Blog June 15th “Is God Good- Part Six”?


Mustard Seed Songs’ first album ” I Look Up To The Heavens” which included the song “In Times Of Trouble”

 

“In Times of Trouble” featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “I Look Up To The Heavens” recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

Today I was going to give an update on all that is happening with Mustard Seed Songs but I am going to delay that for one week as I read something on Tuesday, again in an “Every Day With Jesus” devotion written by Selwyn Hughes, which I thought would be a good post script to his thoughts that I have been recently sharing on “Is God Good”?

So here is an extract taken from his devotion “Guaranteed.”

So faith has the opportunity to grow in situations of ambiguity and uncertainty. Anyone can have faith when the sun is shining and there are no dark clouds in the sky, but what happens when storms come and we are pounded by the winds of hardship and adversity? Well what we should not do is pretend that we are not stunned by them. If we are not stunned by them then fine, but if we are then we admit we are. There is no shame in this. God will not fall off His throne because your faith has been rocked.

When C.S. Lewis’ wife died of cancer, this is what he wrote about the spiritual fog in which he found himself: “Go to God when your need is desperate, when all other hope is in vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that silence. You might as well turn away. One writer said that Lewis’ words at that time were blasphemous. No he wasn’t being blasphemous, he was being real. Lewis did not turn away, in fact he came through the experience with God’s help and readers of Lewis’ works came to hear a new note in his writings. The story of how he found God in the midst of his pain has become a classic account of how faith can, not only survive, but thrive in times of despair.

Are there some dark clouds in your life at the moment? Hold on. When you come through the time of difficulty, you will find there are more muscles in your faith that you could ever have thought possible.

Quote for the week

“Turn setbacks into springboards – obstacles into opportunities”.

Every Day With Jesus

Blog June 8th “Is God Good- Part Five”?


Lucy Stimpson Maynard (who co -wrote “Restore Us Lord God Almighty”) at a Mustard Seed Songs concert with James Oliver on cello

Restore Us Lord God Almighty ( Shearsmith/Maynard) featuring Lucy Stimpson-Maynard from the album “Where Would I Be Without You”? Recorded and produced by Ross Gill

After a break of a couple of weeks let me please return to continue sharing the thoughts of Selwyn Hughes on the question “Is God Good”? Below is another extract taken from his devotion in Every Day With Jesus – “A Higher Love.”
It is not too difficult to believe that the wounds and hurts we receive in this life are the result of our choices and thoughtlessness, but when we are told that certain things we could label as “tragedies” are brought about directly by the hand of God we feel perplexed or confused.
When Jesus and His disciples were walking on the road they met a man who was born blind. His disciples asked Him “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind”? “Neither this man or his parents sinned” said Jesus but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (“made manifest KJV) Having said this Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud to put on the man’s eyes, and sent him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. When he did so he was healed.
What did He mean- that the works of God may be made manifest? Ah here we are in the presence of mystery. The answer to that is still to be revealed. Theologians struggle to explain how God’s character is revealed through the seemingly bad things that he allows to go on in this world, but no one has found adequate answers. How God works through the wounds, the losses, the suffering and the tragedies that come into our lives is something we will never know fully on this earth. We are big enough to ask the questions but not big enough to understand the answers. And so we groan and we wonder, but in our groaning and wonderment there is really no better context for trust.

Quote for the week

“What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger”.

The Word for Today

Blog May 24th Bishop Michael Curry of the US Episcopal Church.


Bishop Michael Curry of the US Episcopal Church

 

“Love is the Way” featuring Lucy Stimpson – Maynard from the album “Love is the Way” recorded and produced by Bob Ross

I would like to take a short break from sharing Selwyn Hughes thoughts on “Is God Good.”? and also on promoting the now public availability of Risen! The Musical on YouTube (https://youtu.be/wYUX1CQEjoY) The reason for this is that I, like many other millions, was enthralled by the speech of Bishop Michael Curry at the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

Here is an extract:

“And one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said: ‘If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.”‘

“Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead! This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. He died to save us all.

“He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t… he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world… for us.

“That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.

“If you don’t believe me, just stop and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.”

“Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.

“Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.

“Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.

“When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.

“When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.

“When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.

“When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.

