Jesus: Worthy of great faith.

21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting [a]at us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began [b]to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not [c]good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; [d]but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”Matthew 15:21-27

  • That Jesus who stooped to welcome and bless the children brought to Him, should have raised an objection to granting the request and responding to the plight of this Syro-phoenician woman is ,to a superficial reading of the passage ,incomprehensible
  • That Jesus who in the past, refused to conform to typical Jewish prejudices regarding Gentiles, should seem to fall back on them in this dire case is stranger still.syrophoenician-woman

The woman’s daughter was in the worst plight imaginable and it would take a very hard heart not to be moved to action by it. Yet here was the most compassionate man who ever existed, acting and speaking with typical Jewish exclusiveness and showing unwillingness to help.

The disciples re-acted accordingly and bade Jesus send the woman away because she was becoming a nuisance

  • Maybe this woman had caught Jesus at a bad time, perhaps in a time of weariness or despondency?
  • Or did Jesus have one persona for the nation of the Jews and quite another for the Heathen gentiles?
  • Did He have a “public face”, or was He in fact quite a different person away from the public gaze?

If Christ was any of these things it was a great departure from all that He showed Himself to be up to this point.

There was a lot more going on here than what appeared to the casual observer.

The answer Jesus gave to the woman’s plea for help gave little to encourage her and too many may have seemed rather hurtful in that He compared the gentiles to pets worthy only of scraps.

This woman however had no intention of being put off; she was not the sort who would be discouraged by difficulties placed in her path: her daughters need was such that only Jesus, the proven healer of all manner of diseases could help her and if it took humbling herself to the position of a beggar she would.

If she as a gentile and alien was of no more consideration than a dog, only worthy of scraps, she would recieve them and be thankful .

Like an apparently stern father that moves further away and bids his unsteady infant to come to him, Jesus had drawn out the faith of this woman for all to see and emulate.

28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once. Matthew 15:28

For all His disciples, then and now, with their small and deficient faith, Jesus objectifies the necessity and possibilities of great faith in the great Saviour and bids them believe and do likewise.

Christ demonstrates here, that though sometimes he seems far away and we may be conscious of our unworthiness, he is no less willing to save and help.

He also shows that it is only our lack of persistence in prayer and feeble faith that holds us back from growth in grace and victory over sin and fear.

We today, think of God merely as a cornucopia who gives instantly and on demand. If this were the case what need would there be for faith.

He departs from us that we may seek Him more diligently. He delays the answers to our prayers that we may pray more fervently and grow spiritually.

Had Jesus immediately ceded to this woman’s plea she would have been just one of the great numbers of nameless beneficiaries of his power and healing. Instead she is now an object lesson of the importance of powerful faith in the followers of Jesus.

Her short discomfort at Christ’s seeming refusal is repaid abundantly not only by the healing of her daughter but by the confirmation of her faith and its being placed in the one truly worthy of it.

God grant us like faith.

Nurture and Admonition

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

The Authorized has it “The nurture and admonition of the Lord”.

While this verse specifically refers to children of Christian parents it surely has a wider application to the attitude of God’s children to His teaching and discipline.

In the days of the Judges, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes”, if ever an age could be described like this, it is this one in which we live.

This is not a very teachable age. People nowadays do not react well to correction or admonition. Not everyone is called upon to exercise these functions but for those who are it is certainly getting harder.

In the Church especially the function of pastor and teacher has, as it seems to me greatly diminished. What is worse is the teach- ability and correct- ability of the taught is at a very low level. The emphasis today is not so much teaching and equipping the followers of Christ to live holy lives but instead it is more about offering them purpose and fulfillment. These are not wrong but they are essentially man-centered and not God-centered.

Today we hear a great deal of the need to deal with negative thoughts and behaviours but very little about the need to mortify our remaining sin and practical Christian living in an otherwise Christ less world.

Due to the fact that much of the Bible and scriptural teaching is regarded as obsolete and outmoded, even by those who profess Christianity, today’s Christian is very likely to behave in some situations just like the non Christian. He is not being taught otherwise by the leaders who should be doing so.

The nominal Christian who is in an unhappy marriage is just as likely to file for a divorce as the non professor.

