The Eye of God

The eye of God Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
Psalm 33:18-19

This is a wonderful promise, and one that made me think of this image. My friend Simon first showed me this photo from the Hubble Space Telescope at the end of last year, and explained how it had been titled "The eye of God."

It is a composite image of the Helix Nebula, a distant relic of an exploded sun, stretching over one million million miles in diameter.

If that blows your mind, just think how much more awesome it is that the real eye of the eternal, almighty, infinite God is fixed upon you.

It illustrates why, if we walk in the fear of the Lord, we need fear nothing else!


The Law: Not under, not outside, but in Christ.

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. (1Co 9:19-20)

I'm not trying to reopen a debate on the nature of the Old Testament Law to the New Testament believer... but I did think this was a helpful insight.

Paul, in the midst of his discourse on how he has become all things to all men in order to win them, mentions, almost as an aside, his relationship to the law. This gives a valuable insight into our relationship to it too:

We are not under the law
We are not outside of the law
We are under the law of Christ

Although we are no longer under the law, we are not outside of it either. It still applies to us as it finds its fulfilment in Christ. All of the law must pass through Christ before it applies to us.

Some of the law gets added to, because the real issue is one of the heart and not of observance of the letter. e.g. the commandments against adultery and murder.

Some of the law does not pass through because it has already been ultimately fulfilled in Christ. e.g. the sacrifices for sins, the cutting off of the flesh in circumcision.

Some of the law becomes a matter of conscience, because it was to illustrate a principle that is now better illustrated in the New Covenant realities, and the issue is not one of observance, but of faith. e.g. eating or not eating certain foods, observing or not observing special days.

And some of the law passes through unchanged. e.g. honouring ones father and mother.

Whilst we might disagree on the finer details of interpretation and application there are some things that are very clear:

First, no-one is justified by observing the law. We cannot earn our salvation or favour with God by observing the law. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

However, those who love God will obey his commandments. Whilst we cannot earn favour by obedience, we can grieve the Holy Spirit by disobedience.

A correct understanding of the law plays an important part of our walk of faith. It makes the difference between observance and obedience on the one hand, and between liberty and licence on the other.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. (1Ti 1:8 NIV)


Speak it clear and make it plain

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8)

This passage in Nehemiah refers to a group of Levites who assisted Ezra in instructing the people from the word of God.

In many ways, the Old Testament Levites and priests are a foreshadow of the New Testament ministry of the Teacher. It was they to whom the people were instructed to go if they had a difficult question they did not know the answer to. It was they who were charged with instructing the people in the Law of God. And, importantly, it was they who were anointed in the presence of God to do the job. Nowhere, Old or New Testament, do we get the notion that such ministry was ever to be purely intellectual or academic. They had an anointing in the Spirit to impart spiritual truth.

As such, the activity of these Levites is a great example for all of us who teach or preach amongst God's people. They were to read clearly from the word of God, and to make the meaning of it plain to those who heard.

The public reading of Scripture should never be underrated. Could it be that we value our own words more than God's? I know that this would never be something we would consciously be guilty of, but what do our actions say? How much Scripture is in our preaching? How much time do we give to God's word before we prepare our own?

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1Ti 4:13)

[I say this as a challenge to myself, and to anyone else who will receive it. I don't have anyone else in mind.]


On Darwinism, Creationism and Petitions

There has been a recent petition and counter petition to the Prime Minister that has brought the issues of Creationism and Darwinism to the fore again.

Those who are familiar with this blog will know that I have posted on the topic of faith and science and Darwinism in particular several times. Check my archives under "faith and science" if you want to see what I have had to say.

In this particular case I have not signed the petition. Not because I don't have strong feelings on the subject of faith or science - as a Christian with a first-class honours degree in Physics, I care about both - but because the petition is primarily about faith schools. Something I am ambivalent about. It is people who have faith, not institutions. I did not attend a faith school, and I don't know much in the way for or against that would persuade me to petition the Prime Minister about them. People should have the freedom to make up their own minds on scientific theories and the claims of Jesus Christ, regardless of what type of school they attend.

The original petition, despite its emotive wording and obvious atheistic bent, basically said that creationism should not be taught as science in schools. This may come as a shock to some, but I actually agree with that statement!

Don't get me wrong. I believe absolutely that the Universe was created in a literal seven days by the one true living God as revealed in the pages of the Bible. But I believe this not because of any scientific theories I have studied, or which school I attended, but on the basis of my own personal faith in Jesus and in the authority of the word of God.

Simple logic dictates that if the Genesis account is true, then the act of creation was a miraculous act by the hand of God himself. It can no more be explained by science than how Jesus rose from the dead, walked on the water, or turned water into wine. To attempt to come up with scientific explanations for the miraculous acts of the divine hand is both foolish and futile.

