The Way We were!

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:19-23 (ESV)

 

Paul does not mince words here. In very clear language he describes the sinful state we are all found in, apart from Christ.

First of all he says that we were alienated from God.  The consequence of the fall and our partaking of Adam’s sin is that we are no longer able to come into God’s holy presence without a mediator.

While God made us in the first place, because of our sin we are no longer in a filial relationship with Him out of Christ.

In our sinful state the lines of communication and fellowship are closed and no power of ours can re-open them.

Second the apostle says that we were hostile in mind.

It is not only a fact that we were without God but that by nature we hated Him and wanted nothing to do with Him.

Our sinful hostility towards God meant that we fell in with the plans of Satan and did works of darkness and evil deeds.

Such is the state of mankind in sin, without God and without hope.

Therefore the great need of sinful men was for sin to be dealt with and reconciliation with a just and holy God made possible.

Christ has done this by his death on the cross.  Even more, through this all availing sacrifice we can now approach God .blameless and holy, clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

It is through our abiding in the faith and remaining steadfast in holding to the gospel that we remain in fellowship and union with Christ thus answering God’s purpose in reconciling all things to Himself.

Those who seek to trim and diminish the gospel by ignoring the need for repentance on our part and reconciliation by the blood of Christ are greatly to be blamed for the low views many have on the sinfulness of sin and the supreme importance of Christ’s atoning and sacrificial death on our behalf.index be reconciled

 Those who choose a quiet life over the truth.

There are Christians in the churches who know that there is something wrong with their particular church’s proclamation of the gospel and deficient and populist  idea of worship and for the sake of a quiet life, say nothing and do nothing.

There are those, who because of large attendances and active programs, acquiesce in the preaching of suspect and false doctrines.

There are those who because of the close friendships and fellowship   they have in their particular churches turn a blind eye to the prevalent errors , ignorance of scriptural doctrine and lack of Christian Holiness, they see around them.

There are  Ministers, who know the true Gospel yet skimp and water down its preaching for the sole reason that they do not wish to offend and alienate the un-churched.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the solemn watchword hear;
If while ye sleep He suffers, away with shame and fear;
Where’er ye meet with evil, within you or without,
Charge for the God of battles, and put the foe to rout.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict, in this His glorious day.
Ye that are brave now serve Him against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, each soldier to his post,
Close up the broken column, and shout through all the host:
Make good the loss so heavy, in those that still remain,
And prove to all around you that death itself is gain.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle, the next the victor’s song.
To those who vanquish evil a crown of life shall be;
They with the King of Glory shall reign eternally. (George Duffield jr. 1818-1888)

 

James-Robertson-Justice-at-wwwdotbritmoviedotcodotuk

James Robertson Justice (15 June 1907 – 2 July 1975) : was one of the most ubiquitous character actors in the British films of 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

Thanks to his large frame , booming voice and bushy beard he was always an imposing and commanding presence in his various film roles ,(they are as long as your arm).

His early life was full of adventure and variety and later it was touched by tragedy.

His overwhelming passion was love for Scotland, although he was not born there.  His father came from Aberdeen.

“On his return from the war he reinvented himself with stronger Scottish roots. Feeling strongly about his Scottish ancestry, he claimed to have been born in 1905 under a distillery on the Isle of Skye; he also claimed on separate occasions to have been born in Wigtown, Wigtownshire, now in Dumfries and Galloway.

With the earnings he made from the film Doctor in the House, Justice bought a cottage in the Scottish Highlands village of Spinningdale.” (From Wiki)

In a great part due to the “Highland clearances “and other reasons, many people of Scottish descent migrated all over the world.

Yet even to those who were not born there and have never been there, it is still a romantic and enchanting place which speaks of home.

For my part I have always had a love for Scotland re-enforced by the writings and sermons of Christian men like Samuel Rutherford, David Dickson, John Willison, Thomas Boston and Robert Murray Mcheyne to name a few.

