King Jehoshaphat of Judah was a godly man and zealous for the Lord. His main weakness seemed to be pliability and easily led. The great blight on his reign was his association and close relationship with the wicked King Ahab of the northern kingdom Israel.
Perhaps he had high hopes of restoring Ahab and Israel to the true worship of Israel’s God but instead was inveigled into a foolhardy attempt to restore Ramoth Gilead to Israel’s control.
Ahab attempted to placate Jehoshaphat’s religious scruples by enlisting the support of his resident prophets and they with one accord supported this ‘pious ‘Endeavour. Yet Jehoshaphat was not so simple as to take their word alone but called for a ‘Prophet of the Lord’ to be consulted as well.
Ahab was initially reluctant because his experience of God’s prophets was less than pleasing. As Jehoshaphat insisted, Michaiah the son of Imlah was summoned to appear. The officer who went and fetched Michaiah was unwilling to spoil all the ‘goodwill’ built up so asked the prophet to chime in with Ahab’s ‘trained poodles’. The prophet naturally refused, he was answerable to the ‘God of hosts’ and bound to proclaim His word faithfully.
Initially it seemed that the ‘Prophet of the Lord’ was going to weaken and fall in with the other ‘ soothsayers’ , repeating the ‘mantra’ of’ go up and you are sure to succeed’.
Support from so unlikely a quarter did not convince Ahab who confusingly adjured Michaiah to tell the truth.
Michaiah then revealed God’s purpose of judgment and defeat. One of Ahab’s prophetic lackeys was not pleased at this blatant contradiction and after slapping his face asked him which way the ‘spirit of prophecy’ went in order to arrive at Michaiah.
Ahab only response to God’s word was to lock the prophet of the Lord up on bread and water pending his safe return. Michaiah reassured him this was not going to happen.
True to form Ahab sets his fellow king as a ‘target’ to distract the Syrians and to make doubly sure disguises himself as an ordinary charioteer.
Jehoshaphat in the heat of battle becomes the focus of the Syrian soldiers who were ordered to get Ahab and forget everyone else. The royal robes that placed him above His people now became a ‘bull’s eye’ which if not for his hurried anguished prayer and the loving kindness of God, would have done for him. Through divine intervention the soldiers are turned to other prey.
The God of Israel was not by Ahab’s clever ploy and guiding a haphazardly fired arrow smites the evil king fatally.
Jehoshaphat rushes home regretting the whole enterprise.
The great question for the Church today is to determine the point when cooperation becomes compromise. When to know when contact and interaction with the ungodly has passed beyond safe spiritual bounds.
Jehoshaphat’s behavior in this instance reminds us of the need to heed our Saviour’s warning to have the sharp-eyed wisdom of a serpent while maintaining the harmlessness of a ‘dove’. Well meaning he no doubt was and his intentions may have been noble, yet his failure to consult God and seek His will before embarking on this alliance cost him dearly and set a poor example to his people.
Michaiah stands true in the line of faithful prophets of the Lord. They are the genuine instruments through which God reveals and declares His plans and purposes. They overcome the natural tendency to ‘tone down’ and vacillate, and keep the eye of faith on God and not the consequences attending the proclamation of His Word.
Ahab typifies to the life those whom God deals with in judgment and repeatedly warns yet consistently reject and ignore mercy and grace shown. Who of us would wish an end like his?
The parting of the ways!
I hate endings. As an avid watcher of ‘Old’ television, and in a climate of constant broadcast of repeats, I can tell when the end of a series is coming. My invariable response is (that if it was a series I really liked ) that even now after being so long discontinued that somehow more episodes were made.
This is made even more desirous if I considered the program series ending ‘anti climactic’ or needlessly tragic.
I have often grown attached to each of the characters and regret the loosing of their company and following of their adventures.
In regards to the highs and lows of the realities of life, this regret is more poignant because the ending of many loved things is more permanent and enduring in consequence.
The ‘if only’ feeling is endemic to us all even as Christians.
The wrong things we do and choices we make and the people we lose in the process are constant sources of grief and sadness.
Even without our input or action Times change and life moves on leaving an emptiness we cannot always fill.
We are creatures of time and as such bound by its limitations. God on the other hand dwells in eternity and the everlasting now. The answer to all our inherent longings and our deliverance from earthly regret is to make Him our dwelling place for now and eternity through our Lord Jesus Christ!
