustration in a sermon from Pastor Lee of the Launceston Korean church.

A small stone is a pretty ordinary thing.
Mostly we just do very ordinary things with them.
Spread them on our garden, skip them on water, occasionally keep a pretty looking one.
But in the hands of David, a single stone was used to kill the giant Goliath and to deliver Israel from her enemies.

To most of us, a shepherds staff is just a stick. We wouldn’t even know how to herd sheep with one if we had to.
But in the hands of Moses, a “stick” was used to part the Red Sea!
And to split a rock in the desert, and have water gush out.

When it comes down to it, even if the thing is something otherwise unimportant, ordinary, everyday…
It all comes down to whose hands it is in.

Like your life. Or mine.
They’re pretty much just like everyone else’s. We’re born, we live, we die.
Hopefully we do something useful along the way, but mostly we just live our lives like everyone else does.

But what if it was put into God’s hands?
What could he do with it?
Your life could end up absolutely remarkable.

Petros was just a fisherman, like hundreds of other Galileans.
Pretty much what we call “a nobody”.
But his life was used massively by God, and he’s literally world famous, even 2,000 years later.
There is no reason your life can’t be as remarkable as his if you just pass it over to God and let him do what he wants with it.

Paulus was a pretty smart guy. But his life was going totally against the God he thought he was serving!
Until God met with him and was given control of his life.
Imagine comparing notes with Paulus one day and saying, “yeah, me too” all the time.
It’s not fantasy. That could really happen for you.

If you are really willing to pass your life over into God’s total control…
Only then can he make it an extraordinary, outstanding, amazing life.
The kind of life you always wished you could have.
The kind of life you dreamed you would have.
The kind of life you thought you were going to have, but it just hasn’t worked out.

Give it to him now, and let him make something amazing of it while there’s still time.


Perfect Leaders

I know it’s difficult when our leaders fail us, particularly if they sin. And James does say they should expect a tougher judgement. But that is from God, not from us.

The whole point of Christianity is that we’re all flawed and sinful and we need Yeshua to save us. And that is because we have a fundamental problem that we inherited our sinful nature from our fathers - not that we’re just weak and could learn to control it if we tried. We’re all Christians because we believe that to be true.

So shouldn’t we expect that our leaders are also flawed and sinful too? Isn’t that just simple logic? Why would they suddenly become the only people on the planet who don’t struggle with their sin every day?
And if they’re just as flawed and sinful as us then why are we so surprised when they sin? We still sin right?

Look at leaders in the Bible…

Moses sinned so badly when he struck the rock twice that God banned him from the promised land! But he was still God’s chosen leader. What?!

David slept with someone else’s wife, tried to make it look like the baby was her husband’s, and then had him killed. And it was after that that God described David as, “A man after my own heart”. What?!
And David went on and married the woman and she became an ancestor to Yeshua. What?!

BTW: Would you have judged David more harshly than Moses, or Moses more than David?
What did God do?

Petros denied Yeshua. Three times. And only hours after saying he was willing to die with him if it came to that.
And then Yeshua put him in charge of the church. What?!

In fact, most of the Bible leaders had issues. And yet God continued to use them. Often in remarkable ways even after they had sinned.
If the modern church had been around in those days we would have fired David on the spot. He would have ended his days shepherding sheep in some small village outside of Jerusalem. Petros would have just been a fisherman. And Moses would still be wandering in the desert, along with the rest of the Jews in a leaderless daze.

We are so judgemental.

Who do we think we are to judge another man’s servant? They are God’s chosen leaders. Not ours.

And we rate sin wrongly anyway. In the modern western church divorce seems to be pretty much up there as sin #1. Does the Bible actually say that divorce is a sin? Yes, it does say that God hates divorce. But that’s not the same thing. God allowed divorce in The Law, why would he do that if it was actually sinful? (It’s often the result of sin).

Divorce causes a lot of pain and suffering. It is definitely not a good thing. But is it sin #1? I don’t think so.

Adultery? Definitely a sin, but Yeshua didn’t come down very hard on the woman caught in adultery did he? In fact, he just told her to stop doing it. No stoning. No public humiliation. No banning from the church. No shunning as you walk down the street. Just “Stop doing it.” And he did that in such a loving way that I get the impression that she went away, changed, and actually didn’t keep doing it.

So what sin did Yeshua come down hard on?
Pride. Greed. Hypocrisy.
He didn’t let people get away with those, especially if they were leaders.

How about you? Do you struggle with those?
Or have you stopped struggling and just given in to them completely?

In my experience I have seen that people are usually most vocal about the sins they think they are least likely to do themselves. Kind of like ex-smokers. Always being so judgemental of people who still smoke.
Sort of like, “I have control of that. Look at me. I would never do that.” They’re probably right. They are so consumed with pride, and arrogance, and being judgemental, and gossip, that they wouldn’t dream of committing a smaller sin like adultery.

But the sins that bring leaders down always seem to be that smaller kind don’t they. The church judges them for some more obvious thing. I don’t recall ever seeing a leader dismissed for being proud. Or greedy. Or for loving money.

When a leader sins we should help them to deal with their issues. We should support them. Like Yahweh would.

We definitely shouldn’t have an “anything goes” attitude for our leaders any more than we should for ourselves. But to have an expectation that our leaders should be perfect is just totally absurd, and completely un-Biblical.
It is destined for failure, and implying that a leader could be perfect if they just tried harder, gives young Christians a false expectation in their own struggle.

We all sin.

Our leaders will sin. Guaranteed.

When they do, let’s help them through it, rather than abandoning them to judgement and rejection.


Fat Sheep

Ezekiel 34 begins with a reprimand to the shepherds of Israel for not looking after their sheep. They’re too busy feeding themselves.
They kill them, they eat them, they use the wool, but they don’t feed them.
And now they’re all scattered. Food for wild beasts.

And Yahweh is not happy. They are his sheep. And he was entrusting them to the shepherds.
So he’s going to rescue them. And he’s also going to shepherd them himself.

Clearly he’s not talking about actual sheep. Or actual shepherds.
The sheep are in fact his people. Israel. Men, not real sheep.

And the shepherds are the leaders of Israel. The senior priests, the kings, anyone in a position of authority.

I doubt you see yourself as a shepherd of Israel, but maybe as a shepherd of God’s people.
Maybe you see yourself as a shepherd of a group of Christians?
A church. A class. A youth group. A family.
How do you measure up against Ezekiel 34? Hopefully well.

But here’s a thought.
What if you’re not a shepherd? What if you’re just a fat sheep? Like the ones mentioned in the second half of Ezekiel 34.
And instead of looking after the weaker and smaller sheep, you push them around.
You make sure you get whatever food and water you want, but then you don’t take care not to leave it muddied and trampled for the weaker sheep.

We only have one shepherd. Yeshua.

It’s like the body illustration in Romans 12. The church is described there as a body, and each one of us is a part of that, and has a particular role and responsibility to the rest of the body.
But that body only has one head. Yeshua.
Nobody in your church is the head. Not even you.
Sure, you might be important. You are necessary for the functioning of the body. And Yeshua may have raised you up for this very purpose.
But don’t get too proud. You are not the head.

We all need to remember, (myself included), that we are just sheep. We are just a part of the body. And we need to do our part to the best of our ability, but more importantly, we need to make sure that in doing our part, we are also acting in the best interests of the whole body.
As a part of the body we have that obligation, to look after it.

We can’t just be the fat sheep who just looks after himself and forgets about the rest of the flock.
Nothing wrong with being a fat sheep. The flock needs bigger stronger members to help guide and protect it.
The problem comes when those fat sheep are selfish sheep. Arrogant sheep. Self important sheep.

If you know someone like that. Be very brave and go and have a talk with them about it.
Or be a little brave and email them this.
Or be a bit timid, but email me their address, and I’ll email them this for you.
But don’t just run away.


Willing to Suffer?

Have you heard about Dave? He won the lottery.
Oh that’s good.
No, it’s bad. His wife took most of the money and ran off with another guy.
Oh that’s bad.
No, it’s good. There was plenty left, and Dave had always wanted to learn to fly.
Oh that’s good.
No, it’s bad. The engine died on his first solo flight!
Oh that’s bad.
Not that’s good. There was a parachute.
Oh that’s good.
No, it’s bad. It didn’t open!
Oh that’s bad.
Not that’s good. There was a huge haystack.
Oh that’s good.
No, it’s bad. There was a pitchfork sticking up.
Oh that’s bad.
Not that’s good. He missed the pitchfork.
Oh that’s good.
No, it’s bad. He missed the haystack.

Just a childish joke really, but it illustrates that until you get to the end of the story you don’t know if it’s good or bad.
Like life. Have you ever had what you thought was a good thing happen, but as a consequence, something bad happened?
Or the other way, something bad happened, but as a consequence something good happened?

I used to be study leader for some teen adventure camps in the mountains near the city where I lived. They were heaps of fun, and lasting a week, they gave the teens a great opportunity to slow down a bit from life and think about important things.

This particular camp was mountain biking, and sleeping in tents each night. (We had a 4WD support vehicle to carry the tents. It was fantastic). But all day riding up and down mountain trails and back roads. With nights around a camp fire.

So we had stopped at the top of a mountain for our morning break. And everyone had practised and quoted their two memory verses for the day. I had been helping one guy, and I stayed a little longer as we discussed some issues he was having. But then we had to race pretty fast down the mountain to catch the others for lunch.

At the bottom of the hill I was going to be giving a talk around “how can it ever be good to suffer?” Aiming to end up with illustrating how Yeshua was willing to do that to save us.
I had the talk worked out, but felt it could still use something, so on the way down the mountain I was still praying, asking God for one more illustration of some suffering which was beneficial.

We caught up to the stragglers right at the bottom of a pretty steep, straight section of the narrow track, and as I moved across to overtake them, the track took a sharp left turn, and I hit some very loose gravel. My front wheel slid out, I recovered, but couldn’t make the turn. I did a somersault, landing on my back, and looking up I saw my bike go sailing over my head.
Fortunately we were all wearing helmets, because mine had a 50c sized hole in the back of it where it had landed on a sharp rock. My arm was a bit funny, and my bike wasn’t looking too good. But only 200m to the lunch spot, so I walked my bike over there and the support guys took care of it.

During my talk I kept dropping my note paper, (just a small pocketbook sized piece of paper). It was like I had no strength in my fingers to squeeze it. I felt the talk went pretty well anyway, even without the extra illustration.

After lunch I was taken off to a hospital half an hour away just for a check up.
My arm was broken! (That explained the dropping of the paper). The bone was separated into two pieces, with about 1cm (⅓”) gap between them. But because of the swelling which would happen they gave me a half cast and booked me in for a hospital near home a week later to get the full one.

When I got back in the evening the kids were all quite busy discussing suffering! “He was standing there with a broken arm giving us a talk on suffering!” It really hit them, and really challenged their conclusions about Yeshua. Wow.
(God answered my extra illustration prayer after all, just not the way I was expecting!)

When I got home that weekend I went to our Youth Church that night and they prayed for my arm to be healed. (Like people do, out of caring, but without expecting anything really). And then a few days later I went to the hospital so they could put the full cast on for 6 weeks. (Which was also going to mean I was without work and income for 6 weeks because my job needed me to use a computer all day). Anyway, because the bones had been separated by such a gap, the doctor there wanted to do an x-ray to make sure that they were still lined up properly before setting them.
She came back in just staring at the x-ray and shaking her head. I asked if it was all OK. She said, “Better than OK, we can’t even see that it was ever broken. You can go home.” (Without a cast).

We don’t like suffering at the time. But it can be a good thing.
As Paulus wrote at the end of Philippians 1. “For it’s been granted to you on behalf of the Anointed, not only to trust in him, but also to suffer on his behalf — having the same struggle which you’ve seen in me, and you now hear of in me.”
In fact, Paulus here is saying that it’s a blessing. It’s something which has been granted to us.

One time when I was working in Silicon Valley we heard that our main competitor was going to announce a big advance in their product at a trade show coming up in about a month. I decided we could do that too. So I worked 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week for a month or so. I got it done, and possibly saved our company.
But towards the end I was just always tired. Come 3 o’clock in the afternoon I was just exhausted and I would take a half hour nap on the couch in my office.

So after the product was released, I went to the doctor who gave me a simple test and said, “Yep. You’ve got mono (glandular fever)”.
So, … weeks of bedrest, and minimal contact with other people to stop it spreading.
I went home to bed. It was youth group night, so my wife rang the youth group leader, and they all prayed for me to be healed. And I slept deeply for pretty much 30 hours straight. But then I woke up feeling great. (But with mono you usually do feel good first thing in the morning). So I sat in bed all day, but still feeling great. Not exhausted like had become normal.
Next day I woke up again feeling great. So I rang the doc who said that I still had weeks to go, but said if I came in he could confirm it with another test.
He came back in with the test result shaking his head, “I’ve never seen anything like this. You’re completely free of mono.”

On Sunday I went to church. And the youth group kids were like, “Why are you here! Don’t you have mono!”, and they were very reluctant to shake my hand. But I reassured them, and that I had another test which was negative. (They were still pretty hesitant).

So in both these cases, (and I have others), my suffering was used by Yahweh to challenge and build people up. (Including me!).
I wouldn’t take either of them back.

Suffering isn’t usually even illness. In the New Testament it’s mostly the treatment that Christians received at the hands of those who hated them. But these two stories are just aimed at illustrating that whatever suffering you are enduring, … it might have a good outcome. You can’t know for sure while you’re in the middle of it. You can only know later on, looking back, once you know the end of the story.

And possibly your suffering is much worse than mine. (Both mine are pretty minor really compared to most of the other stories I’ve heard). But please let me encourage you to look for the positives in yours. Look for how it is bringing about some good, especially if that is in someone else’s life. I hope you’ll find it.
Perhaps God is using you to bless others after all? Just not the way you thought.

Are you willing to welcome your suffering if it helps others come to Yeshua, or to grow in him?


Can I Help You Carry That?

At first glance the first few verses of Galatians 6 might seem a little contradictory.
Verse 2 says “Bear one another’s burdens”, but verse 5 says, “each one will bear their own load”.

As is often the case, it’s important to look at the details. The original Greek words.
One for “burden” and one for “load”.
But even in English they’re subtly different right. And that’s why the translators chose those words specifically.

A burden is something really heavy. Something which is really difficult to carry. And in earlier times, you might even use a horse or a donkey to help you carry it, because it’s just too heavy for one person.
A load is like a pile of books, or a backpack. (In fact the original Greek word was mostly used for a soldier’s backpack).

Life’s difficult sometimes.
Being a Christian is too.

But neither of those is meant to be done alone.
There are no individual Christians. We’re all part of a body. (Even if we’re being ineffective, and not living like that, we’re actually still part of a body).

And if it gets too tough for someone, then as a church we should be helping them out. Helping them with the burden for a while and walking alongside them until they get through this bit.
But we shouldn’t always be doing everything for everyone to the point that they don’t learn to carry anything themselves. If we do that they’ll just end up spoiled and lazy.
We’re trying to help them through the difficult times, so they can learn to help themselves through the easier ones. And maybe even get to the point that next time they will help someone else with their burden when they need it.

So then verse 10 challenges us as a group. “As we have occasion, to work good towards all, and especially toward those who are of our household of the faith.”
How can we do that? How can you be part of that?
How can you help your church do that?
How can your church become famous for doing that?
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to be part of!

And finally, if you think that sounds nice, but you’re carrying a burden alone at the moment. And you don’t have any time left over for helping anyone else. I understand where you’re coming from, and I genuinely hope this situation is temporary, and that you get through it soon.
But for right now, … go to your church and ask them to help you carry it. Go as soon as you can.
They will.


What’s Your Excuse

When Yahweh appeared to Moshe and told him to go and lead his people to freedom, to confront the Pharaoh of Egypt and demand that he let them go from their slavery…
He asked if Yahweh could send his little brother instead.

Seriously. The God of the universe personally appears to you, a shepherd. Proves to you who he is by doing some pretty cool miracles with your rod and your hand… And asks you to lead his people to freedom and you make excuses!
“I’m not eloquent, and I’m slow of speech”.

And, “My little brother is better at that than me, please send him instead.”
Moshe hasn’t even seen his little brother for 40 years.
He doesn’t even know if he’s still alive.

God didn’t ask you to be eloquent. He didn’t ask you to make speeches.
And he didn’t ask your little brother. He asked you.
He asked you to relay his message to Pharaoh and to lead his people.

Besides which, …
In Acts 7 we read that “the daughter of Pharaoh picked him up and reared him as her own son. And Moshe was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in words and works.”
Basically he grew up as Pharaoh’s grandson, so he went to the best “schools”, and he would have had the best teachers anywhere.
And Egypt was famous for being a very advanced culture.
And in all that, Moshe was “powerful in words and works”.

Can you think of anyone on the planet who would have been more qualified to deliver Yahweh’s message to Pharaoh and to lead the Jewish people to freedom?

It’s a scary ask for sure.
And he might have thought in the natural the he would die if he goes back.
We know he was where he was because last time he stood up for his people he got scared for his own life and ran away.
But God is asking you to go. If you die, you die. God is asking you to go.

God had taken a nobody, just an ordinary baby born to Jewish parents. Under extraordinary circumstances he had arranged to have him raised as a prince of Egypt. And Moshe was a leading figure in Egypt for most of his first 40 years.
Then he ran away, and instead of restoring him straight away Yahweh taught him to be a shepherd for the next 40 years.
(BTW: A lot of today’s church leaders could do with this lesson.
You’re a shepherd, not a CEO. Just saying).

Now, after being a shepherd for 40 years, he was actually ready for Yahweh to use him in one of the greatest roles of all history.

And he tries to wriggle out of it!

So then, let’s fast forward 3,500 years… to now.
To you.

Yahweh is very unlikely to ask you to go to Pharaoh and to lead his people to freedom.
But if you read through Romans 12 you’ll see that every one of us is a part of the body. (The body of Christians).
And just like it is with your own body, every part has a role to play. Some bigger, some smaller.
But each one of us has been uniquely gifted by God to do a particular thing. And it’s important that we do.

Are you doing it?
(If you are doing it… maybe this will help you help someone who isn’t to take that first step)

If not, why not? What’s your excuse?
Is it as good as Moshe’s?

Do you stammer?
Are you too busy with work or family?
Do you not know where to start?
Are you afraid?

You’re not the first one! I think fear was a big factor for Moshe. Otherwise he would have just jumped up and run to Pharaoh.
Punching the air as he ran, and shouting, “Yes!”, “Yes!”.
But he didn’t do that. (Not just because he wasn’t influenced by modern musicians).

And for you, even if your role is a little one, it can still be scary to get started.
But let me encourage you to trust God, who gave you the gift, to teach you how to use it, and to put you in a church where you can.

C’mon, stop making excuses and take the first step.
If you do that and then bail out and hide, at least you took the first step.
But you might find that you love it, and your whole life will change to one which has a purpose, and which has fulfilment.
And you will actually be making a difference to other people’s lives. Perhaps the way you always wanted to.
Your job might be small, but it is important.

Hearts, brains, lungs, digestive system, legs… they all seem pretty important eh.
Big toes don’t seem too important, but it seems that without them it’s really hard to walk.

And for sure, pastors and missionaries are important too. But they can’t do everything.
And honestly I think we’ve elevated their importance because we’ve been influenced by the business world.

Every part of your body is there for a reason. And you are in your church for a reason.
Talk with someone this week about what that might be, and how you can fulfil it.


Yahweh Has Your Back

When it comes down to it… what are you worried about? What makes you anxious? What is so important to you that you stress when you don’t have it?

Cars? Houses? Designer clothes?
You can survive without any of those.
Maybe feels good to have nice ones, but if it was going to cost your life, you would pass. Right?

Water? Food?
Yeah, you really do need those.

But even then…
Yeshua said, (in Matthew 6), “Don’t be anxious about your life. What you might eat, what you might drink. Nor about your body, what you might wear.”

Look at the birds… they don’t sow, or reap, or gather into storehouses.
They don’t have jobs.
Yahweh looks after them. And you are way more important to him than they are.
So, stop stressing. Yahweh will look after you.

Seek the kingdom of God, and the righteousness he gives you.
And let him provide for you.

When I was a young Christian I worked in a church for a couple of years. Living “by faith” … which for them meant I was trusting God to provide for my family and they didn’t have to pay me. It was an amazing experience, and we honestly never missed even a single meal. We never failed to pay a single bill, and were never even late with a rent payment.

Every now and then someone would take me aside after church and slip me some money. Or we would receive an anonymous envelope in the mail.
One time we had a payment due, I forget the exact amount but something like $162.
We had zero dollars. And it was the weekend, and it was due on Tuesday.
So I went to church in the morning, … but nobody took me aside.
I went again in the evening… I was making sure I talked with everyone and gave them an opportunity 😊
Right near the end someone did quietly slip me some money. $50.

We checked the mail on Monday morning. Nothing.
We checked the mail on Tuesday morning. Just a letter from our friends who were away at Bible college.
Oh well, we opened their letter to read their news. And we were surprised that it contained a cheque for $112. Exactly the amount we needed for our bill that day.

We asked them later why such an odd amount? They had received a tax return of $1120 and had given us 10%!

I can testify that Yahweh will provide, and all you have to do it seek the kingdom of God, (make his kingdom the priority in your life), and not worry about where food, money anything like that is going to come from. He has your back.

But let me add this one more thing.
Yahweh isn’t promising to pay for fancy cars, or big houses.
If you take on a huge mortgage which you really can’t afford, he’s not promising to bail you out and pay it for you.

James 4 is pretty full on.
You desire, but you don’t have. You fight and quarrel, but you just can’t get what you want.
What should you do? You should ask Yahweh for it.

But …
You do ask Yahweh for it, but still don’t have it!
Is Yeshua wrong in Matthew 6?
Is Yaakov (James) wrong in James 4?

No, says Yaakov, … You ask, but you don’t receive, because you’re asking so you can spend it on your own pleasures.
Don’t you know that fondness of the world is enmity with God?
If you take on worldly values, like fancy cars, big houses, designer clothes. All really just pleasure for yourself.
Then you are becoming an enemy of Yahweh.

And then you expect him to pay for it!

So, if you’re asking and not receiving, then honestly look at your life, and your motives, and where your focus is.
Are you being friends with the world, or are you really seeking first the kingdom of God?
Maybe you have a bigger problem than where your huge mortgage payment is going to come from if you lose your job.

And if you really are putting God’s kingdom first? If it really is the priority of your life.
Then chill out! He’s got your back. You do not have to worry about money.
(And honestly, I would say that you don’t even really have to ask him for it. He knows what you need. He’ll look after you.)
He promises, (Yeshua himself said it), he will provide for you.
Trust him.
Let that anxiety just pass on by.


Oh Foolish Galatians!

Ever feel that way?

Someone you put a lot of time into, helping them, explaining things for them, teaching them. And they responded, … but now they’ve gone back to their old way. A way which never worked for them before, and which was the reason you had to help them in the first place. And after all that… they went back!

For the Galatians, it was trying to earn their salvation by keeping the Jewish law. Not just the Ten Commandments, but the whole thing. Paulus had spent all that time explaining to them that it never worked, even for the holiest Jews. The very best it ever did for anyone was cover over their sins temporarily until Yahweh had finalised his plan and brought in a system which actually washed them away so completely it was as if you never sinned. Making it possible for him (Yahweh) to have a relationship with you, and for his spirit to live with you.

And the Galatians had accepted that. And received Yahweh’s spirit.
And now, for some reason they’ve gone back to trying to keep the law?

But not just Galatians eh. Most western churches I’ve ever been to are more focused on everyone obeying the ten commandments than they are on living by the spirit. They say they’re not, but try breaking one of those commandments and see how long you last there. Your welcome will be gone in a flash.

And they even add some things which aren’t commandments. Like divorce.
For sure, God hates divorce. But he allows it. It’s not a sin. It’s not breaking a law.

But oddly, some things which are laws, they don’t take so seriously. Honour your parents is a law. Breaking it had the death penalty. And yet “modern” Christians tolerate children completely dishonouring their parents and excuse it with, “he’s tired”, or “that’s just how they are”.

And that whole “Sabbath” thing. We moved it to Sunday and as long as you go to church for an hour or so, you’re OK.

If the Galatians were fools for going back to the law, how stupid are we, for not only going back to the law, but not even doing that properly and even deciding for ourselves which ones have to be kept and which ones we can ignore. And then adding a few of our own.

50 years ago we even added dancing. Now we’ve added smoking. But coffee is OK. Some of us add drinking alcohol, but some of us are OK with that one. Foolish Galatians? Foolish us!

Seriously. When are we going to get it?
The law was up there with Yeshua. When he died, it died. That old system of the law is gone.

If you have the spirit you’re saved. Regardless of how you behave. Regardless of what you do or don’t do.
Your sins have been washed away, and you will live forever.

Examine yourself. Examine your church.
Look for ways that you have gone back to the law.
And stop.


A Church and Its Money

I read recently that the Mormon investment arm has $100B in assets.
“To be used sometime in the future when the Lord tells us what for.”

Hasn’t he already told you?
Look after widows and orphans.
Look after the poor.
Send missionaries.
Educate your church.
I’m sure I could spend all of that on things Yeshua would be happy with.

How about your church? Probably you don’t have $100B, but most churches seem pretty well off these days. And it’s good for a church to be financially stable, but it’s not there to build a massive business empire bigger than Elon Musk’s.

One church I went to for a while was pastored by an ex-real estate mogul.
He was an ex because he lost all his money!
And now it seems he’s running a defacto real estate company via the church funds.
He, (the church), has bought up several of the properties around the church.
Currently they’re rented out to tenants, but his plan is that once his church of about 100 people has grown to 2,000 people in a few years time, he’ll be able to demolish those houses and build a big enough car park so they all have somewhere to park their cars when they come to church. (Even though it’s only a single block to a big shopping complex with several stories of free car parking).

The church has big mortgages, and it’s a real strain on the budget.
Every year they run short of money and they’re bailed out by wealthy members.
But along the way, all the contributions from “regular” people are spent on mortgage repayments. And his own, (generous), salary. (Which is fair enough, he’s the CEO of a big real estate business).
That’s God’s money. Spent on mortgages.

To the point that they used to have a youth pastor who was really doing a great work with the youth of the church and the community. His salary was pretty small in comparison. But it was too much for the budget.
Several hundred thousand dollars a year on the properties… nothing left for the $50K a year youth pastor.
So he had to go.
Seem right to you?

BTW: How does that compare with where your money goes?

Property is very expensive in Australia.
Most houses in reasonable condition in a major city would easily be able to be sold for more than $1M. But if they were bought 30 years ago they would have only cost a couple of hundred thousand at the most.
And it probably does happen, but I’ve literally never heard of anyone selling their house, downsizing, and giving most of the profit to God. Never.
I’ve also never heard of anyone inheriting a house like that and selling it and giving most of the money to God. Usually they use the inheritance to pay off their own mortgages and either upgrade to a bigger and better place for themselves, or buy an investment property to rent out for more income.

I did hear once of a prayer meeting where they were praying for a house for the pastor. But they just couldn’t afford one.
There was a knock at the door. One of their members was a farmer, and he had some news.
“I’ve just sold my farm for a lot of money, and I want to give the church a million dollars.”

It does happen! Some Christians are generous to Yahweh.
Are you one of them?
Are you giving it away as you go, or keeping it for yourself?

Read those chapters we’ve recommended here.
Let the spirit speak to you.

Ask yourself, “Where is your heart?”
Follow the trail to the money, … that’s where your heart is.


History as We Know It

It’s a bit like a Dad joke to say that history is “His Story”. But it really is.

Yahweh exists outside of time. So his story has no beginning.
But he created the universe we physically live in, and it includes time, so that has a beginning.

Almost 6,000 years ago (for us)…
in the beginning God, (Yahweh), made the world.
The planets, the stars, the air, the water, the land.
He made plants, animals, fish, birds.

He even made a couple of people, (Adam and Eve), and put them in a perfect garden.
Life was really the mythical paradise for them. The food was everywhere, the animals were friendly, the weather was perfect.
No disease, nothing bad at all.
It literally was, “The Easy Life”.

He gave them one rule.
There were two fruit trees in the garden which they weren’t allowed to eat.
They could eat anything else, but not those two trees.

But they ate one.
So God’s perfect garden was ruined. He expelled them from it.
And their easy life was gone.
Now they had to work hard to get food. They could get sick. They could even die.
Their lives, (and ours), were cursed by sin.

Later, one of their two sons even killed his brother.
They went on to have more children, and the “human race” had begun.
But our first relationship with Yahweh, living in his perfect garden, had been ruined and now we had to live in a world corrupted by our sin. Where things go wrong, where people get sick, and where people even die.

We didn’t do too well.
Turns out, if you give sin the chance, it takes over.
We treated each other horribly.
Most of our ancestors even walked away from their relationship with Yahweh.
No longer worshipping him, no longer trying to live his way.
Selfishly living only for what we saw as our own personal benefit, and not caring about that impact on other people on the planet.
(Kind of feels like we’re just about back there sometimes).

Yahweh still had his people who were faithful.
But in the end, he couldn’t stand what we had become, and he decided to wipe us out and start again.
So about 4,500 years ago he flooded the planet and wiped out everyone living there except the one faithful man he had found, (Noah), and his family. 8 people.

So he started again, with a faithful family, still living in a world contaminated by sin, but living in a way which pleased Yahweh.
He gave us one rule. (Sounds familiar).
Spread out and populate the planet.

But our drive to sin and “self rule” is strong. Again, most of us walked away from Yahweh so we could pursue our own selfish sinful desires.
And after a while we hadn’t spread out as he told us, and we started building our own tower to the sky, so we could prove how much we were our own god, and didn’t need him.
This was another line we crossed, and Yahweh intervened again.
He confused our language, so we all started speaking other languages, to force us to divide and spread out.
It worked. We did.
But we still held on to our sin.

And again, Yahweh chose a faithful man and his family. Abraham.
And prepared a place for them to live, (Israel), and moved them there from Iran.

About 300 years later there was a huge drought and famine in that whole area of the world.
But Yahweh had prepared for this, and had already sent Joseph to Egypt and even incredibly intervened to raise him from slavery and prison to be a leader of that nation, second only to Pharaoh himself.
And so Yahweh’s people were kept in safety there for hundreds of years.
But then they were forced into slavery by the Pharaoh at the time.

And Yahweh intervened again to save his people and return them to their land.
He raised up Moses, who led his people to freedom out of Egypt. But because of their sinful rebellion they had to wait 40 more years and return to their land under the leadership of Joshua.

This time he gave them more than one rule.
He famously gave them ten main rules, (the commandments). To spell out more clearly and precisely what he did and didn’t want them doing to live his way. He also gave them hundreds of other smaller rules for how to live.

And he separated out one family, the Levites, to lead them as priests, to help them live his way, and to educate them on how to do that.

They did better.
They still struggled with sin, but he gave them a way through the Levites to cover over their sin with the blood of animals.
They sinned, but they were fairly successful in retaining their relationship with Yahweh, and lived as his people for about 1500 years. (With a few hiccups).

Then, just over 2,000 years ago he changed his relationship with mankind in a massive way.
He sent his own son, (Yeshua), who lived the perfect life as an example for us, who taught us what we need to know, and who then died and was raised from death to set us free from the sin which had held us bondage for 4,000 years.
His blood doesn’t just cover over our sin, it washes it away like it never happened.
Because of this, even when we sin, we can stay in a good relationship with Yahweh.

Paulus wrote about this in Ephesians 3. A secret which had always been there, but which nobody had understood.
This was always Yahweh’s plan for us. Right from the start, he knew that this would be how we could live in a relationship with him.
And it was always his plan to include all of humanity in that relationship, not just his “chosen people”, the Jews.

And so here we are. Living in that relationship, made possible through Yeshua.

What’s next?
According to Revelation, (and several other books), Yeshua will return and physically reign on the Earth for 1,000 years, before the end of this planet and the creation of a new one. One where we will all live, without sin, for the rest of eternity.
Not just in a garden paradise, but on a whole new planet, with a massive new Jerusalem.
When? 2,000 years after Yeshua was crucified will be 2030.




One of the best church history books I’ve ever read is from the 1980’s: “The Torch of the Testimony” by Kennedy.

