Read by the author, enjoy a chapter a day of Harry the Spy here!
Tuesday, 4 June 2019
Picturing how a person will look in heaven is just about impossible! We know we won’t have the same type of bodies: ‘who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…’ (Philippians 3:21, and see also 1 Corinthians 15:44); and there won’t be the same gender distinction. We won’t age. Will there even be skin tone in the same way as there is on earth? There are so many limitations in our understanding about our appearance in heaven, but that is not the main point of this painting.
The intention of this scene is to depict the joy of receiving reward in heaven for service done on earth (‘He will reward each according to his works’, Matthew 16:27) – so that we might offer back to the Lord anything He might give us in that day – to give Him all the praise and honour and glory.
[They] cast their crowns before the throne, saying:“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
There are no degrees of fitness for heaven; fitness for heaven is only and always found in trusting Christ as Saviour. But there are degrees of reward for how a Christian has served God. In the words of William MacDonald*:
‘There will be differing capacities for enjoying the glories of heaven. Everyone will be happy, but some will have greater capacity for happiness than others. Everyone’s cup will be full, but some will have bigger cups than others.
We must get away from the idea that we will all be exactly alike when we reach the glorified state. The Bible nowhere teaches such dull, faceless uniformity. Rather it teaches that crowns will be awarded for lives of faithfulness and devotedness, and that while some are being rewarded, others will suffer loss…’
There are several types of crowns mentioned in the Bible – an incorruptible crown, a crown of rejoicing, a crown of righteousness, a crown of life, a crown of glory; I don’t know if these are literal crowns, what they look like, and if or how they differ in appearance and value from each other. But it is a challenge that there are different types and values of reward for work we do on earth.
‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.’
2 Corinthians 5:10
To conclude with another quote from William MacDonald*:
‘Day by day we are determining the rewards that we will receive and the measure to which we will enjoy our eternal home. We determine it by our knowledge of the Bible and our obedience to it, by our prayer life, by our fellowship with God’s people, by our service for the Lord, and by our faithful stewardship of all that God has given to us. As soon as we realise that we are building for eternity with every passing day, it should have a profound effect on the choices we make and the priorities we set.’
*William MacDonald, ‘One Day At A Time’, Gospel Folio Press ©1998
Thursday, 4 April 2019
Tuesday, 12 March 2019
Tuesday, 22 January 2019
Some years ago, we went on an African safari. As the twilight deepened swiftly to darkness, our safari vehicle passed hunting lions. A short distance farther on from them, in the long grass, a young deer was lying alone. Its head was visible above the tall stalks, and it was turning anxiously, looking this way and that, bewildered and frightened. It must have sensed the lions’ approach. Our African guide explained that sometimes the herd fled and left behind a young deer as a kind of sacrifice to the approaching hunters. One would die; the predators’ appetite would be satisfied; the rest of the herd would be safe.
The image of that beautiful, defenceless creature waiting in terror for the hunters is hard to forget. In some ways it reminded me of the poignant setting of Psalm 22 – the title or tune of the Psalm:
To the Chief Musician. Set to Aijeleth Shahar –
The Hind of the Dawn.
This painting is an attempt to depict something of the setting of this Psalm…
Dawn has just broken. In the morning mist, a young deer is standing. The rest of the herd are fleeing; left alone, the deer of the dawn is the sacrifice for their safety. Surrounded by ferocious enemies – lions, wild dogs, and wild bulls – the deer does not run or attempt to hide. It will soon be overcome by its hunters.
This is the poignant setting – the title or tune – of Psalm 22, which speaks prophetically and in precise detail of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for the sin of mankind. The Psalm opens with words which would be spoken and fulfilled by Christ 1000 years after they were written:
‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?’
It was for the redemption of mankind; to bring the hope of eternal safety to the human race.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
Friday, 14 December 2018
In the Bible, Luke chapter 2 tells us how Jesus Christ was born. But have you ever wondered what it was like for some of the others who were involved? Perhaps it was something like this…
The night was bright with stars. Across the inky heavens they shone in dazzling splendour. The contours of the hard, rocky hillside were bathed in white starlight – it touched the delicate edges of blades of grass, the craggy outlines of rocks and boulders, the sturdy backs of scattered sheep. It cast the shadow of the old shepherd leaning on his crook, watching over the flock.
