20 October, 2009

Why Doesn’t Everyone Believe In Jesus?

This seems a very reasonable question to ask. After all if Jesus can save us from sin and death, why do many not accept him? Some people have not heard about Jesus, of course, so they can’t be expected to believe in him. However, there are many people who have heard about Jesus but still do not believe. This should come as no surprise, for the Bible makes it clear that even when Jesus was on earth, teaching and performing many miracles, only a minority of people in Israel believed on him.


On one occasion, after the miraculous feeding of 5000 men, as well as women and children, when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum we are told that: “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more” (John 6:66). Their only recorded explanation was: “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (6:60). This teaches us that whilst Jesus’ message of life should appeal to men and women, there are times when people do not find it attractive. Or they find it too hard to understand or to accept. Jesus’ message is demanding and challenging; it is not an easy option. On one occasion he said this: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Cast Out

On another occasion we learn that “even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42.43). These were people who actually believed in Jesus but would not make an open commitment because they were concerned about what others would think about them. So we see that people would not follow Jesus’ teaching even when they knew it to be true. The reason, essentially, was that those people did not want to accept the commitment required of those that would be Jesus’ disciples.

The question we have to ask of ourselves is ‘Are we willing to make a personal commitment to Jesus?’ Or do we make the excuse that because others did not commit themselves to Jesus, we will not either?

~Bro. Peter Forbes, Glad Tidings

Labels: , ,

01 May, 2009


There’s a lovely little legend about these birds, the cliff swallows.

Every year on March 18th – Time has newsreel footage of this actually happening some years ago - the swallows return to the town of San Juan Capistrano in California. Many people flock to see the sight, apparently. A song has been written about this: ‘When the Swallows return to Capistrano.’

The previous day, the 17th, the scouts of the flock come sweeping in, then fly back out to sea. On the 18th itself, they come in clouds, to nest and breed. Then, on October 23rd, they fly up, circle the town, saying goodbye it seems, and then fly away.

One fascinating thing is that they are reputed to fly to Capistrano from Goya in Argentina, a distance of some 7000 miles! and back again. The migration does take place – that is a fact, and the legendary bit now follows:

The flight is mostly over water – and swallows can’t swim. They sleep on the wing, according to some accounts – but each one carries a twig in its mouth, and when fatigued, drop the twig into the water, and rest on it as it floats.

Whether the legend be true or not, the astonishing feats of bird navigation and migration defy belief. The star of this particular show must, I think, be the Arctic tern, which flies from its northern breeding grounds in the arctic, to the Antarctic (some 19,000 km) and back again every year!

A bit of imagination soon makes these feats quite unbelievable. Imagine flying at 500 - 2000 feet, clouds below, temperature low, not a landmark in sight, ploughing bravely on for 7000 miles in the case of the swallows, right down the western coast of the whole of South America. Finding food somehow, finding rest somehow, driven by some mysterious urge to do this marvellous thing.

Whatever the reason for these flights, they speak in the most powerful way imaginable of the Creator’s powers. That they should do this, heading for a destination they cannot see, with terrible problems they must meet, navigating only with a heavenly guide – it can be nothing else – they do it, unflinchingly, unquestioningly, and heroically.

And in so doing, remind us of the journeys people of God have undertaken because of their faith in the unseen and the unknowable. The birds have no choice – their instinct drives them relentlessly on, but Abraham had a choice – and he did as he was commanded.

In many ways, we have each done the same. We have embarked on a journey in complete faith. There was no way of knowing what the end is going to be – we only have the writings of those who have gone before us. We had, and have, no idea of the difficulties before us. But like those wonderful little birds, we go – not knowing whither we go. “Whither I go, ye cannot come” said the Lord. We follow our heavenly guide to a land far away, invisible to the natural eye, but with a Captain who knows the way, and assures us of success.

There’s no question that some of the birds die on the way. Some are blown off course, some are captured by predators. Some have not the strength for the journey. Some are sick, and some are sad – but they all go nonetheless. And yet, as the Lord says, “one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”

It is when we look carefully at what He did say, that we see the full beauty of the saying.
Mt 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

Lu 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
Notice: two are sold for a farthing, FIVE are sold for two farthings.

That should be FOUR, not five in strict mathematical terms. It’s the old ‘buy two, get one free’ deal. And yet, says the Lord, not one of them – not even the extra one that’s thrown in to sweeten the deal – is forgotten before God!

Is that not a most wonderful statement from The Son of God? And doesn't it make our task that little bit easier if we know this? Whatever our circumstances, He cares. And the only thing that will stop us reaching the promised Land is if we should join another flock, find another Captain, or forgetting our goal, head for other destinations.

