God’s Power and Glory

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36 NLT

Paul finishes his musings about the greatness of God with the thought that God holds everything in its place through His power and for His glory. Of course, we know that God is good and nothing bad can come from Him, don’t we? Surely to do what we perceive are “bad things” must be impossible for Him. However, God receives much blame for the negative things that go on in the world. For the wars. For someone’s illness. For a mugging in the street. Because it’s raining on a summer holiday. Blame is aimed at Him, whether trivial or serious. Even insurance companies refer to an uninsured loss as an “Act of God”.

We pilgrims know that sometimes God disciplines His people, either corporately or individually. At the time we might think that God is capriciously dealing out some form of punishment for our misdemeanours, and we mistakenly feel that God is not good anymore. But in Hebrews 12:5-6 we read, “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child””. God is always seeking our highest good, and when we stray off the narrow path, He will never hesitate in drawing us back to the right way, even if it involves us in some pain. And we have Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them“. Scripture tells us that God dispenses good gifts. We read in James 1:17, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow”. 

So where does all the bad stuff come from? Can any of it be attributed to God? Obviously one source is sin and another is from the devil, although we can read Old Testament accounts of God allowing, or even making, bad things to happen. He may even initiate them for His redemptive purposes. Or bring them in judgement, as we saw in the Old Testament accounts of the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. We also know that God abhors sin, but allows it to run its course, for now. We may observe, read about, or even experience, an illegal act, such as an assault, which would violate God’s moral code. Surely He should intervene or at least, bring some form of punishment? But we know that one day Books will be opened and everyone who has ever lived, or will live, will have to account for their deeds, facing into the consequential punishment for their actions. We should note, however, that we sometimes confuse bad things with immoral things – God’s morality is above reproach.

The other difficulty we have when considering the bad stuff that happens to people, is that, although it may happen by accident, it may not be stoppable. As an example, a friend of mine tripped over in his garden yesterday and banged his head and cut his arm in the process. Should God have stopped that happening? Accidents happen in our world, whether we like it or not. Although God is of course capable of stopping them, and may do so from time to time, we cannot expect Him to intervene at every occurrence. What about natural disasters? Should God have stopped the recent earthquake in Turkey? The Revelation account tells us that this may be one more sign of the End Times.

The conclusion we can draw from Scripture is that God will give us gifts that are good. A sinful world suffers bad things, but in this time of God’s grace we can assure ourselves a future that is going to be good and perfect. God holds the world together for His ultimate glory, but He allows mankind to make its choices. And choosing sin will inevitably bring bad stuff to our world. Through Jesus, the ultimate “Good Gift”, we can find forgiveness for our sins. And through it all, we give God the glory that is rightfully His. We may not fully understand why things happen, good or bad, but we trust God, because only He can see the end from the beginning, and every stage in between.

Dear Father God. Only You know the words of eternal life. Only You can be trusted in this sin-tainted world. So, we thank You for Your grace and love – where would we be without it? Amen.

The Lord’s Thoughts

“For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?”
Romans 11:34-35 NLT

Again Paul dives into his memories and quotes two Old Testament Scriptures, one from Isaiah and one from Job. He was surely well versed and even “steeped” in the Jewish Scriptures, making it all the more remarkable that he was able to embrace the Christian faith. But then he had a life changing encounter with Jesus back on the Damascus Road. 

The first Scripture he quoted from was from Isaiah 40:13, in a section labelled “The Lord Has No Equal” in my Bible translation. Isaiah wrote, “Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?” (Isaiah 40:12-14). These questions seem so obvious that it is a wonder that they were asked in the first place. But in Isaiah’s day perhaps the wonder of the world around him caused mankind to question how it all happened. Our specialists in earth sciences today issue the results of their investigations and research, puffed up with their “factual” explanations of how it all happened. But we have to go to the Creator of the Universe for the answers because there is so much that neither we, nor the so-called experts, know anything about.

There is much going on around us that seems inexplicable. The mother who has lost a child to war, or a businessman whose company has collapsed, or a footballer struck down with motor neurone disease. A nation suffers from famine, or earthquakes. And people and national leaders come up with advice of how God should run the world, and how they would do it so much better. They perhaps question if God knows what he is doing. They try and offer advice – “If it was up to me, I would …”.