“When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children.

“Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well… like we are actually family.

“When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.

“My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.

 

Quote for the week

“You can see further through a tear than you can a telescope”.

Every Day With Jesus

Blog May 17th Risen! The Musical- “One Day A Crown” and “Is God Good – Part Four”?

Risen! The Musical, featuring the London Touring Cast and filmed at the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth will be available on Sunday, May 20th (Day of Pentecost) on YouTube. In preparation we are posting clips from the show and the second featuring “One Day A Crown” is featured today.

Now to continue sharing the thoughts of Selwyn Hughes on the question “Is God Good”? Below is another extract taken from his devotion in Every Day With Jesus – “A Higher Love.”

Why tragedies overtake God’s children is without doubt one of the great mysteries of the universe. Accepting this mystery and not allowing it to sabotage our relationship with God is one of the biggest challenges of the Christian life.

In my early years of being a Christian, whenever trouble or tragedy came my way, instead of accepting it as a mystery I tried to rationalise it. I told myself that this problem or difficulty might not have happened if I had been more careful or if I had been more intent on ensuring that there was no sin in my life. Rationalisation dislikes mystery; it seeks to define it and explain it. When we do this we are really attempting to live comfortably rather than before the “wild, dangerous, unfettered and free character of God.”

One of the most well know rationalisations is that found in Rabbi Kusner’s bestseller “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”. Rabbi Kushner answers the problem “how can a God who is good allow bad things to happen in His world”? by saying that God is all good but not all powerful. He claims that sin has so upset the mechanism of God’s universe that He is powerless to stop bad things happening. His heart is inclined towards us, especially when He sees bad things coming our way, but because of sin His universe has been disrupted and has gone beyond His ability to intervene. I reject this argument, believing and understanding the Scriptures that teach that God is good and all powerful. He could change things – but if He chooses not to, this never means that He is not good. …………..to be continued.

Quote for the week

“The problem ahead of you is never as great as the power behind you”.

Every Day With Jesus

Blog May 10th Risen! The Musical on YouTube and “Is God Good- Part Three”?

 

“Oh Lord Here My Voice” featuring Lucy Stimpson-Maynard from the album “Where Would I Be Without You”? recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Risen! The Musical, featuring the London Touring Cast, filmed at the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth in May 2016 has been broadcast on Revelation TV (UK) Alfa -Omega TV (Romania) and Credo TV (Romania and Eastern Europe). It has also been streamed on Vimeo and now on May 20th (Day of Pentecost) it will be launched on YouTube. In preparation we are posting clips from the show and the first featuring “How Great Are His Signs” is featured today.

Let me now please continue to share the thoughts of Selwyn Hughes on the question “Is God Good”? Below is another extract taken from his devotion in Every Day With Jesus – “A Higher Love.”

We have reflected that Job was a good and godly man yet he apparently lived with an anxiety about what God might allow to happen to him. Something in him suspected that faith in God did not necessarily mean peace and safety. It will help us, I think to live more successfully if we come to terms with the fact that goodness is not necessarily synonymous with safety.

C.S Lewis brings this out most powerfully in “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. The children ask Mr and Mrs Beaver if Aslan the Lion; the King of Narnia is safe. “Safe ? Who said anything about safe”? says Mr Beaver. Of course he is not safe- but he is good.”

Sometimes the stakes in this life are very high, literally life or death. God, says one writer rarely cries out “Cut” just as a dangerous or painful scene descends on us. We would like to picture goodness as synonymous with safety but that is not the reality. And facing reality is the issue. When tragedy next strikes we hold fast to the truth that there is some bigger purpose going in the heart of our perfect God of love. Though it is beyond our ability to understand, it is nevertheless consistent with His goodness and love. Trust is not easy but trust is the only answer…………..to be continued.

Quote for the week

“Learn to let go. Instead of obsessing about what you can’t change focus on what you can influence.”

The Word For Today

Blog May 3rd “ How Great Are His Signs EP on- line sales and Is God Good- Part Three”?