For the Christian, heaven is such a home. It is there that all that is dear to us dwells. It is where, in Christ, we will find true rest and eternal joy.

So when we set are tempted to set our hearts on the things of this world let us remember that “Our hearts are in another place, our hearts are not here.”

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The Way We were!

Balaam: If the Price is Right!

The story of Balaam is one you would rarely hear mentioned in a modern sermon.

Ironically there are many treading the same road and if they do not repent they will meet the same end.

This “prophet “or more probably what they used to call a “soothsayer” is somewhat of an enigma. He was a prophet for hire and such was his prophetic gift that Balak the king of Moab sought him to curse the children of Israel. This petty potentate felt threatened by the encroaching Israelites but need not have worried because they were commanded of God not to take any territory from either Moab or Edom. Yet such was the hostility this king had for them that he sought Israel’s destruction by magical rather than military means.

The passage infers that Balaam had delivered messages from God at previous times and a casual reading would suggest that the prophet was well acquainted with the Lord God. Yet even from the first Balaam seems to have been dazzled by the rich prize Balak dangled before him.

Balaam provided hospitality to the king’s emissaries while he sought the Lord.

The Lord clearly forbade him to either go with them or curse God’s chosen people. So the ambassadors departed.

King Balak was not so easily deterred and sent a larger entourage of more important people and this time offered the prophet not only riches but preferment and honour.

While in his speech he stood firm, he sought again to the Lord perhaps hoping God would change His mind and thus be able to oblige Balak and maybe gain the reward.

God allowed the prophet to accompany the men if they asked him to but with the proviso that he only spoke what God commanded him to. The following passage is unclear inasmuch as it seems that God changed his mind and was angry at Balaam for going with the emissaries of the king.

Rather it would seem that in his eagerness for the promised reward he preempted the emissary’s invitation and took off with two of his servants to meet them.

God expects our obedience to His commands to be obeyed to the letter. Balaam could see only the riches and honour Balak promised and this blinded him to anything else.

How many professing Christians today have their eyes on the wrong prize by seeking to serve and worship God yet are covetous for wealth and ease?

The story of Balaam and the donkey may cause some to stumble, yet God is well able to give voice to the dumb creation when he has something to say.indexbalaam

Light heartedly we can discover for ourselves who was the real donkey out of these two. The donkey could clearly see the danger ahead of them when this great “prophet” could not.

We have here the compassion of God illustrated in stopping Balaam in a sinful course.

The lesson and warning this incident taught Balaam about obedience to God’s commands brought him to a shallow repentance because although he obeyed God in prophesying the blessed future of God’s people and even the coming of the Messiah, it did not change the fundamental sinful bent of his desires.

15 And he took up his discourse and said,

“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
    the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
    falling down with his eyes uncovered:
17 I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
    and break down all the sons of Sheth.
18 Edom shall be dispossessed;
    Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
    Israel is doing valiantly.
19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
    and destroy the survivors of cities!” Numbers 22:15-19

Balak, king of Moab’s persistence beggar’s belief, by every means conceivable he sought Balaam to curse the people yet time and again Balaam was prompted by God to bless the children of Israel and forth tell their future blessings. It made no difference where they stood or how many altars he built God’s will in the blessing of his people will always stand even in the face of their enemies.static1.squarespace.com

The purposes of God cannot be thwarted by man.

And Balaam took up his discourse and said,

“From Aram Balak has brought me,
    the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:
‘Come, curse Jacob for me,
    and come, denounce Israel!’
How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
    How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
For from the top of the crags I see him,
    from the hills I behold him;
behold, a people dwelling alone,
    and not counting itself among the nations!
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob
    or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
    and let my end be like his!” Numbers 22: 7-10

This passage from scripture also is a salutary warning for us all inasmuch as it shows us that a person can be gifted and used of God and yet not truly one of His own and also how easily it is to be tempted from obedience and faith by the deceitful riches a, honours and pleasures of this world.