It traces the history of all sorts of “branches” of the church, but as it does, a pattern emerges.
They usually branch off in response to some spiritual revelation about the errors of the current more main stream church.
But somehow they almost always get stuck on some man-made doctrine which they use to elevate themselves to “the one true church” status. But which inevitably turns out to have been wrong from the start, and which is often part of the spiritual awakening of the next branch.

So, firstly. What doctrine has your church got wrong?
What do they do which is more man made and honestly neither spirit made, nor Bible based?
From what I’ve seen there will be something.
Is it the hierarchical, authoritarian leadership structure?
Over emphasis of entertainment and music over actual Bible teaching?
Each one will be different, but there always seems to be something.
And of course, it’s proponents just can’t see that they’re possibly wrong on it.

As an example, take the modern Evangelical church as a whole.
Kennedy points out that it has a massive focus on “The Decision”.
Getting people to the point that they walk down the front and stand there as a way of declaring that they have made a decision to follow Yeshua.

Of course that’s not a bad thing in and of itself.
But if we think the job’s done once we’ve gotten a decision. That’s basically the same as thinking we’ve done our job as parents once the baby is born.
But in reality, that is when the job really starts.

James says, “Faith without works is dead”. And if all the new Christian has is a point in time where they made a “decision”. They don’t have much do they.
They need to be discipled. Not just in terms of what the Bible says, but in terms of what that means for their life choices.
What that means for how they are now part of the church and how they should use their gifts and talents to help build the next generation of the church. Even if “all” they do is stack the chairs every week, or clean up after everyone leaves.
We rate that as a fairly low job, until it’s not done. Then we notice it. Then we care about it. Then we want it done.

That’s when we realise that it’s just as important as the sermon.
And not having it done impacts us as a body, just like every other job which needs doing to keep our body functioning properly as our father designed it.

We need to educate young Christians about body life. About each of us having been given a unique role in the church that only we can do. We need to teach them about everyone in the church being actively involved, not just the handful of people up the front every week.

And as a church, we need to stop measuring our success by how many “decisions” there have been. But by how faithful we have been to our job as a church. All of us. Not just the evangelists.

And as individuals, we need to measure our success, not by whether we can tick a box, “I’m a Christian. I made a decision.” But by whether our faith has works. Whether becoming a Christian made any difference to the way we live our lives.
Whether we’re actually a part of this church and it would notice if we left.

How about your church? Is it discipling? Or just evangelising?
Is it working as a body? Or more like a business?

How about you? Does your faith have works?
Are you an active part of your church body?

Who needs to change?
What can you do to make that happen?



In Judges 7 we read about Gideon and how Yahweh whittled his army of 10,000 down to only 300 men so he could attack and defeat his enemy. And Yahweh would clearly have all the credit and they wouldn’t be able to say, “Our own hands saved us”.

The enemy was so numerous, that we’re just told, “they were like locusts”.

So Gideon attacked 10,000 soldiers with only 300 men, each carrying a trumpet and a pitcher which had a torch burning inside, (but which couldn’t be seen from the outs).
They surrounded the camp, and then suddenly they all blew their trumpets and broke their pitcher, letting the fire of the torch shine out.
Normally 1 soldier per group of 100 would be the trumpeter and carry the torch. So suddenly hearing 300 trumpets and seeing the torches surrounding them, their enemy would have thought… “Crikey, 30,000 men are attacking us! And we’re surrounded!”… No wonder they panicked.

Breaking the pitcher let the light of God shine out, and brought him the glory.
And for us too. In Romans 9 Paulus says we’re like clay vessels, which God uses for his own purposes.
Once we become a Christian God usually breaks us a bit to let his light shine out from us. And he uses that opportunity to fix some part of us so we conform more to his son and less to the world. Then he breaks some more, and conforms us some more.

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form of glueing broken pottery back together using gold glue.

In Japan, it’s considered prideful to think that you’re perfect, (because everyone knows you’re not), so it has become the custom amongst artisans and craftsmen to deliberately make it clear that you’re not trying to be perfect.
For example, when they make bowls they will deliberately distort them a little so they’re obviously not exactly round. They’re kind of saying, “I wasn’t even trying to make it perfect”.

With kinstugi they’re not trying to make the pottery look perfect again. They’re not trying to cover up the fact that it was broken.
In fact they’re highlighting it. Highlighting the imperfection, highlighting that it’s been broken and repaired.

It’s also quite beautiful to see something which was broken, more than restored. And the gold makes it feel like that ordinary bowl is now so treasured that its owner even used gold to fix it. It’s now even more special than the original bowl ever was.

And that’s how Yahweh sees us. Something everyone thought was just ordinary, but to him is so treasured that he uses gold to fix us.
I like the idea that when Yahweh breaks and fixes us as Christians, you can see the golden glue that he uses to do that. It’s his trademark, and kind of an honour for us to say, “Look where God fixed part of me!”. Not for our glory, but for his.

It’s not shameful to have been broken by God, in fact, it’s an honour that he considers us his children and worthy of fixing.
In Hebrews 12 we read “My son, don’t take the discipline of Yahweh lightly, nor give up when exposed by him. For whomever Yahweh loves, he disciplines. And he flogs every son whom he accepts to himself.”
Because Yahweh loves you, he breaks and disciplines you. To make you better.
Let him.

It’s something to be proud of.
Show off your golden glue. Look for it in others.
We, (Christians), are all God’s artwork. We are all his treasure.


Philemon Summary

Please follow this link to our summary of the book of Philemon.

A wonderful short letter which highlights our need to forgive others, and to trust that Yahweh is looking out for us, even when things aren’t going the way we want.


Standardised Modern Church

What’s the church gathering like where you go?

From what I’ve seen, most modern churches do something along the lines of

3 more songs
see you in a week

Does that seem Biblical to you?
When you read about church gatherings in the New Testament, does it sound like that’s what they did?

We do want to be culturally relevant, but we also need to watch out for those parts of our culture which are not Christian coming in and taking over. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if non Christians don’t like the way we do church. It’s not for them.
We need to be going to them and reaching out to them with God’s message. And then they will want to come to our gathering regardless of its form or style.

Usually only a small handful of people are actually involved, the rest of us are just watching.
The music is usually very contemporary, with a quite professional sounding band. It’s kind of like you’re at a music concert.
But whether you sing along or not doesn’t really matter.

When I read about gatherings in the New Testament it feels like everyone is involved. Everyone has some kind of part to play. Not all “out the front” but all part of it, and if you’re not there it won’t be the same. Just like if even a little bit of your body is cut off, like a toe, or a finger, … it’s just never the same.

They even seemed to eat together most of the time.
And the church I was part of when I first became a Christian used to do that every week. It was a fantastic opportunity to get to know everyone, and to share encouraging and edifying things with each other (not just to talk about the weather, or sport). And definitely not for the younger people to sit around antisocially playing computer games on their mobile devices.
But now it’s too much hassle. We might do it a couple of times a year. Or not at all for most of the churches I know.

Our focus these days seems to just be “Send them home happy”.
And we seem to run it like a club, or a business. So coordinated, so organised.
Why are we so scared to ask the holy spirit to run it for us?
What if he wants to go for 3 hours this week? What if he just wants 5 minutes of our time and sends us out empowered?

And recently I’m hearing of churches becoming community centres with game areas, craft groups, cafe’s, … again just to attract non Christians, and make us look better to the community.
Who cares what non Christians think about church. It’s not for them.
We only need to care what God thinks about our church. If he’s happy, then what others think is totally irrelevant.

We also have churches running schools where anyone can attend.
But then the non Christian parents insist that we can no longer say that being actively gay is sinful or that gender is physical.
And then we’re so dependent on their financial contribution that we give in and stop saying it.

Yeshua said that where we gather in his name, he is there among us.
Imagine if Yeshua physically walked into your church gathering. Would it change? Or would you all ignore him and keep going with what you normally do.
Of course we would change.
So why don’t we realise that he’s always there … and change it to be for him instead of for them?

Please mail me if your church is NOT like that. I really do want to hear about it.



What would you do if you were a hostage negotiator?
Especially if they’re not bluffing and they start killing people.
And the hostages are a bunch of terrified kindergarten kids.
You have to find out what the guy wants right? And if possible, give it to him!
Otherwise everyone is going to die.

Yahweh was really angry when Adam and Eve sinned. In fact, he wanted to kill them.
He has wanted to kill everyone who ever sinned since then. Including me. Including you.

But his love for us has stopped him doing it so far.
In fact, it was actually his love which made him kick Adam and Eve out of the garden and make sure they couldn’t go back.
If they had stayed there and eaten the fruit of the other tree, they would have lived forever and Yahweh wouldn’t have been able to kill them. But also, he wouldn’t have been able to save them from the consequence of their sin.
They would have been lost forever.

Yahweh had a plan. It was a long term plan, not a quick fix.

Later he got so upset again at all the sin of mankind that he wiped them all out by flooding the entire planet to kill everyone and start again.
After Noah and family started us off again, Yahweh gave us a way to cover over our sin so it wasn’t so much in his face. It was still there, it still needed to be dealt with, but it was kind of tucked away in the bottom drawer. But not forgotten.
Not forgiven.
Still a problem.

When someone dies we usually feel some level of sadness, some level of loss.
Although if it was someone we think of as a bad person, like a drug dealer, or a serial rapist, or someone like Hitler, or some tyrant who mistreated everyone, we honestly don’t feel that bad do we. Almost like they deserved it.

But if it’s someone really lovely, who spent their life helping others. Like mother Theresa, (who used to say she treated every person in need as if it was Yeshua himself there in front of her), or someone who was so selfless and modest we never even heard of them until after… then we feel like we lost something. We do feel that sadness.

Or someone close. Like family. Or a child.
That’s heartbreaking.

And if it’s someone lovely and adored like that, and they die in really horrific circumstances, well that’s world news. That’s a national day of mourning, that really gets us where it hurts.
If Mother Theresa had been raped and killed by a gang of youths on drugs, just out for some fun abusing a nun… we would be honestly appalled.
That would be truly horrible news to read.
Imagine being that person’s parents!

God’s anger with sin needed calming down.
His son Yeshua lived a perfect, sinless, selfless, life. Honestly way way better than even Mother Theresa.
And he was killed in a totally brutal and unjust murder. Abused, ridiculed, spat on, beaten, flogged, humiliated.
He could have called on angels to save him. But he chose instead to endure it for you and me.

A propitiation is a gift, given to someone with the express purpose of calming their anger.
Yeshua’s death was a propitiation given to his father to calm his anger over sin.
The way we killed him would have made Yahweh even more angry, but Yeshua basically let Yahweh take it out on him, instead of us. As a way of enabling Yahweh to calm his anger over our sin.
It specifically calmed Yahweh down so he no longer needed to kill everyone because of their sin.
Without this, we would all still have a death sentence on our heads.

It’s more than Yeshua died in your place. It’s more than he took the punishment for you.
He specifically did this to be the propitiation for Yahweh’s righteous anger over our sin.

What if the man with the gun threatening to kill the class of kindergarten kids will only be calmed down and let them go if you let him kill you instead? Are you willing to do it?

What if all the hostages aren’t kindergarten kids, but they’re from the prison: rapists, murderers, drug dealers? What if Hitler is one of the hostages? Will you die for them?
What if the hostages are all the worst of the worst of people who have ever lived?
Are you still willing to be killed, in a brutal and horrific way? To save them?

Or would you walk away and let them get what they deserve?

In reality, you were the hostage.
You deserved the anger of Yahweh and the death he was going to bring you.
But Yeshua didn’t walk away.


God Includes, We Exclude

In Acts 15 how they came together to discuss whether Gentiles (non Jews) who became Christians need to be circumcised. Petros gives a speech about how God accepted uncircumcised Gentiles when he first went to them “in the early days”. So if God accepts them, so should we. So why add rules on top of that?
(He had originally gone to them after the spirit sent him a vision/dream three times about eating “unclean” animals. Specifically to wake him up to realise that Gentiles are saved too!)

Barnabas and Paulus told how they had seen miracles done among the Gentiles in other cities where they had been ministering.

Yaakov/James, (the leader in Jerusalem), makes the decision, (and they agree). The Gentiles should abstain from anything polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from food which has been strangled, and from blood. (So they had to start draining the blood from animals before they could eat them).
It all sounds fair enough. Logical. No need for the whole Jewish Law, but just these bits should be enough.

This was one of the earliest cases of us making the rules about who is in and who is out.
But whenever we do that, we’re always focused on who is out.
Who is not really a Christian?
God never had those rules.
But these guys used human logic and reason to come up with a way of deciding who they would accept, and have fellowship with, and who they would reject.

Instead of relying on the holy spirit to decide who is in and who is out, and getting on with serving our own lives, … we have a tendency to want to be able to decide. So any trouble makers can be despatched and we can get on in peace with “real” Christianity.
But there is no measure that we can use. We can only judge the outside of a person. So whatever man made measurement we come up with… it will fail. Which is why it’s not about following certain rules and regulations, but about … your faith, and whether you have it or not.

How about you? Do you have a way to decide for yourself who is and who isn’t a Christian?
Like: They have to say they’re Christian in a public place, and get baptised in water, and take communion. Do you have that kind of a rule? Or something similar?
Is your rule based on behaviour? And are there certain things that if they do those… they’re out an “obviously” not a Christian after all?

Can a homosexual be a Christian?
Can an adulterer?
A thief?

What about someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else?

God’s basic rule is… “Do you know my son?”
And kind of assumed in that, but sort of stated explicitly in Matthew 7… “Does he know you?”

In fact, in Romans 1-2, Paulus even seems to be implying that God’s rule is even more inclusive.
That we will have eternal life as long as we haven’t rejected something which God has revealed to us of himself.

If all we have ever been shown is that there is an amazing creation and there must be a creator God who made it all… and we accepted that and looked for him, and we respected and honoured him, … Romans makes me think we’re OK.
But if we saw that and rejected that there is a creator. We rejected the idea of a god. … we’re in trouble.
If we have heard of his son, and the sacrifice he became on our behalf to redeem us from the penalty of our sins… and we accepted that and put our life into his hands… it seems we’re OK.
But if we realised that but we rejected it… we’re in trouble.

Yahweh is much more about being inclusive than we are.
We focus on who is out. God focuses on who is in.
If he had been like us, he would have told Yeshua, “No need to go there. Stay here and we’ll have a wonderful eternity without them. They all deserve what they’re getting.”
Literally thank God that he isn’t like us. His love for us asked his son to sacrifice so that we would be in.
His son’s love for us compelled him to say yes.

Early in the second century a movement arose which became labelled “gnosticism”.
Led by Marcion, they were also labelled Marcionism.
They taught/believed that there was a creator who was the lesser vengeful god of the Old Testament. And that Yeshua was an emissary of the supreme god. And that Paulus was the only true apostle of Yeshua.
And if you know this, (and believe it), … you’re in.
If you don’t believe it… you’re out.
Their in/out rule was all based on your knowledge and understanding of certain things. Hence “gnosticism”.

Marcion and his followers rejected the Old Testament, and many of the New Testament books, and of those they kept, they edited many parts. And thus they redefined Christianity to be something they could accept. The “true” Christianity.

The church of the time wasn’t too sure how to respond to this…
So, like they did in Acts 15, they got together with the leaders of the day and had a “council”.
By then there was a “bishop” of every major church, and these bishops all got together to discuss it.
To battle this over intellectualisation of Christianity, they came up with an intellectual definition of the Christian faith.
They made their own in/out rule based on intellectual knowledge and understanding of what Christianity was all about.

When different people started arguing about which of the books and letters were genuine, and which were not…
They had another council, of all the bishops from all the “important” churches.
And the council decided which books are in fact in, and which are out. And came up with a list of 27 which is what non-catholic churches today accept as the New Testament.

For every challenge, there was a council which defined, “once for all” what the correct answer was.

But they were missing the point.
The correct answer is, “Do you know my son? Does he know you?”
Only the holy spirit can know if you do. We cannot know the answer for certain of any other human.
And any rule we come up with to do that, will fail.

Remember in Matthew 13, Yeshua told the analogy of four farmers who sowed seed in different soils.
But in the second half, he told another analogy of a farmer who sowed quality seed, but weeds grew up among the good plants.
But instead of trying to rip out the weeds, and risk uprooting some good plants in the process. The farmer, (God), said to leave the weeds until the harvest, at which time they will be easily distinguished from the good plants, and they can be separated and burned.

Instead of our pre-occupation with weeds. With defining who is and isn’t a weed. Who should and shouldn’t be excluded from the church. In fact, often which churches are and aren’t actually Christian… and who we should and shouldn’t have fellowship with…
Let’s let them all grow together. Let’s let the holy spirit worry about how to control the weeds, and we just get on with being the best plant we can be.

And let’s look forward to the harvest.


Mistakes in the New Testament

In Acts 1 we read how Petros led the disciples to choose a replacement for Yehuda/Judah, and they came up with two possibles… Yosef and Matthias. And they drew lots to see who should be selected, and the lot fell to Matthias.

What’s wrong with that?
Yeshua had told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the holy spirit. (Check back to verses 4 & 5).
But instead they went back and started in their own thinking to manage things like the world does.
“We should be 12”.
“We need a replacement”.
“Who do we think is a good candidate…”
“OK, we have two that’s enough. Let’s “toss a coin” and see who God chooses.”

I’m sure they were a bit more spiritual than that, with prayer and all. But basically that’s what happened.

In Acts 9 we read about the replacement which Yahweh chose himself. Saul/Paulus.

Sometimes it seems right and logical when we run churches according to our own understanding.
But it can lead us astray, and we can miss the will of God.
Church is not a business. It’s not a club. It shouldn’t be run like one.
When we have a big decision to make we should rely ONLY on the holy spirit to guide us.
Even if it seems “weird” or “illogical”.

Years later we read in Acts 15 how they came together to discuss whether Gentiles (non Jews) who became Christians need to be circumcised. Petros gives a speech about how God accepted (uncircumcised) Gentiles when he first went to them “in the early days”. So if God accepts them, so should we. So why add rules on top of that? (He had originally gone to them after the spirit sent him a vision/dream three times about eating “unclean” animals. Specifically to wake him up to realise that Gentiles are saved too!)

Barnabas and Paulus told how they had seen miracles done among the Gentiles in other cities where they had been ministering.

Yaakov/James, (the leader in Jerusalem), makes the decision, (and they agree). The Gentiles should abstain from anything polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from food which has been strangled, and from blood. (So they had to start draining the blood from animals before they could eat them).
It all sounds fair enough. Logical. No need for the whole Jewish Law, but just these bits should be enough.

But again, this was man’s wisdom.
Christianity has no rules. The Law was crucified too. And we are free to do whatever we want. (But we shouldn’t misuse that freedom and should still do the “right” thing, whatever that is).

The old covenant was pretty strong against sexual immorality, and basically Christians should be living above reproach. So that all sounds fine, right? But why can’t we strangle something and eat it? Maybe if we have Jewish neighbours and we don’t want to offend them, but it can’t be a rule. Yeshua never taught that. Same with blood. Probably a good idea to drain the blood. But it’s not a rule. You don’t suddenly become a non Christian if you eat something with blood in it.
For that matter you don’t become a non Christian if you’re sexually immoral either. You shouldn’t be doing it. But your eternal life is not dependent on your actions. So you can’t gain it or lose it by something you do.
(What you do might reveal your heart, and whether you do actually have faith in Yeshua, and the holy spirit… but it cannot change your destiny).

Personally what I think they should have declared was, “Welcome to the family! Remember that your life affects the reputation of Yeshua, so live accordingly in your community. But listen to the spirit. Live in freedom.”

And I have the benefit of hindsight, and seeing how that worked out. But they relied on their own thinking, and worldly wisdom to make a decision about the future of the church. And nowhere do we read that they spent x days praying and fasting for the spirit to reveal his answer… they just had a big discussion where everyone put forward their point of view, and then made a conclusion that everyone was OK with.

The other big mistake about this section. Is that it helped establish the Jerusalem church as the final arbiter. And Yaakov in particular as the leader of that church, effectively it’s “bishop”, (even though a church should be led by a group of elders, not a single man).
And planted the seed not just for a clerical hierarchy, but also a hierarchy amongst churches where one church was elevated above others, (Jerusalem), and which led to the Roman church being elevated above all (because Rome was then the centre of the political world), and the “bishop” of Rome becoming the chief among all church leaders globally. The Roman Catholic Church, and all the problems that has brought us with it’s reliance on outside actions instead of inside transformations.
See more about this in the article God Includes, We Exclude.

So again, we see well meaning leaders, relying on man’s thinking instead of relying solely on the holy spirit to lead them.
No church needs to ask another church what it should do. We ALL have the holy spirit and we need only ask him.
And while their conclusion seems reasonable, it undermined the new way of God dealing with mankind, and relating directly to us through his spirit. It fell back on the old way of doing things which had gotten the Jewish leaders into so much trouble when they used their human logic to reject Yeshua and kill their own Messiah, all the while convinced that they were doing the work of God!

But they didn’t have the holy spirit… so maybe they didn’t know any better.

And finally, let’s look at Petros again. Always a bit of a handful. Even denying he knew Yeshua to save his own skin! (But like we wouldn’t have done the same thing).

In Galatians 2 Paulus recalls how he, (and Barnabas), had been commissioned by those leaders who were “pillars” of the church: Yaakov/James, Cephas/Peter, Yohannes/John. But he tells how he took Petros aside when he came to Antioch because before the Jewish Christians sent from Jerusalem by Yaakov arrived, Petros used to eat with non Jews. As he should have. We all know that already from Acts 15 - that non-Jews were clearly accepted as Christians if they believed. But when Yaakov’s people arrived, Petros wouldn’t hang out with Gentiles any more, and spent his time only with Jews. Following all their Jewish laws and traditions. Total hypocrisy.
This sent a confusing and incorrect message about whether Jews and Gentiles are the same in Christianity. (They are).
And makes it look like Jews are better/more important than Gentiles. And worse, that we still need to keep the Jewish traditions when we become Christians.
So Paulus rebuked him. Openly.
Clearly stating that Jews and Gentiles are both only saved by faith in the Anointed Yeshua. And that following Jewish laws and traditions never saved anyone and never will.

Petros. Even though by this time was a leader amongst the church, and had himself been a Christian for more than 10 years. Who had been present at that “Council of Jerusalem” where they discussed this very thing.
Got sucked into the politics and social manipulation which elevates one section of society above others, and only wanted to be seen to be part of the cool crowd (the Jews), even though this meant that he totally dissed his Gentile friends, and even made them doubt their own salvation.

So we’ve only looked at a few examples. But hopefully enough for you to realise that THE mistake is relying on your own understanding instead of desperately seeking the holy spirit and relying only on him for your decisions. Especially church decisions.

Hopefully this brief look has helped you realise where you, personally, are going wrong, and what to do about it.
Hopefully it motivates you to learn from their mistakes instead of repeating them.
A famous comedian once said, “You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself”

But seriously. Learn from them. So your life and service can be better than they would have been without this lesson.
Even if you’re really smart, don’t rely on your own judgement and logic. Listen to the spirt.


The Appearance of Righteousness?

To my mind, the story of Yehudah (Judah) and Tamar is one of the strangest in the Old Testament.
It has two brothers who were so evil that Yahweh actually killed them.
A father who sidestepped the same law one of them was killed for breaking, and who slept with his prostitute daughter in law, threatened to burn her alive, and yet he lived.
And a double widow who deliberately, through deception, became pregnant as a prostitute, to her own father in law, and was not only declared righteous, but who became a great, great…. great, grandmother to Yeshua, the saviour of mankind!

Hollywood, eat your heart out.

This story really hilights the difference between the appearance of righteousness, on the outside, as seen by others, and actual righteousness, on the inside, seen only by ourselves and Yahweh.

The first brother, Er, didn’t even have the appearance of righteousness, he was so wicked that Yahweh intervened and killed him.
Of course Yahweh had killed many evil people in the flood. But it raises the question, how evil do you have to be for God to personally intervene and to specifically kill you himself?

His brother Onan had the appearance of righteousness. He married his brother’s widow as he should have by their law. He slept with her to produce offspring, as he should have. But he withdrew at the last minute to make sure that no baby would result. Possibly even Tamar wasn’t aware of that. Certainly from outside the marriage bed, everyone would have thought he was an honourable brother, doing what he could to honour his dead brother and to provide for his widow.

The father, Yehudah (Jacob), had the appearance of righteousness. He had no obligation to provide children to her himself, but his youngest son did. But he used the excuse of the son’s very young age to play for time, all the while having no intention whatsoever of asking his third son to fulfil his obligation when he became old enough to do so. On the outside he appeared to be taking care of his sons’ widow. On the inside he was plotting and scheming on how to do the very opposite of that. (As he had done his whole life).

The widow, Tamar, on the other hand, had the appearance of unrighteousness, but actually she was the only righteous one in the whole story. Obviously she fell for the wrong kind of guy in the beginning. But Yahweh didn’t kill her, only her husband. Yahweh also didn’t kill her when her second husband decided to break the law and the obligation he had to his brother, (and to Yahweh).
And he didn’t even kill her when she became a prostitute and deceived her father in law into sleeping with her to finally fulfil the family obligation to provide heirs for her first husband.

It seems that God’s plan right from the outset was for Tamar, the only one declared righteous in this whole story, to bear the descendant of Yehudah who was to become the ancestor of Yeshua (the saviour).
And in the movie version, it would seem that the forces of evil had gotten wind of the plan, and they were desperately doing all they could to derail God’s plan any way they could. Possibly with the thought that if they can stop the line here, there would be no Yeshua and they would win the war, and control humanity forever.

Yehudah’s firstborn marries the destined woman. The plan is unfolding…
But the forces of evil corrupt the husband in their attempt to thwart the plans of Yahweh.
And we discover that he becomes so evil that Yahweh intervenes directly and kills him himself. Destroying his own plan?
Perhaps evil has won after all?

==Commercial break==

Now the Law, that a brother must have children with his brother’s widow was not actually handed down by Yahweh for about 250 years after this. But it seems that they already knew that this was your obligation if your brother passed away leaving no children.

It still is a law for Jews, and for those Christians who claim that they keep the law. Although I think it went the way of not eating pork, and it’s one of the laws that gets ignored by those self righteous people who want to earn their own salvation, but who actually want to pick and choose which laws they are keeping.
(Although wouldn’t that be up to the law maker? Just sayin’).
You know there are no rules for Christians. (Unless they’re self righteous).

Er’s brother, Onan was reluctant, so he tried to fulfil his obligation in a superficial, legalistic way, by doing his duty and having sex with his brother’s widow, but he secretly withdrew at the last minute so she wouldn’t become pregnant. Nobody needed to know, they could all go on thinking he was a great guy.
How often do we do the same thing? How often do we just settle for the superficial appearance of righteousness, when we know in our hearts how evil we actually are?

The forces of evil tried to use a bit more subtlety and deception this time. But this evil was also terminated by death at the hands of Yahweh.
The Hollywood drama would have us wondering - is Yahweh trying to ruin his own plan?
Or does he know that his plan will succeed no matter what and he doesn’t want to use anyone as evil as this to bring it about?

==Commercial break==

Yehudah knew that the obligation now passed to his youngest son, Shelah. But he had the convenient excuse that he was still too young. So he promised that Shelah would fulfil his obligation when he was old enough. He was just playing for time, and he was looking for a way out of this, in case his last son became 3 out of 3 to sleep with Tamar and then to be killed by Yahweh.
You can see his thinking. You might even agree with it. How horrible for a father to lose three of his sons like this.

But even when Shelah was grown, the obligation was not met.
So Tamar took matters into her own hands and deceived the recently widowed Yehudah into sleeping with her by pretending to be a prostitute. (That shouldn’t have worked right? And that fact that it did says a lot about his righteousness too. Or his lack of it).

Even then he was so self-righteous that when he heard that she had become pregnant as a prostitute, he declared the death penalty on her. (Knowing that he also had committed the other half of the same crime himself! It’s OK for him to visit a prostitute, but not OK for her to be one!).
How often do we do that? Point out the failings of others when our other three fingers are tucked under our hand pointing back at us because we do the same things!

So in the end he had to admit that he was a hypocrite, and that she was more righteous than him, (and his whole family), because she had done what was needed to fulfil the obligation to the law of Yahweh, when he and his sons had all refused.

In the end, Yahweh’s plan was successful. (It was unusual, a bit “out there”, but it was successful).

There is a lot for us in this story.
Who is righteous? Who is evil? Who is just like us?
Would we have done the same?

Next time you feel judgemental on someone else, be honest and ask yourself if you’re actually the same.
If you are sure you’re not. Ask Yahweh to show you if you are the same.
You know he will.


It’s Our Turn

I’m not sure if you’ve read “The Torch of the Testimony” by Kennedy.
You should. It’s out of print, but you can get it for free from

It is a history of the church. But it is the stories of all the smaller groups who were persecuted for being Christian. And how they responded, and how that worked out. It really is a fascinating read. (Well, it was for me at least).

But now there a few things are happening in our world.

Gay/Trans rights are advancing fast. And if you disagree with that then you better keep quiet or you could lose your job, or even find yourself faced with criminal charges or litigation.

WHO/Big pharma is running the show. And if you disagree with that and you refuse their mandates and lockdowns, then, again, you could lose your job, or even find yourself faced with criminal charges. Many people have already had this happen to them, but they stuck with their decision and endured it.

Abortion rights are a big fight again. People are demanding the right to kill babies in the womb. Of course there are edge cases where they argue some truly sad stories to justify those cases. But really, those are a tiny tiny minority of the massive number of abortions they want to commit. Let’s be honest here, abortion is mostly for the mother’s own convenience.

Even the women in power thing. There were one or two women in power in the Bible. But only when no men would stand up. It was not the normal pattern. In fact, according to the Bible, women should be submissive. (Not slaves, just submissive, as in they have valid opinions, but they defer to the men to make the final decisions). This also doesn’t give men the right to think they’re the boss, or somehow more important than the women. They should be making those decisions, but sacrificing themselves, to choose the best possible outcome for the women and their family, not the most favourable outcome just for themselves.
But if you speak up against women in power you’re a sexist. Even though if only having men in power was an error as they claim. The new trend of only women in power is just the opposite error.

The big problem these days… if you speak out against anything woke… then they demand that you lose your job and should never be allowed to work again. Or they start litigation. It’s so vindictive. It’s so hateful.
I get that it’s coming from feelings of being the victim up until now. But again this is just the opposite error.

From a purely secular point of view, if we are going to change and move forward… then instead of the opposite error then we have to move forward as equals. We have to share and discuss our different opinions, and find a way forward together.
Secularly, we have to stop dividing on gender, or sexuality, or race (which is really skin, since there is only one race, the human race). Even secularly we have to treat people fairly and listen to what they have to say, and accept that some people will have a different opinion to ours.

From a Christian point of view, we have to value and respect everyone. Even if their views on things are totally different to ours.
We should still stand up for our views. But in a respectful way.
We cannot demand that they change. But we absolutely must make sure that the church holds on to God’s values and is not controlled by the world and what is going on there.
And individually we have to stand for what we know is right. Regardless of what it costs us to do that.

But the government is even moving up to take control of our children.
They think it’s OK to vaccinate your children without your consent. Or even without your knowledge!!
And now, they’re even pushing to make it OK to let your child choose gender reassignment surgery, again without your consent!
And even if your child is just questioning their sexuality, or their gender. And you, as the parent, are seen to not be supporting their choice, … they can take your child away and put them into government care.
Are you kidding me! I can’t even tell my child what the Bible says when they come home from school where they have been given explicit sex and gender classes without my knowledge. This is insanity.
But Christian parents cannot stand for this. And if we do … we may well lose our children. What a horrendous cost.

These are the choices we are, and will be facing. And it’s only going to escalate from here.

The other area which is changing fast, is the digital economy. Once there is no more cash, and the only way to buy and sell is to use a digital currency… the government can control you completely. Speak out and they close your account. Then how are you even going to buy food to feed your family, pay rent, or electricity? We already see the Chinese government doing this to people who have spoken out against their policies. But this power is coming to the West too.

