Slaves to Sin

“Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
Romans 6:5-6 NLT

Perhaps we have an image in our minds, of a unified person. Consider a picture of Jesus, and a photograph of ourselves, and then superimpose one over the other. Personally, a unified picture of Jesus and me. How does that make us feel? Good? Apprehensive? Unsure? Yes, all of the above, but that is the reality of the Christian life. Association with Jesus in this way, in true unity, is the only way forward towards our goal of salvation. And Paul’s use of the baptismal imagery continues, with the mental picture of being raised to life just as Jesus was. 

The next thought from Paul profoundly impacts a new Christian’s life. And the older Christian’s too, because we must never forget and slip back into our old sinful ways. When we pilgrims fell onto our knees at the foot of the Cross, a pictorial way of describing how one day we brought our sins to Jesus in repentance, asking for His forgiveness, and believing in Him, we effectively crucified that part of us that was our old life, riven by sin. Now, crucifixion was a terrible way to die. A slow, lingering and extremely painful death. But Jesus went through that to set us free from the dominance of sin over our lives. In fact, the whole process in our spirits was, and is, life changing because we realise that what Jesus did for us we deserved ourselves. Sin has to be dealt with sooner or later. The grace of God is breathtaking, because He allowed His own Son, Jesus, to suffer in this way so that we wouldn’t have to.

Why did Jesus have to go through what He did? There were other forms of capital punishment available to the Jews, such as stoning. That happened to the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Crucifixion was a method the Romans used to put someone to death, and in the process they hoped to deter other people tempted to commit the same crime by attaching a list of their misdemeanours to the cross used. Pilate, the Roman governor who authorised Jesus’ death, ordered that “King of the Jews” was written above Jesus’ head. The Jewish authorities saw Jesus as a threat to their rather fragile relationship with the Romans because He challenged their cosy status quo with His radical teaching and miraculous acts. The people were following Him in large numbers, and, because of their unbelief, the Jewish leaders couldn’t allow the situation to continue. Evil ruled the day but God allowed Jesus’ death to happen because it was all part of His plan of redemption for mankind. 

Because Jesus went through what He did, taking on board our sins, we have been released from their dominance over us. I’m sure we can all think of sinful situations hidden away in our skeleton cupboards, that emerge from time to time to embarrass and harass us. But we don’t have to be slaves to these thoughts anymore, because Jesus has redeemed us from them. The skeletons are buried. Their power to torment us is gone. As Paul wrote, “We are no longer slaves to sin”. We can shut the door on our cupboards and lock them. But it’s up to us now. The question is – what will we do with the key? Hmmm…

Dear Father God. What an amazing and gracious, loving God You are. We worship at Your footstool. Amen.

Adam’s Sin

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.”
Romans 5:12-13 NLT

The word “sin” is not one that is used very much in today’s societies. It is mostly associated with religion, being defined as an immoral act, or when a law is broken. It is one of those words that make people feel uncomfortable, so they attempt to reduce or eliminate the potential pain by calling it something else, or projecting its reality into a treatable illness rather than calling it what it really is. This particularly applies to words defining sin in the Bible. So “adultery” becomes “an affair”. And, perhaps controversially, taking drugs, or stealing, or drinking alcohol to excess, are illnesses. And so on.

A typical dictionary definition of the word “sin” is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law”. So without even mentioned God, the definition connects morality with law, and particularly in a way that involves a higher being. So is breaking a secular law a “sin”? Technically yes, but perhaps not in a way that complies with the dictionary definition of the word. It is rare, even unheard of, to hear the word “sin” associated with a traffic offence, for example.

In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. God doesn’t sin. He never has done. So His original intention for mankind, having made them in His own image, just like Him, was that they would be sinless as well. We must therefore consider what it was that violated God’s creation, and why.

In parallel with the Eden story, a battle raged in Heaven, with an angel called Lucifer trying to take over from God, a sort of Heavenly coup. We read what happened to him in Isaiah 14:12, quoting from the King James Version. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Lucifer ended up in the only place available to him – Planet Earth. And it is here that he introduced his rebellious and wicked spirit, here he introduced “sin”. In the guise of a serpent, he caused Eve and then Adam to break the only law that they had been given by God. We read in Genesis 2:16-17, “But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die””. And we all know what happened next – the sad story is recorded in Genesis 3. Sin started with a rebellious angel in Heaven and in due course infected Planet Earth.

