Arguing with God!

In all of God’s dealings with Job, the why’s and wherefore’s, for his sufferings resolved into nothing less than God’ Sovereignty over all. Apart from knowing that God was testing his faith the reason for his great trials remained unknown, at least for the present, to this man of God.

In a much later age, after the Jews had returned from the Babylonian exile, God’s people were perplexed by His dealings with them.

The prophecy of Malachi was the last to be received by the Jewish people before a long silence of several hundred years until the coming of Christ whose coming he prophesied.

It was a last warning to the people and their leaders to change their ways or face the terrors of “The day of the Lord”.Image result for The prophet Malachi

God’s message is delivered by the prophet to the priests who seemed to have a chief hand in the grumbling and grousing. While they bore most of the guilt, there is no doubt a wider application here to the people at large. It was truly said in the past “like priest ,like people”.

It seemed that despite their observation of the form and ritual of God’s temple and maintaining His worship, something was still not quite right. The showers of blessings the people expected to receive from God had not eventuated. God it seemed was not fulfilling His great promises or paying what He owed them and therefore they felt cheated.

God had indeed brought them back to their homeland, yet it was in reduced circumstances, in the midst of enemies and under foreign rule.

The temple and its ritual had been restored and but it was now far less spectacular in comparison to its former splendor. Despite this the Jews continued their round of observances and endured their tediousness with no visible results and acknowledgment by their God.

The returned exiles even if they did not outwardly express it, began to question the reality of God’s love for them and wondered whether it was really worthwhile to worship Him in the face of His seeming neglect to acknowledge and bless their efforts.

It was to deal with this situation that God sent His word by the prophet Malachi. The burden of the prophet’s message was to address this seeming discrepancy and answer the people’s unspoken questions and grumblings.

The Jews in Malachi’s time were really questioning God’s love for them.

In the light of God’s great mercies, deliverances and blessings in the past, why were they now eking out their daily existence and existing as strangers and slaves in their own land.

The foundation upon which the prophet’s message rested was God’s past and continuing love for His people.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?”Malachi 1:2

This love was based on God election of Jacob over his brother Esau based on His own will and purpose.

“Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.”Malachi 1:2-3

(In this day and age when preachers are telling a person that God has a purpose for their life, they should remember that there are more Esau’s than Jacobs in the World.)

When God places His love upon a person it does not fail, the Jewish people were loved for the sake of the Election and choice of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

For us today, our salvation is based on God’s choosing of his people in Christ from all eternity without any regard for supposed merit.

In answer to this declaration of Divine affection the people can only exclaim “How have you loved us?” Where is the proof? Why are we living on crumbs?

For every charge God made against them the guilty parties turn back against Him with a mock surprise as if all was well and God was mistaken and unfair in His charges against them.

What a terrible state of affairs when God’s own people set themselves up to judge Him. Yet how often do we do it still?

Malachi lays the reason for God’s withheld blessings at the door chiefly of the priests, who should have known better, and to the people generally.

It was because of the fundamental lack of reverence among them for God and His ordinances and worship.

The people had so little regard for God that anything would suffice for an offering. Instead of giving their best they gave the inferior and polluted. They regarded the temple service with contempt and exhibited weariness with what should have been “Their reasonable service”.

For us today,this is seen in the unending search by the Churches for novelty, excitement and variety in worship and by congregations being discontented with simple Bible teaching and unadorned worship services.

As a result they are half hearted and lackadaisical in their worship and withhold their best from God’s service until they “get their money’s worth”.

Mostly they go somewhere else where they can find the “spiritual highs” they crave.

There is nothing new “under the Sun”.

It was not only the consequences which befell the Jews as a result of their lack of reverence for God, but it had a far wider aspect in regards to God’s standing and the glory of His name among the Gentiles and unbelievers.

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts”. Malachi 1:11

If God’s own people were contemptuous of His service then the Gentiles would be excused in thinking that The God of Israel was no more than just another deity of the sort they themselves worshipped.

Today if we believe that God’s worship requires “jazzing up”, worldly gimmicks or man pleasing teaching, what does it say of our idea of God? When we spend our time listening to the world and follow its trends instead of listening to His Word, what message does that send to the unbeliever?

Man already thinks he is the be all and end all,

The sinner wants a religion made to his measure. For the church to confirm him in this illusion makes it more difficult for him to ever come to the throne of God and hear the truth about his sinful state and need repentance and the genuine salvation found in Jesus Christ.

For the Believer to give less than his best for the service of God because it does not cater to his fleshly pleasure and desires or result in immediate and earthly benefits is a grave sin.

Our idea of what constitutes a blessing is often coloured by our carnal and worldly perspective.

We are already blessed far more abundantly than our inherent sinfulness deserves. Very often we are far more blessed in what God withholds as well as in what He gives.

For the priests as well as the people, God had a message which he expected to be listened to. He laid before them the alternatives, if they heard and obeyed they would be blessed in the highest and most enduring ways, if they did not listen and disobeyed they could expect more of the same curse only worse.

If anyone could be expected to adhere in faithfulness to God and His commands it should have been the priests. They were the ones who declared God’s truth, so when they went astray the nation was really off the tracks and heading for ruin.

So today, when many notable figures in the church are teachings doctrines foreign to God’s Word and many  follow their lead ,we can expect the same dire consequences unless we remain firmly holding the truth.

There is much in the book of Malachi which repays study and it was appropriate that G.Cambell Morgan entitled his particular work “Malachi’s Message for Today”.Image result for god's name to be glorified wherever the sun shines malachi

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Arguing with God!