We pilgrims know that there is a God in Heaven. And we acknowledge that we could never know His thoughts. But Isaiah 40 famously ends with these much-quoted verses, “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31). 

We pilgrims “trust in the Lord” knowing that there is no other way. And through His Spirit we too can “soar high on wings like eagles”, never needing to fret over our lack of understanding of God’s thoughts and ways. We trust that He is a God of righteousness and justice. We know that He is behind our every breath. And freed from the worry of finding answers to seemingly inexplicable world and societal events, we can perhaps have a glimpse of God’s perspective, as we soar high above all that is going on. We read the news reports and feel God’s pain with the sinful practices of men. We experience our own challenges, with health or finances, with family difficulties – the list seems endless sometimes – but we trust that our loving Heavenly Father is there with us, holding our hands and even carrying us through the pain. Perhaps answers will only come when we see Him in Heaven. With David we acknowledge Psalm 18:30-31, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?” There is no other way.

Dear Father. You have supplied us with spiritual wings to allow us to rise up above circumstances. Please forgive us for the time we spend worrying about what is happening around us and instead please help us to trust in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Riches, Wisdom and Knowledge

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!”
Romans 11:33 NLT

At the end of a passage where Paul has considered God’s gracious mercy to both His chosen people, Israel, and the Gentiles, or non-Jews, he is overwhelmed by God. Paul cannot get his mind around all that God is and does, and lapses into praise. And failing to fathom the depths of God, he exclaims, “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” Paul had a very healthy view of God’s greatness and his lowliness. Perhaps he would have considered himself to be a clay pot wondering how the potter created him. But Paul realised that through all the agonising about his people, and when they would be saved, if at all, he realised that, in the end, it is all about God.

As Paul realised, we can never enter God’s domain and think His thoughts and share in His plans. God said in Isaiah 55:8-9, ““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” But Paul looked up and received a glimpse of God through a human-limited fog, understanding once again that God’s greatness is beyond his experience. And we realise that as well. We too can only marvel how unlimited God is, in all His ways, thoughts and deeds. 

I heard recently of how a conference speaker was delayed in reaching the departure gate at an airport, to find that her plane was being rolled back from the terminus, and she had missed it. The next one involved a wait of four hours, meaning that she would miss the first conference session. Finally boarding this flight she found herself sitting next to a smartly dressed businessman who opened a conversation, asking what she did for a living. To cut a long story short, the speaker led him to making a decision for Jesus. Did God engineer circumstances to allow His grace to reach someone in desperate need? Someone more important to God than a conference preach? We don’t know God’s plans, but sometimes the circumstances accumulate to the extent that, in hindsight, we see His hand at work.

Paul knew he would never understand God’s ways. But he trusted Him. His life was totally committed to serving God, come what may. And he ended up suffering all sorts of abuse for the sake of the Gospel. He allowed God to use him, whatever the need was. Are we pilgrims totally committed to serving God, regardless of what the cost will be? We aren’t all Pauls of course. But, like the conference speaker, we may find ourselves in a situation that may be inconvenient but one that figures big-time in God’s plans. Whenever things go wrong, upsetting our schedules, perhaps we need to look to see if God is doing something, keeping our eyes and ears open to leverage any opportunities for the sake of the Gospel. 

Paul was overwhelmed in wonder about God’s “riches and wisdom and knowledge”. Everything about God combines to provide an unlimited and total ability to reign and rule over the earth and all who live in it. We pilgrims need to keep our spiritual eyes and ears wide open in obedient service to the One who knows all things.

Dear God. You are the Source of everything. Nothing happens without Your permission. And we trust You with all that we are and all that we have, knowing that You care for us in every way. We thank You and praise You today. Amen.


“Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy. For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.”
Romans 11:30-32 NLT

A rebel is someone who opposes an authority, such as the government, or an employer, or even a parent or guardian. The act of rebellion manifests itself in various ways, ranging from being mildly awkward in response to an instruction, through to armed resistance. It could be exposed through written reports via newspapers or social media outlets such as Twitter. During this past weekend there was the celebration of the coronation of King Charles III in the UK. He was installed as the monarch of these islands in a ceremony enjoyed by most of the inhabitants, but there was a vocal minority intent on causing disruption in their rebellion against the new King. Sometimes rebellion can be justified, perhaps if it is against an unjust power, but much of the civil rebellion manifesting in the UK at the moment is by a small number of people promoting their own particular ideologies, which aren’t shared by the majority of the citizens of this land.

But we see rebellion particularly when it comes to people’s relationship God, if they even have one. Most people will deny that He even exists, or that, if He does, He is of no relevance to them. The Old Testament is full of accounts of the rebellion of the Israelites towards God. For example, Psalm 78:7-8, “So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God”. The rest of this Psalm details God’s response to a rebellious generation. Sober reading.

Paul said that because of the rebellion of His people, God instead showed mercy to the Gentiles. Jesus Himself warned His generation about the consequences of refusing God. We read in the Wicked Farmers’ parable Jesus’s conclusion, “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit” (Matthew 21:43). Rebellion is the wrong fruit. God is looking for the fruit of obedience.

But what did Paul mean when he said that God “imprisoned everyone in disobedience”? The Message translates this as, “ … In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.” Perhaps those people who have experienced the depths of sin, revelling in disobedience towards God, are transformed by God’s love when they discover His grace and mercy. I used to know a drug addict, who plumbed the depths of a life style of depravity, but who became a great evangelist after God lifted him out of his pit. In the story of a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears at the home of a Pharisee called Simon, Jesus made this observation, “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love” (Luke 7:47). 

God will not stop anyone from rebelling against Him. He will still be gracious enough to maintain the systems the rebels depend upon for their existence, such as the basics of life – air to breathe, and so on. But God will withdraw His mercy from them, and He will hand them over to the consequences of their rebellious choices. In that state the rebels can continue, in apparent blissful ignorance of what will happen to them one day. Jesus was horrified about the prospects for those who rejected God and His grace. Perhaps we should be as well, making sure that we ourselves are not counted amongst the rebels, and exposing those around us to God’s grace and mercy.

Dear Father God. Your love and grace knows no limits. We thank You for all You have done, and will do, for us. Amen.



“Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.”
Romans 11:28-29 NLT

The second God-quality that Paul mentioned in Romans 11:29 concerned God’s calling. He said that it “can never be withdrawn”. We are born into a life on this planet that will provide us with many opportunities, and amongst them is something inbuilt into our DNA – the ability to hear and obey God’s calling. Of course, most people, Christians or not, will fail to hear His call, and will live a life driven by their own selfish desires, with a “calling” that is from a demanding and capricious society, drowning out any thoughts or guidance from the One who created us. 

The prophet Isaiah penned a lovely picture of God’s heart, as recorded in Isaiah 55. God’s invitation, His calling, reached out to His people and we can just imagine a loving Father, so desperate to see a positive response from His children. “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David” (Isaiah 55:1-3). How tragic it is, that most people in our Western societies totally reject this call, even if they heard it in the first place. With ears tightly closed to block out out any words from God, they stumble on through life regardless, not realising that His words contain such a wonderful  eternal and life-changing invitation.

I’m writing this blog the day after the coronation of the British king, Charles III. Imagine if, in the weeks before, a card dropped through our letterboxes saying that he would like us to be a guest at this auspicious event. I’m sure most of us here in the UK would have jumped at the chance. What an honour, we would think. And the RSVP at the foot of the card would have prompted an immediate response, a massive “Yes”. God has sent mankind such an invitation, but, sadly, very few respond, even with a “No thanks”. 

Jesus came to this world as a physical manifestation of God’s invitation card. The words recorded by God’s prophets and delivered to His people so often went unheeded. But God wasn’t going to give up, and He sent His most precious Son, who willingly and humbly came to show us the way to the Father and eternal life with Him. Jesus returned to Heaven, mission accomplished, but 200 years later God’s call still hangs in the air. We pilgrims answered Him with a massive “Yes!”, and he left us with the responsibility to extend His calling into the whole world. 