Sin happens when we break laws. And in particular God’s laws. The one overriding law that underpins all others was told by Jesus to a local Jewish religious expert. We read in Matthew 22:36-40, ““Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”” So the root of sin is disobedience to God. These simple laws power all other laws, and those who don’t want to sin must start here. And in so doing, they must bring everything they do under God’s scrutiny to see if they line up with these laws.

Perhaps we wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve had confessed their sin, and were made right again in God’s presence. Their relationship with Him restored. Their sin wiped away and forgotten. But sadly it didn’t happen, and the disease of sin has been with us ever since. A pandemic of all pandemics.

Paul, in today’s verse from Romans 5, states that Adam’s sin became human sin. All have sinned, he said. And it is very true. I don’t know of anyone who has not broken any laws, let alone God’s laws. And all those who sin will ultimately die. That is, unless, they find forgiveness and redemption in God’s presence. Through Jesus we can discover that sins can really be washed away. Forever.

Father God. Only You, the Sinless One, has the power to forgive sins. On our knees today we worship You, deeply thankful for Your amazing grace. Amen.


“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
Romans 5:11 NLT

Paul made another statement as though it was a fact. He took it as read, beyond an assumption, that rejoicing would follow the process of belief in Jesus and all that He did at Calvary. Quite a leap for someone in that culture, moving from idolatry, to faith in the one true God. Society wasn’t very kind to those early Christians. But Paul wasn’t being theoretical when he wrote that. He wasn’t living in some different world, divorced from reality. What he wrote to the early Christians in Rome was a perfectly valid statement, designed to set out for them what a relationship with God should be like. A relationship that they could rejoice about. A relationship that was wonderful and new.

We fast-forward to today. If anything, our world is just as hostile a place to Christians as it was in Paul’s day. More so, if we read about the levels of persecution experienced by some. Constant negative news reports wear us down. The hostile spiritual environment where even leaders in the faith struggle and prevaricate rather than act as beacons for God’s ways. Worldly expectations have created a society where God doesn’t exist any more. And here are Christians today who, in spite of all that is going on, are called to rejoice in our relationship with God.

But we pilgrims have made a decision to follow Jesus. Through our faith in Him, believing Him for our future salvation, we do in fact have a “wonderful new relationship” with God. We are indeed His friends, positioned right in the “sweet spot” which He designed for us before the foundations of the earth. We rejoice! It’s not something we can do with one eye on what is happening around us. We do it with both eyes on God, because it is in Him we find a Friend who has overcome the world. We view the natural world through God’s eyes. And in that way we get His perspective. Through prayer we approach difficult situations and relax as God whispers in our ears wonderful words of wisdom and guidance. 

It may have been some years ago that we experienced  the “wonderful new relationship” with God. Perhaps we have taken our eyes off Him a bit. Perhaps we have been worn down by all the information, most of it negative, that bombards us every day. Well there is good news. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “ … Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. Having refreshed ourselves in God’s presence we can experience being friends with God. And that has to be good news. That has to be a wonderful experience. And through it all, regardless of the circumstances, we can rejoice. We look forward to a time when joy is the norm, and worldliness is no more. And because we are God’s children, we can experience that joy right now. 

So if any of my readers are experiencing a lack of joy this morning, feeling they there is nothing to rejoice about, we read these words of Paul. Through Jesus we are friends of God. Meditate on what that means this morning. How amazing is it, that the Creator of the whole universe, wants to be friends with us. That very thought is enough to make even the stones around us burst into praise. It truly is a momentous statement, and one that we embrace through our faith in Him. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” That is not a statement of delusion. It is a fact and one that will never leave us regardless of our circumstances. Join me this morning in rejoicing, because Jesus is alive, and because we are God’s friends.

Father God. We worship You today. You are the source of joy. You are the mighty One, our Lord and God. Amen.

Strength of Character

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:3-5 NLT

What is this entity “strength of character”? The dictionary defines the word character as, “the particular combination of qualities in a person or place that makes them different from others”. But the “character” that Paul was referring to was much more than that. Just to be different in character to other people is all very well, but Godly character is something else. This type of character is active, not something that is passive. Godly character is something that is constantly improving, drawing us closer and closer to the person God designed us to be. As we endure the hassles of life, our endurance in maintaining our faith and relationship with God strengthens us, so that when the storms hit, we stand firm.

