Christmas – the muddle and the magic

Maybe Christmas was a great idea when it was first invented, but today it’s a monumental muddle.

It’s a strange mix of ancient and modern, like finding Jesus in a nativity scene alongside Santa Claus in a Coca-Cola suit, and a sacred Christian holiday being celebrated in much the same manner as the heathen festival Christians pinched it from originally.

It’s an odd jumble of opposites, too. Giving increases for worthy causes, but so does spending on useless junk. ’Tis the season for pleasing others, but also the biggest excuse all year for bloating oneself to bursting point. It tickles heart strings while straining purse strings; it keeps the economy growing while burying people in debt, and it catches you humming those familiar songs while wishing the silly season was over. And who is it really all about, Jesus or Santa, our kids or the child of God?

The sacred and the secular are so intertwined nowadays, it’s a wonder Christians don’t separate themselves from Christmas all together. On the other hand, Christmas still magically transforms entire communities into nicer, kinder, gentler places for a season. It’s an amazing phenomenon seeing people with no interest in God suddenly acting all warm and fuzzy and not feeling the least bit embarrassed about a Christian concoction full of bizarre rituals dragging them out in huge numbers in the middle of winter every year. In a modern culture like ours it’s hard to explain.

Unless, that is, the prophecy in Isaiah 9:7 really did kick in when Jesus was born, because that would certainly explain it. Of the increase of God’s kingdom and peace there is no end, as the prophecy states, and the thriving of Christmas is remarkable proof of it. Even with the politically correct brigade trying to bury Christmas in meaningless terms like a “festive season of giving,” Christmas as a Christian holiday keeps on happening and it still packs a punch in the peace and goodwill department. It can still melt the anger of hardened criminals, stop the bullets flying between deadly enemies, and for a moment or two it even unites Christians.

Christmas is a powerful influence in our world, and while it remains that way it offers just the hope we need that what began with Jesus is true, that peace really is on its way. It doesn’t seem possible the rest of the year, but at Christmas-time it does, because something happens in December that doesn’t happen at any other time. The atmosphere changes; a truce descends upon the land and we discover the pleasure all over again of giving, chatting with strangers, helping the unfortunate, resolving conflicts, and even going to church.

For a few brief moments every year the elements of peace are in place and we get a glimpse of what’s possible, of a better, kinder world, of God’s world, not ours. It’s all still a monumental muddle, yes, but in amongst the muddle there’s a hint of magic, of something else going on that reaches beyond human invention, of God himself reassuring his weary children that peace and goodwill are not only possible, they’re guaranteed.

And without that little taste of magic, where would we be? What hope does our world offer otherwise to a single Mother up to her eyebrows in debt and despair, or to a man who hates his job, hates where he lives, hates what’s happening to his kids, hates getting older and fatter and knows he’s stuck in a rat hole ’til he dies?

Well, there isn’t any hope, is there, either for them or for millions like them, living out their dull, boring, routine lives without much of anything to look forward to each day but more of the same.

But along comes Christmas again, and with it a ray of hope that this life isn’t all there is, and maybe something wonderful really did begin when Jesus was born. The evidence is there, all right, of something incredible happening every year that ties in exactly with what God said would happen with the birth of his Son.

Muddle or magic, call it what you will, Christmas is still an amazing time of year. It’s not only a peek into what’s possible, it’s also a glimpse of another world in the making, and of a God who is real and true to his word.

How might Darwin explain the pandemic? 

Darwin’s theory of biological evolution was based on observable forces at work, that mutations in animals, birds and insects enable them to survive changes in the climate and environment. Elephants today, for instance, are being born without tusks in areas where poachers are killing off the elephants with tusks.    

So is that how viruses work too? Do they also mutate to enable them to survive a change in their environment? In which case, could Darwin’s evolutionary science help explain the pandemic, as to how and why viruses mutate into new variants when vaccines are introduced into the human body?

This thought never crossed my mind in the early stages of the pandemic. Like most people I was sold on the idea of “getting the jab.” I admit I was a little cagey about the rather rushed vaccines with no known long term effects and no liability by the manufacturers for any adverse effects, but haven’t vaccines been the greatest “life-saver” since Edward Jenner’s experiments over 200 years ago?