Imagine if King Charles had failed to see a response to his invitation and then sent one of his trusted servants to seek us out just to make sure we received it. We would be so touched, I imagine, but that is what God did. Mankind failed to respond to His prophets so He sent His Son. But instead of responding positively, the people of His day rejected Him and killed Him. Jesus set out this exact scenario in His “Parable of the Evil Farmers” as recorded in Luke 20.

We pilgrims have a mission that Jesus left us with. We all know the Scripture in Matthew 28. Let us not waste any time in reminding people of God’s invitation, before it is too late. Because the next time the Trusted Servant, God’s Son, comes it will be too late. The invitation card is on the table now. We don’t know when the celebration will be, so we must encourage those around us to RSVP while there is still time.

Father God. We know You have issued an invitation to the world to join Your family. Please help us to deliver the message to our friends and families. they will be eternally grateful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


“Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.”
Romans 11:28-29 NLT

God is unchanging. The promises He has made, and still makes, are always fulfilled. And one promise He made concerned His chosen people. Deuteronomy 10:14-15, “Look, the highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God. Yet the Lord chose your ancestors as the objects of his love. And he chose you, their descendants, above all other nations, as is evident today”. Paul wrote that God’s gifts and calling can never be withdrawn. And he adds that even though many of the Jews rejected Jesus when He came to Planet Earth, that didn’t stop Him loving them. To God, His chosen people were not like a garment, worn one day and discarded into the recycling the next. They were, and are, His forever people.  

We pilgrims should note two things from Romans 11:29 – God gives gifts and He calls us. When we think about gifts, we immediately associate this with a present or something personal. There are gifts of money, or something that is just for us personally. A gadget or trinket. An object, gift wrapped and hidden behind the packaging. The “wise men” from the East brought gifts for Jesus – we know them well from the Christmas story, recorded in Matthew 2. And we know, of course, that Jesus was a gift given for mankind as a whole. Through His willingness to be sacrificed at Calvary, we receive what is the greatest gift of all, as we read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”. Eternal Life is a priceless gift. It costs us nothing, but instead cost Jesus His life. All we have to do is accept Jesus and His message, responding in repentance for our sins. 

Jesus informed His disciples about the Source of gifts. Matthew 7:11, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him”. We read in 1 Corinthians 12 about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. …  A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:4,7). And then we read about the “gifts” God gave His church, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). In fact, as we look through the Bible, the last conclusion we can draw is that God is reluctant to give gifts. He is so generous and kind, giving us the gifts we need for life here on this planet. Not temporal gifts, received one day and discarded the next, but those that will last for eternity. “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17).

We too need to emulate our loving Father by giving good gifts to others. And in the process we will benefit in some way. “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38).

We have a loving Heavenly Father who cares for us. Who looks after us. And who will welcome us one day into Heaven. Why does He care for us so much? Because He loves us so much. How else can we respond to Him unless it involves all the gratitude and worship that we can muster.

Dear Father. Thank You for all the gifts You provide for us, through Your grace and love. We worship You today. Amen.

The Rescue

“I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.””
Romans 11:25-27 NLT

Paul writes that there will be a time of salvation for the Jews. We don’t know when that will be but we do know that one day it will happen. Paul loosely quoted two verses from the Old Testament Scriptures, ““The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the Lord. “And this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 59:20-21). We have to visit this section of Scripture to determine the context. These verses in Isaiah are at the end of a chapter where the prophet provides warnings about sin and wickedness. And the Redeemer is none other than Jesus Himself. Of course, we know that He died just outside the city walls at Jerusalem for the redemption of all sins, an act with eternal consequences, and Isaiah continues to reveal that the Lord’s Spirit will remain forever, never leaving His redeemed people. 

But Paul was perhaps also writing about a day when the people of Israel finally turn to their Redeemer. Their hearts will soften from the current hardness, and “all Israel will be saved”. If the Jews rejected their Redeemer when He came to this earth, what would make them change their collective minds? We mustn’t forget that Jesus has an appointment, marked in His Heavenly calendar, to return to earth a second time. We read in Acts 1:9-11, “After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”” We don’t know when “someday” will be of course, but we know that it will happen, as the angels foretold. We also know where He will return to, because He ascended from the Mount of Olives, as we read in Acts 1:12, “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile.” We also know what the weather will be like on the day He returns because it will be cloudy. But even though we know something about how Jesus will return, we don’t know when, other than Paul’s assertion that first, the “full number” of Gentiles must convert to believing in Christ. 