Join with me in marvelling at these beautiful little creatures, who despite their small size, achieve such great things. Who by their faith in the unseen, discomfit the unbelievers, and may yet save some who take notice of these great facts in the natural world, from the burning.

The Great God of heaven and earth cares for you. He loves you. He calls you to higher flights and greater things. He points us to a land far, far away, but which draws nearer with every day that passes.

Isa.40. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.”

~ Credit to original author


The ability to forgive is a powerful tool for personal transformation.

We do ourselves a huge favour when we truly let go and forgive. There is an extremely high return of peace and joy in our hearts when we sincerely forgive those who hurt us. When we forgive others, it is really for our benefit more than for those who cause the offence (Matt. 6:14,15). Often the people whom we haven't forgiven don't even know it. But failure to forgive wastes our energy ⎯ causing us mental and emotional stress.

It is difficult to forgive
It seems difficult to forgive when we have been betrayed or deeply hurt. When we feel justified not forgiving someone, that bitterness stays with us, and it can gnaw away inside us as long as a whole lifetime. Sometimes we think it's okay to say, 'Well, I've forgiven him, but I don't want to see him or talk to him again.' Sorry to say, but the truth is that we have not really forgiven. True forgiveness erases all negative associations from our hearts. If we don't truly forgive, then resentment festers in our hearts ⎯ causing anger. Anger then turns into hate (1 John 2:9-11). Hate is a total inversion of love. Brethren and sisters, remember that hate destroys (1John 3:15; 4:20,21). It is quite possible to react with anger or hate just for the moment, and that is wrong too. But it is far worse if those feelings constantly replay in our minds; then we need to try again, asking God to help us overcome this weakness. Total forgiveness takes time. Don't let pride stop you from forgiving others. Be as little children. They don't keep malice or hatred in their hearts (1 Cor. 14:20).

Christ understood the importance of releasing, letting go, and truly forgiving. That is what he did for us when he hung on the cruel cross and begged, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He expects us to do the same. Surely, when Jesus was on the cross, we were on his mind.

Practice forgiveness
As we practice forgiveness, let each one say in his heart: "I forgive him. Maybe he didn't realize what he was doing"... or "He was probably doing the best he could."

Sometimes we judge others and then upset ourselves by refusing to forgive them. A young man was supposed to meet a young lady at a stoplight at 2:15, after which he would drive her to the store. The lady was looking forward to a chance to catch up on happenings in his family. Unfortunately, the man didn't arrive until 3:30. The lady was really hurt. She only faintly responded to his hello. She assumed he was inconsiderate and unkind, and then felt even worse toward him when he offered no explanation or apology. The lady was so hurt that she refused to open any conversation with the man.

Two days later the young lady found out that the secretary had written down the wrong time, and the young man had no idea there was a problem.

We too make mistakes in life and need others to forgive us. As we forgive others it helps remove any negative ideas that may be held against us, thus recreating a harmonious flow between ourselves and others.

In Matthew 6:14,15 Jesus reminds us that forgiveness is not one-sided: "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Forgiveness is a two-way street. How can we expect our Father to forgive us if we don't forgive those who offend us (v. 12)?

Forgiveness is a lifetime process (Matt. 18:21,22); if necessary, it must go on forever. We can't forgive today and then forget about forgiving tomorrow. Jesus told Peter to forgive as many as seventy times seven, essentially forever. Don't worry whether or not the person you forgive finally understands you. Love him and release him. God brings truth to people's minds in His own time ⎯ just like He does for you and me.

Responding to hurt
It's not who hurts us or what happens to us, but our response to that hurt that entraps us, taking away our real freedom. Once we have totally forgiven, we feel the connection of a clean, or purified, heart between ourselves and others.

Do we blame others for our difficulties in life? I hope the answer is 'No' ⎯ because if we do, it will rob us of true freedom and peace of mind; it will sap our energy. It's forgiving and letting go of these inner entrapments that bring us lasting freedom.

Is there someone whom you need to forgive? Do it today, and then go freely into the presence of the Lord our God. Only then will He accept the gift you bring to Him (Matt. 5:24).

~Gerzel Gordon

Labels: ,

At the Last Supper

Mark 14 describes the events leading up to the Last Supper, the details of the meal, and the effects of that evening. It is relatively easy to read through the account of the meal without imagining the scene. Thus we fail to realize the emotional drama that unfolded in the upper room. Let’s see if we can recreate the scene and thereby learn some of the practical consequences of the events.

The disciples would have made their way down darkened streets to the place where Jesus had instructed them to go. As they climbed the outer stone staircase, they would have wondered about the significance of this meal about which their Master had made several comments recently. At the top of the steps, they would have pushed open the door on its leather hinges and entered into a smoke-filled room. Oil lamps would have cast a warm glow on the rough stone walls. On the floor there would have been a number of hay cushions and woven mats.

