When truth is political – Psalm 12

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionary chose “post-truth” as the word of the year. We are living in days when truth itself has become political. How should we respond?

This is part of the weekly Thought for the Week series. This series is designed to give a short, 10-15 minute ‘thought’, including a Bible reading and a prayer. At the moment I am working my way through the Psalms but I may take a break from them after a while and look at another part of the Bible.

Do subscribe to the mailing list if you want to get these delivered by email, or subscribe directly on YouTube if you want to see them there.

You can see the previous week’s thought on Psalm 11 “Will good triumph over evil” here.

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Mark 2:23-28 – Learn to read the Bible #9

I’ve just published the ninth part of the Learn to read the Bible series on Mark’s Gospel. This week we are looking at Mark 2:23-28, when Jesus is questioned about the Sabbath.

For those who are coming to this new, the idea behind this series is not for me to simply explain everything to you, but rather to give you things to think about yourself. This is about training you to read the Bible for yourself, rather than just giving you all the answers!

See this page if you’d like a few pointers for how to use these videos. Don’t forget to pray!

You can read the passage online here (although I’d suggest it’s better in a physical Bible). You may also want to have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes and things you want to look into more.

Key points from Mark 2:23-28

  • When you read a passage, think about the things which are repeated – it can often be a really helpful clue in getting to the main point.
  • In this passage, “lawful” is repeated a couple of times, and the Pharisees mention one of the Ten Commandments.
  • There are three things to think about:
    1. Eating corn on the Sabbath was not prohibited by the Ten Commandments. Why do you think the Pharisees added this law? Are there any ways we add to God’s laws?
    2. Jesus said that the laws were made for us – God’s laws are for our good. Do you think of the law like that? Do you think of obeying God as a joyful thing?
    3. Jesus said the Son of Man (himself) is lord even of the Sabbath. We are accountable to him at the end of the day. Are we seeking to obey him in everything?

Looking for more?

You can see the rest of the videos in this series on the this page. If you’d like a more focussed series teaching the Christian faith, check out the teaching programme.

You might also want to see the previous episode in the series on Mark 2:18-22.

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Will good triumph over evil? Psalm 11

We human beings seem conditioned to believe that good will win out over evil. But how can we have grounds for this confidence?

This is part of the weekly Thought for the Week series. This series is designed to give a short, 10-minute ‘thought’, including a Bible reading and a prayer.At the moment I am working my way through the Psalms but I may take a break from them after a while and look at another part of the Bible.

Do subscribe to the mailing list if you want to get these delivered by email, or subscribe directly on YouTube if you want to see them there.

You can see the previous week’s thought on Psalm 10 “How to deal with injustice” here.

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Mark 2:18-22 – Learn to read the Bible #8

I’ve just published the eighth part of the Learn to read the Bible series on Mark’s Gospel. This week we are looking at Mark 2:18-22, when Jesus is questioned about fasting.

For those who are coming to this new, the idea behind this series is not for me to simply explain everything to you, but rather to give you things to think about yourself. This is about training you to read the Bible for yourself, rather than just giving you all the answers!

See this page if you’d like a few pointers for how to use these videos. Don’t forget to pray!

You can read the passage online here (although I’d suggest it’s better in a physical Bible). You may also want to have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes and things you want to look into more.

Key points from Mark 2:18-22

  • The Pharisees and John the Baptist’s followers were fasting. Fasting is not something which is generally associated with happiness! Spend a few moments thinking about why they were fasting.
  • Jesus replies to them and says they can’t fast while the bridegroom is with them – does that mean he is the bridegroom? Is he hinting at what is going to happen to him when he talks about the bridegroom being taken away?
  • If Jesus’ followers can’t fast while he is with them because it is a time of rejoicing and joy – what does that mean about our lives? If Jesus is with us, how should that make a difference to our own emotional state?
  • Jesus finishes by talking about the contrast between the new and the old. Now that he is here, we have to do things differently. Think about how you’ve changed since becoming a Christian. Think about the ways in which you need to do things differently with Jesus.

Looking for more?

You can see the rest of the videos in this series on the this page. If you’d like a more focussed series teaching the Christian faith, check out the teaching programme.