Someone who has a Godly character is like the wise man in Jesus’ parable about the builders. In Matthew 7:25-26 we read, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock”. The wise man had the right character, because he knew, perhaps from previous experiences, the consequences of building on a dodgy foundation. Perhaps previous “problems and trials” had taught him much and honed his character. He knew that only Jesus had the words of eternal life and would lead him to the right outcome. But so many people instead put their trust on sandy foundations. They trust a friend, or a political party, or their bank account, trusting a substitution for God that will collapse like the foolish man in Jesus’ parable when the storms of life crash against them. They lose their jobs, or their friend moves away and cuts off contact. Their bank account is swallowed up by inflation and they find that there is too much month left at the end of their money. But whatever happens, they find that they have no endurance to get through the crisis. Their character fails the strength and endurance test.

We pilgrims are made of sterner stuff, of course. Not for us a trust in worldly systems that could collapse at any moment. We have built our foundations on the Rock that is Christ. Psalm 18:30-31, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?” Who indeed!

Father God. Only You can develop our characters through the trials and problems of life. Only You can hold our hand and help us. We praise and thank You today. Amen.


“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 NLT

In the UK at present, in the natural, there seems little to rejoice about. The cost of living has gone up dramatically, impacting a new generation of adults who have never known anything other than very low inflation and interest rates. Energy costs have more than doubled over the space of a year or so and there seems no sign of them returning to the level enjoyed before the Covid pandemic. Eventually, wages will catch up, but “problems and trials” will abound for the foreseeable future. So why did Paul make the statement that the difficulties we are facing into will “help us develop endurance”?  

Paul wasn’t the only early first century Apostle who made such a statement. We read in James 1:2-3, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow”. 

So what is this “endurance”? It is that ability to persevere through “problems and trials” without going under, without giving up, without jumping ship and joining another with less hassles. The Christian life was and is never going to be an easy option. Not only do we have to clean up our own lives under God’s gracious and loving guidance, but we will be largely shunned by those in society around us. In some parts of the world, even the state authorities will be against us. We have many brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith in other countries like North Korea and Afghanistan.

Jesus told His disciples, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”  (John 16:32-33). Jesus was facing into an incredibly difficult situation. He knew He was heading to the Cross and a horrible and painful death. And He knew His disciples would abandon Him to His fate. And here He was, encouraging His disciples with words of comfort. He told them that their future natural lives were going to be full of “problems and trials” and yet, through it all, they would have Jesus with them because, as they would find out later, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would be with them, enabling them to “overcome the world”

There are many Christians who start well, but then become shipwrecked on the trials of life. Perhaps they are in a church that goes through a difficult time with splits and changes of leadership, and they get hurt in the process. Or perhaps a Christian friend is treated badly by another Christian and they decide that they want no more of this faith. So they stop going to church. They stop reading their Bibles. And before long they have failed to endure. 

What do we pilgrims do, when circumstances seem to conspire against us? Go down the tubes? Or rise up above the difficulties? A Psalmist, Asaph, was facing into an inexplicable situation that severely challenged his faith in God. We read in Psalm 73:2, “But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone”. As we read on, we see the gyrations that went on in his mind as he considered how the wicked seemed to get away with their behaviour. Bitterly, he said, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?” And then we read, “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do” (Psalm 73:17, 25-26, 28). Asaph regained his perspective. There are many other examples in the Bible, of people who faced into trials and problems. We read about a few in Hebrews 11.

But through it all, we have a wonderful loving Heavenly Father who is always there for us. He will always help us through our times of trial. Somehow in His presence, the trials don’t seem half as bad. There is an old saying, “When the going gets tough the tough get going”. Much truth in that when it comes to endurance.

Father God. Your Son Jesus knew all about trials and problems. We thank You for Your encouragement and guidance when the going gets tough. Through You the world has been overcome. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

Faith Brings Joy

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
Romans 5:2 NLT

Paul mentions that word again – “faith”. So much can be achieved through that word and all that is behind it. He mentions that “faith” brings us to a place of undeserved privilege. Now in this life, privilege is something only rarely granted. We usually have to work for it, or pay for it with our hard-earned money. That is, of course, unless we were naturally born into what we refer to as a privileged family. But we know that when we accepted Christ, believing in all that He did for us, we were spiritually born into God’s family, a family far more significant and privileged that any natural family could ever be. And through God’s grace such a birth was and is undeserved. 

