A Worse than Egyptian darkness!

The ninth plague that God sent upon Egypt was a darkness which could be felt, (Exodus 10:21). It was such darkness that during its whole duration no one could move from their place for three whole days.

Darkness and the ‘night’ very often carry a sense of judgment in Scripture also it is highly symbolic of the heightened activity of ‘satanic powers’.

This is not to say that the coming of the ‘night’ does not also mean the end of the days labour and the promise of well deserved repose.

Of course the most notable instance of a prevailing and supernatural ‘darkness’ was that which occurred at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. It lasted for three whole hours.darkness at the cross

The speculation regarding the cause and extent of this event has exercised theologians, scientists and skeptics for years. Needless to say that for many it all comes down to a person’s beliefs regarding Jesus Christ.

This great ‘darkness’ effectively shrouded Christ for a time and prevented the witnessing of this part of his ‘titanic’ struggle with sin and the enemy.

It also seems to signify for a brief moment, the hiding of the Father’s face though not His love.

As no  human eye could penetrate that ‘worse than Egyptian darkness’, so no human understanding can penetrate and comprehend the struggle and suffering that occurred when the sinless ‘Son of Man’ combated sin and the powers of darkness to satisfy for the sin of man.

The believing soul can only humble themselves and remember that it was done for them and their salvation.

“Thy unknown Sufferings”

Someone said that the ‘sufferings of Christ’s soul were the soul of His sufferings. The ‘Greek’ church’s liturgy asks

“By Thy unknown sufferings, have mercy upon us, O Christ.”

The depths of suffering which Christ experienced in His last hours and culminating upon the Cross are an abyss to which we can never sound.

Jesus said of the disciples “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials,” Luke 22:28 According to Alexander McLaren, this saying would refer not to Christ’s first and final sufferings , because the disciples were not in attendance at these events, but rather to the sufferings Christ endured throughout His earthly ministry.

Christ began his ministry in suffering temptation by Satan and deprivation in the wilderness. He ended his ministry in suffering through the agonies of Gethsemane and the arrest and crucifixion.

However this saying of Jesus seems to refer to what Christ suffered day by day throughout his earthly life.

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost but instead of welcome and gratitude He met with for the most part scorn and misunderstanding.

Even when the people most seemed to ‘adore’ Him they were imagining Christ as what they desired Him to be instead of who He was.

Even when His teachings were being admired and hung upon by the multitudes they were for the most part falling upon ‘stony ground’.

Christ as man, no doubt felt keenly the rejection of mankind deeply.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3

Knowing the love of Christ for mankind as seen by the pain He suffered for our salvation, we can see a little of what the pain He suffered as a result of the misunderstanding, obduracy and hardness of heart he encountered throughout his earthly walk.

This is one aspect of Christ’s sufferings that the believer can to a small degree enter into; because if we are faithful to Christ and his truth, we to will suffer the same sort of treatment.

Lives in parallel!

While researching my family I followed what I thought was my great grandfather’s life. It turned out that I was following the wrong person. The difference came down to the ‘O’ in front of the name.

It is ironic that my grandfather dropped the ‘O’ off the family name, more irony still, my great, great grandfather’s name had no ‘O’ in front of it either.

This other man I researched had two other similarities to my great grandfather inasmuch as he was born in the same year and died in the same year.

It would be interesting to have been able to pursue the coincidences further.

It is as I have pointed out before a favourite theme of ‘science fiction’ is the consequences of interference with events of the past and ‘alternate reality’.

No doubt this long dead person had many of the same choices and opportunities laid before him during his life. Which choices did he make? How was his life different?diverging paths.jpeg

The overarching question proposed as we come to this time of year, though it should be far more often, is what are we doing with regards to this ‘Crucified’ man? It is our answer to this question that will dictate the path of our future lives.

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A Worse than Egyptian darkness!

Beneath the Sod!

