Faith & Waiting

There is a pattern of God’s working with men that seems almost like He is teasing us, but the aim is to test and show our faith, remove idolatry and make us more dependent on Him.

When Abraham was told at the age of 75 that his descendants would be like the stars of heaven or the sands of the seashore his expectation was probably that he would have a son almost immediately and that there would be at least tens of descendants before he died.  As it turned out, he had just two descendants (Isaac & Jacob) to whom the promise applied by the time he died 100 years later.

Joseph might have been forgiven for thinking that the trajectory of his life would not have involved kidnapping, prison and servitude from the age of 17 to 40 after getting dreams of his parents and his siblings bowing down before him.

Moses probably didn’t anticipate Pharoah making things much harder for the the people of Israel when he was sent to deliver them from bondage.  Watching the bondage actually increase when he was told that God would deliver them must have been hard.  God didn’t tell Moses that that was going to happen first and it didn’t exactly inspire faith in his story in the ones he had come to deliver either.

Another significant example of the same principle in practice can be seen in the life of David.  He was anointed king at around 17 but was running for his life for a large part of his career after that and didn’t see the fulfilment of the promise until he was 30.

So, if like me, you have been given a promise from God and the exact opposite seems to be happening don’t be surprised.  You are in good company.

God will come through for you.

Condescension

2047 AD.  One of the great things about being an immortal is that you didn’t have to go around with a security contingent everywhere you went.  That and the ability to conceal yourself meant you could turn up unannounced, and if you wanted, unnoticed at any venue.

Martin wanted to call up on an old acquaintance who was still mortal.  She had missed out on the chance to be immortal through… well actually Martin wasn’t quite sure why she had missed out.  He knew of other cases of those that seemed as they would have qualified to be transformed but didn’t.  The problem in those cases seemed to be a lack of genuine relationship with Jesus.  He didn’t know why Genevieve hadn’t made it though.  Her relationship seemed genuine and she had blessed him many times during his mortal past.

He stood outside her door and rang the bell.

Genevieve arrived at the door looking rather disheveled.  Martin had toned down his appearance to look as much like his mortal self as possible but she knew what had happened to him  – and hadn’t happened to her.

Genevieve’s husband shouted out from a room somewhere in the back of the house: “Who is it?”

“An old friend”, Genevieve called back.

“Tell him to go away.”  It seems Genevieve’s husband wasn’t the most sociable of people.

“Let’s go.” Genevieve grabbed Martin’s arm and went out to the car.  Martin was thinking that he didn’t need a car to go anywhere but he let it pass.  They got into her old Nissan Leaf (it was 30 years old) and drove to the nearest restaurant.

“What happened, Genevieve?” asked Martin getting straight to the point, “I remember when, even as a mortal, I could see you shining with the Holy Spirit.  You blessed me and everyone around you.”

“I didn’t want to leave him.”

Martin thought about that for a minute.  He could understand how that might be possible but he was surprised anyone could resist the loving tug that he had felt during the time leading up to his transformation.  He could have asked whether she thought it was worth it but her appearance and her husband’s response back at the house seemed to make the question redundant.  Martin decided to ask the question anyway.

“No.” Came the simple reply followed by a sigh.

Faith and Desire

God knows your deepest desires and isn’t surprised by any of them.  I believe that He has an answer to them all in Christ both for this life and the next.

As believers one of the things we have to get used to is that the line between this life and the next is very thin indeed.  There is a major transition involved, we need to shake off this mortal body and put on an immortal one.  But apart from that nothing else changes – much!  It does take faith to look over that gap and see our lives continuing on.

However, one of the keys of living a contented Christian life here is to hope and believe in satisfaction and contentment throughout our existence.  Some desires will be satisfied here during this mortal life, many will be satisfied there during the immortal stage.

God commends this kind of faith.  In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer ends up his panegyric about the heroes of faith in chapter 11 by saying this:

“All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.”

