God doesn’t forgive issues (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

God does not forgive issues; He forgives sin

Every so often, I put out a shorter post which I call Pearls of Wisdom. The usual format is a short phrase or “pearl” with a few words from me highlighting its wisdom. I mention it here as I’ve not done one in a while, and I know there are a few newer readers. (Thanks for joining me!)

I listened to a sermon this week, and the preacher happened to mention the above phrase. It struck me that when we minimise sin (referring to it as slip, mistake or issue) we also minimise what God has done to resolve it.

We may not like to use the word sin or sinful to describe our behaviour, and so water it down with words like issues. All this does is serve to weaken our resolve against sin in all its forms.

God hates sin, and so should we. Christ’s great work at the cross did not achieve the forgiveness of “issues” but of sin and its wickedness.

The older I get, the more I realise the depth of my sinfulness. Not that I consider myself worse than anyone else, it is rather that the more I get to know Christ, it becomes apparent how far short I fall of His wonderful holiness.

Sin is a dreadful thing, and it carries a heavy cost. We Christians can be thankful that this cost is fully paid for by Christ. Let us not minimise His work by softening sin down to mere mishaps. Sin is sin, and yet God forgives it through the blood of Jesus! Hallelujah!

Rejoice in this truth today, and be blessed!

Reliable

13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest

    is a faithful messenger to those who send him;

    he refreshes the soul of his masters.

14 Like clouds and wind without rain

    is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

Proverbs 25:13-14 (ESV)

Has anyone ever described you as “reliable?” How did that feel? For most of us at least, being called reliable probably isn’t all that much of a compliment. There isn’t anything exciting about being “reliable,” and it probably isn’t the one word most of us would choose to sum up our lives.

Yet God is reliable. And it is something I too strive to be.

These two proverbs were the focus of my Bible study for yesterday, and it got me thinking about the subject of reliability. Few times have I ever heard someone preach on the subject in church, and the most memorable one I can recall is one I heard about excellence (which touched on the same subject).

In verse 13, the proverb compares the cool of the snow in the time of harvest. Now that is not to sy they are hoping for snow while trying to bring in their hard-earned harvest, but uses the picture of cool snow to reflect refreshment. One paraphrase depicts a refreshing drink on ice to communicate refreshment. This refreshment is then likened to a faithful messenger or worker to the his/her master. I suppose good help is hard to find at times, and so it is like a breath of fresh air when we find reliable help.

Verse 14 paints an altogether opposite picture. Like the clouds which promise rain and never deliver, is the one who talks a good game and yet does not come up with the goods. I once heard someone at work described in such terms – “He talks a good game, but I’ve yet to see him kick a football!”

It reminds me of the fig tree in Mark 11 which Jesus cursed. It promised nourishment in the form of fruit by displaying its leaves, and yet, when Christ sought the tasty fruit, it had nothing to offer. Some feel sad for this poor little fig tree which Jesus was seemingly so hard on. However, studying it in context shows that this was a picture of the religious of the day. They boasted of how they followed all the commands and looked the part, yet bore little if any fruit.

We are not to be like this.

As Christians, we must seek to be a totally reliable people who stick to their word. If we say it, then it should be considered done to those who hear us. Far too many of us say things we do not mean or have no intention of doing. This is not right at all.

God never breaks His Word. If He has said it, then we need not doubt it will be fulfilled. He is totally, 100% reliable, and that is exciting! It means that everything He has promised you will be done. That is the difference between biblical hope and the hope of the world. When the world “hopes” it just means that it wishes it was so. Not us! For us, our hope is guaranteed by the promises of God and His Word.

What does that mean for us – His people? I think it means that if we make a commitment, then we must stick with it. I think that it means we need to be very careful about what we agree to, or what we allow others to talk us into.

