Bible

Over the last month or so, I have been gradually reading through the book of Psalms in The Message Bible translation. It's a wonderful collection of songs and poetry, expressing the full range of human emotion: disappointment, frustration, anger and hope, as well as praise, worship and joy. One of the most well known Psalms is Psalm 100 - which is a call to worship. It begins by declaring, "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!" The next line is "Serve (or worship) the Lord with gladness (or joy)." Every day, as we go about our life, we are serving someone - at home, through volunteering, or at our workplace. Those of us who are people of... Read more →


Today, we conclude our reflections on the book of Job. What the book of Job CAN do for us: 1. It teaches us to be careful and compassionate in how we respond to people who are suffering. When people are suffering, they don’t need theological debates (“maybe this is an attack from the devil”), personal accusations (“maybe God is punishing you for sin in your life”) or advice for a ‘quick fix’ to their calamity (“if only you had more faith in God …”). They need our empathy, our support, and our friendship. In the end, Job’s friends became his enemies and ‘worthless physicians’ who crushed him with their words. Can we do better than Job’s friends? 2. It shows... Read more →


Today, we continue our reflections on the book of Job. What the book of Job does NOT do for us: 1. It does not answer the question as to 'why' there is suffering in the world today. Theodicy (the search for the origin and nature of suffering and evil) remains an unsolved mystery. Suffering is not merely a theological or philosophical problem, it is a human problem that no one is immune to, though some people suffer more than others. Yes, God does intend our good (Romans 8:28) but that doesn't mean that we will always figure out how our experiences benefit us (Ecclesiastes 6:12) and our "good" cannot be always defined by our comfort or our success. C.S. Lewis... Read more →


Over the last few months, I have been slowly reading through the book of Job in The Message Bible translation, reflecting on it, and also reading John Walton's excellent commentary on Job in the NIV Application Commentary series, as well as Tremper Longman III's book on Job in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms. The book of Job is a 'classic' in ancient literature and one of the most intriguing books in the Bible. It outlines the story of a man named Job who was one of the wealthiest people in the ancient Near East. Suddenly, a series of tragedies flood into his life, resulting in the loss of his herds and flocks, the death of... Read more →


Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to read through the Song of Songs - an extraordinary love poem. How can we apply the insights from this love poem to our own lives today? What efforts are you making to keep the romance of your love relationship alive? What things can you do to cultivate a greater desire for the one who you love? In what ways can you further affirm the value and dignity of the opposite sex/gender? Wisdom calls us to loving and exclusive commitment, not to a rampant promiscuity which turns sex into a mere commodity. Read Proverbs 5:15-19 and reflect on the impact of more readily available pornography on genuine love. In the beginning, men and women were... Read more →


Everyone likes love songs. They fill the radio waves throughout the day. I can still remember enjoying the crooning voice of Lionel Richie singing "Hello, is it me you're looking for?" in my late teens. There is something deeply profound about the desire and yearning of one person for another. We call it love. The Bible contains many diverse types of literature, including poems, prophecies, narratives and of course, songs. The book of Psalms is literally a psalter, or collection of songs, expressing the full range of emotions of the human heart. But then we have that small little book at the end of the Wisdom Literature section called Song of Songs. That title means it is being declared as... Read more →


Ecclesiastes is a controversial book - is it a positive affirmation of the joy of life or a deeply pessimistic view of the world? Either way, it resonates deeply with the existential struggles of people today. The book takes us on a roller-coaster ride as the main character sets out to explore the meaning of life. We too are to wrestle actively with the difficult questions and real issues of life. Throughout the Quester’s journey, there is a constant tension between the 'utterly enigmatic' nature of life as he discovers it under the sun and the call to 'seize the day', eating and drinking and enjoying what God has given to us. These can be referred to as the carpe... Read more →


The book of Ecclesiastes is a fine piece of inspired literary work, carefully crafted to convey an important message about the quest for the meaning of life. There is a Narrator who frames this royal story (1:1-11 and 12:8-14), a story which is made up of the actual words and thoughts of someone we will refer to as the Quester (1:12 - 12:7). The Quester is also called the Preacher, the Teacher, the Wise Man or Qohelet (Hebrew for 'preacher’). Solomon is the stated identity of the Quester (1:1) but some biblical scholars now choose a later date and see this as royal Solomonic fiction, though based on actual historical experiences. See Craig G. Bartholomew's excellent commentary on Ecclesiastes in... Read more →


Every since I was a kid, I have loved books. Whether it was visiting the local library, hanging out in my dad’s office, or sitting reading encyclopaedias while my parents were visiting with friends, books were a doorway to a world of experience, information and knowledge. Books awakened in me a passion for learning and discovering new ideas about anything and everything. My fascination for books drew me to the Bible. The Bible is an amazing book, or more accurately, a collection of stories, writings, songs, poems and prophecies. Like a huge library, the diversity throughout the various books of the Bible is quite extraordinary. I have my favourite parts of the Bible but I have enjoyed venturing to some... Read more →


