Where will you respawn?
Despite the way some people may react, death is not that big a problem in a video game. You may lose your loot, position or game but there’s always another life. On the contrary, the Bible says real human death is a once off occasion, life is not repeatable, it’s a one time only offer. And what comes next is crucial.
“People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement.” Hebrews 9:27 (more…)
What’s so special about Easter?
Everyday in the world about 190,000 people die. That averages as 8,000 deaths per hour and two deaths every second. In Australia we do a pretty good job at keeping death out of conversation and mind. However there’s no denying it is an inevitable and ordinary part of life. Death isn’t, in a manner of speaking, anything special. So why do we have a public holiday – an extra long weekend with Good Friday and Easter Monday, in remembrance of one man’s death? What has the death of one specific, Jewish man who lived 12,217 kilometres and 2,000 years apart from our lives today got to do with us? (more…)
Comprehensive outline of the book of Matthew
The first book of the New Testament, Matthew, was written by the apostle Matthew.
I like having titles on the paragraphs or sections of my Bible. This helps to indicate the context of a particular passage of scripture. A comprehensive outline (section headings) of the book of Matthew is given below. Because of the large number of levels, the labelling is changed in chapters 21-27 (Appendix A). (more…)
Recognizing major events
Jesus was born into the world like any other baby. Two people recognized that His coming was a major event.
First, an elderly man Simeon was waiting for the promised Jewish Messiah to come and rescue Israel from the Romans and restore them as a nation (Lk. 2:25-35NLT). He went to the Jewish temple when Jesus was there as a 40-day old baby and declared that He was the Messiah that they were waiting for. The Bible says that on “that day the Spirit led him to the Temple”. Simeon praised God for keeping His promise and he told Mary that the baby “has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result … a sword will pierce your very soul”. This is a reference to Christ’s suffering and death. (more…)
Disasters and death
I was brought up on a farm near the town of Forbes in central New South Wales in Australia. In the past week many people had to evacuate their homes in Forbes and other towns due to a flood in the Lachlan River. This flood reached similar heights to the record floods in the 1950s.
In the last few years we have had major droughts, bushfires (wildfires), pandemics, and floods in Australia. People’s lives and livelihood have been devastated and there has been a financial crisis. Disasters like this are unexpected – they can catch us by surprise. The Bible says that disasters are warnings (Appendix).
Todays’ weather brought to you by God
Tsunamis, floods, and bush fires are no joke. In 2021 it was estimated by Deloitte that natural disasters cost Australia over $38 billion a year and this will nearly double by 2060. The real cost, however, is more than a financial one, many people and animals lose their homes and even their lives when a major disaster strikes.
So what should we think about the weather? Is God really in control? Most of us are comfortable asking God for good weather for our next sports game or outdoor event – we may even thank God for a perfect sunny day. But when it comes to bad weather, who’s to blame – infamous weather systems like El nina or God? And who can we go to about these disasters? (more…)
Queen Elizabeth’s funeral service
The State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Extracts from the Order of Service at Westminster Abbey on Monday 19 September 2022. The service paid tribute to the Queen’s “remarkable reign and lifetime of service”.
Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (Jn. 11:25-26NIV, see Appendix A). (more…)
Strangest thing – Jesus rose from the dead
The existence of another dimension. A character with the ability to influence and change the physical world without physical force. A powerful evil monster out to kill. These are the elements of a science fiction narrative. But what if there is truth in them?
The message of the Bible is pretty strange. It talks of a spiritual dimension – angels and demons and an all powerful, all knowing God in control of it all. This spiritual dimension is generally unseen by us ordinary humans with our physical eyes. But the Bible records a special time in history when the supernatural burst into the world in the very natural form of a new born baby. Jesus’ birth, life and even His miracles are recorded in numerous ancient historical accounts. Turning water into wine. Healing a paralysed person with only His words. Bringing a man who has been dead for four days back to life. This is not the kind of thing we see outside of science fiction and fantasy. (more…)
Prayer about Grandpop
A prayer given at my father-in-law’s funeral on 1 April 2022
Our God and Father, Creator of the universe, we give thanks for the life of Grandpop. We thank you that in the prime of life He trusted in Christ’s death for the forgiveness of his sins and eternal life in heaven (1 Th. 2:13). We thank you for the Christian faith and love evident in the remainder of his life (2 Th. 1:3).