The person who regards the Bible as unclear or obsolete on some subjects will point to the rule of grace over law and the mercy and love of Christ as an excuse to engage in sinful practices and lifestyles and still be expected to be regarded as a Christian.

The corrective Bible teaching so necessary today is regarded as offensive and unpleasant so it is is foregone and neglected in the hope that God will by some other means convict the erring “believer” and correct him or her sooner or later.

It was here that the Apostle Paul pulled up the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 because they had neglected to deal with a blatant case of immorality in their midst. The church it seems was so intoxicated by their own seeming success that they saw no need to rock the boat give offense to the people who saw nothing wrong in this behaviour and knew no better.

Fortunately they heeded the Apostle and dealt with the situation and as 2 Corinthians shows the admonition had the desired effect and restored the offender to fellowship after their repentance.

One wonders what some of our modern churches would do in a like situation.

I fear there are many who would turn a blind eye and hope the wrongdoer would disappear from the scene and thus preserve the  peace and status quo.

Others would say that we are no longer bound by the dated ideas of morality espoused by scripture or the “puritan” kill joy disciplines of the past.

The line of thinking being that as long as the actions of the persons involved do not upset the moral sensibilities of society or intefere with the organization of the church, it is better to let it pass without too much fuss being made: “We all like a quiet life”.

The Church today does not see its role as teaching right from wrong on moral issues and indeed the “World” openly discourages it from doing so.

The pressure to allow greater latitude and laxness is not all coming from without but  much of it is now coming from within the christian church.

The pressure to tone down doctrine , discipline and correction is given impetus by the fear of congregations losing members, splitting the church or being sued by disgruntled former members for discrimination, vilification and emotional hurt.

As most churches today see themselves in a “business” model and paradigm they regard the teaching of doctrines unpleasing to modern man or inconvenient to some of the members , as bad for their bottom line.

The church’s faithfulness to God and His Word is of less consequence than the numbers and frequency of attendance as well as the healthiness of the offerings and bank accounts.

This is not a blanket condemnation but in many denominations and churches we cannot help but see the temptation to sacrifice Truth for expediency and faithfulness for growth and seeming success.

  • The fact is your average Christian is not being called to the discipleship and self denial that they would have been  in the past.
  • Right and wrong are treated as something the congregation should already know or left in “shades of grey”.
  • There is nothing hard and fast in the Church anymore.
  •  We desire harmony and look to give people a good experience from their church attendance rather leading them to Christ and true salvation and  discipleship.
  • The Church may indeed speak about Christ but it tends to blur the need for accepting His commands and yielding to His Lordship.

We need a return to an uncompromising proclamation of Christ and His Word regardless of what it does to our popularity or attendance.

Our aims in all we do must be God- centered and God-pleasing.

Otherwise regardless of our seeming success it will be found at last to be nothing more than “wood, hay and stubble’.

“Cause célèbre”

The cult of Celebrity is predominant in the thought and business practice of this current age.

The media, business and other organizations are adept at utilizing the drawing power of celebrities to further their various ends.

The church it seems is not unaffected by this phenomenon in that it seeks to further its cause and  validates its endeavors by pointing to the famous and successful people who profess Christianity and use them as role models and draw cards.

How valid this practice is I leave to the judgment of God.

The inference seems to be that “success” and Christianity go hand in hand.

I fear that sometimes this “success” has more to do with the benefits pertaining to this worldly life being enhanced and guaranteed by the mere fact of becoming a Christian.

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come“. 1 Timothy 4:8

While it is true that the Christian has the promise of this life and the next, this seldom translates into an opulent lifestyle and freedom from earthly ills.

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What is does mean that the Christian is able to triumph in whatever circumstances he finds himself and despite appearances otherwise is  being blessed abundantly: yet he  looks chiefly to his heavenly reward at last.

While fame used as a tool in Christian witness may guarantee a hearing, it has the real danger of focusing and terminating people’s attention on the celebrated person themself, and not truly on the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have pointed in past articles to the action of John the Baptist when he came under scrutiny at the height of his”Fame” and notoriety.

He in his day, was widely known and had no shortage of  “Groupies” and could have ,if he had wished, pushed himself forward, yet rather than taking advantage of this celebrity to expand his own ministry , he pointed all the attention to “He” who was coming after himself, the One to whom the glory and adulation truly belonged.

