Dark days indeed

The book of Judges is one that does not really jibe with today’s idea of preaching. There are occasional sermons on Gideon and Samson but the rest of the book is a bit too unsavoury for modern sensibilities.https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c5/68/8a/c5688a95f61e32158b524a6438e79493.jpg

There are several horrible events graphically recorded in this book and perhaps we wonder why the Holy Spirit inspired the inclusion of these sorts of stories in scripture.

If nothing else this book portrays humanities sinful nature when not governed by the fear of the Lord. It shows what unrestrained evil does in a society where “everyone does what is right in their own eyes”. The repeated turning away from God and subsequent suffering and horror caused are examples for us of how faithless and fickle we humans can be:”There but by the grace of God go I”. It also shines a spotlight on the faithfulness in God to His promises and as a deliverer.

The heroes in the book of Judges are not always what they could be. They are often faithless, flawed and yet all the same mightily used of God, leaving us without doubt that God can use anybody to fulfill His purposes.

The prevailing darkness and sin rampant in the time of the judge’s contrast with the persistent grace of God who works righteousness and prevails against sin and has in Christ dealt with it making it possible for sinners of deepest dye to become a new creation.

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Sons of light

In 1 Thessalonians 5 the Apostle Paul says this,But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are told what we are to be and what we are to do about it.

The world is in darkness. It likes the dark because it can then do what it likes seemingly unseen. It claims enlightenment for itself and as well as exalted principles, but behind the scenes it is all sin and degradation.

Christ who came into the world as the true light received the world’s hatred and condemnation.

Those few who fled the darkness and came to the light became in turn “lights” in the world and so it remains to this day despite all Satan’s efforts to the contrary.

Because the believer is to be a light bearer certain characteristics must be seen in them to maintain the light burning bright.

Watchfulness first and foremost,

All we encounter in the world seems to be calculated to quench the light of Christ we radiate.

Soberness, not just the abstaining from excess of alcohol but a serious and stable attitude. We are to be self mastered and self controlled. To appraise the situations we find ourselves in and react and speak in ways worthy of our high profession and example for others to follow.

Paul also tells us we need to put on Faith, hope and love. As in Ephesians 6 these things are like armour which protects us from the “Darts” of the enemy, we really need daily to put them on.

The wonderful promise to all the children of light is that salvation and to dwell eternally with Christ is there hope and reward.

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Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.

J. Oswald Sanders

Dark days indeed

The Good old Days!

Ezra 3:12 says this “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:”

There were probably various reasons for the weeping of the older people at this time. Whether it was because of the past guilt which caused the destruction of Solomon’s temple: or Sorrow at the poor state of the Jews and the reduced size and splendour that would characterize this temple, or some other reason, we cannot be sure.

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When I remember what church use to be like when I was younger I sometimes feel sad at the state we find ourselves in today.

There is no doubt; we older people have the tendency to say that things were better in the good old days. Many of today’s problems are the same as have occurred in times past in the church. The difference was there was sufficient preaching of the Word to counter the tendency to error and shallow superficial worship.

While older more traditional churches are in decline there are other churches seemingly bucking the trend.

My question is how many of these churches are more show than substance? How many are compromising the preaching of the gospel. How many are blindly following the latest worship trends? All for the sake of attracting numbers at any cost.

We expect the world to resort to spin and hype and marketing strategies. Like Hollywood and Las Vegas we know that most of its splendor is just tinsel and gaudy finery. They tell people what they want to hear when the church’s role is to tell people what they need to hear.

In times past they thought they needed grand cathedrals and buildings to promote the church and its message. Now they think we need entertainment and gimmicks to do the mission which would otherwise wither away. Like Uzzah our well meaning attempts to prop up the ark are punished rather than rewarded. When we intrude worldly means and methods into Christ’s church we are as good as saying we know better than He does.

 

The people who think the church has lost something vital to its true existence may be in a resented minority but we all need to ask ourselves is the church doing God’s will in God’s way and for God’s glory.

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How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Acts 10:38

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“I think the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it—His Word. He alone has the power to change lives for eternity, and that power is focused on the Scriptures.”
R.C. Sproul,R.C. Sproul

 

 

The Good old Days!

The Second Day

 

 

The Sabbath day following the crucifixion is a blank as far as recorded events are concerned. The tomb is sealed and the guards are at their posts.

The women who would have otherwise finished the embalming process were restrained by the need to observe the Sabbath day rest.

