It was just a normal day in the prison. The jailor at Philippi was quite enjoying listening to the prisoners singing and giving praises to their God. He felt his heart strangely warmed.
Suddenly without warning there was a violent earthquake. The earth shook and the prison doors flew open. He realised what this meant. The prisoners would escaped and his life would be forfeited as punishment. In desperation he drew his sword to end his life. Suddenly an authoritative voice said, ‘Don’t harm yourself.’ Falling down on his knees he begged. ‘Sirs , what must I do to be saved.’
If Peter and Silas hadn’t been singing and praising God there would have been no time to witness as the earthquake struck. This conversation couldn’t have taken place. The jailer wouldn’t have had the chance of salvation.
I have recently had two biopsies on my leg. Although the stitches have now been taken out and the places are healing well there is still a slight soreness. By applying a healing ointment the treatment of my leg will soon be just a memory.
It reminds be of the state of my soul. God needs to scour out from my heart the sin that resides there. It is a painful business. Habits have to be changed, certain ways abolished and a fresh start made. But God doesn’t leave me with sore places, He uses His healing balm to heal and restore. The result is that my heart and soul are in a better place, the place that He wants them to be.
At critical times in our lives it seems that secular words fail us; we need a touch of the divine. In times of national disasters, the country holds services and times of prayer, no doubt attended by many who never darken the doors of a church. But nevertheless it meets a need.
‘Lord, if You act, I promise …..’ No doubt this is a promise which will never be kept but it shows that earthly promises are not sufficient. When one of the Chinese women of Gladys Alyward’s acquaintance was being attacked and abused by Japanese soldiers, she cried out repeatedly, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,’ Her attacker fled at at the sound of that name.
Sadly, that same name is often used as a swear word. ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear.’
Following on with the thoughts of the influences of Christianity in our lives today, I turn to music. The tradition of Christian music still has impact on our lives today.
‘Amazing Grace’ is the most recorded song ever (yes, it beats I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas!) I didn’t know but it has featured in the films Star Trek, The Wrath of Khan and the TV Simpsons series. The hymn has been quoted by President Barak Obama and other people of note.
Another well-known and much-sung hymn is ‘Abide with Me.’ Even I have been known to stand at football matches with tears running down my face.(Maybe the tears were for the state of my team rather than my faith!). But I also have used it in time of need and meant every word.
When thinking of Christian music, we mustn’t forget Handel’s ‘Messiah’ which is an example of music and Biblical words merged together. To hear it played and sung at the Royal Albert Hall in London stirs the soul.
It has been researched that there are 257 phrases used today in the English language which have been taken from the King James Version of the Bible. ‘At our wit’s end,’ ‘escape by the skin of your teeth,’ ‘eat, drink and be merry,’ ‘all things to all men,’ .I could go on , 253 still to go. At a recent church quiz each team was given 20 phrases and had to choose whether they came from Shakespeare or the Bible. Oh dear, I’ll only say that our team didn’t come top!
The first written words in the English language were created by the religious orders when the country converted to Christianity in the 6th century. The Bible is still the top of the best-selling list, though sadly some surveys choose not to include it in their lists.
One book, over 1,200 years in the making, many authors, poetry and prose, the best book that this world affords – the Bible, the God-breathed and inspired word of God. Nevertheless we don’t worship the book, we worship the author – God.
Containing 66 books, we read of God’s love, the history of the Israelites as well as the life of Jesus, wisdom literature, prophecies, apocalyptic writings along with psalms, lamentations, poetry of the deep longings of the heart. We learn of the life of Jesus and His disciples and the doings of the early church
It’s amazing how up to date the Bible and Christianity is. Our system of numbering the years is fixed by the date of the birth of Jesus – BC, AD. Many of our modern festivals are rooted in the Christianity. Valentine’s Day is a saint’s day, Pancake Day was a time of using up luxury food before Lent, Halloween had it’s roots in All Hallows Eve and Christmas Eve was All Saint’s Day or Hallowmas.
What a story! One book which tells us about before the beginning of time, through to the present and on to eternity. It can only be the Bible. The story tells us of a time when the ‘earth was formless and empty’ and the time when God prepared ‘good works for us to do.’ This book explains to us about banishment, servitude, wandering and rebellion.
The Bible also tells us of the coming of Jesus to die for our sins and the chance of our redemption and restoration. At the end we can read of the city of gold to which we are welcome.
We are grateful to those who gave the Book to us in our own language and to those many languages round the world. In my country we get the book for a few pounds. Now that’s what I call getting your money’s worth.
‘In my Father’s house are many mansions.’ (today we say rooms) God will be the ultimate and supreme host and will welcome us home. There won’t be any leaving times or curfews; it will be for ever and ever. I can’t get my head round this. The party will go on and on.
Like everyone else I don’t know exactly what heaven will be like. I don’t know if there will be a feasting or dancing or resting or partying. What I do know is that because I acknowledge that Jesus died for my sins, I will be welcome, very welcome. Our tiny hospitalities in this life will fade into insignificance in this great and wonderful welcome.
There was a great famine in the land and Elijah was in need of food. God directed him to go to Zarephath in the region of Sidon. The widow was down to her last handful of flour and a little olive oil. Nevertheless she was willing to share with this man of God. Her generosity was repaid as the flour and oil didn’t run out during the whole time of the famine and later Elijah restored her son back to life.
Our reward for generosity is not always so evident; sometimes the reward will not be until heaven. But do we give unstintingly and begrudgingly? Do we give the best cake or most expensive glass of wine? Jesus told us that giving in His name even a glass of water was special. When I nearly fainted the other day, I was given a glass of water by a concerned hairdresser. As far as I know she wasn’t a Christian, but my glasses of water are given in the name of Jesus.
Zaccheus was an unprepared host. When he thought he was just climbing a tree to see Jesus, he ended the day throwing a party for Jesus and his friends. That hadn’t been his plans for the day at all.
We too will get unexpected guests. Will it matter that we haven’t tidied the house or our hair isn’t combed. Fortunately I have the reputation that if anyone appears on my doorstep they are invited for a cup of tea. Often they have to rush away but sometimes my visitor has had a need to talk and unburden themselves. It is so much easier over a tea or coffee.
I don’t want to be like an acquaintance of mine, when I heard she was ill I knocked on her door. ‘Don’t bother me, I’m watching the soaps on television.’, she retorted. I didn’t even risk visiting her again.