You might also want to see the previous episode in the series on Mark 2:13-17.

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How to deal with injustice: Psalm 10

In Psalm 9 we started thinking about injustice in general. This Psalm focuses down more on justice done by specific individuals. How should we respond?

This is part of the weekly Thought for the Week series. This series is designed to give a short, 10-minute ‘thought’, including a Bible reading and a prayer. At the moment I am working my way through the Psalms but I may take a break from them after a while and look at another part of the Bible.

Do subscribe to the mailing list if you want to get these delivered by email, or subscribe directly on YouTube if you want to see them there.

You can see the previous week’s thought on Psalm 9 “God the Ultimate Justice Warrior” here.

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Do Christians need to keep the 10 Commandments?

One of the biggest questions people have about the Christian life is about our obedience. Do Christians need to keep the 10 Commandments? Is that what the Christian life is all about?

This is another huge topic, so this video is just a short introduction with a couple of pointers to some more detailed information.

Summary of the video

Here’s a brief summary of the points I make in the video:

  • Do Christians need to keep the 10 commandments? The answer is “It’s complicated” – it’s a bit like yes / no / yes…
  • In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”
  • Jesus didn’t come to remove any laws but fulfil them. What does that mean?
  • Romans 3:20 says, “through the law we become conscious of our sin”.
  • The Law shines a light on our lives and helps us to see our sin.
  • The reason we need the law in the first place is because there is something wrong with us – we want to do the wrong thing.
  • Romans 8:1-4 says that the law cannot help us with our innate problem with sin – only Jesus can do that.
  • Jesus came to do what the law couldn’t do. He makes us righteous from the inside out.
  • Jesus can help us want to love God and love others – something which we could never do by simply trying to obey the commandments.
  • Jeremiah 31:33 says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” This is a prophecy of what God would do in Jesus.
  • Through Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, God writes his laws on our hearts.
  • Finally, in Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus uses the example of murder. It’s a command most people think they’ve kept. But Jesus shows that none of us have kept even this law perfectly.
  • We need a transformation to love others!

Explore further

You might like to look at the Sermon on the Mount course.

You might also appreciate session 15 of the New City Catechism: What’s the point of the Law (if we can’t keep it)?

Your questions answered

This is the third video for the Your questions answered feature.

If you have a question about Christianity or the Bible, please send them in or comment below.

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Mark 2:13-17 – Learn to read the Bible #7

I’ve just published the sixth part of the Learn to read the Bible series on Mark’s Gospel. This week we are looking at Mark 2:13-17, when Jesus calls the tax collector Levi.

For those who are coming to this new, the idea behind this series is not for me to simply explain everything to you, but rather to give you things to think about yourself. This is about training you to read the Bible for yourself, rather than just giving you all the answers!

See this page if you’d like a few pointers for how to use these videos.

You can read the passage online here (although I’d suggest it’s better in a physical Bible). You may also want to have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes and things you want to look into more.

Key points from Mark 2:13-17

One important thing for understanding this passage is to realise how people saw Tax Collectors. You might find it helpful to look up a page with some background info about tax collectors.

There were three points I made in the video for you to think about:

  1. Jesus called Levi – a tax collector – who would have been despised by the Jewish authorities at that time. Can you think of anyone today who might be despised in a similar way? What does that teach us about who God calls and values?
  2. The Teachers of the Law questioned why Jesus ate with “tax collectors and sinners”. What do you think that says about how they saw themselves? Do you think they didn’t see themselves as sinners? Were they right to see themselves this way?
  3. Jesus said he didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners. Think about our relationship to God. What does that mean about how we should relate to God? How can we come with honesty and integrity to God?

Looking for more?

You can see the rest of the videos in this series on the this page. If you’d like a more focussed series teaching the Christian faith, check out the teaching programme.

You might also want to see the previous episode in the series on Mark 2:1-12.

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God the Ultimate Justice Warrior: Psalm 9

Social Justice has gone mainstream in 2020 with the BLM movement. This Psalm is all about justice: what does God have to say about it?

This is part of the weekly Thought for the Week series. This series is designed to give a short, 10-minute ‘thought’, including a Bible reading and a prayer. At the moment I am working my way through the Psalms but I may take a break from them after a while and look at another part of the Bible.

