Take a look at our special Christmas 2020 issue.
"Alive!" is a bi-monthly topical evangelistic tract, which has been published by STP since the 1960s. The present editor is Gordon Smith from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Good news: Jesus rose from the dead!
by David Anderson
Alive! magazine is written to present you with some significant facts about Jesus Christ, which include His resurrection, celebrated each Easter Sunday. The major points about the Christian good news are stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5:
- that Christ died to deal with our sins in the way the Scriptures required.
- that He was then buried.
- that He was resurrected on the third day as the Scriptures had prophesied, after which He appeared to many disciples on various occasions.
His life was not taken from Him by others (see John 10:17-18). After three days in a tomb, Jesus rose again from the dead,
“It is true! The Lord has risen.” (Luke 24:34)
If Christ has not been resurrected, the Christian message and the Christian faith are both worthless. And if Christians only have hope in Christ for present-day living, they are the most miserable of all people (see 1 Corinthians 15:14 & 19). So, when the annual Christian pilgrimage arrives on Easter Sunday morning at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem for their traditional Easter service, they will not find the body of the Lord Jesus in it! Rather, they know the opposite is true. Hallelujah, Christ is risen!! He is the living One, who died, but who now is alive for evermore. Most importantly, He is the One who has the keys of death and Hades.
“I am the living One … I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).
When I went to Israel a few years ago on business, I’d forgotten about it being Passover time (or Easter, as we call it). I was therefore most surprised when, on the first day of Preparation for the Passover, the 4-star hotel I was staying in served up unleavened wafers for breakfast on paper plates and with disposable utensils. You see, I wanted the opposite to be true — that Israeli tourism would cater for western visitors — even though I knew the Rabbis dictated the prevailing Jewish culture. In this respect, I was just like the disciples on that first Easter morning. On numerous occasions, they’d been told the facts by Jesus, but the reality did not sink in. They were shocked by the news they received,
“He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6, NKJV)
What does Easter mean to you? Have you forgotten its real meaning, or do you not believe it to be true?
The Silver Watch
by George Stevens
Have you heard the tale of the silver watch? No! Well it runs like this. Harry was a fit lad who had been training for his community’s sports day. He trained hard because his heart was set on the silver watch which was the prize to the winner in his event. The day came and went. So did the silver watch! Harry had been outstripped by a couple of others in his race. He was pretty miserable. However, he hoped to be cheered up at another event — his imminent birthday. The day soon arrived. When he opened his presents, he was absolutely delighted because the gift from his parents was a silver watch!
Salvation is like this! There are many people who strive for it, but their efforts prove to be fruitless. Salvation is a gift that comes from God. He purchased it for us by the death and resurrection of His own Son. What a cost! If you have been trying to please God by your own works, repent and come to Him expressing your faith in HIS work. Accept the gift of eternal life and go on to love and serve Him. The Bible says,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Furthermore, it says:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
by Ernie Bartlett
In a certain town, there was said to be a statue of a lamb, in stone. A visitor to that town enquired of the significance of the statue. One of the locals related the story: “A workman was working on that high building behind you, when he lost his footing and fell”. The visitor interrupted and asked, “Did he die?” “No,” the local man replied, “He was badly bruised and shaken up, but he survived. By some miracle, a flock of sheep was passing at the same time and the man fell on one of the lambs, which was killed. In recognition of this, the locals clubbed together and had this stone lamb made.”
In the Bible, lambs are often mentioned. Under the Jewish religious system, they were used in sacrifices. For example, when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering, his son asked
“‘Father … The fire and wood are here … but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son’”.
Abraham bound his son, and put him on the altar and was about to kill his son;
“But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven … ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy … Do not do anything to him …’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son” (Genesis 22:1-13).
When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming down to the River Jordan to be baptized he declared
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The account of Abraham and Isaac illustrates what God has done for me and you, in sending His Son, Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God – to die instead of us on the cross.
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
You remember what those men did in appreciation of the saving of their fellow citizen from being killed: they built a stone lamb. Will you not, in appreciation for what Jesus Christ has done for you, ask Him to be your Saviour and with His help live for Him?
Check it, don’t chance it!
by D. Tyson
Quite often when I’m watching the television I try and use the time when the adverts are on to make a cuppa, do the washing up or any other little job I can fit in before the next bit of the programme starts. Probably; like most people, I find some adverts really irritating – I may have seen them several times but still can’t remember what they’re supposed to be advertising!
