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Showing posts from February, 2013

We All Want What We Can't Have

Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-21, Luke 13.34-35

Next week my wife and I are going to see a famous play called Dr Faustus by the Elizabethan Playwright Christopher Marlowe. The advert for the play said, ‘We all want what we can’t have. But what price would we pay to get it?’

We all want what we can’t have! What do you want? The latest i-phone or i-pad, designer clothes or shoes, an exciting holiday adventure in some exotic faraway place, a wonderful romance with someone stunningly attractive, a new car, a beautiful house to impress your friends, a breathtaking view from your window, long life and happiness perhaps, or lots of money?

We all want what we can’t have! It’s not a new idea. The Ten Commandments in the Old Testament tell us not to covet other people’s things - their house, their husband or wife, their beautiful slave, their strong ox, their cuddly-looking donkey, or anything else that belongs to them.

The people who wrote the Bible understood that it’s human nature for us all to wan…

Living Dangerously in His Ministry

Luke 4.21-30
My wife is a local preacher and the one thing she dislikes is preaching in her own church. I guess the famous words of Jesus echo in her ears as she’s preparing her sermon: No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

Actually, the last time she was there - a couple of weeks ago - the service was very well received, but we can imagine how nervous Jesus was going back to Nazareth and speaking in front of his family, friends and neighbours.

Mark and Matthew only tell us that his message was not well received, but Luke goes further and tells us that - although at first they were surprised how eloquent Jesus was - the congregation quickly became enraged and tried to throw him off a nearby cliff. The implication is that they bundled him out of town towards the cliff face but apparently the nearest cliff is at least 20 minutes walk from the synagogue and perhaps not as close by as Luke imagined. Be that as it may, Luke’s seems to want to heighten the drama of the story. Like …

Living Dangerously From The Beginning

Isaiah 60.1-6; Matthew 2.1-12

Whether or not Mathew intended his story about the wisemen to be a commentary on Isaiah Chapter 60, that is how generations of Christians have interpreted it. That’s why the wisemen have come to be seen as kings riding on camels.

Matthew includes his story in the Gospel for a number of reasons: first to show that the birth of Jesus is not just significant for Jewish people, or even for human beings - it is a truly show-stopping event with comic significance; second, he wants to show that even people from other faiths can acknowledge the importance of Jesus, since the wisemen were probably Zoroastrians, an ancient faith which began in Persia and attaches huge significance to the victory of light over darkness; third, he wants to show that Jesus’ birth fulfils ancient Jewish prophecies; and finally to show that Jesus makes a difference to politics and world events. Believing in him is not just a private and personal thing.

It’s interesting that - in his Christ…

A Prophecy for Turbulent Times

Zephaniah 3.14-20
Philippians 4.4-7

Zephaniah prophesied in turbulent times. He seems to have been an adviser to the young King Josiah, who came to the throne as a child of eight after the murder of his father. Not that the Prophet approved of Josiah’s father. On the contrary, he was determined to mould the young Josiah’s character so that he would take an entirely different direction from his father. And in his early prophecies, perhaps when he was trying to get the new policy established, Zephaniah rails against the terrible behaviour both of Josiah’s father and of his grandfather too. They had worshipped the Canaanite gods Molech, Baal and Astarte and had practised soothsaying, magic and child sacrifice as well as ordinary everyday idolatry. Although Josiah’s grandfather had reigned for 55 years, the Bible and Zephaniah brand him a terrible failure and a blot on Judah’s history.

In comparison Josiah was a blazing success morally, but unfortunately he lacked the diplomatic skills of hi…