Dec 242017

On Friday I was watching a news update from a traffic centre monitoring the state of the roads as people “got away” for Christmas. Everything seemed to be flowing smoothly and, on a number of occasions, as the presenter referred to this she stressed that she was not trying to “tempt fate”. The implication was that her saying everything was ok could cause some form of traffic disruption.

We see something similar when sports commentators refer to the “commentators curse” – normally after saying something about how well an athlete / sportsperson is performing and them then falling over or scoring an own goal!

I don’t know about you but it strikes me as incredibly arrogant to think that the words we say can have an impact in these types of situations when we are remote from what is going on and not involved at all. And it can give us a sense of importance and self-centredness that is disturbing and unhelpful. It may simply be a figure of speech but I hear it enough to think people believe that there is something to it, there is some mystical power in the words they are saying.

On the other hand we see many instances where people use words in a derogatory or defamatory way that have the real potential to cause harm and it is seen to be ok. Probably the major context in which this takes place is on social media or comment areas on websites where people seem to feel free to say whatever they like – and often things that if they were said face-to-face would cause real offence. Listening to a radio interview a few weeks ago I heard a lady admitting she had said something about someone else on Twitter that she should not have done but defending herself by saying that “everyone does it”. And we are continually hearing apologies from senior figures in government and elsewhere for posting something that they now realise they should not have done.

We seem to have things back-to-front: when the words we say are not going to have any impact we guard them; when the words we say have the potential to have a real impact we lose all restraint. Not that this is true for everyone but it does seem to be a growing trend.

The apostle Paul – one of the early church leaders – encouraged Christian believers at Colossae to engage in speech characterised by grace and that is appealing to others:

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

And as such we are called to follow the example of Jesus of whom it was said.

Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:22a)

But it isn’t just that the words Jesus spoke were gracious, were helpful, were full of wisdom. He was also referred to as “the Word”.

In the powerful opening to his Gospel, John speaks about this Word as someone who has always been there, has always been with God, was indeed God Himself, was the creator of all things, the one who brings life, the one who brings light (John 1:1-5).

And the amazing truth that John goes on to declare is that this Word chose to come into this world to become one of us, to become human, to walk and work among us, to share our lives with us, to be God-made-flesh. John sums it up in this way:

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14)

And this is the reality we celebrate at this time of Christmas – that the baby who was born at Bethlehem was God’s Son coming into the world to bring life and hope and peace and light.

The words we speak are important but even more important is how we respond to “The Word” who came into the world for us and was willing to die for us on a cross to bring us life.

How will you use choose to use words? How will you respond to this Word?

Dec 232017

Our journey through Proverbs comes to an end on Tuesday 26th December and we’re going to follow that by picking up on Paul’s letters – where we have come to the letter he wrote to the church in Rome.

Recognised by many as the most complete statement of Paul’s understanding of the gospel of God,

the letter contains many different themes – with ongoing discussions as to which, if any, should be seen as the main focus:

  • justification by faith
  • union with Christ
  • how Gentiles were to be included among God’s people
  • the ongoing place of the Jews in God’s plan
  • how Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus could live and worship together

We aren’t going to resolve these questions in our short daily posts but it will be an opportunity to look again at this wonderful letter and remind ourselves of what it says about God, about Jesus, about the Spirit, about new life, about a certain hope for the future, about a call for whole-hearted service and much more besides.



After working through Romans we will return to the story of God’s people in the Old Testament and look again at how their history unfolded. We have already looked at the account in 1 & 2 Kings and we’re going to look at many of the same events again but through the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles. These books tell the story with a particular focus on what happened to the Judaean kingdom with less emphasis on what happened in the northern kingdom. Written after the return from exile, to inform and encourage the returning people, they have a very different purpose:

The purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles is to show God’s elective and preserving grace in His covenant people through David, the messianic king and priest. The purposes of 1 and 2 Kings are different. These books explain the fall and destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem as evidence of divine judgment of God’s people who had forsaken His covenant requirements

Eugene H. Merrill, “1 Chronicles,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 591.

As we look at 1 & 2 Chronicles we will see how God calls and continues to protect and provide for his people


Dec 052017

The BCaD post for 5th December 2017 quoted from Proverbs 10:1 which speaks about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

A fascinating question was asked – “any idea why the different parents are mentioned on the opposing sides?”

Here are some thoughts.

It’s first of all worth noting the context in which these words were written where there was much more emphasis on the male child – there are no comparable references to daughters in the book of Proverbs at all.