And to begin with back in 2020 it was all very encouraging as the makers of the vaccines and medical experts pronounced the vaccines as “safe” and nothing to worry about. And consensus of observation – the heart of science – supported that in the early stage of vaccines being administered as hospitalizations and deaths began to decline.  

And that’s what kicked off a real interest in my head about our immune system and how it responds to vaccines to fend off disease. It was helped along by a totally pro-vaccine Doctor doing a daily Youtube video that went into fascinating detail, with lots of drawings too, about our amazing immune system and the very positive effect vaccines have. And I felt thoroughly proud of myself as I took voluminous notes every day. 

I felt even prouder of myself when Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, our national top health expert, publicly announced in June 2021 that, quote, “Canadians should do a risk/benefit analysis before rolling up their sleeves for a shot,” which I took to mean do my homework first before making my decision. Well, I was doing exactly that already, so I was right in tune with our top government advisor. I gave my halo an extra polish to celebrate how wise I was being. 

But then my very pro-vaccine Youtube Doc started talking about blood clots, inflammation of the heart and other rather concerning side effects from the vaccines, including the bombshell news that vaccinated people could still be infected by the virus, and still be infectious too.

So I wondered what was happening, and that’s when I remembered Darwin and his theory of evolution, because here was a virus doing exactly what Darwin said living organisms do. They mutate to “click on” to what enables them to survive in a changing environment, much like a computer hacker hitting on a password, or a safecracker hitting the combination code that opens the safe. Or how a virus finds a way round a vaccine. 

Did this mean, then, that vaccines were actually causing the variants that enabled the virus to continue? And that’s when I discovered that several medical experts had predicted this would happen, and been observably proved right by “on the ground” evidence – the same pillar of proof Darwin based his conclusions on. 

So does Darwin’s theory of evolution rather handily explain why the virus keeps popping up alive and well in slightly different forms even in highly vaccinated countries? It’s only doing what Darwin said organisms do when a changing environment threatens their survival. 

Perhaps there are other forces at work too, though, that we haven’t yet discovered, that cause viruses to suddenly disappear as well. Who knows? 

And that’s when I thought, “But God knows,” and he is the ultimate force at work, so I thought I’d better look into what God has to say, the result being these blogs I’ve been writing. 

Liar, liar, pants on fire, nose as long as a….

Paul makes a rather revealing statement in 2 Corinthians 4:2 when he writes, “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  

And don’t you wish we had politicians, journalists, social media moguls, behavioural scientists, corporations, medical experts and pharmaceutical companies who could say the same for their professions as well? But that’s not the world we live in right now, is it? People and institutions we trust in are becoming open sewers of lies. Even so-called “fact checkers” have to be fact checked, because they can’t be trusted to tell the truth either. 

William Blake in his poem, The Liar, asked, “from what pit of foul deceit are all these whoppers sprung?” Imagine a famous Shakespearian actor rumbling out that beautifully slicing question at a Senate hearing on misinformation, censorship and outright lies being told by respected authorities, and then quoting Jesus’ answer in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” So it’s the devil, my dear fellows, the actor rumbles, who is that “pit of foul deceit” from which your lies and “whoppers spring.” 

And that’s just the first part of John 8:44 – and the milder part too. Jesus goes on to describe the devil whose desire liars wish to carry out, and it’s not a pretty picture, because “(your father the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding the truth, for there is no truth in him.” The devil is simply incapable of telling the truth, because “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” 

No wonder the lies that respected authorities tell spring to mind so easily. Lying has become their native language too.

I wonder, then, if these children of the devil are even capable of making the connection between their father being a “murderer” and the trail of death and misery their own lies have created. There are now many shattering and harrowing videos and personal stories of vaccine injuries and deaths that have resulted from the claim that the vaccines for Covid 19 were perfectly “safe.” But no expert in his or her right mind would declare an experimental drug as safe. No drug is safe from the risk of injury and death, as any educated medical person knows.

So why tell lies that have, and could yet still, kill people? John, the same John, answers that in 1 John 3:12, when he writes, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Cain thought he’d got away with an inferior sacrifice compared to his brother’s, but God called him out on it (Genesis 4:5-7). But rather than admit he’d made a mistake, Cain lied (verse 9). Why? Because he’d been shown up as weak and wrong, and that made him angry enough to kill. 