We are watchers of a beacon 
whose light must never die;
We are guardians of an altar 
that shows Thee ever nigh;
We are children of Thy freemen 
who sleep beneath the sod;
For the might of Thine arm we bless Thee, 
our God, our fathers’ God. ( Charles Sylvester Horne 1865 -1914)

 

Of all the  ‘long past’ relatives I have researched, the only ones that I have found any direct evidence for more a than ‘nominal’ Christian belief are my great, great grandparents on my mother’s side.

I discovered by the fact that my great, great grandfather was killed in a mine accident in 1898.

I have a copy of the newspaper report made at the time and recognized the names of several ministers , one of whom was very well known at the time, involved in the funeral.100_0373.JPG

In other words, they were known for the company they kept.

True this is not conclusive but speaks in favour of a strong Christian connection with a very evangelical section of the Church.

We owe an immense debt, whether we recognize it or not, to those who have gone before us in the Christian faith.

Our spiritual descent from them may be direct or indirect but it is still real and tangible.

It behooves us all to play our part, to the full extent of our abilities and influence, to the next generation by whatever means and opportunities available to us.

Where would we have been had one link in this long chain had been missing and we not reached by it?

God in His purposes and providence has forged each and every one of the ‘links ‘of the chain of our Salvation.

He has not only in the external circumstances but in the hearts of men and women down through history.

It is eternally certain that His purposes for the redemption of His Chosen people will not fail.

To His name be the glory

william jay

bushman's guide.jpeg

W. Arnold Long recounts the story of a ‘moonlight’ battle between a Wallaby (a small kangaroo) and an exceptionally large ‘carpet’ snake which had entangled its feet and was severely restricting its movement and preventing its escape.carpet snake

The Wallaby was to the point of complete exhaustion by all its attempts to escape and was on the point of succumbing when a ‘shot ‘rang out and the snake fell dead.

An unseen spectator had gone to his dwelling to fetch his gun and dispatched the snake thus saving the Wallaby.wallaby

Long makes the point that in our life and death struggle with sin , we to were on the point of succumbing to its just deserts when  our Lord Jesus Christ entered the ‘lists’ and by His death and resurrection overcame sin , death and the devil.

To Him be all glory in the Church!

colquhoun

Beneath the Sod!

Encapsulated Truth.

We are always being told that the simplest way to deal with an inadequate diet is to take a ‘vitamin supplement’ to make up for what we are missing out on by our skipping meals and  through our substituting ‘junk food’ for those more nutritious.vit amins.jpeg

Science fiction tells us that one day all our dietary requirements will come in a condensed and probably rather tasteless form.

The increased pace of our lives demands things to be quick, easy and ready to hand.

Why should we be wasting time cooking and preparing meals when it is far easier to buy something ready prepared and microwaveable, even if not quite as healthy and tastes of cardboard?

It has often been the case that expedients and substitutes have found their way into people’s diets.

The American woodsman who could not always carry supplies and find game, survived on dried meat called ‘jerky’. The Arctic explorer made do with ‘Pemmican’ and the seaman ‘salt pork’ and biscuits, often accompanied by weevils.pemmican

These expedients were necessary at times but could never make up for a balanced and sufficient diet.

In the area of communicating information and points of view, opinions and truths are often conveyed by the passing on of quotes from learned and influential people.

These ‘quotes’ often serve to  illustrate points we may feel they communicate in a superior or more condensed than we ourselves are able to do.

As you see from this blog, I avail myself of quoted sources which in my view ‘encapsulate’ truths I think are important and worthy to be more widely known.

Some people have a great gift for compressing useful and memorable truths into a terse and ‘pungent’ i.e. affecting ways.

These ‘words of wisdom’ and ‘quips’ and ‘quotes’ may supplement our intellectual diet and may be convenient forms to carry  and help preserve things into our memory, but will not wholly replace our own reading, study and contemplation.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was a master at conveying teaching to the masses in the ‘condensed’ forms of Parables and ‘sayings’. These teachings were easily remembered and were heard gladly by the people.

