GOING DEEPER

How Jesus is like Mary Poppins’ Handbag

I remember growing up as a kid and thinking that whatever special effects or wizardry lay behind Mary Poppins Handbag was impossible in real life, until I became a fully-fledged adult and met my wife Dani. What I thought was the work of trick cameras I found was common to all females, with the mystical working of the handbag design meaning that they can always fit more in there than would seem physically possible. Slightly more important than my wife’s cosmetics fitting into her clutch, is the question of whether the fullness of God could possibly dwell in human form. From a natural perspective, being an all-knowing, all-powerful, unchangeable deity simply cannot cohere with the limits of the flesh. But as we see in 1 John 4:1-6, the bible argues that this is indeed an essential element of Christianity.
 
If you haven’t already, take the chance to read it now. You will notice that John is keen not to take every professing Christian’s word for their good intentions. While verse 1 tells us that we are not to “believe every spirit”, it is clear by referencing the “false prophets who have gone out into the world”, that John has in mind people who claim to be led by the Spirit. Thankfully though, John outlines a test, a simple dogmatic requirement that differentiates those motivated by the Holy Spirit, and those that are diametrically opposed. The test comes down to, in verse 2, confessing that: “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”, which is from God, or denying that truth, which is from the world.
 
You might be wondering about why there is such an obscure test to one’s authenticity as a Christian. Certainly today, the reality of the incarnation is not at the forefront of attacks on orthodox Christology (Study of Jesus). However, the denial of Christ’s humanity, or Docetism, as it later came to be called, is extremely toxic to faith. Docetism, which comes from the verb “to seem” in Greek, basically refers to any view that suggests Jesus’ real humanity or real suffering was simply illusionary. It had its heyday in the 2nd century, as a central part in many gnostic formulations of Christianity. It is unlikely that John had full-fledged Docetism in his sights here, however, his argument undermines that later heresy. Particularly sharp is his accusation in verse 3 that “This is the spirit of the antichrist”. Basically, Docetism is untenable with the theology set out in 1 John.

But what is it that is so toxic, that warrants the strong language that John uses here? Why is this something we should even be talking about in church today? Well Gregory of Nazianzus wrote an axiom against a different heresy, where he stated: “that which He has not assumed He has not healed (or redeemed)”. If Christ did not assume our flesh, if he was not fully human like you and I, what hope do we have of redemption? It’s a bit looking at the crisis in the United States around government shut downs and emergency declarations, and saying that the one thing that could fix the problem is our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison flying in to save the day. No, it will take an American to fix America,  just like it takes a very human Jesus to bring humanity to God. Salvation itself is at stake here, and John calls us to reject this heresy as coming directly from the enemy.

Americas saviour?

So hopefully you would be able to recognise a full scale docetist, and you might even be able to recognise why such a view is dangerous and puts questions around salvation itself. But what can you do in light of this passage? Well I think that John leaves us with both an imperative and an encouragement regarding this grievous error. The imperative is in how he begins his passage, telling us to test the spirits. This is not a descent into bigoted distrust of all those who are different. But it is a warning to be on the look out for those Christians who are spouting modern day iterations of Docetism. Particularly susceptible to this error are converts from Islam, which denies Jesus’ real suffering. Likewise, any syncretism with New Age philosophy runs the risk of valuing spiritual over the physical, and could also lead to a denial of Christ’s physical body.
 
However, while this error may be subtle, and is extremely dangerous, John provides the best encouragement of all for us in verse 4: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Docetism, and the related heresy of Gnosticism may seem to be making a resurgence. There will always be a force in this world telling us that Christ did not come in the flesh. But we can have assurance that God has overcome the world, and he has done that through the God-man, the divine and yet human, Jesus Christ.
 
So let this passage send you out with a wind in your sails this week. Not everything nor everyone that claims to be from God truly is. But that which is not from God, and particularly the dangerous heresy of Docetism has and ultimately will be dealt with. It puts forth a saviour who cannot truly identify with us in our weakness, who is not fully human, nor has fully suffered. This is not a saviour worth worshipping, as this is a saviour who is unable to complete the task of redemption, and bring us to God for all eternity. Praise be to God, that Jesus became like us, and took what we deserve, that we might experience what only he deserves: Eternal Rest.

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Does Acts 2 endorse Capitalism?

