I live in a complex where I am struck by the different attitudes of people who think of gratitude. The workers who are not wealthy say, “I am grateful to God because I have a job.” The residents generally say, “Why has God done this to me?” I am very grateful for my large family, all Christians, who live nearby and visit often. However, like the 3 babies I had longer ago than I like to remember, I persist in bawling to God if he doesn’t answer in the way I wish!
God and our Lord Jesus Christ have much to say in the Bible about the poor and our treatment of them. This is a dominant theme in the Bible. Here are some examples: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Ps 82:3,4 NIV). “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or needing clothes, or sick or in prison and did not help you? He will reply: Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me,” (Matthew 25: 42-45 NIV). “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man wearing filthy clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man in fine clothes and you say, here is a good seat for you, but you say to the poor man, stand here, or sit on the floor by my feet, have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:2-4 NIV). “If anyone has material possessions and a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with action and in truth.” (1 John 3:17,18 NIV).
There are so many things for which we can be grateful. I am especially grateful for the 66 years I had with my darling husband. He passed into the presence of his Lord one month ago. Here are some of the great many verses about thanksgiving and gratitude in the Bible. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15 NIV). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 14:6,7 NIV). “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV). “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Ps 118:29 NIV). “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:57 NIV). “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” (Ps 28:7 NIV).
And I am grateful to our Lord for everyone who reads this blog.
God bless you
One thing we all long for is peace. It may be peace in our relationships, peace from in-fighting at work, peace in the world especially if we are living in a war-torn area, and that inner peace which eludes us despite having achieved our goals. Our frenetic lifestyles can’t be blamed. The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, wrote of this when he said, “Peace and safety then sudden destruction.” (Jer 6:14).
Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, returned triumphant after signing the Anglo-German Munich Agreement in 1938 declaring, ”Peace for our time.” Less than a year later, Hitler broke the Agreement when he invaded Poland, and started World War 2.
In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 24:6-8, he records what our Lord Jesus Christ prophesied about world peace in the last days. ”And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that ye be not troubled for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Doesn’t this sound like the times in which we are living? So, what can we do about it? Can we simply say, “We can’t do anything about it. Whatever will be will be! Let’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!”
Or, if we are Christians, shouldn’t we turn to our Lord Jesus Christ, and see what he has to say about the beginning of sorrows in John’s Gospel? (Jn 14:1-3). Here he speaks of peace in times or tumult. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, there are a great number of verses about peace: either those expressed by individuals or attempts at defining the word.
It is interesting to consider two occasions on which Jesus discussed peace. They are found in the apostle John’s Gospel. Jesus was not speaking about world peace, but about the inner peace, peace to our souls, that only he can give – even if we find ourselves in parts of the world in which Christians face persecution or even martyrdom.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Jn 14:27).
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye night have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” )Jn 16:33).
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!
Well, let’s forget all the New Year’s hullabaloo! Forget the huge crowds, the countdown from 10, the cheering, the popping corks, the exploding fireworks. Forget the New Year’s resolutions. My addiction is chocolate in any shape or form! It is often my New Year’s resolution which, after all the chocolate I have been given for Christmas, lasts one day… Rather let us consider the coming year as a year of opportunity. What would we really like to do with our lives? The possibilities are endless. Think of those who started life with impoverished parents, or with a single mum, or as a baby rescued from a trash can, yet rose to wealth, fame, or achievement. It’s a question we should all take time to carefully consider. Don’t waste your youth on trivialities. At 40, it is often too late, and you are left looking jealously at your friends who have worked hard and achieved their goal.
Opportunities can, however, be lost. The classic example is found in the New Testament as told by the Apostle Matthew in his Gospel. (Mt 19:16-22). And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him. Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Jesus knows what is in our hearts and he put his finger on the young man’s fundamental feeling for his wealth. Jesus challenged him to give it all away. He said on another occasion, “No one can serve two masters….You cannot serve both God and money.” (Mt 6:24 NIV). This was too much for the young man. He went away sorrowful and lost the great opportunity of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ: Who knows - he may have become an apostle?
May you make the most of your God given opportunities in 2023
God bless you
THE HORIZON HAS RISEN
I am currently editing my husband’s articles. He was a systematic theologian, and dean of a faculty of theology. He is now 91, and these were written around 2013. I thought the first one, THE HORIZON HAS RISEN, would make an interesting Christmas blog. All Scripture references are from the NIV.
