I wonder as I wander, out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die For poor ord’n’ry people like you and like I. I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.
These lines are attributed to John Jacob Niles, who wrote them back in the 1930s. They ring true today. If you have heard this sung, the melody will reinforce your memory of the words. It has been said that music is the language of the emotions.
Christians may have similar feelings when they recall Ps.103 (just click on this reference to read the psalm. Today, the popular song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin ring out the truth of the opening lines of that psalm.
At this time of year many people are thinking about what is called “the nativity”, by which is meant the amazing reality that God the Son became man, born as a baby to poverty-stricken Mary, and brought up by humble carpenter Joseph. As Niles verse accurately states, God did this so that mankind could benefit from Jesus’ death. Not just for some of mankind, but for all; “like you and like I”.
The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled at present to be launched by December 25th. If all goes well, it will be able to observe the result of the formation of the earliest stars. In Genesis 1 the Bible record relegates the formation of the stars to a minor place, in the words: “He made the stars also”. The Psalmist wrote in his song:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Ps.8)
To our minds, the miraculous formation of the universe leaves us feeling rather insignificant, mere mortals on this tiny planet. But as we wander around it and observe the grandeur of God’s creation, should we not pause to wonder about why God sent His Son to be our Saviour, in fulfilment of plans made before the physical universe came into being (1 Pet.1:18-21; Eph.1:4; Heb.2:14)?
Those, perhaps the minority of Bible readers, who read the Old Testament prophetic books, may miss some of their pointedness because of a lack of awareness of the historical context in which the prophets first spoke. Some of the books make the setting quite clear. For instance, Haggai was speaking to the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. So we can date his words quite well. It still needs an appreciation of why the Jews had been led away captives in the first place, how long they had to stay there, which world leader would issue a command for them to return, etc. All these matters can be found by further study. Then there is the matter of broader context; what was going on in the nations generally.
This is worth noting when we read Jeremiah. It is helpful to know that there had been three competing world powers during his times. Egypt still considered itself a major player. Assyria, which Jonah hated so much (perhaps because he understood how cruel they would be to Israel), was declining in power and having to battle the up-and-coming Babylonians. The good king Josiah of Judah seems to have made a fatal mistake in deciding to try to ward off the Egyptian armies when they were on the way to fight on the side of the Assyrians against the Babylonians (2 Kgs.23:29). The first round of those battles may have been a draw, but eventually Egypt would be forced back to its own borders and then subjugated to Babylon, after the Babylonian armies ruthlessly took out the Assyrians.
Against that historical background you can see why those who listened to Jeremiah telling them in advance that the Babylonians would be victorious were unsure which side to back. Even after Nebuchadnezzar taught those in Judah a lesson and carried away their king (Josiah’s grandson, Jeconiah), they still seemed to hold out hope that Egypt would be the one to help them. Yet God made it very clear that Nebuchadnezzar was being used to punish other wrong-doers – and those in Judah, who had turned from God to become idol worshippers, would not escape. The alternatives were to capitulate straightaway and change their ways, or to suffer Babylonian domination of a worse sort. They chose wrongly and suffered. Only after 70 years was Jeremiah’s accurate prophecy fulfilled when King Cyrus (king of the empire that conquered the Babylonians) told the Jews to return (see Jer.25:11,12; Dan.9:2; Ezra 1:1). Not many did. It is instructive to compare the books of Nehemiah (who did return) with Esther (who did not).
Now we see China and Russia increasingly opposing the USA. We can see alignments developing between other nations and the super-powers. Perhaps surprisingly, little Israel continues to be a focal point for the world’s attention; its boundaries are perpetually challenged, and it’s right for us to ponder why.
When Christ described world conditions that will prevail before His return to earth, He already knew such things (see Matt.24, Matt.25). His warnings will make absolutely sound reading in the context of those times. And before His feet are on earth again, He will come to the air and take disciples away from the conflicts on earth (1 Thess.4:15-18). That more immediate prospect is the context Christians should be focused on right now.
So context matters. Happy reading!
What we are talking about here is the suggestion that climate change problems will be resolved, simply because (it is imagined) the world’s environment may inevitably be tuned to self-correct. The proposal was developed by Dr Lovelock in the 1970s and has been refined by others. Lovelock adopted the name Gaia, as in mythology she was supposedly a goddess who controlled the Earth. It is a bit unfair to use the rather shorthand description of the hypothesis in our first sentence. The scientific community would have good reason to take issue with it, since the proposers and rejecters of the hypothesis have armed themselves with more supporting data than would fit in all the blogs on this website! In terms of explanatory value, the Gaia hypothesis is rather frightening, as it seems it’s outworking would currently necessitate either a significant reduction in human population, or reversion to pre-industrial age living standards, or both! Is the human race even facing extinction? Yet the hypothesis assumes continuity of life, but without explaining Life’s origin (a fatal flaw also in the belief of some that everything can be explained by evolution, because nothing can evolve until it exists).