During our Bible study and preaching series through Acts, many questions and elements of the passage can lead us down the rabbit hole and away from the main intention of the text. They are often a reflection of later ideas and questions asked back upon the text, rather than arising from the text in its own setting. One of those issues is the question of Communism or Socialism in Acts 2:42-47. Verse 44 in particular tells us that the early church “had all things in common”, and verse 45 adds that “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” On a surface reading, we could say that a communist form of government with no private ownership is closest to this, and should be what Christians advocate for.  

Not So Simple…
However, this is only a surface reading of the text, which doesn’t paint a full understanding of how the early church operated and what the modern political system of communism stands for. In terms of this passage, the “having all things in common” refers to the use of objects, not their ownership. So individuals might have owned a house, but they used it for the common good. We know this, because Christians such as Ananias and Saphira and Barnabas were able to sell their property later and then give the proceeds to the church. Acts 2 clearly doesn’t entail a legal handing over of all property, otherwise, there would be nothing to sell later.
Furthermore, the verbs here of “selling” and “distributing” are written not in the aorist tense, but in the imperfect. Don’t let the big grammar words scare you, basically (and this is a gross simplification) aorist tense indicates an activity that occurs in the past, once off, or is punctiliar (at a particular point of time). However the imperfect tense indicates ongoing activity. Logic tells us that the ongoing activity of selling and distributing their possessions meant that it didn’t happen all at one time, like it was a requirement to join an exclusive cult. As believer’s had certain needs, those in the community that owned more would use those goods for the needs of the people. Likewise, they would even sell their stuff periodically to provide financial support for others. The ultimate example of this was believers like Barnabas who sold their land and property completely and gave it to the poor. This action would not be noted and attributed to an individual if it was the norm and not an outstanding example.
 
Capitalism or Communism?
The other thing worth noting, is that this kind of sacrificial love and communal living is something that is only described after the outpouring of the Spirit at the beginning of chapter 2. That is to say, this is something that is impressed on believers, by the Spirit, and should be viewed as impossible without the transforming work of  that Spirit. In other words, the believer may have it impressed on them, through God’s guidance, to a radical, selfless generosity (and every Christian should to varying degrees). However, to expect it from a nation as a whole, even from the unregenerate, finds no justification in Acts 2. That is not to say that the greediness and individualism that is more typical in capitalist societies is a more biblical picture either. The Bible simply does not outline a complete political picture of what secular governments should look like in the midst of the church age. What it does advocate is that the church is a rival kingdom, with a completely different and indeed radical agenda from the society around it. That might mean generosity and social justice where the poor are marginalised and forgotten, and empowerment of the individual and family units when the government becomes oppressive and supreme.
 
The question that this passage should raise in our hearts is not actually about communism, but about the importance of generosity that goes above and beyond the expected. It is a well noted point that the New Testament does not at all advocate a tithe (10%) offering to the church. As C.S. Lewis famously put it “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.” (Mere Christianity, p86-87). The early Christians clearly valued their faith, their love for Christ, and their love for each other well over getting ahead and being financially successful. It is only when the idols of our heart, particularly the lure of materialism, is more important and more treasured than Christ, that we would baulk at the idea of selling all we have and give to the poor. Every time I teach or preach on a passage that involves radical generosity, you can almost hear an audible sigh of relief when I say something like: “God doesn’t expect this from every Christian”. But the challenge I want to leave with you today is not to downplay the challenge of this chapter. Would you be willing to give well beyond your means for the sake of the kingdom? If not, why not? How can you put your money where your mouth is this week?
 
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan Bassett
 

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Bible Verses for Anxiety or Depression

The other day I was listening to the excellent podcast from John Piper (Ask Pastor John), which was talking about what bible verses to turn to when in the midst of depression. If that is the struggle you are going through, I encourage you to listen to the original here. John piper outline 5 different types of verse to turn to in such times. As any doctor will tell you, depression is also closely aligned with anxiety, and so I thought I would offer 6 different types of verse to read when going through anxiety. Because it is based on John Piper’s list, it will also be helpful for depression (though the specific verses I have chosen are more aimed at anxiety). I hope it is as helpful for you as it has been for me.