There is a recognition that both parents are involved in the teaching and instruction of a son – so we have:

  1. Proverbs 1:8 where a son is enjoined to listen to his father’s instruction and to not forsake his mother’s teaching
  2. Proverbs 6:20, similarly, calls on the son to keep his father’s commands and – again – to not forsake his mother’s teaching

There are three relevant references to the way in which sons behave and the impact on their parents:

  1. Proverbs 10:1 which – as noted above – speaks about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish son brings grief to his mother
  2. Proverbs 15:20 which speaks again about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish man despises his mother (so less about the impact on his mother but more about how he feels towards her)
  3. Proverbs 17:25 which speaks about a foolish son bringing grief to his father and bitterness to his mother – so here the resulting grief is felt by his father as opposed to his mother

(There are other references to fathers and mothers which add additional insight to this such as Proverbs 20:20, 23:22, 23:25, 28:24, 30:11, 30:17).

The contrast between Proverbs 10:1 and Proverbs 17:25 suggests that the actual distinction in terms of negative responses are not great but it is interesting that, overall, we see positive attributes (wisdom) being appreciated by his father while negative attributes (foolishness) affecting both parents.

Waltke suggests that we should not make too much of the distinction with the “father and mother” reference simply being a way of speaking about parents:

Word pairs may also involve common contrasts and/or broken, stereotyped phrases that may or may not include merisms such as “heaven” and “earth” in 3:16 [cited above]). In 10:1

bēn ḥākām yeśammaḥ-ʾāb
A wise son makes a father glad,
ûbēn kesîl tûgat ʾimmô
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

ḥākām “wise” and kesîl “fool” are common antithetic word pairs, and the phrase “father and mother” is a common broken, stereotyped phrase designating “parents” (1:8; 4:3; passim).

Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 42–43.

Kitchen makes a similar argument:

The effect of the ‘wise son’ is that he makes his father ‘glad.’ The word describes a joy that affects the whole of a person: heart (Exod. 4:14; Ps. 19:8; 104:15), soul (Ps. 86:4), and eyes (Prov. 15:30).3 The effect of the ‘foolish son’ is that he brings his mother ‘grief.’ Such a son brings much hardship upon his parents (Prov. 17:21, 25; 19:13). Indeed, he not only hurts them; he personally ‘despises’ them (Prov. 15:20)!
The father and mother are mentioned separately, not because one is more susceptible to hurt and the other more prone toward joy, but as a literary device to indicate that the whole of the family shares in the follies and triumphs of other family members. No child can avoid bringing either joy or pain to his parent’s lives (Prov. 17:21, 25; 23:24–25; 28:7; 29:3). While an age of greater independence is desired by all, one never outgrows one’s responsibility to, or effect upon, one’s family. What capacity for pain we take on when we hold our first child in our arms! But, oh, how our opportunities for joys untold are expanded at the same time!

John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2006), 214.

And these observations are consistent with what we see in the other references to the impact sons have on their parents.

So – on balance – I don’t think we should read too much into the distinctions but see them as speaking about different ways the behaviour of a son (and we can legitimately extend this to daughter) have on their parents. In a world where the long-term well being of parents was dependent on their children to care for them in later life – and with this responsibility primarily going to the eldest son – this was really important. As parents saw their son develop and grow so they would get an indication of how he would be able to take on the family business, how well he would care for them in later life.

With the many variations in family structures and social care provision we have in our culture today some of the ways in which this is worked out will vary – but it does encourage us to think about how our behaviour and attitudes are seen by our parents and what this says about how they will receive the care they need in later life.

Primarily it’s speaking about children and parents but it is good to recognise that how we are and how we behave can have positive and negative impacts on all those with whom we come into contact and, particularly, for those for whom we have some level of responsibility.


Nov 082017

Over the last few months – in posting thoughts from a “Bible Chapter a Day” – we have looked at 2 Corinthians as part of our survey of Paul’s letters and have just finished looking through Jeremiah and Lamentations where the prophet predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and laments over it.

Challenging times for Paul and the church as he rejoices in their response to his earlier letters but continues to have to defend himself against opposition; and challenging as we tracked the history of God’s people up to and into exile.

We’re going to take a break from Paul’s letters and Old Testament history – but will come back to them!

From Friday, we’re going to look at the one Gospel we haven’t looked at – the Gospel of Mark – and then look at the book of Proverbs.

Mark is the shortest Gospel, thought by many to be the first to be written. It is fast paced, challenging and presents Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of God”.

Proverbs is a book of wise sayings that encourages people to “fear the Lord”; advocates choosing a way of wisdom as opposed to foolishness; speaks about how life “normally works” – even if it doesn’t always work out that way; provides guidance and insights for living.

