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,

Good News

“For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilised world and the rest of the world, to the educated and uneducated alike. So I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭14‬-‭15‬ ‭NLT

Paul was a driven man. His encounter with the living Jesus totally upset his world. At that encounter he discovered how wrong he was in persecuting the early Christians, and he was overwhelmed by the love and grace of God, in giving him a second chance. I have met people, or heard about people, in the past to whom the enormity of their sins, when suddenly exposed, when realisation strikes, who find a new purpose in life, and they cannot stop telling other people about what God has done for them. But was Paul unique in his “great sense of obligation” or is this something we all should have?

There are many different ways in which we can serve our Lord and Master, Jesus. He taught much, during His three short years here on Planet Earth, about the Kingdom of God, or, as Matthew put it, the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus came to Palestine, birthed as a human being, He brought Heaven with Him, and reminded everyone He met that it was close at hand. Right at the start of His ministry, Matthew recorded, “From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”” (Matthew 4:17). And in the next chapter, early on in His Sermon on the Mount, He reminded His followers about their obligation to be “salt and light” wherever they lived. At that time Jesus brought Heaven closer to earth, after a long disassociation that started with the fall of man in the Genesis account, and, because Jesus is still alive today, the closeness of Heaven remains. We live in a season of God’s grace, and because of that we must take every opportunity to share what Jesus has done for us. We won’t all receive a calling like Paul, to convert the world to Christianity, but in our own living spheres we can serve God faithfully.

Paul’s reference to both the “civilised world and the rest of the world” embraced all peoples everywhere. Anyone who was human was included. And it continues today. Paul may be long dead, but his mission lives on. With world migration so prevalent, more than it has been in any previous period in history, opportunities to share about Jesus are increasing. And we know that once all have heard the Gospel, the end will come. Jesus said 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”. We are not quite there yet, but that event is getting ever closer. God does not want any to be able to say, when they stand before Him, that they were never told about Jesus.

Paul continues to remind his readers that he made no distinction between the “educated and uneducated”. The wonderful thing about the Gospel is that nobody needs a theological degree to understand it. Its message of forgiveness and love, of breathtaking grace, can connect with everyone. But some will ask about babies or those with learning difficulties. I believe that God’s grace extends even to them, with a love and mercy that befits Him. 

We pilgrims must also have a “great sense of obligation“, as Paul did. What else can we have when we know and understand all that Jesus did for us at Calvary. The Good News is just that, and it shines like a beacon in a world riven by huge quantities of bad news. And the more we share it, the closer will come the End Times and the new Heaven and earth we read about in Revelation. Paul was eager in his mission. So must we be while we can.

Dear Father God. The death and resurrection of Jesus is really Good News. We pray for opportunities to share it with those around us. Please open their hearts to receive Your gracious gift, the salvation of their souls. In Jesus’ name. 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.

The Good News (2)

“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about His Son. In His earthly life He was born into King David’s family line, and He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 1:2-4 NLT

So what is this Good News Paul was talking about? Here we are right at the beginning of a long letter, and he starts to talk about Good News. As we follow his thinking we find an amazing thread that starts in Genesis and is still there in Revelation. And it doesn’t even end there. The Good News about Jesus is simple but costly. And one word sums it up – love. God’s love. But there’s a journey involved in how to get here.

We have to start with God and His character. He is a God of love of course, but He is also a God who hates evil. Of course, He’s our Provider. Our Shepherd. And many other things that are contained within the character belonging to the Person who created the universe, our planet, and everything within it. But there can be a problem for many, because they want to extract those features in God’s character that they like, but reject those that they don’t. Deuteronomy 7:9-10 reads, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him”. People like the bit about God’s unfailing love, but are not so keen on the punishment and destruction side of God’s character. God is a God of purity and holiness, and within Him, or near Him, there can be no evil. One day He will have to judge all mankind to separate the righteous from the wicked. Two of Jesus’s parables worthy of note – the Wheat and the Tares, and the Sheep and the Goats. But we read in John 3:36, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” In Revelation 20, we will find out what will happen to evil, sin and wickedness at the end of time.

There is this dichotomy between those who love God and those who reject Him. There is no middle ground. One way will lead to eternal life with God in Heaven, and the other to eternal life with the devil in hell. A stark and sobering choice. 

But here is the bit where God’s love prevails. He realised that mankind was incapable of living to a standard of holiness and purity that matched His. And He devised a plan before the creation of the world, that would involve His only Son and a remedy for sin. This plan, having been implemented, was the Good News that the Apostle Paul kept banging on about. A plan riddled with love and grace.

