Important Information.

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Saturday, 16 November 2019

Seeing God!

My favourite memory regarding "seeing" God is from my time in a certain Secondary School in Scotland. It was probably a pupil in S3 (14-15 years of age, for those unfamiliar with the Scottish education system) as I discovered that it was at about that stage in life that many young people realise that they know everything about everything, whilst the adult at the front of the classroom knows nothing about anything! (I don't, of course, tar all young people with the same brush!).  The conversation went something like this:

Pupil: "Sir, you believe in God, don't you?"
Me: "Yes."

Pupil: "Sir, have you ever seen God?"

Me: "In the sense in which you are asking, No!"

Pupil: "So Sir, how can you believe in something that you haven't even seen?"

This, of course, was the point at which the pupil had that look of "I've got him now. No way can he wriggle out of this one!"

Having learned from the Master, I answered the question with a question! Having ascertained that this pupil was studying Physics for his Standard Grade public examinations, I asked if he had ever seen a quark! Not only had he never seen one - he didn't even know the word! I suggested that he ask his Physics teacher of he believed in the existence of quarks. I went on: "He will tell you that he does. Then ask him if he has ever seen one. He will tell you that he hasn't. Then put the same question to him and, when you return with his answer, I will give you mine!"

Needless to say, the subject was never raised again - in that class!

The subject returned to my mind when I came across an article that dealt with some words from Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titoy who, in August 1961, became the second man to be fired out into space, and the first to spend a full day orbiting planet Earth. I was also reminded of some words that he spoke on his return: "Some people say that there is a God ... but in my travels around the earth all day long, I looked around and didn't see Him ... I saw no God nor angels. ... I don't believe in God. I believe in man, his strength, his possibilities, his reason." What the article failed to mention was the reported response of an American astronaut: "He should have stepped outside his capsule."!!

Now, of course Titoy didn't "see" God - any more than I have done so, or that anyone has visibly "seen" a quark! "God is Spirit" (John 4:24) and we do not "see" Him with our eyes in the way we see flesh-and-blood beings. However, just as my physicist friends believe in the existence of quarks because of the evidence for them, so I believe in the existence of the all-powerful, all-wise, eternal, Creator God because the evidences for His existence are so prevalent in nature that anyone with an open mind is hard-pressed to explain them without acknowledging His reality. It's little wonder that David, the psalmist-king of Israel, declared that "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'!" (Ps.14:1; 53:1. see also 10:4).

All that we need to do is to gaze, through a telescope, into the infinity of space, or peer through a microscope at the minutest elements in creation (although we still won't 'see' a quark!), to appreciate the wisdom, design, power, beauty, order, and laws of Almighty God. Paul wrote: "... what can be known about God is plain ..., because God has shown it ... . Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." (Rom 1:19-20). Someone has said: "All creation is an outstretched finger pointing towards God." David wrote: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork." (Ps 19:1).

Please don't be like my former pupil, or like that foolish cosmonaut! Open your eyes to the revelation of God in nature. Give to Him the glory and honour that He deserves.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Resh

It was this morning that I read the final section of Ps.119. However, on Thursday, I read the section in which each line begins with the Hebrew letter "resh". It's a section that reminded me of three things.

The first of these is that He is my Kinsman-Redeemer. "Plead my cause and redeem me;" (v.154). We learn about the kinsman-redeemer most easily in the beautiful story of Ruth, the Moabitess who, along with her mother-in-law, Naomi (and Naomi's other daughter-in-law, Orpah) was widowed. This was in the land of Moab, whence Naomi, her husband Elimolech, and their two sons, had fled to escape a time of famine in Judah. Naomi decided to return to her homeland and, in spite of the older woman's entreaties, Ruth insisted on returning with her, uttering the well-known words: "Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May YHWH do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you." (Ruth 1:16-17).

