In Paradise

Our second last word of Jesus on the cross is also found in Luke 23 and is given in response to one of the criminals crucified next to Him (v.32).

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23.43

The only deathbed conversion in the Bible gives us hope that it is never too late to turn to the Lord, but, it is the only deathbed conversion in the Bible, so it shouldn’t give us a false sense that we can wait until the very last minute to ‘get religious’ as many people see it. 

Imagine floating down a river towards a waterfall and there is a big rock right on the edge of the drop that you plan to grab on to. Whilst you are floating towards the edge there is a man on the side of the river calling out to you with a life-saver but you reply ‘Don’t worry, I’ll grab that rock just before I fall‘. But in the course of floating down the river the current has taken you so far from the rock you can’t grab it. In the course of your floating you’ve also taken on so much water than you may not be physically able to grab it. The man on the side is willing and able to save you should you call out to him, but you never did, vainly hoping to wait until the very last second. 

Sadly, this is how many people view salvation and eternal life: ‘I’ll wait until I’m old and ready to die, then I’ll think about all that‘. Sadly, for many, they never get this chance meaning that decisions made in the here-and-now become all the more important. 

Friends, who do you need to talk to about salvation and eternal life today?

Who do you need to send this to and have them read it today?

These words spoken by Jesus on the cross are – like many others – a comfort and a challenge. For those that have trusted Him they are a huge comfort but the context they are given in brings a real challenge.

These words were painfully spoken during crucifixion but they were given nonetheless. It can be painful having these kinds of conversations with people, but follow His example and have one today.

Bad Decisions – Esther 1

Esther is the last of the historical books in the Bible, the next book is Job and with that comes the section commonly known as the wisdom literature. At the time these events took place, the Persian Empire was the biggest empire that the world had ever seen, and archaeology has found remnants of the palace in which many of these dramatic moments happened ¹.

We join the story around 30 years after Ezra had returned to Jerusalem, and around 40 years before Nehemiah would join the returned and endeavour to rebuild the walls of the city. King Ahasuerus, commonly known as Xerxes, consistently comes across as a prideful and arrogant person, and in Esther 1 he is seen to be giving feats for all his officials and servants…while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendour and pomp of his greatness. These feasts, then, seem to be for no other reason than to show off how great he thinks he is.

The king then makes the first of many terrible decisions, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he decides to up the ante of his prideful boasting and parade his wife in front of his friends those gathered. Here is our first lesson; drunk decisions are bad decisions. Paul writes pretty clearly about this,

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit…

Ephesians 5.18

He wants to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. Different sources will give different interpretations of what was means by show the peoples; some think it meant to dance, some think she was to be paraded in naked, but, either way, Vashti refused and chose instead to keep her modesty and dignity in tact (v.12). However, refusing the king had terrible consequences, and Xerxes was enraged and his anger burned within him

The king then makes another terrible decision when he listens to the bad counsel of Memucan and decrees that Vashti is never to again come before King Ahasuerus. The goal is somewhat noble, that all women will give honour to their husbands, high and low alike, but the method of seeing it through (the deposition of Vashti) was heavy-handed, to say the least.

How thankful we are that to be loved by a God who has the highest of standards for our character, our homes, our marriages, our lives, but never seeks to impart them on us by any other method than love and personal demonstration.

Rather than commanding us to do this and that and hoping we don’t rebel against the harsh and heavy yoke imposed on us, the God of the Bible, God Most High, loves us to the point of death – and resurrection – and would rather demonstrate His love for us than command and decree that we must live as simple robots with flesh and blood, as Xerxes wanted to have Vashti be.

How thankful we are to serve a God who asks us to do nothing more than He did Himself in the person of Jesus, who, though being equal with God, made the decision to [humble] himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2.8). 


 

If you have never read Esther 1, you can do so here;

https://www.esv.org/Esther+1/

I Have Decided

Full disclosure – this is a sad story…

Last week I was invited to teach at a conference for pastors and Bible college students in South Asia.

