Your E-mails: December 2021

Your E-mails: December 2021

I’m concerned about having the Covid vaccine. What does the Bible say? THE BIBLE DOESN’T of course give direct instructions about vaccinations, so we need to look at the principles which will guide the decision we make. One principle is that your body is a gift from God and the Christian must take care of it (1 Corinthians 6:19). So the first question is, are the vaccines beneficial? There are suggestions that they have not been properly tested. There are also conspiracy theories which allege that they are harmful, and even that they are part of some sinister plot against the population. Before we take these theories seriously we should look into their sources and weigh them against the evidence. The consensus is that Covid is a real and devastating disease, and the vaccines offer protection against it. They do have known side effects, as do all vaccines, but the

Plague, Pestilence, Pandemic

Plague, Pestilence, Pandemic

PLAGUES FEATURE WIDELY in the Bible: some are caused by God to further His purpose, for example the plagues on Egypt in the book of Exodus. Infectious diseases are a fact of life, they have been suffered by humankind throughout our history. Recently we have learnt how to effectively control their spread by more advanced medicine, antiseptics and vaccinations. So the Covid 19 pandemic came as a huge shock to most of us. We did not realise that we were so vulnerable in our modern world. Many people will ask, “Why does God allow such suffering to happen?” Our world is not a perfect one but its imperfection is the result of our disobedience in the first place. God gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey or disobey Him. They chose disobedience, and its consequence was mortality. God said to Adam: Because you have listened to the voice of

The Passover

The Passover

ON MARCH 30th 1956, the peninsula of Kamchatka in the far east of Russia was rocked by a tremendous explosion. With an energy equivalent to 40 billion electric fire bars, the great volcano Bezimianny literally blew its top. Within seconds millions of tons of rocks, reduced to fine powder, shot into the stratosphere at twice the speed of sound. Later that afternoon a strange thing happened. As the dust began to drift back out of the sky, the daylight faded. Soon a darkness fell over the surrounding cities, so impenetrable that you could not see your own hand, not even holding it close to your face. People returning from work groped about in the streets, searching for their homes. They were disorientated and terrified. To the Egyptians in the time of Moses, the ninth plague that God brought upon the land must have been a similar experience. We are not

Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel

THE ACCOUNTS of the first act of worship in human history and the first murder are recorded in Genesis chapter 4. They follow the account in chapter 3 of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden and the entrance of sin into the world. Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. They each brought an offering to God (Genesis 4:3). Some wonder how Cain and Abel were to know what to sacrifice. The answer is that their parents must have instructed them concerning the details of acceptable worship. Adam and Eve had tried to hide their shame by sewing fig leaves together (Genesis 3:7), then they had watched as God killed an animal to clothe them with its skin (v. 21), and so they had learnt the principle that is explained much later in the Letter to the Hebrews: ‘Without the shedding of

Words Matter

Words Matter

IN JANUARY 2021 American news hit world headlines: a violent crowd of rioters stormed the Capitol building in Washington. The President was subsequently impeached for allegedly inciting a riot. The Senate chaplain had said that “Words matter” and that “the power of life and death is in the tongue”. The Power of the Tongue Words do indeed matter! With words we can humiliate, insult, embarrass, malign, discourage; or we can uplift, encourage and build up. The wise man said that there is ‘a time to keep silence, and a time to speak’ (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Keeping silent is not always the wisest approach, as silence is not neutral and can be misinterpreted, as either approval or disapproval. So there is a ‘time to speak’. But the speech itself needs to be wholesome. The Apostle James warned: No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly

John

John

THE WRITER of this fourth Gospel was John, brother of James and son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman. Jesus called him to be one of his closest followers. He is described in this book as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, showing how much John appreciated what Jesus stood for (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). John focuses on certain miracles of Jesus and calls them “signs”. They underline the authority Jesus had as the Son of God. They also serve as reminders of our need for healing from spiritual sickness and blindness (for example John 5:1–9; 9:1–12). The Exalted View God used John to reveal lofty truths about Jesus. ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). More than any of the other Gospel writers, John recorded the

The Joy of Books

The Joy of Books

HAS IT EVER struck you as odd? God has an urgent message for us, and He has infinite power at His disposal. He could have taken over the world’s TV channels, or written in the sky, or sent out angels with loudhailers. But instead He chooses to communicate by means of an old book. The cynic might turn the question round, and suggest that if God really did want to communicate with us He would use some other means. But this would be to miss the point of what the Bible is. It is not just an old book. What God wants from us is faith. ‘Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6). History shows that overt displays of God’s power do not produce faith. For Example…

Your E-mails: November

Your E-mails: November

AM: According to the Gospels Jesus was crucified, but in Acts 5:30 Peter says that he was hanged on a tree. Did Peter get it wrong? Ed: JESUS CHRIST died by crucifixion. This was a form of capital punishment which the Romans tended to use for the lowest criminals, and is possibly the most excruciating method of torture ever invented. The victim of crucifixion was hung on a ‘cross’. This is traditionally understood as a stake fixed upright in the ground with a cross-piece to which their hands were fixed. Actually when our English Bibles use the word ‘cross’, they are translating the original Greek word ‘stauros’ which simply means a stake or post. Some historians believe that crucifixion involved just the stake, without the cross-piece. The cross is at the heart of the Gospel message. Not the object itself—that was not important, and anyway no one knows what it

The Price of Slaves

The Price of Slaves

WE ARE ALL PRETTY FAMILIAR with ‘price inflation’. Generally the price of an item (a bottle of milk for example) will rise over time. It’s not a universal rule—you can also get periods of stagflation or deflation, but in general prices rise. You might be surprised to know that inflation has been around for a very long time. It was operating in Bible times. And you might be more surprised to learn that we can use price inflation to check that the Bible narrative is true and accurate. That it was written when it claims to have been written, and that the events fit the period to which they relate. The Price of Milk Let me illustrate how this works. Suppose for example I shared with you a newspaper article claiming to have been written in  Britain  in  the  1960s  and  covering events from that period. In this article it