A spark of life!

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During a recent frost my Cinerarias were slaughtered.

It took three days for the leaves to drop and shrivel but I knew I would have to pull the plants out and try something else.

When I came to pull them out there was a tiny speck of green in the centre of the remains of the plant: somewhere in the midst of that devastation there was life.

There is no doubt that natural life is tenacious, the Bible itself in the book of Job refers to the seemingly dead tree springing back to life.

7, For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
8Though its root grow old in the earth,
and its stump die in the soil,
9yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put out branches like a young plant. Job 14:7-9

When we see many falling away from Christianity and Christian doctrine we wonder whether any hope of life or regeneration is possible. The fact remains that many who wither and die in their Christian lives never had the genuine seed of faith in their hearts.

Yet we can comfort and reassure ourselves that there are many who have fallen have not fallen finally and  that God is not finished with them.

It is in this spirit we should fervently pray for those who are astray.obc-ambizu-hot-one-bag-cineraria-seeds-30-pcs-cineraria-flowers-seeds-mixed-colors-purple-stamens_17863021

At a loss!

1Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?” 2He said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.”… Genesis 42:1genesis-42-01-00-jacob-send-his-sons-to-bring-food-from-egypt

We all come to the point when the way ahead and the answer to our problems are not clear to us. The trap is that the longer this impasse lasts the longer and the less able we are to recognize and respond to a solution to our difficulty.

These sons of Jacob were clueless as to the solving the difficulties facing them and their families.

There was a dire famine in the land and many of their relied on resources and staples were exhausted.

The combined acumen of their eleven brains could not see an answer to the prospect of starvation, If left to themselves they may well have withered away with hunger.

It was only when Jacob heard that there was food a-plenty for sale in Egypt that he called his sons to stir themselves out of the reverie they had slumped into.

Egypt was indeed a long way to go to get supplies but this journey was eminently preferable to watch their wives and little ones starve.

This is only taking this situation from a human viewpoint: it was a matter of common sense to go where the answer is and find what we need to solve our problem.

Over and above the human difficulty and need for a solution, we can see in hindsight what this family group seems to have forgotten, that God is in control and overruling all.

We see nothing here of Jacob or his sons seeking God’s guidance or supply, in fact it all seems to revolve on the chance hearing of a piece of gossip about the abundance of food in Egypt while the rest of the nations starved.

We see later on that there is nothing of chance or coincidence in the providence of God.

Even the heinous sin of these “rough and ready” brothers was being overruled by God to save the chosen people from extinction and form them into a nation.

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God’s purposes are being carried to fruition all around us: the question is are we the unconscious tools in this work or are we the willing instruments in the service of God and the glorifying of His name?

We must use the common sense that God has given us ever seeking His Wisdom from on high ,we can always and ever throw ourselves upon God and seek to Him for deliverance.

The saddest thing we see today is that so few understand and are willing to do this.

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A spark of life!

Martin and Lewis!

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Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis after their acrimonious split as a comedy duo were not to be completely reconciled until Frank Sinatra orchestrated a surprise appearance by Dean Martin at Jerry Lewis’s annual Labor Day Muscular dystrophy telethon in September 1976.0831_telethon_630x420

The two were to speak every day after that.

The depth of the reconciliation was shown by Lewis attending unannounced and unknown, the funeral of Dean Martin’s son after his death in a plane crash.

When Martin found out he rang Lewis and they spoke for an hour (quotes from Wikipedia).

Jerry Lewis looked back on the rift and sincerely regretted his role in it and the length of time it took to be reconciled with Martin.

For all of us the need for reconciliation and forgiveness on the part of both parties is great.

We all need to look past the present hard feelings and anger and think of the long term damage and suffering caused by harsh words and thoughtless actions.

In the final assessment what we lose by such personal rifts and the holding of grudges is incalculable and damages us and those around us in terrible and often irremediable ways.

In the scriptures we are called to be “reconciled with God”( 2 Corinthians 5:20).

That the wronged party should in the giving and sacrificial death of Christ seek the return of humanity to fellowship and harmony is a wonder of free grace: It makes our petty squabbles and alienations pale into  insignificance.

Indeed it is the only true foundation (our reconciliation with God in Christ), upon which to build the only true and lasting reconciliation between formerly sin enthralled but now redeemed men and women.

The “all singing, all dancing church”!

 

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It does seem that the “leadership and program organizers” in the modern Church have very few scruples about what constitutes and is appropriate in a worship service.

