Grace and Peace

“And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬-‭7‬ ‭NLT

The structure of Paul’s letters is not something we use today. We are more likely to end our missives with sentiments such as “grace and peace”, rather than start them. But why did Paul think the Roman Christians needed these qualities. Both of these words define necessities for the human soul. Without them conflicts within and without us will lead to destruction. Medically, illnesses and conditions like heart attacks and strokes, can be caused by reacting to the situations around us without grace and internal peace.

Take for example a modern phenomenon called road rage. The occurrences of anger that is invoked when another driver behaves in a way that we think is dangerous, or unfair. Such events happen in road works, when another driver thinks he can jump a queue of traffic, cutting in dangerously and forcing another driver to brake suddenly. Without a supply of grace, the driver who thinks he has been wronged may react with anger, resulting in a rise in blood pressure and risking a stroke or some other heart-related ailment. There were no road rage incidents in Ancient Rome but there would have been other occasions where a similar response would have been common.

So what is “grace and peace”? Taking grace first, the Cambridge On-line Dictionary has several meanings, but the one closest to what we’re interested in is “approval or kindness, especially (in the Christian religion) that is freely given by God to all humans“. That definition is for something that theologians refer to as “common grace”, demonstrated by verses such as Matthew 5:45b, “… For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike“. In those terms, there is no advantage to being a Christian – God’s common grace covers all that mankind needs for life, and it extends to everyone. However, there is a much nobler definition of grace, and that extends to God’s willingness to forgive everyone of their sins if they believe in Jesus’s sacrificial death at Calvary. There He took on Himself the sins of mankind, exchanging them for His righteousness. And now those who repent of their sins before the Cross will experience the grace of God. A common acronym is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. So Paul asked that “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” gives us grace. We need it for our continuing relationship with God and we need it for living redemptively with those around us. And more of it, please God!

Similarly, peace is something much needed in our pilgrimages through life. We’re not talking just about peace as being the opposite of war. Again, our dictionary defines peace as being, “the state of not being interrupted or annoyed by worry, problems, noise or unwanted actions“. But this only partially applies to what Paul was talking about. Philippians 4:7 reads, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus“. Godly peace involves faith in God Himself. A faith that is built on the foundation that God is who He says He is, and that He keeps His promises. A faith that will sustain us through all the trials and tribulations of life. A faith that, through Jesus, we will one day be able to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Now that is real peace. In John 14:27, Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid“. Now that is real peace. More of it, please God!

Paul, in asking that God gives us grace and peace, was calling down a blessing as essential to the lives of believers as the food we eat. Real soul food that we need for our spiritual lives. Food that will sustain us through our earthly lives. And we need a constant supply of it. Day by day. And the amazing thing is that God’s grace and peace is unlimited. We only have to reach out and accept the gifts so tenderly offered to us by our loving Heavenly Father. Gifts far more precious than any shiny earthly bauble.

Dear Father God. We are so grateful that You know exactly what we need for a godly life, and have made provision for us to receive it. We purchase our soul-food direct from Heaven through the blood of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You Lord. Amen.

The Second Death (2)

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”‭‭
Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭NIVUK

“But as for the cowards and unbelieving and abominable [who are devoid of character and personal integrity and practice or tolerate immorality], and murderers, and sorcerers [with intoxicating drugs], and idolaters and occultists [who practice and teach false religions], and all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth], their part will be in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭AMP‬‬

In the last blog we unpacked what God was saying about the cowardly and the unbelieving. And we now move onto to consider the “vile” and “the sexually immoral“. Other translations use words such as “corrupt”, “abominable” or “dirty-minded“. The Amplified version of Revelation 21:8 expands the meaning to include all those, “who are devoid of character and personal integrity and practice or tolerate immorality”. 

Sexual immorality is often seen as a grey area, depending on, or influenced by, societal attitudes, liberal theologians, or just downright ignorance. Many have a “if it feels good just do it” attitude. Thankfully we have the God-view as recorded in the Bible. A good place to start is perhaps 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.” Earlier in 1 Corinthians 6, we read this, “Don’t you realise that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality”. Some try and rationalise their behaviour by saying that society has changed since the First Century, and the restrictions and attitudes that were the norm then don’t apply today. The old philosopher, Solomon, writing in Ecclesiastes, noted, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.” (‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:9-10). The Biblical teaching about sex, morality and ethics is just as valid today as it was two thousand years ago. 