Later we see Balaam advising Balak to use the women of Moab to entice the men of Israel to sin and idolatry, thus bringing dire judgment upon the people. He chose to ignore God’s warnings and set himself against the will of God thus hastening headlong on the path of destruction.

Balaam did not live long to enjoy the rewards of wickedness because he was later killed by the children of Israel during their war with the kings of Midian.

We must all choose whose side we are on.

Balaam knew the true God and indeed served Him to some degree yet he did so with a divided and covetous heart and paid the price of disobedience and impenitence.

Let us be warned by his sorry end to be wholehearted in our faith and obedience to God.

Also may we see the bright future of God’s chosen people. Although they may now be “under a Cloud” and not much to look at ,in God’s sight they are chosen and precious among the people of the world. They are His possession and will be so for all eternity.

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Standing on the Word of God.

During the nineteenth century there was a strenuous effort on the part of many Evangelical leaders to reconcile Christianity with the new “Theory of Evolution” and the scientific discoveries of the age.

They found the idea of a six day creation and a “young “ earth did not jibe with modern thought and tried to explain them away as the product of primitive and unscientific thought. They also made the Bible stories to be something other than historical fact but still moral and objective lessons.

Others finding the doctrine of substitutional Atonement was found to be irreconcilable with the new thought permeating the intellectual circles and attempts were made to make it less than what scripture showed it to be.

While many of these people were no doubt well meaning the opening up of the scriptures and Christian Doctrine to this sort of adaptation and modification only served to weaken the power of the Christian Gospel.

While it is true that the Genesis creation story is not a scientific document it still demands for itself credence as to the fact of God’s immediate creation of man and indeed the whole creation as well as the subsequent fall of man into sin.

To the thoughtful observer the Fall is the only true and plausible explanation of the historic and continuing state of man in sin and rebellion against God.

As I continually point out in these scribblings any attempt to adapt and diminish the teaching of the scriptures in the hope of appealing to ungodly populace can only undermine the inherent , Spirit  imbued Power of the Word of God in the tearing down of sins strongholds and Satan’ kingdom.

While we invite scrutiny of the Word of God, we must let it stand as it is.

As has been found in the past and will be discovered in the future the Holy Scriptures needs no apology from us.

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Balaam: If the Price is Right!

Art imitates life!

I have always been a TV watcher and have often noticed that in some of the circumstances of my life,events portrayed in programs on television happened to coincide with what has just happened to me.

When I first discovered I needed spectacles an episode of “the Brady Bunch” was screened about Jan trying to lose her new “eye glasses”. 375428688931409e0b6e3af773f8cd7cWhen my mother died recently, an episode of “Star Trek the Next generation” aired the next day that had “Geordie La Forge’s” mother missing presumed dead.

TNG255This has occurred at various times and coincident with various occurrences.I have no idea why this happens but it does make you wonder.

The fact is that such events are common to us all. We are not alone or unique in the joys, sorrows, the good and the bad, the exciting or the mundane.

The one thing television cannot truly imitate is faith in God and Christ because all its emotions are feigned and imitated.

Only by experiencing the reality of faith and Christ can we see it truth and power.

Just made it!200_s

We all know the scene in the film or cartoon where the car barely completes the race and crosses the finish line, only to have the wheels fall off, the engine to fall out and the car falls to bits. The driver is left sitting on the track with only the steering wheel left.

The question is do we want to finish the course of our Christian lives like that.stock-photo-crazy-male-auto-driver-with-the-steering-wheel-and-a-helmet-concept-81227995

We Christian easily get lackadaisical about our spiritual lives. We feel that as long as we sincerely believe in Jesus we will be all right in the end. We often neglect those spiritual practices that help us grow as Christians such as Bible study, prayer and self denial because they require time we do not always have and concentration that we often lack.

