How much do we really value life? I watched a group of girls yesterday who were playing with a grasshopper. They weren’t hurting it just observing. The little creature had hopped on to their mat when they were having a picnic. It was fascinating to see their interest in such a tiny insect. 

When it came to putting the insect back in the grass what a fuss they made. You’d think that the little fella was a long time friend. It was so hard to say goodbye! It wasn’t going to be easy to let him go!
Is that the way you are with friends? How much do you value them, how much do you care about them?

My point? If a little creature can produce such rapt attention from a group of teenagers (they were all known to us, as we have been running a camp for them) how do you think God feels about us? He made us? We were made in His image. He loves us! 
What is our general response to God. As far as I can see we have at the least ignored Him and at the worst we have intentionally disobeyed and disrespected Him. 
The bible states that God still loves us despite our rude behaviour. He is not willing that any of us should perish. Unlike the insects and beasties we all see from time to time we are not dispensable. We have souls that are valuable in God’s eyes. 
Humans do not have the means to sort the problem of their sin of rebellion and ignorance which is why the gospel is all about Jesus, the Son of God. It’s focus is on the redemption he purchased by his death, burial and resurrection. The truth of the matter is that we are so valuable to God that he ‘spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,’ Romans 8:32. 
I close with a quotation from the book of Psalms. These verses highlight the value of the human, the impossibility of self redemption and the need for God to intervene and provide salvation.  I am so glad that God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. 
Psalms 49:5-13
Why should I fear in days of adversity,
When the iniquity of my foes surrounds me,
Even those who trust in their wealth
And boast in the abundance of their riches?
No man can by any means redeem his brother
Or give to God a ransom for him—
For the redemption of his soul is costly,
And he should cease trying forever—
That he should live on eternally,
That he should not undergo decay.
For he sees that even wise men die;
The stupid and the senseless alike perish
And leave their wealth to others.
Their inner thought is that their houses are forever
And their dwelling places to all generations;
They have called their lands after their own names.
But man in his pomp will not endure;
He is like the beasts that perish.
This is the way of those who are foolish,
And of those after them who approve their words.

Many of you will now be on holiday. It’s a great feeling to be off but often anticipation of the holiday is half of the enjoyment. I always look forward to going on holiday. For weeks and often months I dream of the mornings when I don’t need to be up at the crack of dawn, when I can have lie in (and not feel guilty), when I can read my book and not think ‘O no, look at the time’ I’d better get to sleep’. Then the holiday comes and goes in a flash and it’s back to ‘brass tacks’ (I don’t know where the saying came from but I know what it means!).

I really enjoy my holidays. I like the time to reflect, meet my friends, discuss ‘everything under the sun’, eat, read, walk and doing lots of other things as well. The Bible teaches the principle of ‘taking time out’. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to ‘come apart’ and ‘rest a while’. When God made the earth he rested on the ‘seventh day’. It all adds up to the fact that we need to time to think, reflect, rest and enjoy the results of what we have been busy doing.

Do you take time out? Or is time to think and reflect wasted time in your reckoning?

I encourage you to take some time to think. Think about life, why we are here? What is it all about? Ask the dangerous questions! Read the Bible (the Word of God) and discover God who has the answers. 

God made us!

We will meet him one day!

He sent his Son, Jesus, into the world so that we could get to know Him. 

He understands that our sin and disobedience bars us from knowing Him personally. Like a good Father He holds us to account for our wrongdoing but unlike most, He is willing to pardon our sin because His Son, Jesus, took the punishment for us when he died on the cross.

Take time out today and learn the truth about you and your life. Read and thing about John 3:16 in the Bible, turn from your sin and trust the Lord Jesus for salvation.

John 3:16 says  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”

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Why are Christians are so convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Well you might ask, it’s an excellent question.

Our belief is laid on a very solid foundation. First of all we believe in divine revelation not just human discovery. In fact to learn about something outside of our sphere of experience we all accept we need information from a trustworthy source. If you are serious about discovering the truth – check the Bible out. It is a trustworthy source. Read it, check it’s sources, speak to those who believe it, look at it ‘s accuracy in every sphere it touches. There can only be one answer to the question of the origin of a book that was written over one thousand five hundred years by forty different authors, many of whom did not even know each other. The Bible is God’s message to mankind.

Secondly check the facts concerning Jesus Christ. There are over three hundred signposts (biblical predictions/prophecies) which point to him. The chances of them all being fulfilled precisely in the life of one person, at the right time, in the right place are mindblowing odds apart from this fact – God planned it and implemented His plan in a person – His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible predicts the mode of his conception, the place of his birth, his exile into Egypt, the slaughtering of the innocents, the gifts from the magi and lots more.

Finally look at the prediction about the way that Jesus would die. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52 describe the horrific death of God’s Son a cross. Death by crucifixion was unknown when Psalm 22 was written about 1000 years before the death of Jesus but God knew that was the way that His Son would die.

In closing please listen again to the words of the angels who announced the birth of the Lord Jesus ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’. Is he your Saviour? He died ‘for our sins’. He suffered ‘the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God’. Will you rest by faith on what the Lord Jesus did to save your soul?

from Instagram:

I was privileged to speak to the staff at Loloma Mission Hospital this morning before they started the week/day. Morning Devotions start at 0730 and are over by 0800. I admire the staff who work in Mission Hospitals as they are doing a very important job. They have a great care for the people who live in the area, which amounts to about 55,000 people, but their services also benefit people from other districts, provinces and even neighbouring countries. The medical work started in 1956 and since then has grown to be a well equipped hospital (by African standards) with 120 beds for in patients. There is also a large outpatients department and various programmes involved in primary health care. 

