Being Grateful for the Everyday

We need to count our blessings and be grateful for the things we take for granted every day. Most of Ireland’s citizens live like kings with freedom to worship, a government that’s accountable to them and a host of public services which the most needy never have to pay for. We also need to remember why this is so.

Come out of your foolish fears and preoccupations stoked by baseless conspiracy theories and count your blessings:

  • Education- subsidised and free
  • Health care-public and private
  • Justice & security- Gardai with integrity, courts where justice is served, fair judges
  • Fresh flowing water
  • Secure food supplies
  • Elaborate and effective waste removal and treatment systems
  • Elaborate dwelling places with all sorts of facilities such as:
    • Hot showers
    • Electric ovens
    • Central heating
    • Flushable toilets
    • Comfortable furniture and beds
    • TV
    • Computers
    • etc.
  • Motor vehicles
  • Mobile phones
  • Holidays
  • Recreational trips
  • Parks maintained for our pleasure
  • Eating out
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Freedom of speech (and writing!)
  • Accountable government
  • Transport systems
  • Greenways and tourist attractions, etc.

We also need to remember our history and why we enjoy such freedoms. To say that we owe most if not all of our current wealth, security and freedoms to the United States is not the ravings of a man with some kind of imagined agenda. It is the plain truth to those who have open enough minds to appreciate it.

In the last century the United States were the only reason in the end that we won the first and second world wars. The alternative of losing the second world war would have been fascist rule in Ireland under a demon possessed and lunatic dictator. Also in the last century the US pursued a series of wars and political and financial campaigns against the USSR and its allies (unpopular with many at the time) which held back the spread of another fascist regime. Many Eastern Europeans are old enough to remember what life was like under communist rule. It would be worth your while talking to them. Believe me you didn’t want to live under that system (maybe watch the Sky series Chernobyl if you need reminding).

And why do we owe so much to the USA? It is because fundamentally it is founded on Christian principles. The biblical basis of the US constitution, culture and philosophy is undeniable. It was written by people who (whether they or their ancestors) had paid a high price for their religious freedom escaping persecution from anti-Christ organised religion in Europe. Obviously they weren’t perfect in their implementation of it, and are still not, but if it wasn’t for the land of the free we wouldn’t be.

We have a bad habit in this land of knocking everyone and in particular the US. There is no doubt that there are some individuals (some in high places) that are an embarrassment to that nation and what it stands for. But we would do well to remember here in our national pride just how small and insignificant a nation we are and how much we are at the mercy of much larger powers. We don’t even bother to maintain an effective deterrent army to protect ourselves, such is our trust in the US and its allies in NATO.

Our lifestyles, culture and freedom were made secure with US (and British) lives which, even publicly, we have only just begun to acknowledge. When they won the war they didn’t come in to our country to take over, strip our assets and send them back to the mother country like the USSR did in Eastern Europe. Instead they supplied industry, jobs and supported our freedoms.

And the main reason they did this was because their nation was, and is, fundamentally Christian.

A Rising Tide

I have felt encouraged by a number of words recently from various sources that are indicating that the Lord is moving, or about to move (depending on where you are) in a new way. This has been referred to as the “Third Wave” by some (e.g. by Sean Booth) and is foretold in a 1947 prophecy given by Smith Wigglesworth and by others.

In Reinhard Bonnke’s autobiography, he relates a story about what a rising tide can do. He was down by the pier where a large ship was moored. It was several thousand tons in weight. He was amazed to find that he could cause it to move simply by leaning against it. This would, of course, have been impossible if the ship was on the river bed or on dry land. But because it was lifted by the tide he was able to do what otherwise would have been impossible.

In Psalm 8:2 David says:

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength

I was reading a commentary on this verse which drew a similar analogy to that drawn by Reinhard:

The work that is done in love loses half its tedium and difficulty. It is as with a stone, which in the air and on the dry ground we strain at but cannot stir. Flood the field where it lies, bury the block beneath the rising water; and now, when its head is submerged, bend to the work. Put your strength to it. Ah! it moves, rises from its bed, rolls on before your arm. So, when under the heavenly influences of grace the tide of love rises, and goes swelling over our duties and difficulties, a child can do a man’s work, and a man can do a giant’s. Let love be present in the heart, and “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God ordaineth strength.” Thomas Guthrie, D.D.” (Emphasis added)

Some people call the move of the Spirit that we are speaking of “revival”. Whatever you call it, it will be a move of love.

