The Big “Why”

“The first terror is past, but look, two more terrors are coming!”
Revelation‬ ‭9:12‬ ‭NLT

We floated the question in a previous blog post, “Why does God allow disasters to happen?” The implication in the question is that God isn’t all-powerful. Or God doesn’t really care about us. But nothing is further from the truth. The root cause of all the bad things that happen on this planet is sin. The natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and so on, are the effects of sin on God’s perfect creation. In Romans 8:19-22 the Apostle Paul wrote, “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time“.  I sometimes look around me during my morning prayer walks and try and imagine what all the trees, the flowers and greenery, the wild raspberries and strawberries, will look like when the curse of sin has been removed. I’m sure Heaven is going to be one big Wow!

Because of sin, the world is now in the grip of the devil. Jesus made this clear, as we read in John 14:30, “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me“. However, the devil will not always have control of the earth – in 2 Corinthians 4:4 we read “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God“. One day the current “age” will come to an end, and that is what we are seeing in the End Time vision in Revelation. 

God can certainly intervene in the affairs of mankind and our earthly home. We probably don’t know the extent to which God has already intervened, reducing or even stopping certain events. However, we don’t know why God doesn’t do more to stop the catastrophes. God allows people to behave in wicked ways because He has allowed us free choice. He didn’t create robotic human beings, with a pre-defined behaviour acceptable to God, programmed in accordance with His perfect and holy laws. And in the same way perhaps He allows creation to groan along, taking its natural, sin-blighted, course. But what we do know is that often good things happen as a consequence of natural and man-made disasters. For example, the Kindertransport initiative was instrumental in saving many Jewish children from the horrors of the Holocaust. The aid response to the 2004 tsunami totalled an unprecedented $6.25 Billion. At a time of a natural disaster there is something within mankind that wants to help those who are less fortunate. The Apostle Paul wrote in 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“. 

But we can’t leave this dilemma of why we experience natural and man-made disasters without adding the concept of eternity. God deliberately chose to send a solution to the woes of the world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Not to sort out or prevent disasters, but instead, to offer mankind an escape route out of a sinful and wicked world into His wonderful presence. God’s love and compassion knows no bounds. His mercy endures eternally (Lamentations 3:22). While we continue to live our earthly lives, God is always available to encourage and help, to pick us up when we fall, and forgive our sinful lapses. And one day He will welcome us into our eternal home. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “…….I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” So today, if there is anyone reading this who wants to know more about our wonderful Saviour, Jesus, and how He, and He only, can show us the way to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, please get in touch.

Dear Father God. We thank You that there is a time to come when we will be with You in Heaven. We pray for Your strength to help us hold firm in our faith to the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Bridge

“And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honour and glory and power belong to the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:13-14‬ ‭NLT

Every good song has a bridge section (many may choose to differ, but that’s my opinion). It’s not a verse or a chorus, but a supplementary part of the song that provides a extra dimension, adding to the song’s impact. The melody changes, the lyrics add an extra thought or idea. And it introduces a repeat of the chorus, or even ends the song itself. Well, the bridge of the new song went like this;

Blessing and honour
and glory and power 
belong to the One sitting on the throne 
and to the Lamb forever and ever.

There is the addition of another choir at this point, joining the millions of angels, who were singing the chorus. Looking at the structure of the production, the four living beings and the twenty four elders sung the verse, the angels sung the chorus, and now every other living being, “creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea”, joined the song in the bridge. 

This is a mind-boggling event. Did the Apostle John really become aware that every living creature that has ever lived was going to be singing? Was the Heavenly choir really going to be joined by creatures such as fish, animals, and even the micro-organisms that qualify for the term “living”? That was what John became aware of. And we really have to pause here to get our minds around what this means. Whatever our belief system, or theology, Revelation 5:13 does not miss out any living creature. It does not exclude them from being able to give praise to their wonderful Heavenly Creator God. Perhaps the Apostle Paul gave us a hint of the role of all creation in Romans 8.

What do we pilgrims make of all of this? Certainly, in my morning prayers walks around Dean Woods, near where I live, I am very much aware of the bird song. Some days, it seems almost deafening, heralding the early morning sunshine with an avian crescendo of praise, each bird singing its own particular and unique song. And I’m sure God has instilled into the DNA of each living creature the means to be able to praise Him. But they have no choice. That is how they have been “wired”. But how much more is God blessed when men and women, created in His image, choose to lift up their voices in a song of praise and worship to Him?

