The Day God Became an Atheist

Leaven on Earth

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.” (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

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Thankfully, we get to see what Job longed for…. 

In Job 9:33-35, the writer has this to say:

“There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.”

Which is pretty bleak stuff, when you think of it…. But…. The Bible shows us that in Christ, we have all of those things that Job longed for…. 

Job asked for a mediator…. We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. In Hebrews 9:15, we’re told that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. And in Romans 8:34b, we’re told that He “indeed is interceding for us.”

Job asked for someone to remove God’s rod from him, but Isaiah 53:4 reminds us that “Surely [Jesus] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

Job asked to be able to speak to God without fear…. “We can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”     – Hebrews 4:16
And if that’s not good news, I don’t know what is!

Encouragement for the weary . . . .

Is40.31

Have you not known? Have you not heard? 
The Lord is the everlasting God,the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

In case you’re feeling tired and weary right now, please take heart, and I hope these words from Warren Wiersbe help and encourage you:

“Instead of praising the Lord, the nation was complaining to Him as though He acted without knowing their situation or have any concern for their problems (v. 27; 49:14). Instead of seeing the open door, the Jews saw only the long road before them, and they complained they did not have the strength for the journey. God was asking them to do the impossible.

But God knows how we feel and how we fear, and He is adequate to meet our every need. We can never obey God in our own strength, but we can always trust Him to provide the strength we need (Phil. 4:13). If we trust ourselves, we will faint and fall, but if we wait on the Lord by faith, we will receive strength for the journey. The word wait does not suggest that we sit around and do nothing. It means to “to hope,” to look to God to for all that we need (Isa. 26:3; 30:15). This involves meditating on His character and His promises, praying, and seeking to glorify Him.

The word renew means “to exchange,” as taking off old clothes and putting on new. We exchange our weakness for His power (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). As we wait before Him, God enables us to soar when there is a crisis, to run when the challenges are many, and to walk faithfully in the day-by-day demands of life. It is much harder to walk in the ordinary pressures of life than to fly like the eagle in times of crisis.

“I can plod,” said William Carey, the father of modern missions. “That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The greatest heroes of faith are not always those who seem to be soaring; often it is they who are patiently plodding. As we wait on the Lord, He enables us not only to fly higher and run faster, but also to walk longer. Blessed are the plodders as they eventually arrive at their destination.

Be Comforted (Isaiah)
Warren Wiersbe

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 -Comforted to be a comfort . . .

I’ve been thinking a fair bit lately about the life of the apostle Paul (as you do, I guess?) And when you look through the book of Acts and the letters he wrote to the churches he planted, wow, did he have a rough time of it . . . In 2 Corinthians 11: 25-28, Paul himself tells us that at various times, he was “beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times; in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from his own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; he faced toil and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure.” And, on top of all of that, he was also anxious about the churches he’d planted (so no pressure for our pastors, then!)

So, it’s a bit of a surprise when one of the first things he writes in his second letter to the Corinthian church is: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

 I don’t know about you, but I think that it’s absolutely incredible that Paul chooses to look back at the suffering he went through and to thank God for it, because it meant that he could comfort the people he ministered to in their suffering. Later on in this letter, Paul even goes as far to say that his afflictions are “light and momentary” (2 Cor. 4:17), because He could see that as hard as life on earth can be sometimes, that when we get to spend eternity with Jesus, all we’ve suffered now, will seem like it was over in the blink of an eye.

So, what does this mean for us, while we may still be struggling? First of all, we need to know that we can: “cast all our anxieties on [God], because he cares for [us].” (1 Peter 5:7) I’ve been a Christian for a while now, and this is still an idea that makes my head spin. It’s incredible to think that the God who laid the foundations of the earth, determines the number of stars and calls them each by name; cares so much about each of us that he knows the number of hairs on our heads and that whatever we’re facing or we have faced in our lives, he loves us each as if there was only one of us to love.

Not only that, but God never wastes an experience, in a famous verse from the letter to the Romans, Paul tells us: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called together for his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This means that if we have put our hope in Jesus, he will use whatever has happened in our lives for good.