Hidden behind the Holly!

King Herod in the gospel narrative sought to disguise his murderous intent to kill the newborn rival to his throne by imposing on the wise men as a would be worshipper.Image result for The manger

Satan, who was the prompter of this desire, still poses as a worshipper of Christ.

As long as Jesus remains the innocuous babe in the manger, he will put up decorations and bury the Christ –child in tinsel and holly.

Satan’s greatest weapon in the world is by misdirection. This he does by taking elements of the truth and transposing them in ways that stops a person from looking at the important thing and make them stare at something entirely different. Thus the babe in the manger dissolves into mere sentiment and is replaced by Saint Nick and glory to God is replaced with good will among men.

The fact is, the coming into the world of the Son of God, born of a Virgin and thus without sin, is a bulwark of the Christian faith. While it is true that it has elements of romance and great beauty, they are subordinate to the overall purpose of God’s redemption of mankind.https://sarasmusings.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/beyond-the-manger.jpg?w=660

While many can see the charm of the Christmas story, few have eyes to see the real wonder of the whole gospel story and the eternal consequence of what we believe about it.

First to last the, Gospel message proclaims the alienation of man from God in sin and transgression, as well as the love of God in condescending to take on human flesh and walk the road which led to the Cross and there atone for sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

There is no scope here for slicing the story up and keeping the bits of it we like. We either take it all or miss the overall purpose and benefit of it all together.

To “Ooh” and “Aah” at the new baby may suffice for most infants but is not enough here.

This particular child and the work He came to do requires a life changing faith and subjection and obedience to our Divine king.

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A Ghost story for Christmas?

There is no doubt that the “Victorians” in England and Charles Dickens especially left their mark on Christmas and its celebration.

The Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future still haunt us year by year.Image result for the ghost of christmas past

We remember what we lost, where we failed and measure what hope still remains.

Tiny Tim’s fate still lies in the balance in many places and Scrooge is yet to be convinced of the need to reform and do his bit for the welfare of mankind.

The gospel according to Dickens is still popular among us because it tugs at the strings of our human nature and appeals to our imagination.

While in his characters we see the darkness of human nature and admire the generosity and fortitudethat can  still be found in many, we cannot seek from Dickens and his writings a real answer to the crying needs and sins of the times.

Dickens’s fiction is no substitute for God’s Word and revealed truth.

Charles Dickens may have highlighted some of the wrongs of mankind but only Jesus Christ can solve the underlying problems of human sin and alienation from the Creator. Only when this solution has been applied and become a reality in the lives of men and women, boys and girls, can we hope for renewal and love to abound.

No “Ghost”, (even if they existed), however well meaning, can substitute for an encounter with the living Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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Hidden behind the Holly!

Survivor: Nineveh!

In most survival stories the recurring theme is that of determination and a never give up attitude.In this particular story, most of these qualities were found not in the Survivor but in the Saviour.

Jonah did indeed show determination, but it was not shown in an act of heroism but in the desire to get away from fulfilling the distasteful mission God had called him to.

We know very little about Jonah: If he were only mentioned in the book of his name we might have been able to consign him to history as an ancient version of Lemuel Gulliver and his travels, and to be just as fictional. However the mention of a fulfilled prophecy by the prophet recorded in 2 Kings 14:25, as well as our Lord’s speaking of Jonah’s mission and miraculous deliverance in Matthew 12:39-41 confirm that he was a historical person.

The reason for Jonah’s flight from the Lord is not immediately apparent from the first few chapters of the book.

The fact that there was a ship leaving Joppa at just the right time and to a place such as Tarshish which was sufficiently far away, may have given the “reluctant” prophet the real hope that he would get away with it and beyond the immediate purposes of God.Image result for a ship for nineveh

Jonah was enough of a believer and devout Jew to know that no amount of distance could take him away from the presence of God; rather he sought to distance himself from the hated city which was to be his mission field.

Shunning the ship’s crew as well as God, the darkness of the Hold and the rocking of the ship sent Jonah soundly to sleep. Yet just as he thought he had succeeded in escaping: God intervened.

God prepares a Storm

One of the recurring themes of this book is  highlighted in the term “God prepared”.

It was so violent that the hardened seaman despaired of life and every man sought his gods. Yet the reason for the storm remained sound asleep in the bowels of the ship.Image result for a storm in the mediterranean

The shipmaster found him and called on him to add his prayer to theirs and the superstitious sailors cast lots to find out who was the cause of this great calamity, the lot falling on Jonah.When this was laid before him he was asked who he was and what terrible thing he had done to deserve such wrath and punishment?

Despite his great lapse from duty into sin, Jonah was a true believer and knew that this peril came from the hand of the Lord God of Israel and was due to his sin.  Jonah’s confession of guilt and belief in God point to a true faith, although under a cloud.

Jonah told them that only way to save the ship and crew, was for him as the guilty party, to pay the penalty of his guilt had to be thrown overboard.

To the credit of their humanity, the heathen sailors made one last effort to row the ships out of danger, but to no avail. They reluctantly and prayerfully threw the prophet into the sea. At this the supernatural tempest immediately ceased.

The Belly of Sheol

God’s mastery His creation is seen again in the “preparation” of the great fish, (not a whale).

As I think I have mentioned before, my friend Reverend Keith Allen, used this event as an illustration that God always provides accommodation, but it is not always three stars.

In the belly of this fish Jonah after his near death experience began to come to his senses and sought the Lord his God.

” Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
    into the heart of the seas,
    and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
    passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
    from your sight;
yet I shall again look
    upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
    the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
    whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
    O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
    I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
    into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
    forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Jonah ch 2 .English Standard Version (ESV)

It is an old saying that “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity” and yet how hard our hearts must be ,if we always have to be at the “last gasp” and “death’s door” before we turn in repentance and faith to our God and Saviour.

“All ashore that going ashore!”

So Jonah found himself in the very city God had called him to go to in the first place, the enemy stronghold of Nineveh capital of the hated Assyrians.Image result for jonah vomited up

The prophet’s message was one of impending judgment and the cities destruction within the space of forty days.

One would have thought this was the sort of message which would have pleased Jonah and his hatred for the enemy. There was no gospel of salvation or deliverance here and no call to repentance. Yet amazingly, from the king downward even to the very livestock, repent is what they did. Based on little more than a vain hope, the Ninevites clothed themselves in sackcloth and hoped  and pleaded for mercy from a god they did not know, and mercy  is what they received.Image result for ancient nineveh

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:10

God’s mercy and Jonah’s anger.

For all his faults Jonah knew his God, he knew that even the outward show of repentance moved the heart of God. Judgment is His strange work and is always stayed by confession and repentance and grace and mercy imparted to the returning sinner.

All this meant to the Patriotic prophet was that the sworn enemy of his own people, (the Jews) was not to be destroyed after all but was to be spared its well deserved condemnation.

He was not at all happy about it.

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.” Jonah 4:1-5

In the hope that God might change His mind again, Jonah remonstrated with Him about the over wideness of His mercy and asked for the death he had only just escaped in the sea. Having done this the prophet took a ring side seat outside the city , built a flimsy shelter, and waited to see what God would do. Image result for jonah and the gourd

Ironically Nineveh had learnt its lesson but the prophet was about to learn his.

The Gourd and the Worm

God prepared a gourd. It was of sufficient size to shelter the prophet from the unbearable heat of that Middle Eastern day and was a great comfort to this disgruntled man. Yet as quickly as it grew it withered again as a result of God’s preparing a worm. (How much of the providence of God is seen in the small things as well as the large).

Without the gourd the prophet was unprotected from the scorching east wind which was prepared and sent by God as well.

The prophet fainted under this onslaught and repeated his prayed death wish and lamented the loss of the gourd.

This misguided but still beloved servant of the Lord did not have long to wait for the object lesson of all these events.

And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”Jonah 4:10-11

Hopefully although we are not told as much, Jonah learned his lesson and returned to a life of obedience.

The application to Jonah may be obvious but what about the lesson for us? I will try and name a few.

1: We can never stymie or frustrate the will of God. Whenever we try to outrun and escape the purposes of God, We will find Him before us as well as behind us.We seek to thwart him and disobey at our spiritual peril.

He is prepared to meet any and all circumstances and events, no matter how scary or daunting to us.

God’s divine wisdom chooses the best way and the surest methods to accomplish His precious will.

2: God’s judgment is a sure reality to the impenitent and His grace mercy and forgiveness just as real to the returning sinner.

3: The believer’s true joy and peace lie in seeking, obeying and joyful resignation to God’s revealed and blessed will.

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The Use of the Bible in Evangelism.

Some people in this post- Christian age have questioned the value of the Bible in modern evangelism.https://www.ptl.org/pix/pagepix/bible_welcome_banner.png

In past times people, whether they believed it or not, had some respect if only sentimental one for the Bible. This is no longer the case; the Bible is widely regarded as a book like any other, full of fanciful stories and marred by error.

For modern man the teaching and morality of the Bible is no longer relevant or valid and therefore is not given any real credence.

So some believe, that for Christians to resort to the  Bible as an authority is self defeating, when speaking to a society and culture to which does not accept its inspiration and divine authorship.

What makes this situation worse is that large sections of the Church have sidelined and minimized any in depth exposition and preaching of the scriptures.

When they do appear in the service it is usually in the form of a modern paraphrase and taken in isolation from its scriptural context and taken to mean something different from its original understanding by the evangelical church.

It seems we are half ashamed of accepting the Bible as the Word of God in its entirety, but stick with those parts we can adjust to meet the “zeitgeist” of the age and still get people into church and profess nominal Christianity.Image result for ashamed of the bible

The Book of Jonah is one book which more than any other, has been a constant source of embarrassment to the world -sensitive sections of the church. They would have been happier if the story of the ‘prophet- swallowing” great fish had been forgotten about long ago.

The idea has long been current that the Bible is not literally the Word of God but rather contains the Word of God. The analogy being, that of a rusty pipe through which the Word flows but does not become truly inspired until it becomes God’s word to you.

In the age of relativism in which we live, this means that the advocates of this doctrine can use those sections of the Bible that are more acceptable to modern man, to draw people to a form of “Christian” belief without the embarrassment of accepting the miraculous or unpalatable . The idea being that some portions of scripture carry more weight than others in the balance of probability and truth and that you can hold some of but not necessarily the entire Bible as inspired.

Those less credible  or relevant sections of the Bible are shown as merely well meaning attempts to impart spiritual truth in the form of parable and object lessons, thus circumventing any need to believe as factual the miraculous side of them.

There is just enough of the scripture left for the modern believer to still profess Christianity without having to proclaim those portions of the Bible, which his unbelieving neighbors find incredible or offensive.

When man himself becomes the arbiter of which parts of the Bible he will accept, the result is that all certainty goes out of the window and the Bible is shorn of all its divine inspiration and power. The Christianity that results becomes a shadow and travesty of what it was in the Days of the Apostles.