These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb.
2 Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land— 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. 4 Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to [a]perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. 5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet…..9 Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.
10 “All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel,11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today,13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and thatHe may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
14 “I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today.” Deuteronomy 29:1- 14 NKJV.
The generation of Israel which was left after the forties years of ‘Wandering’ were standing on the brink of entering the ‘Promised land’.
God through Moses, reminded the people of all those mighty works that He had wrought for them in bringing them out of Egypt and carrying them thus far and again that in the face of their repeated disobedience and stubborn unbelief.
The Covenant between God and his people was renewed at this time and two ways were set before them, the way to blessing and fruitful possession of the land or upon their disobedience, the curses of an angry God and war, famine, pestilence and exile.
The people’s proneness to disobedience and faithlessness is frankly laid at the door of their guilty and inexcusable lack of understanding and perception.
Despite all that the entire people saw, heard and experienced, God’s dealing with them and the mighty power He had exercised on their behalf produced no fundamental and enduring change in their hard hearted attitudes and sinful inclinations.
The mere fact that they had been sustained and constantly fed in a ‘howling wilderness’ when in normal circumstances they should have perished with hunger and thirst meant nothing to them. Even the fact that their clothes and shoes had not worn out as they normally would have had not registered with them as anything miraculous.
It seemed that in common with most of us they had become blasé with the mighty works of God seen in panorama gloriously around them.
God reminds them of what their own eyes has seen of the rampant idolatry of the nations through which they passed and the degradation and futility that were its consequences.
The people were again warned of the consequences of dallying with the ‘left over’ relics and idols they would find in Canaan.
They may foolishly come to believe that there would be no dire consequences from ‘toying’ with the practices of the Canaanites. There would be someone who would come from their midst who would suggest a seemingly minor departure from God and His ways. Becoming bored with the worship of the Lord their God they would be tempted to dally with the flesh pleasing pleasures of idolatry.
But their God was not an empty nothing such as the gods of the nations. He was not one to be trifled with and His law broken without repercussions.
As he would bless them in everything they did and possessed if they continued in obedience so would disobedience bring upon the people a blight and curse on all they did and on all they possessed and on their health and fruitfulness.
Unfortunately some professing Christians, in this modern age have re-invented God as being somewhat different from the Old Testament reality.
The God of Modern Christianity has ‘mellowed’ somewhat with the passing ages.
Many have made him far more indulgent and less likely to condemn and punish for our grievous sinful indulgences.
We must remember that the Children of Israel were to be God’s (if I may use the expression) ‘display house’ in the world.
The ungodly were to see in Israel, God’ glory and grace and be drawn to like obedience and faith. How could this be accomplished if God’s chosen people were indulging in idolatry and behaved no differently from the Gentiles?
Surely the Christian must perform a similar role in the world today and yet how many of us live lives which are indistinguishable from our godless neighbours.
As the children of Israel were called to holiness and holy living, so is the believer.
It is our discarding of the need for Christian Sanctification and the encroachment of ‘worldliness’ and Post modern’ thinking that has weakened the Church’s witness in the world. It is our trivializing of sin and lack of desire for ‘Holiness’ that tarnishes all say and do.
The Christian through God’s grace revealed through Christ no longer seeks to be justified in God’s sight by works of Law.
Yet the believer does not escape the Divine call to obedience and holiness.
It is the through the acting of the ‘new born’ heavenly nature and sanctified desires implanted in the believer that motivate him to seek to live in ways pleasing to God and according to His Holy Word!
Rather than ‘Unhitch’ ourselves from the Old Testament we should rather remind ourselves of exactly who this ‘Holy’ and yet merciful God is ,with whom we have to do; and in obedience to His Word, walk in faith, ‘holiness and newness of life’.
That sinking Feeling!
One thought that occurs to me living as I am in a city built on Gold mining is that I can never be sure what lies under my feet.
We often find articles in our local paper about old mine shafts opening up due to heavy rain.
The strangest occurrence I remember is of a person pulling up floorboards in his house and finding a gaping void beneath them.
The phenomena of ‘sinkholes’ and the fact that our continental land masses are afloat on a sea of molten magma give us a reminder that stability and solidity are only ‘relative’ terms.
God alone offers true stability and should be the rock we trust in and obey. The Christian alone builds on a ‘Sure foundation’ which ‘wind, weather, Earthquake and Fire can never move or destroy.
