Look carefully at the evidence

Some years ago a university professor took a small group of students on a field trip into desert country for intensive study. Miles from civilisation, their vehicle broke down and the group set out on foot to complete an estimated three-day trek back to their campus. After two days of hard travel, they came to the summit of a huge sand dune. Thirsty and sunburnt, they looked around them and to their delight, far off in the distance, they clearly saw a lake with small trees surrounding it. They jumped and screamed for joy. Their professor, who prided himself on understanding desert phenomena remained calm. He explained that what they were witnessing was a mirage. It was just an optical illusion.

A rather unpleasant argument followed. The professor insisted that he knew best because he was an expert in this sort of thing. The fact that they could see the trees and see the lake in the distance was no proof it was real. The argument ended with the students walking off one way, while the professor went in the opposite direction. He made them promise that after they discovered it was a mirage they would stay put and wait for him to return with help.

It took the students three gruelling hours but finally they arrived at a plush new desert resort which had only recently opened. It had four swimming pools and six restaurants. Two hours after that, they set out in a Land Rover with rangers to search for the professor. He was never found.

This true story has a spiritual parallel because it is a reminder of the way in which two different groups of people view Holy Scripture. The first group represented by the students, after making a proper investigation of Scripture, take what the Bible teaches “at face value”. In other words when they see with their own eyes a command in Scripture, they realise that what they see is true and therefore something which must be obeyed. When they read verses calling for people to repent, they recognise those verses as having come from God; when they read that people “mustn’t be deceived, because the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1st Corinthians Ch6 v9), they take it to heart, and when they study verses of prophecy, they accept that one day those prophecies will indeed be fulfilled. They see these things in God’s Word and because they have properly looked at the claims of Scripture, they realise that they are true.

The second group is represented by the professor. This group indeed sees and reads the same things as the first, but they blindly refuse to accept what they see as being true and utterly refuse to take a proper look at them. The very thought that there could be any truth in them is simply rejected out of hand without any examination whatsoever. Just as the professor in his pride, refused to properly look at the scene his students were intensely viewing, so likewise this group refuses to properly look at the evidence that the Bible really has been inspired by Almighty God.

The outcome for both groups couldn’t be more different. The group which thoroughly investigates what they see in Scripture soon come to realise what a profound treasure it is. After assessing the evidence, they discover that the Bible is indeed true and it changes their lives at the very deepest level, bringing salvation, forgiveness, joy and eternal life.

The other group which rejects the Word of God out of hand, are left wandering and confused in the desert of their life. There is no watering hole for their thirsty souls, no shelter from the storms of life and no shade from the sun. They have rejected out of hand the very “Map” which would have shown them the Way, the Truth and the Life. There are many such people and they are their own worst enemy. Jesus describes this group in John Ch3vs19-20; “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, but many love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. For those practising evil hate the light and will not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed.”

There will of course be some among this group who feel uncomfortable rejecting every portion of the “Map”. The feeling of these individuals is that some parts of it should be followed, even if the “Map” as a whole is rejected. These people pick and choose which parts of the “Map” they are going to obey. They choose to adhere to the parts they like, and reject the parts that challenges them or makes them feel uncomfortable. These “pickers and choosers” totally miss the point. All that the Lord commands and teaches is important, not just bits and pieces.

The Bible clearly calls for individuals to repent of all their past sins and to start obeying the Lord Jesus in every way. God is Love, but He is also an infinitely Holy God requiring moral conduct and behaviour in keeping with His will. We can’t pick and choose what commands we are going to obey or which bits of the “Map” we are going to follow.

To belong to the Lord, an individual must truly make it their aim to follow His commandments and wishes in every area of their lives; at work, at home, in relationships and in their inner personal life. It calls for a complete change of attitude to life with regard to sexual immorality, ambitions, jealousies, bitterness, the holding of grudges, pride, and hatred etc. (See Galatians Ch5 vs19-21.) In their place, the Lord commands an attitude of self-control, love, gentleness, kindness, long suffering and the like. (See Galatians Ch5 vs22-23.) We can’t pick and choose which of these commands we are going to obey because they are all profoundly important.

The following story is a vivid illustration showing just how important complete obedience and loyalty really is. Some years ago retired astronaut General Charles Duke was talking about his experiences on Apollo 16. Shortly after he returned from the moon Charles himself, was converted and became a devout Christian. What he experienced on the moon is a reminder of our need to follow all of the Lord’s Commandments and not deviate from them in the slightest.

As he was talking about his walk on the lunar surface, someone asked “Once you were there, weren’t you free to make your own decisions and carry out some of your own experiments…you know, sort of do as you pleased, maybe stay a little longer if you liked?” Charlie answered “Oh sure, if we didn’t want to return to earth!” He then described the intricate plan, the exact and precise instructions, the essential discipline and the instant obedience that was needed right down to the split second if they were to be saved and get back. They landed with exactly 60 seconds of fuel to get them away again. The audience was given the distinct impression that a rebel doesn’t fit inside a spacesuit. To be safe they needed total and complete obedience to the commands from Mission Control.

So likewise, there are no rebels or partial followers of Christ in the Kingdom of God. To belong to the Lord and be a member of His Kingdom requires wholehearted commitment to all of the instructions given in the “Map”. Partial obedience or picking and choosing which Commands in Scripture to obey, will only lead to death. As we are warned in 1st Peter Ch4v18 “If the righteous person is scarcely saved, what will it be like for the ungodly and sinner?” And in Hebrews Ch2vs 1-3 it implores; “We must give all the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we should drift away…for how shall we escape so great a Salvation?” Genuine repentance must bring forth genuine obedience. If pickers and choosers have no place on the moon, how much more so, have they no place in the Kingdom of Heaven!

From Atheism to Christ

In Deuteronomy Ch 4v29 it promises “You will find the Lord if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” The Lord promises that if an individual is truly sincere in their search for Him then He will reveal Himself to them. This is the common denominator which links all testimonies and conversion stories together. No matter what the physical circumstances of a person coming to faith maybe, whether they were a university professor, scientist or a drug addict, a young mum struggling to rear three kids or an elderly grandfather, the one thing they will all have had in common is a genuine heartfelt desire to find Almighty God. God is not interested in our educational status, our rank in society or the amount of money we possess. The only thing He is interested in is our sincerity in finding Him.