The fact is the Bible is what it is: it has proved time and time again that is the inscripturated Word of God.

Any attempt to separate Jesus Christ from the Holy Spirit breathed record of His life death and resurrection and the Bible in general, is doomed to fail.

Without the Bible, We would not have His divine teaching and the record of His spotless life.

The great and numerous miracles He performed, while a stumbling block to many, remain the great validation of Christ’s divine mission for the Salvation of mankind. His enemies, during His lifetime could not gain-say or deny His mighty works and the continuance of Christ’s power in the church throughout the ages, despite all its enemies, cannot be gain-sayed now.

All of God’s mighty work through Christ in the Church, from first to last, has stood on the foundation of the Scriptures as the Word of God, both to the Jews who had the “Law” and to the Gentiles who had not the “Law”.

The Old Testament which many (with the exception of some favourite portions) would relegate to obsolescence, from first to last, lays the foundation upon which the New Testament was laid.

Even this controversial book of Jonah, with all its miraculous events, rings with the loving-kindness of God for men and women who do not know their right hands from their left, thus proving its right to a place in scripture.

Those who have seen and believe in the power of the God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, will not be baulked by the miraculous preservation His prophet by means of a great fish.

To some the Bible carries no weight anymore but to the true Believer it will always be the Word of God.

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The True Church!

I have no real idea who reads this blog or their motives for doing so. Perhaps there is more interest in the style rather than the substance, I do not know.

The main purpose in my writing these blogs, is to encourage, teach and remind Christian people of some of the truths and fundamentals of the faith as well as point them to Christ and the scriptures. So I may seem to have little to say to those readers of this blog who do not profess Christianity.

My constant criticism of much that is, to my mind, wrong in the modern church may have a tendency to confirm a belief in these readers that the church of Jesus Christ and therefore the profession of faith in his name, is in such a low condition that they are right in their rejection of Christ’s message of Salvation and spurning the Christian Church because of the charlatan elements claiming to be part of it.

I do question much of what the church believes and does in this day and age.

I acknowledge the desire to bring people into the church and to Christian profession. My concern is, for the wrong methods and lack of real and eternally lasting results.

I fear the tendency to repackage the Christian message into man-pleasing and market driven forms .This tends to distort and ignore Man’s true condition and God’s only way of salvation.

Christ and the Salvation procured on the Cross through His shed blood, remains the only true way of to be saved. Those who truly believe in our wonderful  Saviour, and they alone constitute the true Church.

In the past theologians have differentiated between the visible Church and the (true) invisible church.

The visible Church has always been a mixed multitude. Many have differed in the nonessentials of the faith. Some have differed in points of theology and church practice without denying the saving truths and fundamentals of the faith. Some have erred grievously but remained true to Christ if “under a cloud”. Worse than this, some have denied the bedrock doctrines and beliefs of Christianity, sowed error and discord, and yet have always falsely identified themselves as Christians.

Many have felt it safer to reject the Church completely and lived in isolation from it. Others have settled in a local church which they know is erroneous in some ways, and closed their eyes to these deviations for the sake of Christian harmony and fellowship.

It is a great problem finding a Bible believing church in this day and age. Sadly, it is enough for some that the Church believes it even if they do not in any meaningful way preach it.

When people sell a car and declare the price they want they still add O.N.O (or nearest offer). Unfortunately today if we cannot find the ideal church we may have to settle for the nearest offer.

We are not perfect ourselves so we cannot reasonably expect any local church to be perfect. We must judge by the intention and the openness it displays. I mean by this, is its intention to follow Christ fully and faithfully? Is it faithful to its understanding of Bible teaching and willing to be convinced by the Word of errors and falsehoods? Is the Word of God fully and faithfully expounded? Is prayer at the centre of all it does? Do we see the fruits of the “Spirit” in the members? These are things we should seek in any church, without them it has very little claim to being a church at all.

God’s people may be getting harder to find, but when we find them we should stick to them. As the coal taken from the fire quickly goes cold, so does the warmth of our faith and Christian life goes cold in isolation no matter how sincere we are.

Survivor: Nineveh!

Stand To!!!

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Is an order for soldiers to stand ready for an enemy attack. Even though the soldiers at the front line see no sign to indicate an immediate enemy encounter they must be ready for it.

During the Korean War, United Nation soldiers, (Australians among them), saw large numbers of “civilian” Koreans moving through their lines and moving to the rear. When the North Korean assault came it was found that some of these people were enemy soldiers in peasant Korean dress.

The Church of Jesus Christ is under attack from many directions. Satan frontally assaults it by persecution and ridicule from the Anti-Christian elements in government and society.

It is assailed by atheistic science, philosophy and morality.

We should expect such attacks because as the scripture says “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19

The most insidious form of attack the Church has to face is the subtle and discouraging attack on God’s truth and people, is from men and women professing Christianity.

This is nothing new, but in our electronic age, it is highly publicized and leaped upon by our secular, God- hating media.

These are just a few of the lines of advance available to the enemies of Christ, in sheep’s clothing or not.

The Bible is a very popular target. They tell us it is out of date or contradictory. They teach  that the Bible is nothing more than the writings of fallible men  who were the product of their age or who misunderstood God’s purposes ,therefore we can discount and ignore great tracts of it because it does not accord with how we  want  to live ,act or think at a given time.

The Church is attacked because of the falls and sins of some of its leaders and prominent members. Christians are all tarred with the same brush and nothing we say or do makes a difference.  Christians are all “Holier than thou Hypocrites”’ and therefore fair game.