There are a few that I quite like, either because they’re clever and witty or because they’re amusing. One advert in particular appeals to me and it appears in different versions, but with the same catchphrase, ‘I wish I’d checked…’. One example of the advert pictures a family in a car in the dark in the middle of nowhere with an owl hooting in the background and the Satnav voice saying ‘You have reached your destination’. This is followed by the driver saying, ‘I wish I’d checked the Satnav!’ Another version shows someone in a very energetic exercise class with a voice in the background saying, ‘I wish I’d checked the timetable’. A third version shows a child’s climbing frame which has collapsed, with the message, ‘I wish I’d checked the instructions’. The final slogan of the advert (which incidentally is for a credit card company) states, ‘Check it, don’t chance it’.
When I’ve watched this advert, I’ve thought of another ‘Check it, don’t chance it’ warning which comes from God Himself It has far more serious and long-lasting consequences. We can read about this in the Bible. Like the television advert, this warning comes in different forms and, like the advert, is portrayed in different ways to emphasise the point. For instance, in one place we read,
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23)
and, in another,
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews .9:27).
(When I researched this verse on Google, I found the following explanation ‘Death is appointed, and you are no exception. You only die once, and death is not the end; it is your destiny’s door.) This is something we all know, even if we don’t like to talk about it – Death is unavoidable. This might be stating the obvious but it’s strange that most people live as if death is unlikely! This verse also states clearly that, in spite of what many people convince themselves, death isn’t the end, it’s just the gateway to our future destiny.
The third example of the adverts (the climbing frame) quoted above has the tag ‘I wish I’d checked the instructions’. I feel that this comment could be easily applied to many of us. God has given us instructions as to how we can function properly, live life to the full and escape His judgment and punishment for the wrong things we have done. I know that many people don’t accept this (God’s judgement) as a fact, but make no mistake, if God says it’s going to happen, it will happen:
“I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Isaiah 46:10).
You only have to read through the Bible and see other events that God says were going to take place, which have already actually happened([*]); to know that His word is reliable and that what He says is going to happen will happen. The Bible clearly states that ‘the wages of sin is death’. That is, the consequences of our doing wrong and ignoring God is death.
Like the people in the adverts, we can choose to ignore the instructions (or warnings) but we will have to face the consequences of doing this. Are you willing to take that risk or wouldn’t it be better to check out the instruction book [the Bible] and find out for yourself what God says about life and death. The verse in Romans, also stated ‘… but the gift of God is eternal life’. In other words, we have a choice – life or death. We can choose to ignore the warning or we can take up the offer and accept God’s gift of eternal life. There are many verses in the Bible which tell us how to do this – John 3:16; Romans 10:9.
God is our Creator so he knows how we’re made and what we need to make us live and function as He planned and designed us, similar to the climbing frame scenario. In fact, when Jesus was talking to His followers He told them that He’d come so that they (and we) could live life to the full (John 10:10).
So let’s not chance it but find out for certain, by reading the instruction book (the Bible) what life is really all about!
[*] see, for example, the details of Jesus’ birth which were written about hundreds of years before He was born e.g. (1) Micah 5:2 showing that He would be born in Bethlehem; (2) He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; fulfilled in Matthew 1:20-23); (3) Zechariah 9:9 predicting that He would enter Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey (fulfilled in Matthew 21:8-11), and many more.
It’s a boy!
by Gordon Smith
As we approach Christmas, there are many things that come to mind. For me, it is of a baby boy being born. Strangely enough, it’s not as you would expect, the story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem but, over thirty years ago, my own son was born just before Christmas.
It had been difficult for my wife, as she had been confined to hospital for months beforehand. She had had previous difficulties and was under medical supervision. As the pregnancy progressed we were increasingly concerned, both for her health and that of the baby. As the Christmas period approached it was decided by the doctors that, although the baby would be some two months premature, it would be better for both mother and baby if they delivered the baby by Caesarean section. He was ‘born’ a couple of days before Christmas. He was very small – not much heavier than a bag of sugar – but otherwise healthy.
During the months before his birth and the first couple of months afterwards, there was concern by family and friends for this tiny baby boy. He was in a modern hospital with all the latest technology to ensure he had the best possible chance of surviving his early entry into the world and eventually grow up as a normal child.
We had no idea how things would turn. We had been informed that premature babies tended to take longer to develop physically and may always be smaller than babies that went full-term. All the usual questions flooded through our thoughts: Would he be all right, knowing many premature babies have breathing difficulties? Would he always be smaller than average? What did life hold for him? As well as many other concerns. We had no idea what was ahead for him, or us, and it is no different for most babies that are born. No-one really knows what life holds or how long their life will be.
I come now to the Boy who was born over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. So different in many ways: His birth had been foretold centuries before (Isaiah 9:6), even the place where He was to be born (Micah 5:2). Not only His birth but so many other aspects of His life and also His death had been foretold (Isaiah 53:5-7).