We can even be spasmodic and indifferent about our church attendance and can always find reasons for missing the odd worship service.

To neglect these things and fall into bad habits may or may not mean we are not Christians at all. What it does mean is that all the nuts and bolts on our race car are coming loose and by not tightening them and looking after our car we risk not finishing the Christian race or just “getting over the line”.

The Puritans often compare our arrival in heaven as either being that of a ship entering harbour full of holes and with tattered sails compared to a ship in top condition and under full sail. I know which I would rather be.

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A living Hope!

 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:1-9 English Standard Version.

Peter in his first epistle writes perhaps, too many of the same people to whom he preached on the Day of Pentecost. He endeavors to confirm them in the practice of their faith.

While mindful of their manifold sufferings he reminds them of their high calling and their being kept by God who had known and chosen them from eternity.

They had been brought to a life of godly obedience by the sanctification through the Holy Spirit and by the sacrificial sprinkling of the Blood of Christ.

These believers showed the marks of the new birth and professed the new hope which flowed from Christ’s resurrection.

They knew that a glorious and incorruptible inheritance waited for them and would soon be a present possession.

Indeed all their trials and tribulations only served to whet their appetite and increase their present joy.

The trial of their faith, proved and tested like gold, served to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

Though invisible to human eye, Jesus Christ was the sum and sphere of all their hope, love and worship and the fountain of unspeakable joy.

I wonder if we know anything of these things ourselves, here and now.

The certainty is, that if by faith we place Christ where He should be in our hearts we would know like joy and be able to withstand the tribulations that befall us and partake in the same living hope.

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Art imitates life!

Darkest before the Dawn!

 

” But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. 10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:1-17

When applied to the state of mankind and sadly to  much of the visible Church, this portion of Scripture is true to the realities  we see today.

It is not that these traits were not existing or apparent before in the world and the church but rather that in the last days they would reach a previously unheard of height, prevalence and shamelessness.

We would not be surprised to see many of these horrible behaviors in the “god-less’ world but to see them in the midst of professing Christians in such a blatant way is surely an evidence of these being the “Last Days”.

Replace the word “people” in the text with “Christian” and see how it reads.

Christians who are lovers of self, lovers of money and pleasure, proud, unholy and without self control, to name just a few.

In stark contrast , Paul sets before Timothy his own example ,qualities and scriptural teaching to encourage him to oppose the people who would seek to infiltrate the Body of Christ and distort and de-rail it from its God ordained mission and Christ-like manner of life and holiness. He fore-warns Timothy and us about the dangers of havind dealings with those who , however plausible they may appear, are peddlers of error, falsehood and encouraging indulgence in sinful behaviour in the name of liberty and freedom.

He reminds him and us that the Scriptures are the God-breathed guide and weapon with which to combat decievers and false teachers and instructs him to hold fast to the Word , whatever others may do and teach.

They are the only true guide to salvation and source of equipment to fight the fight of faith.

While the godly will certainly attract persecution for their adherence to Christ and His Word, it is eminently preferable to the terrible reward the false teacher and pseudo –Christian will receive on the Day of Judgment.

A Catch-Phrase!

Tommy_Handley

Thomas Reginald “Tommy” Handley (17 January 1892 – 9 January 1949) was a British comedian, mainly known for the BBC radio programme ITMA (“It’s That Man Again”). He worked with people such as Arthur Askey and Bob Monkhouse, and wrote many radio scripts, but it is the BBC comedy series ITMA  ( It’s That Man Again ) for which he is best known, and which itself became known for a number of catchphrases, some of which entered popular vocabulary. He later starred in the ITMA film in 1942 and in Time Flies in 1944.

The I.T.M.A. gang were known for their often recurring “Catch-phrases”.tommy and summers

Comedians like Handley, no doubt helped to brighten the dark days of the Second World War in Britain.

Many comedians are known for their catchphrases and they are forever associated with them.