Christ, despite an exemplary life of holiness and goodness was attacked by open enemies and false friends, we can, if we are faithful, expect the same.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

You might say that we know all this, but are you ready for Satan’s attack whatever direction it comes from? Are you ready for it in your local church? Are you ready for it in your family and friends? Are you ready for it when it will cost you dear to defend God and His truth?

Stand To!!!

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F.B. Meyer said it well, “It is often argued that we should stay in the midst of churches and bodies whose sins and follies we deplore, in the hope of saving them for God and mankind. Such reasoning has a good deal of force in the first stages of decline. A strong protest may arrest error and stop the gangrene. But as time advances, and the whole body becomes diseased; when the protests have been disregarded, and the arguments trampled underfoot; when the majority have clearly taken up their position against the ‘truth’ we have no alternative but to come out and be separate. The place from which we can exert the strongest influence for good is not from within, but from without.”

Pride and Prejudice!

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In “ How to lose the Civil War”( Harper /Collins publisher) one of the contributors, tells how prior to the Civil war in the United States , the Union was desperately short of modern rifles and it would be some time before production capacity would be sufficient for wartime needs.

The officer in charge of procurement was advised by a junior to approach England and buy Enfield rifles, which were in abundant supply and at rock bottom price, until such time as the Union ordinance production was up to speed.

This  senior officer, who had in his younger days fought the British in the War of 1812, “went through the roof”.  He said that the old smooth bore (by all modern standards obsolete) weapons in use by the Federal army were quite adequate for what was sure to be a very short war and that it would be unpatriotic not to fight an American war with American weapons. As a result of this the “North” entered the “Civil” war, poorly armed and at a decided disadvantage.

The South had no such scruples, but purchased large numbers of rifles from England and as a result the war, which should have been a Northern walkover, was prolonged by years.

There is no doubt that prejudice and selfish pride is a besetting problem with us all.

We all have our own way of doing things and we all think we know best.

To place ourselves in God’s hands is often unsettling for us. We are not prepared to wait God’s time or trust His methods.

Also to be open to hear what others have to say and take it on board is often difficult for us when in the heat of battle.

We really want to take the whole process into our own hands because we are the only ones we can really trust to get the job done.

It is not enough for us to sow the seed and to wait for God to “send the increase” anymore but we must expedite matters by working at both ends and try and “Move the Spirit” if He does not move.

Sometimes it is a question of us not liking to ask for help, we would rather die trying in our own strength than seek Christ and His power.

The fact is that the Christian is a soldier in God’s army, the weapons he fights with are Spiritual and not carnal. He is not alone in the fight but has reinforcement and  spiritual re-supply readily at call and is very foolish if he does not take advantage of it.

Crass-mass!

Not knowing or caring any better the world ,takes the elements of the Christmas  story, that it understands and exploits them for its own ends.

Peace among men is reduced to a plea for the end of earthly war and strife with no regard or desire for peace and reconciliation with God and His just displeasure with man’s sin.

The gift of a Saviour is made into an inducement for gift giving, family togetherness and indulgence to improve business’s “bottom-line.

Many have taken to calling Christmas time “silly season” because of the cynical exploitation and attending mad rush which infects so many at this time of year.

All this without any recognition of the real significance and importance of the coming of God to earth in human flesh, as well as no desire or felt need for the Salvation from sin, Christ came to procure; starting in the cradle and culminating on the Cross.

The Christian Church naturally takes advantage of this “lip service” made by the World to the babe in the manger. By offering Carol services and special events, It seeks to bring people within the sound of the gospel and thereby possibly into the Christian fold.

Yet the Christian message presented is often an expurgated one. The Word of God is sugar coated, pared down and made palatable for the “un-churched”.

If there is a hook in this worm it is well hidden and for a later time, if at all.

The question is and always has been how can we proclaim the message of salvation in a meaningful way to non believers and yet not compromise God’s Word to a world of lost sinners?

I think that today’s Church is not very interested in the answer to this question. It rather takes the line of least resistance and “stays mum” on anything it thinks will give offence to self satisfied sinners while alluring them with promises of a better life and a sense of community and purpose.

Surely it is more faithful to God’s truth, to boldly proclaim His call to salvation through Christ, as the Apostles did and the true Church has always done, than make the Gospel story little more than a change of purpose and direction. A gospel with no need for repentance, genuine faith and “New Birth”. A Christian life devoid of self denial and counting the cost of following Christ.

Instead of being ashamed of the “old Gospel” we should proclaim it boldly because it remains the only and true Gospel and power of God “unto salvation”.Image result for the cradle and the cross

“This present age is so flippant that if a man loves the Saviour he is styled a fanatic, and if he hates the powers of evil he is named a bigot.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: 

Stand To!!!

Speaking in “Absolutes”!

Affectation and eccentricities in English speech are constantly present and always changing.https://i2.wp.com/www.sciencemag.org/sites/default/files/styles/article_main_large/public/images/sn-vocalfry.jpg

The upper class Englishmen’s “I say”  or  eccentric Georgian phrases like “Don’t ya know’ and various others have always punctuated our language at sundry times.

Currently the addition of “like” to any statement is rife in the speech of young people, e.g. “When I got home I was “like” really tired”, “Because I missed my lunch I was “like” really hungry”.

You constantly hear this peppering their conversations.

The first thing I would ask is “Either you were or you were not?”There are no third alternatives.

I wish people would speak in absolutes!

The presence of this unnecessary word adds nothing to the statement and only serves to bring the person’s expression into line with everyone else in their age group and culture.