With all these woke ideas being pushed relentlessly, Christians are rapidly becoming portrayed as the bad guys.
Of course Islam is even more against these ideas too. But somehow nobody complains about them. (Too scared I think).
And Jews too.
And even some other countries are completely against woke.
So more than 1/3 of the planet outright disagrees … and of course even in Western cultures, not all the “non-religious” agree with it either, but now in the West, you’re not allowed to disagree or you’re full of hate and you should be punished.
I can tell you who’s full of hate. And it’s not us!

That punishment is already severe, becoming unemployable, losing your children, fines, becoming a pariah.
How long before that punishment is death or imprisonment?
When it is, what will we do as Christians? Keep quite for our own protection and let the world go to hell?
Or will we be willing to be martyred? To speak up and proudly join those Christians who went before us over the last 2,000 years. Will we be willing to write our own chapter in “Torch of the Testimony”?
It might even be the last chapter ever written in that book.

From what I see… this day is coming. Soon.
It’s time to decide. It’s time to prepare.
Regardless of the cost. Let’s stand with honour as we join those who have stood before us.


So What?

The Bible was given to us to change our lives, not just to increase our knowledge.
When you read it and the spirit teaches you something knew. You need to ask “So what? What am I supposed to do with that? What is that showing me that I need to change?”

This is from the preface of “Torch of the Testimony” by Kennedy.
(A great book BTW about real church history, readable/downloadable for free from

”For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.” These are the words of the apostle Paul to the Romans (Rom. 15:4). The history of the Old Testament was not written for us only that we might know, but that we might learn from the experience of those who have gone on before, lessons which will vitally affect our daily living and order the progress of our spiritual walk. The great need of the present day is not for more knowledge, theological or historical, but that what knowledge we have should be practically related to life.

Do you know anyone like that? Puffed up with knowledge.
Often they’re arrogant, condescending, self righteous.
They think that because they know more, they’re somehow better than everyone else.
More enlightened, more “holy”…

Romans 2 basically lays out that we will be judged based on what we know.
If we never heard of Yeshua, but God had revealed to us that there was a creator.
Then we will be judged on whether we responded to that and sought him out, or worshipped him in some way.
But if we rejected that knowledge, then we will be judged.
And if we heard of Yeshua and what he did for us, and rejected it… there is no hope left for us. We’re doomed.

So if we claim to know more than others. Are we prepared to be judged more than others?
We will be. We will be judged on how well we put what we have been shown, into practice.
How did our lives change because of that knowledge?

This was the problem with the Pharisees.
They had so much knowledge.
They studied the scriptures all the time.
They even memorised huge sections of it.
All good things.
But they didn’t do what it said.

They were arrogant. They were proud. They thought they were better than everyone else.
They were wrong.
They thought the outside appearance showed that they had the knowledge.
But Yeshua looks at the heart.

Imagine reading Matthew 23 and realising that he’s talking about YOU.
Read it now. Make sure he isn’t.

”But woe to you scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites. Because you devour the homes of the widows, and you pray long prayers for appearance. Because of this you’ll receive a more severe condemnation.”

”Serpents. Offspring of vipers. How will you flee from the judgement of Gehenna?”

And Paulus’ warning in Romans 12. To not be puffed up by your knowledge, but to let it change you.
To offer your self, your body, your heart, everything, up to God as a sacrifice to him.

I entreat you then brothers, because of the compassions of God, to present your bodies to God as a living, holy, pleasing sacrifice — your logical service. And don’t be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you discern what the will of God is — good and pleasing and perfect. 
    For I say through the grace which has been given to me, to all among you, don’t think too highly of yourselves, but be of a sound mind, and consider yourselves in accordance with the measure of faith which God has distributed to each one of you.

So how is your bible knowledge? What have you learned?
More importantly, how has it changed not just your mind, but your heart, your life?
If it hasn’t … it’s time to pray.
Imagine holding your heart in your hands and offer it up to Yahweh to do whatever he wants with it.

Why are you still just sitting there? Pray.
Or continue in your hypocrisy. Your choice.


We are the Temple of the Living God

I’ve often heard 2 Corinthians 6 used to “prove” that demons can’t enter Christians.
While that might be true, that’s not what this chapter is about.

This chapter is about us. As a group. Not about individual Christians.
We, (as a group), are a temple of Yahweh. He makes his home among us. Us - the church.
The “you” of verse 16 is plural. Paulus is saying to the church at Corinth: “You, all of you, (not each of you), are a temple. Live like it.”

The context of this chapter is about the church as a group, enduring all sorts of things, in order to give no offence, so that the message of truth will be heard. So they, (unbelievers), will have nothing bad to say about us. (Unless they lie).

It’s about setting ourselves, (plural), apart because we really do have nothing in common with them, (unbelievers).
We would be unequally yoked. It would be a partnership between light and darkness, between righteousness and lawlessness.
Between the Anointed and the Devil.

So be clearly separated, (Christians as a group), from them, (Unbelievers as a group).
Live differently. Behave differently. Endure their hatred and contempt and show love.

Sadly so many churches are becoming more and more like the world.
More like the false prophets of Matthew 7, worldly wolves in the clothing of sheep. More like a worldly club than a true church.
Less like the disciples of Matthew 10, sent out as sheep among wolves. As prudent as serpents, and as pure as doves.

As a group, we have been chosen as a temple of Yahweh.
Let’s live as separate as we possibly can from the world around us, and bring glory to our father.


Don’t Complain About Your Dice

My family really loves playing board games.
Some are very strategic, and give you a lot of choice and control about what happens to your player.
Some are more based on luck. With lots of dice to role, or cards to take, where you don’t have so much control.

With those more random/luck based games, it’s frustrating sometimes when the dice just don’t go your way.
Of course it’s not how you wanted things to go. But it’s just dice. Even trying to role a particular number with 8 or 10 dice is still a long way from guaranteed.

So we’ve adopted a saying, “Don’t complain about the dice you role”. Just accept that as your situation, and do your best with what you got.

The Bible says similar things.
Sometimes in life you do have some control about your circumstances, but not often. And for some people, maybe never.
The Bible says we should be content with our circumstances.

Look at Joseph for example.
His own brothers destroyed the special coat his father had given him.
Then they sold him to slave traders! (Can you imagine! Your own brothers.)
The slave traders dragged him off to a foreign country and sold him to someone there.
Things are looking bad.

Joseph did his best there, and he, (years later), rose up to a more comfortable position. Becoming his new owner’s right hand man.
Things are looking good.

But then his owner’s wife tries to seduce him, and because of his honour and integrity he refuses, and he runs away.
She tells her husband that Joseph tried to rape her. And he is thrown in prison.
Things are looking bad.

In prison his character is again on show, and he rises to a position of more authority and freedom.
Then one day, the king, (Pharaoh), becomes annoyed with his two main servants… a cup bearer and a baker… and throws them in prison too!
They have two very similar dreams, and Joseph interprets the dreams that they have for them.
They promise to remember Joseph if their dreams come out as he said.
Things are looking good.

The king calls them both back, but he kills the baker and elevates the cup bearer. Just as Joseph had interpreted from their dreams. But the cup bearer forgets to tell the king about Joseph. And Joseph is still stuck in prison - forgotten.
Things are looking bad.

Then the king has a dream. And the cup bearer suddenly remembers Joseph.
The king calls for him, and he interprets the dream for the king.
The king likes it.
The king elevates him to be second only to the king, in the whole land of Egypt.
Things are looking good.

And then, almost ten years later…
Joseph finally gets to see why God let all this happen to him.
Why he had to be betrayed by his brothers, falsely accused by his owner’s wife, forgotten in prison.

Times are tough. In Egypt, and back home in Israel.
Except here, because of the king’s dream, and Joseph’s interpretation, things aren’t so bad because they made preparation.
Back home things are bad. And his father sends his own brothers to Egypt to get some help.
Joseph is able to save his family. And they are able to migrate to Egypt to survive the famine in safety.
Things are looking good.

If Joseph had become suicidal because of his bad “run of luck” … If he had given up and refused to play any more.
If he had become filled with anger and resentment.
Then his entire family would have been wiped from the planet.
(Not to mention that his family were the physical ancestors of Yeshua. The son of God.)

But each time, he pressed on. He maintained his good character.
And he remained useful to God.
And in the end he was able to realise that all that had happened to him had a purpose, it wasn’t just about him.
It was God working through him to bless his family, and in fact to bless the entire planet.

Maybe what’s happening to you isn’t as full on as that.
Maybe your’e not suffering like Bartimaeus who was blind for 30 years so Yeshua could show everyone that he could heal a man born blind, and so challenge the corrupt and misguided leaders of Israel. And to prove that he was in fact the son of God.
Maybe it is that bad for you too. (Sorry if it is).

But it’s very easy to focus on ourselves when things aren’t going our way, and to become resentful to God and jealous of others who aren’t suffering the same way.

The world is not about you. There is a bigger picture going on here.
But God is in control, and he knows what he’s doing. He knows what you’re going through. And honestly, he wouldn’t have chosen you for it if he didn’t know for sure that you could make it through it.

Like he did with Joseph, he’s building your character while he’s achieving his own purposes for the world as a whole.
Trust him.
Don’t complain about your dice.
Play the game as well as you can with integrity and character.


Church Has Lost Its Way

In Daniel we see that as he read the scrolls he realised that Jeremiah knew that Israel would be exiled for 70 years. So he was able to calculate when Israel would be returned to their land. He also realised why they had been taken from it in the first place.
They had lost God’s values. They had become filled with sin. Individually and as a nation.

Like the church today.
Recently I was discussing with a friend about how the Bible dates creation almost 6,000 years ago.
In fact, it’s fairly easy to make the case that according to the Bible, 2030 will be year 6,000 for the Earth.
So looking at the old scrolls, (the Bible), and the dates and times that are mentioned there, I was thinking it’s quite possible that the church age is almost over, and that the rapture is just around the corner. We may well be about to go home.

As we near the rapture of the church, where we will be removed from the Earth completely in the blink of an eye, we have to ask why. I always thought it was so God could deal with the rest of the world.
And perhaps there is something in that. But after reading that section of Daniel, I thought that more and more as I see the church take on worldly values, I think it’s just because the time for the church is over. It’s lost its way. Like Israel before it in Daniel’s time, it has become corrupt. It no longer supports the values of Yahweh. It has become sinful. It’s more of a social club than a church family of eternally related people, Yahweh’s representatives on Earth. And more and more I see churches run like clubs with worldly values, by people whom I honestly doubt are Christians at all.
Not all churches of course. There are still some great ones. But overall as a group. “The” church seems to me to have lost its standards. It’s lost its reputation. It’s stopped achieving the thing it was put here to do — to lead the lost to their saviour.

Churches are increasingly run like businesses, more about money than building healthy communities of Christian disciples, working together as a team to help and build each other, as they shine as an example and reach out to save the lost around them.
More and more I see churches caving in to the society views, like their view that homosexuality is a totally acceptable lifestyle. It’s not. The Bible is very clear that while some of us might have thoughts and desires to lust after people of our same sex, it is no more right to give in to that and act upon it, than it is for those of us who are attracted to the opposite sex to act on those desires with people we are not married to, or worse, with people who are married to someone else.
Adultery is a sin. So is homosexuality. We should be making that clear, not pretending it’s OK.

And our acceptance of the worldly view of marriage where two equal partners work together, both able to do any role, and neither dependent on the other, and our abandonment of God’s model for marriage where the wife submits to the husband’s leadership, and the husband sacrifices himself for the benefit of the wife. God’s model in the Bible is clearly that the husband and wife should work together as very different, but complimentary halves, but that the man should lead the family, and while he takes his wife’s opinions and desires into account, he is ultimately responsible to make the decisions and to show leadership.
But now women are encouraged to stand up against their own husbands for their right to make their own choices, and more and more the church is not only allowing women leaders, but also encouraging the feminist concepts where women take on leadership roles both inside the family and outside it, in business, and even in the church.

Or the Biblical model where children are respectful to adults, especially their own parents, and who politely realise that adults usually have much more wisdom than they do. And their opinions, and they, should be both heard and respected. Now children are told to speak up, and to take charge of things. Rebelling against the opinions of adults who are all full of old ideas and values that are no longer relevant. That any new idea is inherently better than whatever old idea existed before this one came along. And that “Boomers” are just old fools who are stopping the young generation achieving what it wants.

“My people have committed two sins:
    They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
    and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

The church has dug its own cisterns and is no longer relying on God for wisdom and leadership.
The church has lost its saltiness, it’s now no different from any other secular club or society.

It is time for it to be thrown out.

Maybe even in the next year.
You ready?


Panelled Houses

The average house in Australia now costs a million dollars. That’s a LOT of money.
Even if you make a reasonable income of $100,000 a year, you can’t save much of that. Let’s say you manage to save $20,000, but most people would be lucky to save $10,000. So that’s 100 years to save up to buy a house. Which by then of course, will be even more expensive. That’s so discouraging.
So Australians usually go into massive debt so they can buy the house now, to be paid off over the next 30 years. Just to buy a house as somewhere for them and their family to live. But then a massive chunk of their income, goes to service that debt. Mostly in interest payments to the banks. At rates which thankfully at the moment are quite low, but which could easily be around 8% a year in the next few years.
It seems that most of us work hard just to have enough to pay for our house.

And our houses are getting way fancier than they were when I was a kid. It seems that now, having a pool is kind of expected, media room, air conditioning, en suite, walk-in robe, double garage, pool room/teen retreat… No simple 3 bedroom houses these days. They’re fancy, with Italian tiled floors, flash kitchens, walk in pantries, and big BBQs. They’re built to impress.

They remind me of the “panelled houses” that Yahweh spoke to Haggai about.

     Then Yahweh’s word came by Haggai, the prophet, saying, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies waste? Now therefore this is what Yahweh of Armies says: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and bring in little. You eat, but you don’t have enough. You drink, but you aren’t filled with drink. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm, and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes in it.”
     This is what Yahweh of Armies says: “Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, bring wood, and build the house. I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified,” says Yahweh. “You looked for much, and, behold, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says Yahweh of Armies, “Because of my house that lies waste, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore for your sake the heavens withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on that which the ground produces, on men, on livestock, and on all the labor of the hands.”

So, if you own one of these million dollar houses, let me ask you two questions.
#1. How much have you spent building your house?
#2. How much have you spent building God’s house, the church?

I would also like to ask you question #3 (have you given Yahweh a tithe from the capital gains you’ve made on your house? Or are you keeping all that for yourself too?). But that’s a question for another time.

There’s nothing wrong with having a nice house. Unless you kept all the money Yahweh gave you for building his kingdom and spent it on your own house while his house is in ruins.

Do you find yourself like the first group? Sowing a lot, reaping little? Working hard, but never got enough money? Feels like no matter how hard you try, the money goes out faster than it comes in?

Yeshua said, ”You shouldn’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we be clothed with?’ For the nations seek after all these things, and because your heavenly father knows that you need all these. But first, seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Build God’s house first. The church. Seek his kingdom first. Make that the priority for where you spend your money. Then, if there’s any left over, spend that on yourself and your house. God promises you that if you do that, then you will be less worried about money, less anxious about your life, and … you will also have all the things you need.

How is your panelled house?
Is it right?


Don’t Love the World

Ever seen a banana trap?
If you make a cage with a small opening in the side, and put a banana inside so the monkey can see it. The monkey will grab the banana, but then they won’t be able to get their hand back out unless they let go of the banana. And there is no way they will let go of that banana! So you can just walk up and catch the monkey because they would rather get caught than let go of that delicious looking banana.
But we’re exactly the same. We see people with nice houses, cool cars, even the latest iPhone. We see people with adorable designer puppies, going on holidays and cruises, eating out in fancy restaurants, or even retiring at 50. And our reaction?
We want it. We need it. We will do whatever it takes to get that too.
We want the good life. We want to not work, but to have all the stuff. We deserve it. It’s our right.

But Johannes wrote:
Don’t love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the father isn’t in them. Because everything in the world, the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the pretentiousness of life, isn’t from the father but from the world.
We are 100% the same as that monkey. We would rather be trapped by our sinful desires than let go of that stuff.

Adam and Eve fell into the same trap. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took some of its fruit, and ate; and she gave some to her husband with her, and he ate it, too.
She desired the taste of that fruit, (Johannes called it “the desire of the flesh”), it was a delight to her eyes, (“the desire of the eyes”), and she thought it would make her wise, (“the pretentiousness of life”, thinking this is what is going to make my life better, make me look better in front of others. It’s just pride really).

How about you? What are you desiring? Why? What do you think it’s going to give you?
If it’s something of the world, then you’re wrong. It’s not going to give you that. It’s going to trap you. It’s a banana.

Let go of the stuff. It will be liberating. Let go of satisfying your eyes, or your flesh, or your pride.
Satisfy your spirit. Desire the things of God. Desire to grow in real wisdom, in love and service to others, in faith. Grow in character, not just in stuff. You’ve got enough bananas already.


What Should We Do

There is a more detailed explanation of all this in Rules for Christian Living. You might like to read that one after you read this.

For Adam and Eve it was pretty simple.
They were allowed to do anything at all, except eat from a couple of trees in the middle of the garden.
No pressure. No media. No non-believers trying to influence them. And just one rule. Life was good.
They still broke it! (But that’s another story). And there was a punishment - they were banished, and now life would be tough.

Then there was a long period where there were no rules at all. (Since you couldn’t even get to the garden of Eden any more). And everyone did whatever they wanted.

With Abraham, God introduced the rule about males being circumcised, but still no rules. As long as they were circumcised, they could do as they wanted.

And then came Moshe, and everything changed. Massively.
Yahweh had redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt but he wanted them to live differently to the nations around them.
He wanted them to stand out as different. He wanted the other nations to ask the question, “Why do Yahweh’s followers not live like us?” So with Moshe, he introduced the 10 commandments. But if you read carefully around there, you can actually find 613 commandments. These were just the “Top Ten”. All together this became known as “The Law”.
So for about 1500 years the Jews lived with all these rules. (Sometimes they did OK, sometimes not so well).
When they broke them, there were consequences - separation from Yahweh, and for some of them - death.
But with so many rules, and with humans being who they are, Yahweh knew right from the start that they would never be able to keep them, so when he introduced the rules, he introduced a way for us to make things right again. At least temporarily.
If you sacrificed an animal, its blood would cover over the things you did wrong, and made things right between the person and Yahweh - they were no longer be separated from Yahweh. Temporarily.

And then came Yeshua, and everything changed. Massively.
Yeshua offered himself as a sacrifice. And his blood made everyone right with Yahweh - no more separation from Yahweh. Permanently.
But more than that, the Bible also says that The Law, those rules introduced around Moshe’s time, was nailed up there with Yeshua and it also passed away. It’s gone. There is no more Law.

So then Christians are back to doing what they want. It’s all permissible.
But just like before, Yahweh wants other people to ask the question, “Why do Yahweh’s followers not live like us?”
We should still stand out from those around us.
But not because it’s a law and we’ll be separated from Yahweh, but just because we want to glorify him by how we live.

To help us do that Yahweh sends his spirit to live among us, to guide us, to help us make those decisions about how we should live, and what we should do in every circumstance. It’s not about right and wrong, it’s about doing what glorifies Yahweh the most.

Actually we do have one rule. “Love one another the way Yeshua loved us”
That’s what we should do.

If you’re ever not sure what to do - ask if you are loving others the way Yeshua loved you.
Are you sacrificing yourself for their benefit? Or are you being selfish?
Are you doing what glorifies Yahweh and his son Yeshua?

And ask the Holy Spirit to show you.
We have total freedom, but let’s not abuse it.


Who Does God See

The Chinese word for “me” is 我. The Chinese for “lamb” is 羊.
The Chinese for “righteous” is 義, it’s a combination of those two. The lamb on the top, and me on the bottom. Possibly from the ancient days when anyone who had done anything wrong might sacrifice a lamb to their god to cover over their sin.

In the Old Testament (the Jewish scriptures) they were told to sacrifice a lamb if they broke the rules. But they were told the blood of that lamb would cover over their offence. (Not take it away, just cover it over).

One of the names of Yeshua is “The Lamb of God”. And his death didn’t just cover it over, it took away our offence permanently. So when you become a Christian it’s like you’re accepting the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on behalf of you. His sacrifice makes you righteous in God’s eyes. If you think about the lamb being over you, like the Chinese character, it’s kind of like God looks down at you but only sees the lamb above you instead of seeing you, and thinks to himself, “righteous”.

Yohannes the Baptiser saw Yeshua walking along one day, and told his followers, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He has taken away your sin. You only have to accept that and put yourself under the lamb to have every wrong thing you ever did forgiven.
Put yourself under the lamb, so that when God looks down on you he sees the lamb, and declares you righteous.


Flirting With the World

This article is the introduction to the book “To Be, Not to Be”, downloadable for free from Smashwords.

Back in the ‘80s John White wrote a challenging little book called “Flirting with the World” in which he called out the church of the day for taking on some of the World’s ways and methods.
The church is the bride of Christ. Effectively we’re his fiancé. So when the church does things the way the World does, instead of the way Yeshua does... we’re kind of flirting with someone while we’re engaged to someone else!

It’s a bit slutty, and pretty disappointing for a girl of our standing.

To be honest. These days I feel like the church has moved way beyond flirting, and she’s actually having an affair. Full on, sleeping with the World.

We run our churches like businesses, we use marketing and advertising techniques, we focus way way too much on money and on how many people are attending.
We charge people for things which should be free. We focus on what non-believers want, and on being accepted by them, (or at least acceptable to them), by not mentioning those things which might offend non-Christians, like abortion, homosexuality, men and women’s roles in a family - things we should be standing up for, not sweeping under the carpet.

We seem to be all about affluence and our image. We’re more about Facebook than about the Bible. More about image than spirit.

John White passed away in 2002. For his sake, I’m kinda glad for him - he would have been devastated.
He warned us, but we didn’t listen.

When I was a young Christian we used to hear sermons about wolves in sheep’s clothing, sneaking into the flock and harming young Christians. These days the message needs to be about sheep in wolves’ clothing. Christians who look so much like non-Christians that you would be hard pressed to find any evidence that they’re Christian at all.

What can we do? How can we fix this?

One of the books I read recently, (Who Stole My Church, by MacDonald), made an interesting statement. “I’m beginning understand why the younger guys prefer to start churches. I sometimes think that changing one is impossible.”
I’ve personally been trying to change the church for 35 years. I don’t think it’s impossible but it sure seems to be a slow process. I’ve been doing it one person at a time, (by discipling those who I think will be future leaders), and assuming that the change will come in the next generation. Starting a new church is tough work, and honestly, not my gift. But sometimes like MacDonald, I also think that it would be way easier to just start again.

The (Western) church just seems so entrenched in its ways. So unwilling to do any kind of self examination or re-evaluation. So totally confident that its application of good business practices is working. You’re almost a heretic for suggesting that something might be wrong.

If we were sending missionaries to another culture we would certainly expect them to “do church” in culturally relevant ways. And we should expect some aspects of the surrounding culture to be seen in a particular church. But if someone sent new missionaries to the West, then I would be very surprised if their solution ended up looking much like how we “do church” here now.

We seem to have lost the fundamentals of the church being a body, working together as each part does its particular role. Do we even know what it means any more to look after the poor, or have we happily handed that over to our governments?
Where is that strong sense of community that jumps out at you when you read the early part of Acts? Where is the devotion to teaching/learning/discipleship, and to prayer? Where is the loving one another? The kind that is real, and deep, and sacrificial?

“Innocent” flirting that started with adopting worldly music and trying to improve our marketing and relevance to non-believers, has led us down a path to where we are barely recognisable from what we used to be.
I agree, the church was kind of lost already by the ‘80s, but in a different way. It was a bit cold and lifeless, it had lost its passion for loving God, and loving each other. But instead of fixing the error we have just moved to the opposite error.

We swapped the organ for a keyboard, and we introduced drums to become more “relevant”. But we missed the point of who we are really meant to be.
It has nothing to do with music. It has everything to do with being faithful, relentlessly faithful to our fiancé. And being proud to show off the ring, and to declare to anyone that will listen, “That’s my future husband! I’m totally in love with him.”

Let me say this bluntly. Entertainment might well be what they want. But it is not what they need.
What they need, is to hear from God. To receive his spirit and to build a strong relationship with him as his born again children. Then, whether they are entertained or not, their eternal future will be secure. And I suspect that they will also be much more content with the here and now, entertained or not.

By all means our music should be in a style relevant to our audience. But that is a very different focus to “entertaining”.

How are you going to make this happen?

Are you going to change the church you’re in? Or are you just going to start again?

However you do it... do something. It’s too important to just give up.


How Should We Do Church?

Read through each chapter.
Ask God to show you what you need to see.
Discuss anything that seems interesting and see where it takes you.
As you read each new chapter, look for common themes, and also discuss how it relates to the others.

And finally ask yourself, “So what?”
Was this just some interesting information? Or is it life changing?
What are you going to do differently from now on?
What choices are you going to need to change?
How is this study going to influence your lifestyle?

How should we do church?
What are the important principles, important characteristics of church that we have to adhere to?
What is flexible, and we can take it or leave it?
How “modern” do we have to be?
How much of our culture should we allow into the church?

How important is unity?
How do you feel about all the denominations we have now?
What have community and church got in common?
How many bodies does Yeshua have?

Whose church is it?
Who is allowed to decide what it should be like?

Is once a week enough?
How important are relationships for a strong church?
How do you make those happen? Or is it just guaranteed because we’re all brothers and sisters?

Is your church like it should be?
If it’s not, whose job is it to change your church?

So what?

Acts 15
Revelation 2, 3
Ephesians 5
1 Corinthians 11
1 Corinthians 14


Something We All Agree On

We all agree that Yahweh is the only actual god right?

And that there are some actions which he considers so bad that they disqualify us from entering Heaven, (where he lives), after we die.

And we honestly can’t say we’re Christian if we don’t believe that Yeshua is his only son.
And that he was the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed. Who was born and lived as a human, and sacrificed himself on our behalf almost 2,000 years ago so that we could be considered righteous and enter Heaven when we die.

But that’s about it, right?

Some people believe in universal atonement - that Yeshua died for every human, regardless of whether they believe in him or not. Whether you lived as a Christian or as a Satanist on this Earth is irrelevant. When you die you go to Heaven. Thank you Yeshua.

Some believe that you only have that future if you believe that Yeshua was who he claimed to be, and that he died on your behalf.

Some believe that you only have that future if you believe that, and you have been baptised in water.

Some believe that you only have that future if you believe that, and you live a “good life” after you realise that.

Some believe that you only have that future if you belong to their particular denomination, and have been baptised into it by them.

Some believe that you only have that future if you belong to their particular denomination, and you are one of the 144,000 hardest working believers.

Yeshua’s last prayer was that we would be united. But sometimes it feels like the only thing we’re united in is our disagreement.
That the only thing we agree on, is that we disagree.

Honestly, we should be ashamed.

Romans 2 talks about how different groups will be judged differently. If they had the Law, they’ll be judged by the Law. If they didn’t, they won’t. We will all be judged, but in the context of what Yahweh had revealed of himself to us.

Whichever group we claim to be in, that’s how we’ll be judged. How did we live, given what we knew of him?
(Not just what we claimed to know of him, but what we actually know, what he has actually shown us).

Some member from a tribe who lived 1,000 years ago in Africa might only be judged on how he responded to the sudden realisation that there must be a god who created this land in which he lives.
Some “enlightened” 21st century intellectual, who has read and studied the Bible in its original languages, but concluded that Yeshua didn’t even exist, or that Mary Magdalene was his wife and that she became divine, might find themselves shocked by the judgement handed down on them.

Yeshua never told us to be right, he told us to love one another. He told us to be united.
But we’re so concerned with whether everyone knows that we are right, that we’re willing to disobey the one thing he told us to do.

There is only one thing which divides us.


Your Life Is Not Your Life

I first heard this idea in a sermon by Francis Chan.

In Luke 12 we read a parable that Yeshua spoke one day to illustrate how our obsession with greed and possessions is totally the wrong focus for a Christian to have. How we should be focussed on the things of God, instead of being consumed by a desire for more and more “stuff”.

It’s a great point, and totally relevant to our modern greed, wealth, self focused lifestyles.

But part of that parable is that when the rich man is saying how he’s going to build a bigger barn, and take it easy. Yeshua calls him a fool, because this is his last day on the planet and he doesn’t even realise.
Tonight. The life God gave him when he was born will have to be handed back.

We think of our life as our own, but it actually belongs to the one who lent it to us. To God. And one day he will want it back.

And, like the one who gave differing talents to each of his servants in the parable of Matthew 25. He will want them back.
And not only will he want them back, he will also want to know what we did with them, and how we invested them for him.
One day God will want to know what you did with your life. What you have built for him with the life that he lent you.
Or did you just use it for your own pleasures? Or even waste it totally?…
That could be one mighty uncomfortable conversation.

In Matthew 21 there is a parable of a vineyard owner who left his vineyard in the care of his servants and went away.
Then, when he wanted the harvest, he sent someone to see what they had grown. They beat up or killed everyone he sent to get it.
Eventually he sent his own son, but in their delusion they thought that if they killed the son they would inherit the vineyard.
Of course they wouldn’t. It would still belong to the owner who built it. But greed deludes our minds.
They killed the son of the man who had provided work for them for all this time.
So they could steal the very thing he was using to bless them.

But are we really any different?
How are we going to react when God wants his life back?
When he asks for the harvest he rightly deserves from the life he loaned us?
Are we going to kill his son?

It’s not your life.
You will, guaranteed, have to account for what you did with it.
Like the church in Sardis, in the letters in Revelation.
If we do not wake up to ourselves, he will come like a thief, at a time when we do not suspect, and our deeds will be judged.

If you’re still breathing, then it’s not too late.
Wake up.
Realise that your life is not your life.
And start living it for Yeshua, knowing that one day he will want it back.

Be prepared. Live it for him so you can look forward to that day.


To Be, Not To Be

Back in the 1980s John White wrote a challenging little book called “Flirting with the World” in which he called out the church of the day for taking on some of the World’s ways and methods.
The church is the bride of Christ. Effectively we’re his fiancée. So when the church does things the way the World does, instead of the way Yeshua does… we’re kind of flirting with someone while we’re engaged to someone else!
It’s a bit trampy, and pretty disappointing for a girl of our standing.

Our little e-book To Be, Not To Be examines many opposing characteristics of the modern church and asks should we be this or should we be that? Here are the questions:

Should we be Missional, not Attractional

Should we be The Way, not the Destination

Should we be Disciples, not Evangelists

Should we be a Ministry, not a Business

Should we be Holy Spirit, not Marketing

Should we be a Republic, not an Empire

Should we be a Community, not a Download

Should we be Worship, not a Production

Should we be Participants, not Spectators

Should we be Giving, not Making

Should we be a Temple, not a Building

Should we be Hand Outs, not Hands Out

Should we be Discipling, not Socialising

Should we be On a Hill, not Under a Bushel

Should we be a Beacon, not a Soap Box

Should we be In the World, not Of the World

Should we be Salt, not Honey

Should we be Old School, not Old Fashioned

Should we be Spirit Powered, not Soul Powered

Should we be Grace, not Law

Should we be Judging, not Judgemental

Should we be Individuals, not Clones

Should we be Unity, not Uniformity

Should we be Equal, not The Same

Should we be Normal, not Lukewarm

Should we be Meeting, not Attending

Should we be Connection, not Entertainment

Should we be Adopted, not Orphans

Should we be New Testament, not Old Testament

Should we be God, not Culture

Should we be Wild, not a Zoo

Should we be Life, not Liturgy

Should we be Unpredictable, not Same Same

Should we be God’s Way, not Our Way

How does your church stack up on these questions?
Hopefully pretty well.
How about you personally?

How can you help change that?
To make yourself live more the way you should live? With the priorities you should have. And less influenced by the world.
And also to help make your church more the way it should be? Also less influenced by the world.

To Be, Not To Be is free in various formats on Smashwords.


God’s Way, not Our Way

In 2 Kings 5 we read a story of a Syrian general, Naaman, who caught leprosy.
He tried all the physicians, healers, crackpots and cures he could find in Syria, but without success.

His wife’s young hand-maid, a Jewish captive slave from the previous war, made the comment to her mistress that back in Israel they have prophets of God who can actually cure this kind of thing.
Off he went.

He went to the king of Israel, and finally to Elisha the prophet.
Elisha said, “wash 7 times the Jordan and you’ll be healed”.
Naaman stormed off, back to Syria, fuming that they have better rivers than that in Syria!
(I’d say he said, “Nah, man”… but that’s a bit corny, so I won’t).