Snug against the slope of the neighbouring hill, the town of Bethlehem was silhouetted against the night sky. Compact square dwellings, poor shacks, narrow streets, the town’s inn – all merged into one small, squat, unimportant Judean town.
But there was a stir in the town, a liveliness to which it was unaccustomed. Gone was the still quiet of unimportant obscurity; the little town no longer slumbered peacefully. Instead, strangers filled the inn until it was full – then they spilled into the streets, finding whatever shelter they could for the night. They all had one thing in common: once, this small place had been their home town. Once more, they slept in the place of their birth, obeying the dictates of Caesar Augustus in Rome. For, at Caesar’s bidding, a census was taking place.
The old shepherd sighed. Many years of his life had come and gone – all of them shadowed by the might of Rome. How long must his people, Israel, endure the crushing oppression of Rome and the capricious cruelty of Rome’s puppet, King Herod? Had God forgotten His people? These days it was hard to believe that God was ‘a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm…’ And what of the countless other promises the God of heaven had made to His ancient people? What of the promised Deliverer? Where was God?
Through the crooked streets of Bethlehem, a couple laboured to pass the strangers still wandering and crowding once quiet places. The man and wife paused briefly at the inn. But there was no room for them there. The nooks and crannies of the town were already filled, so the couple moved slowly, haltingly, away from the bustle of the town, to more distant outdoor caves and shelters. In the direction of the shepherd the couple came, moving carefully, the husband assisting his young wife. On the lower slopes of the hill, beneath the old shepherd’s watchful gaze, they found a cave which sheltered animals. There they stayed.
The noise of jostling, unhappy humanity faded from Bethlehem as the air became colder and the night grew older. The shepherd counted his flock. He joined with other shepherds around a small fire. They spoke, as they often did, of the oppression of their conquerors; of their desire for deliverance; of their need for God’s promised One to set them free.
Suddenly, across the wide expanse of the starry sky, a beam of radiant light streaked, faster than a flash of lightening, to where the shepherds gathered. Around and about them in dazzling array, the glorious light spilled and lit and warmed them. An angel stood among them, right where they were. Down on their knees, down onto the rocky hillside, the wretched shepherds fell in terror and dismay. What had they done that a messenger from Almighty God would visit them?
The voice of the angel reassured them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
How could this be? Christ – the Promised One, the Deliverer – born here in Bethlehem? In an outdoor place, now lying in an animal’s feeding manger?
All around them, a great crowd of angels joined the first angel to swell the praise to the God of heaven, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Peace on earth – in this place of oppression and poverty and cruel injustice? The night was once more still and starry. The angels departed as a dream departs on awakening – but a sign had been left for them, and, “Let us go to Bethlehem,” the shepherds said to one another, “and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.”
None knew better than the shepherds of Bethlehem where the feeding mangers would be found. In one of the animal shelters, around and about the small town, they would seek for what the angel described. The old shepherd led the way – down the hillside, to a roughly hewn cave, where the young couple had taken shelter for the night.
A few sheep, cows, goats and other animals stand quietly, curiously calm and unperturbed. A dove coos gently. There is a strange, unearthly quiet over these creatures. Do they know who has come among them? In their midst, a newborn baby is lying in a feeding trough – just as the angel had told the shepherds. He is the promised Saviour, Christ the Lord come down to earth. God revealed in human form.
Slowly, the old shepherd understands. Where was God? He had come as a man to live among men, come to meet mankind’s greatest need. No great warrior, no heroic deliver, no wealthy king here. And yet, this baby, the Son of God, was the fulfilment of all that God had promised – and more so, for He had come to bring salvation not only to the nation of Israel, but to the whole world! One day, as a man, He would die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He became the way for mankind to be reconciled with God – to have forgiveness and lasting peace and one day go to heaven. All that is required is to trust in Him.