John 15:1-6. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain... Read more →


John 14:1-7. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the... Read more →


It may take time … but having and working a financial plan is the path to financial freedom and God’s blessing whatever your situation. Notice the plan is not the 80-10-10 plan. The order is important. Put God first in your finances. Then change ratios over time as you’re able - 15-15-70, etc. This is pretty simple: a 10-year old can do it. Every person’s financial situation is unique. What is right for you may not be relevant for someone else, but these principles can work for just about everyone. My motive in sharing this message is to help you personally – because a lot of people live under tremendous financial pressure and all of us need to learn principles... Read more →


Establish and Live by a Budget If you don't take control of your money it will take control of you and your life. Money is a great servant but is a cruel taskmaster. A budget is the most important and effective tool for getting your finances under control. A budget is simply a plan for earning and spending money. It provides limits and boundaries, which give security. There are many Scriptures on planning (Proverbs 15:22; 20:18; 21:5; 27:23-24. Jerermiah 29:11. Luke 14:28-30). INCOME - How to Acquire Money Human labour is the means by which we earn money. It is the key to the earning side of the financial equation. God is a worker. He worked for six days (on... Read more →


Jesus and Money In Luke 16:1-13, we have an example of Jesus’ teaching about money. There’s a difference of opinion as to what exactly Jesus is commending about the manager in the story but the application of the parable is very clear: (1) all of us will be called to give an account of how we have served him and what we have done with our resources; (2) preparation for that day of account should involve wise use of our resources, especially in the area of finances; and (3) wise use of resources, demonstrating a life of true discipleship, will be rewarded with eternal life and joy. Jesus then added a few other lessons after he finished the story: (1)... Read more →


Prayer and Praise When our kids were little, we used to drive the whole family north from Melbourne up to Queensland in the summer holidays to visit their grandparents. It was a multiple day trip and one of the things I hated to do was stop for petrol. After all, all those trucks, caravans and slow pokes I had been passing throughout the day, would now be passing me. My wife, Nicole always fills up for petrol with about 1/4 tank remaining. I tend to see how far I can go on a tank of petrol. I’ll never forget one night, as it was getting dark, looking at the red ‘empty’ fuel night wondering if we would make it to... Read more →


As Jesus was dying on the cross, he was not completely alone. There were a small group of people who loved him dearly, right there until his last breath (John 19:25-27). They demonstrated great courage just to even be there. One of them was Mary - Jesus’ mother. I am sure Mary did not always understand her Son, Jesus (what he was up to and why he did what he did) but she always loved him. Her presence there was the most natural thing in the world for a mother. Jesus might be a criminal in the eyes of the Roman government, but he was her son. Imagine the anguish of watching your own son die. The undying love of... Read more →


Lessons from Jesus’ Temptation Yesterday, we looked at Jesus' showdown in the dessert. Today, let's glean a few lessons for our own lives from this story. 1. We are in a spiritual war. We live in a spiritual battle zone between God and Satan, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. There is no neutral ground. We will either overcome or be overcome. The battle will intensify as history proceeds from this time until the return of Jesus. Before the world was created, a number of theologians believe that one of God's archangels was cast out of heaven and thrown to earth because of rebellion. This being became 'Satan' or the devil. In the Garden of Eden, Satan... Read more →


Jesus has prepared well for impacting his world through total surrender, a strong relationship with his Father and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The final aspect of his preparation is a showdown with the devil himself. Immediately after the “mountain-top” experience at his water baptism, Luke describes Jesus as “full of the Spirit”. The Spirit then “led” Jesus into the desert or wilderness (in comparison to the garden paradise where Adam and Eve were tempted). Jesus fasted (ate no food) for 40 days. During these 40 days he was also tempted or tested by the devil. The three specific temptations recounted by Matthew and Luke seem to have occurred at the close of this period - when Jesus hunger... Read more →


Jesus' Empowerment by the Spirit

During Jesus' baptism in water, the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove (Luke 3:22). This implies a sort of “anointing” for ministry. Jesus was “filled with the Spirit” (Luke 4:1) and was then “led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1) into the wilderness where he overcame the devil and returned in the “power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Jesus lived his life by the Spirit’s power. We too need the power of the Spirit to help us live a life of purpose and impact, an abundant joyful and victorious life. The disciples separated themselves to God, developed a relationship with the father and also received the power of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The evidence of... Read more →