We thank you that it’s not the end like it was for Shane Warne. Instead, it’s the beginning of life without the troubles of this world. Grandpop has left the building, left the planet and left the physical for the unseen spiritual world, which is far better for him (Phil. 1:23). It’s like being in an aircraft above the clouds where the sun is shining. (more…)
Meet your maker
Though we don’t live like it, death is a sure thing. I often take walks amongst the beautiful gardens and graves of the cemetery I live near. Thousands and thousands of headstones and memorial plaques lay quietly in various stages of abandon. Each represents another human who was once living and breathing like me. Right now death seems like something that happens to other people, but one day the sum of our lives will also be etched on a headstone for others to pass by. And then? (more…)
The original context of the Lord’s Supper
Paul described the Lord’s Supper as follows, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:23-26NIV). (more…)
Are you protected?
The older I get the more I understand how fragile human life really is. The COVID-19 pandemic is just one example of how something seemingly small can change the lives of the entire world’s population. As advanced, intelligent and resilient as humanity is, life can be lost in the blink of an eye. For this reason we spend a lot of effort trying to protect ourselves and our loved ones… from buckling the back-arching, screaming toddler into her seatbelt, to spending hard earned cash on insurance policies, to getting the COVID jab. (more…)
Heroes and villains
Graham Staines was an Australian Christian missionary in India. In 1999 he and his two sons were burnt to death by Hindu fundamentalists alleging “forced” conversions. A mob of about 50 people, armed with axes and other implements, attacked a jeep while Staines and his sons were asleep inside, and set it alight, trapping them inside and burning them to death. A few days later, Graham’s wife, Gladys, made a public statement forgiving the killers. But hate crimes against religious minorities continue in India. (more…)
Where is Grannie?
A message given at my mother-in-law’s funeral on 16 September 2021
Grannie was brought up on farms where they grew their own food and prepared their own meals. It was hard work. There were no takeaway meals or supermarkets in those days! Then she married and spent 31 years in country towns bringing up her five children. After this she used her cooking and hospitality skills and experience to cater at Winmalee Christian Conference Center for 11 years before she retired. (more…)
The gospel in one Bible verse
Joe lives alone and has little contact with his family. He has no carer and needs help to look after his home, garden, health and safety. And he has been socially isolated during the 3-month lockdown in Sydney during the COVID pandemic. Like all of us, his days on earth are numbered. But being over 90 years of age, his number of days is less than most of us.
Joe is a nominal Roman Catholic who needs to hear the good news about Jesus – the Bible says that Jesus took our place before God by dying on the cross for us so that we can be forgiven and have a new relationship with God. Here’s an easy way to share the gospel with someone like Joe. (more…)
The dangers of theistic evolution
The foundations of a building can move and crack due to expansive soils such as clay, poor soil compaction, plumbing leaks, poor drainage, or tree roots. Did you know that the theory of biological evolution destroys the foundation of the Christian gospel?
This post is based on a presentation by Dr Mark Harwood of Creation Ministries International (CMI). (more…)
There is hope
The headline didn’t shout. It didn’t need to. This wasn’t a slow news day. It read, ‘In one week 10% of Australia’s workforce have lost their jobs’. In India, a nation of 1.3 billion people were given four hours notice to lock down inside their homes for 21 days. People found outside afterwards were subsequently beaten.
Always, in the world somewhere, there’s an extreme situation – a flood, a famine, a war. Less frequent, though, are situations involving the whole world. The COVID-19 pandemic is such a time. (more…)
How to respond to the coronavirus pandemic
Today Frank told me, “It feels like I’m in jail”. He is elderly and lives alone. But because of Government regulations, he is unable to attend the men’s social group at his local community centre. So he is now socially isolated because he has few opportunities for contact with other people.
This post is based on a message by Dave Sheath of the Lakes Church at Tuggerah in NSW Australia. It looks at how we can respond to the world-wide coronavirus pandemic. (more…)
Until Jesus returns
The attacks that took place in New York on September 11, 2001 were rated by most Americans as being the most important historical event in their lifetime. And according to TheRichest.com, the most important historical events that changed the modern world forever are the French Revolution, World War I, the Soviet socialist revolution, World War II, and European colonialism.
Christians believe that the most important event in the world’s history is the death of Jesus Christ. At the Lord’s supper they remember why Christ did what He did.
In 1 Corinthians Paul describes what happened at the last supper where Jesus told His disciples to eat the bread and drink from the cup in remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Then Paul says,
“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26NIV). (more…)
Why is there cancer?
Cancer has touched most of our lives, taking down friends in their prime and plaguing the older years of loved ones. When did cancer begin and will we find a cure?
This post is based on a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).
In the beginning, was there cancer?
Evolutionists believe that for the first few billion years of life on our planet, single-celled organisms had the globe to themselves. But at some point in deep time, cells began to team up and multicellular life arose (Appendix A). Being multicellular has many benefits. Cells cooperate and work toward a common goal. This cooperation of trillions of cells allows us to have the incredibly complex structures we enjoy, like our brain. (more…)
Take a closer look at Easter
If we took a closer look at Easter, what would we find – a chocolate fantasy or important history?