And likewise the authorities in our day, when caught out saying the vaccinations were perfectly safe and facts have since proved they aren’t. But rather than admit they were wrong they try to distort the facts, censor them, wreck the livelihoods of those who expose them, and lie to protect their own jobs and reputation. 

Why? Because at some awful point in their lives they sold their souls to the devil – for money or pressure to conform, perhaps, or because they discovered how easily people can be deceived. Who knows? But for some reason it happened and now we’re stuck with them, just as Jesus was stuck with similar people in his day, who were willing to lie, distort facts, make false accusations and even seek to have him killed too

But Jesus wasn’t intimidated by them, and he didn’t hold back from saying they were liars, just like children catching a peer lying and crying out, “Liar, liar, pants on fire, nose as long as a telephone wire.” 

Please, please tell me – who’s telling the truth? 

My dear wife often asks in frustration, “How do we know who’s right, even among Christians?” And that becomes especially onerous when discovering someone you’ve depended on for truth and good answers turns out to be wrong or that someone equally “educated” to our heroes has a very different interpretation of Scripture.  

But we live in an era in which truth doesn’t matter. Or that the only truth that does matter is one’s own version of it. Truth, therefore, is what one personally perceives as truth. “My truth” now becomes “the truth,” and it’s such a strong emotional glue that it’s next to impossible ungluing oneself to accept new facts that come to light. 

So is there really a “gospel truth” that all Christians can agree with? Or is even gospel truth an emotional truth Christians are glued to, such as water baptism being required, or meetings in a church building on Sunday being a must, or that Christians go to heaven when they die? But not all Christians agree on those things either, just like some Christians believe alcohol is wrong, or only eating a plant-based diet is right, or that we should always finish prayer with an “Amen.” Or dare I mention it, whether it’s Christian or not to be jabbed with a Covid vaccine, or that God is or isn’t going to save everyone in the end?

All these can become sensitive subjects in what is now called the post-truth era that we are now living in, “in which,” the Cambridge English Dictionary states, “people are more likely to accept an argument based on their emotions and beliefs, rather than one based on facts.” With that definition in mind, then, how on earth are we Christians going to preach a “gospel truth” that doesn’t interfere with or contradict what people only emotionally believe and accept as truth?  

And looking back in church history this seems like a good question to ask and get answered because differences in what Christians believe has created thousands of separate denominations, each claiming to know “truth” better than all the others, and some even going to war over their differences. 

In the book of Acts, however, we find Christians not only getting along together, but also willing to discuss differences until everyone agreed, as in Acts 15 when some “believers” (verse 5) were utterly and emotionally tied to Gentiles having to be circumcised like Jews to be Christian. But instead of separating into pro-circumcisers and anti-circumcisers, they “met to consider this question” (verse 6), they listened to evidence (verse 12), turned to Scripture for an answer (verses 15-18), leaned on the Holy Spirit to guide them (verse 28), and came up with an answer that made everyone who heard it “glad for its encouraging message” (verse 31).  

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same today? Where the willingness to discuss with an open mind, the desire to reason together, gather evidence from experience and Scripture, and not quit until it’s clear by consensus that the Holy Spirit has been guiding us as well? Taking into account a wonderful purpose of the Spirit too, of placing it on our hearts to respond to the truth when we hear it (Acts 16:14). 

So we’ve been given this gift as Jesus’ church to figure out truth. And it’s the same process whether large or small groups, or different denominations in a city, because Jesus promised to be with us, even if it’s only two or three gathered together. That would include families too, then, which explains why whole households responded to the gospel in Acts. 

So where does one start in seeking truth? According to Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15 it’s studying to show ourselves approved. It’s not emotion, therefore, that decides truth; it’s thorough research, “doing our homework.” The pandemic  has also shown us how shallow our thinking can be, and how ludicrous our conclusions and decisions become when emotions rule instead. 

Why talk about “Jesus and the resurrection” in a pandemic? 

When Paul went sightseeing in Athens he became “greatly distressed,” Acts 17:16, on discovering “the city was full of idols” representing the gods the Athenians believed controlled the world, and their lives too. How tragic, that these bright-minded people had been reduced to worshipping objects of their own creation. This wasn’t what God had created humans in his image for. 

