Monday, 17 July 2017

It's Show Time!

Show-off's are a strange species.  We all say we don't like them, but we all have televisions in our homes, and the majority of our viewing is entertainment.  Does it not strike you as strange that the actors, writers and general celebrities that we all watch at home, who give us such great pleasure, have to be very strongly inclined to show off?  Also, do you ever consider how boring and mundane our lives would be without them?  Yes, I know that they make a mountain of money and they are insufferable, but I'm putting a word in, here, for, well, showing off!

By now, you must be seriously confused, but bear with me, because I do have an important point.  And here it is...

I saw something in my daily Bible reading the other day that made me stop stock still in my tracks.  And I must tell you that this is not exactly something that happens on what you might describe as a regular basis.  The simplest way is to tell you straight out what it was.

I was reading through the Book of Psalms, number 96.  And there in the second verse it says this: "Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; show forth his salvation from day to day."  These are the types of phrases and expressions that, if like me you read the Bible regularly, you have to admit that you skip over.  Please don't misunderstand me here.  I'm not judging or condemning here.  We all have a high appreciation of them, but on this one morning I just couldn't get past that phrase.  I suppose it collided with another part of this blog that I was working on (see below), so I asked it some questions.  Questions like, given the character and personality of God, why would He ask us to praise Him in the first place?  Also, thinking about salvation itself and all the immensity it means to us, and the power of God to save, and this is the real core, are we really being exhorted to show off?  Surely, this is the very opposite of the qualities of meekness and humility that are taught to us by the Lord Jesus.  Shouldn't these be the things that "shine" out from us?  Well, the answer is simply, yes.  But not yes full stop.  Yes what, then, you might reasonably ask.  Answer, yes but. 

The truth is this.  The salvation being proclaimed across the world in all manner of ways is unique.  It was obtained at colossal expense by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And one of the main reasons it is so annoying to people who opposite is because it is so easy for us humans to obtain!  Literally all you have to do is believe, and that simple act changes you, equally literally, forever!  It is impossible to ever be the same again.  True, many miss the mark, and many more, myself included here, do not live up to it - well at least we feel as if we do not live up to it.  But that must never, ever, stop us from trying.  Better, surely, to try and fail than never try at all.

Yet here's the good news about that.  First, all this happens in God, and God is not a failure, so everything attempted in God, is not to be judged by human standards, which are fallen anyway.  Second, the religious establishment, which, by the way, I'm very much a part of, are very good at saying the right things but not doing them, and not only that, but have a history of actively opposing those who are not "one of us".  Third, ultimately, nothing sincerely attempted in God will fail, not by heaven's standards.  In fact, and I concede that this is not easy for some believers to accept, but the truth is that God will Himself cause us to "fail" and/or be rejected, just to keep us humble.  I know of many who have testified to this, so please be encouraged.  You see, and this is the habit of advancing age, we always look back at our lives and think along the lines of, "well what a mess I've made!", but again that is because we even judge ourselves by human, fallen, standards.  We just don't see the good we've done.   But, when "the books are opened", and faith gives way to sight, we will be amazed at the things that are shown to us.  The Lord Jesus will Himself tell us these things.  Fourth, did you know, and trust me I'm not being irreverent here, that God also is Himself a bit of a show-off!  Yes that's right!  You don't believe me?  Well it's right there in your Bible the same as mine as plain as day!  Look at Ephesians chapter two, and verses six and seven, "He (God) hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Do you see?  This means that our heavenly home is something that God is going to shout about for all eternity.  There is no way that we can even imagine what that will be like.   

And in all these things, which ever ability or opportunity comes our way, we must show ourselves faithful to God in them and go out there and tell people what the Lord has done for you.  Because do you know what "Day of Grace" means?  It's show time!

What Do We Mean By... 
Part One: God.

This is part one of an occasional series in which I will attempt to explain some basics.  My reason for this is not for you to think that I'm clever or anything, but just in case you are unsure, or not a Christian and would like to know what Christians think on certain matters, then I will post a short "Bonus" article like this one to help you.  Please feel free to post suggestions for subjects and things you would like covered.  All I can promise is that I'll do my best.

So, what do we Christians mean when we say "God"? 

I will put it as briefly and simply as I possibly can.  The best word to use is a bit technical, but it's the best, so what can you do?  And it's the word Trinity.  Christians all over the world believe this, but the majority fail to understand it.  Briefly, here it is.  There are three persons in the "Godhead"; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and they are uncreated.  It's reasonable question to ask, that if there are three uncreated members of "God", shouldn't it be that there are three "Gods"?  And to be fair, the answer could reasonably be yes.  But what you have to understand is that these three uncreated persons love each other, and the thing that is virtually impossible to grasp about that fact is, the sheer unmeasurable extent of that love.  But while it remains impossible to measure that love in any tangible way, we can at least understand the effect of that love upon them.  It is that they love each other so much that they have absolutely no self-awareness, and it is this phenomenon that causes some of the most profound statements in the Bible. The main one is, of course, "God is love." It is because of this great love that Christians proclaim God to the world as one God.  You see, each member of the Holy Trinity loves each other to the aforementioned cosmic extent, that denying all self-awareness, they "become" one God.  Not a lot more you can say after that, really.

