bitter … sweet

honeycomb
Honeycomb

Many atheists will agree that being labelled as religious, doesn’t make something beneficial. Zam Zam water is sacred to Muslims, and comes from a spring in Saudi Arabia. It is thought to have health-giving properties, but according to BBC London illegally imported Zam Zam water has recently been found to contain arsenic and other impurities. Tests also show that it came from the same source as its legal counterpart.

Hamas in Gaza recently condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden, describing him as “a modest man and a Muslim warrior.” Yet he was responsible for many Muslim deaths, not least at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Religion can be harmful or beneficial depending on the system of belief behind it, and whether religious people act in accordance to those beliefs.

Although we must never ignore injustice, how refreshing it is to bypass religion for a moment and seek to know our Creator, many of whose attributes such as beauty, intricacy, power and design are clearly seen in nature itself. Yet far greater than these physical qualities is the depth of love and relationship that can be experienced as we draw close to the One who loves us deeply, who has given us guidelines for successful living, and who one day wants us to spend our lives in that place where we can experience His power, beauty and love for all eternity.

However, there is a closing date to God’s offer that will be different for each of us. We don’t know when it will be. All we do know is that we have this present life in which to receive God’s free gift of love, forgiveness and eternal life, as Paul the apostle wrote: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Millions around the world have come to know their Creator in a personal way, and have discovered, like the psalmist, the sweetness of that relationship. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)

This has nothing to do with man-made religion; it’s all about going back to the source, and when that source is Jesus, it’s both pure, strong and sweet.

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Let’s Pretend

Dressed as a princess
Let’s Pretend!

At some stage in our lives, and particularly as children, many of us have played at dressing-up; big hats, big shoes matching our equally large imaginations. We dreamed of who we could be, even who we would be one day. Sadly some have never stopped pretending. As adults their self-worth is based on the opinions of those around them. So they project an image of confidence and stability when really everything is falling apart, or a carefree image of fun and laughter when deep down inside there’s only sorrow and heartache. Sometimes our problem is a complex one for which there are no easy answers, possibly the result of past hurts caused by others who were responsible for our care; but for many the answer is to know and understand one’s true value as an important member of the human race.

You are not an accident! Your existence is not a chance meeting of two bits of jelly in your mother’s womb, or the random consequence of a chemical soup existing billions of years ago. You are special! Unless you are a doctor you would be hard-pressed to understand the physical processes that are going on within your body, but even the most experienced doctors could not create you from scratch. You are a miracle! And although some like to claim “Once I’m dead, I’m dead!”, our character, our emotions, our abilities, our sense of justice all point to the fact that I’m more, much more, than just flesh and bone.

The ancient scriptures remind us we have a creator, one who planned our existence that we may play our part in this world’s story, and may come to know him personally, this Divine Power who knows us through and through, even from before we were born!

King David, the greatest of the Hebrew kings, was well known for putting his thoughts to music. Much of his work is preserved today in the ancient “Book of Psalms” or “Tehillim”. In what has become known as Psalm 139 he describes the intimate relationship between the Creator and his Creation.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. … When I awake, I am still with you. … Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139)