Psalm 15 says:

in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Psalm 15:4 (ESV)

This phrase “swears to his own hurt” is interesting. I believe it means that a righteous person sticks to their word, even if it hurts them in the long run. Say they commit to helping out at church, and then realise they have double booked themselves and must miss the “must see” sporting event of the year. They stick to their commitment, despite the hurt of missing the game.

The lesson is not to commit, not to agree to build before counting the cost.

Are there examples in your own life where you have made a commitment that you wish you hadn’t? Do you need to see that through now despite regretting it?

The classic example for me is when the children are naughty. In a moment of temper, I say something ridiculous like “You’re grounded for 20 years!” (I exaggerate) and I know I don’t mean it, they know I don’t mean it, and my word is no longer reliable.

Let us not be a people who throw words away without thought. Let each of us mean what we say and say what we mean. Don’t be hasty with your words, and make sure you count the cost before you begin. If someone is pressing you to agree, and you’re just not sure, say so and ask for some time to think it over.

Let our words be few, but let us mean every single one of them.

A Gentle Answer

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)

This particular verse came up in my Bible reading this morning. It may be very familiar to you or perhaps it’s the first time you’ve read it. Either way, there is much wisdom in its words.

A gentle answer can make a huge difference in a single conversation, or an entire relationship. As I note these words, I wonder how many marriages broke down because somebody chose not to give the gentle answer but instead snapped in anger.

This post is for you today. It may only be brief, but it may make a world of difference in your life. If you are not in conflict right now, just wait! Conflict can occur between any two people at any time. If this is not a lesson you need today, then you very well may need it in future. I know that I do!

In the heat of the moment, please pause and take a breath. Before you react angrily, let this scripture come to your mind. A gentle answer is still an answer, and still gives you the right and space to say what you need to say. Saying it in a gentle manner however makes it much more likely that the person you are speaking to will hear you.

I pray that in all of your conversations this week, all your answers will be gentle. Ask God, as I will, to forgive you when your words spill out angrily. Speaking the right words in the right way can change a persons life.

God bless you and your words today.

God’s Love for you – A Journey with Jesus

I am still having a few technical issues with WordPress, and cannot upload any videos at the moment. I’ve put the latest video in my Lent series on Facebook, and posted the link below. Hope you are able to view it there.

In this video, I talk about how important it is to understand God’s love for you. Enjoy!

https://fb.watch/3PfG5TJKc4/

Words Can Be Atom Bombs

Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.

Proverbs 25:18 (NIV)

You have likely heard the schoolyard or playground phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” But is this true? I think not! Sticks or stones may indeed bruise our body, or in a severe case, break our bones of course but words can wound as well. How many people took a physical beating at one point and are now totally recovered, yet those same people carry deep scars from vicious or poisonous words in their past.

A single fist may bruise an eye, but a single word can start a war if spoken at the right (wrong?) time.

If sticks and stones can break our bones, then words are atom bombs!

The writer of the proverb above likens false testimony to that of real life weapons. He clearly compares clubs, swords and arrows to that of spreading falsities about one’s neighbour. When we hear the word “testimony” we may automatically think of a courtroom. While this is certainly the place to tell the truth, we can give false testimony about our neighbours in any setting. It is every bit as important to be truthful in the court of opinion and on social media as it is in a court of law.

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 12:

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Matthew 12:36 (NIV)

If there was ever a Scripture to make us shudder, then this would be it! We speak often, and how much of it is “empty words”?

The Bible has a huge amount to say about our words, and Proverbs in particular talks of the important of how we speak. James, in the New Testament, is often thought of as the Proverbs of the NT, and he too warns of the power of words. It is hard for me to state how critical this subject is. Jesus was so careful about what He did and did not say, remaining silent at crucial moments.

Although the thought terrifies me, I toy with the idea of recording myself for an entire day and listening back to the conversations I have had. What would that reveal? Would I hear myself building others up and encouraging them? Or would my words be careless, inflicting wounds without thought?