The Mission statement of the hospital is to communicate by word and deed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to members of the district, based upon the truth and teaching of the word of God. It is wonderful to see a health provider seeking to meet the medical needs of patients without forgetting that the spiritual needs of the individual are vitally important as well. Historically medical training was holistic but we in the West have forgotten that human beings have spiritual needs. Matthew Parris, a journalist with atheistic leanings wrote on the 27th of December 2008 in The Times (1) about a visit that he had made to Malawi, his boyhood home ‘Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good’. 

Later in the article Mr Parris reflects on a previous opinion he had of Christian Mission and faith and why despite being an atheist that he is convinced that it is Christianity that is good for Africa – ‘I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith. But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing. First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

Mr Parris goes on to tell of this increasing conviction when at the age of 24 he toured all over Africa. I’ll let him tell you for yourself as he expresses himself more succinctly than I would – ‘We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission. Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open’.

The final piece of his article that I want to share with you is a record of his visit to Malawi in 2008. He states that things had not changed – ‘This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service. It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.’

As a Christian I am bound to agree with the sentiments that Mr Parris expressed but please bear in mind that he is 1. Intelligent, 2. Good at expressing himself, 3. Contradicting his own worldview, 4. Well travelled and familiar with Africa, 5. Reflecting on a lifetime of experience, 6. Saying that the timeless truths of Christianity still work.

In closing, in case you are wondering my topic for the ‘Devotions’ was the final words of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. As a Christian I believe that the death of Christ is the only hope that we can offer this world. I should clarify that statement – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the only hope that we can offer the people of this planet. I could spend my life developing new medicine and it would have an incredible impact on the world – that would be quite amazing. It could be my passion to develop a new fuel that possibly could save the planet ecologically and incredible as that would be it’s impact on the life of humanity would be limited. Extending the human lifespan and the quality of life would be an admirable goal but on its own it will never deal with the ultimate problem of death and all of the other dilemmas of life BUT the work of Jesus Christ on the cross has unending consequences for this world.

There are positive consequences for all who choose to believe the truth of the gospel – as Mr Parris discovered Christianity affects people’s lifestyle for their good and the good of others but it also deals with sin and provides eternal salvation. First Timothy states in chapter four verse eight that ‘godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come’.

The statements we looked at today were – 

Matthew 27:46 
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me

John 19:28
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!

John 19:30
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!

Luke 23:46
And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ”

Please reflect on these statements. Jesus was forsaken of God to pay the price of sin so that you could be saved. He endured agony on the cross and His thirst was so that you might be satisfied for ever. Jesus’ cry ‘it is finished’ reminds us that He did everything that was required to provide salvation for all who are prepared to repent and believe the gospel. The final statement reminds me that the Lord Jesus, unlike everyone else, had power over his life even in death. He willingly laid down His life and dismissed His spirit. Thankfully He arose from the dead three days later. His resurrection is the proof that salvation is now freely available to all.

Do you believe it?

1. Matthew Parris, The Times, 27th December 2008

This is the second Saturday that we have been in Zambia. We set off this morning at about 0915 to visit the village or township of Chipanda. We made a few scheduled stops on the journey to pick up people who had arranged to come with us. In addition to this we made a few unscheduled stops to drop off people we had collected on the way. In Zambia people just ask you for a lift if you stop to pick up someone else as there are very few taxi’s and buses are not very common. Walking and cycling are the main means of transport for the majority of people. This keeps them fit. You can see people setting out on foot for their fields between 0400 and 0500 in the morning. There is also usually a constant stream of people on bicycles heading toward local markets with produce stacked high in every possible position on the bicycle frame. If you don’t have a bicycle then you just ask someone you know if you can borrow their’s and as long as it’s back within the month, don’t worry!! 

That’s a bit of an exaggeration but, honestly, people do borrow bikes and then fail to return them for a considerable period of time. You see my cousin asked if he could borrow the bike and I said yes. While the bike was with my cousin his brother in law spotted it and said he needed a bike to go into town. His uncle came to visit the day my cousin’s brother in law got back from town and decided that he could use the bike for a day or two. It would unsociable to refuse any of these requests as we are one big family in Zambia and so my bike disappeared for a long time. This sounds like a far fetched tale but this they way things actually work in Zambia. Sadly despite sounding very generous it breeds a lazy attitude to life as why would you work hard if you can get what you need from the other members of your family and why would you work hard and earn good money when all that happens when you have money is that everyone in your village (i.e. Family) expect you to fund them as you have money. The Bible teaches that ‘if a man would not work, neither should he eat,’ 2 Thess 3:10. The Bible teaches this as far as our responsibilities for ourselves and our families are concerned but it balances this truth with the fact that we ‘should do good unto all,’ Gal. 6. 10. Christian’s should be generous to others but responsible to provide for their own families.

The conference went well. Today’s topic was about the promised return of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Church (1 Thessalonians chapter 1) and His promise to return to this planet one day to judge the world (Zechariah 12:10, 14:4, Revelation 1:7 etc). It is essential that Christian understand and live in the good of these topics. 

If you are not a Christian both of these topics should alarm you. They need not if you repent of your sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Yours through Grace,