“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.”
Romans 5:18-19 NLT

What does “condemnation” feel like? We looked yesterday at the analogy of a prisoner in the dock about to be condemned to an eternal life sentence, but suddenly declared not guilty when Someone stepped forward to take the punishment in our place. But without that gracious act, we would have been condemned. Rightfully of course. The Judge is fair and incorruptible. The evidence of our guilt indisputable. There is only one possible verdict. There is no miscarriage of justice possible. An appeal to a higher court disallowed, because there isn’t one. Without Jesus we have no hope.

The condemned will spend eternity in a place called Hell. It will be a place of eternal torment. A place of fire and heat. The devil will be there, hardly an attractive thought. And God won’t be there of course. And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. All glimpses of a terrible place that we can find in the Bible. Most of what we know about hell came from Jesus. But most unbelievers today don’t believe in a place called hell. There is whole raft of expectations, ranging from obscurity and nothing after we die, through to everyone will end up in a place called Heaven. All with little evidence to support their views. Death and what happens afterwards is not a popular topic for conversation down the pub, or on the bus.

But we won’t dwell on such a place. Rather, we focus on what Jesus did for us. “Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone”. The contrast between Adam and Jesus is stark. One brought sin into the world. The Other dealt with it in “one act of righteousness”. The condemned are released into a new life with God. A life we can start to experience here in the time we have left in our natural lives. And after that we have an assurance that we will find a new existence in God’s presence, along with all our brothers and sisters who also put their faith in our amazing Saviour.

Dear Lord Jesus. What You did for us at Calvary surpasses any other event that has ever taken place on this planet. We are so grateful. Amen.


“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”
Romans 4:4-5 NLT

As long as society has been around there has been a system of work and reward. Man’s principle need is for warmth, shelter and food to eat. For Adam, as he tended the Garden of Eden, God’s provision was there to keep him alive and well. There was fruit for food, streams to drink from, and two trees, the fruit of the one to keep him permanently alive, “the tree of life”, and the fruit of another tree that provided the knowledge of “good and evil”. We know the story and what happened. But ever since, and as a consequence of, what we call the “Fall”, men and women have had to work hard to provide for their own basic needs. We can read the story in Genesis 3.

In our relationship with God there is a work link between His Kingdom and the earthly kingdom of which we are a part. Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”. Bringing God into our work environment is important, because it provides an added impetus to do well. In our jobs, we get paid for the service we supply. A wage agreed when we start, and is paid regularly during the period of employment. But a problem can occur if we try and take the same principle into God’s Kingdom. Heaven’s economy is not like the economy in the world around us. In our earthly work, we earn not just our wages, but also the praise and encouragement of those we work for. And through that we can earn promotion or other favours. But the important thing about God is that there is nothing we can do to earn His favour, no matter how hard we think we are working for Him. Nothing can make Him love us more.

According to Paul, the currency in God’s Kingdom involves righteousness, and that is acquired by our faith in God, a faith that believes that are sins are forgiven. Through Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, we are now able to stand righteously before God. There is no other way. Through Jesus, and our faith in Him, we receive forgiveness of sins. We can’t earn it by working harder. It doesn’t depend on the number of sermons a minister or pastor preaches. Or the number of times we attend a prayer meeting. Or how many hymn books we hand out on a Sunday. Or how often, even, we clean the church toilets. These things are important, but they won’t gain us forgiveness for our sins. As Paul wrote, “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” 

Dear Father God. We are so grateful for Jesus. We thank You for Your forgiveness of our sins. We believe You – we really do! Amen.

Christ’s Blood

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
Romans 3:23-26 NLT

Paul wrote “people are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood“. We know of course of the historical fact that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross at a place called Calvary, just outside Jerusalem. And we know as well that although Jesus could have called upon sufficient forces to save Him, He instead chose to die in that way, sacrificing Himself for the benefit of mankind. But why this mention of His blood? To find out more about this we have to turn to Hebrews 9, which clearly explains the importance of blood. In Hebrews 9:22, we read, “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness”. Of course, we can claim that we are living in a new dispensation, the New Covenant through Jesus. But there is still an important connection with the Old Covenant emphasis on blood.