“This Is Not  Heaven” featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “Uplifted” recorded and produced by Bob Ross

First it is my great pleasure to announce that “How Great Are His Signs” the debut EP of the Portsmouth Gospel Choir is now available on- line from https://mustardseedsongs.hearnow.com/
This fabulous Gospel choir were finalists on BBC’s “Pitch Battle” singing with Seal. They also recently performed for the Queen and Royal Family at Westminster Abbey. All proceeds from sales go to building the “Risen Christ Central Chapel” in Southern Nigeria- for more details of this amazing project please visit www.mustardseedsongs.org.uk

And now to continue sharing the thoughts of Selwyn Hughes from his devotion in Every Day With Jesus – “A Higher Love.”

It is futile hiding our doubts about the goodness of God and attempting to deal with them though rationalisation such as believing that problems in life are caused by some sin that they have committed or that God is not able to know everything that goes on all over the universe and that some things happen in His children’s lives that go unnoticed by Him.

Throughout the years I have found grief – laden questions such as: God why did You allow me to be born into a family that gave me no love? Why did You make me like this? Why did You allow so many bad things to happen to me? What will You allow to happen next?

If in the depths of our hearts we secretly believe that God did not protect us from bad things happening to us because He does not love us, then no matter how hard we try, we will fail to respond to His love and live life as God originally designed. Or to put it another way wrong beliefs about God will affect the way we feel about God, for how we think always influences the way we feel. So we have to learn to face doubts and bring them up and out. Living with doubts and fears will prevent us from entering into an intimate and passionate relationship with Jesus.

We are made in such a way that we cannot give ourselves to someone we do not trust. This is a simple, empirical fact. Don’t let yourself be found in the category of those whose Christian lives have been sabotaged on the reefs of inner doubts and distrust………….to be continued.

Quote for the week

“Work as if all depended on you and pray as if all depended on God”

Every Day With Jesus

Blog April 26th Is God Good- Part Two?


Selwyn Hughes Founder and Writer of Every Day With Jesus 1928-2006

Lift Your Hearts To Heavenly Places featuring Lucy Jane Rutherford from the album “Lift Your Hearts To Heavenly Places” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

As I said last week one question that understandably is so often asked is – “If there is a God and He is good – why does He allow so much suffering in the world? There are, in fact no easy answers but in the following weeks I will copy extracts from the “Every Day With Jesus” devotion “A Higher Love” written by Selwyn Hughes of Crusade For World Revival (CWR.) Selwyn’s thoughts will I hope give another view at looking at this most challenging of issues.

We continue exploring the question: If God loves us so much why does He allow so many seemingly bad things to happen to us? What the Christian life all boils down to says a preacher friend , is this – can this love, which God says He has for us be trusted?

A counsellor tells how someone he was counselling spoke about how reckless and unpredictable God seemed to be in allowing tragic things to happen to her. She asked him: “How can I trust a lover who is so wild”?

Walter Bruggeman, and American writer and theologian put it like this: “We live our lives before the wild, dangerous, unfettered and free character of the living God.” Before reading that statement some years ago I confess I had never thought of God in this way. In their book “The Secret Romance; writers Brent Curtis and John Eldridge say that God leaves Abraham with his knife raised and ready to plunge into Isaac’s heart and Isaac waiting for the knife to descend; he leaves Joseph languishing for years in an Egyptian prison; he allows the Israelites to suffer 400 years of bondage under the Egyptians and leaves the same Israelites backed up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s chariots thundering down on them. He abandons Jesus to the cross and does not rescue Him at all. You have to admit that God allows some pretty strange, even startling things to happen to His children. There is no doubt about it – the Almighty’s love for us really is wild…………………. to be continued.

Quote for the week

“Faith does not exempt you from life’s storms but it does equip you to go through them”

The Word for Today

Blog April 20th Is God Good?

 

“My Beloved King” featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “Uplifted” recorded and produced by Bob Ross

One question that understandably is so often asked is – “If there is a God and He is good – why does He allow so much suffering in the world? I have on numerous occasions attempted in this blog to shine some light on this most challenging of topics- the last time being January 26th 2017. There is, in fact no easy answers – just “jig saw pieces” that when put together may help. I recently read in the daily devotion Every Day With Jesus (EDWJ) what I felt to be another helpful “jig saw piece” and so will, in the next few weeks, copy extracts from “A Higher Love.” Incidentally the words on the front of the cover “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers can’t wash it away.” Song of Songs 8:7 are used in the song “My Beloved King” which Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus sings to Jesus in Risen! The Musical. It is today’s featured song.