Jesus' Relationship with His Father

As Jesus was being baptised, Luke notes that he was praying or talking to his heavenly Father (Luke 3:21). Throughout his gospel, Luke makes a special emphasis on Jesus’ life of prayer – one of close relationship with his Father (Luke 6:12; 9:18, 29; 11:1; 22:41). After being baptised, the Father spoke to him Jesus and said, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This is probably a private and personal experience between Jesus and the Father. The voice speaks directly to Jesus. Luke does not record any reaction or response from the crowd, as in other cases when such events occur more publicly (e.g. Acts 9). Jesus has developed a close... Read more →


At the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), Jesus began turning his attention towards his ministry to the people His Father had sent him to. Jesus’ preparation for ministry included his baptism in water (Luke 3:21-23), his relationship with his Father, the empowerment of the Spirit (Luke 4:1-2), and his defeat of the devil and his temptations (Luke 4:3-13). Jesus prepared for 30 years for 3½ years of significant ministry. It has been said, that people today go to Bible College for 3½ years to prepare for 30 years of ministry. Proper preparation is essential. Anything significant is preceded by intensive and thorough preparation (often behind the scenes). Things just don't happen. In fact, the quality of the preparation determines the... Read more →


Luke gives us some interesting insight into Jesus' self-perception ... as a 12 year old. Luke 2:41-52. Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among... Read more →


The Denial (Mark 14:27-31, 66-72) The theme of abandonment overshadows many of the Stories Around the Cross. Jesus was abandoned by betrayal (Judas), by indifference (the disciples sleeping three times in Gethsemane), and by denial and desertion (Peter and the Twelve). When Jesus needed them the most, his friends left him alone. They all participated in the supper (Mark 14:23), they all confessed their allegiance (Mark 14:31), and yet they all deserted Jesus (Mark 14:50). Peter is as impetuous as ever – opening his mouth first and thinking afterwards. But he is hard to condemn and impossible to dislike. He has demonstrated nothing but reckless courage to this point - drawing his sword in the garden prepared to take on... Read more →


As we move towards Easter, let's take a look at the supper from Mark 14:12-26. Part of our God-given humanity is the instinct to celebrate significant moments with significant meals (e.g. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries). Sharing a meal bonds a family, a group of friends, a team, a collection of colleagues together. The meal says more than words - about who we are, how we feel about one another, and the hopes and joys we share together. It’s not just about the food; the meal says something, it does something. We become a people who shared that meal together, with all that it meant to us. The Jewish Passover celebration was such a meal, linking together generations of families... Read more →


Jesus tells us that we have a Father who pays attention to our lives - down to the very details. Matthew 10:29-30. God cares what happens to it (a small canary) even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail — even numbering the hairs on your head. Numbering the hairs on our head (an easier task for some of us than others!) is not a statement of God's mathematical prowess but rather of his caring attention to even the minute details of our life. The priestly blessing says this: Numbers 6:24-26. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;... Read more →


Every year, we encourage our church to read through the Bible. There are a variety of reading programs available online. This year we will read through the New Testament, as well as the books of Psalms and Proverbs. There is a great benefit in using a devotional format for Bible reading aimed at hearing from God daily and responding to his leading. The goal is not to just ‘get through’ your Bible reading but to allow God’s Word to ‘get in’ to your heart and life, bringing about personal growth and positive change. As you do your daily reading, consider using the following devotional format: Scripture – write out a verse or two that speak specifically to you today. Observation... Read more →


The apostle Peter wrote this back in the first century: 1 Peter 4:7-11. The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for... Read more →


Each time I read the Gospels, I never fail to see something new about Jesus and the way he brought transformation to people who he came in contact with. After Jesus calmed the storm, he said to his disciples, "Why can't you trust me?" (Luke 8:25. Message Bible) That's a good question to consider after God brings you through a tough time. Luke goes on to say: Luke 8:26-27. They sailed on to the country of the Gerasenes, directly opposite Galilee. As he stepped out onto land, a madman from town met him; he was a victim of demons. He hadn't worn clothes for a long time, nor lived at home; he lived in the cemetery. Message Bible I started... Read more →


Today we glean some more wisdom from the book of Proverbs. Here are a few thoughts from Proverbs 28. Vs.1. The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions. When you live a righteous life you have nothing to be afraid of. Vs.2. When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But with wise and knowledgeable leaders, there is stability. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Good leadership (wise and godly) produces stability. Vs.4. To reject the law is to praise the wicked; to obey the law is to fight them. Keeping the law is a way to stand for righteousness. Vs.6. It is better to be... Read more →


Today we glean some more wisdom from the book of Proverbs. Here are a few thoughts from Proverbs 21. Vs.1. The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he turns it wherever he pleases. God is sovereign and overrules all – even the heart of those in authority. Vs.2. People may think they are doing what is right, but the LORD examines the heart. God evaluates our inner world. Vs.3. The LORD is more pleased when we do what is just and right than when we give him sacrifices. Obedience is the ultimate pleasure to the Lord not worship. In fact, obedience demonstrates love. Vs.4. Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all... Read more →