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Friday, 5 February 2016

The most wonderful places to be!

Facebook, and my former pupils, are definitely providing a lot of thought-provoking material, this week.  The latest one, on a background of a sweet little girl sitting on a wooden fence - and with a cat (with its back to us!) sitting beside her, says:

"The most wonderful places to be in the world are: In someone's thoughts. Someone's prayers. And in Someone's heart." (sic)

As I read those words, I thought of how they apply to the God Who loves us with an everlasting love.

I am in  God's thoughts.  The Psalmist writes: "As for me, I am poor and needy; but the Lord takes thought for me.  Thou art my help and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God!" (Ps 40:17).   Every child of God is always before the mind of the eternal God. With all the attention and focus of His divine mind He contemplates each one of His children. There is no forgetting and then remembering. There is no calling to mind. What a wonderful truth! Our thoughts of God are often too small. The eternal God never ceases to think about us.  I am not only in "someone's" thoughts.  As a disciple of Jesus, I am constantly in the thoughts of Almighty God.

I am in God's prayers.  That may sound strange to some.  However, the writer of the Letter to Jewish believers, referring to the Lord Jesus, writes: "The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but He holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues for ever. Consequently He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." (Heb 7:23-25; emphasis added).

The Lord Jesus is constantly interceding, praying, on my behalf and, since He is God, then I am assured that I am in God's prayers.

I am in God's heart.  The heart is usually used as a picture of the seat of one's emotions.  The greatest, and strongest, emotion is love.  When we illustrate love, graphically, we use a drawing of a heart - witness countless shop windows in this run-up to the Feast day of St Valentine!  John 3:16 tells me that "... God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."  I am the object of God's eternal, unconditional, unparalleled, love - therefore, I know that I am in His heart (anthropomorphically speaking!).

Now, I am blessed to be in the thoughts, prayers, and hearts, of a number of people; and I appreciate each and every one of them.  However, my greatest joy, my hope, and my confidence is that I am in the thoughts, prayers, and heart of Almighty God - my Creator and Saviour.

Are you?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Love is in the air!

It was a Facebook post put up by one of my former pupils.  The message was simple.  On a background of a rather vicious-looking cat, were the words: "If you're sad about being alone on Valentine's Day, just remember ... ... no-one loves you on the other days of the year, either"!

I "Liked" it - and then thought about it!  The songwriter assured us that it is love that makes the world go round.  There are more songs, and poems, written with love as their subject than on any other topic.  It's the theme of countless books and films.  It's the glue that holds society together.

How sad it would be, therefore, not to be loved at all - throughout the year!   Thankfully, that post has it completely wrong.  Every single one of us is loved, throughout our whole life.  I'm not, of course, referring to the Mills & Boon kind of soppy, sentimental 'love'.  I'm not even referring to the love of family and friends.  I'm referring to the love that is better described by the Greek word "agape".  It is nothing more, or less, than the love of Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is.   That love is directed towards each and every one of us.

It's a sacrificial love.  In what may well be the best-known quotation from the Bible, John records that "God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16).  The sinless, incarnate God, allowed Himself to be hung on a Roman cross, in order that He might pay the just penalty for your sins, and for mine!  That is sacrifice; that is love.

It's an unconditional love.  "... God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." writes Paul to the believers in Rome. (Rom 5:8).  God didn't set out conditions that we must meet in order to be loved by Him.  He simply loved, and loves, us - as we are!

It's an eternal love.  Eternity is greatly misunderstood by so many.  That's why I devote a full chapter to the concept in my book "Great Words of the Faith" (please see above!).  It is often viewed as 'endless time' when, in fact, it is timelessness!  The love of God is not constrained by time.  It is above and beyond time.

There are many other aspects of the Love of God that we could consider - but this is a blog post, not a sermon!  Just one question to ask - Do you know that love of God at a personal level?  Is it real to you, because you have responded to it with the love of your own heart?   If not, then why don't you do something about it now!  His love is so great that He will meet you more than half-way.

Don't be unloved - when the greatest love of all is reaching out to you!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

God sent a Saviour.

Many may already be aware of the following.  I have just come across my copy while doing some further 'organising' in my study!  I share it, with some slight amendments, for those who are unaware of it.

If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.

However, our greatest need was, and is, forgiveness;
So God sent us a Saviour.

Have you submitted your life to Him?

Sunday, 31 January 2016

And then there were ...?

So, the first month of 2016 closes with yet another "celebrity" death being announced.  The front-page headline in newspaper; the top topic on social media; and, doubtless, the main subject of UK news programmes on both radio and television.  Terry Wogan is dead.

Now, I have every sympathy for the Wogan family.  I never met the man, but he always came across as a pleasant person who was willing to use his celebrity status in helping others.  However, what has happened is, at some point, going to happen to each and every one of us - at least while the rapture of the saints of God is delayed.  As Benjamin Franklin famously said: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."  Actually, some people may manage to avoid paying taxes - but, as physical beings, we are mortal.

What, then, ought our attitude to this inevitable event be?!   There are, of course, those who believe that physical death is the end.  When I breathe my last, there is nothing.   My body may be buried, or burned, but anything of me that continues will only be in the memories of those who knew me.

Others accept that there is some form of 'after-life', but have the idea that where they spend it, and what it will be like, depends entirely on what I have done in this earth.  If my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds, then I go to 'heaven'; otherwise, I go to 'hell'.  Even the concepts of 'heaven' and 'hell' may differ from one culture to another.

Some are of the opinion that, when we die, God will forgive us all, and that everyone will end up in heaven "because a God of love would not want to see any of His creatures suffer"!