Recently I came across the testimony of journalist and author Lee Strobel. His background was one of being a confirmed atheist and it is fascinating to read of how he moved from this position of unbelief to one where he genuinely wanted to seek the truth about God. Strobel, who is a modern day CS Lewis has written numerous scholarly books about Christianity such as “The Case for Faith” and “The Case for Christ Study Bible” and he is a reminder that God can even be found by atheists provided they are genuinely seeking the Truth about Life.

Lee Strobel was the legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and described himself as a sceptical atheist. Using his own words; “I thought the idea of an all-loving, all-powerful Creator of the Universe was stupid. My background was in journalism and law so I needed evidence before I’d believe anything. I thought the Bible was a collection of myths and legends…and as an atheist I was convinced that God didn’t create people, but that people created God. In other words, they had been so afraid of death that they decided to manufacture a feel-good fairy tale about a benevolent deity and a blissful afterlife awaiting them on the other side of the grave. In spite of my sceptical predisposition, however, I eventually became a ‘seeker’, someone open-minded and inquisitive enough to sincerely investigate the claims of this bestselling Book of all time.

One day my wife, who had been an agnostic, told me that she had become a Christian. She informed me that after a period of spiritual investigation she had now decided to become a follower of Jesus Christ. I thought that this was the worst possible news I could ever get and wondered if it was the end of our marriage.

Over the ensuing months however, I saw positive changes in her values, in her character and in the way she related to me and the children. It was attractive and it made me want to check things out. And so I went to church one day; mainly to see if I could get her out of this ‘cult’ that she had got involved in. At that service I heard the message of Jesus explained properly for the very first time, in a way I could understand; that forgiveness is a free gift, Jesus died for our sins and we can spend eternity with Him. I walked out of church still an atheist but also thinking ‘if this is true, it has huge implications for my life.’

I decided to use my journalism training and legal training to investigate into whether there was any credibility to Christianity. At the outset I decided to follow the facts wherever they should lead. For nearly two years I studied archaeology and ancient history, interviewed scientists and scholars and combed the pages of the Bible with an attitude of curiosity. Putting my background in journalism and law into use, I scrutinized the words of the Bible and tested the evidence for and against it. What I found changed my mind and, ultimately, transformed my life. I discovered why Christians are convinced that science supports the belief in a supernatural Creator and that history points powerfully and persuasively toward Jesus as being His unique Son. I discovered facts that pointed a cynic like me, to the life changing reality of Jesus Christ.

On the 8th November 1991 I suddenly realised that in the light of the torrent of evidence flowing in the
direction of the truth of Christianity, it would require more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian. To remain an atheist, I would have to swim upstream against all this evidence pointing toward the truth of Jesus Christ and I just couldn’t do that. I was trained in journalism and law to respond to the truth. And so on that day I received Jesus Christ as my Forgiver and as my Leader.

Just like my wife, my life began to change. Over time my values, my character and the purpose of my life began to be transformed. The path I was on before can’t be compared with the adventure, fulfilment and joy of following Jesus Christ.”

Strobel’s journey to faith is a “text book example” of the three distinct phases which can be seen in every conversion. First of all he became open minded with a genuine willingness to discover the Truth. In his particular case, the reason he became open minded was because he noticed how his wife had changed for the better and he attended a church service where the Christian message was explained in a way he could
understand. The cause of an individual becoming open minded will be different from person to person. For some it might be because they have become alarmed at the state of the world, for others it might be because they are beginning to find life a struggle and of course with many it will be because something major has happened to them such as bereavement, ill-health or relationship trouble. Then again with some, the reason is that they have become increasingly aware that there is something missing in their life and they can’t rest until they find out what it is.

The second stage of Strobel’s journey to faith was that of exploration and investigation. In 1st Peter Ch3v15 it states “always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” There are numerous reasons why Christians believe Scripture is true. This part of the journey is where an individual examines these claims and investigates them in depth. Never once does the Bible ask for “blind faith” but rather a “reasoned faith”, namely a faith that is built upon good sound reason and fact. This period of investigation can last for weeks, months or even years, depending very much on the “starting point” of an individual. The starting point for Strobel was as an atheist, so his investigation took longer than it would take someone starting off with a belief in God already settled in their mind.

It is during this phase of careful exploration that individuals are amazed by what they discover and numerous misconceptions are laid to rest. For instance, to their surprise, they learn that across the world there are millions of scientists who are devout Christians. Christian belief and science are not opposed to each other, instead God is actually the Ultimate Scientist. Science merely shows us how God makes things work. The Bible on the other hand tells us why He made us and the purpose behind our existence.

They also learn what the Bible teaches about suffering. As with science, it often comes as a complete surprise to them when they discover that the Bible fully explains why there is suffering in the world. The fact that we live in a Fallen World where God’s will is often not done is an entirely new concept to them.

And of course it is often a stunning revelation to them when they discover that one third of the Bible is composed of prophecy and predictions. When they carefully examine how these prophecies have been fulfilled many hundreds and sometimes thousands of years after they were written, it is clear proof of the Divine origin of Holy Scripture.

The final stage of Strobel’s journey to faith was accepting the Leadership of Jesus over his life. It’s all very well discovering that God exists and finding out that the Bible is true, but this knowledge demands a response. It calls for the individual to repent of their past sins and to start obeying the Lord Jesus in their daily life. God is Love, but He is also an infinitely Holy God requiring moral conduct and behaviour in keeping with His will. An individual makes Jesus the “Leader or Lord of their life” by truly putting His wishes and commandments before their own. When a person does this, they will start experiencing the Lord as their Best Friend and will begin a personal and living relationship with Him. Sadly, because many people refuse to put Him first in their lives, they don’t experience this joy. They continue to disobey Him somehow imagining that they can ignore God’s Holy will and yet still belong to Him. Scripture repeatedly warns however that “without Holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews Ch12v14) and “do not be deceived, because the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God...” (1st Corinthians Ch6 vs9-11).

To belong to the Lord, an individual must truly make it their aim and purpose to follow His commandments and wishes day by day. The following story is a vivid illustration showing just how important this obedience and loyalty really is. Some years ago retired astronaut General Charles Duke was talking about his experiences on Apollo 16. Shortly after he returned from the moon Charles himself, was converted and became a devout Christian. What he experienced on the moon is a reminder of our need to strictly follow the Lord’s Commandments and not deviate from them in the slightest.

As he was talking about his walk on the lunar surface, someone asked “Once you were there, weren’t you free to make your own decisions and carry out some of your own experiments…you know, sort of do as you pleased, maybe stay a little longer if you liked?” Charlie answered “Oh sure, if we didn’t want to return to earth!” He then described the intricate plan, the exact and precise instructions, the essential discipline and the instant obedience that was needed right down to the split second if they were to be saved and get back. They landed with exactly 60 seconds of fuel to get them away again. The audience was given the distinct impression that a rebel doesn’t fit inside a spacesuit. To be safe they needed total and complete obedience to the commands from Mission Control.