This place of privilege in which we now find ourselves is transforming in its extent and scope. There is the benefit of being in God’s Kingdom here on earth. A place where we have abandoned lives of sin and adopted righteous living instead. A place where we can share God’s grace and love with those around us, doing God’s missionary work in a lost and deluded world. A place where we can drop in when we want to, to spend quality time with our Heavenly Father, worshipping at His feet. But Paul wrote that there’s more to come. Over the horizon, but on our radars nevertheless, is God’s glory. And He will share it with us. How amazing is that? Through our faith we have confidence that it is coming. Perhaps sooner than we think.

How does that make us pilgrims feel? Excited? Joyful or sad? Whatever we feel about our lives today, the life to come, eternally in God’s presence, is going to be “immeasurably more than we can … imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And joy beyond anything we have experienced will be found there. 

What is this “joy”? People often confuse it with happiness, but it’s totally different to that. The dictionary definition of “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”  doesn’t come anywhere near what true Godly joy really means. The joy we experience as Christians comes from a connection with God. We feel joy because of what He has done for us and for what He will do for us in the future. We feel joy because of our salvation, the fellowship with other believers, and the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven. The list of joy-sources is endless. But we can also experience joy in a prison cell, persecuted by an evil state. Joy is more than a feeling. It is a deep assurance that God is close to us, loving us, providing for us. It may manifest in an outward expression of praise and worship. In Acts 16 we read about the desperate situation Paul and Silas found themselves in. Because they cast a demon out of a slave girl, “They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (Acts 16:23-25). How could they do that? Because they were full of joy. A joy founded in the fact that there was nothing other human beings could do to them that would destroy their relationship with God. They experienced the same joy that Nehemiah knew about. We read in Nehemiah 8:10, “And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!””

So, fellow pilgrims, are we full of joy today, or are we overcome and miserable because of our circumstances? Full of Godly joy, we can rise above all that is going on in our lives and around us. Regardless of our situation in life we can still be joyful in our amazing Creator God. We read in Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Dire circumstances for a farmer, don’t we agree? But nothing was going to take away Habakkuk’s joy, and it won’t take away ours either.

Dear Father God. You are the Source of our joy. We worship You today with grateful hearts. Amen.

God is Able

“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.”
Romans 4:20-21 NLT

Do we believe that God is able to do anything? After all, He created the universe. He put into place the physical laws that hold our planet in just the right place, near to the right sun, with all the right resources that human belongs need for life. He is truly an amazing God.

But there are some things that God just cannot do. For example, God cannot tell a lie. God cannot violate the commandments He has issued. God cannot stop loving us. God cannot break the covenant He gave us through Jesus. God cannot break His promises. He is constant and unchanging in His absolute being.

Paul wrote that Abraham “never wavered in believing God’s promise”. But we read that in his lifetime Abraham never saw descendants as numerous as the stars. In Genesis 25 we read about Abraham’s life coming to an end. Genesis 25:7-8, “Abraham lived for 175 years, and he died at a ripe old age, having lived a long and satisfying life. He breathed his last and joined his ancestors in death”. In the preceding verses we see that after Sarah’s death he took other wives, and had children, but nowhere near as numerous as God promised. However, he had faith that God’s promise would happen. And happen through his son with Sarah, Isaac.

Paul wrote that Abraham was “fully convinced”. Now that takes faith, to be that certain about something that wouldn’t be realised in his lifetime. For us pilgrims, one of God’s promises is contained in John 3:16. Eternal life. We read, “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”. By its very definition, this is a promise that we are not going to see the fruit of in our natural lifetimes. We need to have faith that it will happen. We need, like Abraham, to be “fully convinced”. Or are we not sure?