There were no arguments or discussions about the Boy’s name. God had told His parents that He was to be called Jesus. The name meant Saviour (Matthew 1:21).
He was not born in a well-equipped maternity ward with medical attendants, but in a stable attached to a house in the town of Bethlehem. Only His earthly father, Joseph, was with Mary when He was born. He was wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in an animal feeding trough for His cradle. There was no record of other family members descending on the place to congratulate the happy couple. The only visitors late at night were a group of local shepherds who made their way into town, having been told by angels. They found the stable and bowed down in front of this new-born Baby.
A year or so passed by and some strangers arrived from far away to the East looking for this Baby (Matthew 2:1). They had read the prophecies and had followed all the signs, including a star God had provided for them to follow. There was no doubt in their minds who this Child was: He was the One born King of the Jews. Their gifts told more of His future: Gold for a King, frankincense for a Priest and myrrh to point to His death.
For the ensuing years, this Baby grew through childhood and adolescence into manhood as the carpenter’s son, but at about thirty years of age, not much younger than my son is now, He started to fulfil the work that was set out before Him. He was to bring salvation to mankind through His work. For three years He demonstrated by His words and the miracles He did that He was from God, but not only that, but He showed He was God’s Son.
After three years of His ministry, He went up to Jerusalem and was rejected by the people, by the religious and by the political leaders and was put to death on a cross (Luke 23:33). Those close to Him – His chosen disciples – were frightened, scared and confused, and seem to have forgotten that this was the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Long before He was born, it was prophesied that He would die. The descriptions that are given in Psalm 22 and Isaiah chapter 53 indicate the way He would die – on a cross! Strikingly, that method of execution was unknown in Palestine until the Romans came and conquered the country.
When Jesus was born it had been foretold how He would live and how He would die, which is unique. It was foretold that His cousin John the Baptist would preach repentance and would announce Jesus’ to the world, as is recorded in the Gospels (Luke 1:76-79), but there are few other prophesies about John. All through the Old Testament there are references to the Saviour who would come. There was really no excuse for those who had read the scriptures not to recognise who Jesus was.
My son is now 30 years old and at each stage of his life we have had little idea what was to happen. Due to much prayer, he did not suffer any of the usual consequence of being a premature baby. Rather than being smaller than average he was the tallest in his year at school and is now over 6 feet! Whatever we considered to be in his future, it was not until he was well through his schooling did his pathway show direction. For the last 13 years he has been working as a chef. What the future holds neither he nor we know what awaits.
There was a point in his life where he made the decision to trust in the Lord Jesus as his Saviour. In the light of that, the natural worry of concerned parents for their offspring is significantly reduced.
Remember, the baby Boy born in the stable in Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is the same Person as He who preached through Galilee, performed miracles and died on the cross so that He might be the Saviour of the world. He knew what was before Him and obedient to His God and Father, He went to the cross to take away your sins and my sins.
You have no idea what life holds for you, but there is One who does – Jesus Christ. Why not put your trust in Him this Christmas and know there is a place for you, with Him in heaven?
by Ernie Bartlett
This is a true story: Some time ago my wife and I spent a few days at a Kentish resort and, on the final day, we went to a restaurant for a meal. After the meal, we went to the counter to pay the bill, but was told, “There is nothing to pay”. A couple who were there before us, and also left before us, had paid our bill. This was a complete surprise. The restaurant proprietor had a vague recognition of the customer, but was unable to name or identify them.
Many people are trying to pay for the most expensive gift, that God offers mankind, the gift of eternal life. It can never be bought; it can only be received as God’s free gift to us. The hymn writer – Augustus Toplady – puts it like this:
“Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil the laws demands,
Could my zeal, no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and Thou alone.”
The good news is this, that Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins when He died for us on the cross. Some 2,000 years ago, He came specially to die for mankind, because whatever we could do was simply not good enough. The reason is stated by the apostle Paul,
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:.23)
Our problem is twofold. First we have a sinful nature which we have inherited from our first parents (Adam and Eve) and secondly, as a result of having a sinful nature, we practise sin, even the youngest of us. A babe will throw its rattle over the side of a pram. It’s said you don’t have to teach a child to be naughty, because it’s in our nature to be disobedient.
For man to try to make amends is futile. You may improve human nature up to a point, but however we improve ourselves, we all fall short of God’s standards. Our greatest folly is in rejecting what God has done for us, through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So what have we got to do to get right with God? Simply accept what God has done for us, and accept from Him the gift of eternal life by believing in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ (He paid the price for us on the cross). We should show our gratitude to Him, by accepting His offer of forgiveness, by believing on Him, and by living in this world for Him. Can you say with the apostle Paul,
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)?
by George Stevens
During the First World War (1914-1918) opticians were employed to test the eye-sight of soldiers. When required, spectacles were provided for them. Often, however, many of those soldiers, so used to seeing blurred images, threw the glasses away. They felt uncomfortable in a sharply focussed world. “Foolish!” we might say; but when it comes to seeing the truth of God, then very often we prefer to remain blind.