(A “catch phrase” is a well-known sentence or phrase, especially one that is associated with a particular famous person.)

These phrases can however be carried to extremes and some comedians are not remembered for anything else they said or did.

When the famous preacher John Chrysostom used to preach at Antioch the people used to applaud him and cry “Orthodox” until he told them to stop it.

They were focusing on Chrysostom’s style, eloquence and orthodoxy, without hearing God’s Word and the teaching and exhortation he meant to convey to them.

Even when the Christian is under the soundest Bible teaching it can come to have no more effect than the responding to a catch phrase or familiar line. We may respond emotionally and be stirred by it but the long term effect is no more than the remembrance of a funny joke or witty saying.

We need to go deeper and apply the teaching we receive from the Word of God to our daily living and behavior. We need to think biblically and exemplify Christianity in a Christ-less Word.

The correct Word.

ANY one who wishes to become a good writer should
endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the
more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous,
and lucid.
This general principle may be translated into practical rules
in the domain of vocabulary as follows :
Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched.
Prefer the concrete word to the abstract.
Prefer the single word to the circumlocution.(the use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.)
Prefer the short word to the long. ( quoted fromThe King’s English BY
H. W. FOWLER & F. G. FOWLER)

These two gentleman made a literary career out of discouraging people from misusing words, and calling for simplicity in writing.

In a later work called ” Modern English usage” Henry Fowler among other things , points out the changes in meaning and usage of many English words.

He also examines newly coined words and foreign words incorporated into current english speech and writing.

No doubt many found his criticisms pedantic and overly fussy yet there is no doubt that he sought for clarity of meaning and for a true understanding of language to be conveyed.

The Christian is always a learner in Christ’s School. True there are many things in the Scriptures hard to understand as Peter admits of Paul’s writings

“He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:16

The writers of the New Testament were dealing with divine  things that surpass unaided human understanding. It is only through the help of the Holy Spirit that our sin enfeebled minds are given light and understanding to grasp the meaning of God’s Word and grace to obey His commands.

The fact is that the Christian has a volcabulary that he must be true to. He must be true to the Word that has been given to him, no matter if to others he is talking gibberish and nonsense.

The follower of Christ is not free to drop words , truths or doctrines from the Christian language just because they offend the sensibilities of the ungodly.

We must try if we can to keep it simple if we can but must always keep to the truth.

quote-sin-promises-like-a-god-but-pays-like-a-devil-ralph-venning-136-83-23

 

Darkest before the Dawn!

A troubler of Israel!

index elijah and ahab

 

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 1 Kings 18:17-18

The prayers of Elijah had ushered in three years of devastating drought upon the northern state of Israel. To Ahab therefore Elijah was the quintessential trouble maker and nuisance. What he conveniently forgot it was his own marriage to a Baal worshiping princess and the wholesale introduction of the worship of this vile deity that prompted Elijah’s mission and God’s judgment in the first place.

So in today’s church those who criticize its departure from scriptural Christianity and compromising God’s truth and holy laws are labeled as unloving and judgmental.  They are forever pointing to the fact that God is love and forgetting that the greater part of that love is love of the truth.

To those who are ignorant or dismissive of the inspiration of the Bible regard most of the innovations and deletions in preaching and worship as being trivial and inconsequential. They consign anyone who differs from them as being nothing more than old fashioned and obstructions in the path of God’s New Work in the Church.

For many it seems that the order of the day is expediency in order to attain the goal of numerical growth and revival in the church.  The old fashioned idea of proclaiming the gospel of Christ’s saving work and the desire to equip God’s people for His service and witness has been replaced by the attempt of packaging Christianity in ways acceptable to unregenerate people and promising them the answer and meeting of all their needs.

The only answer to the critiques these people give is that the ends justify the means and if nothing had changed the church would have died out completely;   it seems these people know better than God.