So likewise, there are no rebels or partial followers of Christ in the Kingdom of God. To belong to the Lord and be a member of His Kingdom requires genuine and wholehearted commitment to His will. Partial obedience or picking and choosing which Commands in Scripture to obey, will only lead to death. As we are plainly warned in 1st Peter Ch4v18 “If the righteous person is scarcely saved, what will it be like for the ungodly and sinner?” And in Hebrews Ch2vs 1-3 it implores; “We must give all the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we should drift away…for how shall we escape so great a Salvation?”

When an individual accepts the Lordship of Christ over their life, they are promised the help and strength of the Holy Spirit to enable them to walk in His ways and obey His Commandments. With His help they are required to bring every area of their lives under His authority and treat all His Commandments in Scripture as important. Genuine repentance must bring forth genuine obedience. If pickers and choosers have no place on the moon, how much more so, have they no place in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Don't be surprised at trouble along the way

Many years ago a man blithely said to the famous preacher Charles Finney that he didn’t believe in the existence of a devil. The old preacher wisely commented “Well resist him and his works for a while and then you certainly will!” Scripture teaches that at the moment there is a massive spiritual battle going on for the heart and soul of every individual on this planet.  Is an individual going to follow the path of evil and selfishness, or are they going to follow the path of righteousness and Godliness? This is a question which confronts us all day by day and hour by hour.  Every time we have to choose what we are going to do or think or say we are involved in this spiritual conflict to some degree. Are we going to obey the Lord’s will concerning our conduct, or are we going to reject it?

In John Ch10v10 Jesus said “I have come so that people may have life, and that they may have it in full abundance.”  He further added in Ch14v6 “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  Following the Lord and the path of Godliness is the way to experience full life along with the promise of eternal life in the age to come. A person following this path receives complete pardon for all their sins and begins to develop a new and Godly character. They will begin to experience an inner peace and joy which they never had before and they will sense that they have the Lord’s Companionship with them moment by moment.

Finney’s wise reply is based on the Biblical warning that there is an entity which doesn’t want individuals to have this new life and who makes things difficult for them when they choose it. Scripture calls this entity, the devil, Satan or The Deceiver. In Revelation Ch12v12 we are told that Satan or the devil has come down to this earth “having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time left.” Satan’s rebellion against all that is good and pure and lovely is running out of time and this has made him even more frantic to turn people away from choosing the path of life.

In 1st Peter Ch5v7 it warns “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” When an individual chooses to accept life by starting to obey the Lord, at some point they will inevitably meet resistance from the powers of darkness to try and turn them away from this new life. Scripture urges individuals not to be surprised at this resistance but to take courage that it is actually a sign that they really are following the right path. As it says in 1st Peter Ch4v12 “Beloved do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing has happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”

Scripture further adds that if they faithfully stay on the path of life in spite of these specific troubles, then after
a time these particular troubles will lessen and finally vanish away.  In James Ch4v7 it says “Resist the devil and then he will flee from you.”  Followers of Christ still have to endure the normal day to day problems which arise from living in a Fallen World but if they have remained faithful to the Lord through particular troubles aimed at turning them from Him, then Satan will eventually give up and flee from them. The result is that these particular problems will ultimately disappear as quickly and mysteriously as they arose in the first place. This pattern of events is something all true Christians will have experienced to some degree and the following story is a perfect example.

This moving account concerns the call of Karl Johanson to the mission field and the problems he faced immediately after he accepted that call. Karl was born in Sweden in February 1868 and as a young lad found work on a farm.  One day, during a time of religious revival in Sweden, this devout Christian lad was out in the fields ploughing with oxen. The oxen were moving steadily before him when he suddenly felt himself surrounded by a heavenly Presence. He wrote “I thought of stopping the oxen but I couldn’t utter a word.” An unseen Hand seemed to touch him and he then heard a clear Voice ask “Will you go as My messenger to Africa?” “My whole being trembled and I longed to run home to my employer who was a Christian. I knew however, that a personal reply was required of me. I then answered with fear and trembling; ‘Yes, if You Yourself will go with me.’ At once the Voice replied; ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ With that the Heavenly Presence withdrew as suddenly as it had appeared.”

His account continues; “It is impossible to describe the situation I found myself in and the turmoil in my heart. My life’s plans crashed around me now that I had a call to go to Africa. Severe temptations from the evil one then beset me and I thought at times my mind would give way. Doubts about the existence of God and doubts about the truth of the Bible suddenly overwhelmed me like a flood. All that I had learned, heard and read was scattered like straw before the wind. Moreover, I knew of no organisation through which I could go.” Karl’s family didn’t really understand or support him either and because the call was so sacred he was unable to share it with more than a few chosen people.

Throughout all of these problems and temptations Karl remained faithful and steadfast to the Lord. After a period of time, all these difficulties mysteriously disappeared, he found an organisation to support him and eventually he went out as a missionary to South Africa with the Swedish Holiness Union in 1893.  Ultimately he became director of the entire Swedish Zulu Mission. In South Africa he met and married a Norwegian Christian and the two of them and their family served the Lord faithfully until his death in October 1945. He was loved and respected by all. The message of the Gospel he was sent to proclaim changed the lives and destinies of countless individuals and families, all because he remained faithful through those initial difficulties.

In Ephesians Ch6 v12 St Paul describes this sort of spiritual conflict in the following manner; “We do not wrestle against mere flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places.”  In verses 13-17 he then goes on to explain how to handle such conflict. “Take up the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand in the evil day…and above all else take the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”  Karl maintained his obedience most especially by taking up what St Paul refers to as “the shield of faith”.  What this means in practise is very simple. When Karl was tempted to feel he wasn’t called, he accepted by faith that he was. When he was tempted to feel that God didn’t exist, he continued to accept by faith that He did and when he was tempted to feel that the Bible was untrue, he held fast by faith that it was true. Each time he overcame his feelings by relying upon “the shield of faith”, faith and feeling being two totally different things.

Depending on what form temptation comes in, sometimes it is described as being similar to experiencing a mirage in the desert. Over the centuries numerous travellers through desert regions have witnessed this phenomena and have written about what they felt. Depending on their physical state, the feelings the mirage generated could be overwhelming; they could almost taste the water, see the trees, and feel the coolness of the lake around their feet. Their feelings and senses cried out to them to go in that direction; but they knew by faith in their map and compass it was simply an illusion.