Do subscribe to the mailing list if you want to get these delivered by email, or subscribe directly on YouTube if you want to see them there.

You can see the previous week’s thought on Psalm 8 “You are not insignificant” here.

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How can we know the Bible is true?

One of the questions people often have is, how can we know the Bible is true? The Bible contains so much which seems strange to us. For one, it’s full of miracles. And the very centre of the story is based on Jesus – a man who performed many miracles and rose up from the grave. Can we trust that this is true, or is it more like one of Aesop’s fables?

This is a huge question and obviously in a short video we don’t have time to look at all the answers. In this video I focus on the gospels, drawing on Peter Williams’ brilliant book Can we Trust the Gospels?

Summary of the video

  • The Bible centres on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – so if we can trust the gospels, we can almost certainly trust the rest of the Bible.
  • Peter Williams’ book is the best book on the reliability of the gospels that I’ve ever read.
  • He talks about a number of reasons why we can trust in the gospel as historically reliable. Here are just a couple:
    1. Geography. The gospels talk about a lot of places. All four gospels have unique place names which no other gospel mentions. Those place names range from large, common cities to local, relatively uncommon names. For someone to make this up, it would require research beyond anything we’ve ever seen from this time period!
    2. Undesigned coincidences. This is when a fact in one gospel is confirmed almost “accidentally” by another gospel. So, for example, Mark describes James and John as the ‘sons of thunder’. Luke doesn’t call them that, but he does record them wanting to call down fire on a village.
  • He says that if it wasn’t for the miracles of Jesus, no serious historian would consider the gospels unreliable. So can we trust that the miracles are true?
    1. The miracles are not random – they occur within a whole picture which fits together. It would take a huge leap of faith to believe everything was fiction or happened by coincidence.
    2. The resurrection turns the disciples around. Through the gospels, the disciples are portrayed as misunderstanding lots of things, rarely getting anything right. What turned them into the group of men who evangelised the world? They would not have suffered and died as they did unless they knew it was true.
    3. The first witness of the resurrection was a woman. In those days, the testimony of a woman was inadmissible in court. No-one wanting to make up the story of the resurrection would make a woman be the first witness of the resurrection. It wouldn’t help the case at all.
  • As Sherlock Holmes famously said: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. It would take more faith to believe that the gospels were not true.

Your questions answered

This is the second video of a new feature called Your questions answered. (This particular video was originally recorded for my own church).

If you have a question about Christianity or the Bible, please send them in or comment below.

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Mark 2:1-12 – Learn to read the Bible #6

I’ve just published the sixth part of the Learn to read the Bible series on Mark’s Gospel. This week we are looking at Mark 2:1-12, when Jesus forgives and heals a paralysed man.

For those who are coming to this new, the idea behind this series is not for me to simply explain everything to you, but rather to give you things to think about yourself. This is about training you to read the Bible for yourself, rather than just giving you all the answers!

See this page if you’d like a few pointers for how to use these videos.

You can read the passage online here (although I’d suggest it’s better in a physical Bible). You may also want to have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes and things you want to look into more.

Key points from Mark 2:1-12

This is a really important passage in Mark’s Gospel and it’s worthwhile spending a bit of time thinking and praying about!

  • Mark once again draws attention to Jesus’ fame spreading. Think about YouTube stars or people who draw a large following online – what must it have been like in Jesus’ day?
  • The paralysed man’s friends broke through the roof and lowered him to Jesus. What does this show about them? What obstacles are there which might stop us from getting to Jesus, and what should we do about it?
  • Why does Jesus say ‘your sins are forgiven’ when the man needed physical healing? What does that say about Jesus’ priorities?
  • Are the teachers of the Law right when they say only God can forgive sins? Was Jesus blaspheming? What does that say about who Jesus is?
  • Jesus says “I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”. Does this help us to understand Jesus’ other miracles?

Looking for more?

You can see the rest of the videos in this series on the this page. If you’d like a more focussed series teaching the Christian faith, check out the teaching programme.

You might also want to see the previous episode in the series on Mark 1:35-45.

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