But his servants talked him into it… You came all this way, may as well at least try it.
He did. He was healed.

In 1 Samuel 15 we read how Saul was sent to wipe out their enemy the Amalekites.
He totally defeated them, but even though Yahweh had told them to destroy everything, men, women, children, cattle, sheep… wipe them out totally…
Saul spared the king, and he also brought back the best of the sheep and the cattle to make an offering to Yahweh.
Yahweh was very angry. He had raised Saul up from nothing to become king of Israel, and when he asked him to do this one thing, Saul had a better idea.

There is a powerful statement here. “To obey is better than sacrifice”
Yahweh has more delight in obedience than he has in all our sacrifices and burnt offerings.
To the point that he was really angry with Saul for disobeying him and keeping some animals to make a sacrifice. To the point that because of this rebellion, he removed Saul as king of Israel.

What about us? The church?
In John 13, Yeshua told us to love one another the way he loved us, so that the world would know that we are his disciples.
Jesus even prayed for it in John 17. That our oneness with each other would show the world that what we are saying is true, and they would then trust in Yeshua.

Do we do it?
Do we even know one another?

Most churches I’ve seen… they tolerate one another.

Like Saul, we have better ideas. We’ve come up with better ways to reach the world.
We have professional music, great preachers, big impressive temples buildings, fantastic online presence, even TV shows. All to show everyone how great God is, and that we are his disciples.
English lessons, play groups, afternoon teas, … anything to get them in the door.

All of those ideas, every single one of them comes from the world.
They come from big business, from marketing.
And they all stop us having to love one another.

Honestly I can imagine Yahweh in heaven, beating his head, crying out with tears rolling down his face…
“Will you just do it the way I told you to!”


Torturing God

My wife and I really like playing strategic board games.
They’re a lot of fun, especially with other friends. And they can make for a great social evening.

Recently we got a digital version of a two player card game that we both like.
So, I was playing against the computer… and doing pretty well.
My strategy was working, my hand was becoming more and more powerful.

I realised I could deliver the winning hand and end the game. Victorious.

But I chose not to play the cards that would defeat my opponent, and held on for another hand.
And another, … and another…
All the time, my hand was becoming stronger and stronger. His was becoming weaker and weaker.
There was no way I could lose. I was revelling in my power.

If I had been playing against my wife, (or anyone for that matter), I wouldn’t have dragged it out like that.
Making the other player suffer endlessly, knowing they had no chance, but forced to continue.
So what is it in us, that lets us treat a faceless computer opponent like that?
I was torturing my opponent!
And justifying it with, “It’s just a computer”.

When we lived in Japan, at first we were amazed at how polite, respectful and considerate Japanese people are of each other.
They always line up patiently waiting for trains. They go out of their way to help you find your way if you’re lost.
Things like that.

But here’s a weird thing.
Once the line for the train is “broken” and people are boarding, it’s suddenly every person for themselves.
I’ve seen a businessman hip bump an older lady to make sure he got the last seat.
So totally out of character for a Japanese person! But it happens every day.

In Japan, once you’re anonymous, you can change your personality completely.
If someone you know is watching, you will always be polite. Always.
But when it’s just you and a little old lady…

It’s kind of the same as the card game isn’t it.
Against a person I’m considerate, against a computer, where nobody is looking back at me… I’m ruthless and selfish.

So how does that relate to the way we treat God?

Is he personal to you? Or a disembodied, spirit?
Is he more like a computer? Or a human?

You know he’s actually watching you all the time right? 24x7.
Are you happy to push him out of the way to get the last seat?
Do you do things which upset him, without even giving it a thought?
Would you torture him?
Do you?

How differently would you treat God if he was physically standing in the room?

Maybe you are convinced you would still treat him well, visible or not.
So, think about how you treat others? Actual people.
Yohannes said, “If you say you love God, but you hate your brother… you’re a liar.”

And Petros, “And finally, all of you, be like minded, be sympathetic, loving like brothers, tender hearted, courteous. Not giving back evil for evil, or criticism for criticism, but on the contrary, blessing, because you know that this is what you were called to, so that you may inherit a blessing.
    For whoever wants to love life, and to see good days, let them keep their tongue from evil, and let their lips not speak deceit, let them turn away from evil, and let them do good, let them seek peace and pursue it. Because the eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their petition, but the face of Yahweh is against those who do evil.”

Would you torture Yahweh?
Do you?


What’s Prayer For?

Read through each chapter.
Ask God to show you what you need to see.
Discuss anything that seems interesting and see where it takes you.
As you read each new chapter, look for common themes, and also discuss how it relates to the others.

And finally ask yourself, “So what?”
Was this just some interesting information? Or is it life changing?
What are you going to do differently from now on?
What choices are you going to need to change?
How is this study going to influence your lifestyle?

Was Moses praying to Yahweh? Or just having a conversation?
What’s the difference?

What kind of things were these guys praying for?
What kind of things do you pray for?
What things are you anxious about?

Did they get what they asked for?
Do you?

How intently did they all pray?
Do you feel like it was something they would have sacrificed to achieve if they could?
Do you fast?

Did they pray for themselves, or others?

How literally should you pray “The Lord’s Prayer”?
Did anyone in the Bible ever pray it like that after he taught them?

How is Biblical prayer to Yahweh and a list for Santa different?
Which one is more like the way you pray?

So what?

John 17
Exodus 32
Psalm 51
Ephesians 1
James 5
Matthew 6


Lasting Change

Read through each chapter.
Ask God to show you what you need to see.
Discuss anything that seems interesting and see where it takes you.
As you read each new chapter, look for common themes, and also discuss how it relates to the others.

And finally ask yourself, “So what?”
Was this just some interesting information? Or is it life changing?
What are you going to do differently from now on?
What choices are you going to need to change?
How is this study going to influence your lifestyle?

How can you change yourself in a way that will last more than a few weeks?
At what level does God need to be involved in that?
What’s the difference between inner change and the superficial appearance of change?

In what ways are you like Naaman?
Is God’s way of letting him transform you too simple for you?
Do you want to feel like you’re doing some great thing in making the change yourself?

How are you going to the wrong places to change?
Where is the only place you need to go?

Are you yoked together with Yeshua?
Is he leading? Or are you?

What’s the difference between what you do and why you do it?
What does being transformed require from you?
Why would inner change be more permanent and lasting?

So what?

Matthew 23
James 1
Matthew 11
Jeremiah 2
Romans 12
2 Kings 5


Trusting God

We all know the proverb, “Trust in Yahweh with all your heart.”
And for sure, it’s a great thing to memorise and to live out every day.

But are you waiting for a miracle? One that just doesn’t seem to be happening?
Are you praying every day? But no answer?

What are you doing about it yourself?

Maybe your miracle is so big there is nothing you can do… Like maybe you want to be healed from a disease that may well just need God’s direct intervention, and nothing else will fix it.

But if you’re praying for a new job. Or a happier family. A child. Your future. “Success”…
Maybe there’s something you should be doing at the same time. While you pray.
Maybe you have a role in this miracle too?

When I was a young Christian I was still at university. An old Bible teacher said to me one day, “Pray like it all depends on God, but study like it all depends on you.”

Jerry Bridges in his book, “Pursuit of Holiness” talks about the analogy of a farmer wanting good crops.
The farmer is 100% reliant on God for the rain, the sunshine, things like that which are totally out of his control.
But if he just prays all day and doesn’t till the ground, or plant seeds, then no amount of rain or sunshine will make crops grow.

In the feeding of the 5,000 Yeshua performed a miracle with the fish and bread that Andrew found.
If Andrew had sat and done nothing, maybe that miracle wouldn’t have happened?

In the battle with Amalek, Moses had to stand on the hill and hold his staff over his head.
Joshua and his men had to actually go and fight.
But Yahweh was the one who actually gave them the victory.
Success wouldn’t have come without either one doing their part.

Esther had to go in to the king to ask him to change the law.
God clearly worked in his heart to change it, but Esther had to go in.

So, back to the thing you’re praying about.
What is your part in it?
Have you done it?
Are you just waiting for God to do it all for you with no effort or sacrifice on your part?

On the other hand… we can “say” that we’re trusting in God when we’re not really.
Are you doing too much? Are you meddling?
Are you leaving room for God to work and to glorify himself?
When God does a miracle he wants credit. He wants glory.

Maybe you have been working. But maybe you’ve been working too much.
Take a day off and give God a chance to do something.

Maybe you’re the farmer who tilled, planted, irrigated, installed lighting, … how is that depending on God?
Maybe you’re the student who studied 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, … how is that depending on God?

Maybe you’re like the guy in Jeremiah 17, who trusts only in his own strength.
Maybe like the Hebrews at the Red Sea. Maybe you just need to keep still and watch. To stand still and to just let him do it.

If your miracle isn’t coming, then perhaps you should start by examining how much you’re doing yourself.
Examine how much you’re not actually relying on God.

There are two parts.
You have to do your thing.
But you also have to rely on God and let him do his thing.
Don’t overdo your bit, and don’t do nothing. They’re both wrong.

If there’s a problem, then fix the balance, whichever way it needs fixing.

It’s not him. It’s you.


Soldiers not Knights

When you read of helmet, shield, sword, armour, boots, belt… it’s easy to picture yourself as a knight in shining armour. A paladin of God. Personally taking on the devil and his minions and holding them at bay, invulnerable in your faith.

In the bigger battles of the church you stand between the enemy and them, protecting the weak, a super hero, The Defender.

And as much as some Christians do “stand in the gap” in prayer, that’s not what this chapter is about. All the “you”s in this chapter are plural. (As they are in pretty much all of Ephesians). This is a letter to a team of people. Not to individuals.

Just as in Ephesians 1, where the definition of Christian maturity is living in unity. You can’t do that by yourself. You need the rest of the team, and you all need to work together.

If you read the armour again, it’s not knight’s armour. No lance, no horse, no “full body armour”, just a breastplate. This is the armour of a soldier. And it’s armour that we all have. Every Christian. We are meant to fight these spiritual battles as an army. Working together. Standing side by side. Like a Roman legion.

And the battle here is not a personal attack on you. It’s the spiritual attack on us, the church. This is not a way to solve your own issues. It’s a way for the church to work together and overcome the forces working against it, trying to destroy the church. The powers and authorities of this world. Political, social, and of course spiritual.

Modern thinking, and a peculiarity of the English word “you”, lead us to believe that a lot of the Bible is written to you, singular, when it’s actually written to you, plural. To us, not to me.

It’s not just Ephesians 6. The whole New Testament is written to us, not to you. Christians are part of a body. There has never been a Christian individual, there never will be.

Put on your armour. Help the rest of your church put on theirs. Fight together.
Train with your team. Fight the big battles, together.



Read through each chapter.
Ask God to show you what you need to see.
Discuss anything that seems interesting and see where it takes you.
As you read each new chapter, look for common themes, and also discuss how it relates to the others.

And finally ask yourself, “So what?”
Was this just some interesting information? Or is it life changing?
What are you going to do differently from now on?
What choices are you going to need to change?
How is this study going to influence your lifestyle?

Is tongues of fire and tongues of language more than a play on words in Acts 2?
Did different people hear one person in multiple languages at once, or were multiple people speaking one language each?
Where did this ability come from? Do you think they ever studied these languages?
Were they able to use this gift to talk about anything at all? Or was there always a theme to what they spoke?

What deduction did the leaders make when they found out people were speaking in tongues? What did it indicate to them?

How many kinds of tongues are there?
Does anyone have them all?
Does everyone have one?
Why do we need an interpreter, can’t everyone just hear it in their tongue?
Why does the person speaking even need an interpreter?

How would you feel if you suddenly started saying stuff you couldn’t understand yourself?
How would you feel if you realised that some of the people around you could understand it even though you can’t?
How would you feel if you found out you were praising God in a powerful way?

Is tongues better than prophecy?
Is it better than love?
If I offered you the choice of a new house or a new car which would you take?
Is it OK to want to be able to speak in tongues?

Will they ever cease?
When do you think that will be? Or has it already happened?
When do you think prophecy will cease?

What are you doing when you speak in tongues? What’s really happening? What’s the purpose?
So should we do it?
Who benefits? Who is it for?
Is there anything different about speaking in tongues when you’re alone, or when you’re in a church meeting?
Who controls whether you speak in tongues or not? Can you choose not to?
What about the hearers? Can they resist?

What is the difference between hearing a message in your mother tongue compared with hearing it in a second language? How is that like watching a foreign movie with subtitles?

Are there any downsides to us speaking in tongues?
What can we do about that?

So what?

Acts 2
Acts 10
Acts 19
1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 14


Who Would You Choose?

In Genesis 25 we read about Rebekah enquiring of Yahweh because the twins inside her womb seemed to be struggling with each other.
He answered that they would each become a people group, and that he had already decided that the older, (Esau), would serve the younger, (Jacob). Before they were even born. Before they had done anything, good or bad. He had already decided.

Yahweh also chose Isaac over Ishmael. Before they were even conceived! He already decided that his blessing to Abraham would be passed on through Isaac, the as yet only fantasised about son of his old and barren wife Sarah.

And after this he chose Joseph to save, and lead, his people. Even though he was the second youngest of 12 brothers. Even though he was not the natural choice: the eldest son of the first wife.

In Samuel and Kings we read how Yahweh chose David. Also the youngest, of four brothers. Also not the “natural” choice.

How about you?
If you were picking a team? Who would you choose?
Do you look for natural qualities, like strength, speed, charisma, intelligence?
Or do you ask Yahweh to show you what he sees in people? Do you ask Yahweh to guide your timing and your decision, (as Abraham’s servant did)? Or do you rely on your own wisdom?

And who would pick you?
What do you have to offer? What skills? What abilities?
Or have you not understood?
It’s not about skills and abilities. There is something deeper going on.
Maybe you arrogantly think everyone should pick you?
Maybe you struggle because you feel like nobody would pick you?

Yahweh has picked you. Deliberately. Not just because you were the last person left.
What does he want you to do on his team?
Perhaps you had better ask him.
This article talks about your role on the team and how important it is.

Would you have chosen you?
Were you wrong?

You have been chosen, not because of what you have or haven’t done, but because of who you are. Because Yahweh knows everything about you and it is his purpose for you.

Live like you are a chosen one. (Because you are).


God’s Promise, God’s Way, God’s Time

In Genesis we read that Yahweh promised Abram (Abraham) a son.
But by the time we get to Genesis 16 he hasn’t be born, and Sarai (Sarah, Abraham’s wife), is getting older but nothing has happened.

She comes to a sudden realisation that God didn’t mean directly through her, (since that would be impossible at her age), but he must have meant through her servant, Hagar.
So she suggests to her husband that he sleeps with the servant and that way she can have a child through her. And God’s promise will be fulfilled that way.

Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
I wonder how many times he kicked himself for that day.

That one decision gave rise to all the issues we see in the Middle East today. The Arabs trace their ancestry to Abraham through Ishmael. The Jews obviously trace theirs through Isaac, (the impossible child who was born to Sarah in her old age!).
But because of this, both groups, Arabs and Jews, both consider that they are the rightful heirs of the promise made to Abraham. That the land he was living in, Israel, would be his forever. They both think that God himself gave it to them.
No wonder neither of them will give up!

But it’s so easy to convince yourself that our idea must be how God is going to fulfil his promise to us. To apply our own logic and our own thinking. And to not have to just keep waiting when it looks so futile, and it looks like God has forgotten the promise he made.

But when we do that… we’re wrong.

Later in Genesis we read that Lot’s daughters did the same thing.
Lot was Abraham’s nephew.

They had fled the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were in fact, the only survivors when God sent angels to completely wipe out two cities of sinful, wicked people who lived in rebellion to him.

The two daughters knew that they had an obligation to produce offspring, and to continue their father’s lineage. (Although that is more cultural than God commanded)…
And since all the men in both cities were now dead, and they were living in a cave in the mountains. Clearly, God wanted them to have descendants by sleeping with their father. (I guess they never knew what happened to Great Aunt Sarah).
And they knew that their father wouldn’t accept this idea, so instead of asking his opinion and advice, they just got him drunk and slept with him without his knowledge.

How did that one go?
Well, they had two boys, Moab, and Ammi. Who became the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites. Two tribes which would become a thorn in the side of the Jews for generations. You can read about them often in most of the Old Testament history books.

(But God is gracious. Ruth was a Moabitess, and she became part of the family lineage of Yeshua!)

Our actions have consequences.
God knows what they will be. That’s why he chooses when to fulfil his promises, and how, so they will bring about particular outcomes.
When we interfere with that, we mess things up. Always.
There isn’t a single case in the Bible where someone took things into their own hands and it all turned out well.

Yahweh complained about this to Jeremiah.
“My people have committed two sins:
    They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
    and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Not only do we forsake Yahweh, but we try to satisfy our desires our own way and we end up drinking muddy, filthy water, instead of the pure living water that he offers, … if we will just wait for him to provide it.

Yeshua doesn’t say it’s wrong to have desires, needs, wants…
But he says that if you have them, if you’re tired, weary, needing rest.
Come to him. Let him give you the water you need.

Digging your own well might seem like a bright idea at the time. But a day will come when you will regret it, but will be unable to reverse the damage you have done to yourself, and your descendants.

In Sarah’s case, she was messing with much more than an issue of her being able to have a child. God had made a promise to Abraham. And Yeshua was the fulfilment of that promise.
If Sarah had had her way, the lineage would have gone through Ishmael, and Yeshua would never have been born.

We are so self focused, so self obsessed, so stupid, that we just don’t know what we’re doing, and we bumble on ahead when we should just sit and wait.


Your Worst Enemy

In Genesis 20 we read the story of when Abraham moved south. He was worried that the king, Abimelech, would kill him to take his wife, Sarah, for himself. So he convinced her to go along with a plan to tell a half-truth and say that she was his sister. (She was his half-sister, so, kinda true. But what kind of husband would rather have someone else sleep with his wife than risk his own life?)

It didn’t go great. Abimelech did in fact take her to be his wife. (She’s 90 remember). But then God appears to him in a dream and tells him “You’re a dead man because of what you’ve done”. Abimelech gets sick, his wife, (the one he already had), stops being able to have children. All his female servants stop being able to have children.
Abimelech, rightly, pleads ignorance because he had been told that Sarah was unmarried, and that they were only brother and sister. But God already knew that, and still brought this judgement of death on him.

But Yahweh says something very interesting. “Yes, that’s why I stopped you sleeping with her”. But then he gave Abimelech the choice… restore her to her husband, … or die.

Abimelech restores her. And gives Abraham gifts and land as recompense for the wrong he had done him. (Which in itself is kind of odd, since really Abraham was the one who brought death to Abimelech by his lie).
And, by the way, it seems Abimelech was honourable and wouldn’t have taken Sarah if he had known she was Abraham’s wife in the first place. So his fear was misplaced and the lie was unnecessary.

As I get older I sometimes look back at lost opportunities. Things I almost did, but somehow didn’t or couldn’t. Some of them weren’t glaringly sinful. Some were. Sometimes I fantasise about what might have been.
But what if that was just God protecting me?
What if those things I was close to doing but was somehow blocked from going through with… what if they would have ruined my life somehow?
I’m not smart enough to know the full consequences of my choices. I live pretty short term compared to God. My understanding of consequences only extends a short time into the future compared with his knowledge and wisdom.

What if my frustration at not achieving what I wanted, or wishing I had done certain things all those years ago, what if that was all under God’s control and would have cost me my life, and he was protecting me from that?
Some of them might have taken me down a different path and I might never have become a Christian, never have been saved. What an awful thought.

You too?

Like Balaam, when he was angrily beating his donkey for disobeying him three times and it suddenly talked back, saying, “You idiot, I was saving your life”. Is it time for you to realise that your frustration with your life is actually just you not realising what God has been doing for you all these years?

Are you actually angry with God?
Do you have any idea how your life would have been if he had let you do those things you wish you had done? Do you realise how ruined you would be?

Abraham was worried about Abimelech and what he would do. But it was Abraham who caused the problem for himself. He was his own worst enemy, being anxious about things that would never have happened, trying to manipulate the future to protect himself from harm that was never coming.

But God protected him too.

What if all these years, God has been protecting you. From yourself.
Protecting you from making bad choices.
Protecting you from sinning, from ruining your life, and the lives of others.

What if your worst enemy is not the person you thought it was?
What if it’s not even Satan?
What if your worst enemy looks back at you whenever you look in a mirror?
What if it’s you?


Blessing or Command

In Genesis 1 Yahweh says, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it”.

I’ve always thought of that as a command. In which case I’m doing the wrong thing not having as many children as I can, right? Like you.
I have only one friend who has 8 children. I’d say he’s doing his best.

But is this really a command?

In context, this is the creation week. Yahweh is day by day creating everything we see around us. The planet, the moon, the sun, stars, sky, oceans, land, and populating them, with plants, fish, birds, animals, and finally mankind.

In this context, when he has finished creating mankind, we read that he blesses them and says, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it”.
But if we back up a few verses, when he finishes creating the fish and the birds on day five we also read there… God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

So, we have the same syntax, lines apart in the same story of the same chapter of the Bible.
I have never heard anyone teach that fish are disobedient if they aren’t taking every opportunity to produce offspring. Or that birds are bad if they aren’t doing everything they can to multiply on the earth.
But I’ve heard it said plenty of times about people who aren’t procreating, or more particularly, those who are choosing some form of birth control, or even abstinence. I’ve heard it taught as a way of judging those who choose not to have children.

And I’ve seen the consequence of that teaching on those who want to have children but who find themselves unable to. And how it makes them feel like they must, or face the constant judgement and disdain of other Christians.

I wonder if Yeshua felt that way. 33, popular, tradesman, … how come he wasn’t married already and having kids?
Here he was off on some “mission” to change the world, when clearly God’s very first, (and therefore most important), command ever given to people was, “Be fruitful and multiply”. That should come first, and he seems to be ignoring it all together.
In fact, in Matthew 19, he even seems to say it’s OK to choose to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

And then Paulus comes along, heretically preaching that we should consider not even getting married, let alone having children. So we can devote ourselves fully to serving God.
No wonder the Jews wanted to stone him.
Just because he couldn’t get a girlfriend he was suggesting that we should all break rule number one and all be single.

“Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it”, was not a command from Yahweh, it was his blessing on the mankind he had created. And it has come to pass. We have been fruitful, we have multiplied, we have filled the earth, and we certainly have subdued it.

Rejoice in the blessing, and stop feeling guilty that you have disobeyed a command that was never there in the first place. Perhaps even politely suggest that the old busybodies in church go back and spend time reading the book instead of gossiping and judging everyone else. (Because there is a command about that!)


No Individual Christians

In Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” there is a scene where Brian is addressing the crowd, and he says, “You’re all individuals!” To which a lone voice from the back of the crowd replies, “I’m not!”
That really appeals to my sense of humour.

But in our modern Western world, we’re very much trained to think and act as if we are all individuals. In Eastern cultures, people are much more raised to think of themselves as part of a family, part of a nation. And they live and make decisions based on the good of those units, not just on what they perceive as best for themselves.

In the Old Testament we see that the Jews clearly thought of themselves as part of something bigger. And saw an obligation to live for the benefit of the Jewish nation.
But in the New Testament too, there is abundant teaching that we are part of the church. We are part of a body. And in fact, we are not individuals.

So when Westerners become Christians, we need to consciously make a decision to change our thinking. We need to ask Yeshua to change our minds, (literally). To transform our minds, as Paulus wrote in Romans 12. So that we have the same thinking as Yeshua. We are part of a body, and we desperately need to stop conforming to the world’s view that we are individuals.

As you read the Bible, particularly the New Testament, you will often see the word “you”. If you have a Newberry Bible, or the Little Watchman Translation, you will be able to see whether this is singular or plural. Most often it is plural. Most often, it is a command, or instruction, or advice, or teaching for a group of people, not for you as an individual. And it is meant to be taken and acted upon by the group acting together.

I have written elsewhere about The Great Commission is a Team Command, but take John 15 for example.
“I am the vine, you are the branches”.
We usually interpret that individually. “I am a branch”.
But it’s plural. What if this is not for individuals but for us as a group?
What if our church is a branch?
How does that make our interpretation and application of this verse different?
What if our church got cut off the vine for not bearing fruit?

What if it’s a nation?
What if this was a reminder to the Jews who were listening of Isaiah’s prophecy of the fruitless vines?
What if it’s our nation? What will happen to us if we don’t abide in Yeshua? As a nation.
What will happen if we do?

As you read the New Testament, look at what you’re reading as if you are only part of a group.
The holy spirit living in us, as a group.
God saving us, as a group.
Becoming a mature Christian, as a group.
Being the body of Yeshua, as a group.
Reaching the world with the gospel, as a group.

How would that change how you live?
How would it change who you love?
How would it change your ministry?

How would it change you?
How would it change your group?


Don’t Forsake Meeting Together

I was amazed with the global church’s willing compliance with the directive to stop meeting together because of COVID-19.

If it had been for any other justification, I like to think we would have resisted. Passionately.
Just as the underground church has done in China and other repressive countries for decades.
They have risked their lives. Risked imprisonment. And met in secret rather than not meet at all.

But now the world is panicking because of an influenza. Admittedly one which seems particularly harsh on the elderly or otherwise infirm. But which, for more than 95% of those who get it, seems very minor.

To me it seems like we have bought into the fear. Instead of relying on our faith.
And honestly, does it matter if you die?
If you have eternal life, guaranteed by the death of Yeshua…
Of course those left behind might miss us. But that will be temporary.
Paulus said in Philippians 1 that dying is actually a blessing for the individual themselves, but he was willing to remain behind if he could bless others by doing so.

But we have complied with governments, so afraid of death that they’re willing to destroy their economy.
And now we don’t “go to church”, but instead we watch a video service on Sunday morning, or afterwards “on demand” if we couldn’t make it during the “live” performance.

Not meaning to offend anyone. But that’s not church.

Church is a body of believers working together to bring the message of the gospel to the world.
Reaching out in love, with a message of hope.
It’s meant to be personal.
It’s meant to be demonstrated.
It’s meant to be engaging, and to involve us.

Church was never just a Sunday meeting.
But now it seems to have become just that.
And even worse, now the extent of our interaction is a chat panel on the side of a pre-recorded video stream.

My particular church has a fantastic online stream.
But it is limited by what it is. As they all are.

As a church we need to be interacting with each other.
Actually, even before COVID-19 the church in general wasn’t doing great in terms of interacting with each other.
We weren’t doing great at living church together.
Our lives should be interacting all week to the point that a chart of those interactions would look like an incredible tangled, intertwined web.
Instead, for most churches, it looks like a pom-pom, where hundreds of threads interact only at one single point. Sunday morning.

Most Christians are aware of the exhortation in Hebrews not to forsake meeting together.
This isn’t just talking about Sunday morning. It never was.
As the members of the church we must meet together often.
We must find ways, even during COVID-19, to intertwine our lives with each other.
We have to find ways to encourage, support, mentor, learn and care for each other.
Even when the government says we’re not allowed to physically be in the same place at the same time.

Maybe chat apps like Zoom and What’s App can help.
Maybe actual phone calls, (remember those?), will keep us connected?
Let’s not limit ourselves to text messages and chats.
Let’s get face to face video calls, maybe as we have a coffee, together but apart.
Let’s pray for each other by video call.

This is not the time for the church to hibernate. Only waking up for a video feed on Sunday.
The world needs us now, possibly more than it has for a long time.

We need to be creative to maintain our connections.
We need to maintain our relationships as a church.
And we need to keep functioning as a church.

Whether we get together on Sunday in some building is pretty much irrelevant.
Whether we live our lives together all week is what matters.
And if we do a good job now, then maybe after COVID-19 we will continue to maintain our relationships, face to face, but by other means if necessary.
Maybe after this, we will be a stronger church.
One which doesn’t forsake meeting together the way we have been.


Someone Ate a Bat

There are stories of several people in the Bible who relied on their own efforts. Stories about people who thought they had it all together. About people who thought they were impenetrable. To the point that they thought that even God couldn’t touch them.

They were all wrong.

Ahab, king of Israel was one of those.
A powerful king. Leader of the nation of Israel, God’s people.
Israel was being attacked, and he asked Jehoshaphat, king of Judah to assist.
Jehoshaphat didn’t hesitate. Except to ensure that they enquired from Yahweh before going into battle. They agreed.
All good so far right?

They asked the prophets. About 400 of them! And they all told Ahab what he wanted to hear. “Yahweh says you will be victorious, Majesty.”
But Jehoshaphat wanted to hear from Yahweh, so they brought the prophet Micaiah. And he said the same thing. Great. Victory is in the bag.

But when king Jehoshaphat pressed him, Micaiah admitted that he had lied.
Because Yahweh had given a lying spirit to all the prophets.
So Ahab had Micaiah thrown into prison until he returned from the war.
“If you ever return, then Yahweh has not spoken through me” declared Micaiah.

Chilling words for a king about to go to war.
About to lead the army, in his kingly robes, into a battle where he will be at the front and a very obvious target for the enemy.
But that’s what kings did in those days. That’s how they led their people.

Not Ahab.
He convinced Jehoshaphat to wear his kingly robes as normal. But Ahab disguised himself so the enemy wouldn’t know he was the king. He knew that he could outsmart God’s judgement. In his arrogance, instead of repenting, he doubled down on his own ability to outsmart God.

The enemy had decided to search out the king of Israel and target him specifically.
But that enemy was tricked by this brilliant disguise idea. They all took aim at Jehoshaphat.
The plan was working.
Ahab was congratulating himself as a genius.

But then, an archer fired randomly into the air.
The arrow hit Ahab, king of Israel, through his disguise, and right through the gap of his breastplates, piercing his chest - killing him slowly over the course of the day as he watched from the sidelines as his army was defeated.

Just when he was thinking that he had outsmarted Yahweh - he wasn’t.
This was all part of Yahweh’s plan. All under control. All foreseen. All taken into account.
It was trivial for Yahweh to have an archer fire randomly to make the shot of the millennium and hit a disguised target in his one point of weakness.
Proving that Yahweh is in fact God and that even the king of Israel cannot stand against him if he has declared that something will be so.

So what has that got to do with a bat?

The world has been worshipping money and wealth for a long time.
In recent years, especially in the USA, but all over really, we’ve been willing to take bigger and bigger risks to get more and more of it. (At the expense of other people).

In 2008 we had a big wake up call, and the risks looked like they were about to bring down the entire system. But in our ingenuity we came up with a disguise a “recovery plan”. We put ourselves into unprecedented debt. We reduced interest rates as low as we dared. (Charging interest is what causes the issue in the first place, btw). And we clawed our way back to “stability”.
We did it. With our own brilliance, and our self reliant abilities and efforts.
We got away with it.

Until someone in China ate a bat. A bat that was sick, with a corona virus.
Within months, governments all around the world were in a panic, desperately trying to stem the flood of sick and dying people to at most be a tide that we can sort of cope with. Shutting down the world economy one country after another.

But these economies are fragile. People live on the edge. Most of them don’t have finances for next week, let alone enough to go months without work.
And even with finances, with nobody working, where will the food come from?

On a smaller scale, people thought they were still in control if they had 6 months worth of toilet paper stockpiled in their garage.
They have no idea who they’re up against.

This could really be the end for the global economy. It might well come to the point that we would rather have food than any amount of money, and we will be willing to pay a whole day’s wages just to get a couple of litres of wheat. Just as it describes in Revelation.

We thought we had outsmarted God in our 2008 disaster. We thought we were above his warnings about worshipping money, and greed, and selfishness.

But then someone ate a bat.

The person who thinks they can ignore God’s warnings. Who thinks they can have things their own way because they want it that way. Will be like the person in Amos 5.
“It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.”

Every time he thinks he got away. Every time he relaxes. Every time he breathes that sigh of relief. Yahweh is right there. Waiting. Having fully anticipated this move and out planned, out thought, out done all his efforts.

We might even “get away” with it again this time. But if we do then there will be something else.

Resisting Yahweh’s decision on your life can only end two ways.
You repent.
You lose.

Your choice.


No Rosters for Churches

I presume you can talk.
And you can stand up right?
Great. So you can preach. We’ll put you on the roster.