“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)The Apostle John’s account of the gospel does not begin in a manger, but in eternity, “before the beginning of time”. (2 Tim 1:9). When God created the universe the Word, that is, the divine Son of God, was already there. “The Word” as used by John (John 1:14; 1 John 1:5; Rev 19:13) described him as God’s revelation, God’s speech through him: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Heb 1: 1, 2). “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel”. (2 Tim 1:9, 10). John’s purpose is to tell us about the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. So he comes straight to the point, stating the staggering truth.
John did not invent this statement about Jesus. He had learned the truth from Jesus’ own teaching and from his replies to the religious teachers who had accused him of blasphemy because of the claims he made for himself. For instance, when his fellow Jews claimed support for their views because of God’s covenant with Abraham, Jesus replied: “Before Abraham was, I am” – the self-designation of God in the Old Testament. It was quite natural for Jesus to pray to the Father about “the glory I had with you before the world began”. (John 17:5; 24). In the Revelation to John, Christ says “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”. (Rev 22:13). He is the contemporary of every age and will be until the end of time. This is the reality.
But what does this mean for us? Jesus has lifted the boundaries of time, giving us vistas into the reality of eternity. He wants us to know that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life through him (John 3:15). In Paul’s words, “Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel”. (2 Tim 1:10). Similarly, Peter: “The God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ”. (1 Peter 5:10).
A horizon marks the limit of our vision where the sky appears to touch the land or sea. We can also limit our vision of spiritual reality through unconcern about the reality Christ has revealed, or through sheer ignorance of his teachings. Because it is unpleasant to think about our death, we may regard the future as a subject best avoided. But if we look up from our earthly horizon, our gaze will extend to the sun by day and the galaxies by night. And so, it is to himself that Jesus calls us to look and to see our days on earth in the light of eternity. That which is beyond our little world and our natural concept of time has become intelligible through Christ.
Jesus told a parable (Luke 12: 13-21) to alert us about our future beyond this present life. A prudent and successful farmer has decided to retire, and this is how he sees his future: “I will say to myself ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.’ ” “But God said to him, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” He had not thought about where he would spend eternity.
Jesus was not saying the man was stupid. The word “fool” here means without reason or forethought. Don’t we sometimes blame ourselves for having been a fool? His folly is that he did not reckon with his eternal future. He was living with a foreshortened mental horizon. Paul wrote of people who have excluded God from their lives: “their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened”. (Rom 1:21).
Jesus spoke the word “fool” with great compassion. It was his wake -up call to the farmer. It still is – to us!
Wishing you all the joy of Christmas
Please see CHRISTMAS for music, poems, a children’s play (PRAISE HIM!)
I was sitting in my lounge enjoying a Korean series when I suddenly felt guilty. Why was this? It was perfectly decent, no blasphemy, violence, nudity. Then I thought, I am wasting my time, I should be doing Christian work! And I thought of my family and friends: They were probably out having fun, it was Saturday night after all. Does God expect us to use every single minute working for him? Of course not! Remember in days gone by when one had to keep the Sabbath in a certain way? Children went to church with their parents, afterwards at home they had to sit quietly reading their Bibles or spiritual books until supper and bedtime. They must have grown up to hate Sundays. It was all very pious and very hypocritical.
Pleasure is endorsed by God himself. It is not a worldly pleasure – doing things of which he would disapprove. Our inbuilt consciences tell us what is right and what is wrong. The most barbaric heathen knows this. God himself feels pleasure. One of the things that gave him pleasure was the garden he created for Adam and Eve: he did not put them in an untamed wilderness. God desired their companionship – they were, after all, created in his image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:27). After the Fall, when they had eaten fruit from the forbidden tree we read, “And they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And, they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord. The Lord God called unto Adam and said, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked.” (Gen 3:7-11). Their consciences had told them they had sinned.