So what was God’s plan? The most famous verse in the Bible sums it up. “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). And we see how events panned out during the thirty or so years that Jesus was on this planet. It started with His birth to a young peasant girl in Palestine, conceived by the Holy Spirit. God’s only Son, Jesus, was born. And the climax was when Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross at a place called Calvary, thirty or so years later. There, He took on Himself all the sins of mankind. So in response, God could look at those of us who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and believed in Him, and instead see us as being righteous and sinless. That has to be Good News! But the Good News doesn’t end there. On the third day after His death, Jesus was raised from the dead, resurrected to be able to return to Heaven. And we read in Hebrews 1:3b, “… When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand“. And we read in Hebrews 7:25b, “…. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf”. 

Paul devoted his life to telling any who were listening (and many who didn’t) about why the News of God’s plan was Good. There is coming a time of judgement. How that will happen is clearly shown in the vision given to John, the one which he wrote down in the Book of Revelation. Jesus went on to talk about judgement in John 3:17-19. “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil“. We read the story of the End Times in Revelation, the episodes of plagues and natural disasters, all imposed on mankind to grab their attention and encourage them to make the right choice. But sadly, and inexplicably, “people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil”. 

Like Paul, we pilgrims must devote every opportunity to share the Good News. There is no other way, because “He is Jesus Christ our Lord“.

Dear Father God, we thank You that there is Good News to share in a season of bad news. Please bring our way those who you want to hear it, and we ask for the boldness to tell our stories of Good News, as Your Spirit leads. In Jesus name. Amen.

The Good News (1)

“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about His Son. In His earthly life He was born into King David’s family line, and He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 1:2-4 NLT

Paul didn’t waste any time in declaring what his mission was all about. It was telling everyone, whether they wanted to listen or not, the Good News of how God had touched mankind with something unprecedented. God had never done anything like this before, and will never do so again. His gracious contact with His creation included an offer so good, so life-changing, that Paul was just bursting to share it with everyone he met. And as we know from the stories of his missionary journeys in the Book of Acts, the outcomes, in terms of his personal wellbeing, were not always the best.

We live in an era of bad news. For some reason people seem to prefer to read or hear about bad things, rather than good things. And so many people I meet very easily drop into a pessimistic mindset – take this as an example. I said to someone the other day that it was a nice morning, and it was, because the sun was shining and birds singing. But the response was that it was nice at the moment but that it was going to rain later. For some reason a significant number of people generally don’t seem to want to live in a positive environment. If things are going well for them, they view this as a temporary state preceding something bad coming down the road. For these people, the light apparently at the end of the tunnel turns out to be the lamp on the front of an oncoming train.

But Paul genuinely must have been a very positive person, because he carried within him the Good News about Jesus. It was just bursting to get out. There would have been no idle chatter with Paul. Every comment, every conversation, would have been turned around to point to Jesus. We pilgrims, living in this technical age, where gadgets abound, find ourselves in a complex society that has shifted its focus away from the things of God. And in the process society has found that life has become the poorer. Joy a scarce commodity. Happiness transient. So we, like Paul, must propagate the Good News. We have an unprecedented opportunity through our access to various forms of media, to reach those around us. Yes, we may invite some abuse from FaceBook trolls. Yes, we may find ourselves ostracised in our workplaces, schools or elsewhere. Don’t forget – people generally don’t want to hear good news, especially, the Good News. But, like Paul, we must persevere, to fulfil our service to our loving Master, Jesus Himself.

Dear Lord. In You we have the Source of Good News. The Source of Joy. We are so grateful. Please bring our way opportunities to reach the hurting, cynics and sceptics around us with the purity of Your Good News.

The Apostle Paul

“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach His Good News.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭1 NLT

Today we are starting a journey through the Book of Romans. This was a letter, or epistle, written (or probably dictated) by the Apostle Paul, and addressed to the early Roman church. It is a cornucopia of good Christian teaching and essential reading for every pilgrim on his or her journey to glory. We start by noticing three things about Paul from verse 1. His person, his status and his mission.

Regarding his person, we know a bit about his heritage. He was originally born in a place called Tarsus, and his given name was Saul. He was of demonstrably Hebrew stock and was brought up to be a strict adherent of the Jewish religion, even being taught by Gamaliel, a renowned religious teacher in those days. He was very zealous of the purity of the Jewish religion and he embarked on a crusade to eliminate the early Christians, convinced that they were all members of a dangerous and erroneous sect. He was present when the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death. We read in Acts 8:1a, “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen…”. Then in Acts 9 we read of the remarkable and miraculous conversion of Saul from being a Christian killer to a Christian lover. From being a denier that Jesus was the Son of God, to a preacher of salvation in His name. We can read about the twists and turns of Saul’s early Christian life and how he became an Apostle in the Book of Acts. And for those who wonder, he started to be called Paul in Acts 13. The first mention is in verse 9a, “Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit…”. And that is the name he was referred to thereafter.