During this kind of work of God, watch the babes move mountains. God prefers it this way:

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

Matt. 11:25, 26

Confirmed by Paul:

26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

1 Cor. 1:18-29

I am very encouraged that this third wave is, even now, happening around us. The best qualification you have to be part of it, is awareness of your weakness and inability for “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Oh God! Open our eyes that we may see what you are doing in these days!

  1. God has prepared the agnostic: If you can see it, you should be able to understand that God has used the pandemic to prepare people the world over. It has taken them off the hamster wheel, brought their mortality to the front of their minds and left many of them with nothing else to do but seek God and ask the big questions of life.
  2. God has judged the church: The US election has also been used by God. It has removed so many idols. Many big names called prophets by the people have been proven wrong. Those who have stood at the front of large congregations (including a whole nation in one prominent case!) tempting people to look to them rather than Christ have been taken down. The congregations have not been able to meet and the prophets have been proven wrong. In their place are the ordinary, the looked over, the despised who open their homes to the lost.

Oh God! Open our eyes that we may see what you are doing in these days!

More Distractions

Yesterday I was sent the same video by two friends. In the video a woman with a self confessed ignorance of the subject pointed out, in bordering on hysterical tones, that the ingredients in the Astra Seneca vaccine being developed in the UK included some that she found objectionable.

The reason for her objection to the ingredients being used is that at least one of them (MRC-5 see above table) was derived from some processes carried out many years ago which involved an innocent child that was probably murdered.

Of course, as Christians, we are well aware of the murder of another innocent person and God’s wonderful ability to redeem that murder and through it bring about the salvation of many (John 3:16 anyone?).

But that perspective is not one that can be applied here it seems. It seems that many people now have to be afraid and resist with all their fear the potential life saving consequences of the death of the innocent. As if there wasn’t any possibility of redemption when it comes to abortion or vaccines.

But let everyone be convinced in their own mind.

I’m just saying that there are different ways of looking at things.

Your viewpoint shouldn’t be used to create fear or division among us nor should mine. Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of people sowing fear and division with their strongly held positions about all sorts of things nowadays.

I was reading this passage from Hebrews (Chap. 13) this morning and I believe it has some relevance:

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating certain foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 

For our hearts to be strengthened by grace we need to realise how little we really know about all that God saves us from on a daily basis. Some people, much better qualified than I, have spent a lot of time looking into what we ingest or put on or into our bodies. Very little, if any, of it is uncontaminated by exploitation, injustice, murder and other crimes. If our hearts aren’t strengthened by grace and mercy we have nothing. None of us are in a position in this fallen world to get every aspect of our lives right. We all depend on grace.

I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 

Paul in 2 Cor. 11 nails it on the head (as you might expect).

Don’t be distracted! Leave alone the things you know nothing or little about and don’t be sowing fear and discord among people. Concentrate on hearing what God is saying to you. We have disciples to make and a kingdom to see come from heaven to earth. You are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus with a wonderful ability to do things only you can (Eph. 2:10). Don’t follow the crowd. Follow Him.

Here is something simple and true:

Thank God He loves you.

Praise God He is in you.

Worship Him so you can know what His perfect will is for you.

Do that perfect will.

Repeat 7 times a day or before you say or do anything in response to this or any other post.

Appearing in Court

Over the last 30 years or so I have been in court many times. I have appeared as an expert witness in many murder, drugs and terrorist cases including in the UK Crown Courts north of the border. Even as I write this I am engaged in a major murder trial which involves months of work analysing and assessing technical evidence.

The justice system is set up in this country to make it easier to acquit the innocent than to condemn the guilty at least in criminal cases. It is up to the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. It is rare that a jury will go on to convict the innocent though it does happen. In other words, we can generally trust our judges and judicial system not to do injustice.

However, the belief systems of the people involved and political pressures can lead to decisions being made by judges which defy most people’s common sense or sense of what is right and wrong. Nowhere is this more obvious (to me at least) than in the ruling of the Irish Supreme Court in March 2018 that the child in a womb has no rights because they are not actually a child until they come out of the womb. Try telling that to any mother.

So can courts based on western democratic systems get it wrong? Absolutely.