For the High Priest to be able to attain God’s presence, blood had to be offered for the forgiveness of sins. We read in Hebrews 9:7, “But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance”. Something significant had to happen to allow the contact with God, and this was the shedding of an animal’s blood. 

We read in Hebrews 9:11-12 that Jesus is now our High Priest. “So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever“. But we can’t stop there. The writer to the Hebrews continued, “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:13-14). 

Jesus willingly offered Himself at Calvary, so that His blood could once and for all time, become the offering that God demands for our redemption. Through Jesus’ blood we can attain the righteousness that meets “God’s glorious standard“. And through faith in God’s free gift of grace, sealed for all eternity by Jesus’ blood, we have our salvation to look forward to on the day that Jesus returns. “God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus”. 

We pilgrims, of course, believe in Jesus. It is more than believing that Jesus came to this world. The devil and his minions all believe that. It is the belief that Jesus not only came to this planet to die at Calvary. It is believing that through His shed blood there we have redemption for our sins. Such a belief is life-changing. But what do those in our families believe? Or our friends and neighbours? once again, I encourage us all to share what Jesus did for us at Calvary. It’s too important a gift not to.

Dear Lord. How can we thank You enough. You faced into a terrible death for me and my fellow pilgrim brothers and sisters. We are so grateful. Amen.

Refusing to Understand

“They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭31‬ ‭NLT

Paul’s rant about those who “thought it foolish to acknowledge God” continues with a damning indictment of their deeds. He lists four qualities that define a mindset befitting wicked and sinful people. 

He firstly says they “refuse to understand”. But what is there that they are closing their minds to? How often have we had a response to some comment or other like “but you just don’t understand”? Perhaps the person, who is apparently being misunderstood, is in the process of some action that is not normal behaviour or is responding strangely to some question or action undertaken by another. A problem easily cleared up most of the time, but what Paul is referring to is the action of wicked people in closing their minds to any explanation or idea that does not fit in with their sinful mindset. For example, walk down any High Street and ask a random person what they think about God. A person prepared to stop and discuss would be a rare response. Mostly, the person would just walk away or even come up with an angry retort. “They refuse to understand” fits their position very well.

In Isaiah 6:9-10, God said to the prophet, “And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” Why was Isaiah given an apparently impossible task? To try and evangelise a people whose hearts had been hardened to the extent that they did not understand anything concerning God anymore. Where is the merciful God in all that?

The answer comes in Romans 1:28, “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking …”. If God abandons them they will lose the ability to hear Him and His words of love and grace. And for most no amount of pleading or evangelising will be able to break into a heart that “refuse[s] to understand”. That was the situation in Isaiah’s day, and such behaviour is still with us today, as it was in Paul’s times.

So what is the remedy for our serial refusers? Will they never be able to turn to God and embrace His words of eternal life? Will they never be able to experience His love? To say so would be to adopt the same position as them, refusing to understand the grace of God. God’s grace can melt the hardest heart. It can penetrate into the very inner core of our beings, as we read in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires”. Even for those He has abandoned there is hope.

So what do we pilgrims do, when faced with an apparent brick wall of unbelief and a refusal to respond from those we love in our families and communities? We persevere. We pray. And we believe in faith that God will find a chink in the armour that protects the hardest of hearts. It happened with me, and I’m sure that it has happened to many of my readers today. Through God’s grace, He revealed Himself to me one Saturday night, penetrating a heart hardened by wrong thinking, by a “refusal to understand”. 

Is there someone reading this today who has a heart that fails to understand God’s love and grace? Who thinks it might apply to someone else but not to them? Through Jesus and His sacrifice at Calvary, we have access to a loving God, but only if we open our hearts before Him and repent of our wickedness and sin. And His love, grace and mercy will flood in, opening a door into a new world of hope.

Dear Father God. Please help us to persevere in our prayers for our loved ones. We name them before You today, in faith that the word they need is, right now, on the way to them. Thank You. Amen.

People Prayers

“Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭8‬-‭9‬ ‭NLT

Paul, in his letter, reassured his Roman friends that he prayed for them. Apparently Paul was in Corinth when he wrote this epistle, and, in spite of his busy schedule, he found the time to pray for the Christians in Rome. I can just imagine him praying for each one by name, bringing before God their individual needs. And it wasn’t just a one off exercise. His prayers were “often” and took place “day and night”. Paul prayed for his friends in Rome, but his main passion and purpose in life was to spread the Good News about Jesus. 