“They rested on the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” Luke 23:56

What a day of unrelenting gloom that day must have been for Jesus’ disciples? How great was the guilt many of them felt for their desertion, especially after such vows to remain with Him to the end? Peter more than any of them must have been inconsolable.https://pastorjeffgunn.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/2250146746_d90bcbb8b8_b.jpg?w=825&h=510&crop=1

I wonder if they attended the temple services that day or even the synagogue? I wonder whether there was any comfort in the Jewish religious service with its sacrifices and rituals? I wonder whether the Rabbi at the synagogue had an encouraging message of hope to give? Without Jesus, these things were very hollow. He had brought heaven’s light into their lives and now that light was gone.

The truth was their faith had failed them, but Jesus had not.

The resurrection

By contrast the day of Christ’s resurrection is full of to- ings and fro-ings of appearances and directions given. A day of good news received with disbelief and amazement.

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Those who have tried to harmonize and time these events have had their work cut out for them.

The fact remains, the tomb is empty, Jesus was not only seen and heard but was touched. He even ate before His disciples. This was not only in and around Jerusalem but in Galilee as well. Not just to a few but sometimes to large numbers.

The great attestation to the resurrection is the fact that these discouraged believers remained believers despite all Jew and Gentile could do to stop them.

Do we belong to their ranks?

The Second Day

Behold the Lamb of God!

Sad to say the world’s idea of “Easter” betrays the same ignorance as its understanding of Christmas.

 

For the Church the real reason behind Christ’s death and resurrection often becomes blurred by those who would rob it of its sin atoning, propitiationary meaning. They make Christ’s death purely exemplary and make it mean that nothing more than the willingness to sacrifice self for the good of others. The tendency is to say God is waiting for man to return home and the death of Christ is merely a sign of God’s love. While there is truth in these ideas, these theories do not address what the Bible actually says.

The only satisfying explanation of the death of Christ is that of the problem of man’s sin. We see the justice of God and the love of God both at work. We see the sinner’s punishment exacted on the innocent holy Son of God become man as substitute and surety for him. We see the love of God in not sparing His own Son the death of the cross for sins not his own. We see sin punished to the full and yet the guilty spared: even more they are clothed with a perfect righteousness through faith in Christ’s sacrifice.

We must ever maintain the biblical teaching for the reason for Christ’s death on the cross. We must not let anyone rob it of its eternal significance.

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The End?????

I have no doubt that everyone who reads this article has a picture in their mind of what the scene was like at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. We have pictures and films and the scripture narrative to give our mind’s eye a small sense of this , to human eyes,  tragic scene.

A noisy boisterous crowd, jeering priests and religious officials, cruel desensitized soldiers and a few sympathetic sorrowing mourners. Whoever else was crucified that day, all attention was on one man.

This self style “Messiah” has gone too far, he had to be got rid of. They would have preferred to have done it quietly but they had to take the opportunity to seize him when it came. Shame it was at the Passover when Jerusalem was at its busiest.

Even at the end when the nails pierced his hands he had prayed for his killer’s forgiveness but this could not evoke the least compassion from those who had arranged it.

True he had faced this shameful death with courage and fortitude even making future provision for his mother.

Perhaps he realized his self delusion when he cried “My God, My God why have you forsaken me”. His crying out for a drink surely proved that he was just a man. Yet at the end he cried out “It is Finished”. It seemed the cloud that had passed between him and the Father was gone forever.

There was something more  than a mere man’s death here.https://i1.wp.com/www.jimkeelingministries.com/BaileyEyes/Jesus-Painting5.jpg

Darkness like nothing seen before enveloped the whole scene. This dying Jesus promised “Paradise” to a repentant fellow sufferer.

At the moment of his death the earth shook and the rocks were rent asunder. Even a battle hardened centurion saw something divine in this dead Galilean.

He was dead, the Roman spear in his side proved that beyond a doubt. He was entombed and sealed in. This was the end.

Yet!

They had not heard the last of this man.

 

Behold the Lamb of God!

A bottle of ink

 

It was said of Martin Luther the great reformer than one day when the Devil was making a nuisance of himself that Luther threw a bottle of ink at him. He literally did this by writing scores of books and other writings against the Adversary and all his works, especially in the Roman Catholic Church.

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In a documentary I saw on “Coca Cola” it said that the primary marketing aim of the company was that they wanted their product within arm’s reach of everyone on earth. They wanted a person to be able to reach out their arm and be able to obtain a can or bottle of Coke.

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The same aim could be given to the Gospel of Christ. If only a non Christian could reach out and touch someone who would bring them the message of Salvation. If only in every school, factory, office and sporting club there were Christians seeking to tell others about Christ. Not only here in this country but right around the world. Something we should all pray for!