How does that make you feel?
Outraged that I even suggest that we have a preaching roster which includes everyone?
Because preaching is too important? It should only be done by people who have a gift?

I totally agree. It is. It should.

But so is making and serving morning tea.
It is too important. It should only be done by people who have a gift.

If you disagree, you should read 1 Corinthians 12 again.
We all have gifts. We should use them for the building up of the church.
And if I’m doing things I don’t have the gift for, that means I’m ignoring the things I do have a gift for.

If you think morning tea should be just a roster which includes everyone it implies to me that you think it’s not important. But 1 Corinthians 12 says different. It says that everything we do is important. Every gift is important, no matter how small or trivial the world thinks it is.

Some years ago a friend and I visited a church we had heard about which was famous for its culture and the speed it was growing. We wanted to see how they were doing it.
Nobody talked to us. Nobody. They ignored us completely.
I walked around taking brochures to make it obvious I was new. Looking at all the notice boards. … nobody.
So I gave up and went to get a coffee. The lady who served me asked, “Are you OK? You look like something is troubling you.” … this lead to a conversation where she gradually pulled it out of me. I was quite hurt that in a church that big, so famous for its culture… I was ignored. I honestly just wanted to go home and cry.
But after talking with her, I felt a lot better. She made me feel incredibly welcome. Even now, 30 years later, I remember her. Jane. Lovely lady.
Because of her, we went back in the evening. We had a good experience.

She had a gift.
She wasn’t just on a roster to hand out coffee. She was doing a ministry.
She was living out 1 Corinthians 12. She was living out “being the body of Yeshua”.

This article has more discussion on what that means, and what it looks like when we all do only the things we’re gifted for.

Sure, we can have a roster for morning tea. But only people with the gift should be on it.
People without the gift will do a bad job. They will get sick of it. They will get tired of doing it.
People with the gift will do an amazing job. They will love it. They will happily do it forever. Yeshua will thank them for what they have done.

Show them that we value their gift. Show them that we realise that it is as important as a preaching gift.

Show the world that we’re different.
Show the world that we’re the body of Yeshua.


User Pays

On the surface, User Pays seems like a very fair way to do things.
In Australia petrol/gasoline is taxed, (quite highly taxed), but that tax pays for all the roadworks nation wide. The idea being that if you use the roads more than me, then you’ll need to buy more fuel than me, so you’ll pay more tax than me. That seems fair right?

If all our tax was that way, I would pay less tax because I don’t have any children attending school. And maybe I can opt out of other government services, like pensions or aged care, (because I’m not that old yet).

But what about church?
Does User Pays work for church?

Is it OK to charge $5 for a copy of the sermon to cover the costs of recording, producing and hosting it? Is it OK to charge $10?
Is it OK to charge $10 for admission to church on Sunday? (Because you’re hearing the sermon for free after all).

Is it OK to charge for coffee after church? Especially now that we all want better coffee and the machines are expensive. And we need an actual barista to make it.

Is it OK to charge for counselling?
Counselling is expensive outside the church. So maybe we should because people expect to pay for counselling.
Is it OK to charge for pastoral care?

Is it OK to charge for English classes?

So my big problem with all this is that there is no biblical precedent.
I don’t see a single instance, or even a hint, that the early church charged anyone for anything.
In fact, quite the opposite. I see the early church giving things away to anyone who needed them. For free.
And I see people giving substantial amounts to the work of the church. Even property. Regardless of what “services” they used themselves.

The other problem I have with it, is that it puts a barrier up for the “lower classes”. Lower income people who can’t afford to pay for these things. It attracts the wealthier middle class, and makes church much more socially acceptable. Like a club for the middle classes.

In the kingdom of God there are no classes.

Things have changed in Western culture haven’t they.
We’re now totally obsessed with money.
We don’t want to give it.
We don’t want anyone else to get something for free.
We somehow think that if we have money that we earned it.
Or worse. That we deserve it.
We live in million dollar houses and we won’t even give someone a free coffee when they visit our church.

Church has one goal. Reaching the lost with the message of the good news of Yeshua.
Everything we do should be based on that. Everything we do should be measured in terms of how it helps or hinders that goal. Not by how much it costs.

Should church be “user pays”?
You’re lucky that salvation isn’t user pays. Because you couldn’t afford it.



Prayer is simple. It’s talking with God.
Not to God, with God.
When we pray we expect an answer. It’s a conversation.

What should we pray for?
Well, anything I guess.

But I would qualify that a fair bit.

It depends on your maturity.
Kids could potentially ask their parents for anything.
They might ask when they’re 5 years old if you will fund their college study. Or if you would explain salvation to them. Or why do countries go to war.
But usually 5 year olds just ask for “stuff”. Can I have chocolate? Can I have a new bike? Can I leave the Brussel sprouts?

Teenagers start asking deeper things right?
Some of them still just want stuff. But most teenagers are starting to worry about bigger things, like sex, careers, suicide, drugs. Hopefully they’ll ask you.

It’s kind of the same with Christians praying I think.
A lot of immature Christians still just ask God for stuff. Trivial stuff.
Please get me a parking space.
Please keep me safe as I travel today.
Please don’t let it rain for my birthday party.

Often this trivial stuff is self-centered, but some times it’s not. Sometimes it’s for other people. But really this kind of prayer shows your immaturity. It shows your lack of understanding of the power of the one you’re praying with. Actually it shows that you’re praying to, not praying with.

If you were given 30 minutes to speak with the monarch of England, or the President of the United States. What would you talk about? Parking? Weather?
I hope not.

But here you are. Sitting talking with the creator of the entire universe. And you’re bugging him about parking. And about the weather? Really?

Of course just like a loving father with a toddler, he’ll probably answer you.
But I think he’ll also be hoping you start to grow up a bit.

Look at the prayers in the Bible. That’s heavy stuff. Life and death stuff. Eternal life and death stuff.
Bible prayers don’t seem too concerned about “stuff”. It’s kind of a given that God will make sure you get the stuff you need. Food, shelter, clothes… (Read Matthew 6). But that you will have your heart enlightened to really deeply understand Yeshua and all he has done for you? Not so much a given. That’s something to pray for.

Removing demons. That’s not an every day prayer.
For those imprisoned for speaking out about their faith. Not even so they will be freed, but more so they will speak boldly.

Can you see the difference here?

So many church prayers seem about our comfort. Our lifestyle.
Please help Mary so she doesn’t feel sick. Please help James as he flies interstate today.
Sometimes church prayers feel like they’re designed to remind Mary and James that we care about them. That’s great. But that’s not the purpose of prayer.

Acts 2 tells us the early church was devoted to prayer. Do you think their church prayers were like yours? Or different? Why?
What would it take to get your church to pray like theirs did?

Prayer is to bring glory to the only true god. It is to give him the opportunity to glorify himself by his answer. It declares to all those listening that we trust him to look after us with the big stuff.

Read Yeshua’s prayer in John 17.
Moshe’s prayer in Exodus 32.
David’s prayer in Psalm 51.
Paulus’ prayer in Ephesians 1.

James 5 reminds us that Eliyah (Elijah) was just like us, and he prayed that it wouldn’t rain. And it didn’t rain for 3 1/2 years!

Is that your prayer? Is it powerful like that? Is it earnest like that?
Or are you still praying like a little kid.

Pray bigger. Pray deeper.


World Peace

I think we all agree what it would look like.
World Peace. At a global level it would mean no more wars.
But to what extent? No more physical wars, sure. But what about trade wars? Minor disputes? Wouldn’t it need to be no more disagreements of any kind between countries?
Again, great. That would be great.

And locally? No more gangs? No more robberies? No more violence of one person against another?
It would be safe to walk down the street, even with money in your pocket. Alone. At night.
But again, it would have to be no more hatred. Not just physical violence. No more anger. No more yelling. No more disputes with anyone.
And again… wow. Yes please. That would be amazing.

So is this what you’re praying for?
Is that what you want?

Do you think God is going to answer you?

Would you be allowed to stay if he did?
Or are you assuming he would take control of you and stop you being angry, selfish, greedy, proud?
Would we all have to become little robots for world peace to work?

And what does the Bible say about world peace anyway?
Yeshua was pretty blunt about it towards the end of his life.
You’ll have wars, rumours of wars. These will continue until the end.
Along with earthquakes, storms, other natural disasters. (But that’s another kind of “world peace” too).

Towards the end, towards the return of Yeshua, all the nations of the world will gather in war against Jerusalem. Yeshua himself will return to save them with just a word from him mouth.

Either that’s not true, or world peace can’t come until after that.

Is that what you’re praying for? The world to go to war against Israel and for Yeshua to come back and save them?
The Bible does say that after he does, there will be world peace for 1,000 years.

But this isn’t the world peace we usually pray for is it.
We just want a peaceful world. Now.

Why do we pray for world peace?
Are we afraid of war?
Do we see ever escalating tensions between the nations around us and worry about what will happen if one of them loses their patience?
What will happen to our comfortable lifestyle if someone launches a nuclear weapon against someone else?
Will we even be able to find work after that? Or even food?

I think in reality, it’s not actually world peace that we really want. What we want is personal security.

Have you ever played one of those computer games where you fight mythical creatures, but you can find extra armour, or magical rings which make you impervious to a certain thing, like fire. So if you know for sure you can’t burn, you can courageously confront a dragon without any fear. You know you will win because the dragon can’t hurt you.

What we really want, is to be impervious to what the world can do to hurt us.

And that is something we can have. Something we can pray for.

When we read the story of Paulus in the Bible, we see a man who endured all sorts of violence and difficulties. But when I read his story I definitely get the feeling that he was never afraid. He knew that Yeshua was looking after him all the way through. Whatever he faced, he knew he could do it in the strength of the spirit of God.
He knew that even if he died, everything would be OK. In fact, better!
Paulus was impervious to the world because he knew it was temporary, and that his real purpose had nothing to do with what happened to him physically. His real purpose was unshakeable. His future was 100% secure because he had trusted it to Yeshua.

That’s the path to “world peace”. Or at least to you feeling like you have world peace.
No more fear. No more anxiety.
Is that what you’re praying for?
God will answer that one.
Ask him.



An apartment block near us was just condemned as “extreme fire risk” because the materials used to clad the outside of it are quite flammable.

People had been living there for more than 10 years.
But now they have 48 hours to get out and not come back.

Anything they don’t move out by then, will stay there until the building is “repaired” and is deemed safe by the local council. That might be a year. Or more.
During that time, they will have to find somewhere else to live.
Of course nobody would be willing to buy it in the current state, so they can’t sell.
They will have to keep paying their mortgage.
They will have to pay for rent or some other kind of accomodation for a year.
And they will have to pay for repairs which could be $200-300,000 for each apartment.

Normally in Australia we have builder’s insurance for 10 years to cover faulty workmanship. But the builder went out of business 5 years ago. So there is no company to sue, and there is no insurance.
And besides, there is no evidence that the builder did anything wrong, it’s just that the materials which they thought were OK 10 years ago, are no longer considered safe.
And they may have gone out of business just because they retired… There is no implication of illegal or even immoral behaviour on the part of the builder.

So who did wrong? Seems like nobody.
Who will pay? Seems like the owners.
Is that fair? Doesn’t feel like it.

So of course we feel incredibly compassionate towards them. They are going through a very stressful thing, and there seems no easy way out for them. But all we can do really is to be there for them while they go through it. To remind them that they’re not alone.

But this made me think of our eternal home.

Where do you plan to spend eternity?
I have accomodation set up. It’s already been built. It’s already paid for.
I’m very much looking forward to going there.

But imagine being certain of your future, your eternal home, (and so there is no mistake, we’re talking about after you die), and when you get there, you find out that it’s been condemned.

A lot of people are facing that reality.
The Bible says that unless Yeshua built your house, then it’s going to burn. It is effectively condemned as unsafe, a fire hazard. You will not be able to live there.

Some of us have chosen the wrong builder.
Maybe you have built yours yourself. Thinking that your own good life will guarantee you a secure eternal home.
It won’t. It’ll burn. It’s condemned.

Maybe you figure you’re OK because you worship “The Universe”, … or Buddha, or Allah… Or because all religions are the same…
They’re not. You’re not. Your house is condemned too. You cannot live there.

You will have to have it rebuilt.
But you won’t be able to afford it. The price is too high. 
It will be too late. You’ll be homeless.

There is only one builder who’s work is acceptable. One builder who’s houses will stand.
There is only one builder you can trust for your eternal home.

No one else.
Trust him.


Do Not Covet

In Australia we aspire to own our own house.
Is that a bad thing?

Well, kinda. It depends.
What kind of house do you want?
What kind of house can you afford?
What else are you sacrificing to get it?

Most Australians only seem content when they have a big, impressive house which they can show off when others visit. It’s a huge status symbol.
Typically now it will cost well in excess of a million dollars.

What else could you do with a million dollars?
Anything of eternal value?

Many Australians live cash poor lives. Such a huge percentage of their income goes to repay the massive mortgage on their status symbol house that they can’t afford to do anything. No eating out. No travel. No fun times. No experiences being built into their kids’ lives. And no giving generously to God.

Not everyone of course.

Many of those who don’t do this wish they could though. They only don’t own the “house of their dreams” because they just can’t afford it. They dream of winning lotto, or somehow, one day, having enough to afford to live like the people they envy.

But that’s just coveting.
That’s forbidden.
God hates it.

God wants us to be content with what he has given us.
Not to chase after what our neighbours and friends have so we don’t miss out.

Some people bought their house before the prices skyrocketed to their current crazy heights. Are you one of those? Do you give way more to God because of your abundance? Or do you spend yours on yourself?

Or do you put it all into your superannuation so you can still live comfortably when you retire at 50?
How about your car? New? Flashy? Luxury SUV?
Got two?

Why did you buy the house you bought?
Why did you buy the cars you bought?
Why are you so fixated on having great stuff that other people can see?

We even train our kids right from the time they’re young. We collect all those little plastic toys from the supermarket. We let them get caught up in the craze. We even change our spending habits so we can feed our children’s addiction to these toys.
So we can feed our children’s coveting. Their jealousy. Their greed. Their materialism.
Is that really good parenting? To feed your children’s sin?

We’re actively preparing the next generation to be even more self focused, more coveting, more driven by greed.
Preparing them to be consumers who will buy bigger and better than we did, and spend all their time and money worshipping materialism instead of sacrificing everything they have for the advancement of the kingdom of Yeshua.

In 1 Timothy 6, Paul writes, “devoutness with contentment is a means of great gain”

We need to stop coveting. We need to be content. We need to be training our children to be content. The world is constantly working against us on this. We need to prepare them for that battle. We need to say “no” if that is what it takes. We need to model not coveting. And we need to actively train them to resist.

Yeshua said, “you cannot serve God and mammon”.
He didn’t say “should not”, he said, “can not”.
Which one did you choose?
Which one will your kids choose?


Common Ancestors

At a fundamental level pretty much everyone who knows even a little about the Bible knows that it teaches that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and so we are all descendant from them.

But we’re also all descendant from Noah and his wife. So we also inherit their genealogy. Another 18 people, and more than 1700 years of history.
Adam & Eve (the first humans, who lived in Eden), Seth and his wife, Enosh and his wife, Kenan and his wife, Mahalalel and his wife, Jared and his wife, Enoch (who walked with God and didn’t die) and his wife, Methuselah (who lived 969 years) and his wife, Lamech (who married two women and lived 777 years) and one of his wives, and Noah (who survived the flood) and his wife.

Some of our common ancestors did some cool stuff!
It would be awesome to meet them and hear their stories first hand.

But so what?
So what that we have common ancestors and share all that family history?

Do you treat your brother differently than you treat a stranger?
Do you show more respect to your Aunt and Uncles than you do to a stranger?
Would you help out a relative more readily than you would help a stranger?

Let’s be clear.
Everyone is your relative.

Even the people you don’t like.
Even your boss. Even your employees.
Even the homeless guy you see on the way to work.

Even if their hair or their eyes are a different colour than yours.
Even if their skin is a different colour than yours.
We are all related.
We are all one family.

There are not several races, there is one. Ours. The human race.
There are not different “people groups”. There is one. Ours. Our family.

They might be strangers in the sense that you don’t know them.
But no more a stranger than a cousin you have never met.
Whoever they are. Wherever they live. They’re family.

So let’s treat them like family.
And let’s see what else we have in common other than our 20 common ancestors and 1700 years of history.


Is God Angry with You

As much as I would like to say, “Hey don’t worry, God is a god of love”…
He is a god of love… but he’s also angry.

Really angry.

Don’t know if you’re a parent. If you are, then you probably get a bit annoyed with your kids every now and then when they don’t do what you tell them to do. Or worse, they do what you explicitly tell them not to do.
But kids know your buttons… maybe sometimes… maybe you get really really angry.

If you every do get that angry by the way, make sure you walk away.
Do not hit your kids when you’re angry. Ever.
For one, you’re just teaching them that it’s OK to hit other people when you’re angry.
But for two, you might hurt them. And if you’re angry, that’s not discipline, that’s assault. Or revenge. Depending on how angry you are.

When you go against God, he gets angry. He has made it very clear to you about how he wants you to behave. And when you don’t do that, he gets mad. His tolerance for misbehaviour is completely zero. It is totally against his nature to accept that behaviour. He just can’t. Even if he wanted to.

Ever made anyone that angry?
So angry they won’t listen? So angry they look like they never want to see you again, ever?
What can you do? Buy them a gift? Write them a card? Get a friend to talk to them?

God is so angry that none of those will work.
No gift or sacrifice you can make will do it.
No amount of begging or pleading.
No amount of doing good, or helping the poor.
No amount of impressing priests or ministers so they’ll put in a good word.
No amount of giving to the church.


The Bible says that Yeshua is a propitiation. That’s kind of an unusual English word, and not often used these days.
A propitiation is a gift given to someone specifically to make them calm down and to quell their anger with you.
Yeshua became your propitiation to God. Mine too.

This is the good news part of the good news.
The anger bit is the bad news part that makes the good news so good.

God is angry with you. You know why. And you know he’s right. He’s entitled to be mad after what you have done.
But Yeshua has sacrificed himself to make things right between you and God.

All you have to do is trust him. Trust Yeshua. Trust that he has done that, and trust that God has accepted it.

In 1 John we read, “And he himself [Yeshua] is a propitiation for our sins. And not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.”

And this, “In this is love, not because we loved God, but because he himself loved us, and sent his son, a propitiation for our sins.”

God is angry. But he loves you. So much, that he sent his own son to die for you because he knew that only that would quell his anger.

Trust Yeshua. Be reconciled to God. He’s not angry any more.



The seeds for this article come from the book Exiles by Mike Frost. There is also a 3 part study series which I recommend.

The first time I went to China I was really annoyed that nobody ever lined up. They just push in to get what they want, and if you don’t push, you don’t get. When I asked my Chinese friend why everyone was so rude, they just said, “In China that isn’t rude. That’s just how we do things here.” It still felt rude to me. I could tell I didn’t fit in. I could tell that they were different. That they thought differently to me.

Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in? Like everyone around you is from another culture?
That people should treat each other better. Be more respectful. Show more love. But that the world is going a different way. Becoming more angry, more violent, more self centred, more entitled.
I struggle that people seem so addicted to video games and TV shows. The newspapers are even reporting Game of Thrones like it’s real news. Half the people on my morning train just stare mindlessly at their smartphone screen.
It also seems like everyone is desperate to make money, to buy bigger houses and fancier cars. Like status and financial independence is the ultimate goal in life.
And they cling to life because it’s all they have. They will spend whatever it takes to stay alive one more day.
Yeah, I don’t belong here. I’m different. I don’t fit in at all.

In Daniel and Jeremiah we read the story of how Israel was carried off into captivity in Babylon. At first they thought their stay would be temporary, but then Jeremiah received a word from Yahweh, “Build houses, dwell in them. Plant gardens, eat their fruit.” They realised that they were not just in temporary captivity. They realised that they had to live in exile until Yahweh restored them to their home in the promised land. For 70 years.

But how do you do that? How do you live as a good Jew surrounded by a culture that doesn’t even recognise your god, or understand your culture, or your religious requirements to only eat certain animals, and to slaughter those you do eat in a particular way?

How do you live a certain way, the way you know God wants you to live, when the whole world around you not only doesn’t live that way, but who don’t even value your way of life at all?

We’re like that too. We’re not from here. We don’t fit in here. We’re exiles.

Yeshua’s prayer in John 17 talks about this.
Being in the world, but not of the world.

Yeshua lived in the world for 30 something years. But he wasn’t OF the world for a single second.
In contrast to many modern Western Christians. Who seem so concerned that the world doesn’t reject them that they have become so much like the world that it’s hard to tell them apart. 50 years ago the church was concerned about wolves in sheep’s clothing. Now we have to be so careful of sheep in wolves clothing.

It’s usually pretty easy to tell when someone you meet is a foreigner. Not from here.
Petros calls us, (Christians), sojourners and expatriates. Whether we are travelling through or actually living here, we are not from here. That should be obvious to anyone who meets us.
Is it? Is it obvious to everyone that you’re not from here?

In Daniel 12 God tells him that the wise will shine like stars in the darkness. Paul says the same thing to us in Philippians. That we should shine like stars in this wicked and depraved generation.
This is how we can live as exiles. In the world but not of it.
Not corrupted by the darkness that surrounds us, but shining out like a star as we live by the spirit, not by the flesh.

Nobody looks at the night sky and doesn’t notice the stars.
In fact, those very stars, distant pinpoints of light, often make all sorts of people wonder about their life. Their purpose. Their origins. Their god.
We can have that same effect. When we shine like stars in our crooked and depraved generation. Just by shining. We can make people question. We can cause them to seek their maker. We can get them to wonder where they come from, and where they’re going.
Just by shining.

So how do that? How do we live here in exile?

Paulus tells us in Romans 12 not to conform to the world around us.
So should we live separately from them and have nothing to do with them?
Should we judge them and point out their sinful lives?
Should we tell them that God hates them and is angry with them?
Is that shining like stars? Or is that just us being judgemental hypocrites?
Is that love? Or is that just to make ourselves feel better about our own issues?

Or should we become like them so we fit in and they accept us?
Should we make sure we don’t offend them by talking about our belief in front of them?
Should we just blend in?
Is that shining like stars? Or is that just avoiding the awkwardness and pain of rejection?

We can live among them without conforming. Without losing our identity.
But we have to pay the price of not belonging.

But shining like stars isn’t about being in their face either.
It isn’t about preaching judgement. It’s not about confrontation.
It isn’t even about pushing the gospel on people who don’t want to hear.

Shining is about being different.
About not being willing to conform.
And about not compromising who we are in Yeshua.
It’s about having different priorities than they do. About having God’s priorities.
About not wasting your life playing video games, or watching a TV series like it was real life. About focusing on things above like it says in Colossians.
About not being desperate to be rich so you’ll feel secure. But feeling secure because Yahweh, your heavenly father has your back, even with things are tough.

Shining attracts people.
Some of those people will hate you because you’re shining light into their life but they only feel safe in the darkness. Where they can hide from who they really are.
But some of the people you attract will want to shine like you.

Yeshua said, “While I’m in the world, I’m the light of the world.”
Yeshua shone like the sun. Bringing the light of the day into the world.
But we can be content to shine like stars. Like little pinpoints of light only visible in the night sky.
Maybe you feel like you can’t even shine that brightly.
But even a candle shines in a dark room.
You can be a candle. Right?

Shine. However bright. In exile. Until Yahweh calls us home.


Why Does a Loving God Allow Evil?

Usually this is a question we hear after some atrocity.

That seems natural. We are distressed about what happened and we feel helpless to stop it ourselves.
It recognises our need for God to intervene to stop things like this.
But instead of turning to him, we turn from him - because of some expectation that he should love us and protect us, even though we have never done anything to deserve it.

When we ask, “What do you want him to do about it?”, it usually comes down to something along the lines that people like Hitler shouldn’t be allowed to live.
God should kill them somehow. Or prevent them from being born in the first place. Or something like that.

Now, I think with people like Hitler, we’re all pretty much agreed, that we think the world would have been better off if he had never been born.
Usually though we don’t feel that way about ourselves. Even though we know that we don’t always do the right thing ourselves either.
Somehow our evil is nowhere near as bad as his. (Which I think is true). But even more, somehow our evil is OK, but his is not acceptable.

So for most of us, we would draw the line that defines “evil” somewhere between us and Hitler.

And this is where the problem comes. Who decides where to draw that line?

Not harming others?
So if you drive drunk and kill someone ... you’re out.
What if you drive drunk but get home safely?
What if you are just a social drinker who doesn’t drive drunk?
Who defines drunk?
What if you just sell alcohol?
What if you sell it to someone who is obviously drunk?
Where does responsibility stop?

What about speeding drivers?
What if they are like you, and they only speed by a little bit? Or just accidentally every now and then?
Is that OK?

Funny isn’t it, that we always come up with definitions that leave us on the right side of the line and others on the wrong side.

I wonder how God decides where the evil line is? I wonder if you’re in our out.

I think that when it comes down to it, God has two choices.
Define it so strictly, that everybody is out.
Or so loosely, that everybody is in.

And there is God’s dilemma. Because obviously people like Hitler have to be out.
But then that means that we’re all out.
The definition is simple. Any evil, is evil. Everybody is out.
But God is a loving god. He doesn’t want to enforce that judgement.
If he did, humans would be extinct tomorrow.

So, in his love, God tolerates our evil.
And he has put the “Yeshua Plan” into action. Yeshua will be killed instead of us. Yeshua will endure our punishment instead of us.
Yeshua will even help us reduce the evil in our own lives as we live them through him.
The Yeshua plan is happening. But it’s long term. One day it will be finished.
But for now, God tolerates our evil, and waits patiently for that day.

And again, God has to draw a line. The love line.
Who to love, and who to not love while he waits for the plan to be fulfilled.
We usually draw the love line the same way we draw our own definition of evil line.
Somewhere between us and someone we think is too extreme.
God draws it on the same principles as his evil line too...
Just like his evil line, God’s love line also includes everyone.

God sees everyone’s evil as too much and deserving of punishment.
God loves everyone and tolerates their evil until the Yeshua plan is fulfilled.

We ask why doesn’t God do something about evil?
He is doing something.

God, the loving God, is dealing with evil the only way it can be, and in his love he will one day deal with it once and for all.
And fortunately for us, he isn’t dealing with evil the way that we would.
Otherwise we would all be dead already.


Jewish Time

This is a brief and basic article about how the Jews divide up their calendar and count time.
If you approach the Bible with a modern Western idea of days and months you will misunderstand some references and maybe doubt the accuracy of what you are reading.

In Genesis 1:5 we read “there was evening, there was morning, the first day.”
Because some of these words have connotations to our Western minds I am going to use two slightly different words throughout this explanation. Hopefully it will make things clearer.
nighttime - the dark part of the day, between 6pm and 6am.
daytime - the light part of the day, between 6am and 6pm.
So Genesis 1:5 becomes, “there was nighttime, there was daytime, the first day.”

Because of this one verse the Jewish system of counting days is very different to ours.
Jews count days from 6pm to 6pm.
A Jewish day has a nighttime followed by a daytime. (Ours is the essentially the other way around, we have daytime and then the nighttime of the same day).

It is also important to note that the common part is the daytime.
So when a Jew talks of Tuesday daytime we understand... that is what we would also call Tuesday daytime.
But... when a Jew talks of Tuesday nighttime, this is when we get confused, ... that is what we would call Monday nighttime.

Get it?
So… for a Jew the daytime that follows a nighttime is the daytime of the same day.
For us, the daytime that follows a nighttime is the daytime of the next day.

One other word that is very important is twilight. The NIV translates it as twilight, some more literal translations use “between the evenings”. For a Jew this meant late afternoon. For us, let’s stick with “late afternoon” to save confusion.

So, what immediately follows late afternoon on Tuesday?
For us it is Tuesday evening, but for a Jew it is Wednesday evening.
(this is fun isn’t it 😊)

So, what follows late afternoon on the 14th?
Yes, for a Jew it is the evening of the 15th. Late afternoon on the 14th is just a couple of hours before the beginning of the 15th.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

In Exodus 12 God tells Moses that the Passover lamb is to be sacrificed at twilight, (late afternoon), of the 14th of the first month. And then eaten that evening.
Then, for the next 7 days they are to eat unleavened bread, (bread made without yeast).

So, what was the Jewish date when they ate the Passover?
What comes straight after the late afternoon of the 14th? Yes, the evening of the 15th.
So the Passover was eaten on the evening of the 15th, a few hours after the lamb was killed in the afternoon of the 14th. And the Exodus happened during that night so their first day of freedom was the 15th, (daytime).

The feast of unleavened bread was for 7 days... so the Jewish 15th to the 21st.
Or starting on the Western evening of the 14th and ending just before the Western evening of the 21st.
(Time for a coffee or a walk around the house?)

Maybe a picture will help.

Passover and The Feast of Unleavened Bread

Are you surprised that the Jews also counted hours differently?
(Wait until we get to “Months”!)

Like us, they counted hours since the start of the day. Except for us the day starts at midnight, and for them the day starts at 6pm.

The Jews counted nighttime as 6pm to 6am. So the 3rd hour of the night was what we would call 9pm. The 9th hour would be 3am.
That’s fairly easy...
They started again in the morning at 6am. So the 3rd hour of the day was 9am. And the 9th hour would be...
Yes, 3pm.

Not so hard when you remember that their day started at a different place.

Yep, way different. Unless you’re Chinese.

For Westerners, months are broken up into a fixed number of days so they fit nicely into one full year. That makes it very handy because that keeps it so that January is always the same season every year. If we had a system where the months didn’t add up to a whole year then the seasons would gradually slip out of sync with the months and we’d be very confused.

It would also mean your birthday would be different every year. Or if you kept the same date, then you couldn’t simply work out how old you were by just adding up birthdays. But I think this wasn’t the main reason for keeping them the same. 😊

Western months were decided by kings and emperors. They decided how long each one was, and they have changed a few times, but not recently. For the last few hundred years we have had a nice predictable pattern that everyone knows.

For the Jews though, their months worked around the cycle of the moon. The moon cycle is about 29½ days, and every time they saw a new moon, (the first shiny bit after a dark moon), that would signal a new month. So all their months are all 29 or 30 days long.

Of course a quick check on the calculator and you realise that 365 days a year and 29½ days a month doesn’t fit together very well.
365 days is 12 x 29½ day months plus 11 days left over...
So they had 12 months and gradually the seasons got out of sync with the months.

Actually, we also have the same problem, just smaller. A year is really 365¼ days. So our Western calendar slips out of sync by a quarter of a day every year.
As I’m sure you know, we fix that by having leap years. Once every 4 years we add a day to February to keep it all lined up again.

So they did the same kind of thing. But when your month is tied to the moon you can’t just add a day! So once every few years, they added a whole month to keep everything lined up.
In Old Testament times this was done by observing the weather and the crops. If they got near the end of the year and it didn’t look like spring yet, then they added a month. This way the new year, and therefore the Passover, were always in spring.
Modern Jews use a 19 year cycle and add an extra month in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle.

Now, for us that’s probably close enough.
But for the purposes of completeness...
(You might need to get another coffee 😊)

This bit is for bonus points, and you can skip it if you want…
To avoid ceremonial difficulties with some special days. Sometimes a day is added to one or two months to make sure there will be no problems next year.
For example, the Day of Atonement is always kept from falling next to a Sabbath to make it easier to fast.
And on the seventh day of the Festival of Booths Jews are supposed to walk around the synagogue seven times. But that can get tricky on a Sabbath, when you’re supposed to be resting, so they also make sure that the seventh day of Booths doesn’t fall on a Sabbath by “rigging” the calendar of the year before.
But I don’t think this extra day bit is relevant for Biblical study, so you can just file it away as something interesting to bring up at parties.

Hopefully that will help you understand the chronology of some of the events described in the Bible.
Like working out the events and timing of Yeshua’s last week in his earthly body.
But we will unfold that detail in another article.



So our natural thinking would be that if someone is poor then that is because they are lazy. (Assuming they have no obvious extenuating circumstance, like severe illness or a handicap which stops them earning a living).

But is that correct? Is that what the Bible says?

It seems that at a national level poverty comes to those nations which reject God. This especially applies to Israel. When they were walking closely with God all was well. But when they walked their own way. When they rejected God and followed other gods. Then he would sometimes use poverty to get their attention. To remind them that they had walked away from him. Poverty and famine are a wake up call. At a national level.