We also know from other Scriptures that Jesus will not return as a baby child, but very visibly with great power and glory. “For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. … And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:27,30). Perhaps this will be the time when the Jews will finally be saved. Matthew 24:31, “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

But whatever we pilgrims believe, God’s plans for His human creation will come together one day. All will make sense then, in case we are puzzled about how it is all going to happen. God has the eternity view. Time is no problem to Him. Unlike us, He is not constrained by calendars and human events. God gave a prophetic message of the salvation of the Jews through Paul’s pen, and one day there will be a huge crowd of Jews and Gentiles in Heaven, united in praise and worship to our wonderful Heavenly Father.

Dear Father. We look forward to that day when You will be worshipped by all Your people. What can we say, other than echo that phrase from the last chapter of Revelation – “Come Lord Jesus”. Amen.

The Full Number

“I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.”
Romans 11:25 NLT

Paul unfurls a mystery before his readers. He said that while the people of Israel, the Jews, refuse the Gospel, the gentiles will benefit from God’s grace. But this won’t last forever, because there is a limit on the number of Gentiles who will come to Christ. The obvious question, of course, is – how many is the “full number”? Is God close to achieving that number? We don’t know – only God does. But there is coming a day when God will decree enough! And then we will see the hearts of the Jews responding at last to their Messiah. 

Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 24:14, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” The implication is that the “full number of Gentiles” won’t be achieved until the whole world, including all nations and people groups, have heard the “Good News about the Kingdom”. One statement that people who try to find fault with God suggest is that He isn’t fair, because there is always the possibility that someone, somewhere, will never hear the Gospel, implying that they will be denied the opportunity to respond to God. A good answer is perhaps the suggestion that if this concerns them then they should sign up to be a missionary just in case, and go and search out remote peoples and nations tucked away in some inaccessible corner of the globe. But, almost as a catch all, Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God”. Jesus said that the Gospel will be preached everywhere, but Paul follows that up by the thought that people don’t really have an excuse if they fail to respond to God. One day, we will all stand before God but secure in the knowledge that He will certainly always be fair. People will only ever be judged on what they know, not what they don’t know. And we can rest assured that everyone will be judged by what they know, not what they don’t know.

We currently live in a season of grace. The full number of Gentiles as not yet been reached – we know that, because we do not yet see the wholesale softening of the hearts of the Jews. But it won’t be long. The number of different translations of the Bible is staggering. The extent and reach of the Gospel is as never before. There is a feeling of urgency in spiritual realms, and we can see the end time story unfolding and aligning itself to world events, just as the old Apostle John wrote in the book of Revelation. So how prepared are we? And how are we communicating that feeling of urgency within our families and communities? Do we pray everyday for God to wake up those around us and soften their hearts so that they will feel the gentle wind of the Spirit flowing around them and through them?

Paul wrote about the mystery of how God made the Gospel available to the Gentiles. Our gratitude can know no limits. God’s love for His family, regardless of their origin, is mixed with His grace to reach everyone who is open to Him. It is a mystery no more. It is reality.

Dear Father God. Once again we thank You for Your grace and love. Please lead us to anyone who has not yet responded positively to Your Good News. Over our lives we have planted many Gospel seeds. Please bring on a time of harvest before the final click of Your salvation clock. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


“And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.
Romans 11:23-24 NLT

Paul returns to his analogy of Jesus being the olive tree, and branches representing His people, Jew or Gentile. And he makes a comparison between the “wild olive” branches, representing the Gentiles who had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and the original branches, representing the Jews, God’s chosen people. Both types of branch, however, drew their sustenance from God’s “cultivated tree”. Paul makes a statement that implies that being grafted into His tree was contrary to nature, but that God was willing to do it. Was God being grudging and reluctant in allowing this to happen, as perhaps we could interpret from Paul’s wording? The use of the phrase “far more eager” implies that God is more inclined to His people, the Jews, than anyone else. But is this the case?