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A mixed multitude

 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children.  A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. Exodus 12:37-38

Then the foreign rabble that was traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. Numbers 11:4

 

These were  people  who tagged along with the children of Israel when they departed Egypt . How many of them were in sympathy with the religion of Israel or the God of Israel is not told us.

It seems from the second reading that whenever there was murmuring and complaining they were the ring leaders, carrying many of the people of Israel with them.

This problem exists in the church today. There are people who attend the church, are members and even leaders, who have no real interest in the spiritual purpose and task of the church. To them it is nothing more than a pastime they inherited from their parents. They seek earthly prestige or position by being well respected by “good people”.

Perhaps it is in the hope of fame or fortune and gathering multitudes of followers that they wear the mask of Christianity. Sadly others use it as a sort of insurance policy against death.

Others may have a genuine desire to help the poor and displaced and see the church as a good way to do this. Yet  when it it comes to the preaching of the Word and the saving of souls they are not interested.

Stills others sit under the sound of the gospel, maybe for years and are none the better for it.For some people their “christianity” extends no further than a sunday service.

Sometimes when the church does its duty and stands by God’s word they complain of the church’s intolerance or old fashioned ideas. They say the Bible had its use in the past but that day is past. They are the blots on the church landscape.

We may not always recognize these people. They may appear sincere and true. It is only when you get close that they show their true colors and the danger they pose.

Rather than look around to locate who these people are, we must look at ourselves and determine whether we are not one of them.

A bottle of ink

Gideon

Mentioning the “Odds “in a previous article made me think of the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. From a human perspective the odds were certainly against him. Too many of his people were content to cower down before the might of the Midianites. Gideon himself was not overly willing to take God’s promise of deliverance at face value. He asked for miraculous evidence that God was on His side: which God graciously gave him.
When Gideon did gather an army of 33000 men, God told him to send all but three hundred home.
Gideon faltered a bit here but having entered the camp of the enemy by night at God’s bidding, he hears a man recounting his dream of impending defeat. Gideon doubts no longer and even by the unlikely means of torches, jars and trumpets puts the enemy to flight, the hand of the Lord spreading panic among the foe and giving victory.
We can all be like Gideon in our doubts and fears in the midst of overwhelming odds. We all find ourselves in circumstances which are too much for us and beyond our control. It is here faith in God is put to the test. Now the promises of God are “cashed “from the chequebook of the bank of faith.
God will keep his word to keep his people in the midst of and deliver from the trials and tribulation they face every day.
We should store up these mighty deliverances in our memories so that they can comfort us in future difficulties. We remember the help we received in the past and know that God will carry us through now and in the future.

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Ye are God’s building — All hands of the glorious Trinity are at work in this building. The Father chose the objects of mercy, and gave them to the Son to be redeemed; the Son purchased redemption for them; and the Holy Ghost applies the purchased redemption unto them.

Gideon

Whats the Hurry?

But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” Daniel 12:4
I have often said in the past that the Bible is always topical. It speaks to every age and situation.
This particular verse describes the times in which we live very well. Knowledge is increasing in leaps and bounds and people travel distances and at speeds that were unthinkable in the past. People rush here and there often for no particular reason other a restless spirit.


Today we have a thirst for knowledge as never before and yet the knowledge of the one thing needful goes begging. We make elaborate travel plans but make no preparation for the journey we all must make.
The believer gets rushed along by this frenzy of effort. No one wants to look as if they are standing still.
The believer needs to remember that God and not the world sets the pace and dictates the goals for their lives. Whatever we do yields precedence to His will.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matt 6:33
A person who lives in Darwin always knows a visitor from the southern states by the rate they walk and move at. The hotter climate tends to slow and relax the pace of life.The Christian lives in a different climate than the non christian. It should be seen and have an effect on their lives and attitudes.
The Christian works as hard as anyone else to accomplish what they set out to do. They seek to be always learning and growing and better in every way. The difference lies in the motivation and attitude they take to these pursuits.
For the believer, God’s glory is the end in all we do, or should be. God does not make drudges of His people. He does not want them Martha like to stress and strain and rush about in panic. We so often forget the importance of communion with Him. Instead of wearing ourselves ragged we are to rest in Him.
The world wants us to run, but God want us to walk; with Him.

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“You will never find Jesus so precious as when the world is one vast howling wilderness. Then he is like a rose blooming in the midst of the desolation, a rock rising above the storm.”Robert Murray M’Cheyne

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Whats the Hurry?