  1. Those that talk about the need for waiting on God.
  • “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock” (Psalm 40:1–2)
  • “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
  • “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?… But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:1-2,5-6)
  • “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.” (Psalm 25:16-17)

 

  1. Those verse that show how to experience gutsy guilt. This isn’t to say that anxiety or depression is a punishment for any specific sin, but just a recognition that we aren’t innocent and deserving any better than the deepest of all pits.
  • “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness [now that’s what I would call depression or anxiety], the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.” I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me [not against me, but for me]. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:8-9)
  • Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. (Psalm 51:8-9)

 

  1. Fix your attention especially on the passages that describe the stunning work of Christ on the cross
  • “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8)
  • “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3)
  • “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13)
  • “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25)
  • Many more such as: 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:12, Philippians 1:6, Isaiah 53:4–6

 

  1. The fourth group is to recite Scriptures that explain God’s promise to the anxious or depressed Christian:
  • “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” ( John 14:27)
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • See also verses such as Psalm 91:1-16, Zephaniah 3:17,

 

  1. Those verses which command us to forego worry and joylessness (based on God’s promises):
  • “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
  • “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22)
  • “’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14)

 

  1. Read and pray those verses which describe peace and freedom from anxiety, whether or not you fully feel them yet. This is not hypocrisy, it is a way to call out to God that what is true in these verses may be true for you.
  • “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
  • “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
  • “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
  • “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)
  • “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.” (Psalm 118:6-7)
I hope these verses will help guide your thoughts and minds to the freedom that is yours in Christ, and always remember the numerous benefits of walking alongside your Christian brothers and sisters as you go through these trials.
 

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Plan to Read or Plan to Fail

On Sunday I promised a post about different Bible Reading plans, so here it is. A disclaimer from the start, I have not used all of these plans, but have at least had a decent look through them.
 

What is a Bible Reading Plan?

A Bible Reading Plan is a simple, preformatted list of Bible Verses that are to be read in a certain order, usually on a daily basis. They range from covering selected books of the bible, topics, or even the whole Bible. They can be in the form of a list that is ticked off, on an app such as the YouVersion Bible app, or can be done from memory (such as the read through the bible from start to finish ones.

Why a Bible Reading Plan?

The main reason why I think it is a good idea to follow a Bible Reading Plan is that it encourages you to read your bible regularly, with a specific goal in your mind. There is a difference between the general wish of wanting to read your bible more, and the specific goal of reading it all in a year for instance. If you don’t plan to read, you plan to fail.

What Bible Reading plan is right for me?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to Bible Reading plans. I think the best method however is the constant goal to read the whole Bible, because it is the best way to get the whole counsel of God. Whole Bible reading plans also have the benefit of giving you the ‘big picture’ of salvation history, and taking you to the uncomfortable, irregular parts of the Bible where you may just find some surprises. It also has the benefit of showing that the Bible is more than just a self-help manual that is man-focused, but you will see the entire story that is inherently God-focused.

Whole Bible reading plans still come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and I encourage you to check out the Through the Bible reading plans that are available in the YouVersion App. Most, but not all of these plans are available there.

Bible in a year

The straight forward Bible in a year plan has a few varieties. The most basic will be starting from Genesis 1 and ending in Revelation. While simplicity might suit some, the problem is that you won’t usually touch the New Testament for 8 months, and even the most devoted of us might find long readings through the Law or genealogies a bit draining after time. Most variants nowadays partner up and Old Testament reading with a New Testament Reading and a Psalm or chapter from proverbs.

Chronological

Another method of reading the Bible is to arrange the readings by which occurred or was written first. That will mean Job might be read before Exodus, Psalms might be dispersed through the accounts of David’s life, and different accounts of kings and prophets might be rearranged to be read together. In the New Testament, Gospel accounts of Jesus life may be read together, with letters arranged roughly in line with when they were written. This style of reading may help you get a flow of the story better and a rough idea of the sequence of Biblical events. As it happened is a plan available on YouVersion that would fit in this category
 

Multiple Readings

What is the only thing that is better than reading your Bible? Reading more of your Bible! Some plans aim to read through the Bible faster than a year (such as the Bible in 90 days) or they will read the Old Testament once and the New Testament more often. The most famous of these plans is the M’Cheyne reading plan, which seeks to do the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. The great advantage to this plan (available on YouVersion and many other places) is that it divides the four chapters to be read each day into a family and personal devotion. What a great reminder to read as a family, and by swapping the readings every subsequent year, your whole family will get the whole Bible every two years. Another plan that is the one I’m currently sticking to is the Four Streams Bible reading plan. It covers the Old Testament once, the New Testament and Proverbs four times, and Psalms twice.
 