Jesus had taken the role of servant at the doorway as the disciples removed their dusty sandals; in this capacity he washed their feet and dried them. There was much embarrassment at this act, but they each in turn submitted to his careful kindness. They rinsed their hands in the water from the jug in the corner, and made their way to sit down. Again, there was some debate about where to sit, or rather where the Master was going to sit, so that they could be close to him.

In the alcove at the side of the main room, two or three women were preparing dishes for the thirteen men. The wood for the fire had been collected earlier, and the vegetables brought in from the villages where they lived. The pita bread had been baked earlier; its aroma, mixed with that of the vegetables, was enticing. Wine in its leather wineskins had been carried up the stairs by one of the disciples and was now being poured into newly glazed mugs and passed around the room.

There was an air of expectancy tinged with fear and uncertainty. The conversation was in hushed tones, and everyone was uncertain about what was going to happen. They thought that they had been planning for the Passover meal. But this was a day early, and it wasn’t quite right!

The meal was probably served hot. It resembled the Passover meal, with its bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and its multiple cups of wine to aid digestion. As they ate, they talked quietly amongst themselves. Then Jesus announced that one of them was going to betray him. He gave a piece of bread to Judas, who took it and afterward went out quietly into the dark night.

Initially, each man thought that the betrayer may have been himself. But later, when it finally emerged that the betrayer was Judas, they were understandably filled with consternation and anger at the betrayal.

Jesus continued to teach them, and their eyes would have been drawn to their Master as he spoke to them about his true nature, his sacrifice, and his resurrection. Possibly there was an intensity of commitment, an identification with Jesus, and a sharing in his work that they had never experienced before. Yet even at this moment of heightened awareness, there were still doubts and uncertainties.

Then Jesus took a piece of the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to each of the disciples in turn. He took the last of the wine, blessed it, and passed it around to the disciples. Thus they all shared the wine together. After they had sung a hymn they went out to Gethsemane. At the table and along the road, Jesus taught them many things; surely they listened to him with some fear and trembling.

In many ways this was an ordinary meal, a group of men meeting together to share food, wine, and conversation. At this time of the year, in Israel, it was also customary to meet and have a special meal together. But, in another sense this was a meal like no other!

The timing of the meal was significant. It came at the time of the Passover festival, but not exactly at the time for the great Passover meal itself. In fact, Jesus was to be sacrificed at the very time when the Passover lambs were being killed in the temple courts. However, all the symbolism of the Passover was to be fulfilled in him. His body was the "bread broken"; he was the bread of life! He himself was the Lamb, selected and prepared — the Lamb of God destined to "take away the sin of the world"! He was the lamb, "pure and undefiled", foreordained from the beginning of time. He was the one who was to be "Christ, our Passover Lamb" (1Co 5:7). However, he was also "the Lamb" to be raised from the dead, to be glorified by being exalted to the throne of God. And the Lamb described by the apostle John in the Book of Revelation: "a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne" (Rev 5:6). He was to be the "first begotten from the dead", given immortality, never to die again.

These are the things Jesus taught the disciples at the meal table and as they walked through the streets of Jerusalem, out of the city gate, and across the Kedron Brook to Gethsemane (cp John 13:31-17:3).

However, let’s get back to the Last Supper. It was a relatively ordinary meal, yet at the same time a meal alive with high drama. The emotional stakes were high, and the tension was acute. How would we have felt if we had been present?

Would we have been embarrassed that we had allowed the Master to wash our feet? Would we have helped to prepare the meal? Or would we just have arrived at the last minute, hoping that someone else had done everything? Would we have been jostling for position, trying to be on the right hand of the Master, so that we would be included in the discussion? Would we have listened spellbound to the teaching, but secretly hoped it would not involve any serious personal commitment and sacrifice? Would each of us have thought deeply and sadly that it could have been "I" who betrayed Jesus? Would we have shared Peter’s denial, vehemently claiming that we would give all and never deny our Lord and Master?

And yet, I am sure that if we had been there, we would have tried to do what was right. We would have failed to achieve the high standard set by the Master’s example. Surely in some way, each of us would have been somewhat like Judas and Peter. Like them, we are frail, erring creatures, prone to sin and failure. The one betrayed and did not seek forgiveness, while the other denied and repented. The one died, but the other lived. Whatever our response to the Master, however, we come to the Lord’s Table, whether we have betrayed or denied, whether we have not done what we could, whether we have done what we should not have done. The Lord shares this bread and this wine, and we receive it gratefully. We know that in him, the Lamb of God, we are forgiven, and refreshed and reinvigorated by this meal. It is a simple and ordinary meal, yet it speaks volumes in spiritual lessons.

~Colin Edwards

Labels: , ,