But does that still apply at a personal level? Job was poor for a while. God wasn’t trying to get his attention. He hadn’t walked away from God. Job was a good guy.

The widow whom Yeshua commended for putting her two leptons, (a very small amount), into the offering box because it was all she had to live on was clearly very poor. But she was commended by Yeshua. God wasn’t trying to get her attention. She hadn’t walked away from God.

Mary and Joseph were poor. They offered two pigeons to redeem their firstborn son, (Yeshua). In Deuteronomy we read that if you are really poor and can’t afford a lamb, you may redeem your firstborn with two pigeons. But they were hardly walking away from God! They were hardly following other gods. God was still talking with Joseph in dreams. They were good guys. (But poor).

Now poverty is hardly a blessing. But my point is that it’s not a curse either. It’s way better than being so rich that you forget God. Being so rich that you forget that whether you are aware of it or not, you are totally relying on God for your every breath.

In the letter to the church at Laodicea Yeshua told them off because they thought they were rich, but they were actually pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

So, you. Rich? Poor? Wish you weren’t?
Neither is a measure of the blessing of God in your life.
So just focus on serving God. And let him worry about your financial circumstances.


Throwing Rocks

We had to replace some windows in our church this week. Some of the local youths threw rocks through them.

Given that the building ultimately belongs to God... How dare they!

Doesn’t that make you angry? That these lads would have such disrespect for God that they would dare to throw rocks at his “house”.

If I was God there would be some kind of anti-vandal system, kind of like the one in the movie Demolition Man. Where lightning bolts would shoot out and destroy the rock before it hit the building. And then I would have another one shoot out and zap the offender for good measure. They wouldn’t be throwing rocks at my church if I was God.

But fortunately for all of us, I’m not God. Or more importantly, God is not me.

He is loving, patient, merciful, forgiving.

He would be asking, why did they do that? Are they angry with me? Are they angry with the people of my church? Are they just bored kids? How can I help them? How can I show love to them in a way that will bring them into a good relationship with me. A relationship which will change them from the inside out to the point that they not only no longer want to throw rocks, but that they also want to reach out with love to others who are hurting.

It’s pretty clear from the Bible that the Jews hated the Samaritans. (Samaritans were half cast Jews). They wouldn’t eat with one, they didn’t even like to be seen talking with one. Samaritans were unclean.

One day when Yeshua was heading up to Jerusalem he went through Samaria. But they didn’t welcome him because he was completely focused on heading for Jerusalem. (Seems fair enough really eh. Jews hate Samaritans but then they get angry when Samaritans don’t fall over themselves to welcome them).

But James and John were so indignant that they asked if Yeshua wanted them to call down fire from heaven on these people.

Even three years with Yeshua hadn’t tamed these two very much. No wonder they were called “Sons of Thunder”.

Thankfully, God isn’t like that. Otherwise we would have all been dead long ago. Zapped the first time we sinned.

I wonder if I need to be more like God?
I wonder where those kids live?


Who’s Driving?

I’m sure you get the analogy of a person driving their own car as being an “image” of a non-Christian.

The other seats in the car are empty. They are in complete control. But they are driving aimlessly through life, not really knowing where they are going.

They see Yeshua by the side of the road and he asks for a lift. They oblige.

After a while, they realise that Yeshua knows what he is talking about, and knows a lot about the road and where they should be going.

They start to let him navigate. Things go well.

Suddenly, they pull down a side road. Yeshua asks, “Why are we going down here?” They are a bit embarrassed to answer, but just claim it’s a small detour that they need to make.

Yeshua looks a bit uncomfortable, but they continue down that road.

Eventually, feeling guilty for their choice, they head back to the road that Yeshua suggested.

Eventually they realise that Yeshua is right. They shouldn’t go down those roads, so they switch seats.

They let Yeshua drive the car and they take over the navigation.

Yeshua has more control than before, but he still reluctantly takes us on detours when we insist.

Soon, we realise that Yeshua needs to be the driver AND the navigator.

We jump in the back seat.

We’re in the back, so Yeshua has even more control than before.
But even there, we still tend to be “back seat drivers” and keep asking Yeshua to take us places he doesn’t want to go.

We don’t go down that road as often, but we keep nagging from the back seat.

Finally, we realise what we need to do.

We get in the trunk and let Yeshua have full control.

Sick of detours that leave you feeling lost and guilty?

Get in the trunk and give Yeshua complete control of your life.


The Lord’s Prayer

In John 17 we read the prayer that Yeshua prayed when he was preparing for his death.
Some people call this the “real” Lord’s prayer.
But if that’s true, then what is the one so many Christians recite in church?

Once when his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, (presumably because they saw how powerful his prayers were and wanted to be like that), Yeshua told them to pray a certain way.

If you go to “traditional” Church then you probably say it something like this:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven:
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Why oh why oh why would we believe that we have to pray in 17th century English! Even if we believe that Yeshua meant that we should recite this prayer literally, - he said it in Aramaic or Greek, and so even if we have to be literal, we should at least be translating it into modern English.

The Little Watchman Translation has this translation:

Our father who’s in the heavens,
let your name be regarded as holy.
Let your kingdom come.
Let your will come to be also on the earth as it is in heaven.
Give us our bread, sufficient for each day.
And pardon us for our sins, because we ourselves pardon all who owe us.
And don’t bring us into a trial, but rescue us from the wicked.

Only the version in Matthew 6 has the extra bit on the end about power and glory.

It seems sadly unavoidable that we will have to recite this sometime to keep someone happy who cannot break with their man made tradition. So when you do, … think about it as you pray.

As you pray it, ask yourself some simple questions based on what you’re saying.

Who do you pray to? God the father?

Do you personally regard the name of God, (Yahweh), as holy?
So holy that it must not be misused, or spoken evil of?
Do you, (his child), live as though your father is holy?
Do you really live as though God is your father?

Do you want his kingdom to come?
Are you doing anything to help make that happen?

Ultimately God’s will, (what God wants to happen), will come to be, everywhere.
But are you actively working for it to come to fruition on earth, (where we live)?
As it does in heaven, (where he lives).

Would you be content if God just gave you enough food for today?
Or do you want enough in the bank to have food for a year?
Will you only be satisfied when you own a house, and have good superannuation, and a well paying job, so you have financial security?
Do you remember the story of the man who built bigger barns but whose life was demanded of him?
Are you trusting in God or money?

Your sins are actually pardoned because of what Yeshua did for you 2,000 years ago.
But would you be willing to only have your sins pardoned because you pardon the sins of others? That’s what this is saying. Pardon us because we pardon others.
Or would that leave you guilty and doomed to eternal hell?
Do you think that your sins against God are outweighed by other’s sins against you?

Do you ask God to keep you from trials? From temptations? From evil and from evil beings?
Why? For your own comfort?
Do you think you would survive one?

If this is meant to be a literal prayer that we pray whenever we pray. Then it’s pretty odd that we never read of it being prayed by anyone else in the 30 odd years of church history recorded in the New Testament. 

I really don’t believe that is what Yeshua meant.

What do you think of this paraphrase?

Yahweh, God Almighty, the only true God. Our father.
You are holy. Even your name is holy, and it deserves our utmost respect, and to be treated as something incredibly special and sacred.
We want your kingdom to spread out to include the entire earth and all its people. And we will do all we can to help make that happen.
So that your entire will, everything that you want to happen, will come to be, here, exactly as you planned it. Just as it already does in heaven.
We have no desire for expensive houses, or comfortable lazy lives with no need to work.
Please give us enough food for today, and we will be satisfied with that.
We know that our sins are forgiven because of what Yeshua has done for us already, but
please also pardon our sins against you, because we pardon every one else’s sins against us. And we don’t hold it against them, no matter what they have said or done against us. Whether they regret it or not, whether they apologise or not. We forgive them. Please also forgive us for all our sins against you.
Please protect us from Satan and his forces. Protect us from wicked people. Teach us to rely only on you to keep us safe and to bring us through, as we undergo all kinds of suffering, trials and hardships, as we live for you here, working for and devoted to expanding your kingdom.
Everything is yours. The kingdom, the power, the glory, the honour. They have always been yours, and always will be yours, even into the next age, when your kingdom is complete and we live and rule with you in eternal peace.



Gossip is so juicy. It’s like a piece of food that once you taste it, you just have to have more. It goes right down to your inner parts and satisfies some long held craving deep in your soul.
Then it makes you sick.

In fact, it makes the church sick too. Gossip is so bad it’s rated in the same lists as murder, hating God, and rebellion. Gossip is not a minor sin. It’s not something that should be excused because everyone does it. It is an evil ugly thing that should be eradicated.

Gossip’s twin sister is slander. Gossip is bad enough when it’s true. How much worse when it’s false! One of Satan’s names in Greek is Diabolos. (the Devil). Literally translated it means Slanderer. Sounds like something Christians should avoid don’t you think? One of the names of Satan and we do it as if it’s no big deal.

Gossip is pervasive in our society. Especially in the media. Reality shows are basically feeding your desire for gossip. Most news these days is really just gossip. Most online newspapers have outrageous headlines with subtext that says things like, “You won’t believe what you know who has said now.” They call to your desire for gossip and promise to fulfil it if you’ll just click this article and read away.

The most important news didn’t happen 15 minutes ago. It happened 2,000 years ago. But where do you spend more of your time each day? Reading about gossip, or reading about important news?

Someone was saying recently that the “Prayer Chain” in their church was nothing more than a “Gossip Chain”. People would “commit to pray” so they could be first in line to hear all the gossip. And others in the church were reluctant to ask for prayer because they knew that within an hour everyone in the chain would be gossiping about them.
How appalling!
“Do I need prayer?”
“Yes, thanks, that would be wonderful.”
“What are the details, (so we can pray more specifically)?”
“God knows. Ask him.”

Seriously. You do not need to know the “juicy” details to be able to pray for someone. You don’t even need to know whether they need prayer.
Ask God if they need prayer. He knows that too!
If you’re really qualified to be on any Prayer Chain, then you should be able to talk to God about me and know whether I need your intercession on my behalf.

Love covers over a multitude of sins.
Gossip damages relationships and destroys churches.

Your choice.


Cultural Baggage

Here is a question that might help us separate things.
(It’s also a question you need to be asking regularly if you’re a missionary in Japan).

What would Christianity look like if it had started in Japan?

Apart from little things, like communion would probably be rice and sake…
If we had church buildings, they would probably be much more “in tune” with nature, peace, meditation, … kind of like the old Shinto temples and their park like surroundings.

Japanese people love festivals, (matsuri), so most likely there would be some kind of Spring festival, maybe Easter, and some kind of End/New Year festival. With some kinds of amazing, special foods.

Church music would be pretty different. Not just because of the instruments. But what would the lyrics be like? More poetic? Deeper?

Prayer… would probably be more serious, more devoted. We would probably have prayer retreats, more like our Korean brothers and sisters do. And meditation would probably be a bigger part of Christian life than it is in the West.

Church meetings on Sunday would almost certainly revolve around food and fellowship together. And Japanese respect teachers very highly. So perhaps there would be more emphasis on teaching that just on singing and music.

But Japanese are way more concerned with unity and conformity. So I suspect there would be ONE Japanese church, not hundreds of denominations.

Church government would be more hierarchical, more Biblical. Not “democratic” where the least mature Christians have the same say as the wisest and most spiritual.

What would evangelism look like? Less forceful, less intrusive?
And the stories and illustrations? More spiritual I think, but still based on farming, fishing, natural life.

And discipleship? More serious I think. But probably more “official”. There would probably be several levels of disciple. With certificates and maybe graduation ceremonies for each. Fancy becoming a 3rd dan black belt disciple of Yeshua? Cool.

And spiritual warfare? A real thing. Modelled on Samurai and real warriors.
Real. Common. We would all know that we are in a spiritual battle. And we would train for it. We would fight in it. We would win.

These are just my own thoughts, based on my own observation of Japanese culture.
Maybe yours are different. The important thing is that you’re asking the question.

But Christianity didn’t start in Japan. It came to Japan via the West and has been heavily influenced and corrupted by the culture it has been filtered through.

So if you’re a Japanese pastor… how much of what you have inherited from the missionaries who taught you was just their cultural baggage?
How much of that needs to be discarded?

If you are a missionary to Japan. How much of what you are presenting as Christianity is just culture? What do you need to let go of? How can you re-interpret real Christianity, Biblical Christianity into the Japanese culture?

For either of you, pastor or missionary.
How would you start again, and how would you do Japanese Christianity now if you had the freedom to redo it from scratch?

How would you make Christianity Japanese?


Capital Gains Tithe

We’re familiar with Capital Gains Tax. In Australia it’s 15% of the profit adjusted for inflation, etc… So, if you bought a house 30 years ago for $100,000 and you sold it this year for $1,000,000, (which are both fairly common in Australia). Then you would pay 15% tax on the $900,000 profit that you made. (With some adjustments).
If it’s your family home, you don’t even pay that. It’s tax free.

But I’ve hardly ever heard of an Australian Christian who sold their house and gave even 1% of the capital gains they made to God’s work.

Why is that? Most Christians realise that if they earn money through their work, or have investment income, then they should give some percentage of that to God.
(That percentage is between them and God, and not a fixed 10% as some people believe. That is Old Testament law and not New Testament grace. But you’re quite free to give whatever you feel is generous.)

But somehow when it comes to the capital gains on their own home Christians think that it is all theirs. Even though they did nothing at all to earn it. They paid off their mortgage for 30 years, and the value of their property skyrocketed. As much out of their control as it would have been if the value had halved. No contribution on their part at all except for making the payments which were cheaper than renting anyway.

Australian churches would be overflowing with funds if every Christian in the country gave even 1% of their capital gains to the church when they sold their house. But modern Australians are becoming greedy. Entitled. Self focused. Sadly, even a lot of the Christians.
They want wealth. They think they deserve wealth. And they are sharing less and less of it with others, especially the needy. Both in Australia and overseas.

This is not an article attacking Australians. It’s an article challenging your heart. Are you being generous? Or just selfish?
Do you think you’re entitled to keep all your capital gains when you sell a house?
Do you think you somehow earned it?

If you won hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lottery, would you give any to God and his work?
If you did a business deal that netted you a million dollars, would you give any to your church?
If you inherited way more money than you need, would you share any?
So if you sell a house and make a massive profit?

In the letter to the Laodiceans Yeshua said, “Because you say, ‘I’m rich. And I’ve become rich. I don’t have any need of anything.’ And you don’t know that you’re miserable, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I advise you to buy gold from me which has been refined in fire, so that you should be rich, and white clothes so that you may be clothed, and the disgrace of your nakedness mightn’t be revealed, and eye-salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Whoever I’m fond of, I expose and discipline. So be zealous and repent.”

Maybe you should read the book of Malachi.


Generational Curses

The idea of a generational curse, a curse which is on you because of something one of your ancestors did or said, comes mainly from this passage in the “Ten Commandments”.

“You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The context here is very clear. This is the giving of the Ten Commandments.
Yahweh is giving Moshe some explicit rules for his people to live by. He is explaining his standard for expected behaviour for the recently liberated Hebrew people.

In particular the context of this sentence is idolatry. If you make idols I’ll be very jealous and I’ll punish you, your children, your children’s children, and even your great grandchildren.
But if you don’t. If you love me. I’ll show love and kindness to a thousand generations of your descendants.

So this isn’t a general claim that Yahweh will curse your children if you sin.
And it isn’t a general claim that your children will be disposed to the same sins you are.
Other sins have nothing to do with God’s jealousy. This is particularly about idolatry.

There is another really important thing about the context here. This is the very central chapter of the giving of the Old Testament, (the old covenant), The Law. It is for Jews. ONLY. Period.
See this article No Rules for a more detailed explanation if you need it. But the Bible is very clear. Christians are not under the Law. Yeshua fulfilled the Law and nailed it up with himself when he was executed.
This often misunderstood fact is the focus of much of the New Testament, (the new covenant). Read Ephesians, Galatians, or many others. Acts 15 is the historical account of how the early apostles had to confront that realisation and how they stopped insisting that new Christians keep the old Jewish Law.

So if we’re not accountable to the Law, then we’re not accountable for the consequences of breaking it. That’s done. That’s paid for.
There is no penalty for us, let alone for our children or their children.

So where does that leave generational curses?
Pretty much a non event for Christians.

I also hear those who push this idea quoting things like, Abraham lied, Isaac lied, and Jacob was a deceiver. Those things are true. But perhaps they just picked up those things by living with their parents. There is no proof that they behaved that way because their parents did something, or that it was because of some curse from God on their family.
And, not sure if you’re aware, but everyone lies. So no surprise that you can find a parent and a child who both lied. There is nothing in the Bible that implies that Abraham was a liar. Or that Isaac was a regular liar either. But only that they both told a particular lie to protect themselves. Honestly, that means nothing to me. And to build a theology of generational curses based on that is just absurd.

Citing case studies where one client has a particular behavioural issue, like addiction or crime, or a similar sin, and then blaming a generational curse because their parent has the same issue is not even logical, let alone Biblical.

Years ago I worked in a small church school. About 25 students. And I knew all their parents pretty well. One day I was watching one girl, and was wondering about her behaviour. I realised her mother was the same. So then I started watching all the kids and then comparing what I knew about their parents. Pretty much all their behaviour, I could see in their parents. I learned a lot about my friends from their kids.
Children copy parents.
Nothing to do with curses.

There are some curses on children in the Bible.
But they are there because they were spoken by the parents.
Noah cursed his grandson Canaan.
Israel (Jacob) cursed two of his sons on his deathbed.

But they were very clear and explicit. The parent knew they were cursing the child, and the child, (an adult), knew that their parent was cursing them.

And finally, let me add this about “genealogies”.
When you become a Christian you are born again. But not into the same family as before. You are now Yahweh’s child. Yeshua’s sibling. Your genealogy has been changed. Dramatically.
You are now in the genealogy of Yahweh. No curses in that family.
You have nothing to worry about.


Why Do You Bother

If you have no god in your life and you’re just living for yourself. Then why bother going to work? What do you get out of it?

Sure, you get money, and you can buy food and rent somewhere to live. But is that it? When you get to the end of your life will that be satisfaction enough? “I didn’t starve and I still have somewhere to sleep”.

Consider totally non-religious Irene, (apologies to all Irenes out there), who works in retail. She was never very good at school work, and her mother says she was lucky to get this job at all. It’s really low pay, and she has to deal with some pretty rude and obnoxious customers from time to time. The hours are long, and she has quite a commute to and from work every day, but she can’t afford a place nearer work. And she can’t afford to quit.
Can you imagine doing that every day for 40 years?
How would you feel towards the end of that. Accomplished? Satisfied? A life well spent?
I imagine Irene is desperate for a way to escape her dull life. But there isn’t one. She has no choice but to endure it until it’s over.

Consider another woman, a fully committed Christian, Isabel. She also works in retail.
But for her, it’s a mission from God. She has a human boss, but she sees herself as working directly for God. She works every day as if God was going to call by at lunchtime and see how well she was doing.
She understands what Yeshua was talking about when he said how he had been poor, and sad, and lonely, and sick… but nobody had helped him. Because when anybody is poor, or sad, or lonely, or sick… and nobody helps them, he takes it personally, as if it was him who was suffering there.
She sees every customer as if they were Yeshua, visiting her store. She treats them the way she would treat him, with respect. And particularly when they’re rude, or they do seem lonely or sick, she reaches out to them with love and caring. When they leave the store, whether they bought anything or not, they go home changed. They go home feeling better about themselves, and knowing that someone cares. She sees Yeshua in them, but they see Yeshua in her too. Reaching out to them, not in judgement and condemnation, but in love and acceptance.

After 40 years, Isabel will feel satisfied. She will know that she has faithfully carried out her mission. She has a purpose that keeps her going day after day, even when it’s tough. Especially when it’s tough.
When she gets to the end of her life, she will know that she did well.

So two women, both doing the same job, but one has a purpose and one doesn’t. One has satisfaction and one doesn’t. One has a reason to jump out of bed every day, and one doesn’t. One sees her job as a mission, the other one sees her job as something she has to endure. One has pride in her job, one doesn’t.

One knows that this job is part of the reason she exists. To do this job as Yeshua would do it. Yahweh God has made her uniquely gifted to do this very job for him. To represent him to the people who come to her store. People who might not otherwise have any encounter with Yeshua.

One knows that she makes a difference.
One doesn’t. (But she could).

One knows that God loves and values her.
One doesn’t. (But she should, because he does).

One knows that she has a purpose.
And that purpose changes everything.


What About Us?

Hopefully you already read End Times If you haven’t please read that first because it sets the background for this article.
And hopefully that means you are in the habit of reading the reference chapters as they come up. Please do.

OK, so here we are, Christians, interrupting God’s plan for the Jews. How’s that going to end for us? And when?

The Rapture
The word “rapture” actually isn’t in the Bible. (Neither is “trinity” by the way). It’s a theological word used to label the last moment of the church on Earth. It is described in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. It’s a moment in time when Yeshua returns to gather his church. All the Christians who have already died will be resurrected - in new eternal, spiritual, bodies, not in their old bodies, (that would be “raised” like Lazarus, this is “resurrected” like Yeshua). Paulus says this will happen in an instant. One moment we’ll be in our current, earthly bodies, then next in our spiritual bodies, in the sky with Yeshua.
Now when that happened to Yeshua his earthly body disappeared and just the grave clothes were left. Presumably that will happen to us too. There will be little piles of clothes all over the world where the Christians were going about their business at the moment of the rapture. I wonder what those left behind will make of that! Probably alien abductions?

Yeshua mentioned the rapture event in Matthew 24 too. And he says that this event will be followed by terrible days.

Btw: notice that the reunion takes place in the air, (up in the clouds). Yeshua doesn’t return to the ground during the rapture. That happens later. That will be the “Day of Yahweh”. But first, something else needs to be played out.
The rapture is what Paulus calls in Romans 11, “the full number of the Gentiles”. And in that chapter Paulus says that Israel has been hardened until then, but after that God will go back to dealing with them. The rapture marks the day that the “interruption” is finished and God returns to his plans for Israel. He returns to Israel to play out the 70th “seven” of Daniel’s vision.

The Great Tribulation
And what a “seven”. This period has been labelled “The Great Tribulation” because of the terrible things that happen on the planet during that short 7 year period.

Btw: there is a lot of disagreement amongst Christians about whether the rapture occurs before the tribulation, in the middle of it, at the end of it, or even not at all. But once you realise that there are two systems operating... God dealt with the Jews, he interrupted that to deal with us, and then he needs to go back and finish something with them. Then it becomes clear that both systems won’t operate at the same time. So the church must be finished first, and then God will deal with the Jews. So the rapture must occur before the tribulation. Of course, this is great news for Christians.

Now it’s time for us to venture into the book of Revelation. In the beginning, (in verse 18), the angel tells John to write what he has seen and what will take place later. Some Christians believe that this book is just an allegory, just a picture story, that is there to help us explain the spiritual side of the truth. But remember our rule? If it makes sense literally, then let’s read it literally.

Revelation does make sense literally. Even if it’s a bit hard to comprehend. And it specifically says that it contains prophecy. So, let’s see what it says.

Chapters 2 and 3 contain 7 letters to 7 churches that existed at the time John wrote the book, (about 100AD). Although they are also very “generic” letters to 7 churches having 7 problems and offering 7 solutions from Yeshua. (See if one of them sounds like your church. How would you apply Yeshua’s solution there?).

It’s also a pretty safe bet, that if you’re in a Western church, then it’s like the last one (Laodicea).

In Chapter 4, John is suddenly in heaven. (Was that the rapture?) And the Lamb is on his throne encircled by thousands upon thousands, (the raptured church?) And he alone is declared worthy to open the scrolls.

Revelation 6 is the beginning of the tribulation. Disasters unfold as each seal is opened and read: death, destruction, earthquakes, even the sun and moon are affected. Finally people all around the planet will realise that this is the day of God’s wrath. Now, God has their attention.

Revelation 7 continues the story. 144,000 Jews are specially chosen to be “sealed” so they will not be harmed by the events that are to come. (Notice that the church is already in heaven, standing around the throne during these events. The tribulation is not for the church.) When Yeshua opens the 7th seal, there will be silence for half an hour. You know the kind of silence when you suddenly see something so horrific it takes your breath away and you can’t even speak.

The destruction so far has been the warm up. With the seven trumpets in Revelation 8, 9 comes horrendous devastation. One third of the land destroyed, a third of the sea wiped out along with all the life in it and ships on it, a third of the fresh water too. We think one oil spill, and a 1 degree global warming is bad. One third of the planet is going to be wiped out in a very short period of time. Somehow even the sun will be affected and we will have less light.

And then the angels are crying “woe” because of what is still to come! Still to come!

Now this doesn’t make sense literally. A star is given a key, and there are locusts with women’s hair and lions teeth!
But in verse 11, we see that their king is Abbadon, Appolyon... (these words are Hebrew and Greek for “Destroyer”). Their king is Satan, and the locusts are demons who have been imprisoned in the Abyss. They are allowed out to take revenge on people, but... not to kill them. So much suffering for five months, that men will be begging to die, but unable to do so.
Except those who were sealed for God, who will be protected from harm. Do you think that those suffering will notice that God’s people are protected and turn to him for help? Read verse 20... nope.

Now something else happens.Revelation 10, 11 God’s witnesses stand in Jerusalem. Power to stop the rain and to turn waters into blood? Remind you of anyone? Elijah stopped the rain, Moses turned water into blood, ... could it be them? Do you remember who appeared on the mountain of transfiguration with Yeshua? It was Moses and Elijah right?

Now we know Elijah was taken up to heaven without dying. But for Moses the Bible says that he went up the mountain and died.

But both these witnesses will die in Jerusalem sometime in the future. Whoever they are, they didn’t die already. They will be killed by the beast from the Abyss, Satan. But then days later God will breathe life back into them. A bit of a pattern for Satan eh... every time he kills someone and it looks like he won, they come back and he ends up losing even more. Just when everyone is cheering him for defeating the two hated witnesses, they get up and rise up into heaven in front of everyone.

Then the 7th trumpet is sounded and the time for judgement has arrived.

The Major Players
Now, in the next few chapters of Revelation 12, 13 we are introduced to some major players.
A woman who is chased by a seven headed dragon whose tail sweeps a third of the stars from the sky! She gave birth to a son who will rule the world, but before the dragon could devour the son, he was snatched up to the throne of God. Obviously, not literal... so, could the woman be Israel/Jerusalem? And the son? ... Yeshua? Seems to fit. And the dragon of course, would be Satan again who took a third of the angels with him when he fell. And now the woman is fleeing and hiding somewhere for 1260 days... 3½ years again! That number just keeps coming up. And down in verse 14 we see that expression from Daniel... a time, times and half a time.

And now another beast, this time from the sea - given power and authority over the whole world for 42 months... yep, 3½ years. Hmm...
And finally, a third beast, from the earth - a deceiving miracle worker who even gives life to an idol of the first beast and forces everyone to take the mark of the beast on their hand or forehead in order to be able to buy and sell anything. What’s the mark? No idea. Who’s the beast? No idea. What’s the 666 all about? No idea.
Over the years I have heard all sorts of speculation about this. From the Pope, to Henry Kissinger, and recently to Javier Solona, because he is head of the WEU, (the military arm of the EU), and EU recommendation 666 gave him authority to deploy the EU military whenever he sees fit. (Actually that does make him very powerful, and it’s a pretty dangerous law to pass, but I don’t know if it makes him “the beast”). It’s all speculation. Avoid speculation. When it happens everyone will know who it is, and everyone will be surprised.

And now, the seven last plagues of God’s wrath. Yet, even as the entire sea is wiped out, and the sun scorches down on them for worshipping the beast. Even then they would rather curse God than repent. (This is a good time to stop and remember that you are just like them, and it was only by grace that God saved you from being one of them).
Even at the end when the greatest earthquake of all time destroys every city, and 50Kg hailstones are falling from the sky, they continue to curse God. Seriously, they recognise that it is God who is doing it, but they refuse to repent.

And who is this prostitute? This Babylon the Great? Is she money? Islam? ... She’s riding a beast that sounds familiar. A red beast with seven heads... Satan right? ... The angel goes on to explain. He used to be, at the time John received the revelation, the beast was “not”, and in the future he will be released from the Abyss. But there is more to this picture. The heads represent hills and kings... Rome and Babylon were both called “the city built on seven hills”. Oh, way too many kings who were and aren’t and will be for me to follow... can you follow it? Oh, wait, the woman is a city... Babylon? But that’s destroyed at the moment... it’s a pile of ruins just south of Baghdad. I wonder if it will be rebuilt? Maybe she’s just symbolic? What do you think?
Either way, she will be destroyed and the merchants of the world will mourn her passing because they can’t make any more money. (Revelation 18)
And then in Revelation 19 we read of a final battle. Yeshua, king of kings and lord of lords rides out in battle to destroy all his enemies and establish his kingdom. We read about this in the previous article right? Is this what we read in Zechariah 14, and Daniel 2? Is this is the Day of Yahweh? Is this the end of life as we know it?

1,000 Years of Peace
Satan is thrown into the Abyss for a thousand years, while Yeshua rules the planet from Jerusalem, and people go up year after year to worship him there. (Revelation 20). Those who had refused the mark of the beast come to life and reign with him.

But then, at the end of that time, Satan is released to have one last go. One last battle. The real war to end all wars. Satan gathers people from all over the planet, and even after a thousand years of peace with Yeshua as their king, people, mankind, will still want to follow Satan instead and fight against God. Incredible.

But there is no battle. God has no time for playing around now. You chose your side. You lost. Game over. In the end God reveals it for what it was all the time... no comparison. All along it looked like God and Satan were fighting for control of the universe, but that was all part of the plan so that God could get us to this place. So God could show his incredible power one time and reveal that it was no contest. It turns out it that Satan had no power at all.

This is the important message for us as Christians. Not all the details of who and when, but that there is a very secure and definite future for us and it is not negotiable, it is not in jeopardy. It is definite.

And then?
Revelation 21, 22 tell of a new sky and a new earth. A new Jerusalem where there is a river of life, and where the Lamb will live. This is where we will spend eternity. No more sin, no more crying. Just a perfect life on a perfect planet. Eternal communion with God and each other, the way it was meant to be when God created this earth and the garden of Eden thousands of years ago.

There are of course, more passages in the Bible which relate to end times. But they all reinforce this one message. The end is coming sometime, but nobody knows when. And when it does, it will be definitive and final. God will have complete victory and his people will live at peace with him for eternity.

But I wonder if we’ll still be living here when it happens…


Giving the Devil a Foothold

The NIV translates Ephesians 4:26-7 as “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

On the surface, that sounds like it’s saying that if you go to bed angry, then you have given the devil a foothold. And “deliverance ministries” take this verse to mean that you have given the devil authority to enter your life.

More literal translations, like the NASB, or the LWT, translate the word “foothold” as “opportunity”. The LWT says
“Be provoked to anger, but don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, neither give an opportunity to Diabolos.”
That is saying that it’s ok to get angry, but when you do, don’t let that result in you sinning. It’s also saying, don’t go to bed angry, resolve it today. And it’s also saying, don’t give the devil an opportunity.

Opportunity and foothold are quite different things.
The Greek word τοπον (topon) means a piece of land. Clearly nobody is giving the devil a block of land, of any size. This word is being used figuratively here.
Foothold has the connotation of something to stand on, somewhere to put your foot as you make an assault on a wall or cliff face. And that connotation is not in the original Greek.
Opportunity is just an opportunity, and it is a better translation of the figurative use in the context of this passage.

But either way, neither of these words have anything to do with authority. Neither of these translations, nor the original Greek are saying anything about giving the devil any authority over you or over the church.

This section of Ephesians has a context.
“Regarding the former way of life, take off the old person, the one which is being corrupted by the desires of deceit, and be renewed by the spirit of your mind, and put on the new person, which is being created, just like God – in righteousness and in the piety of the truth.”

Paulus is comparing our former way of living with what we should be in Yeshua. He is telling us to choose to remove the old way, and to actively take on the new way. And he is giving us some examples. In modern jargon, he is “unpacking” that for us so we can understand how to apply it to our lives.

