Calling

“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 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.”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 He said that it “can never be withdrawn”.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.

Gifts

“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 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.

Did Israel Hear?

“But I ask, have the people of Israel actually heard the message? Yes, they have: “The message has gone throughout the earth, and the words to all the world.” But I ask, did the people of Israel really understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God said, “I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation. I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.””
Romans 10:18-19 NLT

Once again Paul quotes some Old Testament Scriptures to support his argument. In response to his question, “have the people of Israel actually heard the message” he quotes a verse from Psalm 19:4, “Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun”. In the context of Psalm 19, the Psalmist, David, looks up and sees God’s message of Good News in the skies above. Psalm 19:1 reads, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship”. David makes it clear that God’s creation is sufficient for all peoples everywhere, and in particular the “people of Israel”, to see Him and His Good News. So everyone has had an opportunity to hear, even see, the message. Do we pilgrims look up into the sky and associate what we see with our wonderful Heavenly Father’s creative abilities? Such knowledge elevates the mundane “It’s a sunny day today” into a declaration of praise and worship, lifting us into His very presence. I often think that the beauty of the world around me has been blighted by sin – imagine what the new sinless earth (Revelation 21) will be like?

So Paul is effectively saying that the people of Israel have heard the message of Good News, even if no-one has told them. But he goes on to think, “did the people of Israel really understand”? Again, Paul accesses another Old Testament Scripture to answer his question. This time it comes from Deuteronomy 32:21, “They have roused my jealousy by worshiping things that are not God; they have provoked my anger with their useless idols. Now I will rouse their jealousy through people who are not even a people; I will provoke their anger through the foolish Gentiles”. Paul may have been a little out of context here, but the implication is that the “people of Israel” understood the message because even the “foolish Gentiles” did. We of course remember the warning Jesus gave to the Jewish religious leaders of His day. We read in Matthew 21:43, “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit”. 

A question often asked of us is “Did you hear what I said?” Often we “hear” what someone says to us but we fail to process the audio into understanding, particularly if our minds are already occupied in thinking or reading something else. Misunderstandings can be commonplace – “I thought you said …”. Those of us who sit through many a sermon in church – can we summarise what the preacher said last Sunday? Hmmm… 

But there is no excuse for the Israelites, if they failed to understand the message God had given them. The Psalmist, David, in Psalm 19 wrote about the “catch all” of seeing God’s message in the skies above and His creation around us. We pilgrims have heard God’s message, and have responded to it in a positive way. When God speaks, we must listen. His messages contain life and hope, love and grace. Do we feel a sense of excitement from hearing His voice? Or are we jaded and dejected? If the latter state is the case, we need to turn the volume up to hear God’s messages. The problem is not the message but our focus being on something else, something that is drowning out what God is saying. Elijah, in the episode recorded in 1 Kings 19, earnestly sought God’s voice following wind, an earthquake, and fire. But the message was in the “still small voice”. Listening to God is an art that we must perfect. It will take a lifetime, but perseverance is required. And hearing God for ourselves, and not through another’s experience, will lead us in the way He wants. Another’s journey may not be the one God wants us to take. Being a God-follower can be a roller-coaster of experiences but through it all we find life God’s way. So listen out – that whisper you thought you heard in your spirit might just have been the Holy Spirit.

Dear God. Thank You that You care so much for us, to the point that You always know what is best for us and try and communicate with us. Please help us to learn to listen out. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Belief and Faith

“But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.”
Romans 10:16-17 NLT

Paul realistically states to his readers, that not everyone will welcome the “Good News about Christ”. That was just as true in his day as it was in the days of the prophet Isaiah, who wrote in 53:1, “Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm”? This verse in the prophecy from Isaiah is a remarkable vision of God’s suffering servant, Jesus Himself. But the people of his day apparently didn’t take much notice. It was the same in Paul’s day, and it is the same today. Why wouldn’t a message of Good News be welcomed with open arms, and immediately responded to? 

We see the answer in part by the behaviours of people, who want to be in control of their own lives, and not be controlled by a faith in a God they cannot see, let alone believe in. Our scientists develop theories to explain the world around us to avoid having to acknowledge that there is a God who created all that we see. Psychiatrists go to great lengths in their counselling sessions to explain away the mental state and guilty feelings of their patients when all that is needed is repentance and faith in God. Our politicians and law makers devise legislation that they think will suit their mistaken political assumptions but that does not adhere to God’s principles, and get themselves in an awful mess in the process (for example the recent Gender Recognition Bill passed by the Scottish parliament). Lobby groups stridently declare their own particular ideologies, infecting the society around them with their poisons. A society that is not aligned to God’s way soon starts to collapse, and we fear that this century will not end well.