Regarding his status, right here at the beginning of his Roman epistle, Paul called himself a “slave of Christ Jesus”. Why was that? A slave in those days had no rights and his or her master could do with them what they liked. In the same way, Paul was totally sold out to his relationships and service to Jesus. Everything he did was in accordance with his Master’s instructions. His life was aligned to that of Jesus, the Son of God, who had appeared personally to him during his Damascus road journey.

Regarding his mission, Paul claimed in today’s verse that he was “chosen by God to be an apostle”. When was that? In Acts 9:15-16 we read what Jesus said to an early Christian called Ananias, “But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake””. I don’t think there could have been a better description or confirmation of Apostleship than that.

Paul claimed he was sent out to “preach His [Jesus’s] Good News”. And that was the driver that drove Paul through extreme conditions, at times involving real personal danger. In Acts 14:19 we read, “Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead“. All he had done was heal a crippled man in the name of Jesus in the process of sharing the Gospel, as we read in Acts 14:15, “ …  We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them“. 

Preaching the Good News is a responsibility of all Christians, including us pilgrims on our journey towards our eternal home. We may not all be Apostles, though some will be. But we all have the anointing within us to discern what is happening in the society around us and proclaim the Good News in times of unremitting bad news. It may be counter-cultural. It may be inconvenient at times. It may be costly, in terms of our time and money. But, like Paul, we are all “slave[s] of Christ Jesus”,going about our Master’s business. Our faith is nothing to be ashamed about, because one day it will ensure our future with the Master Himself. But sharing the Good News is not something we can opt out from. We read what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven“. Sharing our faith, our testimonies about what Jesus has done for us, is not a drudge. It is a privilege, and the joy that comes from seeing someone become a new member of our faith knows no limits.

Dear Father God. We thank You for entrusting to us the mission to spread Your Good News to those around us in our community, in our nation. Please empower us, and lead us into situations where we can move someone a bit closer to the door into Heaven. In Jesus name. Amen.

The Fiery Lake

“Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
‭Revelation‬ ‭20:14-15‬ ‭NLT

In John’s vision, the fiery lake seemed to have become a dumping ground for sin, evil and their consequences. There was no way to escape from it. And in some way, what ended up there wasn’t consumed. There was just a constant state of fire and torment. Again we may have mental images of what this lake was or will be like – if not just type “fiery lake images” into Google. 

Revelation chapter twenty ends with the sober fact that anyone whose name was not found in the Book of Life was going to join the devil and his minions in the lake of burning sulphur, for eternal torment. There would be no appeal. No mitigating factors. The “devil made me do it” excuse invalid. No parole. No new evidence available. A final end to those who chose to reject a relationship with Jesus, dismissing His offer of eternal life. It would have been bad enough to end up in eternal torment, but sharing that fate with the devil would have added to the distress.

The evangelists of previous years used to engage in the practice of dangling their hearers over the fires of hell through their preaching. Pointing out to their listeners the horrors of what hell would be like. We don’t hear many sermons on hell today. Not political correct any more? But many today, even Christians, have rejected the view of hell being a fiery lake, as being archaic and not applicable in our more sophisticated modern times. As I have said before, a man I know in the village where I live has publicly rejected all thoughts of salvation. Instead, he wants, as he put it, “to join the party downstairs”. The fiery lake, hell, will be no party. I told him so.

Others have decided, without any evidence to back their assumptions, that hell will be a benign state of sleep, or somewhere where their disembodied spirits can roam around, unbothered by human restraints. Still others have decided that hell doesn’t exist at all, rejecting the Biblical accounts, instead sincerely believing that our God of love would never consign anyone to such a place. But do we view the fiery lake images as being symbolic or a reality to be avoided at all costs? Is this place just a fairy tale conjured up in the Apostle John’s imagination? Unfortunately no one has returned to earth to let us know. But Jesus was horrified about hell, and most of the teaching about this place came from His lips. He likened it to Gehenna, the rubbish pit in a gorge located below Jerusalem, and where garbage and the bodies of dead criminals were piled up. It was constantly smouldering and was full of worms. The smell was appalling. Jesus also told the story of the rich man and the beggar called Lazarus. We can read what Jesus said in Luke 16:19-31, but one verse supports the fiery lake scenario. Luke 16:24 reads, “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames“.

