There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you find them?
This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket, on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much; he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving; she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That’s a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam; especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new sales record The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, “the books are all right there in plain view hidden from sight.” Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without there numbers also, keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus, there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph waiting to be found.
We are familiar with “University Challenge” where if one side answers the first question correctly, they can try three supplementaries and gain further points. Jesus used this method when telling parables. They were not intended to be just “nice stories”. He wanted His listeners to think about them and ponder what they should then do.
After hearing the story of the Good Samaritan, they may well have come across a tragic situation later in life which forced them to make a decision. Jesus had planted a seed in their minds but their response to the situation would show whether it had grown or withered away. Many of us may have experienced something similar. When we are in church it is easy to say, “Of course I would have acted like the Samaritan!” but on Monday, surrounded by the world’s influence it is often harder to do so.
At the end of this parable, Jesus actually said to the inquirer “Go and do thou likewise” but even where He does not use these words. His challenge is the same. When the Prodigal Son reached home, his father laid on a great feast for him that day but how did the son respond in later days? Did he show real repentance by the way he then lived? How did the elder brother respond? Did he still resent him or was there a reconciliation? The story does not tell us but the real test of the homecoming lay after the feast had ended.
In the same way, some of Jesus’ shorter parables tantalise us not just by their meaning but in their challenge. The mustard seed describes the tremendous growth of the kingdom of God but how much are we contributing to it? The parable of the dough (leaven) describes how the Gospel is meant to change people. How much difference can we see in our lives? These are all starters. We should ask ourselves what they are leading up to.
A Baptist Minister, A Methodist Minister and a Church of England Vicar went fishing one day.
They patiently sat on the riverbank waiting for a bite. After a few hours the Baptist Minister stood up and said, ‘I don’t think we’ll get anywhere here so I’m going to cross the river and try upstream’. The Church of England Vicar pointed out that the nearest bridge was three miles away. ‘No problem’ said the Baptist who knelt down, prayed for a few seconds and then walked across the water.
The Methodist Minister started to pack away his fishing rod and shouted to the Baptist to wait for him. He knelt down and said a quick prayer and walked across the river to join the Baptist. The Church of England Vicar thought to himself, ‘If they can do that so can I’. ‘Wait for me!’ he shouted, ‘there’s no point in me staying here on my own’. The Vicar knelt down and said a prayer, stood up and walked to the riverbank, took one step out into the river then vanished beneath the surface.
On the other side the Baptist turned to the Methodist and said ‘Do you think we should have told him about the stepping stones?’
How well do we work together with other churches and other Christians in our community? How much do we relate to other Christians in the area as we seek to proclaim the good news of the gospel and to demonstrate God’s overwhelming love? Can we work better and more effectively together than apart?
I sometimes find it hard to believe how quickly the months change and the years fly by.
I must be getting old!
Age does funny things to you. Time does appear to go faster as you get older. How many of us remember the “long summer holidays” of our school years? And now those six weeks, like every six weeks, appear to pass in a flash.
On the other hand, for some in their older years, time drags. This is especially so for those who live alone with only occasional visitors or phone calls. Or when that hospital appointment or operation has been delayed again and the pain or discomfort is getting too much to bear.
Time is indeed a strange thing. Dragging in some circumstances and flying by in others. It would appear that God shares something of this experience, but on a grander scale. “For the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
Indeed, in the Kingdom of God (that is, living under the rule and reign of God), the passage of time is not such an important issue. What counts is how we live in the present, in this particular moment, with all its challenges and opportunities. The future, and the past, are not the things that should dominate our thinking or our actions.
As Jesus taught us, “Do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ ….. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)
Similarly, the value of a human life is not to be judged by its length but by its specialness. Each person created in the image of God but reflecting that image through a unique character and set of life circumstances, whether an octogenarian or an infant.
We celebrate Whit Sunday, remembering when the Holy Spirit overwhelmed the first disciples of Jesus and changed them from uncertain witnesses of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus into bold proclaimers of the divine nature and vital saving work of Jesus.
It is the presence of this Spirit which can transform the life of any person, of what ever age, and draw them into a deep and effective relationship with God. As Peter said, quoting God’s words through the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams. Yes, even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will proclaim my message.” (Acts 2:17-18)
My life and priorities have not been the same since that first day God’s Spirit overwhelmed me and I’m glad that it was not a one off experience but that every day, whatever my age, His Spirit is there to guide, inspire and empower me.
May this be true for us all, so that each day, at whatever age, we are responding to the presence of God’s Spirit, receiving inspiring visions and boldly demonstrating and proclaiming the life-transforming message of Jesus.
Yours in Him
Watching films is a major part of the life of many people – not just the “Big Screen” experience of going to the cinema, but the night-by-night viewing of films on tv or DVD, the down-loading of films to PCs, smartphones and portable media players, and the daytime re-runs of old black and white Hollywood classics.
Although some films are completely fanciful, many deal with real life issues, reflecting the way things are in life, or the way things might be and how different people approach those issues. Even films with other-worldly storylines explore themes which are very relevant in our world. Films can therefore affect the way we approach life, and can affect the way we think other people approach life.
“Movie Church” provides an opportunity to view a recently produced film and spend a bit of time exploring the themes and issues and asking what impact it has on us, how it might affect our way of thinking and living.