The prophet Elijah stood almost alone against a king and nation turning their backs on the true God and His Word. Despite almost buckling under the strain he yet continued to uphold God’s truth and others continue to do so even now.

The question is whether we are indeed on the side of God’s truth and following in their train or are we instead caving in to the prevalent torrent of error in the church for the sake of a quiet life.

Living the high life!

Were we to judge by outward appearances of the public face of Christianity and Christian leaders we would draw the conclusion that many of our leaders and prominent preachers and teachers are indeed living the high life.

In our larger churches and religious groups the toothy smiles, hand waving and ecstatic utterances prompt us to think that if anyone is living the epitome of a good life they are. If anyone is enjoying the fullest of God’s temporal and spiritual blessings they are.

Better still they promise us that if we continue to support them they will share the secret with us and we to can enter into this glorious life.

If we do not it is only due to our lack of faith and generosity in supporting their work of spreading the message.

Why Wait?

“Our best life now “is a phrase that will no doubt come back and bite he who uttered it. Yet we who still have one foot in the world naturally seek the easiest and if possible most pleasurable way through it on our way to glory.

It is only human to seek to keep suffering to a minimum and pleasure to the full. The danger lies, as Jesus tell us, in setting our heart on these things and forgetting that the path He trod, which we must tread also, seldom leads to peace and prosperity.

Rather this path, by its very nature sets us at odds with the people and things of this world.

The Christian who is faithful to his Christ exemplified calling inevitably turns away from many of the cloying and stupefying pleasures this world has to offer.

Also our deceitful hearts and the deceitfulness of worldly things snare our hearts and insensibly replace God in our affections.

I notice here also that in the presentation of the gospel nowadays very little that is in anyway unpleasant or sobering about the Christian life is mention much today. As I mention here often, the offense of the gospel and the persecution and cost of following Christ is conspicuous by its absence.

In the seeking of joy and comfort for ourselves the Puritan Richard Sibbes says “Grace and nature have the same general objects of comfort, only sinful nature seeks it in broken cisterns and grace in the fountain. Jer.3:8 The beginning of true happiness is the discovery of true and false objects, so as the soul may clearly see what is the best and safest and then steadfastly rely upon it_, God cannot come to take His place in the heart by trust, but where the powers of the soul are brought under, to regard Him and those great things He brings with Him above all things else in the world beside.”

We must first of all determine what the best things to seek are. The things of this world even at their best are fleeting and satiating without being satisfying. To seek them as the be all and end all leaves us at last empty and our taste for the good things of God forever spoiled. They prove in the final analysis to have been snares and weights which kept us from the spiritual pleasures and from God himself, the giver of all good things.

For the Christian the added peril is they may seek the gifts of God and forget the giver. Also they may seek them in such a way as to make them their due and just dessert and forget that all gifts come from the sovereign good pleasure of God. Therefore we are called to trust His perfect both in what He does give and what He does not. Also we must discipline ourselves not to be covetous of the gifts given to others even when seemingly greater and more prominent than ours.

The sum of the matter is that we must “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
 Matt. 6:33

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

 Children at play!

…4″Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. 5And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.’ 6″Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?’ declares the LORD of hosts.…Zechariah 8: 4-6

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Our conception of God if scriptural, highly exalts Him and makes Him infinitely above us both in wisdom and the freedom and sovereignty of his works.

Yet in these verses we have the other side of the picture. We have the Mighty God condescending to watch the children of the city playing in its streets.

He is not so remote as to let even these sorts of things escape His notice, indeed the innocent joys and pleasure of children fall under His care and pleasure.

The tenderness of God does not lessen His holiness and purity but to the anointed eye it serves to increase our awe and love for our God and Saviour.

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pink on victory

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If you preach a watered down gospel , you get soggy “christians”.

 

 

 

 

A troubler of Israel!