Except there is!

1.  Question:  What possible relevance is that to real life in the twenty-first century?  Answer: It is enormously relevant.  First, the offer of salvation from sin, the curse, death and hell, is from God, who is Himself love.  Second, this makes believing that God loves you a totally life-changing event.  Third, Forget pearly gates and streets paved with gold; they are only hyperbolic.  To "be saved" is to enter God Himself!  Fourth, knowing that life in this world must change and then wringing our hands in despair stops being relevant when we see existence from this perspective - namely peace.

2.  Another question: what is the appropriate, or even perhaps expected, response to this - having "believed" it?  A shorter answer, this time. Worship, and the mind-set shaped by a worshipful response.  What is worship, you might well be asking?  More about that another time!

God bless you, and thank you for visiting.

Monday, 26 June 2017

On The Arena Floor

Hello again.  I would like to tell you about something that happened to me whilst on my travels.  This was while I travelled across Europe, and insodoing, alighted upon the Eternal City itself.  Yes, that's right, none other than Rome!  I always remember that the book I hated most in the world was one I had been made to read in school.  And this was Edward Gibbons' "Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire".  Nothing was more sure to anybody off a subject than this dewy-eyed piece of mental and verbal bromide!  I have no doubt that it was written to instill in its readers a right-wing, reactionary mind-set.  Trust me, The august and overtly prolific Mr. Gibbons' words fell on very stony ground in my case!  I spent the rest of my formative years, and the early part of my adult years, for that matter, arguing, pamphleteering and generally disagreeing at every given opportunity with anything and anyone who crossed my path with the merest passing resemblance of sympathy with the opinions of the above quoted opus.  It was not until my conversion to Christianity that all this stopped!  How did my experience of the glorious New Birth in Jesus Christ accomplish this momentous event, I hear you ask?  If I may express it as simply as possible, it made me forget about it!  I wish I had an emoticon.  I'd put a smiley right here right now! 

And yet, I have to say that it all came flooding back when I actually visited Rome itself.  Ahem!  At least now, I can understand why he wrote like he did.  It's a truly wonderful place!  You may also ask why I decided to go there in the first place, if I felt as I did.  Reasonable.  My answer is two-fold.  One, A lot of entertainment had drawn my attention back to it, most notably, Starz TV's Spartacus.  I found this hugely entertaining and it gave me a niggling feeling that I might want to visit.  Second, my friends prevailed upon me to do so.  They are of the firm persuasion that everyone should visit Rome at the very least once in their lives.  And having thusly sown in me the seed of aspiration, it eventually turned into the harvest of a visit.

I visited all the sites that you can think of when you think the word Rome.  I think I spent the whole time wide-eyed and open-mouthed.  I took quite simply hundreds of pictures and walked around in the boiling heat with my neck craned upwards and turning in circles.  Everything amazed me. 

but nothing could prepare me for the mortifying experience that was standing on the floor of the arena of the Colosseum.  The whole floor has not been reconstructed.  But it was enough for the atmosphere to come down on me with a mighty thud!  I stood outside the great iron gates where many hapless Christians just like myself, humble souls whose only "crime" was that they simply loved Jesus Christ for all that has been done for our souls by Him and mean no harm to anyone in the world, would have been led out to their deaths.  On this very spot where I was standing!  I stood there for a good while, as you may appreciate, and thought about this.  As I did so, I caught sight of the huge black cross on the other side of the arena. Apparently, it was erected by Pope Benedict XIV between the years 1740 and 1758, and declared a holy site and was entitled "The Way Of The Cross".  Time went on, but I did not want to move.  It was not as though I could not move, or felt in some strange way transfixed to the spot.  No, it was the plain truth that, as so many others of the same confession of faith as my own were treated so inhumanly, what if I was the next in line?  Just imagine!  What if Caesar, standing up there in his box to my right under his gazebo in the blazing Roman sunshine, had looked down at me and said something like,

    "You have one minute. Tell us what you have to say!"

What would I say?  Hey, for that matter what do you think you would say?  Now it's true, I'm putting you on the spot.  Furthermore, I have had some considerable time to think about it.  Remember, the two watch-words here are brevity and simplicity.  Well, here's my answer.  It's four-fold, and it goes like this:

1.  God loves you.

Do you know something?  You are very privileged to be reading that statement.  I have gone to Church all my life and I can truly say that I have never once heard any clergyman or preacher say those words.  Indeed, in many cases, when it is dealt with, in many cases it is explained away!  And yet it is the most indispensable statement in the whole of the Christian Faith.  So here it is again: God loves you.