For the Christian, their map or compass is the Bible. No matter what they may be tempted to feel to the contrary, they have the sure Word of God to rely on and if they remain faithful as Karl did, then in time these false feelings will pass. Temptation may also come in the form of opposition from family, health problems, undue busyness, materialism, money worries or whatever, but provided they remain faithful to the Lord, the new life they have chosen in Him can never be stolen or taken from them by the powers of darkness. As we are promised in 1st Corinthians Ch10v13 “God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear…” and in Psalm 55v22 it adds “Cast your burden on the Lord and then He will sustain you because He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

These were some of the precious promises that kept missionary Fay Goddard going after she contracted polio. Fay was a missionary in the Philippines but at the age of only 29 she came down with polio. One week she was hiking through mountains preaching the Gospel, the next she was unable to hold a full glass of water. Back in Seattle she was fitted for a wheelchair and told she would be handicapped for the rest of her life. How did she cope spiritually?

Looking back, she wrote that the first thing which really helped was by reaffirming the Saviour’s Lordship over her life and that she was willing to be used by Him no matter what happened to her. She said that the next thing which significantly helped her, were all the promises of God in Holy Scripture. She consciously acknowledged that His promises hadn’t changed and His grace and strength was still there for the taking.

Finally what helped was when she realised that God could still use her where she was. “During my nine months in rehabilitation I became aware that God had simply changed my mission field. Instead of barefoot Buhid, I was right in the middle of a group of people whose lives had been shattered by accidents or crippling disease…. I was with teenagers paralysed from the neck down in falls on ski slopes or car accidents.”

After being released from her extended stay in hospital she went to work for the missionary society at their head office. This work simply involved stuffing envelopes, licking stamps and trying to find enough to do to fill the day.  After a few weeks she felt Satan tempting her to feel useless and a burden to the organisation. As the temptation grew she began to feel really depressed and downcast in spirit, something that she hadn’t really experienced before. One day as she was praying about the situation she sensed the Lord say “If I need you to do this kind of work, what is that to you? Just follow Me.” Fay was determined to remain faithful so she consciously made up her mind to remain obedient even if the work seemed unchallenging and boring.

A few days later after having made this decision in the face of strong temptation her whole role dramatically changed. She was invited to become editor and producer of the mission’s magazine “East Asia Millions”.  Twenty years later she wrote “I am still putting the magazine together; editing material, doing the layout, and preparing it for printing. The joy is still there.” She had remained faithful through fierce temptation and by overcoming it, the Lord was then able to use her in a brand new way.

In Acts Ch14v22 it warns, “We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God.” Those who follow the Lord Jesus are at war with evil. The powers of darkness from time to time, will try to take away their new life in Christ; they will try to take away their reward in Him and all that that reward means. They will try to take away their pardon for sin, their peace and their joy and their sense of Companionship with Him. However, provided a Christian holds fast no matter what, God will help and sustain them through it. As Jesus reassures us in John Ch10v28 “I have given them eternal life and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

What holds you together as the world falls apart?

Sometimes I will ask people I meet “What holds you together while the world is falling apart?” The answer I receive tells me instantly if they are followers of Christ or not, because only those who really follow the Lord have a “light and hope which never goes out.” This present world is in a terrifying state, but are Christ’s followers in despair? Are they unduly worried or concerned? By no means! They see world events unfolding just as predicted in Scripture and know that they have the promise of the Lord’s continual help and support no matter what lies ahead. They know that the uplifting promise of Psalm 46v1 applies directly to them; “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid.”

Devout Christians sometimes describe this feeling of inner joy and hope as being like the sun shining in their hearts even when it may be “raining” outside. They have a sure and certain hope and peace which the troubles of this world cannot harm. And why are they so confident and reassured? Because they have come to know the Lord personally and have a real and living relationship with Him. They took repentance seriously, they took obedience seriously, they took Bible reading, praying and Church attendance seriously and now they reap the reward of His closeness and comfort. It doesn’t take “rocket science” to have the Lord close and near, on the contrary it is very simple, “Draw close to God and then He will draw close to you.” (James Ch4v8)

Those close to the Lord know for sure that He has not abandoned this world and that He never will. They also know for sure that God will never allow evil to triumph over good, so they never despair at world events. Scripture teaches that God is continually and actively at work behind the scenes intervening here and giving a nudge there, making sure that the Christian message to a lost world is never totally silenced.

Recently I came across three outstanding examples of this Divine Intervention which are an encouraging reminder that God is indeed continually at work opposing evil and upholding what is good and pure and lovely. With so much bad news around, these inspiring stories deserve a wide circulation.

The first story is about the work and ministry of the Rev David Wilkerson. In his best seller “The Cross and the Switchblade” the Rev David Wilkerson recounts the extraordinary manner in which the Lord called him to work among teenage street gangs in New York. He had begun church ministry as a country preacher in a farming community and had never actually been to New York. Sitting in his rural home one evening, he happened to be reading Life magazine. As he was flicking through the pages his attention was drawn to an artist’s picture of bewilderment, hatred and despair in the eyes of one of seven boys on trial for the brutal murder of a fifteen year old polio victim. Wilkerson was revolted and he found himself crying involuntarily.

Suddenly like a bolt of lightning, the following words came into his mind, “Go to New York and help those boys.” He immediately dismissed the idea as being ridiculous. But then it came again. “Go to New York and help those boys.” The thought became vivid and persistent and seemed to be completely independent of his own feelings and ideas. “I’d be a fool” he rationalised. “I know nothing about kids like that. I don’t even want to know.” It was no use. The idea would not go away and after much prayer and reflection he realised that this was indeed a genuine call from God. His book vividly describes the ministry he had among those street gangs. It is full of courageous acts, hardships and miracles and shows how God’s call to this work changed the course of numerous lives.

The Lord also famously used Wilkerson to ready and prepare his church in Times Square, for the terrorist attack which took place on 9/11. Six weeks before the attack on the Twin Towers, Wilkerson and every member of his pastoral team were struck by a deep conviction that a tragedy was shortly to occur and that God wanted them to prepare for it. The conviction was so overwhelming that he and his team cancelled all major church events in the weeks prior to 9/11 and replaced them with four prayer meetings every week. At these meetings they sensed that God wanted them to pray that the consequences of this coming event would be lessened from what otherwise might be the case. This forewarning explains why his church was ready and prepared to set up relief tents at ground zero, to comfort survivors and rescue workers.