In the 8th Century, the English monk, Bede, spoke of how the name of the pagan goddess ‘Eostre’ was used for the ‘Easter month’. Bede’s words have long been seen as proof that Christians simply replaced existing cultural rituals with their own. But the problem is that there isn’t much hard evidence for the English Goddess ‘Eostre’ or her Spring pagan festival. However, there’s lots of evidence that Christians throughout Europe, from the medieval period onward, used eggs and rabbits as symbols of new life.
As for the chocolate versions, well Joseph Fry of Bristol made the first chocolate Easter egg in 1873. Ever since then Easter has been very chocolaty and run, almost entirely by the major supermarkets. (more…)
Walmart in the United States stays open 24 hours of every day of every year … except for Christmas day. It’s an example of how, all over the world, Christmas is so much bigger than Easter. It’s estimated, this year, Australians will spend $11 billion on Christmas presents – and that’s just the presents – not the food or travel. So, why is Christmas so much bigger than Easter? Surely part of the answer has to do with whether we prefer a beautiful little baby or the horrible murder of an itinerant preacher. Where’s the contest? Babies are cute and cuddly! Fresh and innocent… full of promise and potential. While Easter is all about the awful thing that happened to that little baby when he grew up and became a man.
So, can’t we just focus on the Christmas story? Can we not marvel and dwell on the miracle of childbirth and especially… especially the wonder of God coming amongst us in human form?
No. Jesus didn’t come to be a perpetual baby. His mission was not to be the cutest or the most cuddly. When He grew up Jesus spoke most clearly about His mission to His disciples. This is what He told them. He “…came not to be served but to serve others, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
What happened at the cross was an intervention by God on behalf of the human race. The shedding of Jesus’s innocent blood was a payment or ‘ransom’ to satisfy God’s requirement that blood be shed for sin. Jesus’s death on the cross allows us to escape that payment. And it’s the reason why people everywhere can have peace with God. Is it any wonder the cross is the universal Christian symbol.
Back when Jesus was born, an angel said to shepherds at night nearby,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).
When those shepherds went to gaze on the baby held in the arms of Mary, His mother, they knew He was their ‘savior’. What they couldn’t have known is how His death on a cross would be the solution and how generations to come would find there, comfort and joy.
Bible Verse: Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Prayer: Dear God, I praise you for sending Jesus my savior.
Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2018
Posted December 2018
Human destinies: Hell
The Bible teaches more about hell than it teaches about heaven. An understanding of hell can give us an appreciation of God’s mercy and God’s love. It can also help us to understand how dangerous it is to be without faith in Christ. Not to be covered by the grace of God, heading towards a destiny the Bible calls hell. This blogpost is a summary of a presentation on this topic by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan.
Johnathan Edwards preached a sermon titled “Sinners in the hand of the angry God”. He spoke about hell and human beings outside the covering of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, heading towards hell, which is a dangerous thing. Recently I saw a similar title, “God in the hand of angry sinners”. Postmodernity is witnessing the fact that God is thrown into the hands of angry sinners who are tearing apart everything that is noble, everything that is eternal, and everything that is miraculous. We are living in a world in which people do not want to talk about death or life after death or cemeteries or graveyards or corruptibility or decay or disintegration. These are things which aren’t favorable, positive or good. But we must talk about hell because the Bible talks about hell.
What do we mean by “hell”? It’s not life without the presence of God because He is there as the God of justice, righteousness, holiness and judgment. But there is no fellowship with God in hell. It’s a place of fire. It’s circumstances that aren’t normal or acceptable, or favorable or comforting, but are disturbing, or challenging or distracting. It’s eternal. A place of pain, thirst, and solitude. A place for Satan and his followers (demons and unbelievers).
There are some false ideas about life after death, such as the Roman Catholic teaching of purgatory where people are purified after death so they can go to heaven. And the theory of annihilationism, which is the destruction of the wicked after death. These are all extrabiblical.
The Old Testament word for hell is “sheol”. It is used for the unseen state of life; or a grave or pit; or torment. It’s meaning in a particular passage is determined by the context. In the New Testament the word “Gehenna” means a place of torment or a place of perpetual burning with fire. It implies agony, infliction and suffering. This conveys the eternal nature of hell and the experience within hell. The Biblical passages we will look at about Gehenna are horrifying. Much of this language uses figures of speech like parables, similes, metaphors, and symbols to describe things that are indescribable (like something spiritual or divine). Most of the passages about hell were spoken by Jesus. They are true because they were spoken by the Son of God and included in the Word of God (the Bible).
