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Monday, 12 March 2018

Limitations on God's Promises

Each day, in my e-mail Inbox, I receive a message based on a verse of the Bible. This morning's message was under the same heading as this blog-post and read as follows:

«“Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:37)

The people of Israel, in spite of all God had done for them, continually rebelled against Him, even turning to other gods. One might think God would have destroyed them and started again, but He had made a promise first to Abraham, then to Isaac, and then to Jacob, that this nation would be His special people, and He would not break that promise.

In our text God reveals the “conditions” under which He would cast off Israel, but they are such that there is no possibility of their being met.

If heaven above can be measured: Neither Abraham nor Jeremiah could have had any concept of the number of stars or the depth of space. Now, with modern telescopes, we see unthinkable distances and even farther and farther as our technology increases. Estimates of the radius of the universe now stand at around 46 billion light-years, and no end is in sight.

If the foundations of the earth [can be] searched out beneath: Sometimes scientists claim they know more about the sun than they do the earth. But in reality, only one percent of the earth’s radius has been explored. The pressures and temperatures that exist deep inside the earth are unthinkably great, and we don’t even know how matter acts under those conditions. The promise to Israel is secure.

Scripture is likewise full of “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) made to the believer. Our text indicates God’s attitudes toward His promises. We need not worry that He will keep His Word.» (Days of Praise -

That estimate of the radius of the universe really caught my attention! Up came the calculator, and I started to work. As many will know, a "light year" is the distance that light travels in one earth-year - at a speed of approximately 186,000 miles per second. This means that, in distance, a light year is 186,000x60x60x24x365.25! My calculator couldn't handle even that. However, I did manage to get to a "light-day" at more than 16 billion miles. Continuing from there, and now working only in billions (!), I arrived at the conclusion that the current estiimation of the radius of the known universe is 2722 miles (approx.)! That represents a figure of 27 followed by 22 zeroes:

220,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles (approx.) - and that is only the radius of what we know!

What an amazing universe! If we had reached the very edge, and it was a perfect circle, then the area covered would be (no pun intended!) astronomical! Of course that would also immediately raise the question as to what lay beyond the circumference of the circle!

Within the known universe, mankind (or 'peoplekind' if one is the rather silly and immature PM of Canada!) can predict the arrivals of comets; can plan journeys through space (at least through the Solar System - a mere speck in what we can see - although one tiny spacecraft has, if memory serves me well, gone beyond the Solar System but has lost contact with Earth); can plot weather systems. Yet, there are those who would continue to insist that all of this came from nothing (okay, you physicists, from a singularity: but from whence came the singularity?!) and, simply by a process of random chemical reactions, and random collisions, etc., became the amazing, ordered, predictable entity of which we still mknow only the tiniest part!

As I state in one of my own books: "It requires a great deal of faith to be an atheistic evolutionist"! 

Saturday, 10 March 2018

A clear conscience.

An Indian was asked by a Bible translating missionary to define the word "conscience". After having thought for a minute, the man pointed a finger at his breast and said: "It is a little three-cornered thing in here. When I do evil, it turns around and hurts very much. However, if I keep on doing wrong, its sharp edges wear off, until it doesn't bother me any more." 

There was a lot of wisdom in those words, and his definition was amazingly accurate! If I disregard the warnings of my conscience, and continue in sinful practices, then that conscience can be impaired. If I abuse my conscience, it becomes "seared" and useless. So Paul writes to Timothy: "The Spirit says clearly that in later times some believers will desert the Christian faith. They will follow spirits that deceive, and they will believe the teachings of demons. These people will speak lies disguised as truth. Their consciences have been scarred as if branded by a red-hot iron." (I Tim.4:1-2). This is why we must never callously allow ourselves to mute the pleadings of our own consciences!

However, valuable as this "internal monitor" may be, we must admit that it has become dulled by mankind's fall into sin. No longer can it be an infallible guide to right conduct. It needs to be enlightened, and sensitised, by our being born anew of God the Holy Spirit, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the Son, by the grace and love of the Father. We then need to keep it in good condition by our daily reading, and studying, of the written Word of God, and by daily communion with Almighty God in prayer. Only then can we follow the leading of our consciences with safety!

