“One-handed Blog” (5)

God-willing, I hope that RightWithGod will continue to appear each week in a much shorter form until my broken right arm is healed,  but I will not burden you with all the explanation given in a previous blog.

On a Lord’s Day morning in preparation for preaching, I often read randomly from the letters of Samuel Rutherford. This is to prepare my heart. I often find myself wishing that I had such appreciation of  Christ as Rutherford had. I have the same feeling when I read the account of the  “woman in the city who was a sinner” in Luke 7: 37-40. Her actions describe her love and thankfulness to Christ with a power and eloquence that no words could ever match. She had what one would call ‘a history’, such that ordinary people would not allow her to touch them. She approaches Jesus and begins to weep over Him and as the tears began to fall on His feet, she began to wipe them with the hairs of her head.  The rest of the company waited for Jesus to draw back from her, but no such reaction came. He just let her do it until she was finished. This adds further to the beauty of the scene. It tells us that Jesus recognised her gesture as one of deep appreciation. Of what? At this point, we have to assume that Jesus had a previous conversation with her during which she got RightWithGod. He would have conveyed to her the wonderful news that He was able and willing to forgive her and cleanse her from ALL sin. How I wish that I had such appreciation of Christ as she had.

“One-handed Blog” (4)

God-willing, I hope that RightWithGod will continue to appear each week in a much shorter form until my broken right arm is healed,  but I will not burden you with all the explanation given in an earlier posting.

It is God’s way with His children that He mixes His judgements with mercy. As time goes on, and I look at the hard trials of others, I realise that my broken arm is indeed “light affliction, which is but for a moment” (2 Corinthians 4: 17). God has in fact been merciful towards me. What He has brought upon me is not judgement, but Fatherly chastisement, and done in love. It was nothing like what I deserved. In fact it was not the smallest fraction more than was necessary to bring about the required ‘stop’ in my life, and I hope that I am now truly thankful for it.

One thing is becoming clear to me over these days of ‘stoppage’. It is that there has been in my spiritual life considerable ‘drift’. It is not  that my discipline of prayer and bible reading had fallen by the wayside, but that the level of love, earnestness and fervency in these things had dropped. The problem was that it had dropped so slowly that I was not aware that it was happening. As always in such ‘drifting’, there was some loss of appreciation of what Christ had done for me. I am grateful to God for His intervention. May He revive and quicken my heart, and may I set about making all the adjustments now necessary with commitment and resolve.

 

 

“One-handed Blog”(2)

God-willing, I hope that RightWithGod will continue to appear each week in a much shorter form until my broken right arm is healed,  but I will not burden you with all the explanation given in my last blog. Believers are continually faced with a problem which is peculiar to believers, and which is not easily understood by anyone else. On the one hand, we believe that God is involved in every detail of our lives, and indeed has His own individual lives; on the other hand, God gives us all a set of circumstances within which we are to make decisions and choices according to the principles laid down for us in His word. The latter is an area if the believer’s life which we call “duties”, and it is extremely important. This is where our obedience begins. It necessarily involves some planning, but all our plans must be prefaced with the acknowledgement, “If the Lord will” (James 4:15). God may sometimes have very different plans for us from what we expect. I was once given an old saying which, although not from the scriptures, has been a great help to me over the years: ‘Duties are ours, events are God’s’.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Accidents”

I have often said to my congregation that events, occurrences, trials etc in the life of the christian are never ‘accidents’, or just ‘incidental’. The words, “For the child of God, nothing is for nothing”, were frequently on my lips as I preached. I now find myself in the situation where I have to put what I preached into practice. Last Friday, I took a set of ‘steps’ into my study to change a light bulb. I misjudged my step, and I realised I was going to fall, and tried to break my fall by getting my hand on to the desk to break my fall, and ended up falling very heavily on to my wrist. I knew immediately by the shape of my hand and wrist that something was broken. x-rays showed that the break was not simple. Both forearm bones are broken very close to the wrist joint, and attempts by the orthopaedic team to align things were only partly successful, and further intervention may be required. But ‘nothing is for nothing’, and I put my trust in God’s word, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18: 30).