We read of many other things that give God pleasure, things that delight him. Here are a few. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delights in his way.” (Ps 37:23). “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people.” (Ps 149:4). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but such as are upright in their way are his delight …the prayer of the upright is his delight.” (Prov 12:22). “But let him who boasts boast of this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things.” (Jer 9:24 NASB1885). But what gave God the greatest pleasure was his own Son. After Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan, God’s voice spoke from Heaven: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
But joy often brings pain, and great joy, great pain. Ask any parent who has lost a child. God had a plan to give people a second chance -a chance to become his children, and to live with him eternally where there will be no death or pain. To do this, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, on a mission. The result was pain of a magnitude we can’t conceive. God, the Father, had to spurn his Son, and the Son, Jesus Christ, after his dreadful death on the cross in which he showed compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, was bereft of his Father as he died for our sins and the sins of the world. Hear his cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). After this cry, we read: ”And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:44-46). “And when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake…they feared greatly saying, Truly, this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54).
We can only say with the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15).
God bless you all
See Menu for Cantata with THE CRUCIFIXTION and link to Musescore.com where it may be heard and downloaded. Menu>Music>Cantata: EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW Part three 18.
Ps Please see CHRISTMAS on Menu and PRAISE HIM, a Christmas play for children that can use a small or large cast so the whole Sunday School can dress up and be involved. It is easily rehearsed.
Disasters have been around since the beginning of the world. Adam and Eve lived in the idyllic Garden of Eden experiencing the presence of God who walked and talked with them in the cool of the evening. The garden was full of fruit trees from which they could eat. In the middle of the Garden were two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Gen2:8,15). We all know the story of the Devil who came in a guise of a snake and persuaded them to eat some fruit saying, ”You shall not die.” But that is exactly what happened to Adam and Eve and to all people. From the beauty, security and peace of Eden, they found themselves in a dry and thirsty land in which they had to work to live, and women to bear children in pain. The next disaster was the flood, and we read of Noah building his Ark to God’s specifications while the evil population carried on eating, drinking, getting married, and scoffing at Noah. The foretold flood arrived, it covered the earth and all life that wasn't in the Ark drowned. One disaster we need not fear is another such flood. God has promised there will never be a flood that covers the earth and has given us a sign that this will not happen - beautiful rainbows after rain.(Gen 9:13).
There are, of course, all kinds of disasters not least political disasters. In the book of Esther, we read of Haman who hated Jews, and planned an early Holocaust. Queen Esther had been chosen to replace King Xerxes’ first wife. Esther had been instructed by her Uncle Mordecai who had brought her up to tell no one that she was a Jewess. One day she heard that Mordecai was sitting outside the King’s Gate in sackcloth and ashes, so she sent her eunuch to inquire what was wrong. Mordecai sent back the news with the message, ”Do not think that because you are in the King’s House, you alone of all the Jews will escape. But who knows that you are come to your royal position for such a time as this?” To which Esther replied, “Gather all the Jews in Susa and fast for me for three days, and I and my attendants will fast also, and if I perish, I perish.”(Esther 4:12-15). As a result, she saved her people and Haman was hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.
At the second coming of Jesus Christ the redeemed will be housed with their Lord in the New Jerusalem for the first 1000 years of eternity. Then the Devil will be released, and his surrogates Gog and Magog, will foment a revolt against God but will be completely destroyed (Rev 20: 7-10). Then comes a period of disasters sent from God on the wicked world who refuse to accept his authority and curse him for them. Finally, before the creation of a new heaven and new earth, there is the judgment before the Great White Throne when all humanity will be resurrected and stand in the presence of Almighty God. The unredeemed will be judged according to what they have said and done when the Book of Accounts is opened. All will be excluded from the presence of God forever, and there will be different degrees of punishment according to the seriousness of their sins. The Book of Life will be opened. Christians, and believers by faith in God before Christ, will find their names written in it ”from the foundation of the world”, and they will escape the ”lake of fire”. (Rev 13:8). The him in this verse refers not to God but to the Beast. Christians’ judgment is about the rewards God will bestow on them for what they have done for the glory of Jesus Christ. For God has said he will “remember our sins no more”. ( Heb 8:12; Ps 103 by David).
The apostle Paul was “ circumsized the 8th day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee”. (Phil 3:5). He was born in Tarsus and therefore a Roman citizen by birth. From an early age he was educated under the renowned Jewish scholar, Gamaliel, in Jerusalem. By profession he was a tentmaker and supported himself on his missionary journeys by making tents. Paul had consented to Stephen’s death and persecuted Christians, dragging men and women out of their homes and throwing them into prison which often resulted in execution. On a trip to Damascus to do the same, he was surrounded by a blinding light and Jesus spoke to him, telling him to go to the house of Ananias who would be expecting him and would restore his sight. This was done, and Paul was baptized and started preaching. Much of the New Testament is about Paul eg in the Acts of the Apostles, or letters he wrote to churches, or people. Of the 27 books of the New Testament, Paul wrote 13. These are the letters to the Romans, 1 and 2Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Paul founded several churches in Asia Minor, and Europe. His missionary journeys are recounted in Acts.