In today’s extract Selwyn Hughes the author of EDWJ makes it clear how difficult this subject is:

We move on to try to answer the question: If God loves us so very much, why is it that He allows so many seemingly bad things happen to us? I have found this to be the one question more than any other that troubles the hearts of so many. Time and time again I have sat beside a weeping man or woman in whose life something tragic has happened and heard them say: If God loves me why did He let this happen?

We have all lived through events that cause our hearts to ache- at such times who has not cried out: God why did You allow this to happen? Do You really care for me? These are the many questions on which many a soul has been shipwrecked leaving them grounded on reefs of pain and doubt.

No minister or counsellor finds it easy to answer these questions – one man that I know left the Christian ministry because he could not come up with an adequate answer to the question why does God allow bad things to happen to good people. If only we understood His heart more clearly….. to be continued.

Quote for the week

“Start where you are, take what you have and do what you can.”

The Word for Today

Blog April 12th “Resurrection appearances of Jesus- how many were there?”


Jesus meets Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus – from Risen! The Musical Theatre in Education

“Love is the Way” featuring Lucy Stimpson-Maynard from the album “Love is the Way” recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson and Bob Ross

On Sunday at the 6.30 pm Service at Holy Rood church, a question was asked by Rev. Colin Prestige “How many resurrection appearances were there of Jesus”? There were a number of different answers coming from the congregation – I did a quick add up in my head and came up with eleven. Colin said “Close but there were in fact twelve.”
Afterwards I disagreed that it was twelve and Colin and myself exchanged some emails. Colin sent me a link to a blog by Msgr. Charles Pope • April 9, 2012 that records what he believes to be a likely sequence of events. For my suggested eleven appearances I had placed appearances 5 and 6 together and Pope himself states that they are likely to be synonymous.
Incidentally this sequence of events is very similar to that which I chronicled for Risen! The Musical
The Morning of Day One
Very early in the morning a group of several women, including Mary Magdalene, approach the tomb to complete burial customs on behalf of Jesus (Matt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Jn 20:1).

They behold the tomb opened and are alarmed. Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John with distressing news of likely grave robbers (Jn 20:2)

The women who remain encounter an angel who declared to them that Jesus had risen and that they should tell this to the brethren (Mk 16:5 Lk 24:4; Mt 28:5).

They are filled with fear at first and depart from the tomb afraid to speak (Mk 16:8)

Recovering their courage they decide to go to the Apostles. (Lk 24:9; Mt 28:8)

Meanwhile Peter and John have gone out to the tomb to investigate Mary’s claim. Mary Magdalene followed them back out to the tomb arriving before they left. Peter and John discover the tomb empty though they encounter no angel. John believes in the resurrection. Peter’s conclusion is not recorded.

The other women have reported what the angels say to the Apostles. Peter and John have not yet returned and these remaining apostles are dismissive of the women’s story at first (Lk 24:9-11).

Mary, lingering at the tomb weeps and is fearful. Peering into the tomb she sees this time two angels who wonder why she weeps. Jesus then approaches her from behind. Not looking directly at Jesus, she supposes him to be the gardener. Then he calls her by name, and Mary, recognizing his voice, turns and sees him. Filled with joy she clings to him. (APPEARANCE 1) (Jn 20:16)
The other women have departed the apostles and are on their way possibly back home. Jesus then appears to them (Mt 28:9) after he had dispatched Mary. He also sends them back to the apostles with the news that he had risen and that he would see them. (APPEARANCE 2)
The Afternoon and evening of day one.

Later that Day, two disciples on their way to Emmaus are pondering what they have heard about rumours of his resurrection. Jesus comes up behind them but they are prevented from recognizing him. First Jesus breaks open the word for them, then sits at table with them and celebrates the Eucharist whereupon their eyes are opened and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. (APPEARANCE 3) (Lk 24:13-30)

The two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem and went to the Eleven. At first the eleven disbelieved them just as they had the women (Mk 16:13). Nevertheless they continue to relate what they had experienced. At some point Peter drew apart from the others (perhaps for a walk?) And the Lord appeared to Peter (APPEARANCE 4) (Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5) who informed the other ten who then believed. Thus the disciples from Emmaus (still lingering with the apostles) were now told (perhaps by way of apology) that it was in indeed true that Jesus had risen (Lk 24:34).

