Explore God’s Amazing Plan for Christmas

December has arrived and there are now only 25 days until Christmas. How is your planning going? Are you planning to cross state borders, to holiday at the beach, to catch up with family, to put on a big lunch, to splurge on presents? Have you ever stopped to consider God’s plans for Christmas? Not just our annual public holiday, but the very first Christmas—the arrival of Jesus. God’s plans had a very long lead up and they were far more expensive than we could ever imagine.

I want to invite you to join with me reflecting on the real meaning of Christmas over the next 25 days. We will spend the first 12 days of Christmas exploring God’s advance planning in the Old Testament. The next 12 days we will look closely at what God was doing as he sent his Son into the world. I will be following a book, written for families to help adults and kids understand Christmas beyond the festivities and consumerism. This is a message of rescue and we are the ones who need it.

If you would like to explore A Jesus Christmas: Explore God’s Amazing Plan for Christmas by Barbara Reaoch, then I encourage you to seek out a copy asap. If you would like to join me as I present daily short talks on YouTube, then you will find the first talk here. You can subscribe and click on the bell to receive notifications of each new talk.

xmas

Netflix or the Bible

mollie-sivaram-yubCnXAA3H8-unsplashThis morning I read some stats from a US research company on how Americans are managing the pandemic. The results aren’t at all surprising, but they are a cause for alarm. I haven’t seen equivalent research for the Aussie context, but I doubt our figures would show any improvement.

To help them cope with the pandemic, most Americans said they are staying home to watch Netflix and chill: 89% reported that they are watching TV or movies daily or weekly. This includes 90% of all Christians, 87% of Jews and 88% of the religiously unaffiliated, according to Pew.

Many Americans (84%) also are spending time outdoors or talking by phone or video with family and friends (70%), the survey said.

But fewer are turning to their faith for support.

More than half (55%) reported praying at least weekly, followed by reading Scripture (29%), meditating (26%) and practicing yoga (8%).

https://julieroys.com/to-cope-with-pandemic-americans-choose-tv-over-bible/

This confirms indications that there has been a rise in prayer during this period. Though, I wonder if longitudinal studies will demonstrate a spike in ‘crisis’ prayers tapering off with things becoming more ‘chronic’.

A worldwide crisis calls Christians to worldwide prayer. Now is the time above all to be drawing near to God for comfort and strength. Now is the time to listen to God, to be reminded of his intense glory, his sovereign power, his promise to judge the wicked, is loving mercy, his grace to the humble, the incarnation of his Son, and his promise of restoration to come.

As I speak with my Christian friends, I fear we have the balance wrong. Some of us are watching news almost ever waking minute of everyday. Our minds are saturated with numbers, testing, positive cases, epicentres, hotspots, clusters, close contacts, numbers in ICU, deaths. The numbers are staggering, catastrophic, overwhelming, even numbing. And then, as if for relief, we add US-China tensions, Beirut blasts, political posturing, and football.

I tend to watch an hour of news most days, local and international. I flick around the internet, checking reports, reading an online paper, following news feeds. We often watch a show in the evenings. Maybe a miniseries, or a movie, or a catch up of some old series we enjoyed. Some are glued to screens most of the time. The most honest advertising I’ve seen recently was the introduction of Foxtel’s new streaming service and calling it ‘Binge’. (If only the gaming, alcohol, and tobacco industries were so honest about their intentions.) The aim is addiction. You can escape into another world and leave the real worries of this world behind—until you have to work again tomorrow after 2 hours sleep.

OK, so what am I recommending? Listening to God daily. Taking the time to read from the Bible. Hearing God’s perspective on what matters matter most. Discovering an antidote to anxiety and fear. Being reminded of God’s deep secure love and his promise to never leave nor forsake us. Grappling with the questions of suffering and pain, death and disaster. Having our hearts warmed by the rich mercies of God in Christ Jesus. Being comforted by the Comforter, who dwells in all who trust in Jesus. Being moved beyond ourselves to show love and compassion to others.

Can you find time each day to turn off the TV, put away your device, open a Bible—yes, a real one, with a cover, paper pages, where you can highlight, jot notes, flick between passages, and come back to things you’ve read before?

Why not change the TV diet. A little less Netflix. Listen again to the sermon from Sunday. Start a reading program. Mix it up. Dwell deeply in the Psalms. Explore the existential questions in Ecclesiastes. Take an attitude check with James. Rediscover worship in Romans 12. Recharge for ministry from Philippians. Investigate Jesus from the Gospels.

During the pandemic I’ve been aiming to record a Bible talk each day, with the aim of encouraging people from our church, and others, to keep a regular balanced diet of God’s word. There are talks for enquirers, equipment for people in ministry, encouragement to godly living, and calls to persevere under trial. Why not replace a little TV, with a regular Bible Bite.

It started as a pandemic project, but I’m hoping to keep it going. It’s been encouraging to hear from husbands and wives who watch an episode each day over coffee to explore God’s word together, from people who are sick and appreciate a brief exposition, from a Christian radio station who are broadcasting them, from Bible study leaders who have used them to supplement their programs, and from people isolated here and abroad, who have been encouraged by God’s word.

Please have a think about your spiritual diet. Check out the talks at http://youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks and subscribe for regular updates. I’d love to hear how you use them and if they’re a help in any way.

You can find the following Bible Bites (5-10 minutes):
Psalms (3 talks ongoing)
Ecclesiastes (38 talks)
Philippians (22 talks)
Titus (19 talks ongoing)
James (23 talks)

And the following sermons (roughly 20 minutes):
Romans 12 (10 talks)
2 Corinthians (2 talks ongoing)

Christian, keep on persevering

fabien-wl-7ieLK3L-j54-unsplashI listened last night as representatives of the World Health Organisation described our world as a tinder box. It will only take a spark here or there to keep fuelling the flames of our global pandemic. I watch with dismay as the state of Victoria records the highest total daily coronavirus cases on record. Sydney is declared a hotspot and people around me are starting to wear masks. I’m distressed as I hear that my nephew is infected with Covid-19 and quarantines from family and friends.