The Bible says the following about hell.
Words represent what they describe. They symbolize what they describe. They are symbols that represent what is real. Hell is a word that represents a real spiritual place. The concept is real.
A passage about the eternal state says, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Rev. 21:8NIV). The fire and burning is a symbol of something in eternity. This “fire” can hurt the spiritual bodies of unbelievers.
The Bible mentions three kinds of death:
– physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the human body.
– spiritual death is the temporary separation of the soul, spirit and body from God. They are still able to be reconciled with God and obtain eternal life.
– the second death is the eternal separation of the soul, spirit and body from God in hell. Jesus said, “be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28).
The Bible describes the judgement of unbelievers, “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life [an unbeliever] was thrown into the lake of fire [the second death]” (Rev. 20:15). Going to church doesn’t make us a believer. Being baptized doesn’t make us a believer. Having Christian parents doesn’t make us a believer. The Bible doesn’t teach that. Instead, the Bible teaches that those who believe that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered for their sins are saved from this punishment. It’s a personal commitment to Christ that makes the difference.
So, hell is real whether we believe it or not. And whether we like it or not. Our beliefs are not going to change the truth. Hell is real. But those who want to comfort others don’t believe that hell is real.
When Jesus returns to establish His kingdom, He will separate those living at that time into believers and unbelievers. This is what Jesus will say to the unbelievers, “Then He [Jesus Christ] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal [endless or everlasting] fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). This says that hell was not originally intended for people. It was meant for Satan and demons. Unfortunately, it’s also the destiny of unbelievers.
Hell is eternal and the punishment there is everlasting. It’s not going to end. There is no mitigation. The Bible says, “then they will go away to eternal punishment” (Mt. 25:46). Not temporary purification (like purgatory). Not temporary sanctification. Not temporary considerations of suffering. Not annihilation. It’s continual. Forever and ever.
A place of fire
Jesus used a hyperbole to emphasize the need for drastic action to deal with our sinfulness, “It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out” (Mk. 9:43). Can you imagine a place full of fire? An “eternal fire” (Mt. 18:8). This is figurative language from Isaiah 66:24. We can’t image how horrible it will be. But that is what the Bible says.
In August 2018 a national disaster was declared in Northern California due to massive wildfires burning there. And in September 2018, a wildfire forced more than 700 people from their homes in Croatia and Italy. It’s horrifying to be trapped in a wildfire.
A place of worms
Jesus used another hyperbole to emphasize the need for drastic action to deal with our sinfulness, “It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched’” (Mk. 9:47-48). This is more figurative language from Isaiah 66:24. It relates to the garbage dump in the valley of Hinnom (Gehenna in Greek) near Jerusalem where fires and maggots were prevalent. The second (eternal) death is likened to being devoured by worms that never die. It could be a figurative way to refer to a guilty conscience and the memory of shameful things done in this life. It shows that the misery of unbelievers will never end. Hell is characterized by unending suffering.
A place of torment
The Bible says that those who oppose God will be “tormented with burning sulfur” (Rev. 14:9-10). And Satan “will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” in the lake of burning sulfur (Rev. 20:10). Torment means mental agony. No celebration. No peace of mind. What a terrible situation to be in forever.
A place for Satan
We have already looked at, “the eternal [endless or everlasting] fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). Hell wasn’t originally meant for human beings. It was prepared for the angel who rebelled against God. God doesn’t like human beings to be confined in hell. God is gracious. He died for all the people of the world. And He loves each one of us. And He wanted everyone to be with Him in heaven. But unfortunately, if someone rejects the gift of salvation, this is their final destiny.
The Bible says that the great political and religious leaders who rebel against God in a coming day will be “thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Rev. 19:20). So, Hell is a place where Satan and his followers, whether they be demons or human beings, end up being tormented forever. There’s no escape. It’s permanent confinement.
Lessons for us
If you are a believer, confirm your personal commitment to Christ by displaying godliness and the fruit of the Spirit (2 Pt. 1:10). Strengthen yourself. We are not heading to hell. Hell is not a fearsome thing for a believer. But we are heading to heaven where the joys of heaven will carry us through eternity. And “Preach the word [the good news about Jesus]; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Remember many people are heading towards hell. Make use of every opportunity to witness for Christ. We don’t want anyone to perish in hell.
If you an unbeliever, or if you are unsure, Paul says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Trusting Jesus as the One who took our punishment when He died and is now the Lord of our lives is the only way to escape the horrors of hell.
Acknowledgement: This blogpost was sourced from a presentation by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan on this topic. Dr. Lakshmanan is Head of Theology in the Australian College of Christian Studies.
Written, October 2018