It is to me, lamentable to see the lack of reverence and decorum which is rife in many of the Lord’s Day worship services let alone the “Show-Time” character they have taken on.

There is certainly many in the church with musical and artistic talents: that they can use them in the Lord’s service in many legitimate ways is also true.

That there is a time and place in the weekly program for social and musical programs I would not argue but the week by week worship of our Holy God is not one of them.

I would have thought that the worship of God and our Lord Jesus Christ is not so much the place to show off our talent for entertaining and circus abilities as for the corporate singing of praises and hearing the Word of our God.

We depart from this simplicity of worship at our peril.

That our services should not be total solemnity is also true, but it does seem that in its attempt to avoid “puritanical” strictness, the Church has gone to the opposite extreme.

As some have pointed out “the church’s purpose is to feed God’s sheep and not entertain goats”.

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Stephen.

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51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”Acts 7: 51-53 N.I.V.

One wonders why Stephen went such a round-a-bout and perhaps to some, long winded way to convince the Jews of the errors of their ways?

One needs to remember that the Jews were and are a people who glory in their unique history as the chosen “people of God”.

They seemed to conveniently forget that it is largely a history of repeated rebellion, despite great privileges against the One who brought them out of Egypt and delivered  the people from many subsequent times of adversity.

At the time of Stephen’s arraignment for blasphemy, they had no doubt concluded that they had put this sorry history behind them and had arrived at religious purity and were well pleasing to God in their strict defense of their religion.

Stephen reminds them of the their past departures from God’s worship and rebellion against Him and drives home that their judicial and religious murder of Jesus of Nazareth was the culmination of this long history of unbelief.

They had in fact crucified by Gentile hands their own long promised Messiah.

Stephen by his bold proclamation of this unpalatable truth signed his own death warrant and entered into the presence of a waiting Lord and Saviour.

God however had not finished with the Jews and was calling to Himself those who belonged to Him and with these chosen instruments bring blessing and salvation to the long alienated and seemingly hopeless Gentiles.

The question must be asked even if it cannot be answered, Where are the “Stephens” in the church today? Where are the bold voices calling people to come to Christ and his salvation? Where are those who speak to the Church about its many departures from sound doctrine and rampant worldliness?

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Martin and Lewis!

Kith and kin.

You quickly discover doing family research that you have great aunts and uncles and second, third (and so on cousins) all over the place.

The fact is you may never know who they are or where they are and you are a complete stranger to them. Yet despite this you have a part of their bloodline and they of yours.

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; Acts 17:26

This tells us that God has from the first original man, all the nations of the Earth. Therefore we must conclude that those of other races, no matter how different are our kin.

While many cannot see this the fact remains that the human race is one creation from the hands of God.

That mankind is of many different varieties and has developed diverse culture and language is obvious yet that does not detract from the fundamental kinship of the race.

The unity of all believers in Christ regardless of race is even more inviolable and should forever halt any superiority of one over another.

It may seem that God has favoured one people over another or dealt with them in a different way yet His Sovereignty in providence is based on His divine prerogative to act in His creation according to His infinite wisdom.

It does not give carte blanche one group of Christian people the license to lord it over another.

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  John Gregson(15 March 1919 – 8 January 1975)

One of my favourite British actors is John Gregson whose most famous role was in the film Genevieve co-starring another stalwart of the British screen and another favourite Kenneth More.

He always impressed me with his unpretending and sincerity as an actor. Like More his film acting career waned in the sixties and he was more often seen on television.

It seems that at that time the era of the plain man was being superseded by the era of the action hero and James Bond “action man” type.

It is regrettable that we all prefer our heroes to be larger than life.

Our Lord Jesus was to the casual observer an ordinary man. He was approachable and although conscious of His Divine mission and relationship with the Father, was never condescending.

Yet who was ever larger than life. Whoever spoke as He spoke or did what He did? Jesus transcended the ordinary and took the things of everyday life and raised and consecrated them to the glory of God.

So in our turn and in our degree must we.

 

Kith and kin.

Revised Christianity??

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A story is told of an archaeologist returning to his work inside a pyramid and finding a man chiseling away at the pyramid to bring its internal measurement into line with his interpretation of prophecy.57f9645272048e19f1e6c60fb164f2d2--chisel-set-tool-steel

So the tendency today is to look back at history and reshape it into line with our current ideas and prejudices. This is being seen today in the push to rename schools and streets and remove statues. Also the trend to write revisionist history among our academics is part of this attempt to “remove the landmarks”.

Christianity itself is not immune from this desire to re-mould it into forms more acceptable and less offensive to so-called modern man.