Almost at the same moment Jesus appears to the small gathering of apostles and the two disciples from Emmaus. (APPEARANCE 5) Thomas was absent (although the Lucan text describes the appearance as to “the eleven” this is probably just a euphemism for “the apostles” as a group) They are startled but Jesus reassures them and opens the scriptures to them (Lk 24:36ff).

There is some debate as to whether he appeared to them a second time that night. The Johannine account has significantly different data about the appearance on the first Sunday evening from the Lucan account. Is it merely different data about the same account or is it a wholly separate appearance? It is not possible to say. Nevertheless since the data is so different we can call it (APPEARANCE 6) (Jn 20:19ff) though it is likely synonymous with appearance 5.

One week later, Sunday two.

Jesus appears once again (APPEARANCE 7) to the apostles gathered. This time Thomas is with them. He calls Thomas to faith who now confesses Jesus to be Lord and God. (Jn 20:24-29)

Interlude

The apostles received some instructions to return to Galilee (Mt 28:10; Mk 16:7) where they would see Jesus. Thus they spent some of the week journeying 60 miles to the north. This would have taken some time. We can imagine them making the trek north during the intervening days.

Some time later

The time frame of the next appearance is somewhat vague. John merely says “After this.” Likely it is a matter of days or a week at best. The scene is at the Sea of Galilee. Not all the Twelve are present. They have gone fishing, and Jesus summons them from the lakeside. They come to shore and see him (APPEARANCE 8 ) . Peter has a poignant discussion with Jesus in this appearance and is commissioned to tend the flock of Christ (Jn 21).

The Appearance to the 500. Of all the appearances you might think that this one would have been recorded in some detail since it was the most widely experienced appearance. Many accounts, it seems, would have existed and at least one would have made its way into the scriptures. Yet there is no account of it, other than it did in fact happen. Paul records the fact of this appearance: 1 Cor 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (APPEARANCE 9) Where did this take place. What was it like. What was the reaction? We simply do not know. Proof once again that the Bible is not a history book in the conventional sense. Rather it is a highly selective telling of what took place, not a complete account. The Bible makes no pretences to be something it is not. It is quite clear that it is a selective book: (Jn 20:30).

The Appearance to James. Here again we do not have a description of this appearance only a remark by Paul that it did in fact happen: 1 Cor 15:7 Then he appeared to James. (APPEARANCE 10) The time frame is not clear. Only that it happened after the appearance to the five hundred and before the final appearance to the apostles.

The rest of the forty days.

Jesus certainly had other on-going appearances with the disciples. Luke attests to this in Acts when he writes: Acts 1:3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.

During this time there is perhaps the one appearance we can attribute to this time period as recorded by Matthew (Mt 28:16ff) and Mark (Mk 16:14ff). It takes place an “a mountaintop in Galilee.” Mark adds that they were reclining at table. For these notes this appearance (time frame uncertain) is referred to as (APPEARANCE 11) It is here that he give the great commission. Although Mark’s text may seem to imply that Jesus was taken up from this mountain, such a conclusion is rash since Mark only indicates that Jesus ascended only “after he had spoken to them” (Mk 16:19).

Evidently Jesus had also summoned them back to Jerusalem at least toward the end of the period of the forty days. There they would be present for the feast of Pentecost. We can imagine frequent appearances with on-going instruction for Luke records that Jesus “stayed with them.” Most of these appearances and discourses are not recorded. Luke writes in Acts: And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4)

The final appearance and ascension:

After forty days of appearances and instructions we have a final account of the last appearance (APPEARANCE 12) wherein he led them out to a place near Bethany, gave them final instructions to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was sent. And then he was taken up to heaven in their very sight. (Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11).

Some also regard another appearance of Jesus to be when He met with Saul (later named Paul) on the road to Damascus some two years later. Acts 9:3-5; 22:7-8; 26:14-16; 1 Cor 15:8

Quote for the week

“Failure is not an event – it is only an option”

The Word for Today