Some were content to marvel at Christ’s wisdom and entertainment value without looking more deeply and  as a consequence received no further benefit, others sought deeply and  found more substantial ‘food’ and reaped eternal benefits.

Taken in isolation, the ‘sayings of Jesus’ can act as a ‘pick me up’ in a given situation and they are valuable for their coming in a more portable and readily memorable form but they must be accompanied by continued feeding and meditation and thorough digestion of what God has to say to us in His Word as well as reading those who have left sound and useful works for us to study.

Storefronts!

Due to the decline of ‘Corner stores’ or as we call them here ‘shops’, there are many of them that are now merely people’s homes.old store

They  may still have the overhead ‘verandahs’ and the large display windows but now they are closed and have no access and interaction with the public.

It may be said that many ‘Christians’ are  much like these disused businesses that inasmuch as their only concern is with their own salvation and personal welfare and have no further concerns.

They may make a token effort in supporting the work of missions and some prayer but they have long given up very much in the way of witness and evangelism as  being a ‘lost cause’ in the current atheistic climate.

It is easy to be discouraged as to the state of affairs in Christianity and its progress and witness in the World. We may have all come to the point that we have thrown up our hands and yielded to despair.

We have been infected with the almost universal sense of embarrassment with regards to the gospel .It does seem that many of those who make the most noise in Christianity, proclaim very little of the Scriptural message of Salvation and instead preach a ‘therapeutic’ gospel’ which most find less offensive.

While we may be assured that the cause of Christ will triumph in the end we are still reminded by Christ’s parable of the talents, that we have been each given spiritual ‘capital’ to invest and a heavenly reward awaiting us. Therefore we, each one of us are called by the Saviour to be ‘open for business when it comes to our life and witness for Him in the World.

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To me the most poignant thing I have come across in my ‘cemetery’ researches is the  finding of a grave in one of the ‘infant’ sections where a couple  lost twins.

Three rows down I found that three years later this same couple, lost a baby girl.

I can only imagine how these parents suffered and wonder how they survived?

The Christian life is not not one that is free or immune to tragedy and sadness and sometimes we come close to being crushed by them.

But for the Christian faith and the power of Christ’s resurrection, death would remain a hopeless void.

We can only pity those who have no ‘Rock’ to cling to and seek to  lift up Christ as the truest support and stay for people who would otherwise be without hope.

************************************************************************

leighton

 

Encapsulated Truth.

Knowledge without Wisdom!

 

The Bible tells us that in the ‘last days’ knowledge will increase and so it has proved, yet I believe it cannot be truly said that ‘man’s’ wisdom has grown in proportion to his scientific knowledge.

We see the modern push for the young to pursue scientific and technological careers in the hope they will improve themselves and the prospects for the World’s future.face

I would never downplay education but it seems to be case that advanced knowledge can often dwell in the same soul with low morality and depravity and selfishness.

The desire for Wisdom as well as knowledge among men is in itself admirable but for the Christian it is the wisdom ‘from on high’ that is to be sought above all else.

To know the Lord Jesus Christ is the gateway to all true wisdom and is the truest and best path to that knowledge which satisfies our yearnings and aspirations.

Kenneth Graham’s Toad may have sung boastinglyMr-Toad-s-image-from-the-book-mr-toad-38372591-621-768.jpg

“The wise men up at Oxford know all that is to be know’d, but none of them know half as much as intelligent Mr. Toad”.

 

But all the knowledge and worldly wisdom we might obtain is but a cipher unless Christ is the figure we place before it, (paraphrasing George Swinnock ,Puritan)

A ‘nasal twang’!

J.K. Popham, as I recall, lamented in his day, the fact that the most of the Christianity people heard and sought out invariably came with a ‘nasal twang’ or in plain speech from America and Americans.uncle sam.jpeg

This fascination for American Christianity in other parts of the World has continued to this day.