It has always been the case that some people would take a part of the Christian message and run with it while conveniently avoiding those things that are of no interest to him and to affronting to his own self worth.

The modernist takes the ethics and values of Christianity and attempts to conform society to his imagined portrayal of Christ as merely a social reformer.

The ritualist takes the scriptures and distorts them into a series of religious acts and ceremonies which sinful man must perform to obtain access and acceptance with God and superimposes a hierarchy he must implicitly believe and obey.

Others, to whom I have often referred, make the gospel message a source of earthly health, wealth and personal fulfillment and remove the self denial and bearing of the Cross.

While we all read the Bibles through the glasses of our own point of view we must put ourselves to one side and hear what the Word of God actually says.

The Reformers for all their shortcomings reminded those willing to hear that the Scriptures alone are the source of God’s truth. We are to believe nothing that is not revealed or is able to be reasonably deduced from scripture. In this we are to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to remove the veil and open our eyes to God’s truth revealed therein.

While there is still room to differ in some interpretations of Scripture the fundamental doctrines of Christianity must remain inviolate and implicitly believed.

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A mixed bag!

We all know people whose Christianity stands out and are an adornment to the church they attend.

We also know some whose Christianity although genuine is still being formed and having the rough edges smoothed.

Then there are those who profess Christianity but are really a hindrance to the work of Christ’s church and a constant blot on the spiritual landscape.

We read that when the Children of Israel left Egypt there travelled with them a” mixed multitude” who use the opportunity to get out of slavery and get the great material benefits offered in the promised land.imagesmixed multitude

Unfortunately when the way became hard and material comforts did not come up to their expectations they became the ringleaders in the murmuring and complaining which plagued Moses thus bringing God’s judgment and plagues upon the people as a whole.

Lest we be found finger pointing we must examine ourselves to make sure we are not modern day examples of these “whingers”.

Standing up for God’s revealed truth is the duty of all His faithful people but it is to be done with love and the use of reason. Zeal and passion are to play their part but governed by the love of Christ for the erring from the way.

To be found a “troublers’ of Israel” and a false professor of Christ in the Church and in the world is something we must pray we never be.

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Arthur_Lowe

Arthur Lowe (22 September 1915 – 15 April 1982) was one of the iconic figures of British film and television. Most of those who worked with him said that his best known character of “Dad’s Army” “Captain Mainwaring” pronounced Mannering, was very like himself especially in pomposity.Dads35Statue of Captain Mainwaring, Arthur Lowe’s Dad’s Army character in Thetford.

It does make it easier when we “be ourselves” and not pretend to be something we are not and not likely to be.

The wonder of true Christianity it that it makes us into new creations without robbing us of what is intrinsically “ourselves”.

Like the work of art that needs the centuries of dirt and grime removed before it re-appears in the true and living colours with which it was painted, we need the power of God to remove the grime of sin and shame and to impart His grace to our lives, to bring us at last to our eternal state of Christ’ like perfection.

Revised Christianity??

Chambers of Imagery!

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Then he said to me, “Son of man, lift up your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. 6And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.”

7And he brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. 8Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 9And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. 12Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” 13He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”

14Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.”

16And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east. 17Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their nose. 18Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”Ezekiel 8:5-18

The prophecy of Ezekiel contains some of the most remarkable visions and prophecies and some of the most sober warnings in the whole of Scripture.

This particular vision is one which looks at the hidden sins of the leaders of the people. While professing to worship the true God of Israel these people were worshipping the gods of the surrounding nations. These “dunghill ” deities were notorious for their vile rites and the degrading practices.

Alexander Maclaren the expositor on this passage reminds us all that to some degree or another we have a secret place in our hearts where we indulge our darkest desires and indulge ourselves in things we would be ashamed that others would know about.

The lack of actual opportunity does not lessen the sins of thought and imagination.  Many today would decrease our culpability by making such sins the result of human frailty and weakness.

Scripture by contrast makes all secret sins as liable to God’s judgment as sins of actual commission. They are all to be repented of and fought against and forsaken.

While it is true that they cling and constantly beset us, we must endeavour to seek God’s strength to flee from them and not allow them to have dominion over us. They are also to keep us in humility and gratitude to our mighty Savior.

This passage is also a condign warning about how far false religion and worship can infiltrate the courts of God’s house.

No amount of secrecy can hide from God’s all-seeing eye; we are an open book to Him.

One wonders how people in full possession of the truth of God can trifle with such debasing idolatry.