Chapter a day

For some of you, the sound of reading many chapters in a day is daunting. Besides, there is something to be said for a slower, more thoughtful pace through the Bible. Chapter a day plans will go through the entire Bible in three years. One that appeals to me is “A Chapter a day” (broken up into quarter years) available in YouVersion. It mixes Old Testament with New to stop you getting disheartened through the drier parts of Scripture.
 

Other plans

Perhaps you are happy to read a lot of your Bible at a time, but find it easier to do that on Monday to Friday when you are in a work routine? The 5 day a week Bible plan available 
here caters just for you. It allows you to have the weekend for more in depth study, or catch up, while still reading the Bible in the year. It also is Chronological with the Old Testament, and divides the New Testament up so you read a Gospel every 3 months, along with relevant epistles (such as partnering John’s gospel with his epistles and Revelation, or partnering Luke with Acts).
 
Another method, which requires memory or a lot of dedication, is reading a book 20 times over. Instead of flying through the bible, and missing each book’s individual focus and emphasis, this plan sets out to choose New Testament book, read it 20 times, before proceeding to an Old Testament book, reading it 20 times, and then going back to the New Testament. You will have to read at least 4 chapters a day to keep up the pace, and you will find new insights popping up around the 16th time through. I found this one really worthwhile for the shorter books, but I gave it a rest before I took on behemoths like Jeremiah, Psalms or Genesis.
 
 
This obviously is not a comprehensive lists of plans, and there are many to choose from. The priority is finding one that suits you and reading your bible regularly. For me, following a plan helped, perhaps for you, accountability, bribery and/or blackmail may be more useful techniques. Whatever it takes, make the disciplined effort to get into the word as much as possible, starting now.

 


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Other Matters

Making the News

If you are a regular reader of the Coastal Rag, Agnes Water’s local newspaper, you would already know that the church featured this week. There was an article written about our recent Op Shop toy sale that was used to provide funds for the hiring of our new youth pastor, and also give a $500 donation to the work of Symbiosis. If you want to see the article for yourself, I encourage you to buy a copy for yourself or to read an amended version on the Op Shop Facebook page. It follows a larger article in the Gladstone Observer on our recent Birthday Celebrations. If you are interested in reading that, Local church Historian Betty Mergard is bound to have a copy.
 

Youth Begins

On Thursday, the 20th of July, The Agnes Water Baptist Youth began with a chill night in the chill of the undercover area. Despite the raging fire, it was mainly the good conversation and company that warmed hearts on one of the coldest nights of the year. We look forward to the first youth event night this coming Friday. We pray that this ministry under Josh blossom’s and makes and eternal difference in these kid’s lives.
 

Sermon Resource

Finally, I know that even the best of preacher’s can get old/boring when they are listened to week in week out. I also know that I have no claim to best preacher anyway, so there is even more reason for you guys wanting diversity and to hear messages from different sources. The problem is that either you find someone you like, and get bored by them instead, or you listen to sermons from unknown people. Some may be good, but a lot are sub-par and some even downright dangerous. That is where you might like to subscribe to The Gospel Coalition’s “Word of the Week”. It is a weekly podcast that takes a great sermon preached somewhere in the world, and makes it available to you. The quality is assured, the preacher is different every week, and the gospel is always at the centre. I recommend it highly for anyone desiring to go deeper in understanding God’s word. It can be found here on a desktop computer, the usual places that podcasts are found, and you can also find it on the TGC app on a smart device. 
 

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Is God Good?

Taking the question to God

Sometimes, God’s goodness is undeniable. We see it in nature, our family and our finances, we feel it in the warmth of our emotions. But other times, that is not the case. As Colin Buchannan puts it “if you’re hitting the skids and you’re up the creek, If you’re down and out and things look bleak, If you’re in the pits and you’re out for a duck, If you’re long in the tooth and short of a buck,”; is God still good then? That is a question that I am sure was asked by Moses in Exodus 5, after he and Aaron fulfilled God’s command to go to Pharaoh, and it backfired badly. The oppression of the Israelites was increased, which cause them to grumble against Moses. The chapter ends with Moses taking the question to God: “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?  Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exo 5:22-23) The basic premise is asking whether God is good or not, and it a model for us to take our deep hurts to God as well.
 