So Paul shot off to where people gathered in the local market place, verse 18, and started “preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.” But why that subject right off the bat in a city that knew little to nothing about Jesus or a resurrection?  And why was that specific subject stirred in Paul’s mind on seeing all those sculptures and rock carvings of gods?

It got me thinking if Jesus and the resurrection are the subjects that need preaching about today too, though, because we’re in a pandemic in which most people, it seems, simply go along with the “gods” of our making too. Because we too have gods that we believe control the world and our lives, namely our government and the media. So whatever they say is what we base our lives, hopes and emotional responses on. Which seems to be the only explanation I can think of for our mob panic and fear at the latest virus outbreak or variant.

How tragic that in our highly sophisticated and progressive world we’ve been reduced to lemming like behaviour, where instead of critical thinking or taking a step back to think things through a bit more stoically, we’re being ruled by  our emotions instead. It’s understandable, I suppose though, because government and media are in our faces every day with their hyped up versions of what’s happening to keep us glued to them and the god-like status and power they’ve suddenly found themselves with. 

But how would talking about Jesus and the resurrection have any impact on that? It didn’t make any difference in Athens, because the leading thinkers thought Paul was just “babbling” on about stuff that had no connection to the world they were living in (verse 18). But it did get their attention, enough for them to ask what Paul was getting at. 

So he explained it, that the entire reason for our existence as humans was to connect up with the living God who really does have control over everything that’s happening in our world, and our lives too. And the reason for wanting to connect up wth this living God is because we are his children and he deeply loves us and wishes we’d contact him because he’d respond to us if we did (verses 24-28). 

And the reason for him wanting to respond to us is because he “set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed,” verse 31. Everything in our lives, in other words, revolves around this “man” he appointed to straighten out our mess, and straighten out the people causing it. 

And the proof that such a man exists with that kind of power and compassion is his resurrection from the dead. So he’s a human just like us, which means he totally understands what we’re going through and how to deal with it, and he’s alive right now as well in the process of making the world God made for his children into a wonderful place to live in. No pandemics, no emotional hype from the government or media, no mob panic and fear, and no more useless gods of our own making that we base our lives on.   

And all our living, loving God wants from us is to believe it. So if we’re having trouble believing it because all we can see is just more trouble and even worse times coming, he’ll respond to us if we reach out to him. We’re his kids, for heaven’s sake, so of course he’ll respond to us if we cry out to him. And especially if we’re crying out to him to become part of the restoration of our amazing planet, and even more so to restore us humans into his image, rather than be reduced to pathetic lemmings. Because this is what he’s sending his “appointed man” to make possible right now, and for certain in full at an appointed time in the future (verse 31). 

So is it a good time to preach Jesus and the resurrection? Well, in Athens some people “believed,” verse 34, and they wanted to know more, so if it happened then, why not now too?

The pandemic – a taste of the “mark of the beast” perhaps? 

Following on from the previous blog, who can be blamed for thinking the pandemic is a taste of “the mark of the beast”? 

Because if it’s true that the mark of the beast is simply illustrating a man-made system thinking and acting like it’s God, with such convincing power that pretty well all people and all nations bow to it, we’ve certainly had a glimpse of that being possible in governments acting like they’re God during this pandemic. 

But NOT acting like “God” in a good way. It’s more like the gods of the Romans and Greeks that ruled the lives of humans with an iron fist, threatening all sorts of repercussions if humans did not comply with their wishes, creating a constant atmosphere of fear.

And it’s so easy to do. I imagine it’s even surprised behavioural scientists during this pandemic how easy it is to make people anxious and fearful. Just throw out a few trigger words and push button phrases about the terrible things that will happen if the whole world isn’t vaccinated, and fear and guilt sweep through a population faster than the virus. 

And even evidence to show that the virus is evolving as viruses naturally do, becoming less deadly over time, or that there’s over a 99% recovery rate in reasonably healthy people, makes little difference. Once fear sets in, a collective hypnosis (or mass formation psychosis) takes over, which in turn increases the demand on governments “to do something.”    

