Your e-mails- April 2021

JG writes: “Will God forgive all sins we commit in the future, including sins we do not confess and sins we do not realise we have committed? And what about sins we deliberately commit?” This is the second of two questions on the crucial subject of sin and forgiveness. You can find the first question at THE DEATH OF the Lord Jesus Christ is effective to forgive sins for those who are in a covenant relationship with God. In the last issue we saw that the key requirements for forgiveness are: • understanding and believing the Gospel as revealed in the Bible • repentance • baptism (by immersion in water) • and then a life lived in harmony with God’s commandments. But what happens if we continue to sin after our baptism? More Sin, More Grace? When God forgives sins it is an act of ‘grace’—undeserved favour. It seems

Does Prayer Work?

THERE WAS A LARGE GROUP of them gathered together in a house, but this was no party. None of them smiled; some looked frightened and it was clear that they hadn’t slept for some time. They had come together to pray, and had been doing so for hours. Sometimes they prayed in silence and sometimes one of them tried to put into words what they were all thinking. It was the middle of the night. When the knock came, they all froze. After a pause, a girl went to see who was there. Before she could open the door, she heard a familiar voice from outside. Instead of opening up, she dashed back to the others waiting in the house. “Rhoda, what is it?”, asked one of them. She was grinning from ear to ear and could hardly speak. “It’s Peter!” she gasped. The others shook their heads sadly. It couldn’t

Born Free

‘BORN FREE’ is the name of a real-life story by a couple who raised an orphaned lioness cub to adulthood then released her into the Kenyan wilderness. The book was made into a film, whose title song chimes with a deep-seated human desire: “Born free and life is worth living, but only worth living ’cause you’re born free.” Not everyone has freedom. Those who enjoy it should value it. At the inauguration of US President Joe Biden on 20th January 2021, the poet Amanda Gorman described herself as a black girl descended from slaves. In his address President Biden himself referred to two people concerned about freedom: Martin Luther King who is perhaps most famous for his 1963 speech about his ‘dream’ of ‘freedom and justice’, and Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Declaration of 1863 ultimately led to the abolition of slavery in the USA. Lincoln had said that this was

The Governor’s Memoir

Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor who sentenced Jesus Christ to death. This is an imaginary memoir, but it is based on the facts as we know them from the Bible and archaeology. The Bible verses are given for reference. You can catch up with Part 1 here. Part 2 IT WAS LATE morning when they returned from Herod’s palace. I heard the babble of the crowd outside; my secretary informed me that the prisoner was waiting. I strode into the Praetorium, and there he was. He was wrapped in the remains of a long gilt robe of purple and scarlet (Luke 23:11). There was an air of jollity among his guards, they smirked and winked. I grinned, and my henchmen chuckled. “It’s the king of the Jews!” I pronounced, and they guffawed. I instructed my secretary to send a message of congratulation to Herod. I’d never before trusted the

The Purpose of Life

SOONER OR LATER each of us must ask ourselves—does life have a purpose? Some conclude that life is just an accident; that history is a tale told by an idiot; the only golden rule is “do to others before they do to you!” Morality is then simply a question of “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (as the Bible succinctly puts it in Isaiah 22:13). There are many people who profess this view as the purpose of life, but it strikes me as a shallow and unreflective answer. It’s actually preached more often than consistently followed, because its adherents are usually quick to talk about ‘justice!’ and ‘fair play!’ and ‘my rights!’ when they feel themselves to be hard done by—as though the moral standards which do not apply to them should nevertheless apply to others. Humanism A more thoughtful answer to our question is the ‘humanist’


HABAKKUK WAS a prophet of God at the time the Babylonians were attacking Judah, around 610 bc. The prophet was perplexed: why did God appear to let wicked nations like Babylon prosper—and even be allowed to punish God’s people (1:3)? God’s answer was to show him that despite present appearances He has a plan which will one day triumph and bring blessings for the righteous: “I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you…” (Habakkuk 1:5). Vision Of The Kingdom From the watchtower on the walls of Jerusalem (2:1), the prophet was enabled to see forward across the centuries, to the time when the wicked will cease. Then “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). Chapter 3 contains a “prayer of Habakkuk” (v. 1), which is in

Vengeance Is Mine

IT WAS DUSK, so I stopped at the side of the road to fit my bike lights. Suddenly another cyclist came hurtling around a blind corner, swerved to avoid colliding with me, spat something abusive about my stopping in a stupid place, and pedalled off along a footpath under a sign that said ‘No cycling’. My impulse of course was to give chase, catch up with him and explain, forcefully and by means possibly involving pushing him off his bike, that actually it was he and not I who was in the wrong. That however would have been the wrong thing to do on many levels, and it’s certain that no good would have come of it. Retaliation One of the most basic human urges is to retaliate when someone wrongs you. It feels natural and right to get your own back. One of the most difficult things Jesus Christ