The Gaia hypothesis is not intended to have any religious merit; it is supposed to be purely based on natural science observations. However, reportedly noted adversaries of the hypothesis include well-known atheists. Atheists object to such hypothetical Gaia-type conclusions in part because they do not think the universe, or even our small corner of it, is purposeful. They believe, with great confidence, that random purposeless events are the cause for what we can now see and experience, and biologically DNA conveniently secures continuity of favourable outcomes. So the idea that there may be some inbuilt aspects, actually designed to favourably correct unwanted changes in the Earth’s environment is immediately rejected. Christians should have no such problems with the thought of design being evident in the universe, but that doesn’t mean they should just accept a secular Gaia-type hypothesis. If you’re interested, read on HERE.
The company that owns the world’s largest social media platform is changing its name to Meta. Although meta is a prefix long used in English, what it means and why it is used are not subject to uniform views. For instance it can mean “beyond”, or “behind”, or “after”, or “changed”. Really, it is what comes after the prefix that helps us understand why it used. Thus, metadata refers to large scale data sets that may reveal greater insights about trends and developing concerns that are not apparent when looking at the detailed data one by one. There seems little doubt that the decision by Facebook’s owners to invest multi-billions of dollars in “metaverse” projects indicates why they have chosen their new name. But what is the metaverse?
Metaverse is a combination of meta and universe. It is intended to describe how technology can enable people to experience interactions not possible in the real physical universe. One aspect of the metaverse is the use of virtual reality to engage in games, or even business communications. Instead of interacting by being physically with other people, an electronic substitute is used, often called an avatar. The avatar may be given abilities to compete or communicate that are beyond the restrictions of normal life. By virtual reality, it is implied that something is very nearly, but not quite, the same as the real thing. As long as we don’t forget what the reality is, a close substitute can be very helpful. But often it seems the objective of virtual reality is to move a person into a completely unreal world, where they can be absorbed in experiences that can never be physically realized. And it also absorbs lots of time!
So much for the scene-setting, although we shall not do justice here to the potential benefits of clearer communication as technology moves on. We are more concerned about unexpected and unwanted downsides. The metaverse may be a surprising development for you or me, but it is no surprise to God! The idea of people wanting to escape from the drudgery and unwelcome limitations of real human existence is not new. For millennia there have been some who would try to enter a spirit world, to gain information or insights that others would not possess. God condemned such exploits, which often masked the intent of the evil adversary of God, Satan. See Deut.18:9-14. In a demonic twist he now induces people to exchange the real world for an imaginary one, and he deceives people into thinking evil is fun, whereas being in strong control of your thinking is made to appear boring. Check out 2 Tim.3:13 or Tit.3:3 or Col.2:18-23 for starters to verify these issues (and contact us if you need more references). In this context, the increasing use of hallucinogenic drugs and absorbing fantasy games is to be expected.
This is a website that attempts to give a biblical perspective, a Christian viewpoint, that addresses real-life concerns and interests. So, we must draw attention to Bible instruction like Peter’s words: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet.1:13). Or again: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet.5:8). Or the words of the Lord Jesus: ““But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap” (Lk.21:34). The battle is for the mind, and if allow our attention to be devoted to the unreal but attractive challenges of augmented reality or virtual reality, we may find our headsets are robbing our heads of their proper purpose! Christians are not immune to the drawing power of imagery, that can entangle them again in unprofitable pursuits (2 Pet.2:20). Entertaining ourselves in a virtual world cannot improve our usefulness in the real world, the world of people who need a Saviour to deliver them from eternal loss, not just a reduced point score or poor competitor ranking in a forgettable game. Paul summarizes the real battlefield: “… we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor.10:3-5). And if we are to succeed in taking the thoughts of others captive, we must start by carefully managing our own!
Many more examples could be cited, all indicating Christians need to be mentally alert, living in the expectation they will soon stand before their Maker. That may not leave us much time to spend in the metaverse!
Here are a few lines of poetic verse in rather dated English style, that will make more sense to us after reading Mk.4:35-41 and Acts 27:13-44.
“It was not so just now! I turned aside With aching head, and heart, most sorely bowed; Around me cares and griefs in crushing crowd, While icily rose the sense, in swelling tide, Of weakness, insufficiency, and sin, And fear, and gloom, and doubt in mighty flood rolled in.