Does that mean they will get it wrong when it comes to the many cases that President Trump has brought to try and dispute the election of Joe Biden in the US? Well that would seem unlikely for a couple of reasons:

  1. There are numerous courts involved. All these cases have to be taken at State (not Federal) level first. A lot of these courts will have judges and jurists on them who are favourable to President Trump. The federal Supreme Court is also loaded with people who have conservative values and beliefs. There should be no reason for the President’s supporters to doubt their rulings if some of the cases get that far.
  2. The cases are usually quite simple and don’t depend on value based judgements. There were either lots of fraudulent votes or there were not. Notwithstanding the few State variations on how to accept or deny postal votes, it shouldn’t be that hard for the prosecution to disprove or the defence to prove there were fraudulent or improper votes cast or included in the election of Joe Biden.

It is possible that some of the many accusations of fraud will be upheld by the courts as legitimate. Whether there will be enough to overturn the Presidential election results as are currently being presented in the main stream media is another question.

A lot of people think there is too much at stake to let it go, no matter how improbable the likelihood of success.

Personally I think the US election results (as currently presented) have turned out well overall with the Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and narrowing the Democrats margin of control in the House. Speaking as a European I believe we could all do with a better image of the democracy that has saved us on at least 3 occasions in the last century from fascist rule than that presented in the main stream media of the present incumbent. If Joe does get in they should have less reasons to ridicule him.

Misinterpreting the Times

Jeremiah was a very unpopular prophet.

Actually, he was a full on traitor.

At a time of extreme national crisis, when the very existence of the nation of Israel was at stake, he openly and consistently advocated surrender to the enemy (Jer.38:2, 17).

Throughout his prophecies, he warned people that God was bringing on disaster if they did not repent (e.g. Jer. 17:27, 18:11). Later, as it became obvious that no one was listening (Jer. 18:12 – 17) and when they turned against him (Jer. 18:18), his prophecies became more ominous and certain (Jer. 19).

We now know that God was indeed speaking through Jeremiah as he consistently said He was. But at the time the Word of God through Jeremiah was rejected on every side by both the kings of the time and many of the people.

In one particularly telling scene, Jeremiah gets his assistant to write down all the prophecies that God had given him. During a time of national fasting, his assistant reads from the book the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 36:9-10) in the house of he Lord. These words are full of specific warnings against Israel about the judgements that God was bringing upon them (36:2) and were written by the Lord in the hope that people hearing them might turn back to Him (v.3).

A man called Michaiah, son of Gemariah, hears the words and declares them to the princes of the land (v. 11-13). After hearing these words the princes become afraid (v.16) and decide to bring them to the king (v.20). However, the words that Jeremiah is bringing are so unpopular and against the nation that the princes advise him and his assistant to “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” (v.19).

The king’s response is scary. He listened and every few minutes he cut the read sections out with a scribe’s knife and threw them in the fire. Eventually, he burnt up the whole scroll. (v.23).

The bible goes on to say that neither the king nor his close advisors were afraid or showed any symptoms of repentance despite hearing all these words (v.24). Some brave upright men who are called out by name (v. 25) pleaded with the king not to burn the scroll but he would not listen to them. He even commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch be seized but the Lord hid them (v.26).

This story is typical of Jeremiah. Throughout the book the same themes arise again and again:

  1. God warns the people that He is bringing destruction on them because of their sins.
  2. Jeremiah faithfully repeats God’s words. He is also instructed by God on exactly how to make them clear to everyone through everyday life pictures like a potter’s wheel (chap. 18) and smashing a clay pot (chap. 19).
  3. The kings (Jeconiah and Zedekiah)* and many of the people reject the words of the Lord.
  4. Disaster ensues. The enemy comes in, takes over the kingdom and the people of God are reduced to a remnant.

This theme is repeated in graphic and shocking fashion with the people left in the land (Jer. 42-44) after the loss of the king and their nobles to Babylon. They ask Jeremiah for the Word of the Lord (42:1-3) and promise to do whatever he says (v.5). But when they hear what God has said they reject it (43:2-4)!

One of the scariest parts is that they completely misinterpret what happened and why.

They say that the kingdom was taken by the enemy because they had stopped sacrificing to a false god (the “queen of heaven” 44:18). They determined to keep going to Egypt despite God’s words to the contrary. Eventually, even there, the enemy overtakes them and they are destroyed. Only a very small remnant escape as a warning to the others (44:28-30).

Of course, Jeremiah was not the only prophet of God who was right and rejected by the kings of the day. Micaiah, the son of Imla, suffered in a similar way (2 Chron. 18).

All this goes to show is that it is very easy to get it wrong when we are looking at impending disaster or are in difficult situations.

The most important thing to learn from all of this is that you, the President (elect or current) and all his and your friends could be wrong.

