Short Thoughts

Start your morning mediation with inspirational quotes & Bible thoughts for the day. Rise and shine with our Bible-based words of encouragement.

Busting Bible Myths 3 A fallen angel? A horned tempter with a pitchfork?

A powerful, deceitful creature constantly working to undermine God? The source of all evil? It is commonly thought that these are accurate, Biblical descriptions of “Satan” or “the devil”. They are not at all. It is interesting to note that despite all the evil that occurs throughout the story of the Old Testament, the terms “Satan” or “the devil” are barely used. When we do come across them, they mean “adversary” and “false accuser” respectively and are used to refer to either people who oppose God or the man-made idols of the pagan nations around Israel. In the New Testament the terms are used to personify any force that is opposed to God, and again, when we scratch below the surface, we find that those forces are human in origin, not supernatural. God Himself totally excludes the idea of there being a supernatural force in opposition to Him.

Seeing all the advent calendars in the shops got me thinking about the term ‘Advent’. Many may just see it as a means of counting down to Christmas day, but the name comes from the Latin word ‘adventus’ which means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’ and refers to the birth (or arrival) of Jesus into the world over 2000 years ago. Excitingly, the Bible teaches us that there will be a second advent (or coming) of Jesus back to the earth from heaven. When Jesus ascended to heaven after his death, his disciples were told by angels: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1v11, NIV) Jesus will return to set up an everlasting kingdom on the earth, over which he will reign in righteousness, and those who have faithfully prepared themselves, watching and waiting for his second advent, will be blessed with a place in that glorious kingdom.

Three and a half years ago I was baptised and joined the Christadelphians.

I have been so blessed to have had the upbringing I had; I have been able to go to youth events regularly from a young age and have grown up in an ecclesia (the term Christadelphians use for our congregation) with other young people my age as well as some incredible “aunties and uncles” who were and are such an example to me. I cannot imagine a happy life without the loving and caring community my family is a part of, and this encouraged me to look into the Bible and its message for myself. As I got older, I began to pay more attention to what was happening in the world around me, particularly in the Middle East. Seeing how current events fit so evidently and undeniably into Bible prophecy (foretelling the future often many years before it happens) was the main factor that made me recognise the proximity of Christ’s return and prompted me to get baptised.

What do we make of COP26?

Much media space has been taken up in assessing the achievements of COP26, the climate change summit. Whatever else is said, it is good to see such effort going into repairing the damage done by Humankind. People in low-lying lands are threatened by rising sea levels and the long-term impact on the natural world could be disastrous. So what was the result of the COP26 discussions? A lot was positive. Agreements and promises to make improvements were welcomed, but it has to be said most people have reservations as well. Some nations refused to make essential commitments and some of the agreements have get-out clauses making them potentially weaker. In the end we will just have to wait and see. Will the promises be kept? Will nations which are lagging behind finally get onboard? Only time will tell. But Bible believers have no doubt that the climate problem will be solved. Not by Humankind, but by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth.

Busting Bible Myths – 2 You may be very surprised to hear that the idea that people go to heaven when they die is not found in the Bible. The concept of an immortal soul – something spiritual within us that lives on after our body has died – is an ancient one. It pervades all major world religions in one form or another. Films, books, TV shows from all cultures consistently present the notion of living on after death. Yet the very phrase “immortal soul” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. What we ARE told is that in the beginning, God created man “from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2 v7, NKJV) It is like an equation: dust + breath of life = living being. Take away the “breath of life”, or destroy the “dust”, and there is no longer a living being. There is nothing. The breath of life is God’s life-giving power that sustains all living things; it is not unique to the person.

Busting Bible Myths 1 Did you know that the most commonly taught concept about God himself does not actually come from the Bible? Mainstream churches teach that God can be defined by the concept called “the Trinity”. The idea is that God is one God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. However, the phrases “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit” literally never appear in the Bible. What is more, these notions are totally contrary to Bible teaching. Although anticipated all through the Old Testament, Jesus – God’s son – did not exist beyond a definite concept in God’s mind until he was physically conceived in Mary’s womb. Mary was told quite clearly how this would happen: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…” (Luke 1 v35, NKJV). There is absolutely no mention of the idea of God transforming Himself in some way or that the being she would give birth to would be God Himself.

At this time of year, many people are involved in ‘remembering’.

I recall as a child reciting over and again “Remember, Remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot.” In fact, November has two occasions of ‘Remembrance’: • Guy Fawkes on Bonfire night when the gunpowder plot that tried to overthrow King James I and his government is remembered, and • Remembrance Sunday when British and Commonwealth Military Service personnel who served in the two World Wars and conflicts ever since are remembered. In contrast, it is interesting to see what God in His Word asks us to remember. In Deuteronomy 8 v11 Moses warned the children of Israel to ‘Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.

My boss proudly posted on our work group chat after his summer holiday that he and his wife had “finally finished the Wainwrights!” Alfred Wainwright wrote seven pictorial guides to the Lakeland Fells between 1952 and 1966, after falling in love with the beauty of the place, and enthusiasts now endeavour to ‘follow in the footsteps of Wainwright’ by walking every route he documented so carefully in these guidebooks. This goal is not an easy one to achieve. It requires dedication, preparation, suitable clothing and footwear, the proper equipment, a reasonable level of fitness - plus a good head for heights and a willingness to scramble over ridges! It is best to walk with someone else, both for company and help when needed, and taking suitable provisions and safety measures is vital. Crucially, this mission takes time, probably years, perhaps for some even a lifetime.

Autumn could seem a gloomy and depressing season.

