All good gifts are sent from heaven above

A wet spring and a hot summer have meant that Britain has enjoyed one of the best harvest seasons for many years. Dry weather in late August enabled farmers to harvest many of their crops and gather them into their barns. They have been able to “make hay while the sun shines!”The autumn harvest is also very good. British apples are sweet and colourful because the warm summer weather has increased the sugar levels in the fruit.

In many churches harvest thanksgiving services are being held. They remind us that “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above.” God has made this little planet on which we live a place of wonderful abundance. The past 100 years have seen a massive growth in world population; from 2 billion in 1927 to more than 7 billion today. Yet despite this massive growth more than enough food is produced around the world to feed everyone. In Britain the major supermarkets offer a bewildering variety of foods from all over the world.

It is so important to be thankful for all that God gives us. This is true whether we have a lot or a little. Real life and happiness is not found in having wealth and lots of “stuff”. Children and adults who have everything may learn the value of nothing. Sometimes those who have least are most appreciative of what they have. When my wife was in hospital for an operation there was an elderly lady in the bed opposite hers. One day my wife noticed that the lady was not able to reach the food that had been left on her bedside table. She went over and offered to help her. As my wife held the cup the lady sipped the soup and said “O that’s lovely, thank you so much!”

I have met Christians in very poor countries whose daily life is very simple, but who are a great example to me in the wonderful spirit of contentment they display. Each day they pray to God, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It is a prayer we can all pray. Day by day God does provide our needs. We can bring all our anxieties for today and for the future to him and ask him to provide – and he will. God is also able to give us a spirit of contentment. The apostle Paul wrote, “If we have food and clothing, with that we will be content.”

Am I my brother’s keeper?

As long as I can remember I have watched the excellent programmes about the natural world made by David Attenborough. Modern photographic equipment and colour television have enabled David to show us the wonders of God’s world in an amazing way. The pictures are often stunning and David’s commentary has popularised the Darwinian theory of evolution. Believers in Darwin’s theory find no place in their thinking for the living God. Everything has come about by natural causes. Impersonal “nature” rules supreme, we are on our own. When we experience problems, whether personal or global, there is no one to help us.

Sir David is now 87 years old. In a recent interview he starkly expressed the logical outcome of evolutionary thinking. He is deeply concerned about increasing world population and the problems associated with it, especially famine. He said, “If we do not control population, the natural world will.” He believes that sending flour bags to starving people is “barmy”. Famine, in places like the Horn of Africa, is the result of there being too many people and not enough land. He believes that the increase in world population means that human beings are “a plague on the earth.”

When we believe in the living God, who created and sustains the heavens and the earth, our perspective is very different. When God first created men and women he blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” As human beings we are responsible for the way we use the abundant resources God’s has provided on this unique and wonderful little planet. We are also responsible for one another. God’s two great commands are that we should love him with all our heart and also that we should “love our neighbour as we love ourselves.”

The increase in world population is a great challenge to us all. We are responsible both for God’s world and for one another. God’s amazing love for the people of his world has been revealed in Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let is not love with word and tongue but with actions and in truth.”

The heavens declare the glory of God

The Voyager-1 spacecraft has become the first manmade object to leave the Solar System. Voyager was launched on 5 September 1977 to study the outer planets. It completed this task in 1989 and has just kept going. It is now 12 billion miles from earth. It takes 17 hours for radio signals from Voyager to reach earth. Voyager is now moving on to explore interstellar space. It will not approach another star for nearly 40,000 years, even though it is moving at 100,000mph. Transmissions from Voyager will stop in 10 years when its plutonium power sources are expected to run.

In December 1968 Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. The three astronauts were the first people to see the earth as a whole planet and were filled with awe. As they orbited the moon they read from Genesis, Chapter 1.

Bill Anders began, “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.’In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.’

Jim Lovell continued, “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Frank Borman concluded, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.’ And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you on the good Earth.”

The earth is the Lord’s

In 2007 the BBC reported that a scientist in the USA, Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, had forecast that by the summer of 2013 the Arctic would be ice-free. Other scientists agreed with this forecast, which was based on super-computer models. This summer 20 yachts tried to sail the Northwest Passage, which links the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. All these vessels are presently stuck in the ice because the Northwest Passage has remained ice-bound and impassable all summer. The Arctic ice sheet has grown this summer by a million square miles, an increase of 60% on last year.

In the Bible we read of the sufferings of Job. He was a good man who experienced great personal tragedy in his life. The book of Job records his struggle to understand why these things had happened to him. His so-called “comforters” told him his sufferings were God’s punishment on his sins. Then God appears to Job and answers his questions by asking him questions. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”

Then God highlights all the amazing features of the heavens and earth which he has created, including ice. He asks Job, “From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?” Job’s humble response to all God says is, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes see you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

This wonderful universe was created by God and he continues to uphold it in his perfect wisdom. Despite everything people do which is environmentally damaging God’s creation remains amazingly stable. The understanding of the greatest of men is very small and partial. Early modern scientists, encouraged by their faith in God, were conscious of “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Like Job, we, too, need to find God in the perplexing experiences of our lives. He is gracious and compassionate and very kind. Sometimes out of the pain and struggles of life we come to know God’s presence and comfort in a new way.

The joy of the Lord

Someone has said that Jesus never met an unimportant person. Large crowds of ordinary people followed him and gladly listened to his teaching. His life was very busy, but he was always ready to spend time with people and to give them his undivided attention. When sick and needy people were brought to him he healed them all. He never turned anyone away.

There is a danger that we lose sight of Jesus behind the outward ceremonies of formal religion. The Christian faith is not about the institutional church, but about Jesus. Christians love and follow Jesus. He is unique. His life and teaching have made a life-changing impact on people from every nation in the world. Because he is a living Lord and Saviour he is still transforming lives.

A wealthy Muslim lady living in the Middle East had a Christian friend. One day she asked her Christian friend to tell her about Jesus. The Christian lady was interested to know why this Muslim lady, who seemed to have everything, wanted to know more about Jesus. Her friend explained that she had a Filipino maid working in her house. Every day, as the maid went about her work, she sang and was obviously very happy. The lady had asked her why she was so happy, and the maid told her that she was a Christian and was singing about Jesus, who was her Saviour and Lord.

When we experience the love of Jesus he fills our hearts with new joy. This is true whether we are an A-list celebrity or just one of the billions of ordinary people who live in this world. Christians love to sing about Jesus and his love for them. A modern hymn expresses the joy of knowing Jesus as our Saviour. “In Christ alone my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song. This Cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease, my Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand. No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life’s first cry to final breath Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand. ‘Til He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”