Paul’s blueprint for life involved prayer and evangelism. Pastoral concern and seeing new people touched and converted by the love of God. Making a career in some lofty theological role in the Jewish religions hierarchy was not for Paul, though we do know from other places in the Bible that, when his, and his fellow workers, needs demanded, he went back to his old profession of making tents. Paul’s mission in life was “spreading the Good News about” Jesus. And nothing, even personal hardship and abuse, would divert him from this task. Even when incarcerated in prison, he still carried on – praying and writing was not denied him when his physical freedom was curtailed.

What is our blueprint for life? The normal process is for a child to be educated, train for a profession, get a job, get married, bring up a family, and fade away from this life through a (hopefully long) retirement. A cynical view of humanity? Perhaps, but like Paul, there are priorities to be assigned in life. The God-ordained process of living is governed by one overarching principle – we do what we do with Christ as our focus. Paul wrote to another group of believers these words, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17). And he goes on to write in Colossians 3:23. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” A quote from David Pawson’s book, “Heaven and Hell. A Message of Hope and a Warning to Believers”, “The Lord is more interested in how you work than what your job is. Did you know that? Billy Graham’s wife put above the kitchen sink, “Notice: Divine service is held here three times every day.””

In times of drudgery, it sometimes helps to know that Jesus is there with us. We all go through periods of boredom, times of wishing we had a better job, better boss, better house and so on. But in some miraculous way, as we bring Jesus’ presence into our times of frustration and even depression, a ray of His light will change the perspective. The monochrome will become infused with wonderful colours. The mundane will be transformed and even translated into heavenly realms. Jesus knows what we go through – He went through it Himself on this earth. We don’t know much about His life before He started His itinerant mission to His people, but we do know He was a carpenter and had a reputation for His work. I’m sure the farming and other implements fabricated by His hands were treasured by those who received them. And I’m sure Jesus was continually asking His loving Heavenly Father, “Is it time yet?” We know now is the time, and with God’s help, we pilgrims continue our earthly journey heading for our Heavenly home, always aware of our “Divine Service”. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation“. There is no time like the present to tell our friends and families about the love of Jesus.

Dear Father God. Thank You that we know You. Not for us the ways of the world, leading to eternal destruction. Thank You for Your Son, Jesus, and His willingness to die in our place for our sins. We worship You today. Amen.

It Is Finished

“And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:6-7‬ ‭NLT

These two verses encompass several encouraging messages from God Himself. 

First of all, God said, “It is finished!”, but what was He referring to? We will remember the final words of Jesus from the Cross, as recorded in John 19:30, “When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” At that time, Jesus was declaring that His redemptive work on the Cross had been completed. Through His sacrificial death at Calvary, we can now bring our sins to the foot of the cross, leaving them there in repentance, with the assurance that we are cleansed from our sins and can adopt His righteousness. The divine exchange. But this time, in our Revelation verse, it is God Himself who said “It is finished!”. Perhaps we can refer back to Ephesians 1:9-10, “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfil his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” In Revelation 21:6, God was declaring that His plan to establish His Kingdom, under the rule of Christ, was complete. The “right time” had finally arrived. All the prerequisites complete. All the divine boxes ticked. The “plan”, the “it”, is finished.

Secondly, God reminded John that He was “the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End”. He was saying that He was eternal. He was there at the beginning and will still be there at the end. But because He is the eternal God, He has no beginning and end. This is a difficult concept for us to get our time-bound minds around. God has always been with us, and always will be. We enter the realms of eternity and infinity when we try and think through the implications of the One who is “the Beginning and the End”. 

We pilgrims have much to look forward to. Not only will we join God in Heaven, we will find ourselves also becoming a part of God’s eternal plan. John in his vision was shown a glimpse of these far-in-the-future events, and doubtless he struggled to articulate what was happening. But with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and the occasional angel who popped into his vision, he was able to say all that God wanted him to say.