Would you wish to be recorded for a day, and have to listen to it back? Let each of us take an inventory of, not just our words, but our tone as well. Often we communicate more in the way we say things than in what we specifically say. Instead of an entire day, why not just take stock for an hour. Make notes or record yourself, then pray over the results.

Are there words in your past that you deeply regret? Such words cannot be changed, but you can learn these lessons and avoid the dangers in future.

Like the psalmist, ask the Lord to set a guard over your lips.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

Remember, words are atomic bombs that can devastate a life. They are also a wellspring of life that can create and build up.

Watch your words today, and every day! Lord, do help us to speak out only good things to the people in our lives. Guard our mouths so that we utter nothing in anger or haste that will harm and wound. Holy Spirit, watch over our words this day and let them point people to You – in Jesus’ Name! Amen

What Should You Be Doing?

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

2 Samuel 11:1-3 (NIV)

King David was without a doubt Israel’s greatest king. He was beloved of God, and penned much of the Psalms we know and love today. Yet he was not a perfect man, and 2 Samuel 11 begins to tell how he fell into temptation and committed the sin of adultery.

These passages are not here for us to pick on David, nor is anything I say in this post meant to be criticism of him. These stories and words are here in our Bible to teach us, and we must learn the lessons from David’s mistakes. Hopefully by doing so, we will avoid the sins he fell into.

2 Samuel 11 opens by telling us it is spring time, and the time when kings go off to war. We might then expect it to say that King David gathered his army and went after the Ammonites, but it does not… Instead we read that David sent Joab with the army to go fight, and he stayed at home.

This is probably David’s first mistake. For whatever reason, he decides not to go out with the army. Perhaps he was fed up with war, or perhaps he was just tired. We do not know if Joab tried to convince him either way, but ultimately he was not where he needed to be – and that led him down a path of trouble.

David’s first misstep was to not do what he should have been doing. What should you be doing? Are you putting off things you know God has put on your heart? Are you making excuses not to fulfil your commitments or responsibilities? If so, then it could likewise lead you into problems.

There are likely countless examples. Do we find ourselves watching all kinds of sinfulness on TV, instead of spending time with God or our families? Are we surfing the web instead of putting in the hours at work (this is all too easy while working at home)? Are you laying in on a Sunday morning instead of being with God’s fellow people? Insert your own example here…

Verse 2 begins “One evening, David got up from his bed…” What does that tell you? David had been in bed during the day. Some immediately assume he’s spent all day in bed, and all night doing whatever he wanted. This could well be true, but we must also remember Israel can get very warm and so he may have just been resting during the heat of the day.

Irrespective, he then decides to take a walk on the roof. We do not know if this was his custom, or the done thing of the day, but again, it leads him into the path of temptation. I have no idea if David’s palace was the biggest and tallest building around, but it is in my mind at least. David, on the roof, would have had a good view of the entire area. Was it pride that took him up there, to survey his entire kingdom? Did he know it was a common time for women to bathe, and so hoped to catch a glimpse? We don’t know, and i have no wish to unfairly criticise him – as the text does not necessarily support it.

From the roof, David sees a beautiful woman. As above, we do not know if it was an accident or contrived in some way. Either way, what should he have been doing at this point? Averting his eyes? Definitely. Running away? Quite probably. And as an aside, one day i’ll write a post about “running away” as we see several examples in the Bible of people who did this, for good and bad reasons.

When he saw her bathing, instead of doing what he should have done, he sends a servant to find out who she is. It is clear that he is flirting with sin at this point. He has likely looked on her with lust, and now sets his mind to having her for himself. When he finds out that she is married, that should certainly have been the end of it. But if you know the story, then you know it is not the case.

There is more to learn from the rest of the account, but my point for today is simply to say – what should you be doing? We see more than one opportunity here for David to have done the right thing, and he chose not to. Instead of doing what he ought to be, he takes small steps towards sin.