The saints of the Old Testament are still waiting for our time to come to a close before they will get all they desire.

So, if you are facing unfulfilled desires in this life, ask yourself whether God hasn’t planned to fulfil them in the next.  No, better still, ask God.  You might be surprised at His answer.

 

Basic Faith

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

It is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those that sincerely seek Him. (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NLT)

When people ask me what we have to believe I have often said the Gospel requires very little faith in reality, at least to start with.  All we need to believe is that God exists and that He is good.  Everything else can be logically built upon those two foundations.  If God exists and is good then it follows that He would do all that the bible says He has done.

No one can prove God exists but then neither can any of us prove that anything ultimately exists since we cannot know the ultimate materials on which matter is built.  The more we split the atom, the more there is to split.  So, rather than being unreasonable, we logically believe in some basic building blocks (atoms, nucleus, protons, neutrons and electrons) and our engineered inventions are built on those beliefs.  They work because the things we believe about materials are true.

In the same way, the bible tells us to be reasonable.  Believe in some basic things: God is and He is good.  After that, everything God has caused to be written in His book is reasonable and makes sense.  However if God does not exist or, if He does but He is in fact evil, then the bible is either rubbish or a perverse set of stories of an evil being with malicious intent towards us all.

God says: “I AM”.  He does exist.

The bible goes onto say that God gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  He is not willing that anyone should perish.  In other words He is good.

Start there.

 

Faith

Faith, according to St. Paul, is the means by which the whole being of the believer—his intellect, his heart, and his will—enter into possession of the salvation which the incarnation of the Son of God has purchased for him. Jesus Christ is apprehended by faith, and thenceforth becomes every thing for man, and in man. He imparts a divine life to human nature; and man thus renewed, disengaged from the power of selfishness and sin, has new affections, and does new works. Faith (says Theology, in order to express these ideas) is the subjective appropriation of the objective work of Christ. If faith is not an appropriation of salvation, it is nothing; the whole Christian economy is disturbed, the sources of new life are sealed up, and Christianity is overturned at its base.

D’AUBIGNÉ, J. H. MERLE. HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY (All 20 Volumes In 1 Complete Book) (HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION by J. H. MERLE D’AUBIGNÉ) (Kindle Locations 947-953). http://www.DelmarvaPublications.com. Kindle Edition.

The above quotation was written by a French man in the early 1800’s.  Maybe it is just what I have been reading but I have yet to find a modern writer who can sum up the whole doctrine of salvation by faith in such simple and comprehensive terms.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He is the source of new life.  If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.  Christ in us is our hope of glory.  Apart from Him there is salvation in no one else.  God has proven His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, He sent His One and Only Son that He might die for us and give us eternal life.  He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us that we become the righteousness of God in Him.

Hopefully you can see why it is so important to immerse yourself in the Holy Scriptures which are able to make us wise unto salvation.

Have you been transformed by the renewing of your mind?  Could you find in your bible all the verses I have quoted off the top of my head above?  Does knowing those verses make me any better a Christian than you?  No, but it helps my faith to know them.  And it is by faith we are saved, through grace. It is a gift of God.

Read your bible. Please.

Understanding the Closeness of God

When we are dealing with the God who made everything, including every cell in our physical bodies and all the space He inhabits within our atoms – in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) – there is every justifiable reason why we might get confused about hearing His voice or experiencing His presence.  He is so close!  In fact the English word “close” does not do justice to the amazing interaction of God with those He has an intimate relationship with.

So we can often think we are just imagining things when it is in fact God speaking to us.  One of the great things to learn how to do is to recognise that still, small voice that speaks to us out of the chaos and noise of everyday life (see 1 Kings 19:11-13).  To know His presence is even more intricate.  It is so intangible, so outside of, and yet works through, our emotional state.  We forget that we were made, designed, to know these things.  God’s voice and His presence can seem so natural we can just dismiss them as our imagination.  But even our imagination was made to enhance and help us understand the voice and presence of God.