That rushing flood I had no strength to meet, Nor power to flee; my present, future, past, Myself, my sorrow, and my sin I cast. In utter helplessness at Jesus’ feet; Then bent me to the storm, if such His will. He saw the winds and waves, and whispered, ‘Peace, be still! ‘ “
Now we may contemplate the words of Rom.8, which says in part:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Many readers of this post will be familiar with Acts 2:42. There we are told that those who believed what Peter preached about Christ had some new responsibilities. They were to “continue steadfastly” in the apostles’ teaching, and the fellowship, and the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. If you check out our “About” page, you’ll see the church of God in Mount Forest sees these Bible statements as still very much applicable today, and we provide some information on how we comply with them.
But what do you do if, for health and safety reasons, the whole church cannot all meet in one place to steadfastly keep to these biblical fundamentals?
If you want to learn more about how we tackled that responsibility during the many months of the Covid pandemic, please check out our page titled Into One Place, in our Resources section.
In many developed countries the Covid-19 lockdown measures meant people have had to work from home. Now, in countries that have been able to supply vaccination to the majority of their people, a return to working in a company’s place of business is in process. It will not be the same! Although working at home has disadvantages and challenges for both companies and their employees, it has also had some benefits. For those working from home, one advantage has been the ability to include some flexibility in their work life. Breaks have reduced the monotony of some tasks. The freedom from being under the eye of an unfair boss has lessened the stress that can bring. A worker has had more liberty to choose how they will accomplish their assigned tasks, and they might prefer to do things, so to speak: “my way” instead of being closely supervised.
It is quite likely that to the surprise of many supervisors, worker productivity has actually been better while employees have enjoyed these partial freedoms. So, as people return to their old workplaces, we are likely to see some changes in management techniques, away from so-called micro-management and more towards mutually aiming for achievement of targets rather than forcing compliance with detailed procedures.
Christians are to live by what the Bible says. There we read that God approves of applying effort to accomplish assigned tasks. For instance, in terms of work ethic the Bible commends adopting an attitude of working “as for the Lord and not for men” (Col.3:23) and not just working as “people pleasers”. These statements were originally written to people in a society where slavery was a painful reality. Even in such a harsh context, Eph.6:6 says: “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” In one of His parables, Jesus spoke of work providing opportunity to enrich others, with greater rewards for those who achieved the most (Matt.25:14-30). He was using an everyday challenge to illustrate a very serious spiritual day of reckoning. For the Christian, therefore, the opportunity or necessity to work from home has not provided an excuse for slacking in any way, and a return to the pre-Covid workplace shouldn’t either! Surely a greater goal would be fair reward for work done.
These Bible truths must be balanced with instructions given to those who manage others. For instance, Eph.6:9 and Col.4:1 note threatening behaviour is wrong and God will take note of it, and fairness needs to be demonstrated. While the Bible accurately records historical settings of slavery, it does not require that practice in human government or even commend it. In fact, it endorses the appropriateness of obtaining release from it if possible (1 Cor.7:21). This in no way lessens the reality of Christians having been bought by Christ and living now to serve Him. So we read “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body” (1 Cor.6:19,20).
So the idea of “increased workplace autonomy” a “My Way” approach, may become a popular slogan, but Christians must at all times consider themselves as not so much autonomous, self-ruling, but as those who are ruled by the kindest and most loving ruler, Christ. Serving Him wholeheartedly will then make us better managers and better employees. We are Christians 24/7, not just when we attend church meetings!
How many pockets is enough? A workman may find it helpful to have lots of tools handy. When working in tight spaces it is frustrating to have to crawl out and go back to the toolbox to pick up what you need to get the job done. There’s a moral in that, isn’t there?
Some Bible verses deal with this issue directly. Paul writes to Timothy: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim.4:2). Be prepared, he says. Good advice. How many times have we found ourselves saying: “If only I’d…”?
Paul had already explained how we can prepare to be helpful to others in what we say. He told Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15). If we do not know “the word of truth” we will not be able to use it effectively.
When writing to Christians in Ephesus, Paul taught them: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph.4:11-13).
So now we know that as Christians our equipment needs have been provided. We can be taught! And if we commit to memory the instructions given by our Teacher, and learn correctly how to use them, we can be prepared to bring helpful messages to others. It is not the Bible in one of your pockets, but the word of God in your mind and heart that will be the tool God can use so you can reason with and persuade others. But if we think of our minds as having many pockets, we can fill them in an orderly way so that we are able to retrieve the information we need, when we don’t have the time to go back to the toolbox! The Holy Spirit delights to remind us, but to do that we must first have put the word of truth safely in our hearts, prepared and ready for His use (Jn 14:26).
In the late 1800s, some serious Bible students got together and tried to figure out what vital teaching was missing from the practices of the churches at that time. The result was the production of a magazine called “Needed Truth”, which was intended to supply information that would fill the identified gaps. The magazine is still going strong, and you can review the current issue and the archives (for free!) at this link: NT. Use it to fill your “pockets” and fully equip your service.