Temptation is often like that. Rarely is someone simply tempted to commit adultery. It starts with minor things; the laugh by the water cooler, the touch of the arm, the sharing of personal thoughts… and before you know it, you are in a situation where you have moved closer and closer to sin, and it’s now much harder to escape.

Had David just gone to war as he should, then he may never have laid eyes on Bathsheba at all. If you were doing what you should be, what sin might you never lay eyes on?

Perhaps you are not engaged in a particular sin right now, but recognise you are slowly moving towards it – one step at a time. Take time now to reflect on this, and turn back before it is too late. Talk to the Lord about it, and ask Him to give you strength to resist temptation.

Legacy

I watched a movie last night called “The Dig.” It is about an archaeological discovery in Suffolk, England. At the site of some burial mounds, the team of excavators discover a 90 foot long Anglo-Saxon boat buried with its owner after his death. They found a number of treasures and gold along with it. It may not sound the most exciting blockbuster from my clumsy description, but it was an enjoyable film.

One of the key themes of the movie is about what we leave behind. On the one hand, it was a tremendous find – the boat, the treasure and the history – and yet little is known of the owner. One of the characters comments that they feel futile in the face of death, fearing they will be forgotten in a few short generations. The chief excavator rather thinks we are all part of an ongoing story, and each play our part in the richness of history.

It got me thinking about what we leave behind us – our legacy.

Life is short, and it can so often fly by without us paying full attention. Someone once said that you don’t grow old, but instead wake up one day and realise that you are! Yet we can each make a lasting difference in the world. Few of us can be world leaders, chairs of huge internationals or jet-setting celebrities but we can each make a contribution to those we live life with.

Don’t feel you have to change the entire world, but do change it for someone. You may not be able to end world hunger on your own, but you can feed someone in need for a single meal. And I suspect that is something that person will not forget in a long, long time.

The Bible tells us to think about those generations that follow.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

Proverbs 13:22 (NIV)

We see in this verse that we are to leave an inheritance for our grandchildren. Many of us make plans to pass on our belongings and wealth to our children, and that is clearly a right thing to do. The Bible goes further though, encouraging us to think not just of our direct children, but of their children beyond them.

Finances are but one way of leaving a legacy of course, and there are much more important things we can leave behind.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NIV)

The most important thing we can give the next generation, and all those that follow, is knowledge of the Lord and His Word.

These verses were given to the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land, but they are every bit as applicable to us Christians today. We are to fix them in our hearts and minds. For me, that means using our brains to really understand them, but also to let them change our hearts in our inner being. Without the heart, studying the Bible becomes a mere intellectual exercise without any need for faith or a changed life.

While the Israelites took these commands literally, and actually bound the Scriptures to their hands and foreheads, I think there is a symbolic notion here too. Binding God’s commands to our foreheads again speaks to me of keeping the Word ever in our mind. It means the Word of God is ever before our eyes no matter what we or where we go. Likewise, binding the Scriptures to our hands to me means letting the command of God influence all that we do. When we work with our hands, we do so in and for God and His glory.

These verses tell us to pass on what we have learned about the Lord. We are to teach our children of the things of God, and to do so when we go out and when we come in. We are to talk about God in every situation; while we eat, while we educate, while we play games with them. Let everything we do with our children be an opportunity to point to the goodness of God and what He has done for us.

Surely this is the most vital legacy we can leave behind us! It is not about us being remembered, or our individual contribution being marked, but rather that God is remembered and His praises sung by each generation that follows.

Will these words be read by someone in a hundred years? Will one of my descendants pick up one of my books to read? Only God knows. Even if I am forgotten, I pray that my life will mean that there are more people heavenbound than there were before.

What kind of legacy will you leave? What contribution can you make to God’s glory? Seek the Lord for the answers today.

Yesterday I posted an audio post introducing A Journey with Jesus. I put the video out on Facebook last night, but for some technical reason I can’t post the video to the blog. If you want to watch, please click here to see it on Facebook.