Sadly today we have some of our churches and denominations embracing sexual attitudes and customs that are directly in contravention with Biblical teaching. “We have to move with the times”, they say, and in the process they consign themselves to obscurity and, ultimately, the fires of hell. And our political leaders are even introducing legislation that directly opposes the morals and practices that are deeply embedded in our Christian faith. God’s words to John in Revelation 21:8 make it very clear that those who choose to select the Scriptures they like and reject those that they don’t, thus trying to justify their sinful behaviour, will be heading for the second death. 

God also mentioned to John about the fate awaiting “murderers“. I can hear many breathing a sigh of relief because they have never murdered anyone. But before they adopt the moral high ground, Jesus too said a few words about murder. We read them in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” It’s not just the act but also the attitude, the thought, that constitutes murder. 

We pilgrims must always honestly and soberly assess what we are thinking and doing. It is so easy to get sucked into societal thinking and end up diluting the purity of our faith. Whether it is sexual temptations or murderous thoughts, we must be remember the warning Peter included in his first epistle, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:8). We all have our weaknesses. We must bring all our thoughts and deeds under God’s spotlight and allow the Holy Spirit to help us “stand firm…” in our faith. 

Dear Father God. Again we thank You for reminding us of the things we must avoid. We thank You for Your grace and patience. Please help us to “Stay alert” as Peter advised. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


“And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”
‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:26-27‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul moves on to the problem of anger. He quotes Psalm 4:4, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent“. There were many circumstances in Paul’s world that caused anger, much as there are today. The Psalmist, David, knew the problems of being angry many years before Paul echoed his agreement. And we look around us and find how destructive anger can be. For example, in our days, so called “road rage” attacks frequently grab the news headlines. A driver getting angry with what he perceives as another driver’s bad driving. Words and actions can quickly get out of hand leading to terrible outcomes. 

Unlike lies, though, which we considered in the previous verse, anger can lead to a right outcome in the right circumstances. But we have to channel our anger into righteous ways. I get angry when I see the current news reports of atrocities committed in Ukraine, but the feelings of anger drive me to prayer. Jesus became angry when He observed the lack of faith by the people and leaders in the synagogue – the story is in Mark 3. We read, “He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts…”. Jesus felt anger as do we, but He gave us a model to emulate. He channelled His anger into a healing.

Closer to home, a bad driver fails to make me respond. And I don’t react any more to a queue-jumper in a supermarket. I’m sure you, my readers, behave the same. But sometimes something happens that does make us angry, creating the opportunity for a negative reaction. Being wrongly accused of something we haven’t done. Having a row with a spouse. Experiencing an injustice committed by a neighbour or workmate. All these things can provide a basis for anger. And David’s advice in Psalm 4, echoed by Paul in our verses today, was to be careful we don’t react wrongly through anger, instead dealing with the issue before we go to bed and then overnight allowing the Holy Spirit to bring into play God’s perspective. The last thing we need or want is for the devil to gain a hold over us. 

In our pilgrimage through life we will come across much that makes us angry. There will be situations we meet that seem tailor-made to press a button inside of us marked “Anger”. You know – it’s a red button that will set off a series of events or emotions seemingly beyond our control if it’s pressed. We all have one. And even if we don’t think we do, the devil will find it and press it, given the chance. So Paul’s advice was timely, relevant and appropriate. If anyone had an excuse to become angry it was Paul, imprisoned for his devotion and service to Christ. But he channelled his anger into prayer and writing letters. Recording for posterity life-truths for our benefit, even many years later. Thanks Paul.

The Silent God

“O God, do not be silent! 
Do not be deaf. Do not be quiet, O God. 
Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? 
Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up? 
“Come,” they say, “let us wipe out Israel as a nation. 
We will destroy the very memory of its existence.””
‭Psalms‬ ‭83:1-2, 4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Feelings of fear and anxiety are rising up in Israel. The Jewish people see their enemies amassing their military assets just over the border. They hear other reports of enemy alliances, conspiring to eliminate the Jews from the face of the earth. And they are fearful. You can just imagine the talk on street corners, in the pub, over the dinner tables. Ratcheting up the feelings of worry and helplessness, as they look up the road or at the horizon, scanning for signs of the coming of war. The menfolk taking their swords and spears out of the rafters, polishing and sharpening, but hoping they won’t be needed. And then along comes Asaph the writer of this Psalm. “Wake up, God!” was his cry. And he forensically lays out before God the scale of the problem. The military intelligence. The predicament God’s people were in. As if God wasn’t aware of what was going on. And Asaph continues with some graphic details of what he wanted God to do about the situation. Some theologians have concluded that this Psalm may have been a prophesy about Israel’s Six Day war in 1967. But however the situation appears today, Israel was in a pickle.