Faith and science are not enemies, but they are distinct. Faith should be taught as faith, and science as science. They are not mutually exclusive. When did you last hear the argument that Shakespeare should not be taught at school because it is not scientific? The Genesis account does not need to be scientific to be true. Nor does it need any scientific bolstering to make it more acceptable. It stands on its own merit.

The opposite side of the scale is where the problem with Darwinism lies. I don't have any problem with evolution being taught in schools. Indeed how can you argue against what you are ignorant about? There is much good science bundled up with Darwin's speculative nonsense about the Origin of the Species. Where the problem lies is when it is presented not as theory but as unquestionable fact. It then crosses the line from science into dogma.

Having said all that the counter-petition is worded well, and is careful to promote the teaching of creation rather than creationism. But it doesn't change the fact that both these petitions are primarily about faith schools, and concerns about them setting their own scientific curriculum. If you care deeply about faith schools then by all means sign the petition, but if you don't then don't feel obliged to respond in a knee-jerk way. Save your energies for the real battle.

"Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honour as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." (Isa 8:12-13)


Upward Sparks

Most people know that lightning is a massive discharge of electrical energy from the heavens to earth. It's power is so intense that it momentarily heats the air in the path of the surge hotter that the surface of the sun! This causes the brilliant flash we see as lightning and the shock-wave through the air we hear as thunder. In actual fact they are one and the same event but because light travels so much faster we see it essentially instantaneously, whereas the sound takes a while to catch up. Roughly four and a half seconds for each mile travelled.

But not many people know that a lightning discharge also, almost always, involves a small discharge upwards from the earth before the main strike occurs. These upward sparks are known as "positive streamers".

What happens in a lightning storm is that the base of the thundercloud accumulates a massive negative charge as electrons are knocked off the rapidly ascending ice particles in its core. The earth underneath the cloud is thus positively charged with respect to the cloud-base. The earth and the cloud-base become like the two terminals of a giant battery, super-charged with energy.

As the energy in the cloud seeks to find a way down to the ground, the energy in the ground is also seeking to find a way up to the cloud. Think of them like the jump-leads attached to the two ends of the battery. When the leads touch, that's when the sparks fly!

The interesting thing is, that whilst it is the heavens that holds all the energy, it is released in response to an "upwards spark" from the earth.

I was thinking of this yesterday in connection with prayer. These "upward sparks" are a wonderful illustration of how God uses our prayers. All the power is his, but he chooses to release the awesome power of heaven in response to these little "upward sparks" of prayer send up from the earth!

Our prayers may not seem like much, but all the power of heaven is waiting to be discharged in response in a way that will connect heaven to earth, and make an impact that will be felt for miles.

[If you would like to see a picture of one of these upward sparks, have a look at this picture, and look carefully at the telegraph-pole on the left-hand side of the main lightning strike]



Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. (Romans 16:15)

I have been doing a bit of reading into New Testament Greek. I bought myself a book on the subject, which, geek that I am, I'm finding fascinating! I'm only on chapter 4, so I'm still a total novice, but I'm already finding helpful insights as a result.

Take the name Philologus in the passage above. Never meant anything to me before, but as I read it yesterday, I thought, "What a great name!"

[This is where I show off] It comes from two Greek words: philos, meaning friend and companion; and logos the Greek word used for both the Word of God, and Christ himself as the eternal Word in John's Gospel. So Philologus literally means Friend of the Word. [I double-checked my amateur Greek at Studylight, and was gratified that I got it right.]

You can see why I thought it was such a great name. One that should apply to all of us who belong to Jesus.

We are friends of the Word. Walking in companionship with God's written word. Walking together because we are in agreement (Amos 3:3). Spending frequent time in the company of the Scriptures. Going to them for advice and council and support. Being familiar with them as with a closest friend.

We are friends of The Word. Walking in companionship with Jesus himself. Walking together because we are in agreement; my will submitted to his. Spending frequent time in his company. Going to him for help, advice, council and support. Being familiar with him and what pleases him, as with a closest friend.

But Philologus doesn't just mean The Word is my friend, it means I am the Word's friend! How amazing, incredible, and mind-blowing is that. We can be friends of the Scriptures because they are living and active, and our lives, if we are submitted to them, testify to their eternal truth. And we are friends of the eternal Logos himself, Christ... because he says that we are!

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)

What awesome privilege it is to be a philologus.


Baby comes back from the dead

This news story from the BBC caught my attention!

I have been listening to the news a lot lately, and so many stories are bad news of loss, tragedy, war and hatred. Stories involving children can be especially heart-wrenching. So it was so uplifting to come across this wonderful, miraculous story of tragedy turned into joy.

All good things come from God. Though he isn't mentioned in this article, everyone involved acknowledges that it was a miracle!

I wonder who was praying