Yet another group believe in reincarnation.  I am born, physically, many times - either progressing 'upwards' if I live my present life as a good person (or animal/insect/tree/stone, etc!); or downwards, if the opposite is true.  Eventually, I may reach the pinnacle of human existence and be released from that cycle - to be absorbed into the 'oneness' that is the physical universe, but with no personal identity or personality.

Those, however, who accept the teachings of the Bible as the written Word of the One Who created, and Who sustains, all that is, hold a unique belief.   They (we!) believe that there is a very real heaven, and a very real hell.  We believe that where one spends eternity (timelessness - see my chapter on the subject in Great Words of the Faith; details above) depends, not on anything that I have done, or can do, but on the giving of Himself as a sacrifice, on a cross on a hill called Calvary, of One, Jesus the Messiah/Christ, in my place.  That sacrifice of the perfect Man was/is sufficient to cover the sins of every human being who ever lived, or who ever will live.

However, there is a "catch".  The idea that "all will be saved" conveniently ignores that the God Whose essential Being is, indeed, Love - and love that is actually beyond our feeble comprehension - is also the God Who is Justice, and Righteousness, and Holiness.  In the light of His laws and commandments, each one of us is deserving of nothing but His wrath and punishment.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers in the 1st century AD: "... everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." (Rom.3:23; NLT).

So, is that the "catch"?  No!  Paul goes on, in that same letter, to make clear that "... God showed His great love for us by sending [the] Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners." (5:8).  All that we are able to do, but what we must do, is to confess that we are sinners on the sight of Almighty God; that we are incapable of doing anything, ourselves, about our sinful state; and accept, by faith, the salvation that was gained for us at such great cost.  That is the "catch".  Salvation is free and full - but only to those who are willing to accept it.

Terry Wogan's eternal destiny is now sealed.  Forget reincarnation: "... each person is destined to die once,and after that comes judgement"! (Heb.9:27; NLT).  Where he, or any of the other "celebrities" who have recently died, will spend it is between them and Father God.  Nothing that you, or I, can do will change that.  For you, however, there is still time.  Have you confessed your sinfulness, and your sins?  Have you asked for the forgiveness that is available only from Father God?  Have you accepted, and professed, Jesus, the Christ, as your personal Saviour?  Are you seeking to serve Him as Lord of your life?  These are important questions - your answers to them will determine what happens to the real "you" when your mortal body reaches the end.  Please do not ignore them.  If I may be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me via the e-mail address at the top of the page, or through my "AllExperts" page (Link below, and on the right).  Alternatively, seek the help of a genuine believer already known to you.  Whatever you do, act.  Follow the example of Boaz, of whom it is recorded: "... the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today." (Ruth 3:18).

Friday, 29 January 2016

It needs to be read!

Over the past week, or so, I have been with a couple of groups of people that included some who would appear to have very little knowledge of the Bible, although they are, I believe, regular "church-goers".  A number stated, openly, that they do not know it as well as they should and because of that, they do not know the basic message of the Gospel.  To hear, for example, a professed disciple of Jesus accept the possibility of reincarnation tells me that such a person either hasn't read Hebrews 9:27 - "... it is appointed unto man to die once, and then comes judgement." - or has totally failed to understand it! 

Of course, important 'though the reading of the Word of God is, that is not enough if we are to be true servants of the Lord Jesus.  I have been reminded of the story of the man who announced to his pastor that he was planning to visit Israel.  After having shared his planned itinerary, he asked the pastor : "And what do you think I'm most looking forward to doing?"  The pastor thought for a moment before replying.  "Well," he said, "a number of things come to mind.  However, since you want me to name just one, I would think that it would have to be the empty tomb."  "No," responded the other.  "Obviously I do want to see that, but the highlight of the tour will be to climb a mountain. Then, when I reach the summit, to read aloud the entire Sermon on the Mount!"

The pastor knew his flock!  He shook his head, all too aware of the man's spiritual problems - and the reason behind them.  "Brother," he remarked, "why go all of that distance just to read it?  Wouldn't it be better for you to stay at home, and keep it?!"

It is, of course, commended, and commendable, to read the Word of God.  Indeed, it is actively encouraged within its own pages!  So the Psalmist declares: "With my whole heart I seek Thee; let me not wander from Thy commandments!  I have laid up Thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee." (Ps. 119:10-11).  Paul reminds the believers in Rome that "... whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope." (Rom 15:4).  The same apostle instructs his "son in the faith", Timothy, to "... attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching." (I Tim 4:13).

However, if all that we do is read, then we are in danger of treating that Word, that is "... living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb 4:12), as little, if anything, more than literature. C.S.Lewis writes: "... in most parts of the Bible everything is, implicitly or explicitly, introduced with 'Thus saith the LORD'.  It is if you like to put it that way, not merely a sacred book, but a book so remorselessly, and continuously, sacred that it does not invite, it excludes or repels, the merely aesthetic approach. ... ... It demands, incessantly, to be taken on its own terms: ..." (The Literary Impact of the Authorised Version").

Reading is good, but it is insufficient.  James urges his readers to: "... be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22); while Paul assures the Romans that: "... it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified." (Rom 2:13).

You may be a faithful reader of the Word - but are you a keeper?  Do you, perhaps, just scan its pages superficially; merely perusing it as a spiritual exercise (that can, all too easily, degenerate into some form of "salvation by works"!), or to salve your own conscience?  Or does it move you to effective action?  As the titles of many of the commentaries on the Letter of James make clear, there are two parts to the Gospel - believing it; and behaving it!

Remember that, while it is true that it is "... by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8-9), it is also true that: "... we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works , which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (v.10)!