Of course not, we exclaim! God has no favourites we cry! We quote the words of Jesus in John 3:17, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him”. The word “world” implies everyone, not just the Jews. And we also read 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth”. So what was Paul meaning in these verses from Romans 11?

Paul, I believe, was appealing to his Jewish audience. Perhaps those on the periphery of the early church in Rome, or his fellow Jews who happened to read his epistle. He was reminding them of the special place in God’s heart for His people. Back in Deuteronomy we read about God’s instructions , given through Moses, for the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land. We read in Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure”. Although God wanted the other nations around Israel eliminated at that time because of their wickedness and idolatry, He had a plan for the whole world.

But we pilgrims know that, even if we are “wild olive branches” grafted into the Olive Tree who is Christ, we are now adopted into God’s family. In Paul’s day, adoption was a special and honoured status, never second best. And so it is with us. We are also God’s treasure, because we responded to His calling and became part of His family. So there will be a day when the original branches, God’s chosen people, will be grafted back into the Olive Tree, and will join us Wild Olives in a cacophony of praise to our wonderful God. We praise our wonderful Heavenly Father today.

Dear Father God. We thank You for Your wonderful plan, executed when Jesus came to this world, to save the world through Him. Amen.

Kind and Severe

“Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off.”
Romans 11:22 NLT

Paul wrote that “God is both kind and severe”.  This is not something we hear very often. We talk much about the grace and love of God. About His loving kindness. About His forgiveness for repentant sinners. But severe? A severe God perhaps stirs up feelings within us of a parent, or someone else in authority over us, like a teacher, who was unloving or overly strict. Memories of a detention at school, perhaps unfairly applied, surface again. And those of us old enough to remember the days of corporal punishment in schools experience, once again, the pain and tears. 

But we have to face into the reality that God is a righteous God. And if we reflect on this, we see that He could not be anything else. If He wasn’t fair and righteous in all He does, then the universe would have descended into chaos long ago. However, whether we like it or not, we live in a God-created moral universe. Throughout the creation story in Genesis 1 we read that after each day, God said that it was good. And then we read Genesis 1:31, “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day”. For the Creator of the world, our righteous God, to say that something is good, means that His character is in-built to make it so. We tend to think that the world around us is physical but there is a spiritual creation in it as well. And because of that there has to be a balance to right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. The Psalmist, as recorded in Psalm 73, was faced with a dilemma. He almost lost his trust in God when he looked around and saw how wicked people lived lives of luxury, when he apparently struggled to survive. We read in Psalm 73:1-3, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness”. He mused about the injustice of the situation, until he finally discovered the truth. Psalm 73:16-17, “So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked”. We humans want to see justice dispensed in our lifetimes. We want to see those who commit crimes, and apparently get away with it, come before a judge before the victims pass on. We want to see greedy company owners and corrupt politicians held to account. But we must be assured that one day there will be a day of justice, when God will square the circle and deliver the justice His creation, His universe, His righteousness, demands. We trust our wonderful Heavenly Father, and we don’t have to fret like the Psalmist, thinking that evil people who commit wrongs will get away with it.

Paul said that God is severe and well as kind. We like to think of the kind God, but we must never forget that God is severe with those who disobey Him. Just because He is patient, and apparently overlooks sin, doesn’t mean He has forgotten it. One day there will be a time when God’s severity will be revealed for all to see. The Apostle John had a vision about the final time of reckoning. He wrote, “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12-13). There are people, even Christians, who dispute these events, saying that when we die we will experience nothing, as if we just went to sleep without ever waking up. They are call annihilationists and believe that consciousness as we know it will cease when we die. But that isn’t what the Bible says. And God’s moral universe would have been violated if that was the case. 

We pilgrims know of course that God is a balanced Person. His character has many facets that all blend into a Whole, and severity is in there somewhere, along with love and kindness. But we must never forget what Jesus said to His disciples, as recorded in Matthew 10:28, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell“. Now that is something we pilgrims should note!

Father God. We know that You are a God of righteousness and love. We praise and worship You today, with thanks for being a Parent who only wants what is best for us. Please help us not to stray from Your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.