The truth of God is often called “light”. In one of his letters, the apostle Paul wrote
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Furthermore, Christians are encouraged to walk in the light. John writes in one of his letters,
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
On the other hand, Paul also writes,
“The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
If we put our trust in Jesus as our Saviour, He will take away our sin and allow us to see clearly the reality of God and trust in Him day.by day.
How’s your eye-sight?
Book of the Dead
by Ernie Bartlett
In ancient Egyptian history and mythology, a ‘book of the dead’ was written, or more correctly, carved onto the sarcophagus (stone coffin) of each Pharaoh, or painted on the walls of the tomb, when he died. Later, following the discovery of papyrus, it was written on this early form of paper and placed within the sarcophagus. Each book was personalised, so while the same aspects would be covered, the instructions were the same, with minor variations. The first was discovered in about 1842 and was dated between 1306 and 1187 BC.
The most important part of these books illustrates the dead man being led down the hall of Osiris (god of the afterlife) by the god Anubis. Upon reaching Osiris, the man must make a declaration of innocence and deny any wrong doings to assure Osiris that he led a decent life. He was then allowed to continue on towards the realm of the blessed.
In the religion of ancient Egypt, the mythology indicates that after each person dies they will have an opportunity to give a defence for their actions in life, appealing to the deity for approval, like in a modern court of law. We need to make a decision before that point, that is, during our lifetime!
The Bible teaches that people are
“… destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
In that judgment,
each of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:12),
as our lives are reviewed. The Bible says,
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened … The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12).
Which one of us could say we are innocent and have never done anything wrong? The truth is we all stand guilty before God. God knows this and He has made provision for each of us, by sending His Son, Jesus, to be our substitute. The Lord Jesus died a shameful death on a cross so that we could be pardoned and live in eternity with a holy God.
But there is something we all have to do: acknowledge God’s love by admitting that we all have sinned and thank the Lord Jesus Christ for suffering for us. If we do this our names will be written God’s Book of Life. Make sure your name is in that book and seek His help each day to live for Him.
Vital Victorian Bible Texts
by David Anderson
Earlier this year, I gave a talk about Abraham at a church family service. It was based on Genesis ch.16, the story about his concubine, Hagar, who was pregnant with his child. When she ran away from her mistress, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, Hagar met the Angel of the LORD at a well.
“She [Hagar] gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [ the well of the Living One who sees me]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered” (Genesis 16:13-14).
I interrupted what I was saying to ask the adults in the audience, if and where they had seen the text, “You see me” before? No one gave me an answer, but when I changed the text to the King James Version, “Thou God seest me”, some of the older Christians immediately recognised it. But, still no one was able to say where it can be seen nowadays. That was, until I prompted them to think about the pitmen’s cottages at the nearby Beamish Open Air Museum. The text is displayed there on some of the living room walls. I then asked what other Victorian religious text might still be seen in the North East of England. Again, I had to provide the answer –
“Prepare to meet thy God!” (KJV Amos 4:12).
Both texts are displayed on items in the Sunderland Pottery section of the city’s museum. I have also seen “Prepare to meet thy God!” on a bill board in a field adjacent to the A1 in Yorkshire!
I pointed out that generally people of the 19th and early 20th centuries were God-fearing. The two texts were used to remind everyone that God always sees what you do (and hears what you say or think) and that every one of us will, one day, meet Him.
“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God’” (Romans 14:10-12).
The real issue for us living in the 21st century is, Do we recognise these texts are God’s word to us in today’s world? That is, in them God is speaking to us in the same way as He did to Hagar all those centuries ago.
Hagar was shocked when she met the Angel of the LORD. Was she shocked when she realised that God did actually see her, or, was she shocked to discover that He did actually care for her? I would suggest both. Are you concerned that God sees and knows all about you? And do you know that God cares for you, even though you sin against Him? The Gospel is about God sending His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for your sins – that’s how much He loves everyone in the world! (John 3:16). Are you willing then to repent of your sins and to let the Lord Jesus save you from them?
It is a sad fact that some people don’t believe that God actually sees them; and some people would like to think that He doesn’t exist. They say; in effect,
“The LORD does not see us” (Ezekiel 8:12).
But the psalmist asserts,
“Does he who fashioned the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?” (Psalm 94:9).
God always sees us, and He wants to save us! He is the Saviour God,
“who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:4-6).
Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (Anglicised edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). UK trademark number 1448790.