Of course, we as pilgrims mustn’t focus too deeply about what is going to happen, to the exclusion of all else, because we need to be concerned about what is happening in the here and now. Our faith must take us to people and situations where the love and grace of God can make a difference. Situations where the Gospel can be shared, and our family, friends and neighbours shown the way to eternal life. But we must also occasionally glance upwards to check in with our future Heavenly home and our Heavenly Dad. It is there we will find the Source of our faith. The eternal God, the Beginning and the End.

Dear Father God. There are no words available to totally describe who You are. But in our limited humanity, we worship You today, our Eternal God and Father. Amen.

Number 666

“And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.”
Revelation‬ ‭13:14-18‬ ‭NLT

In John’s vision he saw a horrifying attack on the liberty of mankind. Everyone had to be registered. There were no exceptions. Of course, in the UK, registration, in one form or another, is already in place. We have National Insurance numbers. NHS references. Entries on the Voter’s Roll. My banking is defined by a sort code and account number. My driving Licence has its own unique number. We have passports. A young person sometimes has to have an ID card detailing their age, so that certain age-limited purchases can be made, or entry allowed into some premises. In many respects, personal identification details are essential in UK, and other Western, societies so that the lives we lead can be as smooth as possible. But what the devil had in mind was much more insidious than this. The identification mark was to be visible to all. And this mark was necessary to allow life to be lived the devil’s way. Without the ID, “no one could buy or sell anything”. But how could personal freedom deteriorate to become like this? And why would the “beast” require such a universal action?

First of all we already have the technology to give people a “mark” or ID. Think of bar codes, QR codes or the semiconductor chips contained within bank cards. Dogs in the UK are legally required to have a “chip” inserted in the loose skin around their necks. A few years ago, a media report disclosed that thousands of Swedes were having microchips inserted under their skin, to make life easier when faced with login requirements. So technology is not the problem. The world today has reached the stage where ID requirements have become ubiquitous.

So as populations increasingly become familiar with presenting their ID, perhaps a universal and unique code, visible to all, sounds like a good idea. No more fragmented login requirements. And if a universal login is used for good, I don’t think anyone would complain – it would make their lives easier. But what the devil is up to is more insidious. Once he has the world population marked in this way, he will be able to exert total control over them. And that is really the problem – God created mankind to be able to think for itself, but our enemy the devil wants to control us, thoughts and all. And those who refuse to be “marked” will be effectively outcasts and unable to function within society.

I believe the mark the devil wants to apply will ultimately be capable of being remotely monitored and controlled. Where God created human beings with the ability to make their own choices, the devil’s world wants automatons. John’s vision described a scary world. If the population behaved in a way that suited the devil, the people would be able to live their lives without too much hassle. But the lack of individual freedoms would increase as the rules governing and controlling the population start to be ratcheted up. If we allow our thoughts to extrapolate what technology might be able to achieve, think of how the devil could control and even prevent what he disapproves of, such as going to church. Or something else that doesn’t fit within the devil’s world view.

These verses today from Revelation 13 end with a reference to the number “666”. What is all that about? Over the millennia there have been numerous attempts to decode what this means but no definitive solution has been found. So I’m not going to add my tuppence worth to the debate. Suffice to say, that the number refers to something we don’t yet understand, something in the future, technology or a process. However, with the scientific advances being made, the required technology is probably not far away over the horizon of human understanding.

So we pilgrims plod on through life. Grateful for the revelation and support of the Bible and the warnings of what is to come from John’s vision. Forewarned is forearmed. We know what the devil is up to, so we pray. And keep on praying. For our countries, our political leaders, our communities and families, and finally, for ourselves, that we will stand firm through all these troubles, affirming our faith. God is our loving Heavenly Father and He will lead and guide us through the devil’s schemes. The Apostle Paul helpfully set out some practical ways in which we can live in a devil-influenced world. In Ephesians 6:11 we read, “Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil“. God’s armour indeed has the capability of preventing the devil from overwhelming us. And Paul finished his armour verses with Ephesians 6:18, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere“. So that is what we pilgrims will do.

Dear God. I thank You for John’s faithfulness in recording his vision. I pray for us all, that we will stand firm in the face of the devil’s attacks, looking to the One who defeated the devil at Calvary. Amen.