And that applies to whatever side of the divide you find yourself on. It was pride – specifically national pride – that caused the people of Israel to reject God’s will for them.

Ask yourself, are you on the Lord’s side? Really? If you are confused and don’t know which side to choose then you might be closer to the Truth than you think.

*Jeconiah rejected God’s words from the beginning and was consistently opposed to Jeremiah. He is sent as a captive to Babylon where he eventually dies. Zedekiah wavered and moved back and forth between supporting Jeremiah and abandoning him to his enemies. The king of Babylon catches him while he is fleeing Jerusalem, kills his sons in front of him, blinds him and takes him captive to Babylon. Neither of them do well.

Fine Dust in the Balance

If like me you have been distracted by an election in a country far away then I hope, like me, that you will be encouraged by the Lord’s view of nations:

Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
17 All nations before Him are as nothing,
And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.

Isaiah 40:15-17

All the nations are as nothing to God, no matter what it may look like to us. The Scriptures are quite clear about this. We need to keep our minds off earthly things:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 3:20

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:28

The US Election

In 3 days the world will know the result of the US election. This is an election like no other in a year like no other. Many are praying that there will be a very clear outcome, one way or the other, to reduce the risk of social upheaval.

I have some people asking me about it so here is my tuppence halfpenny’s worth. I hope it helps.

Evangelical voters in the US are facing a particularly difficult choice and need our prayers. I, for one, am glad I don’t have to vote in this election.

There are 2 main components of the election facing all voters:

  • The choice between the 2 parties involved: Republicans and Democrats and the values they stand for.
  • The choice between the 2 men involved: Joe Biden and Donald Trump and their respective characters.

In the first choice the main issue seems to be around conserving or changing the US culture, perception of history and political systems. The US Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, etc.) and the ideology, culture and history that springs from it and the US Constitution are things that many Evangelicals, reasonable people, and other people of faith in the US, believe strongly in and want to preserve. Many perceive that voting for the Republicans is a vote for that culture, history and philosophy and voting for the Democrats is a vote to destroy all that. This particularly applies to issues such as abortion and race relations but also applies to revising history, concepts of family and gender and other dearly held Evangelical positions.

I have found Ben Shapiro’s writings and podcasts useful when it comes to understanding the Republican view point. The Atlantic and the Economist are good sources if you want to understand the Democrat view point.

On the other point many reasonable people, Evangelicals included, perceive that to vote Republican is to vote in Trump for another 4 years. A lot of reasonable people including Evangelicals would see in Trump’s character and behaviour everything that they would consider the antithesis of the nature of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospels. Many consider Trump to be selfish and a narcissist in a similar way to other dictatorial leaders desperate to hold onto power at any cost (e.g. Putin, Kim Jung-un, Alexander Lukashenko). Joe Biden on the other hand comes across as a reasonable man who does not embody the extremes of the feared Democrat position.

So many Evangelical voters are caught between a rock and a hard place. They only have 2 choices:

  • Vote for Trump and the Republican party and usher in another 4 years of tweets, polarization, ego and damage to the Evangelical testimony in many people’s eyes or
  • Vote for Biden and the Democrat party and all it stands for including the loss of the gains in anti abortion rights, etc. that have been made under the Trump administration.

It is no wonder that John Piper recently blogged that he was not going to vote for either one (though he doesn’t recommend that to anyone).

The most likely outcome from this election will be disillusionment with the whole US electoral system.

Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020

This post is one of a series related to the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020. In this time of physical contact restrictions the appeal has had to move online for this year which leads to some unique challenges. The needs have never been greater in the recipient countries so please #TeamUpForTeamHope and contribute generously to the appeal this year.

Team Hope CSA 2020

This post is one in a series related to the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020. In this time of physical contact restrictions the appeal has had to move online for this year which leads to some unique challenges. The needs have never been greater in the recipient countries so please #TeamUpForTeamHope and contribute generously to the appeal this year.

Promises, beloved!

]Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

2 Peter 1:1-4 (NAS)

Peter is telling us that God’s divine power – which gives us everything we need to live a godly life- is mediated to us through the promises scattered throughout Scripture.

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

“I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
“And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
18 “And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1 (NAS)

Paul tells us of the greatest promises in Scripture: God Himself will be a Father to us. He also emphasizes that holiness is required to experience this.

Here are a couple of promises from Proverbs that have helped me this morning:

The fear of the Lord leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil.

Proverbs 19:23

The righteous man walks in his integrity;
His children are blessed after him.

Proverbs 20:7