The thought that all creatures will worship God will, perhaps, give us a different perspective of them. They will be joining us singing worship to “the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb” one day. How, I don’t know, but it will be exciting when we find out. Another thought is that God will be worshipped forever. We will never get to the end of giving Him our worship. And neither should we stop praising and worshipping Him – He has done so much for us. But in our daily lives, we need to always keep in mind that there is a Heavenly home awaiting us. We only get a glimpse of what it will be like from the Bible, but we know that our relationship with our loving Heavenly Father will finally be realised, face to face. That’s enough for me.

Heavenly Father, we truly worship You today, trusting in Your ways, in Your grace, in Your love, this day and in the days to come. Amen.

He Created All

“Whenever the living beings give glory and honour and thanks to the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.””
Revelation‬ ‭4:9-11‬ NLT

The Apostle John had no doubts about God’s creative abilities. He wrote, “For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased”. John wrote that God created all. Everything. Mankind might do wonders creating objects but God created the building blocks used in the process. And the amazing thing was that God created matter out of nothing. That’s what the Bible says.

There has been an interminable debate over the last two centuries about a relatively new theory – evolution. A theory that is unfortunately taught as fact in our schools. Even though there are many unknowns and a lack of evidence to support it. It is a theory supported only by assumptions and the necessity for millions, even billions, of years, for evolution to produce what we see around us. But there are two big holes in the evolutionary arguments. Where did all the matter, needed to make the universe and all that is in it, come from in the first place? And why is there matter at all – why not just nothing? Personally, though, I lack the faith necessary to believe in evolution. When I see the wonder of a baby’s fingers or the complexity of a flower, I can only see a master Creator at work. That such wonders happened by chance is beyond my comprehension. Someone once explained to me that evolution is like putting all the component parts of a wrist watch – bearings, springs, cogs, case and strap – into a bag and then keep shaking it until the watch drops out. Hmmm..

In these verses today, and in the same breath as that used to express worship, we see that God’s creation is involved. It is all part of the whole worship experience. Anything else demeans God and effectively says He is incapable of creating what He wants to create, just because He was pleased to. His master design is so complex, and so interrelated and intertwined. He produced a cohesive universe, and a world that corelates and fits together, and has the ability built in to enable animal, human and plant life to self-propagate along the lines that He originally created. Amazing! And we worship God for all His wonderful works, and because He is worthy, as John wrote down for us to read today.

It is so sad that the evolutionists, who do not believe in a Creator God, have no-One to thank for the wonders of nature they see around them. The beauty of a sunset. The complexities of a human eye. The atomic structures and particles so sought after by physicists. The list is endless. But the saddest thing of all is that many evolutionists perhaps only believe their theory because the alternative is that they would have to believe in a Creator God. And that would mean a seismic shift in their thinking and their way of life. They would have to face into having to deal with their sins, through repentance, and embrace the Son of God, worshipping Him for all He has done, with all “glory and honour and thanks“.

But for a pilgrim today, we have a choice. Some Christians have parked the problem of whether to believe the Bible account of beginnings, or whether to believe the evolutionary arguments. The truth will one day be revealed, of course, but in the meantime we worship God, because He is worthy to receive “glory and honour and praise”. We pray for our eyes to be opened to receive a revelation, as did John, and a Holy Spirit encounter with Him. And we pray for the integrity of the Bible, God’s Word, His only written work, to prevail in our churches and fellowships.

Dear Lord. I pray today that those around me, who have rejected You, will be shown kindness and mercy, and the opportunity to find the truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

In the Womb

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body 
and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! 
Your workmanship is marvellous – how well I know it. 
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, 
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 
You saw me before I was born. 
Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. 
Every moment was laid out 
before a single day had passed.”
Psalms‬ ‭139:13-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David, the Psalmist, continues his theme of the omnipresent God in Psalm 139. This time his thoughts extend into the wonders of creation, of how a human being grows before it is born. Even in his day, without the scientific and medical knowledge that we have in the 21st Century, it seemed to be common knowledge that something significant happens in the womb. And he is overwhelmed by how “wonderfully complex” it all is. He uses the phrase “knitted together” to describe what happens. 