The Apostle Paul could have laid claim a measure of fame and celebrity. His career as a persecutor of the church was widely known as was his unique conversion experience and subsequent labours.

When the need to speak of his past arose, the apostle makes very little of his own contribution or accomplishment but attributes it all to the power of Christ working in and through him.

The sinful world may place its admiration where it will; it has proven itself exceedingly fickle in the past and will continue to do so.It will set up and pull down those it admires at any given time.

We must not take our lead from them,rather we must

“Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly”.John 7:24

The truth is most Christians will pass through this life unknown and nameless to the “fame intoxicated” masses.

Our end as believers, famous or not, is to point people to Christ and lose ourselves in the light of His glory.

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Jesus: Worthy of great faith.

Survivor Malta!

For someone as widely traveled as the Apostle Paul Shipwreck was an occupational hazard. This particular disaster was harrowing in the extreme. It came to the point that the Roman soldiers guarding the prisoners were contemplating killing them lest they escape. Paul’s intervention no doubt saved all on board because he had faith in the promise of God for their preservation.

One lesson we can immediately draw is that God’s sovereignty does not take away man’s responsibility. That the crew and passengers of the ship were going to survive was God’s word to them by Paul but they must remain on the Ship. So in fact it proved. When the ship ran aground those who could were able to swim to land and those who could not were lashed to parts of the ship which could float and would wash to shore.

The castaway’s arrival on the island of Malta and their treatment by the inhabitants is one of those homely events of which scripture is full. The Maltese although regarded by the Greeks and Romans as barbarians proved themselves more hospitable than either and did their level best to make them comfortable.

A fire was lit and Paul pitched in by fetching firewood which by chance had a snake nestled in it. Having fastened itself on his hand the locals assumed that having escaped death in the sea, justice was catching up to this hardened criminal. Paul simply flung the viper into the fire, while everybody waited for him to swell up and die, he didn’t. There was something extraordinary about this man.https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/84/ef/18/84ef18dcd9e1e8430ddb13c60d0e3790.jpg

The headman of the island Publius welcomed them into his home and cared for them. One of his servants was sick and Paul prayed for him and by God’s power healed him. After this many came to Paul with various types of sickness and he healed them. I have no doubt that the Maltese people’s kindness and hospitality to God’s apostle and companions was the cause of great blessing to them and maybe the beginnings of a church there.

Paul had long sought to visit Rome and while this was an unlikely way to accomplish it and was harrowing at times there is no doubt but that by the providence of God, great Blessing was the result.

So it is that God leads His people in unlikely way, not always comfortable and  sometimes perilous yet He bring them through and leads to blessing and eternal good.

https://i1.wp.com/www.perfectweddingsabroad.co.uk/sites/default/files/venue/gallery/St.%20Pauls%20Bay%20Chapel%2001.jpgSaint Paul’s bay

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Pride is apt to think ill of others; but humility leads a man to think ill of himself. While pride is observing the defects of others, their coldness and deadness, their ignorance and weakness; humility has work enough at home; is most jealous of itself, and most suspicious of the deceit of the heart which it occupies.-Thomas Charles of Bala 1755-1814

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‘Preach the gospel of the grace of God, intelligibly, affectionately and without shame-all the contents of the great book from predestination to glorification’. Christmas Evans 1766-1838, Minister Anglesey ,Wales

Survivor Malta!

Here or hereafter?

 

It does seem today that most Christians want all their good things now. Where is the heavenly mindedness of former generations? They showed contempt for the things of this world. For them the goods, pleasures and preferments offered by the world were of no comparison with the things of Christ and the great reward waiting for them in heaven.

Why is all our attention today on the things of time which pass away in the using and of short duration? Why do we neglect the enduring and eternal things of God?

How unlike us were the believers of the Old Testament? They saw very little fruition of their faith in this world. They lived by faith and hope in God’s promises. They did not see the fulfillment and only had the merest foretaste of the blessings which were to come. This sustained them and carried them through. How many of the good things and earthly pleasures of this earthly life were cast aside so they could inherit the great and unfading riches of God. How much did they suffer and endure because the clung to this imperishable hope?

Why do we today want to weigh ourselves down with inordinate seeking for wealth and cloying pleasures?