You may read the full story in the book of the Tanakh (the 'Old Testament') that is named after Ruth. As you do so, you will be introduced to Boaz who, Naomi explains to Ruth is a near-kinsman (the kinsman-redeemer). The duty of the kinsman-redeemer was to rescue a family member in need (see Lev. 25:25 ff.).

You and I, and every other human being in the history of mankind, past, present, and future, has a great need - we are sinners and unable to save ourselves. Praise God, therefore, that He has provided, in the Persona* of the Son, a Kinsman-Redeemer for us. Paul writing to the believers in the province of Galatia says: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. (3:13; emphasis added).  The apostle also reminded the young pastor Titus: "For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds." (2:11-14; emphasis added). Yes, the Lord Jesus, Himself, is my Kinsman-Redeemer. Is He yours?

In v.156, the psalmist writes: "Great is Thy mercy, O YHWH;" How great is that mercy! But what is it? Well, the easiest way to describe it is in conjunction with the grace of God. In His grace, God gives to us what we do not deserve; in His mercy He does not give to us what we do deserve! To put it another way - when we experience His grace we are receiving good things to which we have no claim; when we are recipients of His mercy, He withholds less good things that we deserve only too well! Praise God for the greatness of His mercy to those who have trusted in Him.

The third point that I particularly noted was in v.159 where the psalmist prays: "Preserver my life according to Thy steadfast love."  When we come to Father God, in the Name of the unique Son, Jesus, we do not have to, as it were, squeeze anything out of Him. He deals with us in the light of His own love - He whose very nature is 'love'. That love is above and beyond anything that you or I can imagine. It is the love that took Jesus to the cross, there to die a cruel and ignominious death for us. 

On Monday, I shall be, D.V., at the Armistice Ceremony in the village in which I now live. There won't be the same 'pomp and circumstance' to which I was used in the UK - but we shall still remember those who died in two World wars, and many other conflicts, that we might have the measure of freedom that we enjoy today. In the more "religious" ceremonies of Remembrance Sunday in the UK, one often hears these words being read: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). Most will think of these words as applying to those who have died in conflict. However, I would submit that the vast majority of them did not, in fact, "lay down their lives". Many were, it is true, volunteers. Many were regular forces. Many, however, particularly in WW1, were conscripts. They had no choice. The Lord Jesus chose to give His life for you and for me. He voluntarily took your place, and mine, on the cross. He was willing to pay the penalty that your sin, and mine, deserved. "He paid a debt that  He did not owe; because I owed a debt that I could not pay."

That is not all! Those who died in the various conflicts gained, for their country, only a temporary peace. When Jesus died on the cross, He gained full, and eternal, salvation for all who come to Him in faith. The "Gospel in a nutshell" is found in the familiar words of John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." That's as much as many know - and those words are wonderfully true. Eternal life - which is not just life that goes on and on indefinitely, but is the life of God Himself, in us - is not just for the future. It is something that we receive, and start living, here and now. However, John continues: "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God." (John 3:17-21). Please read those other words carefully. They further emphasise that the love of God is real; that He desires that none should perish; but that those who reject His offer of salvation are already condemned - by their unbelief.

Well, I move on to Ps.120 tomorrow, D.V., but if I am spared long enough, I shall probably be back at Ps.119 another time. I commend it, and all of God's written Word to you. Read; learn; apply; and obey. You'll never regret it!

*This is not a typo! It is explained in my first book: "Great Words of the Faith", in the chapter on the Trinity. Remember that I am promoting my books (all three!) because ALL royalties are paid directly into the bank account of Release International, in support of the persecuted church. Interestingly, tomorrow is the annual day to remember those who suffer for their faith in ways that you and I cannot even begin to fully imagine. Please purchase; read; leave a review; and encourage others to do the same. Links are available at the top - or just search in Amazon! Thank you.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Learning to love the Word.