Summer has passed, with all its long days, warmth and fun. Ahead we might only see long dark nights with wet and dreary days in between. Yet God in His wisdom gave us so much to be thankful for at this time of year! Many of our crops are now filling our stores – crisp apples and pears, summer berries (now frozen) and root crops. As plants die back we have the opportunity to have a good clear up, move things around, rethink for next year. And throughout the country, God paints the trees with a myriad of stunning colours – their final artistic flourish before their winter rest. Personally, I love autumn. Crackling wood fires, warming stews, crisp country walks stomping through leaves. After a busy summer it’s a welcome opportunity to stop and take stock of what has been and what is still to come. A time to thank God for all He has done and look forward to all He promises to do.

What do you expect? A flash of lightning? A vision? No!

My journey began much like a little seed planted in good soil... a bit like the sower sowing the seed in the parable Jesus told. As the fourth child of Christadelphian parents, my three brothers and I were blessed with a childhood being taken to a Christadelphian Sunday School every week. This was followed as I got older by fun on Friday nights at youth club and weekend gatherings, sharing great times making friends from all over the country enjoying Bible related stories and activities. Even better were the most fantastic annual holidays ever, spending a whole week at a summer camp in Dorset with lots of friends from across the country from the age of 10 and right up into my twenties. Lifelong friendships were established - including meeting my future long-suffering husband in a field in a camp at Corfe Castle!

“Try one of these!” my brother urged.

Inquisitively, I popped the little green fruit in my mouth. “Urrgghh!!” That was my first experience of an olive! Over time, I have come to enjoy olives, both green and black. As interest in foreign foods has grown, food halls now tend to stock a huge range of the little fruits, sometimes stuffed with garlic or pimentos, or in a flavoursome marinade, evoking thoughts and smells of the Mediterranean. Bars and restaurants often serve them with drinks before or at the start of a meal. Olives are very versatile. They can be eaten as they are, preserved for later use, or pressed to give oil for eating, cooking, medicinal purposes or producing light. The Bible often refers to olive oil because the land of Israel had (and still has) many olive groves, and olive oil was a staple for the people of the land.

A time is coming when all of the people of the Middle East region will be in total harmony. Friendship and cooperation will arise between men of Tel Aviv and Gaza City. Genuine and lasting goodwill. This does seem unlikely, given the failure of many international peace conferences and treaties. Yet God who rules in the kingdom of men has declared that He will bring this about. (Isaiah 2: 4) The Jewish people are the chosen people because they are descended from Abraham, a man God called His friend. Crucially, they were descended from Sarah, not any of Abraham’s other wives. This is disputed: you have to assess and choose between the teaching of the Bible and the Koran. Despite this great honour, the Jewish people have consistently disobeyed God, culminating in the wilful crucifixion of His only son. Today, though inventive and powerful, many are atheists. But what do you think of the Jewish people?

It’s easy to get caught-up with everyday life.

We need to work for sufficient income to live; food and clothing need to be purchased; meals need preparing and children require education. Ordinary things like meeting family and friends are important too—something much missed during lockdown—as is participating in get-togethers such as weddings and family celebrations. Many people enjoy sport, either participating or watching, while others look forward to being able to attend cinemas and concerts once again. All these ordinary things make up our daily lives. They are necessary; they bring value and are frequently activities we enjoy and that make us feel good. Yet Jesus gave us a warning. Luke recorded this saying about the day Jesus will come back: "They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

“…it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps…” (Jeremiah 10:23, NKJV) So wrote the prophet Jeremiah in a prayer of anxiety to God. Expressed in a time of national disaster, it is an acknowledgment of people’s failure to choose and walk the right way in life. In the past few weeks we have all felt shock, outrage, despair, horror at the awful situation that has unfolded in Afghanistan. The scale of the fear and desperation experienced by so many has been terrible to witness. Howsoever these events have come about, one thing is clear: humans find it extremely difficult, even if and when they have the best of intentions, to govern. Afghanistan has been a particularly stark and potent reminder of how bad things can become. The truth is, though, that no country in the world can claim to have founded the perfect society where all its citizens are happy, healthy and fulfilled. Why is this?

The recent UN Climate Change report has been widely publicised as a “Code Red” for our planet. “The door is still ajar”, we are told, to avert catastrophe, but will soon shut irreversibly. The rate at which we, the human population, are causing irreparable damage has risen exponentially. We are already seeing and feeling the results of this: everywhere on Earth, people are experiencing messed-up, unpredictable weather patterns. Some have been hit with disastrous flooding from excessive rain and others with devastating wildfires from excessive heat. What, if anything, does the Bible have to say about our environment? Right back in the Garden of Eden, man and woman were given responsibility for looking after the earth, along with obeying God’s commands. It’s a responsibility which we have failed to live up to, developing societies based on greed, selfishness and convenience instead.

When the sun is shining, we may be tempted to dust off the barbecue and enjoy a little al fresco dining. This might involve a few burgers or sausages, but some of us get a little more adventurous by grilling fish. Whether wrapped in foil or cooked directly over the coals, grilled fish is rather wonderful! Cooking fish in this way has been done for thousands of years. Jesus prepared a hearty barbecued breakfast of fish and bread on the beach, to refresh his disciples after a frustrating night’s fishing. After miraculously filling their nets with fish, he then filled their bellies, before preparing them spiritually for the work ahead of them. (See John 21) During this breakfast, the disciples may have recalled another miracle Jesus performed earlier in his ministry which also included bread and fish. Jesus used a boy’s picnic of five small loaves and two small fish to feed around 5000 men, besides women and children! You can imagine the impact that had on the crowd – a free supper!

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