A quick online search for “strongest material on earth” results in a storm of websites listing Graphene as number one. Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon 200 times stronger than steel. One engineer said that It would take an elephant balancing on a pencil to break a sheet as thin as Saran wrap. Incredible when you think about it isn’t it?
When I think about the strongest man in the Bible my first instinct is to think of the mighty Sampson. Called and gifted by God, Sampson displayed some miraculous feats of physical strength. Yet for me, another man jumps to my mind when it comes to a different picture of strength, and that is Job. Job’s integrity as a faithful servant of God withstood some of the most painful personal hardships that one man could ever face.
Job 1:1 (NIV): “This man (Job) was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. The whole book deals with the realities of suffering and righteousness, something many christians continue to struggle with today. Verse one of chapter one describes Job as “blameless”, not necessarily sinless. Romans 3:8 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord.” Job’s integrity and devotion to God was tested through the unfathomable loss of his family; his good health was stripped from him and every material thing he had was taken away. In the midst of all these things Job utters these words, “he tests me — I shall come out like gold” (23:10)…“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (42:5).
We are given a picture of Job’s integrity in heart, soul and mind as we read his story. There is no doubt in my mind that Job struggled with sin in his life, he was human just like you and me. His story tells us that his suffering was not because of any sin that he may have committed (despite what his “friends” try to tell him). Job’s integrity came out of his fear of God, it was an attitude of respect, obedience and upmost trust that guarded his integrity of heart from failure.
Job’s life, his experiences, should not drag us down, it should build us up with hope as we continue to live in a world filled with suffering and injustice. It has the power to encourage and inspire each of us in our own lives. This life of integrity lived by one man is and has been a model for many generations of believers.
Have you ever used a pinhole camera? The pinhole camera is one of the most basic cameras you can construct with only a few materials. This simple camera works on a basic principle of light and dark, how a small amount of light shining into a dark box through a hole made by a pin can create an image, an image of something much larger. The pinhole acts as a lens similar to that of a regular camera only on a much smaller scale.
The book of Lamentations is not an easy read. It is filled with passionate expressions of grief and sorrow. The author of Lamentations voices his deep concern and disappointment for the sinful acts committed by the people of Jerusalem. Their direct and open acts of disobedience to God’s word has unleashed the promised destruction of their city. God brings the gavel down and serves the people with his mighty hand of justice. The author records the destruction of the temple and the suffering of the people, “The enemy laid hands on all her treasures; she saw pagan nations enter her sanctuary” (the Babylonians ransacked the temple before burning it down). “In fierce anger he has cut off every horn (power) of Israel. He has withdrawn his right hand (his presence, power and protection) at the approach of the enemy. There was a darkness and feeling of torment that fell over all of those who disobeyed God.
Lamentations 3:22-24 reveals the “pinhole” that casts a light of hope into the darkness of the fervent laments of the author. In the middle of his discourse he changes his perspective by focusing on the hope that he still has in the Lord. “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” Through the “pinhole of light” we have the picture of God’s everlasting promise of goodness and compassion. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail.” (3:22). This pinhole of light (salvation) comes from God. As hard as it is to read through the deserved sorrow and despair of those before us, we can learn from their actions and suffering. Today, with the same hope (because we serve the same God), we have to wait patiently through our own suffering and expectantly look forward to the salvation that we have been promised in Christ.
I’m not sure I have met anyone who enjoys waking up to the sound of an alarm clock. If you are old enough to have had one of the “old school” bell ringing alarm clocks, you will recall that they have only one volume, and that is LOUD. Today most of us have digital alarm clocks on our bedside tables and alarms set on our digital devices to wake us up or remind us of an important task. No matter what you use the alarm for, it is a wakeup call, a reminder of something important.
The book of Revelation is much like an alarm clock, it is a “loud and dramatic” wakeup call, a reminder of the reality of how great and powerful our God is. It is a wakeup call to the church to hear, understand and respond to the truth and message of the gospel. God’s message through John to the seven churches is quite clear as you read through the first three chapters of Revelation. “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die… But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” John is revealing the words of Christ to us, the church, proclaiming a future judgement over all the earth. There is a profound sense of hopelessness and despair when we read John’s revelation the churches.
Where can we find hope in such a fallen world? Through Christ. In Christ. He who stands before us calling each and every one of us to him. There is a promise of victory in the future for those who open their hearts and lives to him. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (3:20) “Consider how far you have fallen, repent and do the things you did at first.” (2:5) The church, the believers then and now exist in a world filled with sin, hurt, pain and suffering. Christ is calling us back to a restored relationship with him. He made the ultimate sacrifice and provided a way for all of us to overcome sin and judgement when he returns. The book of Revelation brings us a picture of future blessings, given by a God who is just in all his ways, who is true to his word and a God who is the final judge in life and death. The alarm is ringing, wake-up, open the door and let God be by your side.
There is a complex and somewhat exhaustive explanation of why oil and water do not mix together. If you were to check in with your local science expert they would use terms like immiscible, density and mass to explain the chemical properties of each liquid. On a very basic level most everyone knows that oil and water do not mix, they both have inherent qualities that make them incompatible.