But none of this must stop us pilgrims from sharing the Good News about God and His saving grace. We will be ridiculed, bullied, criticised, and ostracised in the process, but we must persevere anyway. We do not know if the words we speak become seeds that slowly germinate in a person’s soul, eventually sprouting up some years later into a declaration of faith in Christ. Or we may be harvesters, bringing the right word that finally encourages a waverer to accept and believe in the message of Hope, God Himself. 

Paul wrote, “faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ”. It is through our senses that we receive the Good News, and our ears are the gate through which it flows. So, how is our communication script? Do we have a ready-made message that we can roll out, with suitable adaptations, to introduce someone to the Good News about Christ? Or do we sense an opportunity, and end up spluttering and blurting out something that doesn’t quite fit the occasion? Of course, the Holy Spirit within us can provide some important insights into the encounter. Jesus stopped at a well in Samaria for a rest and a drink. A woman came to draw water, and He shared His message of Hope on the back of some remarkable insights into her private life. We read in John 4:16-18, ““Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”” How did Jesus know this except through the Holy Spirit providing the information? We pilgrims also have the Holy Spirit living within us, as Jesus told His disciples in John 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future”. The Holy Spirit knows the key that will unlock even the hardest, most resistant, hearts, and He will provide this information, if we listen to Him and act upon what He says. A contentious thought for some? Perhaps, but the Holy Spirit is powerful, the third person of the Trinity, and, sadly, is mostly discounted in churches today. We pilgrims must carefully listen for His voice, and act upon it.

The Good News about Christ really is good news. Those who hear it, and act upon it, are securing their future for ever. What can be more important than that?

Dear Father God. Once again we thank You for Your grace and love, that flow unceasingly into the world today. You are there us, always a loving Father and Someone we can be secure in. Thank You. Amen.

Beautiful Feet

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!””
Romans 10:14-15 NLT

Just as a reminder, the previous verse in Romans 10 contained an Old Testament quote from the book of Joel. We read in 2:32a, “But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved …”. And Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians questions if this would be possible unless people know that there is a Lord, and what His name is. 

The world in Paul’s day was awash with different “gods”, all making claims through their followers for this or that benefit. And things haven’t changed in 21st Century Planet Earth. Of course, the traditional idol, a statue or similar made of stone, metal or wood, need not be present, but something just as significant will be. In today’s society it could be a leather ball kicked around by two teams of players. Or a small white ball that is knocked around an otherwise pleasant park. It could be a motor vehicle which can be seen being cared for with expensive products to keep it from contamination with the dust and grime around it. As an aside, a neighbour of mine restores old cars and he can be seen using his leisure time to make his own gods. Female film stars are sometimes referred to as “goddesses”, because of the way they look or act. The list is endless. Anything, any object, even people, can become a god. But there is only one true God, the Lord Himself.

In Paul’s day, the challenge was to convince people of the reality of God, the God who loves His creation and, through His grace and mercy, offers to restore the relationship with Him, the relationship that is integrated in the human DNA. And it is the same today. The incessant clamour of other gods so often prevails, crowding out the one true God. Pilgrims in Paul’s day, caught up with the excitement of having found the Lord, infected the people around them with their enthusiastic messages of hope, and so must we modern-day pilgrims, because, as Paul said, if we don’t communicate our faith, how will our workmates, friends and family ever know? 

How do we pilgrims go about being messengers with beautiful feet? It is a lovely word picture. Consider in a day a society without newspapers and the internet. No social media. No Facebook or YouTube. They got on with their lives largely ignorant of world affairs and even what was happening in the next town of village. But imaging the excitement of a messenger arriving one day, covered in dust from the journey, probably smelly and dirty, but who then told them an item of good news. Joel’s prophetic word called the feet of the messenger “beautiful” because of the news he brought. So do we pilgrims today have “beautiful feet”? Painting a picture of Good News with enthusiasm and excitement, positively affecting those around us? Raising the tone of conversations, elevating the mediocre into Heavenly places? We are in times that desperately need Good News. Over 90% of the news we are bombarded with from the various media outlets is anything but “good”.  Reports of wars, or famines. Social unrest. Nasty diseases. Crime and other forms of bad behaviour. Corrupt politicians and leaders. The list is seemingly endless and providing more than enough content for bad news. The journalists and “messengers” compete with each other to reach the bottom with their news reports. The more depraved, the better the scoop.

How zealous are we in sharing our faith? Do we hold back in case we offend or upset our listener? Do we question our role as a messenger, believing that this is the responsibility of the evangelists in our churches? Jesus told His disciples to make other disciples. We read in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. Jesus’s original disciples are long dead, but His instruction has rattled down generations of disciples right to the present day. We are the ones who are currently “sent” into our communities and workplaces. Our schools and colleges. Because unless we tell those around us they may never know about our wonderful Lord. Let’s re-examine our feet today. Do we see the broken nails, the corns or even bunions? Or do we see something beautiful, the part of us that God has ordained for bringing Good News? The generation around us desperately needs to hear about God and His grace. And we have been sent to tell them. There is a film called “Happy Feet”, but those feet won’t make a difference for eternity. Ours can.