The second story is every bit as moving and concerns the call of Karl Johanson to the mission field. Karl was born in Sweden in February 1868 and as a young lad found work on a farm. One day, during a time of religious revival in Sweden, this devout Christian lad was out in the fields ploughing with oxen. The oxen were moving steadily before him when he suddenly felt himself surrounded by a heavenly Presence. He wrote “I thought of stopping the oxen but I couldn’t utter a word.” An unseen Hand seemed to touch him and he then heard a clear Voice ask “Will you go as My messenger to Africa?” “My whole being trembled and I longed to run home to my employer who was a Christian. I knew however, that a personal reply was required of me. I then answered with fear and trembling; ‘Yes, if You Yourself will go with me.’ At once the Voice replied; ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ With that the Heavenly Presence withdrew as suddenly as it had appeared.”

His account continues; “It is impossible to describe the situation I found myself in and the turmoil in my heart. My life’s plans crashed around me now that I had a call to go to Africa. Severe temptations from the evil one beset me and I thought at times my mind would give way. Moreover, I knew of no organisation through which I could go.” Karl’s family didn’t really understand and because the call was so sacred he was unable to share it with more than a few chosen people.

Karl however, remained faithful and steadfast throughout numerous difficulties and eventually he went out as a missionary to South Africa with the Swedish Holiness Union in 1893. In time he became director of the Swedish Zulu Mission. In South Africa he met and married a Norwegian Christian and the two of them and their family served the Lord faithfully until his death in October 1945. He was loved and respected by all. The message of the Gospel he was sent to proclaim changed the lives and destinies of countless individuals and families.

The third story concerns the well-known Dutchman, Brother Andrew who became famous for smuggling Bibles to those behind the Iron Curtain. His book “God’s Smuggler” provides numerous examples of how God intervened to prevent evil overcoming good. Here is one incident which is particularly fascinating, showing how he literally had to travel by faith, totally relying on the Almighty to guide him to the right people, at the right time behind the Iron Curtain.

After he was expelled from Yugoslavia he headed in his car for Bulgaria via Greece and Turkey. He had no idea where to go when he got there, except that on his final night in Yugoslavia, a Christian brother living there had begged him to contact his closest friend in Sofia called Petroff. Brother Andrew memorised his name and address not wanting to write it down lest it be discovered in the course of a police check.

Once across the border into Bulgaria, Brother Andrew sat down on a hillside to survey Sofia from a distance. He marvelled at how God had used the very last person he had spoken to in one country, to give him the first contact he needed in the next. At his hotel the clerk grudgingly allowed him a glance at a street map. He mentally noted the street he wanted-the only minor street included in the map.

The next morning, wondering how the day would unfold, he left the hotel and headed immediately for the address he had been given. He found the street with ease. It was now vital that he would find the right house without drawing attention to himself. If he appeared as a stranger to the area, it would immediately create suspicion that the person he was contacting was being visited by a foreigner. It would bring great danger to the man and his family. Brother Andrew prayed as he walked along. Suddenly ahead of him he saw a man coming down the street from the opposite direction. They drew abreast, just as Andrew reached the number he was seeking. It was a large house, occupied by several families.

Andrew turned up the path, as did the other man and they both reached the front door simultaneously. Andrew glanced at his face and in an instant experienced a common miracle among Christians. In his book he wrote “Our spirits recognised each other. Without a word we marched side by side up the stairs. The man reached his apartment, took out his key and threw the door open. Without invitation I walked in. Just as quickly, he closed the door behind him. We stood facing each other in the darkness of a single room which was his home. ‘I am Andrew from Holland’, I said in English. ‘I am Petroff’ said the man.

After giving thanks to God together, not a minute of time was wasted to reduce further any risks involved. ‘I’ve heard that both Bulgaria and Rumania are desperately short of Bibles. Is that true?’ In reply Petroff led me to his desk. On the desk was a typewriter and next to that a Bible opened at Exodus. He had been laboriously typing out pages from his Bible to complete another one.”

Andrew could hardly wait to show him the Bibles he had for him in the back of his car. That night, after
checking the street was empty, Andrew proceeded to carry inside the first of many cartons of Bibles he was to deliver to this man over the years. Petroff was an ideal person to meet because it turned out that he had Christian contacts all over Bulgaria and he was able to distribute these Bibles to them. Many of the churches he had contact with, had only one Bible to share between members of their congregation.

St Paul states that in this Fallen World Age there is a massive spiritual struggle going on between good and evil for the hearts and minds of men and women. In Ephesians Ch6v12 he warns “We do not wrestle against mere flesh and blood but against…spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places.” Let us never despair. God will not allow the powers of darkness to totally overwhelm this world. Divine intervention like these examples is going on privately behind the scenes all the time, day in and day out, across the entire world. Truly “The Eternal God is our refuge and underneath are His everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy Ch33v27).

Examples of God's help in wartime

Today the world is in a more dangerous state than it has ever been since the end of the Second World War. There is unrest and turmoil wherever one looks and watching the television news is becoming increasingly disturbing.  With all this in mind, it is uplifting to read about how God intervened to help individuals during that previous world conflict, when all seemed lost. Times have been dark before and amidst that chaos God was actively at work ensuring that ultimately evil wouldn’t be victorious. The following are four true accounts of God’s direct Divine Intervention. They are an encouraging reminder that God has not abandoned this world and just as God intervened then 70 or so years ago, we may be sure He is still actively at work today with the same aim and purpose.

The first story is about Divine Intervention which saved the life of Wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. On a regular basis Churchill used to visit antiaircraft batteries in order to inspire courage and confidence among the population. On one occasion after having watched gunners in action for a while, he walked back to his car. As his chauffeur held open the door to his usual seat, Churchill suddenly heard a Voice inside his head say “Stop”. As he later explained to his wife “It appeared to me that I was meant to sit on the other side of the car, and that is what I did.” Several minutes later, as his car was making its way through the blacked-out streets a bomb exploded beside it. If Churchill had been sitting in his usual seat, he would have been killed. It is important to realise that this act of Divine Intervention wasn’t for Churchill’s personal benefit, but because of the role he had in leading the free world in the struggle against Nazism. It was a Deliverance which was a blessing to countless millions.

Many devout Christians had to endure living in occupied countries during Wartime. The following three stories come from occupied Europe and are a reminder that “God shows no partiality; whoever fears Him and works righteousness from any nation is accepted by Him.” (Acts Ch10vs34-35).