But, Paul also tells us that we have been comforted so that we can be a comfort to other people. This means, that we can’t keep the blessings we’ve received to ourselves. You may never know how your experience in life may help other people, unless you’re willing to take the risk sometimes . . . Often when we’ve come through something we are just grateful to be out the other side . . . But God’s way of pulling us through probably involved the support of “someone else” who was there for us – and now we’re safely the other side of whatever obstacle we were facing, it’s our turn to be that “someone else” for “someone else”.

 

Sometimes it’s easy to imagine that our memories only have meaning and value for us… But who knows whose lives God wants to shape, guide, strengthen, and yes – comfort through the stories of His work in our lives! You may be able to be a support or an encouragement to somebody right now. Which I know is ironically, potentially quite an uncomfortable thought, but please be encouraged by the fact that God will use anyone who is willing to serve him, wherever they are in life, whatever age they are . . . .

Heavenly Father, thank you that you are the God of all comfort. Thank you for your beautiful promises that you are working all things for the good in our lives and that you will comfort us because you delight in us and care for us. Father, please help us to be people who can comfort others with the comfort we’ve been given. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Psalm 62 – We shall not be shaken . . . .


I don’t know about you, but I find reading the newspapers and watching the news on TV quite, well, depressing, really so much of the time. It’s very hard when all you seem to see and hear is of things going wrong in the world, and it breaks our hearts to see and hear of all that goes on. And, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I find that life doesn’t go the way that I perhaps hoped or expected it to, and that I can be really caught out by some of the things that happen. Sometimes it feels like the ground is shaking beneath our feet and that we simply don’t know what we’re supposed to do for the best.

Just in case you were wondering if we’d all be better off if I kept quiet, I have some good news . . . . King David has this to say to us in Psalm 62:1-2 . . .


“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. “

It can be so easy to trust God when things are going well, but David reminds us that we need to ‘trust in Him at all times’ (v.8). Trusting in God at all times means trusting him not only when life is easy, but also when things are not going so well.

Just to give a bit of an explanation, David wrote this psalm when he was on the run after one of his sons started to rebel against him and tried taking over the kingdom of Israel. So we can know that these aren’t just some nice words, but that they’re coming from a man who when you look at the surface had every reason not to trust God right then.

David reminds us that that if we trust in God we can find soul-rest – that in the midst of all our fears and anxieties we can find our peace, and that even though everything else in life is uncertain, and ultimately insecure, God alone is our rock and salvation – that in him we will not be greatly shaken.

Even though this psalm was written three thousand years ago, we can know that everything it says is still true for us today, because God promises that he is always faithful and that he never changes in the love that he has for us. So, please, if you’re going through a hard time, come to God, he longs to hear from you and he will make sure that you are not greatly shaken by whatever you may face in life.

Heavenly Father, today may our souls find rest in You alone. Thank you that you promise that we will never be greatly shaken. Father, we trust in you today and thank you that you are always faithful to us, no matter what we may face in life. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*Some of the points I’ve made here have been adapted from the Alpha Course Bible in One Year notes, that are available here:

http://www.htb.org.uk/bioy/commentary/1254

Romans 8: 28-39 – How 11 verses can change everything . . . .

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long.
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-39 (ESV)

I imagine that you know of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, that “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”[1] I’d like to disagree with Mr Franklin for a second and say that every single one of us; however young or old we are, will face challenges and difficulties at least at some point in our lives. And you can be sure that there are going to be times in all of our lives when we may feel that all is lost and that God cannot or maybe will not redeem or use what’s happened (or maybe, what’s still happening to us.)

I love the way that this passage starts by reminding us that in all things (that is, whatever we may face in life), God works for the good of those who love Him. This means, that God isn’t just working occasionally in our lives, if we’re in a mountaintop place, but that even in the darkest places in our lives, God not only can but also will work everything to fulfil His purpose and for our long-range good. I feel that it’s also vitally important to emphasise, that nowhere in this passage (or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter), does it say that God causes any of the bad things that happen to us (for this, we should take as an example, the book of Job). We also still have choices to make, and being the human beings that we are, that inevitably means that we will get things wrong from time to time. Sometimes, though, we are simply living with the consequences of a being part of a fallen world. But we know that whatever the circumstances:

“As we place our hope in God, we can be certain that we are shielded by God’s power, and that he is ensuring that in all our trials and troubles all things work for our good.” [2]

Now, for those of you who know your scriptures well, you will know that verse 29 can be a very challenging one to read and understand, because, let’s face it – calling, election, and predestination can be pretty mind melting topics at the best of times, and I certainly do not have the skill or understanding to do them any kind of justice. But, I must admit to being hugely encouraged that one of the most respected evangelical commentaries that I’ve been reading while preparing for this simply didn’t talk at all about the subject of predestination in this verse– which made me feel a lot better about the fact that I really don’t know much about this stuff either . . . . By the same token, I was heartened to read in other commentaries that God knows what is going to happen, not only because He can see the end from the beginning, but also because He knows our hearts and know who will respond in faith to His call. I don’t understand all of this to mean that God is random in who He chooses to be saved, it is just that he foreknew who would respond to Him, and upon those, He set His mark (predestined), but He also knew that some of us would sadly refuse His call upon our lives.

 

It seems likely, that when Paul listed trouble, hardship, persecution, nakedness, famine, danger and sword in verse 35, he wasn’t just coming up with a theoretical list of things that could go wrong in the life of a believer; he was quite probably talking about some of the difficulties he had faced in the course of his own ministry. With this in mind, it seems that Paul may well have wanted the people who read this letter to know that they would likely have to face similar suffering for Christ, but at the same time, that they need not fear, as the love of Christ was with them all the way as it is with us. This is a great reminder, that despite life not always being easy, especially when we pick up our cross to follow Christ, He always loves us and will always be with us. It is also a great reminder that whatever difficulties we face in this life will also help to make us more Christ-like.

In the next verse, Paul goes on to quote from Psalm 44, which is an incredibly powerful reminder for us that suffering is not a new thing for the children of God, it is entirely in line with what the saints have always had to endure.

Paul goes on to say that, no matter what we face for following Jesus, we are more than conquerors through Jesus’ love for us – Jesus’ love gives us the strength we need and also produces the victory, which certainly I find to be a great encouragement and help – we can’t do this on our own, when we rely on our own strength, things can only go wrong – we desperately need Jesus at all times . . . . But we have the huge reassurance and encouragement that everyone who believes has overwhelming victory in Christ.

I find it the greatest comfort and encouragement that, nothing we are facing, nothing we are going to ever face has power over us who are now hidden with Christ in God. I think F.F. Bruce says what I want to, much more clearly and eloquently than I ever could:

“Nothing in the course of time, nor in the expanses of space, nothing in the whole universe can sever the children of God from their Father’s love, secured to them in Christ.”

 And that, I believe completely changes how the ones who have put their faith in God should look at and live through times of suffering and struggle in their lives.

[1] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr129817.html

[2] Osborne, Grant R. (2004), (p. 220) The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Romans, Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press

Prepare to have your head messed with…. 

Shadow of the Dark Rift

Shadow of the Dark Rift

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.

Psalm 147:4 (ESV)

According to David Kornreich, an assistant professor at Ithaca College in New York State, there is a very rough estimate of 10 trillion galaxies in the universe. Multiplying that by the Milky Way’s estimated 100 billion stars results in a large number indeed: 100 octillion stars, or 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, or a “1” with 29 zeros after it. Kornreich emphasized that number is likely a gross underestimation, as more detailed looks at the universe will show even more galaxies.

But the same God that determines the number of each of these stars and has called each of them by name is also the God who loves us and cares for us, who’s formed our inmost being (Psalm 139), and is the same God who’s has numbered the very hairs on our heads (Matthew 10)…. Wow….

* The science-y stuff (don’t you just love technical terms!?) on this page is from this article at www.space.com:
http://www.space.com/26078-how-many-stars-are-there.html

Main photo courtesy of NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-alignment.html