My wife is a great knitter. It doesn’t matter how complex the pattern, she manages to produce these amazing garments with nothing more than a pair of needles and ball of wool. And I have been greatly blessed by beautiful jumpers far better than anything mass produced and sold in our shops. But the miracle of how a human being is formed eclipses anything mankind can derive, even my wife. And in some way God watches the processes going on in the womb, working out what was going to happen to this new life. David was overwhelmed by it all.

When I read and meditate on these verses, I immediately marvel at the wonders of creation. I know many believe that all this happened by chance. But I don’t have the faith to believe a baby is the result of evolution. Instead, with the Psalmist, I can only thank our Creator God for His workmanship. And with a thankful heart I look in the mirror to see an amazing created being, fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, there are facial lines. Yes, there are grey hairs. Yes, ageing takes its toll. But that doesn’t remove the wonder of being “fearfully and wonderfully made“. Which is what we all are. A God-creation, made in His image (Genesis 1:27). Wow!

The Flood

“You placed the world on its foundation 
so it would never be moved. 
You clothed the earth with floods of water, 
water that covered even the mountains. 
At your command, the water fled; 
at the sound of your thunder, it hurried away. 
Mountains rose and valleys sank 
to the levels you decreed. 
Then you set a firm boundary for the seas, 
so they would never again cover the earth.”
Psalms‬ ‭104:5-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now here’s an interesting and fascinating account, appearing as it does inside this Psalm of praise to God. Clearly and succinctly, the Psalmist describes the Genesis flood, an event that has been the subject of constant debate between those who believe in God and those who don’t. What paradigm do we believe in or put our faith in? The evolutionary account that is underpinned by the assumption that the earth is incredibly old? Or the creation account that places the age of the earth at just a few thousand years? One thing is for sure – the two belief systems are irreconcilable. It’s one or the other. Sadly, there are Christians today who try and fit the Genesis account of Creation into contemporary thinking by saying that a creationary “day” could mean many thousands of even billions of years, interpreting “day” as “age”. But linguistic research indicates that the Hebrew word for “day” means just that. A period of 24 hours.

But what does all this matter anyway? It all happened in the past anyway so it is of little more than academic interest. But denial of the Genesis account of the world’s origins places the Bible in a perilous situation, because passages of Scripture like we have read today have to be omitted from its pages. As 21st Century pilgrims we have to have our feet firmly planted on the truth, and nothing but the whole truth, of the Word of God. Otherwise doubts as to the authenticity of God’s Word will grow into textual boulders that block our way through the paths of life. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is His only written work. Let’s treat it with respect, having faith that through it our loving Heavenly Father will lead us and guide us through the valleys and pathways, over all the mountains and obstacles that will come our way in our pilgrimage onwards and upwards to our Heavenly home.

Singing Creation

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
Let the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with justice,
and the nations with his truth.”
Psalm 96:11-13

These few verses could have come from a children’s fantasy book. Who would ever have considered the concepts of glad heavens, rejoicing soils, and trees singing for joy? The cartoon picture of a face in a tree, singing and laughing away, comes to mind. But the Psalmist was writing about God’s creation bursting out with a tremendous shout of joyful praise. And all because the Lord God Almighty was coming to judge the earth and all within it. 

But a thought has popped into my mind – what would the evolutionary atheists around me think of this spectacle. Those people in the schools, universities, and businesses, who don’t believe there is a God and therefore lack the opportunity to be able to think outside the boundaries of their paradigms. The shock awaiting those people will be total. Their belief systems will crumble and dissolve like a pat of butter before a blow lamp. 

In my morning prayer walks, I find that God’s creation around me is full of movement and potential, even in this season. The weariness of this time of year, with the last leaves of Autumn clinging grimly to what has been their home for the past few months, with the ground-level vegetation dying away revealing the rotting detritus from a previous year, is but a comma in the Creator’s application of His design. The potential, to be revealed in the coming Spring, is there, like a coiled spring waiting to be released. Whispers of new life are constantly around me, in the bird song, the bubbling of the streams, the wind gently blowing, ruffling the tree tops with the breath from Heaven. Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” One day, the “child” will be born, bringing a world singing with praise and joy. It’s coming. Spring will be a poor example of what will happen one day, when the Psalmist’s picture of praise and joy comes to fruition. And God Himself will ride the tide of Creation’s exultation bringing justice and truth at last to a tired world. “What a day that will be”, as the old song lyrics say. And He says to His weary creation, and to you and me, “Hang on, I’m coming soon”.

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?