For example, he says, worldly people lie to each other. Don’t do that. Speak the truth with your neighbours, especially other Christians.

He says, we all get angry, that’s OK. But worldly people sin when they’re angry, (they take revenge, or hurt the other person, or turn to drugs, sex, power, … anything to take away their own hurt).
Paulus says, don’t do that. It’s OK to get angry, but don’t sin when you do. And in particular, don’t let your anger simmer, deal with it today.
If you don’t, you give the devil an opportunity - (to damage the church, to damage your relationships, and to damage you). Opportunity, not authority.
It’s dangerous for a soldier to raise their head to look around. Doing so gives the enemy an opportunity to shoot them. But it doesn’t give them permission!

He says, if you used to steal things, stop doing it. And be willing to work hard to earn what you have so you can share with those who are in need.

And when you speak, speak good things, that build others up, not rubbish that tears them down. Show that you care about one another. Stop thinking about just yourself.

There is no implication that failing in these ways gives Satan any authority whatsoever. Only that when we do them it grieves the holy spirit who knows how we should be living and is desperately trying to change our thinking so we can.

The cure to all these, is to have your mind renewed by the spirit of Yahweh. The same message as Romans 12. Your mind will be renewed and that will change your behaviour. As your mind is transformed by the holy spirit, your way of living will become more and more like Yeshua, and less and less like those around you who are still sold out to the ideas and values of this world.

This passage of Ephesians is nothing to do with demon possession.
It is nothing to do with giving Satan authority over your life.
It is about one thing: Taking off your old life, and putting on the new one.

Reading more into it than that is just giving the devil an opportunity.


I’m the Foremost Sinner

In 1 Timothy 1, Paulus said that this is a good saying, “Yeshua came into the world to save sinners, of whom I’m the foremost.”

I’m sure I’ve said this before. Paulus is not saying that he is the worst sinner ever. He’s saying that you are.
Well he’s not really saying that either, but he is saying that we should all think this way. It’s a “saying” and we should all accept it. We should have the attitude that “I am the foremost of sinners.”

For the Western mind we always want to be “in” the cool crowd. We usually prove our claim to be “in” by showing that we’re not “out”. We do it by comparing ourselves to others.
To show that we’re a good person we could make the claim, “I’m not as bad as Hitler”. But that doesn’t prove anything.
It does seems likely that there is a line somewhere between Yeshua and Hitler. Those on the right side of the line are “in” and those on the wrong side are “out”. But even though you might not be as bad as Hitler, you still might be on the wrong side of the line.
The question we should be asking ourselves is not, “Am I as bad as Hitler?”, it’s, “Am I as good as Yeshua?”
Clearly the answer is “no”. I’m out.

One of my early Bible teachers, John Woodward, taught me this. Imagine you’re in a totally pitch black room, when suddenly, across the room, someone light’s a small candle. Even in the light of that one candle you suddenly realise that the clothes you are wearing are filthy! So you clean them up as best you can, and feel a bit better about yourself.
After some time you move a bit closer to the candle. It’s light hasn’t changed, but you’re closer, so it’s brighter for you. You realise you missed a few spots. You clean up some more.
Each time you move closer you realise your clothes are STILL dirty. But each time you also think you got it all this time.
This is how the spirit of God reveals sin in your life. Little by little, bit by bit. Enough for you to deal with at a time. As we move closer to God we realise we still have a lot of sin issues to clean up.

When you move closer and see some previously undetected stain on your clothes - it’s very easy for you to look back at the people far away and judge the filthiness of theirs. It’s easy to say, “At least I’m not as bad as them”, as you point your finger back.

What you don’t realise, is that it is not a candle. It is the bright shining light of Yeshua in his totally spotless, shining white garments. It looks like a candle to you because you are still so, very, very far away.

Accept the saying.
Accept that YOU are the foremost of sinners.
You need to look at the mess on your own shirt, and keep your eyes focused forwards in repentance, not backwards in judgment.


You Can’t Defeat Sin

I know it sounds disheartening, especially if you feel like you’re just giving in to a particular sin way too much, or worse, you feel under its control.
But honestly, it’s impossible for you to have the victory so you may as well give up trying.

No amount of making rules for yourself, or of making yourself accountable, or of joining groups, or of confessing your sins to anyone, (to each other or to some priest), no amount of harsh treatment of your body, no amount of will power, or even of rewarding yourself for obedience - none of these will ever help you.

At the end of Colossians 2, Paulus wrote that some of these sound like they’re good ideas, but they have no power at all against the gratification of the flesh.

You have to face the truth that you don’t want to hear. You are powerless to overcome sin. It is your master.

Adam and Eve caved. All their sons caved. One of their sons even killed his brother just because he was jealous that Yahweh liked his brother’s sacrifice more.
For a little over 1,500 years, generation after generation gave in to their sin.
Until one day Yahweh had had enough and he wiped everyone except one family from the planet.
Even though we usually know the difference between good and evil, we all keep choosing evil.

About a thousand years after the flood “restart” we read how Yahweh gave the Israelites more detail on how to do good - a list of laws, (613 of them), which they had to obey on punishment of death. Quite a detailed list, with quite a penalty as extra motivation.
But even then… they broke them all. So would we.
Yahweh knew that they would… when he gave them the law he said, “And when you break them… do this.”.. And he gave them rules for animal sacrifice - so an animal would die instead of them, and their sin would be covered up for a while. Not removed. Not disempowered. Just covered up.

They lived like that for 1,500 years.

Then Yeshua, son of Yahweh, came to the Earth as a human. He alone lived a life with no sin. He alone chose good over evil, every time. He alone had victory over sin.
His death instead of ours was a sacrifice that did more than cover up our sin. It removed it completely. As if it had never even happened.
That’s pretty awesome.

But that still doesn’t give US victory over sin.

Paulus, super apostle, possibly the greatest example of a man who lived for God. Still couldn’t control his sin. In Romans 7 even he laments, that in spite of all that Yeshua has done for us. In spite of Paulus being an expert on the law of Moshe, in spite of previously being a fanatical adherent to that law. In spite of having been saved by the direct personal intervention of Yeshua in a truly miraculous and amazing way. STILL, Paulus kept doing what he hated doing. In his mind he wanted to do good, but he kept doing bad.

So what hope have you got?
Are you thinking, “None”?

You’re almost right… things are pretty bad. But fortunately this IS hope.
It is 100% true that you cannot defeat sin.
But… you don’t have to.

That same Paulus, in that same letter, went on to talk about how to live by the spirit of God instead of by our own flesh. How to live in a way that does not conform to the ways of the world, and which chooses good over evil.
Hand your mind over to God. Let him renew your mind, your fundamental thinking. Let him change your priorities, your values, your motivations. And your mind will be renewed. You will quite honestly lose your desire to sin.
It might return. If it does, hand you mind over to Yeshua again. Let him renew you again.
Yeshua will change your behaviour by changing your mind. Yeshua will have the victory over sin in your life, just like he did in his own life almost 2,000 years ago.

Bit by bit, little by little, just like when he drove out the previous occupants of the promised land, Yeshua will drive out the sin in your life. Your selfishness, your lust, your pride, your greed,… one by one, little by little.

Let him choose which one, in which order. Let him choose when. Let him choose how.
You cannot have victory over sin, but Yeshua already does, already did, and wants to do it again - in you.


Why Yeshua and not Jesus?

When I was in school the capital city of China was Peking. Now it’s Beijing.
The city didn’t move, it’s the same city, we just started calling it a different name.
In China the name didn’t change. When I was in school the Chinese called it 北京 and they still do. In Mandarin Chinese it’s pronounced běijīng, and it means “northern capital”. So you can see where we get our modern name for it by transliterating the Chinese name.

So where did Peking come from?
In the 17th century, French missionaries to China called the city “Pechinum”. That translated into English as “Pequin”, which became “Peking”.

But now the Chinese government prefers the more correct transliteration of Beijing. Fair enough. So we’re all changing.
We still eat Peking Duck, and we still use the old name in some other contexts, but we recognise that it is both more accurate, and more respectful to the Chinese, to call it Beijing.
Some older people still refer to it as Peking, having grown up calling it that, it’s hard for some people to change. But within a generation we have come to accept the more accurate name, and most younger people are unaware that it was ever anything else.

What has that got to do with Jesus?
In his native Aramaic, Jesus’ name was ישוע, Yeshua. It is the Aramaic equivalent of Yehoshua, (which we Latinised as Joshua), and which means “Yahweh Saves”.
The New Testament was written in Greek, and they transliterated Yeshua to Ιησους, Iesous. Which early Christians transliterated into Latin as IESUS. And finally around the 12th century when English introduced the pattern of a using a leading J for words beginning with I but which had a Y sound, IESUS was changed to become JESUS, (but still pronounced more like Yesus).

This article has more about the history and meaning of the name Yeshua.

So the name Jesus is a bit like Beijing’s journey to becoming Peking. A modification of the transliteration of another transliteration in a third language, of the real thing.

So, now we know that originally he was called Yeshua, and that even our modern “Jesus” should be pronounced “Yesus”. What should we do? As we did with the Chinese capital, should we be more accurate, and more respectful?
I think we should.
So on this site we refer to the son of God as Yeshua. The transliteration of his actual Aramaic name.

It is hard at first, but you do get used to it.
Perhaps within a generation …


Let Go of Your Stuff

Once you have stuff, (possessions, money, income, houses, cars…), it is really difficult to go back.

Once you are comfortable with a certain standard of living it becomes very hard to give it up.

One day a rich young man came to Yeshua to ask what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.
Yeshua told him to keep the commandments.
The man said that he had kept all those since he was young.
Yeshua said, “In that case, now all you need to do is sell everything you have and give the money to the poor and you will be done.”
The young man went away very sad. (He was rich).

We don’t read about whether he actually did sell everything. But the impression I get is that he thought that was too much for him to handle, and he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

But so what... that was him. How does that affect us?

Yeshua told him to keep the commandments. But he was a Jew. Jews have to do that.
We’re Christians. We don’t. Yeshua already did all that for us. The Law is complete for us. It no longer applies to us. We are free from it.
So do we need to do the rest of it either?

By the way, I think it’s interesting that in the Bible he is called a young man. Yet to justify himself he says he has kept the commandments since his youth. I would be more impressed if an old man said that. But its more than I can claim for myself, so I probably should just let that slide...

So whether Yeshua was impressed or not... he said he needed more. Keeping the commandments wasn’t enough. “Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.”... Interesting! Not, to the church. But to the poor...

And then... “come and follow me”... Sell your possessions and follow me.

Yeshua didn’t tell everyone he met to sell their possessions. But it seems that he knew that for this guy his heart was on his possessions. Not on God. Even his original question,.. “How can I inherit eternal life.”... What’s in it for me? What can I get? How can I get what I want?
Shouldn’t our question be “How can I please God?” (Regardless of what we get out of it).

This guy’s heart was on himself, and more importantly on his possessions. And that was stopping him from following Yeshua. That was stopping him from serving God. It was keeping him from eternal life.

Now, there are several people in the Bible with whom God was very happy, and yet who were very wealthy. Solomon and Abraham just for starters. Both very wealthy people. Both loved by God. And I’m pretty confident, both with eternal life.

So having wealth isn’t the issue. It’s your attitude to it.

A few years ago my wife and I were discussing how we had too much stuff. As we talked about it and prayed about it, the idea came to us to give some away. So we decided that every day for a year we would give away something that we owned. For free, to someone we knew who needed it. It was so much fun.
People would come over for dinner and of course, over dinner they would talk about what was happening in their lives, and we would be looking for hints on what we could give them as a gift when they were leaving...

We had a big box in one room and we would regularly add things to the box that we either didn’t use much, or we felt we should really give away, and then we would start listening out for who we could give the new things to.

We loosened our grip on “stuff”.

But the more we did that, the more we realised that it was the stuff that had a grip on us, not us that had a grip on the stuff.

Our stuff, our possessions, our money, our lifestyle, had us in its grip and it didn’t want to let us go.
But the more we gave away, the looser that grip became.

A couple of years later we had to move interstate, so we gave away almost everything we owned and then bought replacements only as they were needed in our new home.

But about a year after we moved to our new home in the country, there was a huge bush fire which tore through the area we lived in, devastating property and destroying houses. When we saw the fire coming over the hills, we left our home behind us and drove off with a laptop computer and some paint brushes. (Our tools of trade, in case we couldn’t get back for a few days). Somehow it just didn’t occur to us that we might lose everything. We just thought God was going to keep it safe.

A few hours later one of our friends rang to say that she had just heard that our house was completely destroyed.
Oddly, my wife and I both had the same reaction to this news that all our “stuff” was gone... “Cool, now we can move anywhere!”.

The next day we were finally able to return to what was left after the fire. It was quite a surprise to see the house still standing. Completely untouched by the fire. The fire had destroyed almost 25 of the 30 acre property, but it had gone around the house and joined back together on the other side. Leaving the house and garden looking as good as ever. (And all our things untouched - which in the case of family photos, and things with sentimental value, was a great comfort).

So it was definitely a good feeling that everything was OK, but we were both surprised by how totally fine we were when we thought it was all gone. We really didn’t care. It was a good feeling to know that our stuff no longer had a hold on us.

Pray about how tightly your stuff has hold of you.


Law vs Grace

A few days ago I saw a live performance of “Les Miserables”. It is a great story. After being imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child, Jean Valjean is released on parole. Javert is the policeman he must report to.

But society does not welcome him back and at his lowest point he meets Bishop Myriel. The bishop who is not well off himself gives him food and shelter. But he repays him by stealing the silverware. Of course he is caught and returned to the bishop by the police. But with Jean Valjean’s life in his hands the bishop explains to the police that this man is his friend, and in his rush to leave he forgot the candlesticks which he then gives to him. The police release him, and Jean Valjean is forever changed.

He becomes a good man and even becomes mayor of the town.

Fontine is a single mother, a widow, and works in Jean Valjean’s factory from which she is unfairly dismissed by his foreman. In her desperation she turns to prostitution to provide for her child, Cosette.
When he hears what happened to her Jean Valjean rescues her from prostitution and on her deathbed promises to take care of Cosette. And he does, raising her as his own daughter.

The second half revolves around the revolution. Jean Valjean supports the masses in their uprising. And when Javert is captured as a spy Jean Valjean is permitted to execute him. But he allows Javert to go free. To the great distress of Javert who cannot understand this response and suicides because he cannot face the revelation that he has spent his whole life pursuing a man who is actually a good person.

Later Jean Valjean also risks his own life to save the life of Marius, (Cosette’s fiancé).

That is not the whole of the story, and there are other “sub plots” within the play. But it’s enough to make a challenging point about grace and law.

Javert represents “Law” and despite his constant effort over many years he is unable to change Jean Valjean. In fact the efforts of the Law actually make him a worse person. Initially he very reluctantly stole a loaf of bread. But after 19 years under the Law he willingly stole the silverware from the one person who had shown him any compassion at all.

Javert continued to pursue Jean Valjean for his entire life. Desperately trying to prove what a bad person he was and to condemn him for whatever he could prove that he had done wrong. All the Law wants is to convict people of their mistakes and punish them for them. It has no positive effect on them at all. If there is any change it only makes them worse.

On the other hand, Bishop Myriel represents “Grace”. He interacted with Jean Valjean for only one night. But in that one brief interaction Jean Valjean was permanently changed for the good. He instantly wanted to become a better person. And he did. Becoming mayor, rescuing Fontine, raising Cosette as his own daughter, saving her fiancé after the revolution, and giving Javert back his life. Grace wants to overlook the wrong which has been done and to do something to bless the wrongdoer.

The Law is relentless, it never gives up. But Grace needs only one opportunity.

So what? What does that mean for us?

We see the same thing in the Bible. The Law, (the Old Testament), convicts us of sin. It doesn’t help us to change. (At first it looks like it will, but it is powerless to do so). The Law just makes us feel worse. The Law makes us guilty. But even more, Paulus says that the law actually makes us want to break it. And we do.

But the free gift of grace, (the New Testament), which comes from God through Yeshua - changes us. You cannot become a Christian and remain unchanged.

Look at Paulus for example. As for following the Law he was “perfect”, but it made him ruthless, unloving, cold, legalistic. It made him a murderer! But after he was touched by grace he became loving, forgiving, self sacrificing.
A life of following the Law almost destroyed him, but grace changed him from the inside out after one brief encounter.

But Paulus is just typical of all of us. God could rightfully encounter all of us with law. But because of Yeshua, he is able to encounter us with grace. None of us could possibly stand if he used law. We are all guilty. We are all condemned.

But God is not the god of law, he is the god of grace. And in his grace he has accepted us. And it makes us want to change. It makes us want to be better people. It makes us want to live lives which please him.

So how about us? What do people encounter when they encounter us? Especially if they sin against us. Grace or Law?

Do we legalistically point out their flaws and their failings and reject them? Or do we overlook their failings. Do we forgive them? Do we assume the worst or do we struggle to find one possible positive interpretation of their behaviour? Do we presume innocence or do we presume guilt?

Most of us hope the guy speeding past us on the road meets a cop just around the corner. Most of us don’t want people to get away with doing the wrong thing. (Unless of course the person doing the wrong thing is us!). Most of us are upset when some young guy who blatantly broke a serious law doesn’t go to jail.

That is law. But what if we were people of grace instead of people of law.

How incredible would it be if every time someone sinned against us we responded with grace and they were permanently changed for the better. What if the story of your life was a trail of grace? What if everyone who encountered you could trace their new life back to that moment? What if thousands of people celebrating their new lives gave credit to you for that moment of grace. For that instant where you could have chosen law or grace, and you chose grace. When you could have justifiably responded with law and condemned them for their wrong doing, (and would have destroyed their life by doing so), but instead you chose grace.

Just like God did when he encountered you.


Global Warning

No, not a typo. Warning, not warming.

Throughout the Bible we see stories of famine and plague. 
But without exception they are the judgement of God against a nation. 
Usually to get their attention. To make them realise they have turned away from God and they need to turn back. 

So, all over the world now we are seeing growing concern about global warming. Fear that temperatures and oceans are rising. The ice is melting and life as we know it will come to an end if we don’t do something to reverse it.

Leaving aside the arguments about whether this is caused by mankind’s gaseous emissions or it is part of the cycle of the planet...
Regardless of the physical cause. We should be giving real thought as to whether this is a Global Warning.

Globally nations are turning away from God. We are increasingly driven by our greed for more and more money at the expense of others. We are increasingly self focused. Demanding our “rights”, especially our right to be happy.
We are even demanding our right to be happy regardless of how far we have strayed from the moral code handed down to us by God himself.

Who are we kidding?

History is an important thing. By studying history we improve our chances of not making the same mistakes over and over.
Biblical history teaches us that these kinds of climate events are usually the result of God trying to get our attention.
The Bible teaches us that it is time to urgently turn back to God with a sense of deep repentance and remorse.

Perhaps it is already too late? Perhaps this is already our last warning.

But the solution is not to reduce our emissions.
Just as the solution to poverty is not money, it is to turn back to God.
So too, the solution to global warming is to turn back to God.

Not just individually. But as nations. Listen to the Global Warning and take heed.
Before it’s too late.



Imagine growing up knowing that you had been abandoned by your father as a toddler. Imagine knowing that your own father doesn’t love you.

Imagine having a man come up to you when you were in your 20’s who said, “Thank God, I have finally found you. I’m your father. You were kidnapped when you were 2 and I have been searching for you every day for 20 years.”

Imagine realising that you were lied to for 20 years. You weren’t abandoned, you were taken! By the person who has raised you. By the one you have treated as your father. You have been deceived for 20 years. Your father does love you. He always loved you.

Your real father never gave up hope, never stopped searching, never stopped loving, never stopped hoping that one day, you would be together again.

But isn’t this us? Isn’t that what the Bible says?
Didn’t Satan “kidnap” us as children? Didn’t we grow up thinking, “God doesn’t love us.” Being told by the world that God doesn’t care. That we are all alone. That we are abandoned.

But the truth is that God is searching for us, calling out for us, weeping for us… desperately trying to find us and to be reconciled with his much loved child.

Let him find you.
He loves you.


Being Holy

I have always thought that being holy and being righteous were the same thing. I’m not sure how I got such a wrong idea, but recently, while translating Romans, I realised that they are quite different.

Righteousness is about right behaviour. It’s about doing good. It’s about not sinning.
Righteousness is about our actions.
(And for Christians, God gives us righteousness as a gift because we couldn’t possibly earn it for ourselves.)

But being holy is about our use. Things are holy if they have been dedicated to God for his use. In the old testament this basically meant that something, or someone, had been dedicated for exclusive use in the temple of God.
Holiness is about our use. About who we are supposed to serve with our actions.

Technically we can be holy without being righteous. We can be reserved for use by God but not always acting in ways that serve him well.

The opposite of holy is profane. Not a word we really use these days. Sometimes we say “common”. Things for every day use, not things that are for holy use.

So what? What does this mean for us?
We are supposed to be holy. You know that right... there are many references to that in the Bible. We are supposed to be dedicated for exclusive use by God. We are supposed to be set aside for him.

In fact, we are... God makes us holy by his Spirit. But our problem is that even though we have been set apart for God’s exclusive use, we still spend so much of our time being used for common purposes. Profane purposes.

How different would it be if we could see ourselves as holy. Being conscious all the time that we are reserved for God’s use. How would it be if we really were able to grab hold of that and only do things where we are serving God.

Think about the reaction there would have been if someone had used the holy bowls from the tabernacle for their morning porridge. They would have been stoned for desecrating God’s holy things.

Think about how you use yourself.


John The Baptist was No Angel

One of the things which really stood out to me when I translated the New Testament for myself, was how inconsistently we translate a lot of well known verses.

Definitely when you are translating one language to another you cannot just literally translate one word to one equivalent word in the other language. But Mark 1:2 quotes Malachi 3:1. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me”. And in both those verses, the word translated “messenger” is translated as “angel” in almost every other place in the Bible. Why?

In Greek άγγελος (angelos) is just the word for “a messenger”.
In Hebrew מַלְאָך (malak) is also the word for “a messenger”.
Why don’t we just translate it as “messenger” everywhere. Why did we choose to transliterate the sound, “angel” instead of the meaning, “messenger”?

I can see that in Mark, we know that this is now talking about John the Baptist, (“baptism” by the way, is another Greek word, βάπτισμα (baptisma) which is transliterated as “baptism”, instead of being translated as “immersion”), so we can’t translate άγγελος as angel in Mark 1 because we know he’s not an angel, he’s a man.
But this is a quote from Malachi. And when Malachi was writing, wouldn’t he have thought it was an angel? Wouldn’t he have been thinking that Yahweh was going to send an angel ahead of himself to announce that he was coming?
And further down in Mark 1, when Yeshua was in the wilderness being tempted. We transliterate again and say, “he was attended by angels”.
This seems pretty inconsistent, kind of like we’re deciding what we want it to say based on what we believe, then shoe-horning it to say that. We should be consistent with our translation, not translating in one place, then transliterating in another.

My point is not about whether John was an angel or not, it’s that we should be translating the meaning of words, not their sounds. When we transliterate we lose meaning, and this can also confuse and mislead us about what the Bible is really saying.

I already mentioned baptisma, so now every denomination of the church has its own idea of what “baptism” is. Because we only transliterated the sound. But the meaning is immersion. Like putting your arms in water to wash them. Or having a bath. If it was translated as immersion I think there would be less disagreement on what “baptism” is.

The Greek Χριστός (christos) is transliterated as “Christ”, instead of being translated as “anointed one”, just as מָשִׁיחַ (mashiach) is transliterated “Messiah”, but it too means “anointed one”. In most modern English translations it reads a bit like a name, like Yeshua’s surname was Christ. But it’s a title. Yeshua the Christ. But if it was translated it would be much clearer. Yeshua anointed one, or Yeshua the Anointed. (Why Jesus’ real name is Yeshua)

The Greek απόστολος (apostles) is transliterated as “apostle” but it means “one who is sent”, kind of like “emissary” or “ambassador”. So when it’s a verb it is usually translated as “send”, (like it is in Mark 1:2), but when it is a noun we transliterate as “apostle”. That’s inconsistent. I would think most Christians would think, that apostle means one of the 12 disciples that Yeshua chose. But that’s just how we’ve restricted it based on our tradition and our transliteration. In the original language it meant anyone who was sent.

So. John, (actually Yohannes, but somehow we use Latin names when we translate the Bible? Why is that?), was no angel. But he was a messenger. And so are the beings we call angels.
But this is only one of many words which have lost their meaning by being transliterated instead of being translated.


What Eternity

Over the years this story has been attributed to various “famous gentlemen” and a “famous actress”. It seems that none of those gentlemen ever actually said it, but it’s a great quote to get us thinking… so here it is with no names at all.

A “well known gentleman” was overheard talking with a “famous actress”. “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?”. To which the actress replied, after a little thought, “Sure.”
Then he asked, “How about for twenty bucks?”. To which she indignantly replied, “What kind of woman do you think I am!” The gentleman replied, “We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

I’m not sure who you think the worst person of all time was? I guess Hitler would be up there on most people’s list. But if you rank someone higher, then think of them in this next story instead.
What punishment are you expecting Hitler to have in the afterlife? What punishment would you be handing out to him if it was up to you?

Now. Imagine your time comes, and you’re being given the “orientation tour” of where you’ll be spending eternity, and you spot Hitler! Sitting on a sun-lounge, drinking a cocktail and relaxing in the sun.
How would you feel?
Be honest, how do you really feel about that?
What would you do?

Imagine you asked the messenger who was giving you the tour for an explanation, and he says, “God decided to forgive him.”
Now how do you feel?
Is that right? Is it fair?
Is this the kind of God you thought you believed in?

What do you think is a fair outcome for Hitler?
In the TV series, “Heroes”, one of the heroes imprisons a serial killer in an eternity alone. With no other contact with anyone. Ever.
Is that a fair way to deal with a serial killer? What if they had killed millions of people?

What would you say if the judge asked your opinion on Hitler? For your judgement?
Would you build a case against him?
Would you argue that anyone who was that evil cannot be forgiven?
That they must pay for the horrendous crimes they committed?

I can imagine you passionately pleading with the judge. Thrilled to see him agree with you, and the satisfaction you feel as Hitler is taken off to his rightful destination.
And then the shock you feel as the judge points at you, and says, “Them too. Take them too.”
I imagine you screaming for mercy to the judge, “I’m not like him. I’m nowhere near as bad as him. What kind of a person do you think I am?”
To which the judge would calmly reply, “We’ve already established that. We’re just arguing about the price.”

Paulus recommended a great saying. “Yeshua came into the world to save sinners. Of whom I am the worst.”

Talking about people like Hitler makes us feel better about our own evil - our own sins.
It’s true that we’re not as bad as him. But we are sinners just the same.
We deserve an eternity of punishment just the same.
And yet we are undeservedly forgiven because of what Yeshua did 2,000 years ago, and not justly condemned for what we did ourselves these last 50 years or so.


Beyond Blooming

About a hundred years ago the Austrian poet Rilke penned these words:
“They wanted to bloom, but we want to ripen.”

He was comparing the wealthy lords and ladies who stood around admiring art, to the poor artists who create it. The lords and ladies were all about image, all about pretentious appreciation of the art. But the artists were sacrificing themselves, giving up worldly pleasure, giving up wealth, to make their artistic statement. It was something they believed in, something which was of primary importance to them.

Christians can be a bit like that too.
Some of us prance around, being seen, pretending we know what Christianity is all about. Saying all the right things. Looking good.
But others live it. Sacrificing themselves to make Christianity a reality in their lives. To make Christianity a reality in the lives of others.

It seems that Yeshua often talked about bearing fruit. He said that we can know whether they are a good tree or a bad tree by their fruit. He didn’t say you will know them by their flowers. Or by how great they look. Or by how prosperous they are.

There have been some amazing Christians who have laid down their lives to bear fruit. Men and women who would rather die than to bear no fruit. Who would rather die than be a beautiful but barren flower.
These are some who have had a big influence on me and who I have become…
Hudson Taylor, Jackie Pullinger, Francis Schaeffer, Helen Roseveare, Geoffrey Bull, Jeanne Guyon, George Mueller, … They produced fruit in their lives which went on to be seeds planted in mine.

It wasn’t their goal, but they earned their place up there with the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11.
They took risks. They opened themselves up to attack, from the enemy, and in some cases also from within their own church! They entered bravely into the darkness of the world, bringing light into the gloom. They worked tirelessly. They lived frugally. They were totally focused on their own individual mission for the kingdom of God.

Vince Antonucci wrote a great little book called, “I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt”. It’s all about how people go on holidays and just do the ordinary touristy stuff, and all they bring back is the t-shirt. But some people go on vacation and have adventures. Things might not always go smoothly, but they bring back incredible, powerful stories.
So many Christians seem content with the t-shirt when there is so much adventure to be had.

So many Christians settle for mediocrity when God wants us to be warriors, people of valour, fighting spiritual battles, making a difference.

“They wanted to bloom
and to bloom is to be beautiful.
But we want to ripen,
and for that we open ourselves to darkness and travail.”


Change Or Start Again?

One of the books I’m reading at the moment, (Who Stole My Church, by MacDonald), made an interesting statement. “I’m beginning to understand why the younger guys prefer to start churches. I sometimes think that changing one is impossible.”
I’ve been trying to change the church for 35 years. I don’t think it’s impossible but it sure seems to be a slow process. I’m doing it one person at a time, (someone I think is a future leader), and assuming that the change will come in the next generation. Starting a new church is tough work. But sometimes I also think it would be way easier to just start again.
The (Western) church just seems so stuck in its ways.

If we were sending missionaries to another culture we would certainly expect them to “do church” in culturally relevant ways. And if someone sent new missionaries to the West, then I would be very surprised if their solution ended up looking much like how we “do church” here now.

The fundamentals of the church being a body, and working together as each part does its role would be the same. I would expect a strong sense of community. I would definitely expect them to be devoted to teaching/learning/discipleship, and to prayer. And to be showing everyone around them that they love one another.
But how that works out would almost certainly be different. And I think most other Christians would agree.

But the reality is that the 21st century church is trying to reach out to a totally different culture from the one that was surrounding the Western church even 40 or 50 years ago. But the church hasn’t changed. So many churches are still trying to do things like they did 40 years ago. We are missionaries to a different culture but we are still trying to do things like we did back in the culture we came from.
That won’t work.

One of the cultural changes has come through music and technology. Young people love their music. And their movies and TV. In fact, they often give the impression that they live to be entertained. The technical quality of music and video available to even the poorest people in the West is way beyond what most churches can produce. But still many churches have tried to take this head on by trying to entertain people with professional presentations that feel, (to me), like you’re at a concert.

Let me say this bluntly. Entertainment might well be what they want. But it is not what they need.

What they need, is to hear from God. To receive his spirit and to build a strong relationship with him as his born again children. Then, whether they are entertained or not, their eternal future will be secure. And I suspect that they will also be much more content with the here and now, entertained or not.
By all means our music should be in a style relevant to our audience. But that is a very different focus to “entertaining”.

But changing a church which doesn’t think like this is not easy.
I’ve tried, but they don’t want to listen. Instead I’ve been discipling people, usually one or two at a time, and helping them see what God says about how church should be.
Now they’re doing the same. Some of them are even leading churches.

How are you going to do it?
Are you just going to start again?
However you do it… do something.
It’s too important to just give up.


Broken Vows

Making a vow to God seems to be a very much old covenant thing to do.

And in the old covenant, breaking a vow which had been made to God, (or an oath which had been sworn), had incredibly serious consequences.

In 2 Samuel 21 we read of a famine in Israel during the reign of David. The famine had gone on for three years, so David asked God why. The answer... Saul broke an oath.

Wow, Saul was already dead. He was the previous king.

The oath was sworn many years before Saul even started to be king. In fact, it was possibly sworn before Saul was even born.

You can read about the oath in Joshua 9. But basically when the Israelites were invading and conquering Canaan, some of the inhabitants, the Gibeonites, tricked them into making a peace treaty with them. The Israelites swore an oath not to kill the Gibeonites.

Decades later, Saul killed them. Well, many of them.

The consequence was that God punished the nation of Israel for their sins.

The way out was to ask the Gibeonites what compensation they would accept. And when that compensation was paid, Israel was released.
The compensation they demanded was the life of seven of Saul’s descendants.