What I have written so far has taken me more than two hours, because I am extremely right-handed and very poor with my left hand. Nevertheless, God-willing, I hope that RightWithGod will continue to appear each week in a much shorter form until I am fully recovered.

Who Rules the World?

The question in the title is a very important one for every thinking person, especially at the present time. Things are changing very fast, and there is growing tension between the powerful nations of the world. This is not a new thing. What is new is the emergence of North Korea as a potential nuclear power. That country is determined to get into a position where it can defend itself, and no one would deny them that right. The problem is the closed, secretive nature of North Korea as a nation. It does not seek any alliances, except the minimum necessary for trade. The leadership are not answerable to anyone. The restrictions of democracy do not exist. Not only so, but atheism is fundamental to the constitution, hence conscience is not a factor in the decisions of the leadership. For the average Korean, the state takes the place of God.

The result of this is that a new nuclear power is emerging in the world, which is unlikely ever to submit to any multilateral international agreement to restrict the proliferation of nuclear materials. To say that this is a major problem for the western nations hardly expresses the seriousness of the problem. The danger is beyond words. The growing dilemma facing the western nations is, can they afford to let the present situation continue, or do they intervene preemptively? Presently, no one knows the answer to that question, but the bible does give us some comfort for ourselves and our children.

For the christian who is RightWithGod through Jesus Christ, there is comfort in knowing that the fate of this world is not in the hands of man, but in the hands of God. It is God who rules this world; not any western leader, nor Kim Jong Un the present leader of North Korea, nor is it Satan. World history will continue to its God-determined end. The world will not be brought to an end by nuclear war, nor by global warming nor any such action of man. These things may or may not have their effects, but they will not bring the world to an end. The bible teaches us most clearly that only God knows when the end of the world will be: “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24: 36).  In that passage, Jesus goes on to emphasise the fact that the end of the world will occur unexpectedly, and on a very ordinary day.

Does that mean that God has control over world leaders? Yes; and He exercises  that control in a most amazing way. In Proverbs 21:1 we read, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turns it wheresoever He will”. How reassuring in the day in which we live,  to know that even the heart of Kim Jong Un, is in the hand of God, and God is able to turn it whatever way suits His will. The world is ruled by God and He has no unforeseen surprises.

All will be brought to a conclusion when Jesus Christ descends from heaven “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16). Verse 18 ends that same chapter with the words, “Therefore comfort one another with these words”. Let is do just that, at this seemingly dangerous time in the history of this world.

 

 

 

Having the Mind of Christ

The true believer will always have a strong desire to progress in the christian faith. This desire is, first and foremost, the desire to fulfill the great purpose of our salvation, as it is set before us throughout the bible. For example, in Ephesians 1:4 we read, “According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy  (emphasis mine), and without blame before Him in love”. Being holy shows in our outward lives, but holiness itself is firstly inward; invisible to man, but visible to God. In Philippians 2: 5, Paul points us to an important aspect of this inward work: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”. He is saying that we should seek to think like Christ, but he is saying more than that. We are to seek to have the mind of Christ. As in all spiritual activities, we are to wait on God and, at the same time, make every effort to bring desires to pass. This verse is an exhortation to us to seek to have the mind of Christ. In order to do so we must know what the mind of Christ was in His earthly life. This is laid out for us plainly in the words that follow in verses 6 to 8. The key concept in these verses is progressive humbling of Himself.

Though He was, in His person, God the Son from all eternity, He did not graspingly hold on to this status and glory (verse 6). On the contrary, when He took human nature into union with His divine person, He emptied Himself of all reputation, as Isaiah prophesies of Him, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”(Isaiah 53:3). He adopted the form and status of a servant, and though He was, and continued to be, God the Son from all eternity, He took lowly, created human nature into permanent union with His person (verse 7). Then in that lowly human nature, He humbled Himself to the ultimate in obedience to the Father’s will for Him by dying, not a gentle dignified death, but the death of the cross: crucifixion, the most painful, slow and disgrace-laden death to which a human being can be subjected (verse 8).