God Listens

Thankfully, we see in God’s response to Moses some of the answers we seek today in similar circumstances. This is what God says, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country” (Exo 6:1). The fact that God waits for Moses’s complaint before saying “Now you will see…” tells us that our prayers are actually effective. When we take our deep hurts to God, he is actually listening and actually does something about it. That is also conveyed by verse 5: “Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.”

In the midst of the deepest possible pain, we can be encouraged that God indeed listens to his people. He hears your groaning, he hears your complaints, your questions and your doubts. I never understood the power of listening until I got married and my wife urged me to stop trying to fix the issues, and start listening. (The concept is shown very comically here). But how much more encouraging is it that the sovereign, most powerful king in the universe is listening to you, and he loves you and desires the best for you. That bring real, tangible comfort in the midst of questioning God’s goodness.
 

God Saves

Because God is all powerful, and infinitely loving, he goes on to tell Moses that he will save them. In fact, Moses is tasked to deliver this message to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment” (Exo 6:5). God, not Moses will be personally responsible for their freedom and redemption. These words go hand in hand, and convey the sense that slaves are to be freed by being bought for a price. The sacrificial lamb, the one that each household was to kill on the eve of Passover, is said to have paid the price for the Israelites freedom. Through miracles that no man could achieve, God himself brought them out and sent them across the Red sea.

For us as Christians, we know the truth of God’s goodness through an even better saving act. Peter reminds us that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that we were

redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb

without blemish or spot (1 Pet 1:18-19). While we weren’t literal slaves to the Egyptians, we were slaves to sin and death, the empty way of life that we inherited. But we were redeemed by the blood of an even better lamb, Jesus Christ. When we everything we love and hold dear is falling down around us, we desperately need to remember this fact. God does save, he has saved us. He has redeemed us by the cost of his own son. And will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32). His goodness can never be in doubt when we truly grasp the depth of his love shown at the cross.
 

God promises

While this is comforting for us in the worst of situations, sometimes it feels to far removed from the reality we face. How can we say God saved us, when we feel lost? We need to recognise that God has a future plan for us, just as he did for the Israelites. He makes promises that remind us that our current reality is not the end of the story. We see this in the promise he makes to Moses. “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession” (Exo 6:7-8). God doesn’t just save the Israelites and us from something (slavery) but he saves us for something (relationship and the Promised Land). This isn’t just some promise for pie in the sky when you die. This is a real promise to be in relationship with him, bowing to him as your God and actually being his people. That is what is meant by the Promised Land, It is a place to go where God would rule over his people with an intimate closeness. The hope we have as Christians is that we have an even closer call into relationship with the father. We become siblings and co-heirs with Christ, indwelt by the Spirit, and children of a loving Father. We experience some of this now, but a lot of it is waiting to be fully experienced in the New Heavens and the New Earth. As Revelation 21:7-8 put it: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”

Knowing that his promise for this makes it a certain reality, we need to hold onto it in the midst of heartache. No matter what this world throws at you, no matter what your experience is now, you can trust that God is good because his promises are good. They paint a beautiful picture of eternity, and it is an eternity we can start to experience now. We experience a touch of it when we grasp the truth that God is listening intently to our prayers, complaints and groans. Even in suffering, God is with us. We also experience a touch of it when we realised that God has saved us. Anyone who trusts in Jesus has access to redemption from an empty life, and forgiveness of sins. And we experience it when we cling onto his promises, when the whole world seems to scream at us that they are worthless. Even in the face of the greatest disappointments, we can know that God is indeed good.
 

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Which Bible Translation is Best?

For some of you, the huge amount of English Bible translations on offer today may be daunting and confusing. It may even cause you to question whether you can ever

truly understand the bible, or whether what you have in your hands is actually reliable. You can rest easy however, because the standard position of Christianity has been that the original writings themselves were inspired. That means that any translation that tries to be a faithful reflection of what was originally written is still God’s word, in the same way that speech can be translated and still be the words of the original speaker. Not all translations are created equal however, and it is more about which one is best suited for you.