There is no doubt that the ‘United States’ has long been regarded as a ‘go ahead’ place and a driving force in the modern world.

Even with the rise of China, America still sets the tone and trend for much of the planet.

From its media most of all. We feel its influence on what we wear what we listen to and watch and what is socially and morally acceptable or not.

The American impact on ‘Christianity’ has been phenomenal to such an extent that most if not all of the world’s Christians look to it in expectation for guidance and example.

That the United States has had a positive impact on Christianity is demonstrable, that it has had some negative influence and effect it is also evident.

The only point I would make is that our admiration for what America represents and achieves should not lead us into blind and unthinking emulation.

The Christian Church in the U.S. as it appears in the ‘media’ seems to the rest of us, successful and vibrant.

So in many places it may be.

Sadly, much of what we have seen has savoured more often than not of ‘hype’ and ‘razz a matazz’.

What is truest and best in Christianity is not always what we see conveyed to us on the ‘Christian’ media.

We may be impressed by the numbers attending and the phenomenon displayed, but is the gospel being preached, is the Christianity of the people attending real and constant and of a ‘Biblical’ type?Lakewood-Church.jpg

Napoleon said that ‘God is on the side of the big battalions’.

America may have the ‘big battalions’ in a seemingly Christian sense but it is the reality of the Christianity professed and the reality that the name of Christ is being glorified which counts now and in eternity.

We may well be thankful for the much good ‘American’ Christianity does, while being wary of the false teaching and unreal expectations that originates from some sections of it.

bishop Jewel

Knowledge without Wisdom!

Trouble and Strife!

Many refer to the Christian Church in its earthly form as the ‘Church militant’.

The Church sadly, has often been less engaged in conflict with its greatest enemies of ‘sin, the flesh and the devil’ but more often with different factions and shades of opinion within its self.

It not only has to do with open enemies but also those who are, when measured by Scripture found to be ‘false teachers’. Still further the Church must deal with those who err from aspects of the truth without departing from the faith.

This is leading to a great deal of online discussion, even more so with the passing of Dr. Billy Graham.

Some would be tempted to ignore the controversies of the times and others would sail in ‘sword waving’.

To me it seems that the great need of the times is for us all to seek a well balanced and proportioned Christianity.

It is unlikely that the majority of Christians will harmonize on many things pertaining to theology and practice. So whatever our persuasion or perspective it behooves us all to endeavour to avoid the pitfalls on the one side while keeping clear of the quagmire on the other.

At the very least this involves us in coming to an understanding of Scripture as a whole and not grasping at one teaching of Scripture at the expense of another.

Also it is necessary to place no more weight and emphasis on a portion of Scripture than it can reasonably bear.

It is also dangerous to take many portions of Scripture out of their context and historical setting.

We have seen in the past the tendency to spiritualize scriptures that were meant to be taken literally and contra wise take literally scriptures that were meant to be taken spiritually. How much discernment is required to decide which is which?

So many it seems have their own axe to grind and therefore see the entire of the Word of God in a certain light and live their Christianity accordingly.

Ultimately it is an over confidence in our own wisdom and abilities that prevents us from realizing our own utter inability and instead seeking wisdom from on high to help us to come to a true and proper understanding of what God says to us in His Word and live our Christian lives accordingly.

Our crying need is for true Christ-like living balanced with true Scriptural knowledge tempered by true Christian humility and love.

The ‘Westland Whirlwind’

300px-Westland_whirlwind

was a British twin engine fighter built during World War Two.

The prolonged development problems with its Rolls Royce ‘Peregrine’ engines and its tendency for engine power to fade at altitude caused it to be limited to low altitude ground attacks, in this it was very effective.

Likewise, many Christians find it difficult to aspire to the Spiritual heights that others may reach. Yet rather than wait idly for some exalted revelation or experience they must serve Christ to the best of their ability in the more pedestrian and mundane areas of Christian service.