So, how would we describe the mind of Christ in order that we might seek after it? It is a mind that is not concerned with defending one’s own rights and reputation, but is more concerned with the welfare and salvation of others. It is also a mind that is chiefly motivated by obedience to the will of God, than anything else in this life.

If we go back to the words which introduce this great passage of verses 5 to 8, we learn yet more of what having the mind of Christ means. Verses 3 and 4 exhort us, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others”.

Let us pursue holiness with all effort, keeping in always before us, the mind of our example, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, only those who have received Christ Himself as Lord and Saviour are able to receive the mind of Christ.

(I will be on holiday next week but I will try  to leave a holiday thought here if I can.)

Mutual Possession

The Song of Solomon is an intensely devotional book. It is also a prophetic book in that it describes for us the relationship between the believer and Christ, the ‘Beloved’, with an intimacy which looks forward to the relationship between the believer and Christ in the New Testament. It expresses for us with a wonderful intensity the happiness of the one who is RightWithGod through Jesus Christ.

The bible describes the relationship between Christ and the believer in many ways. But there is one which is particularly amazing, and that is, mutual possession, a two-way possession. Putting this in simple language, Christ possesses us and we possess Christ.  The  idea is present in many places in the bible, but in the Song of Solomon it is stated twice by the believer, with amazing confidence.

The first of these occurrences is in Chapter 2, verse 16: “My Beloved is mine, and I am His”; the second is in Chapter 6, verse 3: “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.” The happiness underlying these words in inescapable. The believer in this case is female. If there is a reason for this, it is that women are usually better at expressing their love than men, but there does not have to be any particular reason.

In this relationship of mutual possession, there is no coercion or oppression, as there sometime is in  possessive relationships between human beings. There is here a willingness and gladness on both sides to be possessed.  Human beings, by nature, are afraid of such a relationship. This fear tends to persist even after conversion, and must be forsaken, and replaced with a wholehearted and glad surrender to the total Lordship of Jesus Christ. Holding back in this matter is a cause of much unhappiness and lack of assurance among christians. True happiness lies in the relationship of “My Beloved is mine, and I am His”.

There is another amazing aspect of this. That is that, if there is this mutual possession, then He accepts her as His. He is not ashamed to own her as His own. The altogether righteous One is not ashamed to own a sinner as His own property, even His special treasure.

What is the explanation of such intense love on the part of Christ for His own? It is that He has loved her from the beginning, and purchased her. The believer is bought at a great price: nothing less than the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. He knows what that price was in a way that we cannot. But the result is  that He now looks on every one He has purchased as an exceedingly precious possession.

The believer, on the other hand, is so aware of her own sin and unworthiness that she cannot understand how Christ could ever love her so much that He paid such a price for her. Not only so, but He is not ashamed to own her as His possession. The result is that she loves Him more than ever. He is truly and intensely her Beloved.

The Grenfell Tower Fire.

It has been a painful experience to watch the pictures and reports of the Grenfell tower fire. It is heart-rending to think of what these people went through. This is intensified by the speed at which things happened, going from normal everyday life to unspeakable tragedy in fifteen minutes. Dozens of precious human beings going to meet their God and Maker.

Our thoughts are with those who are bereaved, and those injured. There is no doubt that the rescue and medical services, as always in our beloved country, have given their all to help, and we thank God for them, but the circumstances were such that they were limited in what they could do. Questions again arise as to the wisdom of housing people in high-rise flats at all, even though it seems to be a necessity in modern life. Certainly, more needs to be done in order to make these blocks safer. Some of the safety deficiencies in the Grenfell tower surely demand investigation, and we are thankful that our Prime Minister has ordered a full-scale investigation, and we hope that it will be thorough and as speedy as possible.