Flashes and Rumbles

“From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God.”
Revelation‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John’s field of vision becomes more focused as other features in his revelation are revealed. This is a place unbounded by the limitations of human sight and hearing, because John is in the spirit. He is seeing and hearing things that would be invisible to humans. So in the Spirit, the “flashes of lightning” would have been incredibly bright and powerful, far greater than the flashes we see on Planet Earth, should that even be possible. Perhaps with the inclusion of spectacular colours never before seen in a lightning flash. And they originated from the throne of God. The “rumble of thunder” too would have encompassed a range of frequencies totally beyond human comprehension. In our smartphone-dominated world, we are used to hearing sounds through tiny loudspeakers, where only a narrow range of frequencies can be transmitted. But what a difference there is, hearing the same sounds but in an auditorium with a professional sound system. The bass end of the spectrum will be felt as well as heard, with vibrations manifested in every part of our beings. That was John’s experience. In the spirit he was exposed to light and sound he had never experienced before. 

In front of God’s throne appeared seven burning torches. Flaming noticeably. And John intuitively knew that this is the “sevenfold Spirit of God”. We have twice before, in the early chapters of Revelation, encountered this image and can refer back to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 11:2. The image too refers to the number seven, often used in Scripture to signify perfection or completeness. 

We pilgrims will often have difficulty in relating this vision to our work-a-day world. That is, until we too connect “in the Spirit”. What vision of God and His domain, whether here on earth or in Heaven do we hold? It is generally more difficult to hold on to our faith without some idea, picture even, of where we are heading. This vision of the Apostle John in Revelation grabs and intrigues our imaginations. It encourages us to think “outside the box” beyond our natural boundaries. And if, in times of need, we ask God for a vision to support our own faiths He will be gracious and help. Jesus gave John an amazing revelation of the future, and he faithfully recorded it for posterity. But the most important vision of all starts at Calvary, with the Son of God hanging on a Roman cross, dying for us, that we too can one day check out Heaven for ourselves. If we ask Him.

Dear Lord. We thank You for Calvary and selflessly sacrificing Yourself for each one of us. We are so grateful. And I pray that we all hold on to the mental pictures we have of Calvary, pictures and visions that are only superseded by the excitement of Easter Sunday. We praise and worship You today. Amen.

The Living Dead

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.”
Revelation‬ ‭3:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The church in Sardis had an angel as did the others listed in Revelation 2 and 3. And Jesus had a message for him. Sardis was another city in what is now Turkey, and was extensively excavated during the early part of the 20th Century. Several church buildings were found there, but of the original church and its congregation there is no information. Jesus had a message for this congregation that would have been hard to receive. He started His message by establishing His credentials. He “has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars”. Regarding the sevenfold Spirit of God, this may have been a reference to Isaiah 11:2, which reads, “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord“. Isaiah’s prophecy pointed to the coming Messiah and here He is delivering His message to the people of Sardis. Jesus held the seven stars in His right hand and it is thought these are His messengers to the seven churches; perhaps they represent their pastors or leaders.

But John continues to relay Jesus’ message. And it makes for grim reading. Jesus knows what they are about. He’s had His eye on what they have been doing. And He points out that although to an outsider their church seems full of life, in fact it is just going through the motions. They are really spiritually dead. Well almost. It seems that there are a few dying embers still in the grate, but unless they are quick, they too will die away and become the ashes of another dead church. 

So there are some question here. And they are very relevant to us today. First of all, are we guilty of going through the motions of our liturgies, singing the great songs and hymns, sharing Holy Communion, reading the Bible and praying lustily, but our hearts are not in any of it at all? We are thinking of other things, caught up in the worldliness of life around us. About what films or TV we are watching, or games we’re playing. Yes, to an outsider, they might be impressed with the size of the congregation or the volume of the singing wafting across the graveyards, but deep down there may be more life in the tombs than there is in the sanctuary. Perhaps that is what Jesus was meaning. But we have to personalise it as well. Putting our own names in the frames. Are we more spiritually dead than alive? Perhaps we need to ask God for what He thinks. And be prepared for a shock. 

The solution to a dead or dying church, or individual, starts at Calvary. Where the Son of God gave His life so that we could find life. At the place where we ask for forgiveness and turn from our sins. And where we find a loving God delighted that we have turned away from a life of feeding pigs and eating pig swill, to one embraced by our loving Heavenly Father, who has been looking out for us to come home, a place where we can enjoy His presence and the richest of food forever. 