Introduction-A Journey with Jesus

A short audio message introducing Andes book – A Journey with Jesus-which can be used over the course of Lent in 2021.

Having a Bad Day

A few days ago, one of my children was “having a bad day.” She had tried to play with her sisters, but no one could agree on a game and so it descended into a heated debate. She then tried to draw a picture, but it did not turn out as she wanted and this led to further tears. It all became a bit overwhelming and we agreed the only solution was a short nap to reset.

Such “bad days” are not limited to 7 year olds however…

Truth be told, I woke up in a bad mood today. I had not slept that well and then my youngest woke me up early, refusing to settle back to sleep for even a short time. I got up with her, and she scattered cereal across the floor and covered items in orange pen that were perfectly good the colour they were. I let these things feed into my mood and it is not unfair to describe me as “grumpy!”

Ever had a day like that?

If I am totally honest, the source of my grumpiness is really just plain old selfishness. I didn’t sleep well… I woke up early… I didn’t get to start my day the way I wanted… Count the “I”‘s here…

Selfishness is about looking inwardly, and it means our focus is solely on ourselves and not on anyone else. Now it is perfectly fine to take care of yourself at times, but sadly most of us are addicted to comfort and getting what we want. If we do not get what we feel we should have, then we throw an adult fit of one kind or another. For me, this often looks like a fraying or shortening of the temper. I sit down to do something, and life (or children) have other plans and I react badly, feeling hard done by.

It only takes a short time of reflection to realise how good I’ve got it. How many couples would dream of being woken early by a child, and do not have the chance? How many homeless men and women would dream of having a living room to clean? When we fix our eyes on what we do not have, we end up feeling like we are somehow missing out. Yet when we focus on what we do have, it leads us down a path of gratitude.

Yesterday I was thinking about Paul and Silas in Acts 16.

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Acts 16:22-25 (NIV)

Paul and Silas had become involved in something of a controversy. They had cast a demonic spirit out of a slave, and she could no longer perform the fortune telling her owners required. This led to an uproar, and as we see above, Paul and Silas were in trouble.

They were stripped before the crowd, which was a major humiliation. Then, they were beaten with rods. These were not a gentle correction, but a severe beating. It is likely they were bruised, bleeding and probably with broken bones. The pair are then thrown into the “inner cell.” This was perhaps the worst cell in the jail, and being in the middle of the complex, had no windows and hence no daylight. Paul and Silas would not have been able to tell the time, and this alone would have been torturous. Lastly, we they are put in stocks. Again, these are not the ones you might have seen on TV, but equipment designed to stretch and contort the body in painful ways.

Now that’s “having a bad day!”

How did this Christian pair react? They sang hymns of praise to God! Even in that dark and painful place, those two focussed on what they had and not what had been taken away from them. My grumpiness pales in comparison to what they were facing, yet they acted far more godly than I did.

What are we willing to put up with for the sake of the Gospel? What discomfort are we willing to undergo for the benefit of our families? What are you willing to sacrifice for the need of someone else?

I confess my bad start to the day and ask the Lord to forgive me. I also ask Him to help me get my mind off of myself and on to how I can be a blessing to someone else. The cure for selfishness is selflessness. That’s something of a mouthful! Ultimately we replace one thought with another, and that means we replace thinking about ourselves with thoughts of other people and what we can do for them.

As Jesus hung on the cross, He did not think of Himself but on those He was there for. We see that from His words asking His Father to forgive them.

Let each of us follow Christ’s example today and be willing to suffer – even in small ways – for the sake of other people. What does that look like for you today?

Lent 2021

For Lent this year, I was asked if my devotional book – A Journey with Jesus – could be used in our church. It is a real honour to be asked, and humbling too. I wrote the book many years ago now, and at that time for a specific church I attended. Since then, I updated the material and published it for use by anyone. Although it is written with Lent in mind, it can be used any time of the year.