It’s interesting that the famine didn’t occur during Saul’s reign, but not until David’s. And it was not Saul who was punished for breaking the oath, but it was his descendants who gave their lives. But that’s another story.

They key thing for now is that the breaking of the oath had consequences.

Ecclesiastes 5 says, “It is better not to make a vow, than to make a vow and not fulfil it”.

Samson also made a vow. Well, actually his parents made it for him. He was a Nazirite - set apart to God, not to drink wine or to eat anything to do with grapes. Not to cut his hair or shave his head. And not to go near a dead body.
This is why Samson lost his strength. Because he broke his vow by cutting his hair.
Breaking that vow cost him his eyesight, and his freedom.

So... we see in the old covenant that if anyone broke a vow they had made to God then there were massive consequences, sometimes including death for thousands of people, sometimes affecting their descendants.

But that was thousands of years ago... before the cross... these days...
nothing has changed.
There are still major consequences for breaking a vow made to God.

There is nothing about being a Christian that means you can get away with breaking a vow to God.

You are still better to not make one, than to make one and break it.
Of course, these days we rarely make vows to God. Except when we get married.

In Matthew 5, Yeshua said “don’t even swear an oath”…
But we promise to be faithful until one of us dies. I’m sure at the time most of us have that as our intention. But can we be sure we will be? Do we understand what the consequence is if we break it?

Where did this kind of wedding vow come from? It’s certainly not in the Bible. In the Bible getting married was just a matter of declaring that you were getting married and usually having some kind of celebration.

Perhaps we shouldn’t even have wedding vows?
There is a consequence if we break them. For us individually and possibly for us as a nation.

The other place we make vows these days is when our church asks us to pledge in advance what our giving will be for the year. We make a vow so they can make a budget. I think both sides of that equation are wrong, but that’s another article all together.

So. Let’s not make vows to God that we might break. Let’s remember that if we do there could be very serious consequences for us and for others.
And finally, if you have broken a vow to God then you need to talk with him about it. If it involved another person then you need to ask them what compensation they will accept to release you. Otherwise, there will continue to be consequences - if not for you, then for your children.



The TV comedy “3rd Rock from the Sun” tells the story of a group of aliens who come from some far off planet to visit Earth. Each episode is about funny situations they get themselves into because of their misunderstanding of our Western culture.

Until you see an alternative to your culture you rarely question it. You usually just go along with “that’s how we do it”. Watching 3rd Rock gives you an opportunity to think, “Do we really do that?”. And if you’re willing… “Why?” And if you’re really serious about your life… “Should I do that?”

I lived in the USA for a few years. The culture was different there, but it was still very similar to where I grew up. I didn’t have to change much to fit in.
I lived in Japan for a few years too. Culture there is totally different. I had to change a lot to fit in. And some of that I kept when I returned to my own country. Their way was better.
Like when they see that you look a bit lost. Instead of ignoring you like most Westerners would, and instead of pointing and telling you how to find it like nice Westerners would, they take you there. Even if it’s a few blocks back the way they came. I like that.

So, let’s look at some of our cultural “issues”.

In the West, (and increasingly in Asia), we celebrate Yeshua’s birthday.
Why do we have a tree? Why do we give gifts? Why is it in December?
Why do we do it at all?
When it comes to culture, we have to question everything. If we end up deciding it’s a good thing, then OK, but let’s be real about our Christianity and ask the questions.
It certainly wasn’t in December. There definitely was no pine tree there, with or without decorations and candles. If the gifts are based on the gifts the magicians gave Yeshua, then why do we give them to each other and not give gifts to Yeshua every year, especially if it’s his birthday? Would you come to my birthday party and bring a gift for yourself and not one for me?
The Bible certainly doesn’t tell us to celebrate it. In fact, if anything in Romans 14 Paulus is saying we shouldn’t have any special days.
There is more information in this article Traditions about where Christmas came from and why it was a week before the end of the year. But in reality it is a man made tradition which reinforces the stereotype of Yeshua as a baby and fuels consumerism.
If there wasn’t already a Christmas, would you be pushing to start it as a tradition? Why?

And once we question celebrating Yeshua’s birthday, let’s keep asking questions of our culture and ask, “Why do we celebrate your birthday?”
I can completely understand parents celebrating the birth of their child. Once, when they’re born. But why do we keep doing that every year? Where did this come from? Have people always done this?
Turns out they haven’t. Turns out it was mostly something kings and rich people did. Basically to say, “I’m special.”
So once a year we tell our children that it’s OK to be self centred and to be more special than everyone else. Once a year we spend more and more as consumers, reinforcing our materialistic culture and propping up our retail businesses buying more stuff we don’t need.
There is a whole other side to this argument about how birthdays are used in astrology and the occult. But let’s leave that for another time. Just from a cultural point of view. Why do we want to celebrate our birthday? What are we saying when we do?
And if our culture didn’t have birthday parties, would we be pushing to get everyone doing it as a tradition? Why?

We need to be ruthless with this. We need to question everything.
Why do we do church the way we do? Why do we sing? Why do we have sermons? Why do we pray the way we do? Why do we arrange the seats the way we do? Why do we eat the food we eat at church? Why do we build churches the way we do?
Not all the answers will be bad. Not everything has to change. But like King Josiah in 2 Kings 22 did when they found the book of the Law in the temple which had become filled with things which shouldn’t have been there - we have to go back to the book and ask the questions. And we have to make the changes so we align once again with the book, with the way God said it should be, and ruthlessly throw out our traditions if they are wrong.

Examine everything. Be willing to let go of anything.
God, not culture.



I have to be up front and say right from the beginning, that when it comes to the church, tradition for the sake of tradition annoys me like nothing else. I like some traditions. I really like Thanksgiving for example. And when my kids were growing up I really liked the annual “Baba’s Challenge” where I would set my kids 10 tasks to achieve within the year. Tasks which would stretch them a bit and develop their character. But in church we need to make sure that any tradition that we adopt is still consistent with the truth.

Take the whole Christmas/nativity thing for example.
The tradition is that three wise men, (aka kings), came to visit baby Yeshua and his parents in a manger. Sadly that’s not what the Bible says.
Nowhere does it mention three of them. But it is plural, so at least two. The word it uses to describe them “magos” is usually used to refer to priests of Zoroaster, and elsewhere in the New Testament it is translated as sorcerer. (Elymas and Simon were both sorcerers in the book of Acts). But we want to make it nicer, so we call them “wise men”. We don’t want to say that three magicians or sorcerers came to visit Yeshua.
When they saw Jesus they bowed down to him. The Greek word used to describe him was “paidion” which means a little child. It was not “theladzo”, (meaning newborn baby), or “nepios”, (infant). Yeshua was no longer a baby when they came to visit.
After their visit Herod killed all the children 2 years and under, (based on when they told him they had first seen the star). It seems pretty likely that by the time they visited - Yeshua was about 2 years old. And if that is correct then it also seems pretty unlikely that they were still living in the manger. (But I guess they could have been).
So two or more magicians from the east came to visit Yeshua when he was about two years old.

And the whole Christmas thing anyway. It’s incredibly unlikely that Yeshua was born in December. There is no instruction to celebrate Christmas in the Bible. In fact, as far as we can tell it was started hundreds of years later by the catholics because everyone was running off to have fun at Saturnalia, (the end of year celebration to the god Saturn), and the church adopted Christmas as a way of bringing them back.
Why, for example do we give gifts to each other?
In the Bible story the gifts were all given to Yeshua. Why don’t we all give a gift to Yeshua every Christmas?
Would it surprise you to hear that part of Saturnalia was giving gifts to each other?
Quite often I hear the argument that if we didn’t have Christmas and Easter then non-Christians would never come to church. So what? Are they supposed to? I thought the church was supposed to be going to them?
You might think that this is all no big deal. But I think it is. From what I see, we have accepted the tradition instead of the truth and it damages our perceptions. And it damages the world’s perceptions about Yeshua.

In fact there was never even anyone called “Jesus” in the Bible! Seriously. Jesus is a made up Latin name, created by the catholic church to differentiate him from Joshua.
The person we call Jesus was really called Joshua. Yeshua if you want to really transliterate it from Aramaic. Yeshua means “God saves”. In Greek they transliterated that name as Iesous. And in Acts 7 and Hebrews 4 you can find this name, but it is talking about the Old Testament Yeshua who led the Israelites into the promised land. (Which interestingly is kind of what the New Testament Yeshua did for us! hmmm.)
So, to avoid confusion the catholics renamed Yeshua, (the one who saved us), to Iesus. And then later on English changed to start words starting with I to be spelled with J, but pronounced Y. So the name became Jesus.
Again, it’s now a tradition and again you might think it’s no big deal. But I still think it is. God didn’t call him Jesus. God called him Yeshua. Why? Was he trying to tell us something?
And again we have accepted the tradition instead of the truth.

Now in the Bible there were some people who really valued tradition. The Pharisees.
In Matthew 15 you can read how Yeshua told them off because they broke the commands of God for the sake of their traditions! God had commanded them to honour their parents. But their tradition said that if you have given money to the temple then you don’t need to give any to your parents.
They were also obsessed with washing their hands, and their bowls in a special ceremony before they eat. But these were just empty ceremonies and they weren’t really washing anything at all. Yeshua said it straight... “how come you wash the outside of the bowl and not the inside?” Seriously, when you think about it that is completely the wrong way around. If the inside of the bowl is clean you don’t even really need to wash the outside. In Mark’s account of this story we hear that they had many things like this.
Paulus says that these traditions which are handed down take you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy. And that most of them actually come from the world.
The Pharisees held the traditions of men above the commands of God. They were slaves to their traditions. And in many ways this is what blocked them from recognising Yeshua as the true son of God.

Do we put tradition above God? Are we slaves to tradition? What truth is it blocking us from seeing?

(Actually if you want to find out if you’re a slave to a tradition, try not doing it and see how you go.
I find that most Christians can’t eat a meal without praying first. Try it. See if you’re a slave.
And if you’re really worried, then give thanks afterwards. Even in the tradition there is no reason it has to be first.)

In Galatians Paulus is lamenting that people are observing special days, and months, and years. He worries that he has wasted his time on them, and that they will be enslaved again to those things. Now he is mostly concerned there about Jewish festivals, but the same arguments apply.
At best traditions are just shadows of the truth, but in most cases they are not even that.
Christianity should go beyond traditions. We have the truth. We have the spirit of God.
We really don’t need to be continuing any traditions which are working against that.

Why do we need to celebrate Christmas? or Easter? Why do we need to have some little token of prayer before we eat?
What other traditions do we have? What are they blocking?
What about you, and your church? What traditions are you following?

Please, at least examine your traditions and see if they are based on truth.


Take Me To Your Leader

When you think of leaders in the Bible who do you think of?
What was it about them that made them leaders?
How did they get to be leaders? Did someone appointed them?
What are the qualifications for leaders? Says who?
How about you… can you be a leader?
Can I?

When I think of Biblical leaders I usually think of people like Moses, David, Petros, Paulus… But they are more the super-leaders of the Bible. A bit out of my league. Maybe even out of yours. There’s not much point for most of us asking how we can become a Moses, or a Paulus.
But there might be some useful principles there for us to learn from, and to be guided by.

Pretty much every leader in the Bible was chosen by God.
Not elected by the people. (Even in the cases where they were the popular choice).
Almost always they didn’t fit what the people being led thought it took to be a leader. Moses was a stuttering loser who used to be someone, but who was a nobody shepherd. David was a small teenage boy. Petros was just a simple fisherman. Paulus was a murderous persecutor of Christians, one of the church’s greatest enemies.

So basically if everyone votes on who the perfect leader is… it’s probably not them.
Weird huh.

So what does God look for in a leader?

There are some obvious and fairly well known passages.
1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for example give us a checklist of qualifications.
Above reproach
The husband of one woman
With faithful submissive children, (grown children)
Not accused of being wasteful or subordinate
Not easily angered, or contentious, or a brawler
Not drinking too much
Not greedy
Sensible, righteous, self controlled
A good teacher who is able to expose false teachers

So how did you score?

The problem with this kind of list is the same as the problem with “The Law”, or the Ten Commandments.
We tend to interpret them in a way that makes us “in” and the people that we don’t like “out”.
The purpose of the Law was to show that everyone was out. That God’s standards are so high they are unattainable for all of us. To show that we need a saviour.
The purpose of these lists is to show that God’s standards for leaders is very high. These kind of restrictions aren’t put on “ordinary” Christians. Just on leaders.

But we need to be careful not to use them to judge others.
“Husband of one woman” doesn’t necessarily mean they never divorced, or their first wife never passed away. It means what it says. They do not have two wives. I guess it also means they are not single.
Having obedient, submissive children. Means their children need to be grown up. Otherwise they haven’t had the opportunity to be tested yet. (Although for some people it becomes obvious that they fail this test very early on).
Not drinking too much does not mean they don’t drink at all. It means they don’t get drunk.
A good teacher must know what they’re talking about, (by definition), and must be able to argue against people who don’t.

Here’s something to consider… If this is a literal, black and while, in vs out list… Yeshua wouldn’t qualify. He had no children. He isn’t married, (although he is engaged). Neither would Paulus. He was also not married, and also childless.
But he wrote the lists, and it was him who sent Timothy and Titus to appoint leaders. So clearly he never intended this list to be a literal list of qualifications which disqualified him. They’re like the pirate’s code. They’re more like guidelines really 😊.

These lists are saying that teachers need to have excellent character, to have a demonstrated history of leading their own families well, to have good reputations in the community, and to be outstanding and confident teachers.

There are a few less obvious passages about leadership, which kind of say the same things. Remember the parable of the talents? At the end Yeshua said, “Well done good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things. I will install you over many things.”
They had shown that they could be trusted with material things. So God entrusted them with people.
So if someone wants to lead a church… what evidence is there that they have already been a good leader in smaller things? Like their family, or with a small group?

David was a shepherd. A good one. God entrusted him with his people.
Moses appeared to be the perfect leader. A prince of Egypt. Very educated. But useless to God. Until he went off into the wilderness to be a shepherd for 40 years. Then he was ready to be a leader for God.

The good leaders of the Bible were also humble, servant hearted people who had huge trust in God. They knew that God was the real leader and that they were just servants of the people. Not achieving greatness but merely doing their duty.
Yeshua said this too when James and John wanted to be elevated to sit next to him in his kingdom. “Whoever wants to be the leader among you will become servant of all.”

Leadership is also part of God’s plan for mankind. We need leaders. It’s part of how we’re designed.
Early on, the global church had apostles, and local churches had elders.
Ephesians 5 says that the father is the head of the family, in the same way as Yeshua is the head of the church. It’s a sacrificial position of responsibility.
If you want to be a leader make sure your motivation is right. For some people, wanting to be leaders is based on the false teaching that leaders are more important. They’re not. They are the servants. They are at the bottom of the pile, not the top. Any leader who thinks they are more important than the people they lead is worldly and of no value in the kingdom of God.

God described Eve as Adam’s Helper. The common idea that “being the helper means you’re less important” fits how the world views things. But it doesn’t fit God’s view. John 14 describes the Holy Spirit as our helper. Does that make us more important than him? Hardly.

So then.
Leaders need to have the right character. They need to have the right attitude. And they need to be willing to sacrifice themselves for God’s people.

But perhaps the most important aspect of leadership is that we don’t choose them, God does.
Romans 13 tells us that even our worldly leaders are all appointed by God. We think we vote for them. The Chinese think their leaders choose themselves. But Romans teaches us differently. God chooses leaders. Always.
Our role is to recognise those leaders when God chooses them. The Israelites recognised that God had chosen David over Saul. The early church recognised that God had chosen Paulus, even though he had been their enemy. The Jews recognised that God had sent Moses to deliver them. Paulus recognised the potential in Timothy and Titus, and in turn they were sent by Paulus to recognise who God was appointing to be elders in the new churches of Asia Minor.


Who is leading you? Have you recognised who they are?
Are you aware who appointed them? And who you are criticising when you criticise them?

Do you think you should be a leader?
Do you meet the guidelines?
Have you proven your ability?
Can you teach?
Are you willing to sacrifice yourself?


Yahweh, Yeshua

Interestingly, these are the name of God, and the name of his son, yet neither of these words appears in most modern English Bibles.
Why not?

Let’s look at them one at a time. But before we do, let’s look at the letter “J”.
J came into English around a thousand years ago, and it replaced the letter I at the beginning of some words. But unlike the way we say it today, at that time it had a Y sound. So Joshua was pronounced more like Yoshua. Keep that in mind. It might help later.

Now, in the Old Testament God has a name. His name is יהוה‎ which we usually write in English as Yahweh.
Written Hebrew doesn’t have vowels. The reader is supposed to work them out as they read. Which if you practise is not usually difficult. Wht ds ths sy? (What does this say?).
So more literally, the Hebrew name for God in English is YHWH. But we don’t usually interpret vowels as we read in English, so it is easier to communicate if we put them in. So we write Yahweh.

In some older English Bibles they wrote this as Jehovah. Remember the J thing? So that would have read more like Yehovah. Now I’m sure you can see where that came from. And now you know why it has a J.
So, God’s name is Yahweh. But you don’t see that in many translations.

We’re not sure exactly when, or who did it, but we think that a bit before 100BC a group of seventy scholars translated the Jewish scriptures, (pretty much what we have as our Old Testament), into Greek. This translation is called the Septuagint, and its abbreviated name is LXX, which is 70 in Roman numerals.
Wherever the name Yahweh appeared in the Hebrew scriptures, the LXX translators used the Greek word κυριος (kurios), which means lord or master.
So, when the translators wrote the King James Version in the 1600’s they continued this practice, and wherever the Old Testament used the name Yahweh, they translated is as Lord. Then, to distinguish it from places where the Hebrew actually did say Lord, they capitalised it. And most modern English translations copied that and they usually write it like this - LORD.

God has a name. In English his name is Yahweh. But in most English Bibles it has been replaced with LORD. About 7,000 times!
So whenever you read LORD in your Bible, think Yahweh.

Why? Well... I have a theory.

I presume you know the 10 commandments right? (BTW: I presume you also know that they are for Jews, not for Christians right? If not, you had better read these articles sometime Rules For Christian Living and The New Covenant Replaces The Old One).
The third commandment says, “You will not misuse the name of Yahweh your god.”
Now, as time went on from there, the Jews became more and more legalistic about all their rules. To the point that they even concluded that Jesus was not God’s son because he healed someone on a Sabbath. And they had decided that nobody was allowed to do anything on a Sabbath. And they had made up more rules about having to wash bowls in certain ways before you could eat from them.
So I believe that in their legalism they were so afraid of misusing the name of God that they stopped using it altogether. So they never say God’s name. And if they have to write it they would write Lord instead. Many modern Jews will write G*d to avoid using his name.
Yahweh didn’t say not to use his name. He said not to misuse his name. This is clearly a legalistic overreaction.
Now, we’re Christians, so the ten commandments doesn’t even apply to us. And even though we can still use them as guidelines to understand what right behaviour is, we don’t have to be so legalistic. (In my view it almost verges on superstition). So let’s go back to using God’s name. Let’s be proud to be known as Yahweh’s people.

Jesus has a name too. And it’s not Jesus!

The New Testament documents are pretty much all written in Greek. In those documents Jesus is called Ιησους (Iesous). Later on the church decided to do everything in Latin. So it became IESUS in Latin. And then later, it became Iesus in English.
Remember the J thing? So about a thousand years ago the I was replaced with a J and it became Jesus, (but it was still pronounced Yesus). And now in modern English we usually call him Jesus. Even though that is a long way from his real name. (But you can see how we got there).

So what was his name?
Ιησους was the Greek way of writing the Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yeshua), which we usually write as Joshua in modern English. (Remember the J thing?). Jesus’ name was Yeshua. It still is.
Now, if you read Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 in an English Bible you will almost certainly see the name Joshua. These are all referring to the Old Testament Joshua, who was Moses’ assistant until Moses died, and who led the Israelites into the promised land.
But his Greek name is the same, Ιησους (Iesous). So to differentiate him from the son of God the translators chose to translate his name as Joshua and the son of God’s name as the Latin derived name Jesus.
Personally I don’t think that is helpful. I can see how it came about, but it is an inconsistent translation, and it hides something wonderful.
Both their names were Yeshua. God chose that name. And he had a reason for doing that.

Yeshua means “Yahweh Saves”. That’s a pretty powerful name. And there are a lot of parallels between the Old Testament Yeshua leading his people into the promised land, and the New Testament Yeshua leading his people into eternal life.
Perhaps God did that deliberately?

I don’t think this is just an intellectual exercise. It is interesting to know how these things came about, but what does that mean for us on a practical level?
I think it’s time to repair the damage. It’s going to be a hard habit to break, but I think we should stop using the name Jesus and call him Yeshua. And we should start calling God by his name, Yahweh.

When Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law in the temple, (2 Kings 22), king Josiah realised that they had not been living according to the words in the book. So they changed their ways. These would have been dramatic, major, lifestyle changes, but they made them anyway - simply because they realised they were not doing things the way Yahweh had commanded.
Changing our habits to use the names Yahweh and Yeshua might not be easy, or convenient, or comfortable. But if it is the right thing to do then it is the right thing to do.


Accountability, And Why It Doesn’t Work

Muslims are accountable to pray in public five times a day. If they don’t do it then people will notice and questions will be asked.
This kind of public peer pressure is the same thing that drove the Pharisees to be who they were. Being seen to be righteous was way more important to them than actually being righteous.
It’s a form of legalism. It leads to judgement and pride. It is grounded in the Old Covenant way of Law. It has no value in the New Covenant way of Grace.
Read Galatians 3 and see if you can summarise it in a sentence or two.
I’m pretty sure that if you’re honest you would have to end up with something like “We are not under Law but under Grace”.
Galatians 3 makes it very clear that the Law was for Jews. And even more, that it is not for Christians.
“Oh foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you to have no confidence in the truth?”
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the spirit you’re now being completed by the flesh?”

The spirit is power for Christians. The flesh is death.
Accountability derives its power from the flesh.

So. How can you live a more righteous life?
You can’t. You don’t have the power to do that. (Kind of the point of the gospel isn’t it really).
But Yeshua can. He did it once. He wants to do it again in you.
You need to give him authority to do that. You need to get out of his way so he can do that.
And you need to let him choose the timetable and the game plan.

We always seem to want to set the agenda for how Yahweh should be cleaning our life up.
He knows our sins. He knows us. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our circumstances.
Seriously. Can you think of anyone who is better placed to decide the best way for doing this?
Yahweh wants to conform your character into that of his son. But you have to let him choose how to do that.

I read an amazing prayer from John Wesley recently.

“I put myself wholly into your hands: put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or trodden under foot for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing, I freely and heartily resign all to your pleasure and disposal.”

Are you willing to just hand over control of your life to Yeshua and trust him to deal with the manifestation of your sins in his time?
Then do that.

Don’t try to manipulate it. Don’t start making laws and rules for yourself. Just relax and hand yourself over.


Husbands - Are You Sacrificing Yourself?

Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 spell out the roles of husband and wife pretty clearly for us.
The man is the head and the woman is the body. Just like Yeshua and the church. The two become one, each fulfilling different roles but working together as a unit.

Now, over the years I’ve heard quite a bit of teaching about how wives should submit to their husbands. And I think that’s correct, they should submit. The husband has the responsibility to make the final decision, after considering his wife’s needs and desires. And the wife should make sure she has communicated those clearly to him. But in the end, the husband has the responsibility to make the decision, and the wife has the responsibility to submit whether she agrees with that decision or not. (it’s not really submitting if you only submit when he’s “right”).


Ephesians 5 also makes it very clear that the husband should be sacrificing himself for his wife in the same way that Yeshua sacrificed himself for the church. Not necessarily by dying on a cross, but in essence, dying to his own desires for the benefit of his wife.
Husbands should be putting their wives first. Always. In everything.


There is no point at which Yeshua would put himself before the church. There is no point at which a husband should put himself before his wife.

Every decision has to be for her benefit. (She doesn’t always get her way. The husband still has to make the decisions. But she is always the priority. The decisions must be made to benefit her.)

Even the little ones. In fact, especially the little ones. What movie to watch? The romantic comedy or the war movie? It depends on the wife of course, and if she would prefer the war movie then that’s fine. But most women I know would prefer the romantic comedy. It’s a no brainer. There is no decision to make. She must come first.

There is no compromise, “this time we’ll watch the girlie movie, but next time we’ll watch the war movie”... There should be sacrifice, not compromise. “this time we’ll watch the girlie movie, but next time we’ll watch two of them!”


If there are two sweets to choose from what do you do? Let her choose first? You know she likes strawberry right... but she knows you do too, so she chooses the caramel... Such a lovely wife. You’re a lucky man. But give her the strawberry.

This is not rocket science.
Sacrifice is painful. You know when you’re sacrificing. And you know when you’re not.

If you are a husband you need to be sacrificing all the time.

Always making decisions which are the best for her, which put her needs and desires first. And doing it quietly, whether she is aware of it or not.

This is a huge challenge for any husband. It’s not easy. But it is God’s way for husbands.

Do you want to be the best husband you can possibly be?
Sacrifice yourself for her.


Unity or Uniformity

Before you read any further, stop and look at these two images. And tell me what you see.

I’m guessing that you said something like, “The boy’s hat is gone. The girl is looking the other way. The bucket and spade are the other way around.”
Oh, that’s right... and the umbrella has rotated around too.

Let me tell you what I see.
It’s two pictures of the same boy and the same girl building the same sandcastle on the same beach near the same umbrella.

Do you get my point?

It is very easy to see differences. It comes naturally to us.
It’s not so easy to see similarities, to see the things which unify us. It’s not easy to see the 99% we have in common with each other, but it’s incredibly easy to see the 1% we have that’s different. And when it comes to church... we not only see the 1% difference, we divide ourselves because of it.

Sadly this is nothing new. It has always been a problem.
Paulus said in 1 Corinthians:
“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly - mere infants in the Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paulus,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paulus? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

We are so quick to divide.

I think it’s because we’re obsessed with being right. With being right and being seen to be right.
But who cares who’s right! I seriously challenge you to find a Bible passage where God teaches that we must be right.

But I can find some where he says, regardless of who is right and wrong... love one another.
For example... “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

The question God would ask, is not “Who is right?” He would ask, “Who is loving?”

1 Corinthians 12 is all about how we are different but part of one body. In fact, we are designed to all be slightly different. You are a hand, I’m a foot, someone else is an eye. But we are all needed. We are all part of the same body. We are not a cloud, and a hammer, and a tree, things with nothing in common. We are all parts of a body.
And how ridiculous it would be if the eyes said that the other parts were no longer parts of the body because they were not eyes! We are all the same, with little differences to make us more useful.

1 Peter 2 tells us that we are a building of living stones. Stones. Not bricks. We are not all identical. But we are all the same. Get it?
Rocks are all rocks. Each one looks a little different, but they are still all rocks. They are all part of the same building. Bricks are all exactly the same. If we were a building of bricks, that would be uniformity. But we’re meant to be different, (and yet the same), a building of stones is unity, not uniformity.

We need to focus on the bits that are the same, not on the bits that are different. We are all living stones.
That’s incredible! Have you ever seen a living stone before?
And yet, instead of greeting other Christians with, “Wow. Another living stone. How awesome to meet you.” We greet them with, ... “You’re different. You’re not welcome.”

So, how about you?
Are you focused on similarities or differences?
Are you looking for unity? or uniformity?
Are you loving? Or are you just “right”?


Begging for God

It disturbs me that when churches need money they so quickly turn to non-Christians to get it.

Stereotypically, the roof needs fixing, so we have a church fair, or something like that where we flog off all our unwanted second hand goods, and bake cakes, and sell sausages, or whatever our particular ethnic equivalent is.
And we ask everyone who passes by to give us a few dollars so we can fix our roof.

Of course sometimes the cause is more noble than fixing a roof. But the principle is the same.
We say that we worship the one and only God. Creator of the universe. Saviour of people’s souls. The God of all power.
But our actions show that we do not believe that this all powerful God is able to get us the money we need to fix our roof - so we are coming to you non-Christians to try to get it instead.

Can you imagine Yeshua doing that?

Or the apostle Paulus? Petros? Anyone from the Bible?

In Acts we read that there was a famine in Jerusalem. And the Corinthians collected money to send to the Christians there who were suffering.
Do you think they had a church fair? Do you think they sold souvlaki or second hand urns?
Do you think they asked the non-Christians in Corinth for donations?

That’s not how it reads in the Bible is it. They had a collection. In the church. From Christians.
If you wanted to give, you put money in the box. Then they collected the money and delivered it to the Christians in Jerusalem.

And on a practical level these kind of church fairs don’t usually raise much money anyway. They take a LOT of work. Usually for a few hundred dollars. I feel certain that some of the wealthier Christians in the church could have donated that much themselves without any problem at all.

Of course it’s good that everyone wants to pitch in and help, and to do their bit. But if you really want to do something like that, then do it in the church. Don’t go begging from non-Christians.

We represent God. Are we saying that God is a bit short this week, so could you please give us a few bucks?

You should read the biographies of people like George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, Francis Schaeffer... These guys lived their lives with the principle that if God wants something done, then he will fund it. If he doesn’t fund it, then he doesn’t want it done.
These three in particular never asked non-Christians for money, and I even seem to remember one case where they specifically refused money from a non-Christian.
In fact, if they believed that they needed money for something, then they didn’t even ask other Christians for it, they just prayed for it.

And it always came.


$3 Worth of God

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
But just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth.
I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.
I’d like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

Wilbur Reese

In Revelation 3 we read Yeshua’s letter to the church in Laodicea:
The amen, the witness, the trustworthy and true, the ruler of the creation of God says this. 
I know your works, that you’re neither cool nor boiling. You ought to be either cool or boiling. So then, because you’re lukewarm, and neither boiling nor cool, I’m about to spew you out of my mouth. Because you say, ‘I’m rich. And I’ve become rich. I don’t have any need of anything.’ And you don’t know that you’re miserable, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

This is pretty intense. Yeshua would rather we were cold than lukewarm!

That’s really in your face. How committed to Yeshua are you? How committed am I?

Where would we be if Yeshua was only as committed to us as we are to him. Where would we be if only 25% of our sin was paid for? Or even 90% for that matter.
(Although that’s kind of the point of the gospel isn’t it.)

But for sure, Yeshua wants us to be at the hot end of the scale, not lukewarm.

In 1 Corinthians 3 we read how at the judgement our work will be tested by fire.
If it is just wood, hay, stubble it will be burned.
If it is gold, silver, precious stones, it will survive and we will receive our reward.

Btw: this is not about salvation, your salvation is secure. It’s about your reward based on your actions.

I remember reading a book once about a man who had a dream after reading this passage.
He stood as his life works were carried out and piled up in front of him. Then, after the fire he looked at the pile to see what was remaining, but there was nothing there but ash.

Close your eyes and imagine your pile of works, and the fire...
Imagine looking down and seeing nothing but ash.

D.L. Moody is famous for saying “The world is yet to see what God can do through one man fully committed to him”.
Of course he wasn’t including Yeshua. He was challenging us, and himself.
You know whether you could be more devoted to God. You know if you’re only lukewarm.

Some years ago Watchman Nee wrote a whole book about this called “The Normal Christian Life”.
It’s about a life lived 100% for Yeshua. A life filled with joy and power. A life like that of the apostle Paulus, or Petros.
Yet he concluded that this is “normal”.
This is the kind of life that every Christian is supposed to lead.
It’s not for the elite few. It’s God’s plan for all of us. If we would only commit ourselves to him 100%.

Of course that’s not going to be the easy life.

Yeshua said that before you start building a tower you should count the cost.
Before you go to war you should check out your enemy.
There will be a cost.

But there is also a massive cost to NOT being committed to Yeshua.
Nobody wants to end up with just a pile of ash.

We can so easily get caught up striving for money, for food, for houses, worried about “stuff” and how we will provide for our families.
And we do need some of these things. But even so, Yeshua told us “first, seek the kingdom of God, and then all these things will be added to you”.

$3 worth of God is not enough.
Spend all you have.

However hot you are for Yeshua, crank it up a notch.
Don’t settle for lukewarm.
Don’t settle for mediocrity.
Live a full-on Christian life,
100% devoted to Yeshua.

Live a normal Christian life.