Right before my session, the worship leader stood up and told this story…

About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales. As a result of this, many missionaries came to north-east India to spread the Gospel. The region known as Assam was comprised of hundreds of tribes who were primitive and aggressive head-hunters

Into these hostile and aggressive communities, came a group of missionaries from the American Baptist Missions spreading the message of love, peace and hope in Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed. One missionary succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity. 

Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man instantly composed a song which became famous down the years. He sang:

“I have decided to follow Jesus.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

No turning back, no turning back.”

Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”

But the man sang these words in reply:

“Though no one joins me, still I will follow.

Though no one joins me, still I will follow.

Though no one joins me, still I will follow.

No turning back, no turning back.”

The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be arrowed down. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”In the face of death the man sang the final memorable lines:

“The cross before me, the world behind me.

The cross before me, the world behind me.

The cross before me, the world behind me.

No turning back, no turning back.”

He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some remarkable power behind the family’s faith, and I too want to taste that faith.”

In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

The song is based on the last words of Nokseng, a man from Garo tribe of Assam (now Meghalaya and some in Assam), India. It is today the song of the Garo people.

Source: Dr. P.P. Job in ‘Why God Why’


There was a stunned silence in the room.

Everybody knew this song, but very few people know the story to it.

The worship team then led us all in this song, and it was hauntingly beautiful. For us to be in the region where this took place, and having all made that same confession, was so powerful. There was barely a dry eye in the house.

Today there is no need for a challenging personal question, or a point to ponder, or a prayer of confession. Just read that story again, and listen to this song…

Psalm 121 – Moving Forwards – 6

5 The Lord is your keeper;

    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

6 The sun shall not strike you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

Do you know, as with sunstroke, too much time in the sun and you feel ill, people believe that moonstroke is the same? There is also a thing called starstroke, apparently…

Whether these two things are solid, medically proven conditions or whether they are superstitions, any superstitious fears are of no concern to those whom God protects. He keeps, preserves, and protects all day and all night.

James Montgomery Boice said

“What the psalmist really means, though in figurative language, is that nothing either of the day or night can harm us if God is keeping guard. God is our covering against every calamity. He is our shade against the visible perils of the day as well as the hidden perils of the night.”

The main point here is that our help comes from God, and God alone, against things we see, and against things we don’t see, and everything in between.

What a peace this brings; everything that happens to us day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year, is known to Almighty God. 

Now, this isn’t to say that when you submit and commit to the Lord that your life is gonna be a sweet smelling, soft touch, bed of roses, no, that is not what the Bible says, but we do know that everything that happens to us, around us, and involving us has been Divinely ordained;

God knows…God knows, God cares, God guides, God decides…

So whatever we are moving forwards to He knows, He cares, He guides, and He decides.

Decisions to make?

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

​“The mere reading of the Word of God has power to communicate the life of God to us mentally, morally, and spiritually.”

– Oswald Chambers

Living in this part of the world, you often hear people say ‘Insha’allah’, or, ‘God willing’. If you’ve lived here long enough you’ll know that this can actually mean a whole manner of things…

But, the notion of ‘If the Lord wills it’ is actually very Biblical (have a look at James 4.13-15 for example).

People then ask, ‘How can I know God’s will for my life?’, and that is a great question.

God (most usually) speaks to us in four ways…

Through prayer, through His Word, through circumstance, and through other believers.

So, if you’ve prayed about a big decision and nothing is happening, if other believers are unsure about the road you’re heading down, if everything about the circumstances points to a bad choice, and if you’re doing something that goes against how the Bible says we ought to live, its hard to say that God is in it. 

But, if you’ve spoken to other believers and they are positive, if all the circumstances align in a way you could never have engineered or even imagined, if you’re living in the light of His Word, and if you’re prayed up and God is opening doors, then what are you waiting for? 

He is speaking to you, He is opening a door for you, He is directing your steps. 

If we wait for the audible voice of God – Jesus’ baptism-style – we may be waiting a long time. 

Pray, read His Word, look around at how He is already working in your life, and talk to other believers…then go for it!