Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries


 Hope for the future    Audio

Is 40

One of the major themes that have run through the media this year has been the sense of isolation and pain caused by such a long period of lockdown and disconnection. What we’ve longed for is some sense of comfort and relief. So where do we look for comfort? Well some of us have probably looked to food, as testified to by the daily recipes in The Age, not to mention our expanding waistlines. But we probably also acknowledge that that’s not the most positive way to seek comfort. The people of Israel, suffering not lockdown but exile, felt a similar sense of isolation and disconnection; not from one another but from their land. And so God speaks to them, offering comfort through a promise of rescue. His words are addressed to Israel but are equally helpful for us, struggling in a fallen world, longing for release. His words are gentle. He says “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” Literally, “speak to her heart.” The way lovers woo each other, speaking sweet nothings to one another, wooing, persuading, inviting a response of love. But it’s a cry that holds real hope: “Cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double, for all her sins.”

Sometimes we have trouble hearing when God speaks to us, but here the prophet is told to speak with quiet words of love and a loud shout of proclamation. Whatever it takes they’re to hear this message: ‘Comfort, Comfort!’ and believe that it’s true.


Jonah 1-2

Jonah would have to be one of the best known names in the Bible, wouldn’t he? Just about everyone has heard the story of Jonah and the whale even if they don’t know the details. When a cricket commentator says how well a batsman’s doing and he gets out a couple of balls later, what do the other commentators say? “You’ve Jonahed him!”

But you know, there’s a bit more to this story than just a morality tale of someone who brings bad luck to those he travels with because he’s disobeyed God. Jonah is one of those Old Testament books that point forward so clearly to the gospel and its implications for us as Christians.

In fact, the main character in this story isn’t Jonah at all; nor is it the whale. The main character is God. Jonah is one of the supporting characters, along with the king of Nineveh and his people but the thrust of the story revolves around God and his purposes for the world.

Gideon - An Unexpected Hero   Audio

Judges 6 - 8

Gideon isn’t exactly your Hollywood image of a hero is he? In fact he’s the exact opposite. He’s much more the indecisive, timid type. He’s one of those people who want every ‘i’ dotted and every t crossed before they make a decision and even then they still have doubts. You can see the sort of person he is from the situation in which we find him at the beginning of this story.  “11Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites.” Just to make the situation clear, you need to understand that in those days wine presses were generally dug into the ground, so that if you got inside a wine press you’d be out of sight, in Gideon’s case from their enemies, the Midianites.

Yet the encouraging thing for those of us who relate to Gideon as this timid, nervous type, is that despite the unpromising material from which he was made, God takes him and makes him into a hero of Biblical proportions. So let’s spend some time thinking about the process through which Gideon was changed by God into a leader and saviour of his people.

Samson - A Strong man’s Weakness     Audio

Judges 13-16

I love movies. I especially love those thrillers where the hero overcomes all odds to defeat the villains and save the weak and helpless victims. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Bruce Willis overcoming incredible injuries to win out in Die Hard, or Arnold Schwarzenegger finally getting the better of the evil Terminator or one of the countless James Bonds overcoming whichever evil enemy of civilisation it is this year, I love to see justice done and the helpless helped.

But of course these are all fictional characters. They’re not real, are they? No more so than Superman or Batman. But then they’re also the stuff of myth and legend, the sort of stories that have been told from time immemorial, often stories based on real events, real people, in the time before history was written down.

Well, today we’re going to be thinking about one of the real heroes of history, a man who was Arnie and Bruce and Bond put together. Samson was a real person, born around the 12th century BC, but endowed with supernatural strength by God, who had chosen him to save his people from their oppressors, the Philistines. The sign that he’s chosen by God for this special task is that he’s to be a nazirite. That is, he’s to drink no wine or strong drink, eat nothing unclean and not cut his hair. And as a result of God’s special calling he grows up to be the strongest man in the universe. Unlike Gideon, who we looked at last week, he doesn’t need to be encouraged to stand up to his enemies. He doesn’t need to call out the tribes of Israel to fight the Philistines because he’s a one-man army. All he needs is the jawbone of a donkey and he can kill any army that stands against him.

Deborah & Barak - Lessons from history   Audio

Judges 2-4

One of my favourite lines from the TV series, Mash, was the statement that this was the latest ‘war to end all wars’. The point they were making of course was that we never seem to learn from history. In fact, isn’t this the one lesson we have learnt from history: that we never learn from history? No matter how bad our experience of history is, we never seem to be able to learn our lesson so we avoid the same mistake the next time.

But that begs the question of course, whether there are patterns in history from which we can learn. Historians and thinkers have debated that question over many years. Some would say, “Yes, there is a meaningful pattern to history, and if we can find it we can do something to change the way things happen.” Karl Marx thought he’d found a pattern in history revolving around the unequal distribution of power and resources. If you followed his model you’d eventually arrive at a Utopian, classless society that he called Socialism. Well, that didn’t work out did it? No more than any of the utopian communities set up in the 19th century. Socialist societies have been found to fail just as badly as the capitalist societies he was critiquing.

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