It was a few days ago that I reached that part of Psalm 119 in which each line begins with the Hebrew letter "mem" - marked in my Bible as vs.97-104. The whole psalm, as previously mentioned, has to do with the Word of God - which, for the psalmist was, of course, predominantly the Torah as recorded by Moses: the first five books of our 'Old' Testament.

In the margin of the copy of the Bible that I use for my personal devotions, I have noted four particular steps that the psalmist followed, and that we would do well to follow today.

The first step is to love the Word. The psalmist writes: "Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day." (v.97). What a wonderful attitude to God's Word. To be able to say that we actually love it! Not just read it because we feel that it is expected of us. Not just to read it because it is a 'good habit'. Not just to read it so that we may boast about how clever we are. But to read it because we love it! And to have it at the forefront of my mind throughout the day! I think of other things, and people, that are the objects of my love - and then I  have to ask where God's Word fits into my life? Last month, my wife was back in Scotland for two weeks. I was still here in SW France. Because I love my wife, I missed her, and thought of her constantly - but would I have missed my Bible as much if it had been taken away from me for even just those two weeks; do I think of God's Word all day? These are questions that only I can answer for me - and that you may wish to answer for yourself, in your own situation.

Of course, if we love the Word, then we will wish to learn from it. That's what the psalmist did. "Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers; for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged,for I keep Thy precepts" (vs.98-100). At first sight, this might appear to be a boast by the psalmist - but that is not the case. He is merely saying, in a different way, what the writer of Psalm 111 (possibly David) wrote: "The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom;"(v.10). There is a great difference between knowledge and wisdom! I read an amusing explanation recently - "Knowledge is being aware that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not serving it with custard"! The psalmist may not have held as much knowledge as his elders and teachers, or even his enemies - but his love for the Word ensured that he had reverence for its Author, and that gave him true wisdom.

Loving the Word, and learning from it, leads to obedience. "I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep Thy word. I do not turn aside from Thine ordinances, for Thou hast taught me." (vs. 101-102). James reminds us that "... if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing." (1:23-25). How easy it is to rush through our 'set passage' for the day - and then go off and forget what we had read! That, by the way, is why this psalmist refers to meditation! That simply means giving some meaningful thought to what we have read; seeking to discover what the Lord is saying to us, personally!

All of this has an inevitable conclusion: "How sweet are Thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way." (vs. 103-104).  The word that I have written in the margin of my Bible here is "Enjoyment". It is when we love the Word; learn from the Word; and obey the Word; that we will enjoy the Word. The prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience. In his prophetic book he records that YHWH spoke to him and said "... eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He gave me the scroll to eat. And He said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it." Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey." (3:1-3).  Honey, of course, is not just something that is beautifully sweet. It is the "instant energy" food. And our reading, and loving, and learning from, and obeying, the Word of God will not only be sweetness in our lives, but will also provide us with spiritual energy in our constant battle against the enemy. 

May all who read this post, be also found reading His Word - for your good, and for His glory.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

A Reformation Day thought.

The following is from an e-mail that I received earlier this evening, from CBMW (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood). I commend it to all.

"It is no coincidence that the constituent doctrine of the church — the union of Christ and his church — trades in marital imagery that is predicated upon God’s creation of man as male and female. And thus neither is it mere happenstance that we find ourselves defending this very confession against the powers and principalities of this age.
 
This being Reformation Day, I thought it would be appropriate to hand it over to the good doctor Martin Luther to unpack this glorious truth that is central to our identity as Christians: the mystery of the marriage between Christ and his church — a truth that Luther was willing to defend to the death. The following excerpt is from his treatise Concerning Christian Liberty:
 
The third incomparable grace of faith is this, that it unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband; by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and if a true marriage — nay, by far the most perfect of all marriages — is accomplished between them (for human marriages are but feeble types of this one great marriage), then it follows that all they have becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil things; so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as his.
 
