IN THE ACTS of the Apostles we read of the beginning of the early church when 3,000 people were baptised on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). The next verse says “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” This is a simple and clear statement that the apostles’ doctrine (‘doctrine’ means ‘teaching’) was the foundation of the faith of these new believers, and they had a ‘fellowship’ that drew them together as a body of people with a common purpose. Thus the church started (the Greek word which our Bibles translate as ‘church’ is ecclesia, and it does not mean a building, it simply means an assembly). And what a ‘fellowship’ they experienced! What a spirit of dedication possessed them. We read how ‘all who believed were together, and had all things in common’ (v. 44). So continuing daily
THERE IS one God, and He is supreme. This is stressed throughout the Bible. Moses said: “To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35). King David said: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11). Jesus Christ said: “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one’” (Mark 12:29). You could also look at Isaiah 42:8, 45:5; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5, and many other passages. God Is Love Something else that is stressed throughout the Bible is the love of God. God’s love for those who seek Him is far, far above our ability to love—but He wants
THE MAN looked disorientated. “You’re not from these parts, are you?” asked the kindly shopper. “No,” the man replied hesitantly. “Not from this country.” He sighed. “I don’t have a country. I am seeking asylum here. I had to flee from my country because I believe in Jesus Christ. In my country I would die.” We all like to feel that we ‘belong’ somewhere – but there are some people who have nowhere they can call home. They feel like aliens, unwanted, often vulnerable. And they are not always treated with compassion, even in affluent societies. Strangers ‘Strangers’ are a theme in the Bible. They are sometimes described as ‘sojourners’—temporary dwellers with no inherited rights. In this way they are very similar to modern-day refugees. In the Bible the concept is first used of Abraham (Genesis 17:8). God told him to leave his own country and go to a land
Frank was a highly qualified accountant. He was on his way to start a new job, in Eastern Europe far from home. He sat in the corner of the train carriage well out of the way. He was aware that people were looking at him, and sometimes looks developed into uncomfortable stares. It was unusual to see a black African travelling on a train in that country. Frank settled into the warmth of his corner seat and nodded sleepily as the train clattered along with its steady rhythmic beat. Suddenly two burly men appeared out of nowhere, grabbed him by his coat and in what seemed like one swift movement pulled him out of his seat, feet not touching the ground, and propelled him to the carriage door. The next thing he was aware of was that he was being hurled out of the moving train, tumbling into the darkness.
THE PERSIAN EMPIRE spread over much of the civilised world and consisted of 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1). Following the destruction of the kingdom of Judah a hundred years earlier many Jews were still scattered throughout the Empire (Esther 4:3; 8:9, 17). The Persian king Ahasuerus in the book of Esther is generally thought to be Xerxes (485–464 BC). An attempt to annihilate the Jews was thwarted by God, Who has an ongoing purpose with this nation. The Conquest of the Enemy There are three main sections: 1. King Ahasuerus rejected Queen Vashti and chose a new queen, whom he named Esther. She was Jewish and had been brought up by Mordecai, her cousin. Haman was a wicked Amalekite, of a tribe long opposed to Israel and to God (see Exodus 17:8–16; Numbers 24:20). He was jealous of Mordecai and planned to destroy him and all Jews
IF SOMEONE asked you what’s the most important thing in life, what would you say? This was Jesus’ reply when he was asked that question: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37–40). His answer combined two verses from the Bible. The first is Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This commandment was at the centre of the Law which God gave to His people Israel. Today Jews know it as Shema Yisrael (‘Hear O Israel’) and it’s
TOWARDS the end of his life Elisha completed a task originally given to Elijah. When he was at Horeb, the mountain of God, Elijah had been told to do three things: Then the LORD said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place” (1 Kings 19:15–16). The only one of those tasks that Elijah actually completed was to anoint Elisha. Now his successor was to arrange for one of the other tasks to be performed, but not in person. He commissioned one of the Sons of the Prophets: Anointing of Jehu Get yourself ready, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth