A Matter of Life and Death – and Life!
The man was desperate. His only child lay dying. Hearing that a man who was able to heal all sorts of diseases was in town, he ran out of the house to find him. It wasn’t difficult – he was the one surrounded by crowds of people. Pushing his way to the centre, he begged him to help.
They were heading for his house when Jesus stopped. “Who touched me?”, he asked. His friends were amazed that he would ask that, when so many people were pushing to get close to him! Perhaps the sick child’s father felt even more anxious, “Hurry, hurry!” But Jesus was determined to identify the person who had touched him. Suddenly a woman stumbled out of the crowd, falling down on the ground in front of them. She’d had an embarrassing complaint, loss of blood that had plagued her for twelve years, and now she was explaining how she had been healed by touching the hem of the Jesus’ robe. Maybe the anxious father was desperate to get Jesus to his house, but maybe hearing this woman’s story gave him courage.
Jesus spoke kindly to the woman, “Your faith has made you well!”. Now they could continue on their way.
Luke chapter 8:40 – 56 tells us what happened. The child had actually died when Jesus got there, but he could still heal her. Soon the thankful parents were rejoicing to see their daughter alive and well.
No wonder the man, Jairus, was anxious. We don’t expect anyone to recover from death!
Jesus himself was betrayed and executed as a criminal. It broke the hearts of those who were close to him. They had seen him raise people from the dead, but now he had gone.
Yet he had told them this would happen. They hadn’t wanted to believe it. He had also told them that after 3 days he would rise from the dead – and it happened! Jairus’ daughter didn’t live forever after she was healed, but Jesus would not die again.
Jesus wasn’t just a healer. He taught people how they should live, and he promised that death would not be the end for those who lived by the word he spoke. There were those before the time of Jesus who understood that God was going to send a Saviour to the earth. Some of them are mentioned in the book of Hebrews. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised…” (Hebrews 11:13).
The return of Jesus could happen at any time, but it won’t matter if we die first. Dying in faith means that God will remember us and we can be confident that Jesus will raise us from death when he comes. Our faith can make us well!
Can the world be reset?
Have you ever wanted to just erase the past 24 hours? Perhaps you wish you could go back to the moment before you said or did something. We all feel like that sometimes.
Think back over the last 12 months. With hindsight, political leaders would probably have done things differently. None of us could have predicted how the COVID-19 crisis would unfold.
The fact is, we can’t erase the past. We can only try to do things better in the future. This is the thinking behind the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset Initiative”. The idea is to have a more uniform approach to the pressures and uncertainties of life, building “a new social contract”.
Has this ever been tried before?
Actually, yes. The difference was that it was not a group of nations trying to work together. God reset the whole world, and the account is given to us right back in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6 v 5). The result was that the whole earth was flooded, and only 8 people, the man Noah and his family, were saved.
Jesus referred to this when telling his disciples about the future: “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark…” (Matthew 24: 37 & 38).
“You do not know on what day your Lord is coming”
Jesus said that we need to be looking for him now. In Matthew chapter 25, he gives various examples of people who are prepared … or not!
Jesus spoke of it being like a burglary. If the householder had known the burglar was coming, he would have been ready. Yet the return of Jesus to set up God’s Kingdom will be a good thing.
What will this “reset” be like?
The World Economic Forum wants to address the problems of “inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems”. Jesus will do this. Does that seem too good to be true? The Bible says it will be better than we can possibly imagine!
Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash
Can’t Someone Else Do It?
Can’t Someone Else Do It?
How often are you asked to do something that just seems too difficult? Perhaps it needs expertise that you feel you don’t have.
Picture this: a man who is used to the quiet life is asked to become leader of a very motley crew of people. They are not very organised, because they are not used to making their own decisions. He is understandably rather taken aback. “They won’t listen to me”, was his first excuse. When that proved to be a weak argument, he tried, “I’m no good at talking to people”. So he was given an assistant to do the talking. But he still really didn’t want to do it! His final attempt to get out of it was “Can’t you send someone else?”
The man was Moses, and we can read about him in the Bible books of Exodus and Numbers. It’s fascinating to see how he develops and becomes more and more capable as events unfold. He became one of the greatest leaders of all time, almost unrecognisable from the man who felt overwhelmed when he was first approached about the job.
The meekest man on earth
Yet he didn’t become self-important. He is described as “very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers ch 12:3).
The truth is that God can work with anyone. We don’t have to be particularly talented, strong or charismatic. There were probably plenty like that who could have been chosen to lead God’s people, but He chose Moses. The important thing for Moses was that he learned to trust that God could provide what was needed.
When life becomes overwhelming, it can help to remember this. The New Testament teaches exactly the same thing. The apostle Paul wrote: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Philippians 4:13) We might never be asked to do anything as extreme as leading a whole nation of people, but in our own daily lives we will come across challenges. Having faith in God can give us courage to do things that we would not otherwise attempt.
How do I get that faith?
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
We are only asked to listen to the word that God has given us. It will teach us everything we need to know. A good start is an organised approach to reading the Bible, so that we get a good overview of its contents. There are various Reading planners available to help with that, or Distance Learning courses which focus on navigating around the Bible and seeing how it all connects together. It’s something only you can do!
All quotes from NKJV
A Fresh Start
January is traditionally a time for looking back and looking forward.
Why look back? Many people would prefer to forget 2020, because so many plans had to be scrapped in the face of the Covid pandemic. Yet that was not the only thing that happened in 2020. Babies were born, hostages were released, and Africa was declared free from polio… there was still some good news!
Sometimes we look back at happy memories and celebrate them, for example on anniversaries and birthdays. But a particular date might bring back very sad memories.
If we brood over the bad things that have happened to us, it makes our lives very dark.
Joshua was a Bible character who was given a huge task, that of leading God’s people into the Promised Land. He took over from the prophet Moses. God said, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise…” The focus was very much on looking forward. God made it clear that Joshua would not be facing this task alone. “Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go”. (You can read the full details in Joshua chapter 1.)
Joshua would never forget what he had learned from Moses. He could look back and see how God had cared for His people in the past. This gave him confidence to move forward.
Most of us have good and bad memories, but sometimes the bad ones seem to overshadow the good. If we trust in God, He will be with us wherever we go, no matter what 2021 brings. He knows about our fears and worries, and He can bring us to the kingdom He has promised. Jesus is going to reign over the whole earth from the same Promised Land where Joshua led his people.
So we can look forward to the future without fear – “…If God is for us, who can be against us?”
(Romans 8 v 31).
“Humble in the face of nature”
On 31st October 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second lockdown to try to slow the spread of coronavirus in England. Having looked at the statistics, he said, “…as we’ve also seen from those charts, we’ve got to be humble in the face of nature”.
Humility is a quality that we don’t hear about very much in the news. People in positions of power usually get there by being assertive, eloquent and persuasive, but humble? Probably not.
As far as we know, Mr Johnson was not talking about God. Nature is seen as powerful in itself, but many people are uncomfortable with the idea that God is actually in control of it.
The writer of Psalm 18 felt differently: “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down”. (v27 ESV). In fact, he saw God as “a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (v30).
This pandemic can seem very frightening, but God cares about His creation. The Bible mentions disease, famine and earthquakes as signs that the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth is getting nearer.
Nature itself doesn’t care whether or not we are humble, but God does. If we acknowledge His authority and trust in him, we need not fear. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV).
We can’t fix this situation, but God can. Doesn’t that make these troubled times seem brighter?
Have you had to change any plans recently? That probably sounds like a stupid question in the light of Covid19! Businesses have had to stop trading, people have stopped travelling, diaries full of plans have been cancelled.
The book of James has some advice on planning ahead. We are given a scenario: Somebody has big plans for their future. They are going to travel to a town, spend a year there trading and make a big profit. They have their life mapped out for a whole year. Yet James 4:14 begins: "yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring" . It’s true – we don’t! James continues: "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”" (ESV). If the Lord wills… only God knows whether or not we will live to see another day.
God is eternal, so He can look forward in a way that we can’t. When God makes plans, they happen. Saying “Covid willing” is not a very accurate summing up of the situation. It is God who is able to make things happen, not Covid. “God willing” is a phrase that makes a lot more sense. We can rely on God to change the world in a way that is beyond the power of any human on this earth.
Another Covid Update!
I don’t know about you, but I get really confused about Covid advice! Every announcement seems to contradict the last one.
The truth is, nobody really knows how to deal with something that we have never seen before. The government and scientists are doing their best to make sense of a world that has changed beyond recognition.
Planning ahead? Forget it! If you travelled abroad recently, you may well have been at the sharp end of that problem… the situation really does change minute by minute.
How does that make you feel? Confused, insecure, maybe a bit scared?
But God knows exactly what is happening and what will happen next. He knew about all this long before the first person got sick. “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done... “ (Isaiah 46:9–10 ESV)
Back in around 600BC, a man called Jeremiah was at rock bottom. He was in a besieged city, and he knew that soon it would be destroyed. God had told him to pass this information on to the rulers, but they saw him as a traitor and put him in jail. Yet God was able to assure him that although his nation would be taken captive, they would eventually come back and rebuild the city. “ I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. ... Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.” (Jeremiah 32:41-42 ESV)
Jeremiah did not live to see this happen, but he knew that God would not break His promise, and Jeremiah himself will see the ultimate fulfilment when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth.
Death is not the end for people who trust in God – He will raise them to life in a world where these worries will no longer be a problem. That is what keeps me positive in these uncertain times.
Six months ago, had you heard of the term “social distancing”?
Yet now, even small children are aware of it in their day to day lives. Grandparents can’t visit any more, friends can’t drop in for a coffee, people can’t visit their loved ones in hospital.
These are things we never have imagined. Yet in the Bible Jesus told us to expect troubled times before his return to the earth, “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world…” (Luke 21:26 ESV). He also said, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 ESV).
It's not easy to “raise our heads” when we are weighed down by anxiety. Yet we can trust that God is able to carry out His plan for the world which He created.
The virus has spread fear and uncertainty around the world. The Gospel message brings hope and life.
Bible quoations from ESV