But we pilgrims have made our choice. We are God-followers, accepting His love and grace and looking forward to the day when we will join Him in Heaven. And while we still have time, we must, like the Apostle Paul, do our best to convince others of the dangers of the fiery lake. We read in Acts 19:8, “Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God.” Our synagogues will be our workplaces, our community centres, our churches, all places where we try and persuade others to embrace God and His love and grace, before it is too late. We must never distort the Gospel by omitting the finality of the Great White Throne judgement. Yes God is a God of love. He yearns to pour out His love and grace on His creation. But because of that love He has allowed mankind to make choices, and responding to His love is a choice we can make. But we also must never forget that one day there will be a Great White Throne. Where all of mankind who have rejected God will be judged for their deeds. As one evangelist succinctly put it, “Heaven is real, hell is hot, and Jesus saves”. Hmmm…

Dear God. We don’t know what the fiery lake will really be like, and I thank You that those who are assured of their salvation through Jesus will never find out. We continue to pray for our loved ones, that they too will find the true way to an eternal life with You. Amen.

The Bright Angel

After all this I saw another angel come down from heaven with great authority, and the earth grew bright with his splendour.”
Revelation‬ ‭18:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In John’s vision, an angel appears from Heaven. John was told that he had “great authority” and every where he went the earth lit up, brightened by “his splendour“. Why would that be significant? We will see in the next few verses the important message he had to declare, but initially this bright being illuminated an earth darkened by the wickedness of the beast and his followers.

Perhaps one reason he was so lit up, was because he had just come straight from the presence of God. Remember the Old Testament story where something similar happened with Moses? We read in Exodus 34:29-30, “When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord. So when Aaron and the people of Israel saw the radiance of Moses’ face, they were afraid to come near him.” The people were not comfortable with his bright face, so Moses had to wear a veil, as described in Exodus 34:33, “When Moses finished speaking with them, he covered his face with a veil.” But no veil was necessary to cover our angel, newly arrived on Planet Earth.

There is one thing we Christians have to be careful of. That is, how do we appear to other people? Is our visage bright and cheerful, or do we look as though we have just taken a sip of vinegar? Are we smiling or miserable? You see, it is no good us pilgrims trying to share the Gospel with others with a miserable face. If our body language is at variance to our message. If we are excited about our relationship with God, as we should be, then others around us should be able to pick up our excitement. Anecdotally, Francis of Assisi has been credited with the saying, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words”. Whether true or not, the point is that the delivery of what we say, and our body language when we speak, must be in step.

I’m personally excited about God, about the wonders of His creation, about His transforming power, about His accessibility, and I’m excited about Jesus, His Son, who gave up His life, taking on board the punishment for all mankind’s sin, and giving us instead His righteousness. And we can now enter into God’s presence, intimately empowered to call Him “Daddy”. In my opinion it is impossible to have a miserable face when we consider all of that!

Father God. How can we express our love and gratitude enough. With faces shining with our love for You, we worship You today. Amen.

Darkness – the Fifth Plague

“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. His subjects ground their teeth in anguish, and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God.”

Revelation‬ ‭16:10-11‬ ‭NLT

With the fifth plague, the contents of the bowl in John’s vision are poured out on the beast. The emphasis shifts away from earth’s inhabitants to the source of their misery, the beast himself. Impacting his very throne. With this plague of darkness, the people on earth get a glimpse of what life might be like in hell. A total blackout. No light at all, either physically or spiritually. We read in our verses today that the beast’s “subjects ground their teeth in anguish”. The King James version is even more graphic – it says “…. and they gnawed their tongues for pain”. This is surely what will happen with people in hell. Jesus said in Matthew 25:30, describing what will happen there, “Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth“. Perhaps God, even while dispensing judgement on the wickedness prevailing on earth, was still giving every opportunity for people to repent. Dangling them over hell itself must surely bring about a change of hearts and minds.

But, sadly, it was not to be. We read in today’s verses, ” … they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God”. Anger, defiance and curses are the dominant emotions, not a grateful acceptance of God’s patience and mercy. Why? Well, we read in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “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“.

We pilgrims can only be eternally grateful, that in our lives a glimmer of God’s light penetrated our blinded minds. And who knows? Through our willingness to share the Gospel with those around us – our families, friends, communities – they too might just come to see the light of God. Through our faithful and persistent prayers, God will push back the darkness and expose those we pray for with His wonderful light. Perhaps the faithful prayers of someone we know, or knew, were instrumental in bringing us out of the devil’s darkness. I can remember some faithful men and women who ran a Mission Sunday School, which I attended in my primary years. Their faithfulness in prayer, for all I know, enabled the light of the Gospel to penetrate my life of darkness. 

So we share the Gospel and pray. Share the Gospel and pray. Never giving up. Always looking out for an opportunity to illuminate a dark and troubled soul as we trudge our ways through this life, heading towards our ultimate home with God Himself.

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your persistent grace, mercy and loving kindness. Without You where would we be, but in a dark and hopeless place. We are so grateful. Amen.