As Christ teaches us in the Parable it is the one who contents Him or herself with the humblest place that receives the call to “Come up higher‘!

 

jcryle on luke12

The Marble Man!

Someone described Robert E. Lee as the “Marble man” because he was such a fine and noble man that it was hard to find fault with him, despite being blamed by many ‘Northerners’ for lengthening the war even when it was clearly lost by the South.r lee

There are very few if any who can go throughout the entire lives without truly or falsely having criticism laid against them.

Whether it is the fact of mud always sticking or genuine criticism of obvious error, the Christian must be in constant vigilance to be fair and just as well as loving and compassionate in all their judgments and assessments of people and ideas.

We can set people so high in our esteem that we are purblind to their failings and faults while with others we are always on the lookout for any failing and fall.

Naturally we would like to appear as those who are forever seeing the best in people but the truth is we are more prone to look for the worst.

We have in this country something called ‘the tall poppy’ syndrome. It is where we build some one up to the skies and then later  take much pleasure in tearing them down again.

Such a spirit and attitude is very far from a Christian one.

Our Lord Jesus Christ knew, even while on earth what was in men’s hearts, finally and ultimately He alone can judge the depth and reality of our faith and obedience.

We would do far better if we left the Final Judgment to Him alone.

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To some of you we say, Go forward rather than pray. Think not that we would, as these words might imply, cast discredit on prayer. But, beloved our hearts are deceitful, and although we should at every moment have an upward eye and a thirsting heart for the guidance and the presence of the living God, still there are times and circumstances when it becomes almost a sin to pray. Sometimes it is unbelief that makes us pray, or rather seem to pray, else what does that word mean, ”Why criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.'”(Ex 14:15) — William C. Burns

 

Trouble and Strife!

“They being Dead yet speaketh”

100_0368

Sadly this grave is in ‘off the beaten track’ part of the cemetery, yet I wonder how many who do see it pause and reflect upon it.

We may put the thought of death far from us but this does not lessen its inevitability.

The Day of Salvation is now and any prevarication is dangerous.

As the Lord God has through Christ came and sought us so we are called upon to seek Him while He may be found.

We are not merely called to take up the profession of Christianity but rather to be made anew in ‘being born from above’ and become a new creation.

May all who read this blog who do not know the Saviour ,the Lord Jesus Christ, take heed and act upon this warning from someone so long departed.

thomas brooks

 

“They being Dead yet speaketh”

The home at Bethany!

Mount-of-Olives3

The history of Mary, Martha and Lazarus has been written and preached about many times and so familiar to us all.

That Jesus, who loved all, chose some above others as nearest and dearest is a fruitful subject for discourse and imagination.

For those who study the ministry of our Lord and its attendant difficulties and hardships it come as a relief that the Lord Jesus found some refuge, repose and fellowship in this humble home.

There are few Deserts that do have an ‘oasis’, so there are few lives however difficult that do not have their ‘mon repos’ (French for my place of rest).

(As an aside, I often wonder about the logistics of accommodating Jesus and his disciples. Were they farmed out to for accommodation in various locations to minimize the burden of feeding and housing such a large group? Did the disciples forage for themselves at the end of the day? Did Jesus always send notice ahead that He was coming?)

The pencil sketches we have of the occupants of this home in Bethany are descriptive if brief.

How dearly we would love more detail about Jesus’ life. Yet the scriptural portrait of Christ’ ministry and life has enriched His people and will continue to do so to the end of the age.

Of Lazarus we know very little apart from the fact that Jesus loved him. It is a telling fact that after Christ’s raising him from the dead that the Jewish leaders plotting Jesus’ death thought it might be necessary to kill Lazarus as well.