Our need for peace with God!

images lloyd jonesD.Martin Lloyd Jones points out in His sermons on Romans chapter 5 that the tendency of the evangelists of his time was to invite people to the blessings of Christ without calling them to reconciliation with God and peace with Him, first and foremost.

They were calling upon them to come to Christ and receive this, that or the other blessing. They were ignoring the need to call people back to peace with God by repentance and faith in Christ’ finish work.

Speaking in 1957-58, Lloyd Jones warns of those who call people to happiness, peace and joy through coming to Christ and then promising them help with life’s problems without firstly calling them to be reconciled with God.

Man through the fall, is alienated from God by sin and therefore can expect no spiritual blessings from Him until they enter into relationship by repentance of sin and faith in and through Jesus Christ.

He uses the statement of the man born blind in the ninth chapter of John, that God does not hear sinners. Therefore those whose sin is not dealt with cannot approach God until their standing with Him is assured through Christ.

All other things in Christianity must be subservient to this. It is the primary function of Christianity to reconcile sinful men and women to God by faith and repentance.

This sort of preaching remains current with the teaching of many in the church today.

It is this neglect of the call to repentance and the need for new life and conversion which reduces the gospel to just a cure all for what “ails you” instead of a message of Salvation from the dire peril and consequences of sin.

It is of no value to erect a super structure without building it on the foundation that God has laid down in His revealed Word.

It is this error that explains the shallow and superficial state of Christianity and Christians.

Communications Barrier!

My brother works at a fast food restaurant among a group of teenagers and young adults. He was complaining that he mentions many things and people and they have no idea what he is talking about either because they are too young or just not experienced.

Today the Church is also confronted by a group of people who have no appear to have no frame of reference with which to understand the message of the gospel  given to them.

In the great effort to bridge the communication gap today’s church has over compensated for peoples natural lack of knowledge of the Bible and the things of God by either dumb-ing down or neglecting aspects of Biblical teaching. The result being that the “gospel” message they are trying to convey is no longer the same as that revealed in scripture.

We may be living in different times but the inherent ignorance of the man of this world regarding the things of God is nothing new. Indeed we are told that nothing but the direct work of the Holy Spirit is required before they can begin to understand the things of God.

It is this particular point that the church today seems to be ignoring. The fact is we all need to be taught of God before we have any real understanding and possibility of living the Christian life.

This is not to say that we  do not need to speak and teach in such a way to remove all reasonable barriers to the understanding of the gospel but we must never do this at the expense of the truth of God’s Word.

Righteous indignation!!!

When we look at those we perceive to be proclaiming a false or watered down Gospel or who are introducing  unscriptural innovations into the Church, while discarding  historical practices in worship and doctrine, it is easy to carry our indignation with what they are doing to extremes of passion and anger.

We may view ourselves in the character of modern reformers or as  imitating Christ in the temple and genuinely seek the restoration of gospel truth and the unvarnished simplicity of worship.

The problem is that this can be carried to excess and make us forget that error is as possible to ourselves as anyone else. We can come to despise those purveyors of false doctrines and forget that there but by the grace of God go I.

As D.Martyn Lloyd Jones again points, out we should pity those who are caught in Satan’s delusions and pray we do not fall into them.

Satan carries the major part of the World captive in sin and this should provoke sincere pity on the part of all those who live as Christ did and “to seek and save the lost”.

While those who go out of their way to contradict the “truth as it is in Jesus” are far more guilty and liable to greater punishment, it is still not our role to be judge and executioner but to leave their fate in the hands of God and pray for their repentance and salvation.

It is our task to stand up for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s Word and endeavour by His grace to live genuine Christian lives. Thereby we oppose error and sin by showing forth the power of God’s truth and embody His mercy.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
 1 Timothy 1:16

 

Our need for peace with God!

The least likely to Succeed!

The story of Gideon is well known to us from our Sunday School days .

Gideon appears in a less than heroic vein in his encounter with the “Angel of the Lord” . He is not presently involved in the resistance movement , he is not a “Yul Brynner” in the magnificent Seven putting together a team to save the helpless villages rather he is one of the villagers hiding like everyone else.