When a disciple of Jesus does find this inner voice accusing him/her of wrong deeds, or words, or thoughts - or, indeed, of the failure to do, and speak, and think as we ought! - then we must come before the throne of grace and, confessing our sins - of omission as much as commission - before our heavenly Father; receive the forgiveness that was gained for us at Calvary; and seek the ongoing sanctification that is available to us by the work of God ther Holy Spirit in our lives. I have a little home-made, laminated, plaque on my study wall - just above the desk at which I sit for my devotions. It is a play on words in the English langiage, and reads: "In this life I shall never be sinless; but, by the grace of God, I may sin less!" (emphasis not in the original!).

Perverse attitudes, and evil practices, cloud the spirit when we resist the "soft whisper" that warns. It is only as we ask the Lord to cleanse us anew, and allow His Word to direct us , that we may say, with Paul as he made his defence before the Roman governor Felix: "... I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people." (Acts 24:16). As someone has said: "Conscience can only be our compass if the Word of God is its chart."

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Now that I am a man!

I have just been working on some minor revisions to my second book: "Foundations of the Faith" - an introduction to some basic Christian beliefs, based on the words of The Apostles' Creed.  That Creed (or 'Statement of Belief '), begins with the words "I believe in God ..." That, for many in our post-Christian, humanistic, materialistic, society is the problem! They don't! They accept the notion that everything has come from nothing - and claim that science supports their totally unscientific position!

I recall, during my teaching years, that it was a question often posed by pupils – usually those about 14/15 years old.  That is the group which, in my personal experience, have reached that wonderful stage at which they do know everything about everything, and who have also come to the conclusion that the mere adult at the front of the classroom knows nothing about anything!  Not, of course, that I am tarring all young people in that age group with the same brush! 

Anyway, when the question was posed, I answered as follows:  

Pupil: “Sir, if God made everything, who made God?!” Me: “That’s obvious.  It was a man in a yellow submarine!” (Giving away something of my age to those who remember the song!).  The blank stare was the sign for me to continue.  “So, I suppose you want to know who created the man in the yellow submarine!”   “Who?” the pupil invariably asked.  I answered, in another age-giver-away, “A pink purple-people eater!”  Another issue had obviously been raised.  “Who made the pink purple-people eater?”   This time we moved to the inanimate world – which, by the way, is where the evolutionist must start.  “A giant cricket bat.”, I would answer.  By this time, it was usually the case that the pupil had caught on and responded with another question.  “Who made the giant cricket bat?”  “God!” I would reply.  “Now, how did this conversation start?”

Of course, this is not what is taught by most school text-books! Rather, these suggest that primitive matter evolved (from nothing!), through billions of years, into living creatures that eventually inhabited the jungles (that had "just happened"!).  From these, in turn - after many more billions of years - came modern mankind. There will usually be a series of pictures supposedly accounting for, for example, the bone structure of the human head. They might begin with the shark (with no reasonable explanation of how the shape of the shark's head came about); advancing to the lizard; 'evolving' into a monkey, followed by an ape and, finally you and me! This pseudo-scientific presentation leaves me with the conclusion that my existence is the result of nothing more than a series of chemical accidents (chemicals which, by the way, also "just happened"!), and that my life has no real purpose.

What a contrast to what I was reading this morning, in  the book of Ezra the scribe! Reading through the list of names in what we know as chapter 8 - an exercise that, on the surface, may seem to be tedious and unnecessary! - one is almost forced to conclude that behind every movement, and every action, of this remnant that had remained in Babylon when the first group had returned to Jerusalem when Cyrus was king of Persia (modern Iran!), lies the supervising ministry of God the Holy Spirit (HaRuach Kadosh), bringing about the divine purposes of the Father.

The Bible makes it perfectly clear that we are created, "... in the image of God ..." (Gen.1:27), that we might live for Him, and bring glory to His Name.Your life, and mine, have significance! We are accountable to Almighty God to manifest in thought, word, and deed, His eternal glory and purpose. 

Recognising that you are a man - or a woman! - and not just another animal, should affect how you live today, and every day! Will it?!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

A word from heaven!

In my personal devotions, I am currently reading in the Old Testament book of Ezra. This morning I read the fifth chapter and, in the opening verses, read these words: "Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechari′ah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel Who was over them. Then Zerub′babel the son of She-al′ti-el and Jeshua the son of Jo′zadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them." (Ezra 5:1-2).