It is my intention to record a weekly video message to go along with the daily readings from the book. If you want to follow along, then let me encourage you to get yourself a copy of the book from Amazon here – A Journey With Jesus. As you will see, it is available in both paperback and Kindle format. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, then it is totally free to read. There is also a large print copy available for those who prefer it.

If you don’t have a copy of the book, then the weekly video messages will still be of interest (I hope!) so please do not feel excluded.

Lent is an interesting time and I am always fascinated by how people use the time. Some fast, while others do not mark it at all. I have always been a fan of trying to use the time to read a book or study in some way. Do you mark Lent in any special way? Do comment below if you do.

However you spend the season of Lent, I pray that it is a time where you draw close to God. If you fully devote yourself to Jesus this Lent, imagine how different your relationship with Him might be in 40 days time? Imagine how you might have grown, or how He might have guided you. Any day is a good day to focus on the Lord, but Lent gives us a good excuse to do so. Don’t waste this time but embrace it! I pray you are extremely blessed as you encounter Jesus this year.

Eternity in the Balance

I listen to a series of podcasts called “Stuff You Should Know.” It is a general knowledge podcast, with each episode selecting a theme and then giving an overview of the subject matter. Episodes can range from astrophysics, to nature, to history and occasionally ventures into religion too. I recently listened to an episode about the subject of “hell.”

In the episode, the hosts talked about the different religious views on the afterlife, with some attention given to the Christian view. While some of their general themes were correct, they did not well describe a true biblical view. For instance, they gave the overview that if you live a good life, then you go to heaven, and if not, then you go to this place called hell. This is a commonly held belief of course, but is in no way biblical. For what is a “good life?” How good is good enough? The Bible shows us that none of us are good enough, and all are destined for hell without the intervention of a Saviour – and that Saviour is Jesus Christ.

The hosts talked about the idea of “eternal punishment,” but suggested that most now felt this was extremely excessive, and that it is way out of proportion to punish someone for all eternity for a few mere sins on earth. Let’s return to this point later on…

They then discussed beliefs which they “preferred,” namely universalism and annihilationism.

I have seen a couple of slightly different definitions of universalism, but the general point is the idea that all people ultimately end up in heaven. This can come about in a number of ways. Either they could go straight to heaven for living a good life, or they could be sent to “hell” or “purgatory” to serve their time. Once they have completed the penalty, they are then promoted into heaven.

To some, this idea also carries the view that all religions lead to God. Perhaps we worship in a variety of ways, but ultimately, we all find our own way to God and so into His loving arms.

Annihilationism on the other hand is the idea that good people go to heaven, and “bad people” do not go to some form of punishment, they simply cease to exist – they are “annihilated” hence the term. This, too, the hosts of the podcast said seems favourable to that of eternal punishment.

A couple of points to note. Firstly, what we “prefer” has no bearing on what is true. I might prefer the sky to be a nice shade of green, but it remains blue. I may prefer to start work at 10am every morning, yet my boss will “prefer” to employ someone else if I do! Just because we prefer to have things another way, does not make them so. Preferring there not to be an eternal consequence of our sin does not mean there is not one. We must face reality.

The second point is this. Universalism and annihilationism are not supported by the Bible. In Luke 16, Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. I did a short series on this parable a while ago, and you can read the first part here – The Rich Man and Lazarus Part 1.

Jesus said:

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

Luke 16:22-26 (NIV)

From this, two things are apparent. Firstly, the rich man is awake, aware and conscious in the place of torment (see verse 24). Secondly, we see that there is a chasm, divide or separation between the two places such that no one can travel between the two (see verse 26). Without any other biblical evidence, we see that neither universalism nor annihilationism can be true.

The rich man has no means of traversing between the good and bad places of the dead (whatever name you give them) and this means he cannot and will not end up in heaven. We too see that he is not destroyed, but rather continues to exist in that state of eternal torment.