14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:14-16

I confess ,I have often thought that this “Angel” messenger was speaking ironically when he said this to Gideon, this man was obviously anything but mighty, as Gideon himself admitted. Yet if one theme is prevalent throughout all this portion of Scripture is the fact that God does not work  by the mighty in this world but rather in and through the weak.gideon-tests-god

Although Gideon had thousands to call upon when it came down to it , they were too many to fulfill God’s purposes at this time.

We also see that in a very real sense that the enemies of God destroy themselves. While they make a brave figure in the eyes of the world ,in reality they are beset by engrained fears of  forthcoming punishment, and when confronted by the judgement of God fall into disarray and panic.

God’s dealing with Gideon’s lingering fear and doubt is patient and tender to an amazing degree. For  similar expression of doubt Zacharias was smitten dumb for a short time.

God truly knows people’s hearts and the source of their fears and doubts. Jesus in His dealings with Thomas being another example of dealing with the genuine doubt and fear of true believers.

Contrast this with the unbelief of others in the Word and power of God which is based on sinful attitudes and hatred of God.

God’s dealings with the great characters of the Bible exemplifyand glorify His power and mighty works in response to great faith.

On the other hand, God is no less glorious in His gracious dealings with those of small faith.

Gideon’s weakness of faith was understandable in the light of the circumstances Israel found themselves in . They were suffering as a direct result of their idolatry and disobedience to God and His commandments. Therefore those among them who still sought to God for deliverance from their plight had nothing but free grace and undeserved mercy to hope for.

We all must stand on this ground when it comes to hope of salvation though it galls the pride of man.

Gideon’s lack of faith was not commendable but it does serve to emphasise the wonderful things God can do with true faith however small.

Gideon was God’s chosen instrument at this perilous time but it was the power of God that was to be seen in this saving work not the ability or prowess of man.

In the same way today it is to be the power of God that must be looked to in the proclamation of the gospel today and not the slickness of multi -media presentation or the powers of persuasion of a plausible tele-evangelist.

Although some claim direct revelations from God , for most of us the call of God comes from study of the Word and the opportunity for outreach and ministry.

The challenge for all of us is how we react to the call of service and duty of God when it comes to us.maxresdefault

An Easter soundbite!

At this time of the year one of the few times the World looks to church leaders to make a seasonal statement.

It is rather amusing to see the effort they make to clothe the Christian gospel message in a new light and in a form acceptable and understandable for the man in the street.

We hear abundant calls for peace and understanding between people and different faiths. We hear a great deal about self sacrifice and giving and the need for people to let God into their lives.

It is sobering as well to hear the greater part of the church explain the Cross of Christ in ways different to the Scriptural teaching.

No wonder if the world has no real understanding of the Gospel message and the Cross of Christ if those who should be proclaiming it either do not understand them or as is most likely the case ashamed and unbelieving of them.

Even those who claim orthodox belief of Scriptural truth seem to be very measured in their way of dealing with the unbelieving majority. True they have no reliable frame of reference  with which to understand the Word of God, as they might have in past times when nominal church attendance was widespread and the Bible was at least respected ,if not believed.

Yet there is timidity among us Bible believing “Christians” regarding the proclamation the gospel of Christ that makes me “Uzzah” like to fear for the stumbling “Ark of God”.

Others with a man pleasing message can proclaim falsehoods and half truths in the name of Christianity and command a hearing. Those who seek to put forward the true understanding of the gospel will be howled down and prosecuted as “Hate speakers”. God help us all.

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The Cross of Christ is an enigma which does not fit well with modern conceptions of God , it was a very high price to pay if He was only calling mankind to a “purpose driven life”.

Jesus would never have been the “Saviour” if there was nothing real to be saved from.

 

 

 

The least likely to Succeed!