Aug 262017

As we worked through 1 and 2 Kings we saw many ups and downs in the situation of God’s people – linked to the way in which they were following the path He had laid out for them or going their own way. And we left them having been taken away as captives into exile, with Jerusalem destroyed and the temple looted and burned. The story isn’t over but we are going to leave it there for a while!

We’re going to pick up the story in the New Testament again looking through Paul’s letters. The last one we looked at was 1 Corinthians where Paul was trying to address a number of issues that had been raised. His next letter was to the church at Philippi and he then wrote another to Corinth and so we’re going to look at those two letters next.

Paul wrote Philippians while a prisoner but writes with a message of joy, hope and encouragement and seeks to point the believers to Jesus.

His second letter to the church at Corinth is a very personal one  He reminds them again about Jesus, encourages them but also feels the need to defend himself against those who would try to undermine his work amongst them.

And then we’ll come back to the story of God’s people in the Old Testament. We’ll be working through Jeremiah, written by a prophet who lived in Jerusalem just before the exile. He speaks and writes to warn the people, he experiences deep grief and distress, he continues to speak after the city has been destroyed and the people taken into exile. A challenging and powerful book.

And we’ll then look at the five poems that comprise the book of Lamentations – speaking of the sorrow and anguish experienced after the city of Jerusalem fell and the people were taken away into captivity

But even there, there is hope in the God whose love never ends.

Jun 242017

We’re going to leave David and the people of Israel behind for a time – but will come back to them shortly – and pick up our journey through Paul’s letters.

We’re going to be looking at 1 Corinthians – a letter Paul wrote to a church that had many issues and challenges to which he wanted to respond. Even though it starts with him thanking God for them, he has to go on to remind them of things they had forgotten and to encourage them to focus on Jesus Christ. We’ll see something of what Paul has to say about Christian leadership, (im)moral behaviour, marriage, idols, worship, the gifts of the Spirit, unity, the resurrection and much more. Real challenges in the church at Corinth, and topics that are important for us to reflect on today.

1 Corinthians 12 [widescreen]

And then we’ll pick up the story of God’s people again – in 1 & 2 Kings – and see what happened after David and how the kings that followed him behaved – some well but many of them badly – resulting in God sending his people into exile in response to how far they had turned away from him. Sometimes depressing, with occasional lights in the darkness, but a reminder of the importance of staying faithful to God and what he calls us to be and to do.

1 Kings 827 [widescreen]

Apr 222017

After spending nearly five months of our “Bible Chapter a Day” (BCAD) project reflecting on the book of Psalms it’s just about time to move on. But let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what we have seen:

  • We’ve encountered wonderful words of praise as people rejoice in the greatness and majesty of God
  • We’ve seen people crying out to God from the depths of despair and asking for his blessing
  • We’ve seen expressions of sorrow and contrition as people recognised their failings and asked God for forgiveness
  • We’ve shared in appreciation for the word of God
  • We’ve entered into the reality of life – joy, despair, great civil occasions, recognition of death
  • and so much more

We’ve seen how people engage with God in many different ways depending on what is going on in their lives – and we have seen people prepared to be authentic and real with God and to express the depths of how they are feeling and what they are looking for God to do. Great examples to us in how we speak with, cry out to, praise our great God.

But, from Monday, we’re going to move on to look at two short letters in the New Testament and then two longer books in the Old Testament.

1 & 2 Thessalonians were written by Paul (with Silas and Timothy) to the church at Thessalonica some time after Paul had established a church there as recorded in Acts 17:1-4. Now he is writing to them again to encourage them, to answer some questions, to defend himself against accusations, to correct some misunderstandings about life after death and the return of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 414 [widescreen]

1 & 2 Samuel picks up the narrative of the people of God from where we left them at the end of the book of Judges and Ruth. We encounter three key players – Samuel the last judge, Saul the first king and David who replaced him as king over the people of Israel. We will see how their stories intertwine; encounter intrigue, plot and deception; see Saul losing his position, David being chosen in his place and Saul being resentful; David being established as king and reigning although not always happily or without problems.

2 Samuel 52 [widescreen]

Let’s be open to hear what God has to say to us through His word.


Apr 192017

When the Prime Minister announced yesterday that she was calling a General Election one of the inevitable PM calls electionquestions that arose was how this related to her frequent statement that there was no need to hold one until 2020. Some commentators spoke about a U-turn, others about broken promises, while – among others – there is a recognition that people change their minds as circumstances change.

And, this is something we are having to get used to in many areas of life. A football club chairman expressing complete confidence in their manager leads to speculation as to how soon the manager will go while – back in politics – a Prime Minster expressing full support for a Minister starts speculation as to who will replace them.