Another question is about where our actions do not measure up to God’s requirements. What are we doing that God doesn’t approve of? Have we allowed worldly activities to use up our time in the church? Perhaps by holding jumble sales when we should be having prayer meetings? Or by focusing on the flowers instead of their Creator. It’s all about priorities. Many activities we get involved in are not bad in themselves but, as with the Sardinian church, they don’t measure up to God’s requirements. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves the questions, “Is what I am involved in furthering the Kingdom of God or just using up my time”? Or, “Is there any Kingdom fruit from what I am involved in”? We can fill our lives with worldly busy-ness rather than God’s business.

Jesus ends verse 3 with a sobering thought. We could be sailing along oblivious to the coming Kingdom, busy with our daily lives, and end up totally unprepared for the sudden arrival of Jesus when He returns. We never know when our house would be burgled until after the event. So it is with the coming of Jesus – but knowing after the event will be too late.

So back to Calvary, where we can gaze upon the One who gave His life for us. His sacrifice is all-sufficient. At the Cross we can fall on our knees in repentance, tearfully reaching out to the only One who can connect us to a life with God. It’s no good turning to Allah or Buddha, or any other world religion. They can’t help us. The only solution to our lives of sin is forgiveness from Jesus, the Son of God. He said in John 14:6,  “… I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me“. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life.

Dear Lord. We confess before You today our sins. We confess that we have allowed our hearts to grow cold. Please forgive us and help us to return to the place You have prepared for us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Jesus Calling our Name?

“They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave.
But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.”
Psalms‬ ‭49:6-9, 15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Psalmist was obviously having a bad day. He looked around his community, perhaps his nation, and observed that there were a lot of rich people, who arrogantly lived a life of luxury. But he pointed out that there was one thing that their money could not buy and that was eternal life. He said, correctly, that they couldn’t take their wealth with them to the grave and beyond. They could not, as one of today’s verses points out, pay God a ransom to keep them alive forever.

In the world today there is a growing business in cryopreservation, where rich people or their families pay large sums to enable their bodies, or the bodies of their loved ones, to be preserved in liquid nitrogen in the hope that advances in medical science would one day enable them to be resurrected from their frozen state and brought back to life in a Lazarus-like resuscitation. An added twist sees some just having their brains frozen, perhaps in the hope of adding their intelligence to a robotic entity. But all with a faith that one day they will suddenly find themselves lying on a slab, waking up in a new age. It begs the question, would I really want to wake up in this sin-ridden, war-striven, disease-ravaged world? Will mankind ever get its act together to save this world and assure a future for Planet Earth? And all by effectively cocking a snoop at God by saying we can achieve what is needed without His help?

But I can’t help thinking how stupid the cryopreservationists are. God Himself has given everyone the opportunity to live forever through His Son Jesus. And it won’t cost them a penny. Rich or poor, we can embrace a hope for the future purely by accepting that God is who He says He is, the Creator of everything. That He loved mankind so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for us at Calvary, offering the breathtaking exchange of our sins for His righteousness. And the Psalmist records his personal assurance that God has redeemed him from death, from the power of the grave, such was His faith in his relationship with his Father God.

And the Psalm ends with the following, “So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. In this life they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day.” Psalms‬ ‭49:16-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather put my faith in the Creator of Everything, than in the hope that one day someone will wake me up from a frozen state. After all, why would they want to anyway?

The story of Jesus and His friend Lazarus is interesting. Lazarus dies and is buried and has languished, wrapped in his grave clothes, for four days before Jesus came to see his tomb. And we have the amazing spectacle set out in John 11, of Jesus commanding that the stone sealing the mouth of the tomb is rolled away. We then read in verses 43 and 44, “Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”” These few words can never adequately describe the drama that unfolded before the observers. Gob-smacked would be too tame a phrase to describe it. Here was a man physically dead and starting to rot in the heat of that climate, and yet the power of God working through His Son Jesus was able to resurrect him from his dead state. Lazarus died and the next thing he knew was Jesus calling his name. Now I don’t believe for a minute that God has special favourites. He treats His children equally. As some have said, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. So I sometimes wonder, after we die, will the next thing we hear be Jesus calling our name, waking us up to a glorious future with Him forever?