The first question that often lies behind this question, is which manuscripts you want your bible to be based on. That may seem like a strange question, but bibles such as the KJV and NKJV we based on Catholic manuscripts that were common 400 years ago. Most other translation you have heard of, including the NIV, are based on older manuscripts that have been discovered since. Because these older manuscripts are more reliable and closer to the original, it is my opinion that Bible’s based on these manuscripts are better. With the exclusion of the KJV and NKJV, all other translations I will deal with will be based on these manuscripts. If you want to read more about these underlying manuscripts, and some of the issues with the KJV only movement, read here.
The second question that you will need to answer before choosing a translation is how literal you want/need to be to the original. You can have a direct equivalence, (which is basically translating word for word), Paraphrase (which is translating thought for thought) or Dynamic equivalence (which is somewhere in the middle). Which one you choose will depend on your reading level and the purpose for reading. To help simplify things further (particularly for nerds) I have also listed a star wars character that matches up with the translation (mainly taken from here). I will start at the most literal translations and work my way down.
 

NASB Star wars Character: C3PO. Very technical and rigid, but mostly right on.

The New American Standard Bible is probably the most accurate of all the translation on offer today, but in this regard can be difficult to understand. It was my favourite translation at Bible College, because it gives you a hint at what the original languages were actually saying. It is extremely useful for anyone who want to do really close, technical work with bible, such as preparing sermons or bible studies.
 

ESV Star Wars Character: Yoda. Not wordy, but backwards worded at times. It’s mostly right, but almost impossible to quote quickly. Has a huge cult following amongst certain groups.

The English Standard Version is an extremely accurate translation which is most useful for detailed bible study and sermon preparation. It is easier to read then the NASB and I believe its study bible is the best on the market. If you are after something that is literal, but still readable enough for devotions, then this one is your best bet.
 

RSV and NRSV Star Wars Character: Anakin. While originally promised much good, was eventually turned and used as a source of power by the dark side. Everyone hopes he comes good again.

The Revised Standard Version and New Revised Standard Version were both forerunners to the ESV. However, they are more academic in nature, and the standard used in most universities around the world. They have however been taken over by liberal elements of the church (those who deny the authority of the bible and key doctrines in it), and therefore should probably not be used for personal bible study.
 

KJV Star Wars Character: Obi Wan Kenobi. An old fossil, but for some reason still gets the job done for some people.

The King James Version that we have today is an updated version of one first published in 1611. It is good in that it was specifically written in a time with low literacy, and hence was designed with pitch and rhythm in mind. It is probably the easiest to remember verses in, but falls down with its use of later manuscripts (which are less reliable) and it’s archaic, hard to understand vocabulary.
 

NKJV

Star Wars Character: Princess Leah. Diplomatic sounding, yet understandable to most. It appeases those looking for that traditional tone, but it’s also modern enough to fly a space ship and fire a blaster.
If you must  read a translation based on the Received Text (the later manuscripts mentioned earlier), then this one is your best bet. It has taken out the oddities of archaic English and provided a translation that is both accurate and readable. Because it is similar to the KJV, it is also fairly easy to memorise, and I do recommend it for those who want to memorise scripture. This may not be worth buying it, particularly when you can access any verse online.
 

HCSB Star Wars Character – Qui Gon Jinn. It’s a very good translation, and most know it is very good, but for some reason it’s not super popular and is kinda mysterious.

The Holman Bible is one that I often find myself returning to and being very impressed by its translation. It is the only one on this list I have never owned, so I am not drawing from a lot of experience. My Senior Pastor when I was a student used this often in his sermons. The idea is that it is readable in much the same way the NIV is, but is slightly more accurate in some places. It is ideal for personal reading and bible study.
 

NIV Star Wars Character: Han Solo. Simple to understand. Good when you need something quick but effective. Some have major issues with it though.

We come to the translation that I use most commonly in my own personal bible reading (though I preach from the ESV). It seeks to find a healthy balance between word for word translations and paraphrases. The 1984 version, which is perhaps the best selling bible in Australia, had some issues, but many of these have been corrected in the 2011 version. I have an issue with some of the gender-neutral translations, but the NIV often gets to the meaning of the text better than its more literal counterparts. If you are after a good all-rounder, for translations, church, personal bible reading and study, then I think the NIV is the way to go. The new Study Bible put out D.A. Carson in the NIV is well worth the investment for those wanting to go deeper.
 

NLT Star Wars Character: Finn. A New character for a new generation. Started off life on pretty shaky ground, but has since proved its worth.

The New Living Translation is a revision of the Living Bible, which was a questionable paraphrase, and has tried to make it more faithful to the original languages. It is currently the bestselling translation outside the NIV and KJV, so should definitely be taken seriously. It is more readable than the NIV, so I consider it a go-to choice for teenagers, Youth group ministries, or just someone who wants to clearly understand what is being read.
 
