Reflection on Hebrews 2:1-12

Scripture

God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

Observation

We must pay attention to God’s word in order to not drift away from Him. The message of salvation was declared through the Lord Jesus , and God added His testimony through miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The coming world will be subject to people, not to angels. Like Jesus who was exalted and crowned with glory after His death, we too will be honoured by God.

Application

We can easily become discouraged, even drift away from faith altogether, if we do not keep our eyes fixed firmly on the Lord Jesus.

We need to meditate constantly on God’s word to understand who we are in Christ. Drifting away from Christ is the worst thing imaginable.

The gospel is true- testified by millions of christians who have found life in Him, and by God Himself in the provision of miracles and spiritual gifts.

How could we possibly turn our backs on all this?

Prayer

Lord grant me grace to stand firm in you, trusting you in every situation. Amen.

The Startling Truth About Water on Mars

There is a lot of excitement in the media today about water being discovered on Mars and its implication for finding life there. Some people seem to think that finding water means we have found life.

Let’s put aside the assumption that life must be common in the universe because it arose “spontaneously” on earth then evolved totally by chance to produce us, and look at the logic being ignored by many people.

Back when I did maths at High School one thing that was emphasised in the more advanced subjects was the difference between “necessary” and “sufficient” conditions in proofs.

For example, apart from the number 2, it is necessary for a number to be odd if it is to be prime. However it is not sufficient to show that a number is odd to prove it is prime.

Another example is it is necessary for a car to have fuel in the tank in order to drive it, but that is not sufficient- you need a driver with the key, air in the tyres, an engine that works, and much more.

Returning to Mars, we know that water is essential for life. This is so axiomatic that the scientists looking for life on other places, make that the starting point in their search. No water no life.

But life requires more than water. It needs carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and, above all else, energy.

Water is a necessary condition but it is not sufficient.

Some scientists are so pessimistic about the ability of life to spontaneously emerge from the primordial soup that they believe that the existence of life on earth in itself suggests there must be an infinite number of parallel universes to allow for the possibility that on just one planet in one of those universes life arose all by itself.

To me that is grasping at straws. It makes much more sense to believe in a Creator who made everything that is out of nothing. As Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Reflection on Job 2:1-10

Scripture
The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on all the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him for no reason.”

Observation
After satan has been given permission to test Job by destroying all of Job’s property and killing his sons, Job still refuses to sin by cursing the Lord.

The Lord boasts about Job’s integrity to satan (which means the accuser). Satan retorts that people will give away everything to save their lives, but if Job’s body is afflicted he will soon curse the Lord.

So the Lord gives satan permission to afflict Job’s body. Satan inflicts painful sores all over Job. Even Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and die.” But Job refuses to curse the Lord.

Application
The book of Job challenges all of our pragmatic and religious theories about suffering.

There was no physical reason for Job’s painful sores, nor for the loss of his property and sons. It all seems so random- a run of personal disasters.

A religious explanation of his suffering is that Job is being punished for some hidden sin. Yet the text says that Job was without sin.

In many ways, Job is a picture of Jesus who fulfilled all righteousness without any sin, yet suffered physically and spiritually for the sins of the world.

Bad things happen in our lives. When they do, we need to cling more tightly to the hope we have in Christ,

Prayer
Lord you have not promised to protect us from all evil, but you have promised to walk with us even in the toughest time. Please help me to trust you when my life makes no sense. Amen.

Megan Hill: I Don’t Want Happy Vibes, I Want Prayer

In Christianity Today, Megan Hill writes:

 

We communicate that happy thoughts are a legitimate alternative to prayer. We incidentally equate the two. I doubt most of us would be satisfied if the boss chose to pay us in Monopoly money or the waitress delivered plates of plastic play food to our table. This kind of indifference—prayer or good wishes, take your pick—denies before our unbelieving friends the Bible’s rich teaching on what prayer really is.

Prayer is not a magic incantation or the smoke gone up from blown-out birthday candles. Prayer is substantive and effective and absolutely necessary.

Read this excellent article here

Reflection on Mark 9:38-50

Scripture
“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”

Observation
John tells Jesus that they saw someone who was not of their group casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus tells them that anyone doing a deed of power in His name will not be able to then speak evil about Him.

Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that they must not cause a “little one” to stumble in their faith. It is better to cut off parts of our body that cause us to sin than to be whole and cast into hell.

Everyone will be salted with fire. Jesus’ followers must allow the salt of the Holy Spirit to be always present.

Application
Jesus is very liberal in His grace- far more so than we are. He doesn’t require us to be on His team to minister His power. Sometimes we hear of evangelists who aren’t themselves born again yet they effectively preach the gospel. People who aren’t believers find themselves praying for healing for others, and God responds.

God delights for His grace to be manifest in the world so that as many as possible can be saved.

This does not mean that judgement will not come. Everyone will be salted with fire, and it is better to enter life maimed than to be whole in hell.

The eternal question is not “What did you do for Christ?” but “Is Christ in your heart?”

Prayer
Lord you are good in all of your ways. Thank you for setting me free from sin in the death of Jesus. Amen.