This reminded me of an event in the life of Jesus (recorded in John 7) where the question arose as to whether he was going to go to Jerusalem to join in the celebration of one of their annual festivals. His brothers – who didn’t believe in who he really was or in what God had called him to do – encouraged him to go, to take a public role, to show his followers what he was capable of (John 7:2-5).

But Jesus was aware that the religious leaders wanted to kill him (John 7:1) so it wasn’t safe for him to go with them. While it was alright for them to go it wasn’t right for him:

You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’ (John 7:8)

But then, after they had gone he did go – not publicly as they had wanted but in secret (John 7:10).

So what caused him to change his mind, why did he do what he said he wasn’t going to do?

I think the key is in the phrase “my time has not yet fully come” – Jesus wasn’t going to act according to his brother’s agenda, nor even according to his own agenda, but according to what his Father told him to do, according to what would please his Father. He has previously made this explicitly clear:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)

So it’s reasonable to assume that between telling his brothers that he wouldn’t go to Jerusalem and choosing to go his Father had made it clear that this is actually what He wanted him to do.

The situation hadn’t changed – he was still in danger of being taken and killed – but he needed to be doing what his Father called him to do. And so he gets up to teach, stuns the crowd with what he says (John 7:14-15) and then as the feast drew to its close he stands up and calls out to everyone who will hear, offering them life and hope and God’s presence.

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ (John 7:37–38)

John 737–38 [widescreen]

Whatever the Prime Minister’s reasons are for calling a snap election it seems that what was motivating Jesus is fairly clear. He wasn’t concerned about his own personal safety, he wasn’t concerned about what those in authority would think of him. Rather he was totally committed to doing what his Father asked of him and prepared to do whatever he could to bring others into a refreshing, living relationship with God.

A much more important question than how we will respond to the issues of this general election is how we will respond to the offer of “life as it is meant to be lived” from Jesus – an offer he made then and continues to make today.

And another important question – for those of us who have made that commitment to follow Jesus – is whether we are prepared to live in a similar way to how Jesus lived and seek to follow what God calls us to do in every part of our lives whatever it may cost us, whatever the implications may be.


Apr 102017

In an article on Sunday 9th April 2017 the BBC published an article with the provocative title “Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians”. The article was based on a poll that they had commissioned – it breaks down some of the numbers, shows some helpful graphs (showing the views of “All Christians” and “Active Christians”) and includes comments from various groups.

It also – very helpfully – provides a link to the raw data and recognises that some of the results were drawn from people “describing themselves as Christians”.

In the survey 1019 people described themselves as Christians while 315 described themselves as “Active Christians”.

One of the questions asked was how frequently people attended a religious service (excluding special occasions such as marriages, funerals, etc) and of the group who were identifying themselves as Christians 31% said less often than monthly while 37% said never, that’s a total of 68%. While I don’t believe that the only sign of being a Christian is attending church I think there would have been questions asked if I said I was a student at college and never turned up for lectures!

And this isn’t saying anything against the individuals but more a comment on our society where we are encouraged to consider ourselves as Christians even if we don’t have any faith in, knowledge of, God or meet with other people who are seeking to understand who God is and what the Bible teaches. Why is this a label that people hang onto and use to identify themselves?

If we take the group of people who identify themselves as “Active Christians” (people who attend church at least 1-3 times a month) then the numbers look very different:

  • 57% believe in the resurrection of Jesus exactly as it is described in the Bible
  • 36% believe in the resurrection of Jesus but don’t take every detail of the account literally
  • 5% do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus
  • 2% don’t know

So a very different picture to the headline used by the BBC.

But leaving that aside why is the resurrection of Jesus important?

The Bible speaks about the resurrection of Jesus in the four Gospels (the first four books in the New Testament which tell the story of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus) – if you want to read the accounts yourself to see what they say you can find them at Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-49, John 20:1-29

Paul, one of the early Christian leaders, speaks about the significance of the resurrection of Jesus in a letter to a church at Corinth.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17–19)

He was responding to people who were questioning the hope that people had in life after death (another topic covered in the survey) and arguing that without the resurrection of Jesus any hope in something “beyond” was pointless, that he might as well stop preaching and we might as well all stop believing.

But he then goes on with some wonderfully powerful words:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

1 Corinthians 1519–20 [widescreen]


The belief in the resurrection of Jesus is an essential component of the Christian faith, without it we have nothing. It demonstrates that Jesus has defeated sin and death, it gives us real meaning for life today, and it gives us a totally certain hope for life beyond death with Him for ever.

This Easter time would be a great opportunity to call into a local church and find out more about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and the life-changing impact it has on life today and in the future. Let’s not just accept a doubtful headline but let’s find out for ourselves.