2 Cor 11:24-26 tells us how Paul suffered during these journeys.” Of the Jews five times I received 40 stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, In perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, In perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” – to which we may add martyrdom.
As Paul waited, manacled and in the dungeon for his imminent execution, this is what he wrote to the Romans. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39). God grant that we remember these words when disaster strikes us!
Angels are real, they are not the names of Daddy’s darlings, or decorations on Christmas trees. They serve Almighty God in different ways, and some are more powerful than others. One treasonous angel wanted to overthrow God, and Jesus said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10:18). This began Satan’s attack, supported by his evil angels, on God’s people -only defeated by God sending his beloved only Son to die on the cross, and to give humanity, made in his image, a second chance of eternal life.
Angels are sent to people with messages from God. Instances of these are recorded in the Old and New Testaments. These often occur in dreams, but more dramatically, in physical appearances. As one would expect, there was much angelic activity during the life of Jesus Christ, but especially at the time of his birth. One can’t conceive the wonder of Almighty God sending his Son to rescue humanity from the Devil and death.
This is what we read in Luke's gospel, “The Angel Gabriel was sent from God to Nazareth to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph and the virgin’s name was Mary. The Angel said, “Hail thou, thou art highly favoured, the Lord Is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying. The Angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” Then Mary said,” How shall this be seeing I know not a man? The Angel answered her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And the Angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-35;38).
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary, for that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Then Joseph did as the Angel had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. And knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son, and he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1: 18-21; 24, 25).
“There was in the days of Herod a certain priest named Zacharias, and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God. They had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well stricken in years. Zacharia’s lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. The whole multitude of people were praying without at the time. And there appeared unto him an Angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. When Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. The Angel said, “Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children shall he turn to the Lord their God. He shall go to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And Zacharias said, “Whereby shall I know this?” The Angel answered, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God. Thou shalt be dumb and unable to speak until the day that these things shall be performed because thou believest not my words.” The people waited for Zacharias, and when he came out, he could not speak. He beckoned to them and remained speechless. After those days, Elizabeth conceived. (Luke 1: 5-22; 24). “Now Elizabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered, and she brought forth her son. Her neighbors and cousins rejoiced with her. On the 8th day, they came to circumcise the child, and they called him Zacharias after his father. But his mother answered, “Not so, he shall be called John.” And they made signs to his father. And he asked for a writing table and wrote, his name is John. His mouth was opened immediately, and he spoke and praised God.” (Luke 1: 57-64).
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.“ When Herod heard these things, he was troubled. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, “In Bethlehem of Judaea.” Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child, and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. and when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his a mother, and fell down and worshipped him. When they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of by the prophet, saying , ”Out of Egypt have I called my son.” When Herod was dead, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph saying, “Arise and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel, for they are dead which sought the young child's life.” And he arose and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.” (Matthew 2: 1-5; 7-15; 19-21).
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: And they were sore afraid. And the Angel said unto them, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” (Luke 2:8-14).The descendants of Aaron were the priestly line that offered sacrifices in the temple. Interestingly, Elizabeth was a daughter in the line of Aaron, and Mary, her cousin, would have been too. And then Joseph, known as Jesus’ father, but in reality his guardian in his early life, was in the kingly line of David, so we have Jesus as king and priest. In the outlying areas of Bethlehem Ephrathah, was the shepherds’ field. It was here that lambs were bred and at birth were wrapped in swaddling clothes to be offered twice a day in the temple sacrifice. These were strips of clean linen cloth held in place to prevent movement. It was a common practice to wrap babies in swaddling clothes, but to Christians a very poignant thought that our Lord was wrapped in the same way as the sacrificial lambs.