The world as we know it has always seemed to be gripped by strife. Both within and without nations. And the pettiest of situations seems to ignite a response far beyond reason. There seems to be something within human beings that reacts badly when provoked. Pride, individual and national, rears its ugly head. Political leaders stir up dissent, stoking the embers of nationalism into flames of strife. And before people can take stock of what is happening, another unnecessary war erupts, with death and destruction following.

As Christians, how should we respond to social unrest, to wars, to nationalistic threats, to all types of aggression? Jesus’s teaching was clear. He counter-culturally taught about loving enemies. Going the second mile. Giving in to aggressive acts. Because by doing so we would then display God’s love for people through us. Difficult I know, but we have to take the long view. Perhaps one day how we have responded in love to an aggressive situation will birth the seed of a new life in Christ. So we bring our natural feelings of anger to the Cross, asking God to deal with them, and the situation that is bothering us. We pray for our enemies, for those around us intent on creating mayhem and stirring up trouble. We pray for those in society, in our communities, who seem unable to understand or accept that their behaviour is hurting their fellow neighbours and friends. We pray for our governmental leaders, that God’s will would prevail in their lives and in their political acts. And we allow God to deal with the people, the nations, as we gaze forward to the new Kingdom, that’s coming, that’s just over the horizon.


“Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.”
Psalm 4:4

In the middle of this Psalm, David suddenly remembers the destructive force of anger. Earlier in the Psalm he has been musing about people who are making false allegations against him.  He mentions the destructive forces of their lies, potentially ruining his reputation. But he is confident in his God, who he knows will hear him when he calls, who will answer his prayers, who will always be there for him. And that is all that matters to him. But there must have been something welling up within him, pushing back against the mayhem, tempting him into a reaction fuelled by anger. David reflects on the controlling tendency of angry thoughts and actions, and he knows it will lead to sin if allowed to proceed unchecked. 

Anger is a common problem with society and for anyone living within it. We can get angry over all sorts of things. A thoughtless driver who cuts in front of us in a queue of traffic. A bad mannered person reaching across us in a supermarket for the last packet of Tea Cakes or Snowballs (specialities much prized in Scotland). A husband or wife upset about their spouse not agreeing with their plans. The list is endless. But anger in itself is not wrong. Jesus Himself became angry on several occasions, we are told in the Gospels. One example is in Mark 3:5, “[Jesus] looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” Jesus had every right to be angry with the behaviour of the Pharisees. But He didn’t sin through it – He dealt with the issue and moved on. 

That is how we too must behave. When anger knocks at the door of our hearts, we must deal with any issues if we can. Otherwise we must follow the Psalmist David’s advice and “Think about it overnight”. Things will look different in the morning.


“Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favour lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalms‬ ‭30:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

These two verses in Psalm 30 capture the positive conditions of singing, praising, favour and joy. But they also include the negatives of anger and weeping. As humans we have the ability to encounter and experience many different emotions, both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Some people seem to swing from one extreme to another in their pilgrimage through life. Others seem much more emotionally stable. And in our interaction with society we encounter situations and circumstances that can invoke both negative and positive emotional responses, requiring serious personal time to process and resolve.

There is much about people that will cause God to become angry. But we are His creation. He made us with the ability to make choices, and as we observe society around us, we see the many consequences of choices, both good and bad. Some choices we make will inevitably make God angry. But He is gracious and merciful, quick to forgive and forget the sins of His repentant people. For those who have chosen to be amongst His “godly ones”, there is the exhortation to sing out His praises. And in the bubble of His favour the sorrow and weeping is replaced by morning joy.

How do you “feel” this morning? Full of joy? If not, start singing His praises and enjoy His favour. Saying that, sing His praises anyway. We can’t praise God too much.