Dear God. You have commissioned us to take the Good News to a world full of bad news. And the wonderful bonus in our sharing is that You are with us. Forever. Thank You. Amen.

The Message

“But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:”
Romans 10:6-8 NLT

Paul said to his readers that there is nothing difficult about the “message”, the Good News about Jesus and His sacrifice at Calvary. God’s grace is a simple concept. We don’t have to explain it. We can’t dissect it. We can’t stop it from being there. We can’t stop others from grasping its significance and believing in it. The problem for the early Christians in Rome is that, somehow, it was too simple. After all, they had this complex system of rules and regulations, the Law. Now that was something they could really understand and could apply in a tick box fashion. Haven’t murdered anyone today – tick. Haven’t committed adultery with anyone’s wife – tick. But such a system can never get someone right with God because it’s not about tick boxes, it’s about the state of our hearts. Do we love our wives and children, and treat them well? Do we honour our parents and love them sacrificial? And, above all, do we love God with all of our hearts? Being obedient to Him? Trusting Him even when life’s troubles threaten to overwhelm us? Why is it that us humans will always make things complicated when there is a simple answer?

Paul quoted the verse from Deuteronomy 30:14, but here is verse 11 as well, “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. …. No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:11,14). The Message translation of the verses from Romans 10 reads as follows, “So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching”. What Paul was saying was that the message of hope that we pilgrims have is nothing complicated. We don’t have to attend a Bible school or Seminary to learn it and understand it. The moment that we put our trust and faith in Christ we receive all the understanding and learning that we need. We immediately have the mandate to share the same message with those around us. Whoever they are. Friend or foe. Family members or neighbours. Simple?

But it can’t be that simple, we hear. Surely there is more to it than that, they say. But, sadly, many say they don’t need the message of hope, love and grace. We’re doing ok by ourselves; we’ll do life our way. We’ll take our chances before God – if He even exists.

We pilgrims mustn’t give up. Paul wasted no time in sharing the message about Jesus. We read in Acts 9:20, just days after his conversion, “And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”” In fact, his zealousness was so intense and all-consuming that the Jews in Damascus were going to murder him, so the solution was a clandestine escape for Paul, “So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall” (Acts 9:25). He started his mission again in Jerusalem and another plot was devised to end his life, this time by the Greek-speaking Jews. So in Acts 9:30-31 we read, “When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown. The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.” Paul became too hot to hold, but his zealousness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ never left him. 

How zealous are we pilgrims in our faith, and our willingness to share the Gospel? Are we an all or nothing person like Paul, prepared to forsake all for God? In Matthew 5, Jesus gave an illustration about salt and light. We are the seasoning in our communities. We are beacons of light in a dark world. We may never be Pauls, articulate and convincing in what we say. But nevertheless, we are all equipped to share the simple message. We do it with our lives and, if necessary, we use words to back it. Those around us who don’t know Jesus will be watching us, to see if the message we bring makes a difference in our lives. We love God so much, so what else can we do? 

Dear God. Thank You for trusting us with the sharing of Your message of Good News, so necessary in this dark and sinful world. Please help us to truly shine as a beacon of faith to those around us. In Jesus same. Amen.

Faith

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.””
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬-‭17‬ ‭NLT

Paul wrote in our verses today that “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith”. It’s all about faith. We know that we cannot put the Gospel under the spotlight of a human machine, to inspect its constituent parts. To disinter how it is made. We cannot undertake a human experiment to prove that there is a life after death. We pilgrims believe the Good News. Unreservedly. We know intuitively that it is true. And although we sometimes may have doubts and wonder in amazement how something so good could be true, we always fall back on our faith in the One who said it will happen.

Even when we receive a negative response to our attempts in sharing the Gospel, there is no shame in trying. When we tell someone about the Good News of Jesus, we are venturing into another dimension, where values are different. A spiritual message to a natural person will fail to connect, most of the time. To someone struggling to survive in their natural life, particularly in today’s climate of increasing interest rates, food cost inflation, inability to see a GP, and so on, the thought about where we end up after death to them perhaps seems somehow irrelevant. So we need to remember that the Good News is more than a few words. The Apostle James wrote, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:14-16).

Our faith in God transforms the way we disseminate the Good News. We do not communicate a few dusty and lifeless sentences in the hope that, somehow, they will acquire life in the telling. We have the Holy Spirit within us, cheering us on, bringing our faith and enthusiasm into the light of day, transforming the devil’s gloom with the glorious light of the Gospel. Bringing hope into the lives of the hopeless. Our words will be dripping with the very Words of God Himself, as we, in faith, simply share our own stories of how we met our wonderful Saviour, Jesus. We need to remember the work of the Holy Spirit in the sharing of the Good News. We read in John 16:8, “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment“. We do the sharing. The Holy Spirit brings conviction to the hearer. Also, we must not be afraid of bringing relevant Scriptures into stories. Hebrews 4:12 says, “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“. And if the person with whom we are sharing has practical needs, part of our sharing is to help them in any way we can.