And that falls right into the hands of those in government and media who love power and discovering they can control people’s minds, even to the point of whole swaths of people being totally compliant with their demands for vaccine passports and lockdowns and the sacrifice of their bodies, and their children, to experimental drugs with no data required as to long term adverse effects. 

It has been an amazing exposure of what could happen if more pandemics happen, and how easy it would be for a mark of the beast, or a Roman god-like atmosphere, to descend on the human race worldwide. 

It’s nothing new, though, because when Paul arrived in Athens in Acts 17, even he was astounded at how the entire city was ruled by gods that the Athenians believed had divine power, so these gods had better be obeyed and appeased, or else.   

Paul’s reaction is enlightening. He was horrified that people could operate this way, so he heads off to where people gathered to express their views, much like the internet today. And that’s where he introduced “the good news about Jesus and the resurrection,” Acts 17:18.  

The reaction, however, was probably what most people today would say in response too: “What on earth has Jesus and his resurrection got to do with anything?” So Paul explains in my next blog…. 

Are we close to the dreaded “mark of the beast”?

With vaccine passports and other government regulations and narratives echoing George Orwell’s 1984, it’s not surprising the “mark of the beast” is being bandied about too. So, is the pandemic leading up to a mark of the beast, and if so can it be identified?  

Yes, it can be, according to Revelation 13 (the mark of the beast chapter), because it says, “If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number,” verse 18. It even provides a handy little clue too, that it’s “man’s number,” suggesting it’s typical of how man’s rule operates. It’s like a detective letting a suspect know, “I’ve got your number, buddy,” meaning “I know your type and how you operate” – just like we can know a tyrannical ruler’s number, having witnessed many such rulers through our history.   

Revelation 13 also talks of two beasts, “the beast out of the sea” (verse 1), and the  “beast out of the earth” (verse 11). It identifies the first beast as the dragon’s henchman directing worship away from the true God to itself instead (verses 2, 4 to 8). The Roman Empire pictured this first beast well, the emperor Domitian actually calling himself “Lord and God.”     

The second beast is typical of the Roman Empire too, in its ability to “make the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast,” verse 12. The second beast is the machinery enforcing the first beast’s claim of divinity. It can be identified in three ways – by its “lamb-like” attitude, so typical of propagandists hiding their real intent, by how it “speaks like a dragon,” using fear to get people to comply, and by deception made possible by what appear to be “great and miraculous signs” (verses 13-14). All three convince people that the first beast really is a god, who’d better be worshipped as such or else, the or else being death (verse 15). 

So this second beast would be recognizable by its fuelling the fear of death to anyone not following the god-claiming narrative of the first beast. It would also be recognizable by its mandate that no one can “buy or sell unless he has the mark” of this first beast (verse 17). So this second beast is what we might call the chief propagandist, skillfully fashioning the myth of the first beast being a real god and saviour, and woe betide anyone, and especially Christians (verses 7-8), who thought otherwise. 

And to make sure that everyone complies, the second beast enforces its “no mark, no market” policy by totally cutting people off from their jobs and livelihoods for non-compliance. It’s either “comply or die.” And compliance is identified by the first beast’s “mark,” or image of itself in number or name, being stamped on people in some way (verse 17). And that image or mark becomes the passport to continue doing business.  

And if all this sounds familiar in what’s happening during the pandemic, perhaps we can be forgiven for thinking that, but the context of Revelation 13 needs to be taken into account too, because it talks of the first beast “having a fatal wound” and that fatal wound being healed (verses 3 and 12). 

For first century Christians, to whom Revelation was originally written, this would identify as the Roman Empire, because it was Rome and its god-claiming Caesars who were at “war against the saints,” verse 7. Having its deadly wound healed suggests a resurrection of that system, but with much, much greater power.  

The pandemic could be described as a taste of such a system rising in our day, but it’s nowhere close to what Revelation 13 is describing. We can calculate from historical precedent what the two beasts represent, yes, but this last manifestation of Rome is like nothing before it. It has immense power, it is intensely evil, and it is totally anti-God and anti-Christian. And the number “666” gives the game away too, because it’s “man’s number,” blatantly and brazenly claiming that “man,” humans, run the show, not God. 