There is a promise commonly seen on UK bank notes. I look at the wording on my £10 note – “The Royal Bank of Scotland plc promises to pay the bearer on demand…”. Many years ago the value of a banknote in the UK was pegged to the price of gold, so the owner of a banknote could, at least in theory, exchange it for the equivalent sum in gold coins. Today this is an empty promise, because no bank will hand over gold coins if we asked them. But eternal life is a promise far beyond the writing on a UK bank note. Though there have been claims to the contrary, no-one has indisputably returned from Heaven after they have died to tell us what it will be like. And would we believe them if they did? Jesus used the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man to illustrate the point. We can read the story in Luke 16. A rich man in hell (literally Hades, the place of the dead) has a dialogue with Abraham about sending the poor man Lazarus, who is in Heaven, back to the rich man’s brothers who are still alive, to warn them about the horrors of living in hell. And the story ends with this chilling statement from Abraham, ” … If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

At the present time, at least in the UK, there are many struggling to make ends meet, because the cost of living, and inflation, has rocketed skywards. But in response, another promise from God is found in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus“. It’s all very well having faith in something that will happen after when we die, but what about having faith that God will meet all our needs now. Today.

So what promises has God given to us pilgrims? We have many, like the promise of eternal life, in the Bible. A common item in years gone by was a “promise box”, containing rolled up pieces of paper, and on each was written a Bible verse containing a promise. These are general promises applicable to all God’s people. But has God given us, like Abraham, a specific promise for us to have faith in, and be “fully convinced” about? If not, perhaps it’s worth asking Him.

Father God. You are the One who had given us many promises about all the things we need in this life. We thank You for Your provision. Amen.

Something for Nothing

“So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.”
Romans 4:16-17 NLT

Paul mentioned two qualities of God in Romans 4:17. He said that God “brings the dead back to life” and He “creates new things out of nothing”. We considered the first yesterday, and now we will consider our creator God. We are familiar, of course, with the Genesis account. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth“. Just a few words but breath-taking in their implication. Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen“. ‭‭But there is that word “faith” again. By faith in a limitless God, we believe He is able to create matter from nothing.

One of my problems with the non-creation theories, such as the theory of evolution, that are prevalent in today’s secular societies, is that they fail to address a basic question – where did all the matter that forms the universe, and everything within it, come from. The paradigms adopted by our non-religious scientists and academics all assume, or take for granted, the presence of matter. But God was able to take nothing and form something from it, through no more than His Word. The writer to the Hebrews said this very clearly, “what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen”. Everything around me, my computer desk, my office walls, the hills in the distance. They are all derived from matter that God spoke into being. Abraham believed in the fact that God was able to do miraculous things, and God credited that faith to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

In our secular societies, the arrogance of mankind is, at times, breathtaking. There is no doubt that in recent times there has been an explosion of advances in medical science, and the way we treat illnesses. Operations are carried out to provide people with new knees or hips, greatly improving their qualities of life. Vaccines have been developed, that reduce the risks associated with nasty viruses. And then, of course, there are the advances in technology, with the internet, computers, and smart phones. All happening within just a few short years. But rather than give the glory for such advances to God, the medics and technologists claim the glory for themselves. God created us in His own image, as we read in Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. So when our brilliant scientists create a new vaccine, or discover some physical property that is put to good use, they are just doing what God created them to do. And the glory is all His.

As a side issue, the UK at the moment is embroiled in a battle about gender. But that wouldn’t be the case if our politicians read Genesis 1:27. There are only two genders – male and female. And that takes place at the point of creation, conception in the womb. It is so sad to hear about those who feel that they were born the wrong gender, but rather than help them in a Godly and compassionate way, the medics and psychiatrists abandon them to the consequences of their confusion. In Romans 1:24, we read, “So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies”. When Paul wrote this, I’m sure he was referring to the sexual sins being committed in his times, but perhaps the Holy Spirit could see the gender debate coming up nearly two thousand years later.

We pilgrims worship an amazing God. His depths are unfathomable and unmeasurable. His capabilities are limitless. His love and grace know no bounds. His patience with sinners like us is constant. His willingness to hear and answer our prayers indisputable. He is truly awesome, and truly deserves all the glory for His awesome creation. And so through faith we reach out to Him, day by day, for all we need for life on this outpost of His Kingdom in the hostile environment of Planet Earth. The ruler of this world, the devil, hates it. But God strengthens and protects us and one day He will call us home, to be with Him forever.

Dear Father God. All we can do is express our thanks and worship You. We give You all the glory. Amen.

Death to Life

“So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.”
Romans 4:16-17 NLT

At the time when Abraham ”… believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6), God had just made the statement that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the number of stars. But Paul pointed out that “Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing”. At this point, Isaac had not even been born – that didn’t happen until Genesis 21. But Abraham continued to believe God that He would supply him a family that would be too numerous to count. 