On 30th January 1945 a certain Christian woman from Frankfurt was fleeing from the advancing Russian army. With great difficulty she succeeded in catching the last train leaving towards the west in the direction of Hannover, Braunschweig and Seesen. The train kept constantly stopping, however in spite of all this, she managed to fall asleep. Suddenly she was awoken by a Voice in her head which said, “Get out of the train.” She looked out the window and noticed that the train was once again at a standstill. All she could see was an endless snowy plain. Once again she heard a Voice say “You must get out.” She thought to herself “Surely I can’t get out here, in this snowy waste.” But the Voice repeated even more urgently; “you must get out.”

Somewhat reluctantly she picked up her two heavy suitcases and rucksack, opened the door of the carriage and jumped out. The snow was so deep it came right up to her knees. “You must be crazy” she thought to herself. She struggled on and at around 4.30am found the shelter of a small station. Shortly afterwards she learned that Hannover had been heavily bombed and that the train she had been on, had gone straight into the conflagration. Again, just as Churchill’s life was spared because of the role he had, this person’s life was delivered, because she had some particular role to play in God’s plan to help rebuild the country after the end of war.

A very similar deliverance occurred to another Christian lady two weeks later. On 13th February 1945 this particular person, who was also fleeing from the Russians, arrived in Dresden. The city was packed with people. As she stood among a crowd of literally hundreds of thousands reflecting on what to do next, she suddenly heard a Voice say very loudly “Just get out of here!” The Voice repeated the warning again and again. Finally she said to her traveling companion that she felt that the Lord wanted them to leave the city. Her companion thought she was being stupid, however not wanting to be left alone among a sea of strangers she accompanied her to a nearby station.

With great difficulty they managed to get onto an overcrowded train without even knowing where it was heading. A few hours later, Dresden was almost totally destroyed in a massive bombing raid. Her travel companion who was in a state of shock, repeatedly asked how she had known this was going to happen. She flatly refused to believe that her Christian friend had been Divinely guided, until they encountered two other Christians who had been given exactly the same warning. This incident is very reminiscent of how God delivered Lot and his family before fire rained down destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis Ch19vs12-16)

One dark winters evening in the inner city of Haarlem, deliverance came in a slightly manner to a young Christian mother. During the war a moonless night meant total and complete darkness. Blackout meant that not a single ray of light could be seen anywhere. Street lights were switched off and there were no bicycle or car headlights. This lady knew the area so well that she had learned how many steps she needed to take, in order to find her way home in the pitch dark.

Walking along she counted each step she made. Finally she came to the fish market stall. She felt for the stall with her hands and sure enough, there it was. From the end of the stall, she then counted out eleven paces after which she needed to turn sharp left over a canal bridge. Just as she was on the point of turning left, her arm was grabbed, pulling her back. At the same time she heard a Voice warn “Think of your children.” Somewhat startled, she carefully edged forward feeling out for the railings of the bridge. There was nothing there but empty space and deep freezing water. After a frantic search, she finally found the bridge and got back safely to her family. As she lay in bed thinking about it, the more puzzled she became. She couldn’t understand what had happened to the bridge. Finally, unable to sleep that night, she got up at first light and went back to the canal. Instantly it all made sense; the fish market stall had been moved from its usual position.

In a speech given on 31st October 1942, Winston Churchill stated “I sometimes have a feeling of interference. I want to stress that. I have a feeling sometimes that some Guiding Hand has interfered. I have a feeling that we have a Guardian because we have a great Cause, and we shall have that Guardian so long as we serve that Cause faithfully.” And this conviction was shared by numerous other people who likewise discerned God’s restraining Hand from time to time. (1st Corinthians Ch2v14).

Take for example, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding who was Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. He said in a personal testimony; “I pay homage to those gallant boys who gave their all that our nation might live…but I say with absolute conviction that I can trace the intervention of God, not only in the Battle itself, but in the events leading up to it. At the end of the Battle one had the feeling that there had been some special Divine Intervention to alter some sequence of events which would otherwise have occurred.”

General Sir William Dobbie likewise shared this view. He was so moved by the Divine Intervention which he witnessed during the siege of Malta, that he actually wrote a book about it entitled “A Very Present Help”. Dobbie was Governor of Malta during its siege which began in 1940 and it’s profoundly encouraging to read what he experienced. He stated “It was obvious to us that our human resources were woefully inadequate…God’s Word was a great standby to me and many others too at this time. In it, I read how God had helped His people in old times when they were faced with situations similar to that confronting us…Many people in Malta realised our need of His help and were prepared to ask Him to give it to us. By no other means could we be sure of holding this vital outpost. I humbly believe that God, in His mercy, answered our prayers and in the two years and more of the siege which followed, His help was very obvious and very real.”

He continued, “At about the same time that the siege began, I was greatly encouraged by a telegram I received from the Chief of the Imperial Staff, General Sir Edmund Ironside. It showed me that others in high places at home were thinking along the same lines as we were in Malta. The telegram, which was addressed to me personally, contained the reference, ‘Deuteronomy Ch3v22 “You shall not fear them, for the Lord your God shall fight for you.”’ This was a very welcome reminder of a great and well-proved truth and coming as it did from a person in his position and in view of its timing, it meant much to me.”

“I have said that the help which God gave was very obvious and real. The same help was noticed at the time
of withdrawal from Dunkirk, and during the Battle of Britain. It certainly was so in the Battle of Malta. During the two years which followed the declaration of war by Italy, God’s protecting hand was so much in evidence that people were noticing it and remarking upon it. On a number of occasions officers came up to me and said quite spontaneously; ‘Do you know sir, I think that Someone up there (pointing upwards) has been helping us today.’ Such a conversation took place not once nor twice but a number of times.”

Today the world is in turmoil and evil is rising like a tide threatening to engulf us all. Let us not despair. We can be sure that God has not forgotten this world. Just as He was active in human affairs during the last World War so we may be sure that He will be equally active during any future world crisis. Truly “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid even if the world is shaken or the mountains carried to the sea.” Psalm 46vs1-2.

Doing "Time Management" God's way!

During the First World War a certain soldier was so distraught by the conflict that he decided to desert. The account relates that his intention was to find his way to the coast of France and then catch a fishing boat back to England. The night he chose to abscond was particularly dark and black. After walking and stumbling for what seemed like miles he got totally lost. In the darkness he eventually saw what he perceived to be the outline of a road sign. With relief he climbed up the pole to the cross beam to read it. Taking out a match, he lit it, and found himself looking directly into the face of Jesus Christ. He had climbed an outdoor crucifix.