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:7, 15).  Actually, this is the nub of the matter: Do you really want to hear what God is saying to you?  Might He be saying, get out of the way and let Me work?  Possibly, though He will say it, if He has to, more graciously than that.

Mesmerised

2250 AD Martin was in front of the four living creatures and had fallen over onto his face again.  “I thought you said he would be able for this,” an angel said. “He will be ok it’s just that even in his new body he finds it hard to cope with things that don’t relate to anything else he has experienced before,” Jesus responded.

Martin began to come around.  As he regained consciousness he remembered to prepare himself for the shock.  He didn’t want to go into that catatonic state or whatever it was he had just experienced again.  So he concentrated hard and managed to get a hold of all the various impulses coming to him through all his senses and extra sensory perceptions.  The flood of impressions coming at him from the four living creatures this close up was the closest thing to pain he had felt this side of the rapture.  He could feel himself wobbling again and getting giddy.

“Look at Me.”  It was Jesus saying the only sensible thing to do.  So Martin looked into Jesus’ eyes.  Strength and power flowed through his new body and he found he could stand firm.  His admiration for John, Ezekiel and Daniel grew.

Patricius, the angel, asked Martin if he was ready for a short journey to the regions beyond.  Martin thought he was so he went with the angel into the living creatures.

Family Values

Dr. Carle Zimmerman, a Harvard sociologist who examined the rise and fall of empires through the centuries, paid close attention to the correlation between family life and national life. His book Family and Civilization concludes that deteriorating civilizations follow a reasonably definable pattern and that “atomistic families” dominate the social landscape in decaying cultures. When civilizations began to unravel, they had five characteristics in common.

  1. Marriage lost its sacredness, divorce became commonplace, and alternative forms of marriage were accepted.
  2. Feminist movements undermined complementary and cooperating roles as women lost interest in mothering and pursued personal power.
  3. Parenting became increasingly difficult, public disrespect for parents and authority increased, and delinquency and promiscuity became more commonplace.
  4. Adultery was celebrated, not punished; people who broke their marriage vow were admired.
  5. There was increased tolerance for incestuous and homosexual sex, with an increase in sex-related crime.

Carle C. Zimmerman, Family and Civilization (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2008)

Zimmerman’s conclusions are so current, they’re frightening. He appears to have observed the United States in the twenty-first century and then summarized his findings. In fact, he wrote them in 1947.

The whole above passage is copied from Charles Swindoll’s book: “Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith” (Kindle Locations 2229-2239). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Sodom & Gomorrah

I am reading a book by Charles Swindoll called: “Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith.”  In it Charles includes a very convicting chapter on Genesis 19 and the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah.  It is a word for today’s church.

I am a firm believer that things are improving in many ways but I don’t think anyone could say that things have been improving over my lifetime morally.  There has been more concern for social justice expressed among the richer young people, more eradication of absolute poverty, more education, better living standards for nearly everyone and a less polluted environment in many places.  All these things are good and can in large part be ascribed to charitable impulses arising from Christians who have been reading their bibles, listening to God and making changes to their lives and the lives of those around them accordingly, often empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is good to see accounts of people like Desmond Doss in the Mel Gibson film “Hacksaw Ridge”, and Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln”.  There are good men & women out there, we know many who are giving their lives selflessly in many places around the world, some at great cost to themselves.

However it is also impossible to deny that many forms of immorality are on the increase.  Things that my ancestors would have thought gross immorality are now lauded as virtues by the peers of my descendents.  The continuous and unrelenting destruction of innocent life by the hands of their mothers and colluding medical staff – if you had told someone at the beginning of the 20th Century that such behaviour was going to be protected by the law at the wishes of the majority of the people, very few would have believed you.  If you had also told my ancestors that we would have a openly homosexual Taoiseach and an openly practicing lesbian (and witch) as our Minister for Children – well no one would believe you 100 years ago.  Or even 50 years ago.  Most young people would laugh at the idea that having sex before marriage was somehow wrong and they don’t know what fornication means.  Adultery is so common no one remarks on it much.