Paul writes to an audience of believers in Rome that have come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour through the ministry of men like himself and others. Written into Paul’s letter to the Roman believers is a myriad of incredible truths that give instruction and motivation to live vibrant and faithful lives as Christians. Paul’s written message was a reminder to the people about the power of sin and deception that is persistently trying to lead them away from a proper relationship with God. Sin, and our sinful nature have the ability to create conflict between living by the ideals of the world compared to that of God’s call on our lives to live a life holy and pleasing to him. This conflict is much like that between oil and water; Life in Christ (the water), dose not mix with life in the world (the oil). Although the two can coexist together, the both have their inherent qualities that make them incompatible.
The power to overcome sin comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Through Him we have access to His Father in heaven. Paul writes these words in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our hope comes from the Lord through the work of the Holy Spirit when we allow him into our lives. Hope is an anticipation, a confident expectation (faith and trust) in the promise that God will fulfill his promise of eternal life with him. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (8:24-25). For all the many earthly things that we have in this world they cannot and will not fulfill the promise of something better, they are only temporary. A question I often ask of myself is this, is my hope overflowing in a way that it spills out so others can see? God provided a way for joy and peace in life and that comes through his Son, a joy and peace that fuels our hope. The power of hope in Christ over shadows the power of sin, it separates us from the world.
Often, when something is near impossible to find we use the term “like finding a needle in a hay stack.” This aptly describes the extreme difficulty of locating something that is well disguised by its surroundings. I can’t help but think of Waldo, the little guy in the red and white striped shirt and matching hat who is hidden among other similar colored items and people dressed the same. These well designed puzzles can drive a person crazy trying to find Waldo, the thing to remember is that he is always standing somewhere.
Filled with words of lament from Jeremiah (also known as the weeping prophet) the book of Lamentations portrays the broken heart of the prophet over the destruction of Jerusalem and the brokenness of the people who have turned away from God. Jeremiah’s passionate expressions of grief and sorrow instill feelings of desperation, fear, loneliness and hopelessness. Brought to his knees, Jeremiah, amid all that is happening around him shows us a small but powerful spark of hope that keeps him from spiraling further into the full presence of darkness. “The Lord is good to those who’s hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” (La 3:25). God’s promise of rescue and comfort to Jeremiah,(Jer 1:8) the promise of love, is what Jerimiah put his hope in. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (La 3:22)
Jeremiah found hope in the Lord because of His great love. The Apostle Paul expands on this great love in 1 Corinthians 13 saying, “love never fails… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Under the protection of God’s love Jeremiah put his hope and trust in Him for a better future, a hope in moving forward to better place in life. God, who was and is in full control over all his creation longs for each and every one of us to find hope and comfort in his love. This reminder of God’s sovereign power through the judgement over Jerusalem stands as a critical reminder that, in the busyness and of life we must continue to live a life according to His will. Jeremiah’s life and experiences model for us the incredible power of confession (crying out to God), forgiveness, hope and love. Therefore, have hope in life. Live in obedience to God’s will because of His great love for you.
You have probably heard the statement “in one ear and out the other”, this implies the person or people you are talking to are in the room and for whatever reason your words or message didn’t sink in. This might seem like an odd question but have you ever tried talking to a brick wall? Brick walls don’t listen. In fact, your voice, the words you speak will bounce back from the hard surface and come back at you like a “slap in the face”. Brick walls are not only hard to break down, it is even difficult to put a hole in one so you can reach the other side.
At times, I think Jeremiah felt like he was talking to a brick wall. The people God had called him to speak to had built up walls with their own “brick and mortar”, materials that were not up to God’s standards. The people chose to ignore the words that God spoke through Jeremiah, “they did not listen or pay attention” (17:23) “These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words” (13:10). Jeremiah knew for the most part what he was up against from the time God called him into this role, 7:27 says, “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” When we continue to read through Jeremiah we see the other half of the picture. Jeremiah was beaten (20:2), left for dead (38:6), called a liar (43:2) and again, threatened with death by the priests and prophets (26:11). Not only was the “brick wall” Jeremiah facing not listening it was “fighting” back, growing in strength and height as he pursued his calling to prophesy God’s impending judgment on the people if they did not repent and begin to follow Him.
Jeremiah had every reason to run the other way, to throw in the towel and let the people deal with God’s wrath on their own, but he had one very good reason to stay, and that was God. When we see God as our all-powerful (sovereign) Lord and King through Jeremiah’s story we get a glimpse of how God provided for all of Jeremiah’s needs. Knowing exactly what he needed and when he needed it and ultimately how much his mortal mind and body could handle, God walked alongside Jeremiah through all the trials that he faced. Jeremiah put his hope and trust in God to carry him through as he promised (1:8) Just as God worked through the life of Jeremiah to reach a lost and wandering nation of people He calls us to do the same. God created this world and all that is in it. As his people we are commanded to “go out into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. (Mk 16:15) Breaking down brick walls and reaching into the lives of the lost so that they may come to know God in all his power and glory should be our goal. It is our responsiblitiy to live in obedience to his will, it is what He desires.