It was those simple words: "... in the name of the God of Israel Who was over them." that jumped out at me. To give a brief background note Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, had conquered the Babylonians and, in fulfilment of the 200-year-old prophecy of Isaiah, he released the Jews who had been taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar; instructed them to rebuild the Temple that Nebuchadnezzar had had destroyed; and even returned the Temple vessels that had also been taken to Babylon. [On a side note, it is interesting that Persia is the country that, since the overthrow of the Shah (ruler) in 1979, and the installation of the Islamic Ayatollah Khomeini, has been known as the Islamic Republic of Iran - Israel's sworn enemy! One wonders how many Iranian Muslims are aware that it was the founder of their nation who ordered that the Temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt, and even gave a grant towards the cost of doing so!] However, any attempt to build and establish something for God will soon attract the attention of the enemy, and it didn't take long for a group of Gentiles to commence a campaign of harassment and opposition that, eventually, led to the abandonment of the work. A new king has ascended the Persian throne, and the opposition took this opportunity to write to him, in the most fawning of terminology, requesting that he demand that this work be terminated. This he did!

Some sixteen years later, the Lord sent two prophets - Haggai and Zechariah - to call the people to renewed commitment and faith. They quickly roused the Jews into action, inspiring their flagging spirits, and reinforcing them with renewed strength and dedication. That is what I was reading earlier. In spite of the fact that an official veto on the work remained in force, they recommence the building project, realising that, although an earthly king has forbidden them to do so, the heavenly King has now spoken - they have heard a word from heaven!

Mike Spence, the Vice-President of the United States of America at this time, was recently criticised, and mocked, for claiming that the Lord speaks to him. Yet is not this what the Church today needs more than anything else? All of our fancy planning, and courses, are as nothing if we are not hearing from the Lord. The sounding forth of the true prophetic voice is, surely, one of the greatest needs of the hour. These words, written almost forty years ago, are increasingly relevant: "For too long we have listened solely to the voices of the politicians, the statesmen, the scientists, and others who shape and mould today's society. We need now, more than anything to hear again a word form heaven. We need to hear the voice of God."

Of course, if the Lord is to speak, we must take the time to listen. Yet how many, who would claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, spend little or no time reading the Word, and in prayer? One day, each one of us will stand before the judgement throne of Almighty God. Those of us who are "in Christ" and who are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, are already acquitted at that throne. However, we then have to face the judgement seat of the Lord Jesus, and answer to Him for what we have done with our lives since we yielded them to Him. That's a sobering thought!

The old song has the refrain "By and by, when I look on His face; I'll wish I had given Him more." May we give Him more, now. It will be for our good, and to His glory. Listen for that word from heaven. It could be directed towards you"

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

One,or the other!

Isaac Rankin, an American clergyman of an earlier age, wrote these words:

"Just a few feet from my window stretches a wire that carries a heavy current of electricity for light and power. It is carefully insulated at every pole, and is well out of reach of the public. But if I could lean far enough out to grasp it, death would be as swift as a lightning stroke - yet the doves light on it and suffer no harm. Their safety lies in the fact that when they come in contact with the electrical wire they touch nothing else. My danger would be that while I held the cable, the walls of my house would serve as a ground, and the current would instantly pass through my body with a deadly effect. God wants us to seek our safety in complete surrender to His power and love. It is when we reach out one hand to Him while holding on to some forbidden thing with the other, that we are in grave spiritual danger."

Paul, the apostle, writing to the disciples of Jesus in Corinth, made this bold statement: "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons." (I Cor.10:21). What he was (and is!) emphasising is that fellowship at the Lord's Table requires complete requires complete separation from evil. He instructs these early believers to be singular in their devotion to the Lord Jesus, and not to cater to the idolatry of pagans. As he continues, in the letter, to challenge them about their further attitude to the Lord's Table, he further points out that such compromising would bring divine judgment upon them in the form of weakness, or sickness, and might even result in their death:

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." (11:27-30). 

Does this mean that only perfect people may approach the Table? Praise God, that is not the case. " Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup." It is as I examine myself, that I realise that I am not worthy - on my own merit - to come to the Table. However, I come - because I am invited, and because "... the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7). Not that I can take that cleansing lightly! It did, indeed, cost the only-begotten Son of the Father His life's blood. That is why I must take seriously those words of Isaac Rankin. Almighty God, and the devil, are calling for my allegiance - and for yours!. We cannot serve both!

The challenge of Joshua still applies to day: "...  if you be unwilling to serve YHWH, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH." (Josh.24:15).  Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matt.6:24)

So, who will you serve? It must be one or the other.