Throughout our Lord's life angelic activity continued though not as frequently as before. The first recorded event occurred after his baptism when he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. For 40 days and 40 nights our Lord ate nothing while he rebutted the Devil from Scripture. It was an unbelievable, exhausting experience. We read, “Then the devil leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (Matthew 4: 11). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying on the night before his crucifixion, and was in deep distress as he realized that for the only time in eternity he was about to be parted from his Father in order to accomplish the mission on which his Father had sent him, and which he had voluntarily undertaken, we read, “And there appeared an Angel unto him from heaven strengthening him.” (Luke 22: 43). When our Lord rose from the dead, we read, “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the Angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.” What a magnificent, triumphant gesture! (Matthew28:2).”But Mary (Magdalene) stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre. And seeth two Angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She saith unto them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” (John 20: 11-13). We read Jesus’ farewell to his disciples, recorded in Acts 1:9-11. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which was taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
And Jesus will return to earth, not as a baby in a humble manger, but with the awe-inspiring magnificence of the “king of kings and Lord of Lords.” (1 Tim 6:15). In Revelation 1: 7 we read, “Behold, he cometh with the clouds: and every eye shall see him.” And the apostle Paul amplifies this when writing to the Philippians he says, “That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2: 9). The apostle Matthew tells us how this will come about: “And he shall send his Angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31). And finally, the apostle Paul writing to the church in Thessalonica says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess 4:16-17). We await with longing that glorious day!
For many years there have been sporadic reports of UFOs (unidentified flying objects). I remember reading of a woman who said she saw a flying object and little green men hopping out of it. One of them invited her for a ride which she accepted. This was a circular vehicle that could move in any direction and up or down at phenomenal speeds. I even read a report by two military pilots that claimed to have seen such flying objects. My father's American cousin would have said “they are from the funny farm.” I read a report in 2021 that concluded that UFO sightings were not linked to extraterrestrial life. On the same day, I read in a newspaper that people had spotted a great number of UFOs. People who reported them said that previously they didn’t believe in UFOs, but now they weren’t sure! Authorities said that they were probably drones. In Luke 16: 22, we read, “The beggar died and was carried by the Angels into Abraham’s bosom.” So, Christians believe that when they die, Angels will carry their souls to heaven to be reunited with their bodies at the second coming of Jesus Christ, bodies like his that are fitted for eternity. Can you imagine the heavenly traffic, day and night, of Angels coming down from heaven and carrying the souls of people back to heaven when they die? And the world is oblivious of this!
God bless you
When our only son died unexpectedly, though grief-stricken, I was comforted by the knowledge that he was with his Saviour whom he had loved and served.
How do we keep our own faith? It is a life-long process: we first accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, asking forgiveness for our sins which he bore on the cross, and then, as we are not angels, we sin again and must ask God to forgive us again -which he always does for we are his children. Then the question arises, how do we endeavour to pass on this faith? Almost from birth we should take our children to church on Sundays, we should say grace at our meals, we should try to live Godly lives and bear this in mind when disciplining them. One of my daughters used to say to a naughty child, “We must have a serious talk!” and my son used to say, “If anyone wants to be my children’s boy or girl friend, he or she must come to church with us and join in our Bible study at home.”
On my maternal side, my grandfather married my grandmother in a Baptist Chapel in Wales, so he would have known “the way, the truth, and the life”. From poverty, working in the mills from the age of 13, he became a wealthy businessman and emigrated with most of his family to South Africa. He became a prominent Free Mason and built a church, which still stands in a location, “for the pursuit of other forms of Christianity.” My poor grandad! There are no other forms of Christianity! He died the week I was born. By the grace of God, my mother, his youngest child, became a life-long Christian. There are others in my family, though not in full-time Christian service, like those mentioned below, who keep the faith by attending church, and serving one another and others as our Lord taught us to do. Most Christians fall into this category, and the church could not do without them for they show Christ to the world.
My paternal grandmother was born in England in the late 1800s of evangelical German parents who had emigrated to England. Her father became very pious and did not allow his daughters to go to parties or to dance. The result of this was that one daughter ran away from home, never to be heard of again. My grandmother, however, trained as a nurse and set off on her own to evangelize people in South America. One stop she made was in Bolivia: she had a hair pin that was typical of what women in Bolivia used in their long hair. In her old age she lived in a flat near us, and I often looked in the two large curved and brass-bound chests in her entrance hall. They were full of heathen fetishes, masks, wooden carved utensils, a silver engraved spoon. When I was fifteen after she died, I returned from school to find them ablaze in a bonfire. I was appalled. Museums would have loved to get their hands on them. My mother was defiant. “They are heathen, devilish things,” she said. In my old age, I think she was quite right! Ill-health forced my grandmother to leave South America and go to Rhodesia to work in a mission hospital. She met my grandfather, a Scot, who was one of the Rhodesian pioneers and they were married. He was a Presbyterian and she a Baptist. She became an influential member of the Baptist Church - many of whom spoke to me about her when I stayed in Rhodesia before my marriage.