The soldier was so stunned and shaken by the image of Christ in Agony that it made him feel profoundly ashamed. He was looking into the face of the One Who had endured it all and never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches.

Over the years this account has stirred the conscience of numerous individuals who sensed that God was asking them to either do or change some particular thing in their lives, but who had been resisting this call. Jesus endured the Agony of the Cross for our sakes, so we must be willing to obey whatever He commands. To be a “follower” of Christ one must actually “follow”. And following means obeying! There are many individuals who assume that they are Christians but because they don’t actually obey and follow His will and commands they are but deceiving themselves.

Obedience to the will of the Lord is central to having a personal relationship with Him. In order to have this closeness, our daily walk with Christ needs to be composed of a multitude of “small things”; the avoidance of little evils, little inconsistencies, and little indiscretions. It should involve little self-denials, little honesties, little passing words of sympathy, little nameless acts of kindness, and little silent victories over temptation. At the very heart of this life, will be a Godly management of our time, which both enables and prioritises having regular time for prayer, Bible study and Christian fellowship. This Divine Friendship or relationship is sometimes compared to tending a garden and we need to obediently set aside time from doing other things, in order to do this. Anna H King wrote;

“Friendship is like a garden; of flowers fine and rare. It cannot reach perfection except through loving care. Then, new and lovely blossoms; with each new day appear. For friendship like a garden; grows in beauty year by year.”

Our Friendship with the Lord, just like a garden, needs time; it needs constant tending and nurturing. And an individual needs to be fully active and attentive to make time for this, otherwise they will only drift away from Him, having become choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. (Matthew Ch13vs 21-22).

Lack of spending time on this Friendship can begin very subtly at first. It can almost happen without really thinking. In her book “I dared to call Him Father”, Bilquis Sheikh, a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity, movingly describes how she personally learnt the importance of giving up other activities so as to spend time with the Lord.

The following are her own words describing what happened after her conversion. A Christian called Ken said to her, “‘you’ll need some regular Christian fellowship now. Please come to our house on Sunday evenings.” And that is how I began regular meetings with other Christians. On Sunday evenings we met at their house. The living room could barely hold the dozen people who crowded in. At the meetings we sang, read the Bible and prayed for each other’s needs. It quickly became the high point of my week.”

“Then one Sunday I didn’t particularly feel like going, so I rang them up and gave some excuse. It seemed a little thing, but almost instantly I began to feel uneasy. What was wrong? I walked through the house restlessly. I then went to my room to pray. Mahmud my son crept up beside me and asked ‘Mum, are you alright? …You look as though you have lost something.’ …Mahmud was right. I knew right then what I had lost. I’d lost the sense of God’s Presence. It was gone! Why? Did it have something to do with not having fellowship when I needed it? With a sense of urgency I phoned Ken to say I would be there after all. What a difference. Immediately I felt, actually felt the return of warmth to my soul. Ken had been right, I needed fellowship. I had learned my lesson.”

But there was still more for Bilquis to discover about maintaining and nurturing this Divine Friendship. Her account continues; “As I drew closer to God, here a step, there a step, I found myself hungering even more for His Word through the Bible. Every day, as I arose, I would begin reading it. The Bible became alive to me, illuminating my day, shedding its light on every step I would take. But here too I found a strange thing. [On one occasion] I was late heading to bed and didn’t feel like getting up early the next morning to have an hour with the Bible, so I gave instructions to be awoken with tea shortly before having to get up and go out.”

“I didn’t sleep at all well that night. I tossed and twisted and had bad dreams. The next day I was exhausted and I noticed that the entire day didn’t go right. Strange! This was the second time when I seemed to be stepping out of the glory of the Lord’s Presence. What was the Lord saying to me? That He expected me to read the Bible every day? The experience left me with the feeling that I was sitting on an important truth without realising it. There were times when I felt His Presence and experienced a deep sense of joy and peace, and then there were times when I lost this Closeness. What was the key? How could I stay close to Him?”

“I thought back over the times when He seemed close and about the opposite times too, when I had lost this sense of nearness. I got out my Bible and finally read John Ch 14v23 where Jesus says; ‘When a man loves Me, he follows My teaching. Then My Father will love him, and We will come to that man and make Our home within him.’ The key to having His closeness was obedience! When I obeyed His will I was allowed to remain in His Presence.”

Looking back, Bilquis realised that she lost His nearness whenever she disobeyed Him by failing to spend time nourishing her spirit with regular Bible reading or by failing to spend time having Christian fellowship. She hadn’t initially realised the vital importance of these activities. Now she realised that sacrificing time for regular Bible reading, praying and Christian fellowship was all part of being obedient to Christ. These activities were central to maintaining and nurturing her relationship with the Lord, not “added extras” to be done as and when she felt like doing them.

Sadly, sacrificing time to be with the Lord is often one of the first casualties in a person’s daily struggle against busyness. Many aren’t willing to let go of some things in order to free themselves up to be with Him. Someday however, just like that soldier, they will come face to face with Christ and will be ashamed of their behaviour. Can we imagine what Jesus will say to such people?  “I did all this for you, but you chose to do other things rather than have time with Me.” How will such people answer?

Today many people have let themselves become totally absorbed by the busyness of everyday activities, refusing to make time for God. They are only concerned about their rights and their life style. But what about God’s rights? What about the obedience and time we owe Him in the light of what He suffered for us?

Once upon a time, a man imagined himself being in a boat which had been pushed off from an unknown shore. He was shown the direction of the opposite shore, given a pair of oars and left alone. He started to row but the further he rowed towards the other shore, the stronger the current became, pushing him off course. He met other people afloat, also being carried away. A few were faithfully struggling against the current, but most were letting themselves glide and indeed some, with total indifference, had thrown away their oars. From every side cheery voices shouted out to him that there were happy just drifting along. All seemed well. Some even mocked the few individuals who were struggling against the current. Why did they bother?

Suddenly he heard screams of terror in the distance. It was then that he saw boats being broken up by rapids. Instantly he realised drifting with the current meant certain death and that rowing to the other shore was the only way to save his life.

In this story, “the rapids” represent the prophesied Judgement of God upon individuals and the world. The “opposite shore” stands for being safe with God and in His care. The “oars” represent human freewill and of course “the current” stands for busyness which constantly tries to pull us away from the Godward direction of safety and salvation. Busyness is constantly exerting its influence upon us. Unless we actively pull on the oars by deliberately setting aside time for God, busyness will totally consume us, occupying all our thoughts and time. We will become oblivious to the terrible danger of drifting away from His shore and eventually become totally indifferent to the things of God.