GNT Star Wars Character: Luke Skywalker. Not especially intellectual, but stays true to its calling and has its heart in the right place – may be responsible for more saved lives than any other..?
 
The Good News Bible is an incredibly simple translation that is designed for readability, but still is faithful in conveying concepts. Often used by those who are evangelising or giving out Bibles, I would recommend it for a friend who has no experience with a bible.  
 
CEV Star Wars Character: The Clone Wars spin-off show. While not a character in itself, it takes something great and makes it accessible to kids.
 
The Common English Version/Bible is perhaps the simplest of translations that I would still feel comfortable calling a bible. Sometimes it descends into Paraphrase, but it’s normally faithful to the intent of the original authors. This is what I used when I was in kids ministry, and is a great bible to give to a child or to someone who struggles with reading.  
 
The Message or the Passion Translation Star Wars Character: Jar Jar Binks. Kinda out there. You know what it’s saying, but you wouldn’t rely on it for anything serious. Also picked on more than any other.
 
The Message is not really a Bible Translation per se, as Eugene Peterson (its author) has varied widely from the original text. The Passion translation is very similar, and should not be relied on as a bible, whether for personal or public Bible study. The only strength of these is to give you a different perspective about what the bible might be saying, but be sure to read it alongside another translation if you are to use it. The NIV/Message Parallel bible for instance places the text side-by-side with a proper translation, and can be used to help encourage you in your personal devotion. Be careful of relying on it fully.  
 
 
Ultimately, no translation is perfect for everybody, it is just about finding the right fit for you. More important than translation is immersion, burying yourself in the reading and understanding of the bible, regardless of which translation you use. Did I miss out on your favourite translation? Be sure to comment below or on facebook and I can add to this list. Otherwise, if you want to go even further you can invest some time in studying the original Greek and Hebrew. They are like R2D2 or Chewbacca, you will never understand what they say without a translator or an education, but haven’t you always been curious?
 

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GOD CAN USE YOU

Have you ever sat back and wondered how God could possibly use you? You are in good company! Most Christians feel the same. But after going through our preaching series in Esther, and also through reading the opening chapters of Exodus, I am convinced that God intentionally uses the most unexpected people!
 
Take for instance Pharaohs command to kill all the Hebrew boys in Exodus 1:22. He is convinced that it is the males who pose a threat to his kingdom. So who does God use? He uses the females instead. It is the female midwives who saved several boys lives (1:15-20), it was Moses mother and sister that ensured Moses’s safe passage (2:2-4) and it is Pharaoh’s own daughter who saves him from the river, and pays for his own mother to take care of him (2:5-10). While Pharaoh is focused on stopping the males, God is using a bunch of female nobodies to slowly turn his world upside down.
 
This picture of God using unexpected people is only strengthened when we consider that this boy, Moses, was a Levite. If you know who the Levites are, you might realise that they were very important in the Old Testament, because they were the priests. But not back here in Exodus. They were nobodies. In fact they were worse than nobodies. At the end of Genesis, Jacob goes through and blesses each one of his children, until he reaches Levi, and his brother Simeon. He curses them instead, and says they will be scattered amongst the other tribes, because they don’t deserve their own place. If you had asked an Israelite who God would use to save Israel, I guarantee no one would have thought it would be someone from the Levite clan. So that is exactly what God does. He uses unexpected people
 
God will often use the unexpected, weak people, to shame the so called strong. 1 Corinthians 1 is all about this concept, with Paul saying that the Corinthians are the weak, foolish people that trust in the weakness and the foolishness of the cross. If you are reading this and you are wondering how you could ever be any use to God, well congratulations. You are precisely the kind of person God wants to use. You may not be the smartest, you may not be the best in your field, and you may not even know how to present the gospel clearly. It doesn’t matter. God will often use those that the world see as nobodies. Why? Because then God gets the credit. He is the one who looks good, not the particular tool he uses on any certain day. You see it wasn’t some random midwives, or even a lowly Levite family that saved the Israelites in Egypt. It was God. Only God can take the credit, because God used the most unexpected people. So do not waste your life away thinking that God cannot use you. Instead, look for how God is working through you despite your weaknesses. His grace is sufficient for us, because His power is made perfect in weakness

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