God has condescended to speak to human beings in speech that they can understand. The inherent weakness of human language is that it can never comprehend the being and nature of God and never fully describe the glory and attributes of our Creator.

We can only describe God in terms of what He is like through what he has revealed about Himself: (knowing all the time that He is absolutely far beyond the comparisons used to describe Him.)

God is the great absolute and when He speaks it in an absolute way. Here are no affectations, no superfluous words and no meaningless threats or promises.

All that God has said in His Word, Old and New Testament is to be heard and listened to.  His Word is to be studied and reverenced, His Commands are to be obeyed, His promises are to be relied on and His threatening is to be trembled at.

In these latter days God has spoken by His Son Jesus Christ and through His apostles as found in the Bible.

Today we have a real need to go back and hear what they have been inspired to record for our benefit, instead of tweaking it to adapt it to modern expectations and thereby take away its offensiveness to sinful man.

We need to hear what God has said and not merely what we wish He said!

Rear Window

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In this famous film James Stewart’s character (due to a broken leg) is limited for entertainment and takes to observing his neighbours in an enclosed block of housing units. Unbeknownst to them, he can see most of what they do in the privacy of their own homes.

What he sees amuses and saddens him and makes him feel embarrassed and ashamed due to his curiosity and obsession with what is going on with these people.

The film culminates when a murderer discovers his spying and comes looking for him.

What we are when people see us is often very different from what we are when we are alone and unobserved. We allow ourselves to do things which would embarrass and shame us if others were to observe us.

The presence of others often serves as a brake to speech and behaviours which would damage our standing and reputation in the perception of our peers.

The Christian has been told again and again that God is ever present and all seeing. He knows our thoughts and sees the motives which lie behind all our actions, even the best.

Despite all this we still try and fool our self that God will turn a blind eye to those things in our lives which are not pleasing to Him and contradict His holy nature and Law.

We tell ourselves that our sins are less sinful because we profess Christianity and God is ever ready to forgive. Also we think that we can hide our sin , extenuate it or be-little it as “venial” and of no account.

God does see!

The Christian  sins with a “higher hand”, because he sins against the knowledge and love Christ.

When we think we can forego the constant need for repentance and God’s forgiving ,renewing grace, we are deluding ourselves, because God sees even when we do not.

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Spiritual influence never coincided with material affluence. - F. F. Bruce

Quoting Spurgeon, “Preachers and Preaching”; “Old John Stoughton, in his treatise entitled “The Preacher’s Dignity and Duty,” insists upon the minister’s holiness in sentences full of weight “If Uzzah must die but for touching the ark of God, and that to stay it when it was like to fall; if the men of Beth-shemesh for looking into it; if the very beasts that do but come near the holy mount be threatened; then what manner of persons ought they to be who shall be admitted to talk with God familiarly, to stand before him,’ as the angels do, and behold his face continually;’ to bear the ark upon their shoulders,’ to bear his name before the Gentiles;’ in a word, to be his ambassadors? Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord;’ and were it not a ridiculous thing to imagine, that the vessels must be holy, the vestures must be holy, all must be holy, but only he upon whose very garments must be written holiness to the Lord,’ might be unholy; that the bells of the horses should have an inscription of holiness upon them, in Zechariah, and the saints’ bells, the bells of Aaron, should be unhallowed? No, they must be burning and shining lights,’ or else their influence will dart some malignant quality; they must chew the cud and divide the hoof,’ or else they are unclean; they must divide the word aright,’ and walk uprightly in their life, and so join life to learning”.

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Speaking in “Absolutes”!

Philedem

This was the codename given to a British officer attached to the Cretan resistance during the German occupation in the Second World War. He was portrayed by Dirk Bogarde in the film “Ill met by Moonlight”.https://i1.wp.com/c8.alamy.com/comp/BKD5E7/ill-met-by-moonlight-1956-laurence-payne-david-oxley-cyril-cusack-BKD5E7.jpg

The German conquest of Greece and Crete was a very bloody affair and under the enemy occupation the kindness shown by the Cretans to Allied stragglers involved them in much suffering and to terrible reprisals. They fiercely resisted the Germans, hiding in the mountains and descending to attack them by surprise.https://i1.wp.com/www.explorecrete.com/crete-satellite/crete-mod.jpg

Even today Cretan men wear traditional, bushy mustaches and black shirts in memory of the losses and suffering endured at that time.

Like all peoples the Cretan have their strengths and weaknesses.

Nearly two thousand years before, the Apostle Paul ,having left Titus to shepherd the church on Crete, quotes one of their own “prophets” describing the nature of the people he had deal with.

“One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”” Titus 1:12 (I bet this made him popular)

Titus was to carry on the work that Paul himself had begun and make up what was still lacking in the church organization by appointing local leaders.

The Apostle had no misapprehensions about the difficulties in Christian work among such people.

Titus would have to exhibit great firmness in teaching and correcting the Cretan Christians: Also he had to be, by his blameless life, hospitableness and self control, a living example to the believers.

To deal with those who would contradict him he had to be sound in the Word of God and able to silence the adversaries of the Gospel.

The great danger among these (and many other) churches was for people to profess a knowledge and belief in God but by their daily living deny what they profess, thus discrediting the Christian faith.

Each age group and class in this society was to be exhorted by Titus to refrain from the sinful traits; they were by nature and tradition prone to. The need for Titus himself and for the believers in general to be sober and sober minded is driven home by Paul time and again.