Meanwhile, as christians, we must not detach ourselves from this catastrophe, but be involved as far as we can, in prayer and deep thought about what has happened. We must seek the face of God in prayer for the bereaved and injured, and also for the investigation itself. We do not have all the answers, but we do have some.

The question on the lips of many at such a time as this is, ‘why did God allow this to happen?’ Our answer must stand firmly on the ground that God is God, and that therefore He controls all that happens. So, we have to answer, ‘yes, God did allow this to happen, but as to the ‘why’, we have to turn to the bible to understand the basic factors involved in God’s government of this world. The best place for us to go is to the first two chapters of the book of Job. The picture there is quite clear. There is God who rules over all, and there is Satan who cannot refuse any opportunity to do evil, but cannot make the slightest move except as God allows him. Satan, because of his evil nature, will always take such an opportunity to do harm, and take it to its limit; but he cannot go beyond the limit set for him by God, not even by the slightest amount.

The result of this is that, although we live in a fallen world, we do not live in a world of total evil, but in a world of controlled evil. All one needs to prove this to oneself is to thumb through a newspaper, and ask the question, what is the picture of the world that one sees? The answer is that it is not a world of total evil, but one of controlled evil. The fact is that we have never seen a world of total evil, and we never will in this life.

So the amazing thing is not that catastrophies such as the Grenfell tower fire occurred, but, how rarely such things happen. This is because, when man fell with the tragic consequences, God did not abandon the world He had created, but still rules it according to His perfect wisdom.

May this be a time for us to bow the knee before the God of all power.

 

The Recent Atrocities

It is not easy to comment on the recent atrocities in London and Manchester, yet one cannot be silent. Things like the death penalty used to be a deterrent to the taking of a human life. Some say that we should restore the death penalty for murder. I would be in favour of its restoration, not because I believe it would deter these atrocities, but because the bible calls for it. It is not a duty of the individual, but a duty of the state.

Immediately after the flood, God made a covenant with Noah, which has never been rescinded. In Genesis 9: 6, we read “Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man”. Every human being is precious because, among other things, he or she bears the image of God. Although the bible teaches us to be kind to animals, especially those who help us in our daily work, there is no prohibition on taking the life of an animal, because they are not made in the image of God, and are not morally responsible. For them death is the end, and there is no after-life. On the other hand,, man is made in the image of God, and is held morally responsible by God for all his actions. Every human being must give an account of themselves on the Day of Judgement: “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).

Sadly the death penalty would not help to deter the present terrorist groups, because their religion makes certain promises to them if they die in Jihad. Jihad basically means Struggle, or Holy Struggle, or Holy War, or War Against the Infidel. The latter meaning is applied by Islamic Terrorist groups to War against Western Society. However the Day of Perfect Justice is coming and they will not escape, but for them, as for us “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God”. There will be no escape

However, we can pray. We must pray for those who have suffered injury, and for the bereaved. Their pain and heartache is incalculable. We must also seek to obey the command to “Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), however difficult we find it.

As I write this, polling is under way in the United Kingdom. One of the big issues facing any new government will be its obligation to defend our citizens. It is very important to be clear that the State is, under God, given responsibilities much wider that the individual. This is clear from Romans 13: 1-5 which describe to us our responsibility to submit to the power of the State and the responsibility of the State to fight against evil. Verse 4 describes to us the responsibility of the ruler to take up the sword against evil: “For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him who does evil”.

There is no doubt that the intelligence services and the police have done a good job. The speed of the police response in the latest London atrocity was amazing. However, the Police must be strengthened and given more powers.

Also questions must be asked of Islam itself. Is there something fundamental to Islam which leaves the way open to the kind of brutality and murder which has been perpetrated in different parts of the world in the name of Islam?

There are also questions that we must ask regarding our own nation. For example, are we under the judgement of God because of our moral decadence? I have no doubt that the answer to that question is, Yes. We, as christians, must seriously seek the face of God, pleading with Him to bring us to national repentance, and return us to righteousness.