Every film producer and film director has a reason for producing a film and is wanting to influence the viewer in some way. We want to give people the opportunity to explore this. We want to help people ask the questions: What story is this director trying to tell? In what way is he or she trying to influence me? Do I want to be influenced in that way? Does God have something to say on this matter?
“Movie Church” is usually on the first Sunday of each month. Take a look at the Church Diary to check when the next one will be.
Everyone is welcome, although age restrictions may apply for certain films.
(Due to the conditions in our license we are not able to advertise the title beyond our own membership.)
Although the New Testament letters appear after the Gospels in the NT, they were written well before them. We can date them by various means and the earliest probably appeared about 50 AD. By reading them, we can gain a good idea of the life of the early Christians, their successes, failures and problems and can learn much from them. We can see that they faced problems very much like ours.
Some like Romans were written to explain the Christian faith systematically. Others were written in response to questions that some early Christians asked the apostles. Yet others were fighting letters, sent to help Christians who were in danger of drifting from their faith. Every letter has its own particular message.
Briefly, we might say that the New Testament letters were intended to teach young Christians what to believe and how to behave. Some of them were Jewish and needed to learn that God does not save us because of what we have done, but because of what His Son has done. Others were Gentiles and had been brought up believing in many gods. They needed to learn that God is One. Jewish believers needed to learn that God’s grace did not mean that they could live as they liked but that love was the fulfilment of all the Old Testament laws. Gentile believers needed to know that the one God, unlike pagan gods, was righteous and wanted His people to live holy lives. So the NT letters meet different people’s needs.
Romans and Ephesians are the most systematic NT letters. Paul’s mind was very orderly and in these letters he explains what God has done. The death of Christ on the Cross makes it possible for God to forgive us. The resurrection of Jesus vindicated Him and brought new life into the world, which all believers can share. This means that they must live new lives according to the power which God has given them in the Holy Spirit.
The 2 Thessalonian letters, Philippians and Philemon are the most personal of Paul’s letters. He writes to young Christians , expressing his love for them and urging them to live lives worthy of their Lord.
Galatians and Colossians are “fighting” letters. Paul is trying to help young Christians who were in danger of moving away from their faith. The Galatian Christians were being taught by others that, having taken the first step by believing in Jesus, they needed to follow all the Jewish Law to become perfect Christians. The Colossian believers were being taught that Jesus was not the only Mediator between man and God and that they needed to be inducted into certain practices and secrets which only a few (called Gnostics, which means “knowledge”) could attain. In both these letters, Paul insists that we are saved by Jesus alone and by faith in Him alone.
The Corinthian letters are somewhat different. They deal largely with the questions which the Corinthian church put to Paul or the problems they were experiencing about which he had heard. The list in 1 Corinthians is surprisingly modern-divisions in the church, sexual immorality, Christians going to secular law courts to settle their internal disputes, idolatry, the role of spiritual gifts and the fact or otherwise of the Resurrection of Jesus. Christian truth comes out in all the answers he gives. 2 Corinthians also deals with forgiveness, the authority of apostles, and generosity in giving.
The other NT letters, by James, John, Peter and Jude are much less systematic, showing that every writer had his own style. They deal with general pastoral matters. Finally, Paul wrote some personal letters to Timothy and Titus, giving them advice on Christian leadership.
Although these letters were written a long time ago, as we go through them carefully, we can transpose them into our own age and find help in our Christian lives. They are worth reading!
As people sometimes ask us this question, we ought to be able to answer them.
Here are a few reasons.
1. Because it is so widespread a book.
Jews accept the Old Testament as their national history. It would be very strange if it were all invented and untrue. Christians share this belief. We go further in also accepting the New Testament. The Church exists in nearly all countries of the world and has done so for nearly two thousand years. Is it reasonable to maintain that our beliefs are based on fabrications? The Bible is the most translated book in the world. Would so many scholars have devoted their lives to this work if they believed that it was nonsense?
2. Because it is a trustworthy book.
The Bible has been subject to hostile criticism more than any other book in the world but nobody has yet showed convincingly that it is historically inaccurate. While archaeology cannot prove the truth of Scripture, many discoveries have shed light on its background.
3. Because it is an influential book.
No other book has influenced human life as much as the Bible has. Bible Societies, the Gideons and other Bible organisations tell innumerable stories of how people�s lives have been changed for the better by reading and believing it. Its teachings have become the general basis of many countries� laws. Could a book full of falsehoods have achieved such results?
4. Because it deals with the ultimate problems of human life.
Throughout its pages, it talks about the basic issues of life, such as pain and suffering, sin and forgiveness, disease, war and death, as well as the more joyful aspects of life. People identify with its words. It gives us purpose and tells us that our existence is not vain and meaningless. All human life is there.
5. Because it offers us salvation.
The human predicament is such that even the best teaching and moral guidance cannot deliver us. We need help from outside. This is just what the Bible teaches. God has sent a Deliverer, Jesus Christ. By His death on the Cross, He atoned for our sins. God raised Him from the dead and thus vindicated Him. He is God�s final word to us and because He is alive for evermore, we can trust Him and His words. Our experience backs up our faith.
These are some reasons why we can trust the Bible. There are others. Although parts of Scripture are hard to understand, God has promised to give light to honest enquirers. We can offer them a Gospel and encourage them to read it, secure in the belief that God will reveal Himself to them in its pages.