2.  You must be saved.

This idea is a little confrontational, it has to be conceded.  But on the arena floor, there is no time for niceties.  Here, it not so much confrontational, as simply urgent.  No matter what it looks like, that I'm on the arena floor and the lions are hungry and I'm their next course, it is Caesar and all who hear me that need to be saved. 

3.  You can be saved.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not die on the cross, descend into hell-fire, rise from the dead the third day and ascend into Heaven to be seated at the right-hand of the Father so that He could be some heavenly porter, "to make it possible" as some say, to be saved.  No, The Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour.  And a saviour saves!  Your salvation is not an option, or for that matter a possibility; no, your salvation is a promise from Heaven, and it lasts forever.

4.  Here's how.

It is NOT difficult to be saved.  But it's still not easy.  You have to go to your room and close the door.  Next, you have to get on your knees before God, and, yes, confess your sins.  Told you it wasn't easy, didn't I?  There's just no avoiding the subject, as the Bible says, "we have all sinned and fall short of the glory (standard) of God." (Romans 3.23 my brackets).  But trust me this is not to judge or condemn, it is to reveal us to ourselves so that we do not rely on ourselves.  Then you must ask The Lord Jesus Christ to come into your heart and be your Personal Saviour.  At this point you might be forgiven for thinking to yourself along the lines of "What on earth is all this about?"  And this would be because you do not "feel" anything.  But that's just it!  If you felt it, let alone saw it, it would not be faith.  If it helps settle the matter in your mind and feelings (and remember this also, feelings are not called feelings for nothing), why not say something like "I believe I receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my Personal Saviour".

That is simply and clearly what I would say on the arena floor.  I hope that it has been a blessing to you to read.  I pray that you have been through all the above, and that if you have not, you will not allow another moment to pass without doing so for your eternal good.

God bless you and thank you for visiting.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Back From The Wilderness

This is a VERY big moment for me, so I humbly ask your patience.  It's been a long time since I did anything at all with this blog, and I am so very sorry.  I'm not going to offer any excuses; none about how tough life has been for the last five years, and how I've been a victim of circumstances, or anything even like that or any thing else like those things.  No, I'll tell you that I've sinned.  Yes that's right, I've sinned.  When we come to the point where we can admit that, we are in a very important place.  First, generally, then personally. 

Generally, what I find is, that I have let the Lord down in not serving Him as I should.  When I step back and consider what He has asked me to do here in writing this blog, I realise that it is a very easy thing for me to do.  I'm a professional writer and words come easily for me.  All the Lord is asking me to do is really to tithe a portion of my time at my keyboard and give Gospel thoughts out to people and simply, as it is expressed Scripturally, to "glean in the Lord's vineyard".

Personally, and eventually, it sooner or later comes right down to this, I have let those who would read these pieces down.  I could in a self-righteous way argue that not many will read these things, so what's the point?  But God, in calling people to do things, is not a heavenly sales manager, He's our Heavenly Father, and what He asks for is not results, but faithfulness and consistency.  I feel genuinely sorry for my idleness in this respect.  I have taken advantage of His Grace.  This is especially poignant when I remember that in Ezekiel chapter 16 God reveals the real reason why He burned Sodom - it was for idleness!  When I saw that, I tell you, it was a real and total game-changer. 

Please don't misunderstand me.  I'm not going to take on the mind-set of a martyr or anything like that.  I know what The Lord has called me to do, here:  it is to labour in His vineyard, and in the corner He has apportioned to me.  And with the Lord being my helper, that is exactly what I plan to do.  And I pray that you will find it a blessing.

In conclusion, I ask you to do your part, please.  By this, I mean that I would like you to provide your feedback.  For example, it would be nice for me and your fellow readers to know how my articles here and my YouTube uploads have blessed you.  Also, if there is a question you would like to ask, please feel free to do so.  And if you see a question, and you think you have some insight to offer, please feel free to do so in this respect also.  But then, there is the question of disagreement.  As we go along, and in so doing cover a wide range of subjects and themes, it is only human nature that we will encounter themes and subjects on which we will differ.  I have two things to say about this: the first is, again, please feel free to do so, but please keep it civilised.  If we disagree, let us do so in a Christian way - that is, let us remember the Lord who bought us with His own blood on the Cross of Calvary.  Secondly, please pray for me as I consider the themes and subjects covered, that they will be spiritually profitable to everyone who reads them, even if sometimes they may be a little demanding.  Remember this also, that in everything my absolute number one priority will be, what does the Lord want me to do in all this?

God bless you, and thank you for visiting.