See all that in action and we’ve got the “mark of the beast’s” number all right, so if it arises in our day we Christians won’t be deceived by it either. 

How did we humans become so irrational? 

In the book of Acts there are several occasions when a mob of people simply react and no one can reason with them. And it doesn’t take much for a mob like that to form today either, whether on social media, protest marches, or in wild accusations against anyone with a different view on things.  

Irrationality also includes in its dark and sticky web institutional authorities and experts, who totally ignore facts, preferring to threaten and crack down, even with powers they don’t legally have, on anyone opposing their narrative. And they become even more irrational the more people oppose them or face up to them with logic.  

So how did humans made in the image of God get to this point? Was it because we needed to be faced with the irrationality of evil? I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion knowing that all evil would be placed on him, and the immense suffering of mind that created in him. It made him sweat blood and beg his Father for anything but having to go through the agony he would have to endure to free us humans from the insanity and power of evil that would never stop until it had eaten us all up.

Jesus, in other words, knew and felt the power of irrational evil like none of us ever have or ever will, and it horrified him what it would do to humanity unless he took the only route the Father knew would destroy evil and its power over us. 

And what a power it is, because even with the devil “thrown into a lake of burning sulfur” in Revelation 20:10, it sounds like evil still holds people in its grip, because in Revelation 21:8 there are still unrepentant murderers, liars, sexual perverts and those hooked on the occult.   

And yet God allowed this evil into the world from the very beginning. He allowed the devil to inhabit one of his good creatures, and through a completely twisted logic deceive a beautiful woman and destroy her while her husband looks helplessly on, totally paralyzed and unable to defend her. 

And that kind of evil power is all over the world today, as people again are paralyzed into conforming with irrational policies and even outright lies that put the lives of the most innocent at unnecessary risk of lifetime damage. 

But we wouldn’t have known such evil was possible and real unless we were exposed to it and tasted it, and we suffered some of the same mental agony Jesus suffered in full. 

Is that why God talks of burning forever in hell in Revelation 20:10? Is it to get the point across how we must never fall victim to evil, never let it get a hold of us in any way, and grasp the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice as the only way evil could be defeated? Because any one of us can be sucked into the black hole of evil, perhaps by the fury we feel at our fellow humans for their ridiculous mandates and lockdowns, or their criminal abuse of children so similar to the abuse of indigenous children being forced into residential schools. 

It seems, then, that for us to pass from death to life we have to run the gauntlet of evil having its way with us, as individuals and as an entire race, as we’ve experienced in this pandemic, when madness is as much a global virus too.  

So how much evil must we be exposed to before recognizing its dreadful power and turning to our Saviour to rescue us as a race and as individuals? Every day I wonder how much worse things can get and I can’t help begging Jesus to ease things up a bit, because what could happen to us is becoming all too obvious to see.   

Reviving the sacredness of the human body

I’m allowed by Scripture to love myself, for one obvious reason stated at the beginning of the Bible, that we are made in God’s image, and what God created in his image he also pronounced as “good.” 

Unfortunately, we’ve used our bodies to do a lot of things that are not in the image of God, that even made God wish he’d never created us, but he clearly loves the human body too, because for all the damage we’ve done with our bodies and to our bodies that clearly deserve us being wiped out forever, God’s plan includes “the redemption of our bodies,” Romans 8:23.

For a start, then, we can throw out the notion of being disembodied creatures wandering round heaven forever as our reward for being good in this life now. That’s a pagan idea that sees no value in the human body. But to God our bodies are totally worth redeeming, not, fortunately, in the weakened, fragile, ageing shells we’re in now, but in bodies that won’t age or decay – in the best bodies we could have had, in other words, if we’d eaten off the right tree in the Garden of Eden.

One has to wonder, then, how we’d treat each other if we viewed our bodies as God does. Some religions revere the lives of animals, some value every living thing, but what culture has ever in the entire history of humans viewed their fellow humans through the same eyes as God? Even the first human family experienced a brutal murder, and killing and maiming each other has never stopped since. 