If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable is the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation. Let faith step in, and then sin, death, and hell will belong to Christ, and grace, life, and salvation to the soul. For, if he is a husband, he must needs take to himself that which is his wife's, and, at the same time, impart to his wife that which is his. For, in giving her his own body and himself, how can he but give her all that is his? And, in taking to himself the body of his wife, how can he but take to himself all that is hers?
 
In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of communion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and redemption. For since Christ is God and man, and is such a person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned — nay, cannot sin, die, or be condemned; and since his righteousness, life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty; when, I say, such a person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of his wife, nay, makes them his own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were his, and as if he himself had sinned; and when he suffers, dies . . . that he may overcome all things, since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow him up, they must needs be swallowed up by him in stupendous conflict. For his righteousness rises above the sins of all men; his life is more powerful than all death; his salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.
Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its husband Christ. Thus he presents to himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus he betrothes her unto himself “in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.” (Hosea 2:19, 20)
 
Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace?
 
Christ, that rich and pious husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils, and supplying her with all his good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in him, and since she has in her husband Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying: "If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is his, and all his is mine;" as it is written, "My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (Song 2:16.) This is what Paul says: “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ;” victory over sin and death, as he says: “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:56, 57.)"

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

It is not something that I readily admit - but I am getting old! To be fair, I reckon that I am still "young in spirit", but my physical body isn't as sprightly as it once was! Needless to say, the same is true for my dear wife. Going only by her physical appearance, she is not the girl to whom I was married heading towards fifty years ago! There is a little more of her; she has some wrinkles where wrinkles didn't exist before; she has some medical conditions of which we would never have thought on our wedding day. Yet, to me, even if to no-one else, she is still a beautiful woman whom I not only love deeply, but whom I still fancy!

How could that be? I have never fancied a woman of her age before - and I don't fancy any of the women of her age whom I know today! If I were to analyse that situation, I believe that I would quickly come to the conclusion that it is because I don't look at her objectively, but through "love-tinted spectacles". She is not just any woman heading towards seventy years of age; she is my wife - and the best wife I could ever have had.

When we read the letters of Paul in the New Testament, we discover that he uses marriage as an analogy, or illustration, of the Christian life. I believe that my relationship with my wife can certainly be used in such a way. You see, when Father God looks at me - and you, if you are a disciple of Jesus, born again by the work of God the Holy Spirit in your life - he doesn't see my failings; my weakness; my sin. He sees Jesus, and His shed blood and righteousness and, in Him, I am fully accepted - I am loved. Father God looks at me, we might say, through "love-tinted spectacles".

Of course, His love for me is infinitely greater than my deepest love for my wife. Love is the very essence of His Being. Twice, John tells us that "God is love" (I John 4:7, 16). And He has expressed that love in the most amazing way possible. "God loved the world (that included you and me!) so much that, in the Persona* of the Son, He gave Himself to die on a cross, paying the just penalty for your sins and mine that, if we are willing to place our trust, wholly and unreservedly, in Him for salvation, we may experience, here and now, His own life within us - a life that never ends." (John 3:16 - my somewhat expanded paraphrase!).

One of the wonderful aspects of the love that my wife and I share is that it is mutual. She responds to my love for her, and I respond to her love for me. The same thing is necessary of we are to appropriate the amazing love of God - we must respond, in confession, repentance, faith, and obedience.

Have you ever done that? Have you admitted that, like me, you are a sinner? Have you accepted that you are unable to do anything about your sin? Do you realise that He has done all - that, as Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus 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."? The way is open for you - and if I may be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me using the e-mail address above. It is not my prime address, but I do check it from time to time, and will respond as soon as I see you message. May you respond to His great love with the love and devotion of your own heart - and to Him be all the praise and the glory.


* This is explained in the chapter on "The Trinity" in my book Great Words of the Faith. Please remember that I make no financial profit from any of my books (or from this blog!). All royalties on the books are sent directly to the bank account of Release International, supporting the persecuted Church.