Do we pilgrims believe that God resurrects the dead? There are of course several Biblical examples. Take Lazarus for example. We read in John 1139-43, the incredible account of his resurrection, ““Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”” Every time I read this passage I’m struck by its authenticity. All Martha could think about was that there would be the bad smell of a decaying corpse, which would have not taken too long in that warm climate. But Jesus had His eyes on His Father in Heaven, to God who was the Source of the power Jesus needed. 

But what about bringing the dead back to life today, on 21st Century Planet Earth? There are many Christians today who claim that such miracles died out with the original Apostles. But we mustn’t forget that every time a medic resuscitates a person who has suffered a cardiac arrest, we experience an intervention that would have been miraculous in first century society. However, Jesus gave His disciples an instruction, which we can read from Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” The God I worship is all powerful, and is able to perform miraculous acts both through His people and directly. But the reality is that bringing the dead back to life is an unusual event. There is a book “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” authored by Craig Keener, that sets out an in depth account of miracles throughout the world since Bible days. Worth a read. But if God performed miracles in Biblical accounts, I fail to understand why He would suddenly stop. In the end, perhaps if we all had faith like Abraham’s, miracles would become commonplace. Paul believed that God could raise the dead, so why shouldn’t we believe that as well?

We pilgrims march through life without really knowing all that much about how things will work out each day and how our lives will end on this earth. But we do have a God who leads and guides us on our journey. And the closer we stay with Him, the more light we will receive to illuminate our paths. We are living in a time of much change. But God never changes. And having “faith like Abraham’s” will take us into incredible places, so be prepared! We’ll finish today with Psalm 71:3. David said to God, “Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for You are my Rock and my Fortress”. 

Father God. You’re an amazing God, full of love, grace and good gifts. We worship You today. Amen.


Free Gifts

“So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.”
Romans 4:16-17 NLT

Paul couldn’t be clearer. His unequivocal statement was that all who have faith in God will receive, as a free gift, God’s promise. And it didn’t matter whether or not those reading his letter were trying to “live according to the Law of Moses”. They just needed to “have faith like Abraham’s”. We all love a free gift, don’t we? The trouble is that in our materialistic society we associate gifts with a physical item, such as a camera or a watch. A gadget or an item of clothing. But in the Kingdom of God, free gifts are spiritual. Gifts like eternal life, joy and peace. In 2 Peter 1:4-5a we read, “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises …”

Peter wrote that with God’s promises we can live a life free of sin. Free of being corrupted by the world around us. And by doing so we enjoy a share in God Himself. But God’s Spirit can’t live within us if we are riddled by sin. Peter wrote that these free gifts, God’s promises, are precious. They are more valuable than any worldly gift that comes our way. There are many stories about rich and powerful men and women who lack the peace of mind to be able to enjoy what they have. Their personal lives are a mess, and their wealth has lost its shine. Some years ago I visited a house occupied by a couple who had received a modest lottery win. But their life had deteriorated because of it; they had lapsed in drunkenness and ill health. In the end, money had bought them anything except happiness.

In Ecclesiastes 2, the philosopher, probably Solomon, muses over the frustrations of chasing pleasure in a worldly environment. He starts off the chapter by writing, “I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?”” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2). Solomon was a rich king, with many wives and much in the way of possessions, but here he is mourning that true peace of mind was eluding him. In verse 8 he concludes, “… I had everything a man could desire!” But it wasn’t enough. In Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 he wrote, “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labours. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere“. Perhaps possessions had introduced him to depression.

But in the Kingdom of God, different principles come into play. Psalm 1:1-2, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night“. At first sight, meditating on the “law of the Lord” day and night would seem to be a bit of a trial. But meditation encompasses far more than sitting in a corner with a scroll containing the ten commandments. It is a lifestyle in which God’s principles become the very centre of who we are. And in the process, God’s presence within us grows more and more. And, financially, it hasn’t cost us anything. It’s all about God and His free gifts. And the benefits keep on coming, throughout this life and into eternity. How awesome is that?

Dear Father God. We are so grateful for the gifts You have so freely given us. And keep on giving us day by day. Please help us to put them to good use. In Jesus’ name. Amen.