Titus had been delegated authority by Christ through the Apostle and he was to use it to exhort and rebuke. All of this was in the knowledge, that all of us by nature are self willed, foolish and disobedient, lustful and hateful. Yet by the Grace of God and through His beloved Son we have found mercy, received washing in regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit’s power in our lives, we can overcome the sinful thoughts, behaviors and life styles which only lead to destruction.

I think we must all take on board and apply what Paul teaches here in the letter to Titus as a part of the Word of God for us today.

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“The history of the church seems to indicate to us two positions as true, with reference to this matter,—viz.  1st, That assurance of salvation has been enjoyed more fully and more generally by men who were called to difficult and arduous labours in the cause of Christ, than by ordinary believers in general; and 2dly, That this assurance, as enjoyed by such persons, has been frequently traceable to special circumstances connected with the manner of their conversion as its immediate or proximate cause. So it certainly was with the Reformers.”
William Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation

Precepts and Principles!

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There is now and always was a controversy raging in the Church about whether or how much Christians are bound to observe the Old Testament law. Some have even gone as far to say that the Sermon on the Mount and the “Lord’s Prayer” do not belong to Christians of this age at all because they have elements of law about them, so they belong to a future age.

Today the discussion focuses on such things as tithing, observing Sunday as a day of spiritual rest and questions of diet etc.

Many leaders and professing believers are pressing for discarding the law full stop and repeat that we are no longer under law but under grace like a Buddhist mantra.

While I do not have all the answers but rather many questions I would say this, the Bible is wholly God’s word: We need to be prepared to hear what He has to say in it.

While many of the commandments applied principally to the Jews under the old dispensation, there are many underlying truths that are universal to the people of God as well as rules for society to preserve human life, property and well being.

He is always the same and His will for His people remains the same under grace as well as under law;”Be holy as I am Holy”.

It is from His bountiful saving grace that sinful men, through faith in Christ and what He did on the cross are renewed by his Spirit and able to live holy and pure lives.

Many say today that because we as believers are clothed in the righteousness of Christ that when God looks at us he sees Christ and not our sin, therefore we do not have to worry about striving for holiness as He will work it out in us in time. Yet Paul tells us “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 this suggests the acting out of what God by his Spirit works in us by Holy living and thinking

Our Salvation is wholly and solely by grace through faith yet being clothed in the righteousness of Christ is never to be a cloak for our pursuing sinful practices and behaviours. As Paul clearly says that would make Christ a minister of sin.

Anyone closely looking at the Sermon on the Mount can see that to truly be like the person described requires a new birth and a new heart. Even the thought of sin does not escape Christ’s censure and brings with it guilt, as would the actual deed.https://granosalispaullocandro.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/d43fd-19612bking2bof2bkings2bsermon2bon2bthe2bmount.jpg?w=660

Were the average Christian of today, someone who exemplifies these behaviours and principles, what a witness to the Truth of Christ would be presented to the world?

Should we not aim to be pure in heart, as well as holy in all our living?

As to questions dealing with practical issues we must look at the spirit and intention of God’s commands

For example,

Are we obliged to give a tenth of our income to the work of God in the church as a tithe?  We are constantly exhorted to give to the poor and to the support of God’s work. Surely this says we need to be regular and generous in our giving according to how God has blessed us financially.

Constantly are we pointed to the generosity of Christ in giving himself for us as well as the fact that all we have and all we are belongs to God in the first place, to stimulate us to generosity and selflessness in giving back to God.

Are we obliged to observe a day of spiritual rest, renewal and worship on the Lord’s Day? The tendency today is to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday in Church and at worship and then spend the rest of the day engaging in the same pastimes as everyone else i.e. Sport, entertainment and sightseeing. Why did God ordain a day of rest and call it Holy in the first place? What were His intentions in doing so? Have we outgrown the need for a day of “rest” in God’s presence? We must in good conscience answer for ourselves.

Someone might say should we still burn witches or stone adulterers?  This decision in this day and age does not lie with us. However these Old Testament crimes and punishments drive home how much God hates sin. God will punish un-repentant sinners even if man condones and applauds them.

The spirit of the modern church tends to discount and ignore those parts of the Bible that run counter to its sensibilities which are imbibed by interaction with worldly thought and psychology.

All I would say is that we should be listening to what God has said in every age about sin, life and holiness but most of all listen to his Son.

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“Our mind cannot find a comparison too large for expressing the superabundant mercy of the Lord toward his people.”

– David Dickson

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The Frustrated God!

Judging from what we hear from the pulpit, God spends most of His time waiting for people to come to Him so He can rain blessings down on them and meet their financial, marital and psychological needs and desires as well as giving them a sense of community by joining the church.

To many Christian leaders it seems that if they can convince people that God will meet these needs then maybe people will come to him and somehow come to salvation, even though what they are being saved from is left rather vague. The need for repentance from sin and being ‘born from above” is left out of the message as to offensive.

Today it is more a case of come as you are, stay as you are.

He is also a lonely God whose heaven is not complete until men and women seek Him and accept Jesus.

Sin we are led to believe, while it might have been a big deal in the past is something God has turned a blind paternal eye to, so we do not mention it.

Man instead of being a criminal and fugitive is now a victim and suffering from mistakes and poor choices.

It is no wonder the Bible and what it declares to be man’s true estate is not taught or preached. A few paraphrased Bible phrases, fixed like butterflies, are enough to hang a man-centered, felt needs sermon on.

It is true from a human point of view that there are many victims in society and we are everywhere confronted by human need. It is not that we should ignore these needs but rather that they are not the fundamental problem which underlies all else.