The modern believer is not content to wait, they want here as well as hereafter. How many so-called Bible teachers promise their followers the World? How many of their followers walk away disappointed?

Luther said of the Turkish Empire (the most rich and powerful at the time), that it was nothing else but a crust cast by Heaven’s great Housekeeper to His dogs. Also when he had come into a measure of financial security and material comfort, Luther begged God not to fob him off with it and there by forego and lack desire for God’s true blessings.

The unbeliever knows nothing else but this world, here is the only good they know and experience. It is understandable if it is all they seek.

19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Phillipians 3:19-20

Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”John 3:19

If we must grasp at anything let us grasp at the Salvation and eternal hope which is found in Christ regardless of our status and prosperity. Let us hold with a loose grip the things of this world, which like sand slips through our fingers if they are clenched too tight.

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The Wooden Wonder!

Jerry Yagen's restored DH-98 Mosquito, part of his Military Aviation Museum collection, is one of only two in the world now flying.

The Dehaviland Mosquito was a British multi role aircraft developed in the late 1930’s and built during the Second World War, serving throughout the war all over the World.

Due to fear of shortages in the supply of metal and seeking light weight and speed, it was constructed almost entirely of veneered wood  glued together.  This enabled production to be farmed out to furniture manufacturers and wood workers.

Despite being twice the weight and using a similar “Merlin “ engine it was faster than a Spitfire mark II.

The Mosquito was capable of acting as a bomber, fighter and reconnaissance aircraft.
It proved itself an exceedingly useful aircraft on the side of the allies.

It had only one major operational problem. When it was in service in the Far East, the damp and humidity actually caused some aircraft to come unglued in the air.

For an aircraft hoped to reach speeds of 400 mph plus it took a great deal of imagination to construct it out of wood.

The Christian to is an unlikely construction on God’s part. Our frailty and feebleness, as well as our sinful propensities would make us unlikely to be of any use in His purposes. We in and of ourselves would almost certainly come unglued if He did not by his grace hold us together and make us a source of “Wonder” to the myriad of Angelic beings observing  from above.

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Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.

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This well known story has many points of interest.  I will only deal with a few. Firstly it is interesting to note that Philip at this time was actively involved in a highly successful work among the people of Samaria being attended by great crowds. God calls the Evangelist away from this important work and sends him to the middle of nowhere to deal with one man.

God’s workers go where He sends. Working with individuals is just as important as reaching the multitudes, sometimes more so.

This man was a high official of the Queen of Ethiopia and a proselyte of the Jewish religion returning from the temple. He was found deep in study of the book of Isaiah particularly Isa.53:7-8. He was wondering to whom the prophet was referring and Philip saw his bewilderment. This gave Philip the opportunity to preach Christ to the man and so immediate was the effect that he there and then sought to be baptized by Philip in Jesu’s name. The Spirit immediately carried Philip away to other work and the man went on his way rejoicing.

We can take the hint given here of watching for openings and opportunities for witnessing and evangelism, when they present themselves, it is God who sends them.

Being from Ethiopia we naturally assume this man was of the dark skinned people who dwelt there. We can certainly hope that this man’s conversion had a profound effect on his own people and lead to the conversion of others.

Various false interpreters of scripture used the cursing of Ham and the Hamitic peoples mentioned in Genesis chapter 9 as an excuse for mistreating the dark skinned peoples of Africa.

This verse clearly reminds us that there are no racial barriers at all in the way of the gospel. Indeed I think we can safely say that many people will come in to Christ’s Kingdom from Africa, South America and Asia where the gospel is preached, when the rich and privileged people of the Western World will remain outside, despite the existence of thousands of Bibles, churches and centuries of Christian preaching.

Today we hear much about “Seeker Sensitive” churches and worship. It is enlightening to observe how Philip handled this obvious seeker. He taught him the meaning of the scripture and proclaimed the good news of Jesus.

Philip was not content to point to a few proof texts but took the time to expound the Scripture especially as it referred to Christ and the way of Salvation via Calvary’s cross of which this passage in Isaiah foretells and is full of.

He was not squeamish or ashamed of using scripture, even as found in the Old Testament as the means of conveying God’s saving truth.

We would do well to follow Philip’s example today.

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Here or hereafter?