The Ultimate Weapon Revealed

It’s magpie season in Australia, when highly intelligent and normally friendly birds suddenly turn feral and swoop on unsuspecting humans, sometimes quite viciously.

It seems that people wearing helmets are at a higher risk of attack than pedestrians. We have a friendly maggie that hangs around our house, but the other day he repeatedly made a lot of noise and did some fly-bys when I was standing on the driveway preparing to go riding. At the other end of the bridge we have what Tim calls the psychopath magpie which swoops like a stealth bomber, silently approaching and then hitting the side or back of the helmet.

Since both of these birds are quite tolerant of pedestrians, it made me wonder if the helmet is the problem. It might be that the shape and shininess of a helmet  makes a cyclist appear bigger and more threatening than a pedestrian.

We tested the hypothesis by strapping a clown wig to my helmet. If you are going to do science you might as well look amusing.

With great trepidation, and feeling somewhat silly, I mounted the pushie and headed out. The first magpie did not make its presence felt at all which was good. Then I headed over the bridge into the territory of psycho. I saw it sitting on a low fence at the end of the bridge. It took off and flew some distance behind me and then attempted the swoop. As far as I can tell, it did not approach very closely and there was certainly no impact. Winner!

On the return trip I experienced a similar result.

There are a couple of other magpies on the Old Gunnedah Road, but neither  came close enough to cause me any distress.

So artificial hair on the helmet does seem to make a positive difference. Whether the magpies will resume their previous aggression remains to be seen.

The one downside is that the wig stops the ventilation in the helmet so you wouldn’t want to do this on a hot day. Hopefully they will stop swooping before the weather gets too hot.

UPDATE:

My optimism about the hairy helmet was short lived. The second day I tried it, the magpies had worked out there was a helmet under the wig. However on the way home, I started to pray as I approached each magpie territory and it seemed quite effective.

Vinegar to Save the Reef!

From the ABC:

Household vinegar advances the fight against crown of thorns starfish threat on Great Barrier Reef

 

Household vinegar could be a key ingredient in the fight against crown of thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef.

Crown of thorns starfish (COTS) is a pest which eats coral tissues, posing a huge threat to the reef.

Australian Institute of Marine Science research showed coral cover on surveyed reefs had declined by about 50 per cent over the past 30 years, with COTS responsible for almost half of that decline.

James Cook University scientist Lisa Boström-Einarsson searched for an eradication method for COTS that was cheap, easily available and safe for everything other than the starfish themselves.

“The acid basically just melts their insides.”

James Cook University scientist Lisa Boström-Einarsson

Her method involved injecting the COTS with 20 millilitres of household vinegar.

The trial saw a 100 per cent kill rate within 48 hours of injection.

“I tried alcohol [first] and that did not work very well and then I heard some rumours that some people had used vinegar but had not had very good results,” Ms Boström-Einarsson said.

“So I refined the methods a little bit and then it turned out to work really well.”

Ms Boström-Einarsson said the starfish were mostly water inside and could not tolerate the acidity of the vinegar.

“The acid basically just melts their insides,” she said.

“It is quite dramatic the way they go and within 24 hours there is basically just slime left — it is not pretty.”

Cheaper, easier method to tackling pest

The current eradication practice is to inject the COTS with ox bile which is much harder to come by, more expensive and could cause quarantine issues as it is an animal byproduct.

Ms Boström-Einarsson has worked on this research for a year, and has tested her method around Lizard Island in far north Queensland and in Papua New Guinea.

She said the next step was large scale field testing to ensure process was safe for other marine life.

“I’m working with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on doing the final field tests … so they can endorse it as an approved method,” Ms Boström-Einarsson said.

“Everyone is very positive because it is a simple method — it just needs one injection and it is safe for the divers to do it and it works really well so there’s been a lot of interest around the world.”

Despite this, Ms Boström-Einarsson said this method would not be the saviour of the Great Barrier Reef, but could save individual reefs in the meantime.

“Ideally we would stop the [COTS] outbreaks from happening or we would control the outbreaks at a population level,” she said.

“But at the moment we do not have the tools to do that and we do not have the knowledge to know what causes the outbreaks.

“What we can do is [make] sustained efforts at local reefs and protect them and for that this method will be really effective.”

Reflection on James 5:13-20

Scripture
Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

Observation
When we are suffering we should pray; when we are happy, praise; if we are sick call for the elders and seek prayer. Such prayer, offered in faith, will gain healing and forgiveness.

We should confess our sins to one another and pray for one another to be healed. An ordinary person who is righteous before the Lord can achieve much through prayer. Elijah is our example of this.

If someone wanders from the Lord, we must seek to bring them back.

Application
James does not say that sin leads to sickness or that sickness is caused by sin. However he does link the two. If we sin, we are out of fellowship with God and therefore cannot so easily receive His healing.

The early christian church practised a high level of community. People prayed and rejoiced together. They prayed for the sick and confessed their sins to one another. All of this was done voluntarily and in an atmosphere of love and acceptance of one another.

In out highly privatised culture, we are not used to this kind of transparency. It can start with us reaching out And being honest with our brothers and sisters in our cell groups and in larger church gatherings.

Prayer
Holy Spirit, please help me to grow my faith to believe your word, to pray for healing and to be honest in my church. Amen.