Category: DEVOTION

HOW TO BUILD A REAL AND LASTING YOU

Who’s read C.S.Lewis’ book, “The Great Divorce”? In this stimulating novel Lewis sees some people who make it to heaven as being brilliant, vibrant beings, shining as the sun. Others are portrayed as just feint wisps: dim, almost ghost-like forms-the difference being due to the way they had lived their lives on the earth…

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Please don’t mistake my message. I’m not speaking about a gospel of works here: salvation is by faith. However, rewards are conditional.

Socialist-minded readers will automatically recoil from the concept of “inequality” in celestial rewards, as in Lewis’ work. But like it or not, there is considerable Biblical basis for the idea that some will be greater than others in heaven. After all, Jesus said so himself. The parable of the talents is clear on this (Matthew chapter 25). And when it comes to how we act on God’s word or otherwise, Jesus said:

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19 NIV).

Perhaps the verse which inspired Lewis is this one:

…they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).

I’m convinced that Lewis was really onto something profound in his descriptions of post-human beings in heaven-something which we should, perhaps, consider much more than we do.

Have you ever looked at some people and seen them almost as shells only? They’re human, and they’re loved by God, but they have no depth of mind or character. They look only upon mundane, every-day things, like what they will eat for the next meal. There’s no depth of thought or concern for others, or for God, or for anything with any meaning or significance. In some ways they’re almost like animals.

How will God judge the simple and the shallow? Perhaps the first answer is “fairly”, because He’s the righteous judge. It’s not brains or knowledge which endears us to our Creator: He doesn’t look down on them like we do. It’s not material wealth or popularity, or great energy, or success, or imagination or wide experience of life, and it’s not our earthly achievements. What we drive and where we live doesn’t impress our God at all. And it’s not our humanity which God loves in us. After all, “The wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4). Those who displease God are of no lasting value.

The route to God’s heart, and to a “greater” you in eternal, lasting terms is through his word, as we read in the Matthew verse. If we consider it highly, and if we seek to live it out, we are then building our own eternal nature-what will remain when the ultimate trial comes, and what will live on for ever. Our faith in God is also of utmost concern to Him. Works born of true faith is what He’s looking for in us. This is what Jesus called “fruit”.

I’m not speaking here about human works. Only what is truly Godly can last through the fire of judgment, and human righteousness without our God is not acceptable to Him. It can’t be done without Jesus Christ. Neither do I subscribe to a common view in some areas of the Church that we can’t do anything-God does it all. That’s a cop-out and it’s not what Scripture says. It’s team-work, where we live in Christ, and we apply ourselves to what we know we must do, and He works in our efforts:

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:4-6).

It’s our Godly character-that which is living in Christ, which will live on. By growing in Him, what grows will be our real, lasting, eternal self: everything else about us will be gone.

 

 

 

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HOW AMAZING IS GOD?

How amazing is God? Nobody this side of heaven knows for sure. But one thing we can know is that no created entity is more amazing than its creator…

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I halted the business of my day yesterday for just a few minutes-just long enough to look into the stunning blue sky, where brilliant cumulus clouds were suspended over the hillsides. Tall grasses and wild flowers of all colors swayed gently in the breeze. One or two birds, living life to the utmost of their ability, sang their vibrant, jubilant little song. And it struck me that what I was looking at, in all its overwhelming glory, just represented a fraction of its creator’s glory, beauty, power and imagination.

If you want to get a glimpse of how great God is, look at what he has made, and know that He is even greater.

WHAT GOD WANTS

Watching the news; observing people and the affairs of humanity; looking in the mirror and thinking of what I’ve done with my own life, I had to ask my God why He would care at all about the human race…

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4).

Those of us who are Bible believers know that we’re not worthy of God’s love: He gives it because He wants to. He did, after all, send His son to die for us while we were in our fallen state. But why? What could he, an infinite, omnipotent, incredible, beautiful God possibly want that we have or that we are?