Jesus and John the Baptist

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Matthew 3:7

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We can only wonder what motives brought the Pharisees and Sadducees to leave Jerusalem and travel all the way out to see John the Baptist.  John said that their coming to be baptized by him inferred their seeking to escape the “Wrath to come” by repentance of sin and renewal of life.

Whether these Jewish leaders genuinely saw the need for the repentance that John’s Baptism represented is problematical. Perhaps they went as many Roman Catholics, on pilgrimage to a so-called Holy site. Maybe it was to give the appearance of great sanctity and religiosity. We can only hope some went in sincerity.

It could be also true that because the mass of the people left their employments and went to be baptized by him ,that the Jewish religious leaders could not  bear to be outdone  and have the common people show more religious devotion than they did.

Jesus himself talking about the Jewish reaction to John’s ministry said that;

He was a burning and a shining light: and you were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. John 5:35

We know that the Pharisees and Sadducees occupied the opposite extremes of Jewish religious life. They only banded together for dealing with common threats to the religious and political status quo.

They had sought John’s credentials for doing as he did (Matthew 1:25), and he made it very clear that he was not the Messiah.

(It is interesting to note that during the period that Jesus and his disciples baptized (John 3) that there is no mention of the Pharisees or Sadducees coming to be baptized by Him. Although they often came and asked Jesus to tell them his authority for doing and teaching as He did and a miracle for heavenly confirmation.)

This is pure speculation but it seems to me that John the Baptist fitted more into the Jewish idea and framework of a prophet and his ministry. He was the new “Elijah” who they had long waited for. He very much conformed to the Jews idea of a prophet even down to his manner of dress and diet.

People have always attached great superstitious reverence for the monastic and ascetic ie. austere, self denying, religious lifestyle. While many have followed this path during human history they have often done it to bring themselves a reputation for sanctity and in search of religious merit.

John the Baptist however was the very opposite. Indeed although he received the attention and favour of the multitude, he went out of his way to shun the adulation. Rather he pointed to the one who was coming, the true light of the world and the Lamb of God, by comparison of whom he was a mere nobody.

John condemned the practices and superficial religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees as vehemently as did Jesus. Yet we hear of no persecution or seeking to entrap him as they attempted with Jesus during His ministry. Indeed it was not until he “crossed” King Herod in his adultery, that John was eventually arrested and beheaded.

Jesus on the other hand was hounded from the beginning. I think it was fair to say that Jesus no way conformed to Jewish expectations. That He had miraculous gifts and teaching ability was obvious. The people followed him like shepherd- less sheep, (but what did they know)?

Despite all this the Jewish religious leaders rejected and crucified Jesus.  He was the Messiah they did not want. He was leading on a path and they did not want follow.  Ultimately they were more interested in freedom from the Romans and World domination than the forgiveness of sin and the establishment of the true church encompassing both Jew and Gentile, worshipping God “in spirit and in truth”.

John had he sought to, could have set himself up as a false messiah but in his faithfulness and devotion to God, he set the example that ministers of the gospel and Christians generally must follow, by exalting Christ and him alone as the hope and Saviour of the World.

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War and Peace?

I have been reading some books that talk about the Japanese invasion of China and the Asia Pacific during the Second World War.https://granosalispaullocandro.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/10f9f-japanese-infantry-march-manchuria-1931.jpg?w=660

By all accounts they were bloody, ruthless and barbaric in what they did to captured soldiers and civilians, young and old, male and female. The untold suffering they caused has forever tainted Japan’s reputation in the world.

So many years later Japan is technologically advanced seemingly peaceful.

My question is where did this propensity for violence go? Did the war and intervening years since, teach them the error of their ways and bring about a miraculous change, or is it still deep down in them somewhere, waiting to burst out?

The Japanese are not unique among the peoples of the earth. The fallen nature of man in given circumstances is capable of expressing itself in great hatred and mindless violence when not restrained by law and self control.

We all in some degree must watch over ourselves in order to avoid harming others physically, psychologically and spiritually. “There but by the grace of God go I.”

Some may speak of the inherit nobility of man and his eventual arrival at perfection but it is only through Christ’s redemption and repentance for sin and  by daily living in union with His indwelling Spirit that we can hope to deal with our sinful ,violent and hateful tendencies.

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Jesus and John the Baptist