And despite learning more and more about how amazing our bodies are, we readily go to war and tear each other to pieces in the most horrible ways. I wonder what we’d make of Genesis 9:5-6, then, that in the new world God created to replace the dreadful mess they’d made of things up to that point, he focused their attention on the sacredness of the human body, when he told Noah, “I will require the life of any man or beast by whose hand your lifeblood is shed. I will demand an accounting from anyone who takes the life of his fellow man: Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man his blood will be shed; for in his own image God has made mankind.” 

It made me think of the media, governments and pharmaceutical companies that support jabbing experimental drugs into humans without even knowing what side effects or lifelong damage they may create, and especially in children. Based on Genesis 9, then, I wonder if God’s going to hold them accountable for that. 

My body is so sacred to God – because of what Jesus did to redeem it – that I can’t even use the defence against coerced vaccination that it’s “My body, my choice,” because in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I’m told “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” In other words, my body belongs to God. I can’t just do what I like to my body, but nor can anyone else either, whether it be bullying government, experimental drug pushers, or junk food manufacturers. 

And that opens up a whole new window into what Jesus redeemed my body for. It’s described in Romans 6:13, that since we’ve “been brought from death to life” – the new life of the resurrected Jesus in us – we find ourselves able now “to offer the parts of our body to him as instruments of righteousness.” 

Because that’s what he created our bodies in the first place for, to make this world a wonderful place. He made our bodies so they’re capable of doing enormous good, which is why Jesus came to redeem them. He valued our bodies enough to rescue them and heal them, to revive the sacredness of the human body so we see ourselves for who we really are – and if only we could see each other that way too.

Making the most of what God’s given us

Following on from the blog before this one, and the last sentence in it, “so grab the opportunity to live what he’s given us,” I hope it didn’t sound like it was something “we must do.” 

On the other hand, the way Peter phrases things in 2 Peter 1 it does sound like what he’s saying is something we need to do, because after writing in verse 3 that “God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness,” he then writes in verse 5 about US “making every effort,” and in verse 10, about us “making our calling and election sure,” because “if you do these things you will never fall” – which sounds very much like a “must do” or there will be consequences.   

But what are these “things” we need to do, then?  

Peter lists them in verses 5-7, that we “make every effort to add to our faith goodness, and to goodness knowledge, etc.” There are eight things he lists that we do, and the reason given for doing them too in verse 8, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And a warning too in verse 9, that “if anyone does not have them (the list of eight) he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” 

So, what’s going on here? I ask that, because in verse 2 Peter wishes us “Grace and peace in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” but then adds all these things we need to do as well.  

I admit these verses bothered me for a long time, because what becomes of grace if we can also “fall” (verse 10) by not doing our part? 

What I later realized I’d missed was Peter’s statement in verse 4, that God gave us the amazing gift of his “great and precious promises” – which are totally his doing by his grace – “so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

In other words, God kickstarted our Christian lives – all his doing – so that we can experience what Jesus cleansed our past and resurrected us to new life for. The eight things listed by Peter are what we can experience and participate in as Christians to the full now. They’re all gifts still, but God wants us opening them up and experiencing them. So if we’re a bit short on, or in need of, any of those eight things Peter listed – faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – realize they’re ours already as marvellous gifts made possible by Jesus – so – “make every effort,” or grab the opportunity, to live them, and experience them growing in us too.  

And according to Peter this is what God called and elected us for, to shine with these gifts of Jesus’ divine nature, replacing the typical world’s attitudes we had before. And by taking what he’s given us seriously our knowledge of what Jesus won for us becomes clear and it bears some real fruit. We’re literally being transformed into Christ’s likeness as an opportunity we’ve been given to experience every day.

It helped answer that other tricky verse in Philippians 2:12 about us “continuing to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Which again sounds like we need to make our salvation sure by what we do. But salvation, as we know, is totally God’s gift to us. What Paul’s getting at, then, is – “Go on, live what he’s given us, open up his gifts and live them to the full, because this is what God has instilled in us to want to do,” as Paul explains in verse 13

It’s a grand opportunity not to be missed, in other words. It’s not to be taken lightly either, says Paul in verse 12, because it’s God’s great pleasure to see us grow. He loves seeing us conscious of our gifts won for us by Jesus, so feel his pleasure, be conscious of it, knowing it’s his great desire to give us a “rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:11. It’ll be his pleasure one day to say, “Well done, my child, you made the most of my gifts to you.”