Her daughter, my aunt followed in her footsteps, became a nurse, and joined the China Inland Mission where she met her surgeon husband and served as his theatre sister for many years in very primitive conditions. My father, her son, when he retired from business, spent his last ten years as a Church of England in South Africa lay preacher, and built up a struggling, small church. My father had 3 daughters, I am the eldest, and when I married John we ministered in 2 Baptist churches: one in a dusty, new mining town for about three years, and another we started from scratch in a city. After 9 years during which John gained his D.D, we left for academia where he soon became Dean of the Faculty of Theology. My one sister trained as a nurse and became matron of a small mission hospital in an adjoining country, and later taught about Christianity at a large institution for children with physical and mental problems.
My other sister, when she saw the plight of people, and especially children after giving someone a lift to her home, gave up a lucrative position to start an NGO to care for abused children. Linked to a church, its activities have expanded dramatically. And now, one of my daughters has continued this line of keeping the faith by serving in an international missionary organization. I pray that this may continue with my grandchildren and great grandchildren.
So that is my story. I wonder what is yours?
God bless you
THE END OF THE WORLD
Many people have predicted- and are still predicting- the end of the world. If one listens to the news, it is hardly surprising that many believe the world is on the edge.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the flamboyant US Senator, speaking at the Women’s Unity Rally in Foley Square in 2019 said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” So, according to her, we only have 9 years left.
Stephen William Hawking, 1942-2018, a theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author was a genius and an atheist. He said the world began with a “big bang” and would certainly end one day.
In the New Testament we read:” And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away; and there was no more sea.” (Rev 21:1)
Many confuse the end of the world with the end times – the second coming of Christ- but the world will still be very much here then! This event will be the most awe inspiring ever seen. It will be seen by everyone, no matter where they are. The dead in Christ shall rise and join the vast heavenly throng in the air. These are people of faith like Abraham, the Patriarchs, and Prophets and ordinary people of faith before Christ’s nativity on our first Christmas. It will also include past Christians and those Christians alive at his second coming. All shall receive new bodies as they join their souls, bodies, like Christ’s, suited for heavenly spheres. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, expounds this. (1 Cor 15:49-53).
For the first thousand years of eternity, the redeemed will be housed with their Lord Jesus Christ in “the new Jerusalem” which shall be seen “descending out of Heaven from God.” (Rev 21:1). It will be incredibly beautiful, illuminated by the glory of God himself, and it shall not land on earth. Notice the enormous size of this holy city: 12,000 furlongs (or 1,500 miles) length, width, and height - a perfect cube! (Rev 21:10-23). It will be here, hovering above earth where nothing evil can enter, that Christ will reign for a thousand years.
Then the Devil will be released, and his surrogates, Gog and Magog, will foment a revolt against God but will be completely destroyed. (Rev 20:7-10). Then comes the Judgment of the Great White Throne which only applies to those dead or unredeemed after the defeat of the Devil – certainly not to those alive with their Lord in the Holy City. (Rev 20:11-14).
The Apostle Peter writes, “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Pet 3:13).
The present heavens and earth shall be destroyed. (Rev 21:1). This is the end of the world!! And what will the new heavens and earth be like Some have tried to picture it, but the Bible says” Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for
those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9).
We are, however, told a few things. Isaiah prophesized, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall be remembered no more, nor come into mind.” (Isa 65:17). Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, asked Jesus about marriage in heaven. “Therefore, in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the 7 for they all had her?” Jesus answered, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For, in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Mt 22:28,29,30). The Apostle John writes, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev 21:4).
A glorious future awaits the Redeemed!
NEW TUNES FOR OLD HYMNS
I started writing new tunes for old hymns because I felt that familiarity with melodies often led to an unthinking singing of the lyrics. I have grouped the hymns below into a set on Musescore.com, and click here to reach it and listen.