God’s DNA

“I take joy in doing Your will, my God, for Your instructions are written on my heart.” Psalms‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

How is it that people seem to intuitively know when they do wrong? Even when there are no obvious rules, laws or regulations for them to break. The key could be in the verse we read today from Psalm 40. In the Genesis creation story we are told that man was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). Our God is a righteous God, the Creator of a universe that is founded on what is right, a moral universe within which mankind fits like a hand in a glove. That is, if the glove he chooses to fit his hand into is the one God designed. Unfortunately, in today’s Western society there are many people who make a living by manufacturing different gloves for people who have violated the basics of God’s moral design. Gloves for unfortunate and misguided people who are debilitated by their feelings of guilt and who, instead of going to their Creator, instead find a false god in the form of a psychiatrist or counsellor with the hope that they can help them appease their guilty conscience in a way that avoids bringing God into the remedy.

Am I generalising too much? Am I being too harsh about the psychiatric profession? Possibly, or even probably. But what I do know is that God’s moral DNA is inbuilt. It forms a part of us. It leads and guides us through and by our consciences in the way God has designed for us. David, the Psalmist, realised its importance when he wrote about God’s genetic instructions being written into our hearts, into our psyche. And, as the verse today says, by following His instructions, we will experience a joy not possible to achieve by godless methods.

The remedy for a guilty conscience is through repentance and turning to God. And when we are close to God with a conscience washed clean through Jesus’ blood, we will be hand in glove with the Creator who designed us. Experiencing His joy, love and peace. Set free to do His will.

God’s Master Plan

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.” Psalms‬ ‭40:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Any attempt to unpick and drill down into this verse can only end up in becoming lost in the depths of our Creator God, full of grateful praise and worship. The bottom line is that God’s wonders, plans and deeds are uncountable because there are so many of them. For example, just take the environment in which we live. The number of conditions that combine to enable life as we know it on this planet are uncountable. And it was God’s plan to create a world where His plans could be developed. And look at the complexities of human life – how could two cells coming together in a mother’s womb ever develop into a human being capable of so much? It beggars belief that so many people believe the lie that our world and all its contents happened by chance. As the verse above points out, our Creator God has performed many wonders and deeds in implementing His plans.

But there is a wonder, a plan, a deed, that is far above anything else God has done for the human race. We find in the Genesis account that God created men and women in His image. And He wanted to have a relationship with them based on love and friendship. But things went horribly wrong with man’s response to God, as we can find in the early accounts of the Israelite nation. God wasn’t going to give up on His creation, though, and He devised a master plan to reconcile mankind back to Him. His love for us was so intense that he wasn’t going to let us continue in living a life less than how He designed it to be. A life without the ultimate richness of being a friend of God. We can read about God’s master plan through the words of Jesus in John 3. This is the Message version. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” That was God’s plan. To put the world back into the place He had designed it to be. He wasn’t going to give up on His creation and He never will. Through Jesus, God’s Master Plan, everyone person living on this planet can find out about God’s wonders, plans and deeds. If they want to. The choice is theirs. The choice is yours.

Positive Thinking

“Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are.
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.”
Psalms‬ ‭36:1-2, 5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 36 starts with a reflection on the attitudes of the wicked and their sin, but then quickly turns to these wonderful verses about God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice. It’s almost as though the Psalmist, David, suddenly pulled himself back from thinking about sin and wicked people, to reflect instead on our wonderful Creator God. These wonderful words in verses 5 and 6 have been used as the basis for several songs; they capture so expressively the boundless limits of God’s wonder.

It is a common human trait, to allow thoughts to dwell on the negative. It is so easy to get focused on what’s wrong in life rather than what is right and good and beneficial. And once thoughts are in a negative groove, they will soon be followed by a downward mood swing, bringing depression or an emotional “low”.

On my morning prayer walks through Dean Woods close by to where I live, I often find that just looking at the wonders of God’s creation around me is sufficient to lift my spirits out of any negative groove. At this time of year I see the wild strawberries and flowers. The trees in a profusion of leafy growth. The birdsong dominating the audio realm. And David in his Psalm did likewise, by looking at the wonders and scale of God’s creation. In his world without light pollution the heavens would be a wonderful sight, full of little bright dots, so many in number that they merge into a canopy of light. And he relates the wonders of creation to God’s character, bringing out His love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice, and probably many more similar thoughts as he dwells on his wonderful God and the world around him.

Paul encouraged the Philippian church with the advice, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬). Sound advice that we would do well to obey. David realised it. So must we.