Martha is the well meaning, care ridden and task obsessed house keeper who misses out on the far more essential fellowship with Jesus. While she may well be blamed for this, the fact remains that her desire to minister to Christ puts much of our ‘lackadaisical’ and careless Christian service to shame.

She obviously believes in the eventual resurrection of the dead but baulks somewhat at Christ’s power to raise the dead in the here and now.

Martha has doubts and fears but wisely surrenders them in the knowledge that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and that God will certainly hear Him.

Mary is admired by all as the thoughtful and contemplative one. She will forget all else to come and sit at Jesus feet and rightly so.

We might humourously imagine however that if she had done her fair share of duties before Christ arrived there would have been less likelihood of Martha’s frustration.

Seriously, she sets before us all the example of seeking first and foremost the ‘one thing needful’ in the listening to and communing with Jesus. Like her, we should never let it be taken away from us.

When Jesus speaks we should ignore all else because it is here that blessing and spiritual riches come to us, more importantly to be with Him is to become like Him.

The family of Bethany’s nearness of affection to Jesus did not shield them from trial and sorrow. Indeed for the present it heightened it as Jesus delayed His arrival. To have faith is to have hope and yet hope delayed is itself the source fear and pain.

 

Christ’s human love for his friends was subordinated to the desire to glorify God and though they suffered a little longer it served a higher purpose and did not lessen the joy they eventually received.

So this often proves in our daily lives. Were we to live lives free from trial and sorrow, Satan would accuse us as he did Job. That God is able to sustain us in the ‘ills’ of life strengthens us and glorifies Him

The believer often appears to fare no better than the unbeliever and at times appears to fare even worse. Yet they would not part from their Saviour, though he seems to hide Himself.

The sister’s sorrow is more than repaid by the Lord’s return of their brother to them from the tomb. Yes Lazarus is raised to die again yet in The Resurrection,  Christ  becomes the door to life.lazarus

Again Mary’s love for the Lord comes to the fore in anointing and washing his feet. Her eyes in faith looked towards the coming sacrifice, when no one else sees it and acts accordingly.

Others may sneer at the cost and seeming impropriety but Our Lord Jesus is worthy of our richest and best love.

As a memorial it will stand to the end of the age because the same devotion is sought for in all of Christ’s people, yet how feeble and cold is our love still.

When we are troubled with many things and worn thin with cares and fears let us return in thought and imagination to this ‘Home in Bethany’ and sit at the feet of our Lord.

Famous Relatives!

Further to my mention of my ‘Ford relations’, the story has filtered down that as well as some of them coming here to Australia, some of them went to America as well.

It was asserted by someone that from this American branch of the Ford family sprang Henry Ford of Model  ‘A’ and ‘T’ fame.1917_Ford_Model_T_Runabout

I searched for a possible connection, but as his family seemed to have come from Ireland, if there is indeed a link it is further back than I am able to find.

For many of us being related to someone famous gives us a boost in our estimation of ourselves.

I think I recounted before,  the encounter Will Rogers snr. had with a ‘society’ woman whose boasted that her ancestors came out on the ‘Mayflower’.

He replied that his ancestors met them on their arrival.

If we do not possess fame ourselves, we would still like to be somehow associated with someone who does.

If we have not yet made our mark in life we would still like to bask in the reflected glory of someone who has.

However this may be for each of us, in the eternal scheme of things it is our relation and union with Christ that counts above all.

We may well live and die in obscurity and without our names meaning anything to anybody as long as Christ is glorified in us and through us.

Far rather bask in the glory of God in Christ than the World’s short lived and tawdry fame.

House Proud?

On one of my cemetery walks I came across the grave of a man who died in the 1930’s and who felt it necessary to have his former address including street number engraved upon his tombstone.

One wonders what interest he thought future generations would show in his former habitation?

The fact that he once lived in one of the better neighborhoods of the City may have been important to him but could it really impress anyone else?

Would it not have been far better if he could have given a ‘forwarding’ address?

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The home at Bethany!