Paul finishes these verses in Romans 1 with a reference to Habakkuk 2:4. The prophet Habakkuk was disturbed by his observation that God was going to use the cruel Babylonians to judge the Israelites. He cries out, “O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal— surely you do not plan to wipe us out? O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins“. (Habakkuk 1:12). And God replied to him, “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God“. (Habakkuk 2:4). In the end, we pilgrims live in the light of God’s righteousness, as we continue close to the One who gave us the Good News. We live a life that will never end.

Dear Father God. On our knees we worship You today. Deeply grateful for all You have done for us. Amen.

The Power of God

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.””
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬-‭17‬ ‭NLT

Paul said to his Roman readers, that the “Good News about Christ” “is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes”. What is this power? Some have wondered if Paul, having preached in the seat of Greek power in Athens, now wanted to do the same in the Roman power-centre, Rome itself. We know that God created the universe and all that is in it. His power is indisputable. And He came up with a plan to save human beings, who have been blighted by sin and wickedness, enabling them to become what God wanted them to be in the first place – His friends and family. Now that is something that will need power. God’s rescue plan for humanity was painful, costing Him the life of His Son, Jesus. It involved a wonderful act of substitution, where Jesus took on our sins and instead gave us His righteousness. That’s power. By an act of our will, we believed in God and His saving grace, and by doing so we were assured of eternal life. That’s power. 

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God“. That is so true! I remember sharing about the cross of Jesus and all that He did through His willing sacrifice, with a workmate. But their response was that many people were crucified in those grim and dark days, so what was the big deal! What was so special about this man Jesus. And at a stroke the person slammed shut the door that would have given him access into Heaven. At the time I questioned my communication skills, but then remembered that the enemy will get in the way of the Gospel if he can. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul wrote, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God“. 

But, undeterred, we pilgrims continue to unashamedly share the Good News about Jesus with those we meet. We pray that the seeds we sow may take root in people’s spirits, where they will grow and finally emerge into the light of day with a decision to follow Jesus. God’s power will never be eclipsed by the devil’s ploys. And we pray that the power of God will be seen at work in our lives. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

Father God. You are the Power. And Your work in our lives is a demonstration of how powerful You are. We wonder sometimes why You bother with us but that makes Your power even more obvious. We are so grateful. Amen.

Unashamed

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.””
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬-‭17‬ ‭NLT

Why should anyone be ashamed about the Gospel? A life changing discovery is surely nothing to be ashamed of. Take someone like Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, a discovery which has had an enormous impact on saving lives, otherwise blighted by bacteriological diseases. Nothing there to be ashamed of. In fact, his discovery has been developed and extended, to the benefit of mankind present here on Earth, in our generations. A discovery to be shouted from the rooftops with gratitude and pride. So how much more the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that will save far more lives than penicillin can. An antibiotic might save lives in our existence here on earth, but those people who benefit will still die a natural death one day. The Gospel has eternal benefits. Jesus said, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT).

A common response to sharing the Gospel, in my experience, is one of ridicule and rejection. People dismiss the Good News as being somehow disconnected from reality, something archaic and irrelevant in today’s techno-world. People see the benefits of an antibiotic because people get better. How can belief in a few words have any benefit, they say. Give us some proof, and we’ll believe then. Even the Son of God, Jesus Himself, came up against such a response. In Matthew 16:1 we read, “One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority”. People want proof of what God can offer in a form that they can see with their natural eyes. But we are dealing here with a far more important world – God’s world. A spiritual world.

A hindrance to many is the fact that no-one, apart from Jesus, has returned from Heaven to say that the Good News is truth. Jesus told the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. We read in Luke 16:19-21, “Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores”. After they had both died, as the parable goes, the Rich Man ended up in hell, and Lazarus with Abraham in Heaven. The Rich Man realised his mistake, and, in anguish in the flames of hell, he asked Abraham to send the poor man, Lazarus, back to earth so that he could warn the Rich Man’s brothers. And we read the response in Luke 16:29-31, ““But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”” 

Because Jesus said that He has the words of eternal life, we pilgrims believe it. Because we have faith in the One who died for our sins at Calvary we have no reason to be ashamed when we share the Good News. Instead, we can speak about it boldly, because God said it. And there is no greater mandate. Ever.

Dear God. You had a plan, that through Jesus human beings would have access to eternal life with You. Please help us share that Good News with those around us, with boldness and certainty. In Jesus’ name. Amen,