This, then, is the great gift offered by God that first Christmas: forgiveness of sins and peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
‘In this the love of God was displayed where we are concerned: in that God sent His Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins…’ (1 John 4:9-10)
‘For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)
Monday, 5 November 2018
A SHORT SERIES OF BLOGS BASED ON THE RUMOUR MILL (Aletheia Adventure Series Book 6) –
EXPLORING THEMES AROUND TRUTH AND LIES
Solve this conundrum:
How many versions of the truth can be true?
The answer seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it?
Surely only ONE can be absolute truth!
How can any version of the truth be true, if other versions of the same philosophy, event, person, belief… are also true? It’s nonsense to portray truth like that! What court in the land would accept half a dozen contradictory witness accounts as all being absolutely true? Nothing would ever be established as indisputable fact. There would be no absolute truth on any level.
‘There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.’
Robertson Davies, Canadian Novelist, 1913-1955
And yet, in current thinking, the answer seems to be that an infinite number and variety of versions of the truth can be true, at least for you – particularly when it comes to personal philosophical ideas and beliefs, including religious beliefs. In an effort to allow that everyone is entitled to their own ideas about how to live, what to believe, how the world began, why we are here, what is the meaning of life… in order to cater for the fantastically wide (and weird) variety of ideas that are crowding the minds of human beings, anything and everything is allowed to be so-called ‘truth’.
“I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy: my reality is just different from yours.”
Of course, the tolerant acceptance that it’s fine to believe anything is no foundation for that dearly-held something being true. No matter your strength of mind, or the strength of your desire that a pet belief is true, it doesn’t alter reality. Deep down, every thinking person must realise that. No matter how nice, or plausible, or desirable a particular ‘truth’ or belief sounds, that doesn’t make it true! Real, absolute Truth must have a foundation in facts that can be investigated.
In The Rumour Mill the White-Jacket Meddlers are a key part of the plan of the land of Err to overcome the city of Aletheia. These Meddlers are the masters of lies and deceit. Not necessarily obvious lies – they wear white jackets because they enjoy nice little white lies and cosy half-truths. They manufacture subtle changes to the truth, twisting and turning it such that you never know what was absolutely true – and what was not. They admit that the truth could be many things.
In fact, truth could be precisely what you wanted it to be.
[The Rumour Mill]
The plan to muddle, dilute, twist, and change the absolute Bible Truth which was fundamental to the power of Aletheia, was certain to succeed! The One Truth would stand no longer!
‘…As for their truth which they hold so precious, soon there will be no truth left. They won’t know what to believe! Then they will gladly join with the Council of Err. They will, at last, share our own truths and values!”’
[The Rumour Mill]
Test the truth of these 2 statements about God and love:
1. God is love
2. God is love, therefore everyone will ultimately be in Heaven
The first is a quote from the Bible and is true (I have reasons for that assertion – contact me if you want to know why I believe that!); the second is a twisting of the first statement and is not true. It is precisely the kind of lie the Meddlers would enjoy slinging at the city of Bible Truth to undermine the pure, undiluted Truth, and the value of the gift of God’s salvation. And it is precisely the kind of lie we can be saturated with today. We will hear the truth twisted and changed a little and turned into even a small, seeming innocuous lie; we might even like it and begin to believe it. Ever heard of, read, ‘liked’ on Facebook etc. sayings like…
Look inside yourself for the answers - you're the only one who knows what's best for you.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may.
Be true to yourself.
In your inner self you have the strength to change the world!
These all sound kind of wise and true, right? But ask yourself of any of the above: what is the measuring stick by which you can assess the truth of these statements? What source of light can illuminate what is true, and what is not?
As we’ve seen in a previous blog, Jesus Christ claimed to be ‘The Truth’ – to speak it, to define it, to embody it, to determine it.
The measuring stick by which you must wisely assess the subtle ‘truths’ by which we are surrounded, is the Word of God, the Bible:
which contains the revelation of the Truth –
the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.