There is other evidence in the Bible which add to this and Jesus Himself taught many things about life after death, and you cannot bend those teachings to lead to either universalism or annihilationism.

What does this mean then? If these two theories are not true, then we must look again at the frightening reality of eternal punishment. As much as we do not like he idea, we must consider it to be true alongside all else that Jesus taught.

Returning to the point that the hosts of the podcast made, that is, that eternal punishment is grossly out of proportion. How do we defend this point? If they are correct, then God is surely unjust to punish humanity for all eternity for their sins on earth?

I think part of the problem is that we fail to understand sin. We think of sin like we do crimes; there are big crimes and smaller crimes, and therefore bigger and smaller punishments. If we break the speed limit, then we get a fine. If we intentionally murder someone, then we spend a long time in prison or in some places, forfeit our lives.

Sin is not merely a crime against God. There are no big sins and small sins. Sin represents a total break in our relationship with our Holy God. God’s holiness is such that He cannot relate to our sinful selves. Sin puts a chasm between us and God, and it matters not how far we jump across – near or far – we can never reach the other side. The only way to bridge the gap is by having someone act as our substitute. That Someone is Jesus Christ.

Jesus lived the perfect life. He committed no sin, and yet was punished as a sinner. He bore the punishment that each of us deserve, and He bridged the gap between us and God. Only by accepting Him and what He did for us, can we be free of the penalty of sin.

Sin deserves eternal punishment for at least two reasons that I can fathom. Firstly, eternal punishment is merely the only other option to being in the presence of God. You are either in and enjoying His presence or you are not; the latter is what we call hell. The second reason for eternal punishment is not the sin itself, for Jesus dealt with all sins, but instead for rejecting Christ and His work. God became a human being, lived perfectly and yet suffered and died as a sinner. For us to refuse to accept that is to – for want of a better way of putting it – to reject the cross. It is to make Christ’s death of no value, or to suggest He died in vain.

Another danger of teachings like universalism is that it makes us complacent. If, ultimately, all go to heaven, then there is little driver for us as Christians to share our faith. Truth be told, if all go to heaven no matter what, then there is little point in us living out our faith in any way at all. We can live however we want to, and it won’t matter, because we’ll all end up in the same place in the end…

The take home message for us is this: there is a heaven to gain and a hell to avoid – at all costs. We, as Christians, must never be complacent and must share our faith with as many as we can. There is but one way to heaven, and His Name is Jesus Christ! All must put their faith in Him to get to heaven. We must turn from our sin and turn to Him! There are no shortcuts or alternatives, only Christ!

Our Christian lives must be driven by a sense of urgency. Even if Christ does not return in our lifetimes, we must live like He will. We must live like we only get one chance – because we do! When this life is over, there is no do-over, no reincarnation, no winding back the clock. The time to share our faith is now, and we must pray like life depends on it, because it does!

We do not know what hell is really like. There are glimpses in the Bible, but it is open to some interpretation. Is it actually a place where fire burns, for instance? It could well be, or it could be that such fire is a symbol for judgement. Either way, the Bible makes it very, very clear that hell is no place you want to be. Eternal safety is found only in the Father, and we can only reach Him through His Son Jesus.

If you do not know this Jesus I speak of, then make the effort to find out who He is today. Read the New Testament in the Bible, perhaps starting with the books of Mark or Luke. Find out who Jesus really is, and put your trust in Him. Please do get in touch if you make that choice for Him today, as I would be honoured to pray for you.

If you are a Christian already, and know Jesus, then please let this post spur you on to serve Him with your whole heart. Time is short, and eternity hangs in the balance.

Why water into wine?

It was my pleasure to stand in for our local vicar at short notice this week. In this video, I share a few thoughts about why I think Jesus turned water into wine from John 2.

For some technical reason I do not understand, I was not able to upload the video directly to this post. However include a link below to the video on Facebook. Hope you enjoy!

https://fb.watch/3d1lSFD0DE/