The inevitable consequence of our continuing tolerance of this downward slide among our people here in Ireland and across the western world is judgement.  It cannot be otherwise.  Somewhere along the line God is going to say “Enough.” and end it all.  He did it at the Flood, at Babel, at Sodom & Gomorrah and He will do it again.  Most likely in the next 20 years or so He will usher in a new age during which He will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9, Rev. 2:27, 19:15).  You won’t want to be on the wrong end of that rod when it comes.

On our part we need to be sure we are not becoming like Lot, insensitised, perverted and too fond of the comforts that the improvements are bringing about to want to lift our heads above the parapet and call a spade, a spade.

Why would anyone believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ!?!

People believe all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons.  Many people believe everything they read on the Internet, others believe everything Trump says.  More people believe the Bible literally including when it says the world was created in 6 x 24 hour days.

So it should come as no surprise that for hundreds of years, millions of people believed the Pope was the Anti-Christ.  These people were called Protestants or Reformers and from the 16th to the beginning of the 18th Century they all agreed on this one thing while disagreeing on many other things.  Many well known names agreed that the Pope is the Anti-Christ, people like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the Wesley brothers.  In fact it wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that any significant branch of protestantism began to dispute this position.  J.N. Darby of the Brethren movement was among the first.

Of course now hardly any Protestants believe that the Pope is the Anti-Christ except a few die-hard Ulster Unionists from the DUP and other cranks on the Internet with small readership.  It is not exactly a popular position among Evangelicals or Pentecostals either.  A lot of people would take the view, understandably, that there is little value in adopting such a position.

Be that as it may I still think it is worthwhile looking at why this position was so universally held by so many significant people for so long.

One obvious reason was they were normally in countries that were at war with countries that allied themselves with the Pope or they were in countries where their lives were in danger because they had a bible.  They had plenty of historical precedent to know they were up against a mortal enemy.  One of the Crusades was sent against a group of people in the South of France whose only crime was to not submit to the Pope. There had been many martyrs before Luther pinned up his famous 95 theses.

The Biblical basis for their beliefs about the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church were also well thought out and convincing.  Apart from several passages in Revelation the main passages in the Bible that talk explicitly about the Anti-Christ can be found in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2:

  1. In verse 3 the writer (Paul, Silas or Timothy) says that the “man of lawlessness .. will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”  In the other letters they saw that Paul was very consistent in calling the body of believers corporately (i.e. the Church) God’s temple.  So they understood that the Anti-Christ was going to be someone sitting in the middle of the Church, calling himself God (Vicar of Christ is one of the Pope’s titles which means “in place of Christ”).
  2. In verses 5-8 the writer says this: “Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.”  The common understanding of these verses during Reformation times was that the power that was restraining the Anti-Christ at the time of the first century (when the letter was written) was the Roman Emperor.  Their reasoning went that the Anti-Christ could not achieve world dominion or the secular power that he had during the centuries before and during the Reformation if Christianity was being persecuted and kept underground.  They could also look back on history and note something that was a very striking fulfilment of the verses.  When Constantine became the first Christian Emperor of Rome in the middle of the 4th century he did the most unusual thing.  He moved the capital of the Roman Empire a thousand miles away from Rome to a new city called Constantinople (now Istanbul) on the Bosphorus Straits in present day Turkey.  Once he was moved out of the way, the stage was set for the government of the City of Rome to be taken over by another.  Since there was no separation of Church and State that person was the first Pope.  They also used to say that the reason the writer did not come out and explicitly say that the restrainer was the Emperor was so as not to get people receiving the letter in more trouble than they already were with that power.

There are lots of other verses and passages the Reformers used to back up their position which I will explore in further blogs.

Of course they could have been wrong.