Many people today have now reached this state of indifference to the things of God and are oblivious to the rapids lying a head. The world is teetering on the brink of total chaos and collapse and yet incredibly the churches in our land lie empty and abandoned. They should be full to overflowing as the sound of the rapids gets louder. The time has long since arrived to start really pulling on those oars! Resist busyness and set aside proper time for God.

Take God seriously

Recently I read of an unnerving experience which happened to a pastor and his wife who were flying back from a Christian conference. The conduct they witnessed teaches us a great deal about human behaviour and attitudes.

They were flying from Portland back to Los Angeles and all seemed to be going well. All of a sudden while food was being served, the plane banked sharply. Moments later, flight attendants took back all the trays of food and they could be seen quietly whispering among themselves. There was clearly something very wrong. The pilot then came on and said “We have a slight mechanical difficulty. We are going to fly back to Portland.”

When the plane touched down at Portland airport a flight attendant announced “Listen carefully everyone. As soon as we come to a stop, you’ll hear the emergency siren. At that moment, take the closest escape route you can. Some of you will need to use the slides.” Then she added “There is a bomb threat. Take nothing with you, just get out!”

To the sheer amazement of the pastor and his wife, instead of panic and people running for the doors, quite the opposite happened. Most people first started reaching for their belongings under their seats and one person actually insisted on getting his brief case from the overhead locker. It was clear that many people simply didn’t take the warning seriously.

In the Bible, there are many examples of people who treated Divine warnings about their conduct and life style with a similar casual attitude. Every one of them eventually discovered however, that those warnings to repent where absolutely true. All these examples have much to teach us, but the story of what happened to a certain King of Judah when he rejected the warnings of God’s Word is particularly worth relating.

Around 600BC, during the ministry of the Prophet Jeremiah, there was a King of Judah called Jehoiakim. This King rejected Almighty God and His Commandments so the result was moral and religious decay throughout the nation. Interest in God and obedience to His will declined to such a degree that the Lord gave Jeremiah a Divinely inspired warning which was to be read out to the leaders and people. The warning was stark. Unless the nation repented and turned back to the True God, they would be invaded by a foreign power and destroyed.

Courtiers read this to King Jehoiakim while he was staying at his winter palace. The account in Jeremiah Ch36 relates that a fire was burning on the hearth and as the King heard the Word of God being read out, he cut the scroll into pieces and burnt them on the fire. He utterly refused to take the warnings of God seriously and because he didn’t like the message, he destroyed it. His behaviour and contempt for the Word of God brought terrifying consequences. Shortly afterwards the entire nation was invaded and severe judgement fell upon him personally as well as his family.

As shocking as his behaviour was, it is sadly little different from the way many people treat the inspired Word of God today. They pick and choose the verses they like in Scripture and just like Jehoiakim reject the parts which they find personally and morally challenging. No wonder they don’t feel God close to them. Salvation, intimacy and closeness to the Lord is a blessing reserved only for those take all of His will seriously. It is not for pickers and choosers who behave like a modern day Jehoiakim.

The writer Francois Fenelon gives a moving description of what this intimacy and closeness means in practise. “You can tell God all that is in your heart, just as one would unload one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains to a dear friend. You can tell Him your troubles and He will comfort you, you can tell Him your longings and He will purify them, you can tell Him your dislikes and He will help you to conquer them. Talk to Him of your temptations and He will shield you from them, show Him the wounds of your heart and He will heal them. Honestly lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil and your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere and how pride disguises you to yourself and others.”

“When you pour out to Him all your weaknesses, needs and troubles there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject and you will have no secrets from Him. Blessed indeed are those who have such a familiar, unreserved and intimate relationship with God.”

And such people are easy to recognise. They have a genuine passion and thirst for the Lord, with an
unquenchable enthusiasm and drive to stay close to Him. It can be seen in their lives that the Spirit of God resides in their hearts. They display an inner joy and peace which radiates out for all to see. Eternal life has already begun for them and the joy of the Lord is upon their countenance.

Those who refuse to fully submit to the Word of God are denied all this joyful intimacy and owing to the deceitful nature of sin may not even be aware of their true spiritual condition. Like King Jehoiakim they may actually feel quite comfortable and confident with their pick and miss views. They might take some, or perhaps none, of God’s Commandments and warnings seriously and feel very positive about rejecting and ignoring the rest. Scripture often makes references to such people and states that they are deceiving themselves and deceiving those around them. All of God’s Commandment’s and all His warnings revealed in Scripture, are to be taken seriously and acted upon; none of them can be ignored.

The Bible further adds that some of these self-deceivers will even have a certain religious persona about them and perhaps even have the appearance of being spiritual. In 2nd Timothy Ch3v5 it describes people who “have a form of Godliness about them, but deny its power.” In Matthew Ch15v8 it says “These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honour Me with their lips but their heart is far from Me.” They feel quite comfortable about attending church services and singing God’s praises, but in their heart of hearts they do not have a relationship with Him because they refuse to fully submit to and accept His revealed will. As it warns in Matthew Ch7 vs22-23 “Many will come to Me on that Day and say ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, cast out demons in Your Name and done many good works in Your Name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me; you who practise lawlessness. ‘”

There is a certain plant in South America which starving people will chew, because it gives them the enjoyable sensation of having been fed. Through its influence all desire for real food departs and the starving person is spared from the painful gnawing of hunger. The leaf contains a drug but no nourishment. It satisfies a man’s craving but it does not provide for his needs. It is a plant of deception. He feels he has had food, but in reality he is dying for lack of it. So likewise are those who pick and mix from the Bible, choosing for themselves what moral teaching to take seriously and what to reject. They take enough of it to make them feel good, satisfying the inner craving of their religious nature, but reject the morally challenging parts which would have fed and saved their souls. They feel they are spiritually alive and in “good standing” with the Lord, but in reality they have deceived themselves. Unless they take seriously all of His moral teaching as revealed in Scripture, they will never belong to Him and never be one of His children.

Self-deception is so easy that St Paul urges every person to examine their heart, in order to check that they really do belong to the Lord. As he puts it in 2nd Corinthians Ch13v5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” Let us learn the lesson of Jehoiakim and not be deceived and punished as he was. Provided we take all the teaching and warnings of Scripture seriously, and sincerely endeavour to submit our lives to His will, then when He comes or calls, He will say “Well done good and faithful servant,” rather than “Depart from Me because I never knew you.”