Instead of worshipping the Creator they worship the creature. They turn their backs on the true worship and worship everything else but.

Some of these men worshipped the rising sun one of the nobler creations yet infinitely short of the one who made it: others here are worshipping bugs and creeping things as the ancient Egyptians were well known for.

This had the effect of reducing these besotted men to less than God made them to be in the first place. Their knowledge of the Word of God and experience of

His great mercy and grace in past times left them without the shadow of an excuse and made the impending judgment that was to come upon them more deserved.

This must serve as a warning to all the professed people of God that those who are closest to Him are not to presume on his longsuffering because He is a holy God and will not give His worship to another.

A Sense of direction!

It is a commonly attested belief that women cannot read maps and that men cannot ask for directions. However that may be, the subject of Divine guidance and of God’s leading is a constant topic of discussion and too large a subject to go into here.

To look at two Old Testament examples, we look firstly at the call Abraham received to leave his home and kindred and go under God’s guidance to a land He would show him and give him possession of. To this Stephen refers in Acts chapter 7.

“To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’Acts 7:2-3

We are not told specifically how the Lord guided Abraham day by day. It may be that God simply pointed Abraham in the right direction and then told him when he had arrived.2_from_ur150x405

Even when the patriarch arrived in the Promised Land his journeying had not ceased and he remained a stranger and sojourner in the land and received no tangible ownership of it during his lifetime.

The only times Abraham got into real difficulty was when he went off the map and went to places without seeking God’s guidance for example going down into Egypt.

This is a lesson we all need to learn and give heed to.

Four hundred years, Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel departing from slavery in Egypt were guided by a pillar of cloud by day and protected pillar of fire by night.index pillar cloud

They set off and followed when the cloud lifted and stopped and encamped when it settled.

Even then it must have been confusing because instead of leading them by the direct route back to the Promised Land the cloud led them in a circuitous direction to the shores of the Red sea.

What may have seemed to be a false step ended in God’s total deliverance of His people from the power of Egypt and the miracle of the parting of the waves.

There subsequent journeys and wanderings in the wilderness are testimony to the power of God in the guiding, guarding and sustaining as well as the remaining unbelief and selfishness of the people.

Even when the next generation were on the brink of entering the land of promise, the requirement to follow God’s guidance did not cease  and they were commanded to closely follow the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence because they had not walked this way before ( Joshua 2;3-4).300px-Israel_Enters_the_Promised_Land

The main point I would make from all this is that the place to which God is taking us is somewhere we cannot get to on our own and we are totally reliant on following God’s lead, as set out in His Word and by relying on His strength day by day.

We must also know that trouble and difficulty are the only results when we set off on our own and depart from the pathway of promise.

The Farm Gate.

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Those of you from the country and with farm experience know that the first rule you learn is that you always leave a farm gate the way you find it.

If the gate is open, it may be that the farmer is moving stock and if you close the gate on him he will not be pleased.

When you find a gate closed you must close it again after you go through it, the reason being there may be stock in the paddock (even if you cannot see it) that may get out and get lost or injured.

God Himself has set up the door or if you like gate and way of salvation. Sadly many even among professing Christians there have been some that have not been content with this Way as it is and have sort to change and adapt it according to their own agendas and ideas.

Some would move the gate to another place entirely. They would say believe in Jesus but you must add your own righteous works and merits. Others would narrow the way and say you must do as we do and believe what we tell you to believe even if there is no support received from the Word of God for their beliefs and practices.

Yet others would close the gate on some people entirely because they are not up to their standard for acceptance.

On the other hand some would make the gateway and path wider than it is set forth by Scripture and let all and sundry enter regardless of repentance of sin and faith in Christ.

The fact is  the way of Salvation is the way it is ,“ Because strait is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life and few there be that find it’ Matthew 7:14

Rather than seeking to tamper with the gate we should strive to enter through it and walk the path in the footsteps of Christ and encourage others to do the same.

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One of the best known and best loved stars of the British screen was John Mills. During an exceedingly long career he very often played an unremarkable”Every man” person who exercised character and good sense and generosity.

Both of his daughters, Juliet and Hayley became actors and often appeared with him.

My favourite film of his is one called “The history of Mr. Polly” about a man who seeks to change his “hum drum” life for something better.

We all can sympathize with this desire yet very often cannot find the ways or means to achieve it.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, when on earth trod the path of daily duty to His heavenly Father but transcended the ordinary and commonplace by doing all to the glory of God and the good of men and women.

When placed in the light of eternity nothing remains ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

Chambers of Imagery!