How long, O Lord? When will we meet again? When will you bring relief from our pain?

Being a Christian isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. We face many trials and difficulties of many kinds. There are stresses and struggles to hinder our path. There are threats and dangers to persevering in Christ.

James offers us half-time encouragement. He cheers us us on from the sidelines, and his letter offers refreshment and sustenance for the race.

James also warns us of the threats within us. There are huge dangers of going through the motions. We can easily pay lip surface to our Christian faith, failing to watch our mouths, ignoring the needs of the poor and needy, and being double-minded in our attitudes.

Please join me in listening to James. You can find short talk ‘Bible Bites’ on You Tube at http://youtube/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks

  • You could listen to a talk a day
  • Grab a coffee, open your Bible and laptop
  • Join with your spouse and discuss a couple of points together
  • Use in your growth groups face-to-face or via zoom
  • Share with your mission partners
  • Stimulate a conversation with friends via facebook

James 1:1-4  Growing faith muscles

James 1:5-8  Don’t be double-minded

James 1:9-12  Seeing things God’s way

James 1:13-18  It’s not God’s fault

James 1:19-21  How do you listen?

James 1:22-25  Put what you learn into practice

James 1:26-27  Genuine Christianity

 

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 4)

U tube“G’day, Dave here, and we’re looking at…”

That’s been my (almost) daily refrain during lockdown. I’ve worked slowly through Ecclesiastes. This is the end of Philippians. And now I’m beginning the book of James.

Philippians has been a huge encouragement to me to realign myself with the gospel. To see afresh the humility of Jesus and to give myself for the sake of others.

This final chapter of Philippians calls us again to work out our differences and be united. We are encouraged not to be anxious, but to seek God’s help. We are reminded that we need spiritual food to survive. And we learn the secret of contentment.

I hope you are encouraged by these Bible Bites from Philippians.

Recipe for reconciliation  (Philippians 4:2-7)

A spiritually healthy diet  (Philippians 4:8-9)

The secret of contentment  (Philippians 4:10-13)

Financial partnerships  (Philippians 4:14-23)

You can receive notifications when new talks are uploaded, by subscribing to my You Tube channel.  http://youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 3)

U tubeIn Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul exposes the vulgarity of self-righteous religion. He explains how Christianity is not about what we do for God, but what he has already done for us. He reveals how following Jesus is a relationship, not a set of rules and rituals. He shows how we can know God deeply.

You can receive notifications when new talks are uploaded, by subscribing to my You Tube channel.  http://youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks

Spiritual health and safety  (Philippians 3:1-3)

It’s not what we do for God  (Philippians 3:4-7)

Relationship not religion  (Philippians 3:8-9)

Really knowing Christ  (Philippians 3:10-11)

Pressing on  (Philippians 3:12-16)

Stand firm  (Philippians 3:17 – 4:1)

 

 

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 2)

U tubePaul’s letter from prison lockdown to the Christians in Philippi is a warm, heartfelt encouragement to following Jesus. In chapter 2 Jesus’ extreme humility is presented as the model for Christian relationships. Impossible? Certainly, unless God is at work within us to will and to act. We are called to lives of humble gladness rather than selfish grumbling and arguing. Paul’s colleague, Timothy, and his Philippians friend, Epaphroditus, give us a picture of what humble service looks like in practice.

You can link to any of the Philippians chapter 2 short talks via the links below.

I have recorded more than 50 talks during the coronavirus lockdown and you can find talks on Ecclesiastes, Romans 12, and Philippians on my You Tube channel at http://www.youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks. Please subscribe.

Sharing in abundance  (Philippians 2:1-4)

Ultimate humility  (Philippians 2:5-8)

Ultimate glory  (Philippians 2:9-11)

Work out your salvation  (Philippians 2:12-13)

Grumbling and gladness  (Philippians 2:14-18)

Models of humility  (Philippians 2:19-30)

 

 

 

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 1)

You are invited to join me working through another book of the Bible. I will be exploring Paul’s letter to the Philippians in bite size chunks each day. Please subscribe to my You Tube channel and click the little ‘bell’ to receive notifications of new posts. Being a novice to You Tube, I had accidentally prevented people from getting notifications, so if you aren’t receiving them, please go back to the channel and hopefully the bell will appear for you to click! Rather than post a link to the talks on my blog each day, I will only post updates from time to time.

Below is a link to the trailer for these talks to introduce people to what I am doing.

My hope is that you are encouraged to get to know Jesus better as you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians and watch these short talks. Click on any of the links below to the talks on You Tube:

A letter from lockdown  (Philippians 1:1-2)

Partners in grace  (Philippians 1:3-8)

Big little prayers  (Philippians 1:9-11)

Lockdown gospel opportunities  (Philippians 1:12-18)

What’s your life about?  (Philippians 1:18-26)

Where do you belong?  (Philippians 1:27-30)

 

The house of mourning

It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
(Ecclesiastes 7:2 NIV)

The horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic have plastered our screens with death, day after day after day. We watch death tolls rising in the virus epicentres. We follow, in fear and relief, the flattening of the curve in our midst. Everything has changed. And yet nothing has changed. We all face death and the coronavirus is inescapably confronting us with this harsh reality.

 

 

Separation saves lives

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

(Mark 15:33-34, NIV)

During this time of social distancing, lock downs, and quarantines, it’s worth reflecting on how critical separation is proving for the saving of lives. The first Good Friday was the ultimate separation to save lives for eternity.