God’s revelation is that man is a hell deserving sinner to whom He has offered, through Christ and His shed blood, pardon on repentance of sin and faith in the Saviour.

Man for the most part has rejected this Salvation and prefers to pursue earthly wealth and well being as well as sinful pleasures.

The truth is that all the sinners other needs are nothing compared to the need for deliverance from the love and power of sin.

‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”. John 6:44

Rather than God being passive in man’s salvation and waiting for his initiative it is through His divine drawing and calling that any are saved at all.

Man if left to his own devices would choose to live without God at all and thereby perish in his sin.

God has a better understanding of our needs than we do and He knows what is best for us. He will give and withhold, chastise and comfort according to his infinite wisdom.

Christianity is not for the self seeking and never was

 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me .25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…. ”. Matthew 16:24-25

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“Worship” aims to be as casual and as relaxed as possible, reflecting an easy familiarity with God unbefitting His transcendent majesty. This type of “worship” seems to aim chiefly at making sinners comfortable with the idea of God—purging from our thoughts anything like fear, trembling, reverence, or profound biblical truth. . . .

The decline of true worship in evangelical churches is a troubling sign. It reflects a depreciation of God and a sinful apathy toward His truth among the people of God. Evangelicals have been playing a kind of pop-culture trivial pursuit for decades, and as a result, the evangelical movement has all but lost sight of the glory and grandeur of the One we worship. [1]John MacArthur, Worship (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 10-12.

Philedem

The Next big thing!

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I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

It seems when you read between the lines that by their attitude and behavior,some members of the Corinthian church were not merely susceptible to false doctrine and teaching ,but as it were, on the lookout and ready to welcome it.

This particular fellowship no longer found the simple doctrine of salvation and faith in Jesus Christ enough. They were on the lookout for novelties and spectacular manifestations to liven up the “dull” routine.

Any “teacher” who arrived on the scene with a different gospel and a new “spirit’ would receive a warm welcome , respectful hearing and find ready devotees.

The church at Corinth was not unique in its propensity for going off track, but it’s  constant seeking for the exciting and new, left them wide open to be imposed upon by charlatans.

The mere fact that we have in scripture  these letters written to Corinth indicate that there was still a core of soundness in this church yet by their atittude and practices, they were leaving themselves wide open to attack from the “Old Serpent” who wanted to  deceive who he could away from the true Gospel.

Sad to say that in the Church today we see many of the same trends and tendencies among professing believers. Many still have itchy ears for doctrines and teachers which promise more than they can deliver but run counter to the sound understanding of Holy Scripture.

How many plausible and successful preachers and teachers are sprinkling their teaching with flesh pleasing, subtle errors?

True none of us are infallible and we can go astray and err in some areas of doctrine and practice, but there is a world of difference between this and the person who uses scripture language to pedal unscriptural teaching and heresy, with no other intent than to build up a following for themselves.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. “Matthew 10:16

The need for vigilance and watchfulness is clear; we must not be decieved by things which appear plausible yet lead away from God’s revealed truth. Also we must not depart from the simplicity of the Gospel ,even  if our flesh finds it mundane or tedious and pleads for excitement and novelty.

We must keep “a weather eye” out for anything which has a tendency to lead us astray from the gospel “once delivered to the saints”. Indeed we must contend for it against those who would draw us away from it.

The danger in forever seeking the new and exciting as an end in itself, is something to beware of. If our eyes were open we would see in the simplicity of the Gospel message and plain Christian worship a beauty and joy superior to any carnal excitement.

Will a man rob God?

My mother use to work at a bakery when she was young and one of the Bakers was caught taking Bread dough home. He was given the “sack” straight away .Even though He tearfully begged for his job he was refused. The reason being that if he had asked for it he would have been given the dough. It was his for the asking, but he took it without  consent.https://i2.wp.com/www.breadexperience.com/wp-content/uploads/bread-dough.jpg

The moral of this story is obvious.

In a spiritual sense we can apply this to all the good gifts we receive from God.

The fact is that our receiving far outweighs our asking.  Sadly , we have come to regard God’s gracious bounty as something which is our due and because of this our gratitude is lacking.

The “Manna” appears at our doorstep but we so often forget the one who sent it to us.

The Lord’s prayer teaches us to ask for our daily bread but so often just take it without acknowledging God’s ownership and His generosity in giving what we daily recieve .

In a real sense we can never give God His due but we can give what He asks, our service, our prayers and supplications and greatest of all our first and best love.

Maybe the only way in which we can rob God is when we fail to acknowledge His ownership of us and return the thanksgiving and honour that belongs to His name.

Sawdust in the diet.

During the siege of Leningrad, to make loaves of bread more substantial, they adulterated the bread dough with sawdust and wood shavings.utensils_detail

I heard somewhere that in the Soviet “Gulags” or prisons ,in Siberia, they fed the inmates grass soup. It had no nutritional value but filled the stomachs of the poor souls. I think they learned this  recipe from the Chinese.grass

I wonder how many people who would label themselves “Christians” are having their Spiritual sustenance adulterated by sawdust, or are being fed with the spiritual equivalent of cattle fodder?

How often are we being filled up with things which do not provide any real Spiritual nutrition?

It seems that much that happens in the life and worship of the church does nothing more than cater to the “flesh”, and fails to build up the soul and Spirit.

The Preaching of the Word of God is put on the backburner and replaced by human psychology and manpleasing doctrines without foundation in the Word.

In our Christian as well as our physical diet we need to watch what we eat and avoid being force fed stuff which is bad for our health.

 

Image result for quotes from  Richard baxter

The Next big thing!