I have to say that the answer, humanly speaking, is beyond me. If I were God I would probably just give up on the world and start all over. But as I thought the matter over this morning, for the umpteenth time, what came to mind quite apart from some relevant scriptural statements, were the few souls I’ve known in my life who were genuinely wonderful people-people who were consistently different to everyone else in a good way.

I realized that these people all had certain things in common. They were humble, warm, selfless, kind, loving and thoughtful, and lived a life of service. While no human “deserves” God’s love, humans were designed and made in His image. And perhaps in those divine qualities which a few somehow manage to exhibit there’s a glimpse of that image of God, and a strong indicator of what God through his son Jesus Christ seeks to foster in us, and to fill his heaven with for all eternity.

Worship doesn’t just consist of singing or raising hands, it’s more to do with how we live our lives:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2).

Yes, we’re saved by faith in the son of God, because of God’s mercy and grace. But it’s when we consciously live out our faith in truth and genuine love and praise, that we please our Creator, and become the kind of people He wants in his kingdom. How many of us are studying the will of our Father in our lives? Jesus said:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23 NIV).

TROUBLE

“Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”, observed Solomon. Sometimes, perhaps often, we all feel the same way about life…

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More recently, Bob Dylan wrote in his song “Trouble”

Trouble in the water, trouble in the air
Go all the way to the other side of the world, you’ll find trouble there.

I’ve written a lot on the subject of trouble and suffering in the past, but not enough on its ultimate source. The story of Job in the Bible is very sobering, but enlightening to anyone with open eyes and an open heart. Job suffered severely, and made the mistake of putting his suffering down to the conviction that God was picking on him:

“Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?” (Job 7:19).

However, the testimony of the book of Job is that God was not “picking” on him-it was Satan. The devil was pouring out his hatred on Job. It’s true that God was allowing Satan to do that, and the question of “why” is examined in my posts on suffering*. The point here is that Job was blaming God, when it wasn’t God at all.

Moving into the New Testament, we find Paul, a man persecuted to death, and even now hated by many in and out of the Church, squarely blaming the one who Job didn’t even seem to be aware of:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Paul counseled his followers to “Put on the full armor of God” in order to be able to combat the attacks of the evil ones (verse 11).

On a daily basis, our troubles come at us from the selfishness of other people, from the lies of bad and godless philosophy, from the consequences of the Fall, and from our own mistakes. When we drop our toast butter-side down on the floor it most likely isn’t because Satan himself arranged it. But ultimately our enemy is that enemy of God. Be aware of the fact, without being obsessed, and put on the armor, described in more detail in Paul’s letter.

* https://nickyfisher.com/2018/07/15/why-doesnt-god-stop-bad-things-from-happening/

THE PERFECT WORLD

The political scene with its surrounding discourse, debate and accompanying scheming, charades, and false characterizations and representations provide a perfect arena for human nature to hone and to extrude one of its prime characteristics-one of the things it’s best at: blaming someone else…

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Life, for almost all of us, is tough, and then we die. As if life and death itself isn’t enough to deal with, we live in opposition to our Creator and we ignore his instructions for a good life and a happy world, and then when things go wrong as they would if we attempted to construct a table with a chainsaw, we look for someone else to blame and accuse.

We forget that we’re all prone to the same troubles, and we’re all limited in our abilities and knowledge. There is no perfect world; there is no utopia just waiting to be discovered by somebody who has all the right ideas and the right phrases and the best looks, and even if there were, there are plenty of others ready and willing to throw a wrench in the works, who have a different idea of how that perfect world should be achieved, and who don’t want to listen to your ideas.

We all tend to want to blame someone else for our problems and our failures. It was our dad’s fault, our mother’s fault, our boyfriend’s fault, our wife’s fault, our politicians’ fault, our ancestors’ faults. They weren’t generous enough, they didn’t try hard enough, they didn’t think of us enough, they didn’t make the right decisions, they weren’t educated enough, they weren’t good-looking enough, they didn’t…overlook our faults enough. We don’t consider that they themselves were struggling to get through life as best they could. But for them our world would be just as it should be -right?

Oh, but then, if the world were perfect, there would be nobody left to blame…but ourselves.