The story of Abigail and David is surely an example of female character seen at its best in trying circumstances.
In an age when arranged marriages were the norm, Abigail’s parents no doubt thought they were doing the best for her and her future. Nabal was not merely exceedingly wealthy by the standards of the times but he was descended from Caleb, one of the noblest and greatest of the children of Israel’s forebears.
Yet from such a noble stem, Nabal was an unworthy branch.
One can only wonder why his parents labeled him at birth with a name which characterized him ever after ,”Nabal” “Fool”
Abigail as seen in this portion of Scripture is seen as a woman of uncommon wisdom and forthright action. That she must have had more than common patience to have endured a husband of such surly and unreasonableness is obvious.
I suspect she had to intervene many times before to smooth over her husband’s past insults and offenses.
That she bore with his many failings and bad character with an even temper and forbearance is an example of meekness that puts us to shame in this easily offended and escapist age.
True she could have hardly left him in that strict and traditional age yet Abigail is shown as someone who not only endured but flourished.
David not unreasonably hopes that Nabal would contribute something for the sustenance of the men of his band who helped protect Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness of Carmel. Nabal was at least generous enough to feast his own people after the strenuous work of shearing his many sheep.
David hoped he would stretch it a bit further to include his own men.
Nabal in the height of his drunken stupor adds insult to injury by refusing David’s men and labeling David himself a traitor and escaped servant.
David’s frustration, while understandable does him no credit.
Sword strapped to his side he rides of on an errand of vengeance.
How clearly this shows what the best of saints is capable of if left to himself.
Abigail when informed of her husband’s stupid and suicidal actions, puts together some provisions and with a servant goes forth to meet the aggrieved son of Jessie.
Prostrating herself before the enraged hero, she takes upon herself the blame and responsibility for the neglect of hospitality and reminds David of his great role in Israel and exalted future as king of Israel. She cannot however refrain from giving her husband a kick as being a fool like his name.
Abigail’s belief in the reality of God’s control of David’s life and destiny stands in stark contrast to the general apathy of the people and their continued toadying to Saul’s waning throne and house.
David naturally thinks better of his thoughtless and vengeful intent and departs in peace with the provisions Abigail brought.
The next day when told of his previous indiscretion, Nabal is struck down in abject fear and not long after dies by the hand of the Lord.
Soon thereafter David takes Abigail to himself as his wife.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”
Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”1 Samuel 25:39-40
Abigail’s behavior and humility in what must have been an unhappy marriage is a signal example to those who even as Christians are in difficult and problem filled relationships.
She more than merely coped, but by every means possible made her situation the opportunity to exercise ‘Christian grace’ , patience and fore-bearance.
Our tendency is to ‘opt out’ of unhappy marriages and cut off those we find unpleasant and obnoxious.
We might think that Abigail’s problems were now over.
Perhaps had David limited himself to a few wives, we could say Abigail was ‘on clover’ but David’s domestic troubles were just beginning and we can only wonder at the sad things that David’s great sin involved Abigail in if only as a spectator.
Perhaps in future times when David remembered his past follies, he looked at Abigail and wished he had sought her counsel and displayed like wisdom and self control.
A peach of a pair
If ever a married couple complemented each other ‘Ahab’ and ‘Jezebel’ did so.
So unscrupulous an unprincipled woman like Jezebel of Sidon need a vacillating and weak willed man like Ahab.
He was the perfect tool for her diabolical machinations and he was so in love with his own ego and hateful of Israel’s God that he was up to anything Jezebel would suggest.
While he may have been putty in his strong-willed spouse’s hand, Ahab was not lacking in evil schemes and desires of his own.
Naboth’s vineyard was exactly what he needed for a herb and ‘veggie’ garden and the fact he could have just as easily procured something else far more easily did not occur to him.
With Jezebel’s ruthless cunning and resource Ahab found himself the proud owner of Naboth’s patrimony and thought himself well served.
He was not long able to enjoy his new found property undisturbed.
The bane of Ahab’s existence, Elijah laid the blood guilt of Naboth’s death at his door and prophesied the fatal consequences of the royal couple’s sin.
To Ahab’s small credit his obvious guilt and humbling of himself won for himself a stay of execution. Yet the forewarned judgment could only have been truly escaped by deep repentance and this was something neither Ahab nor Jezebel had any conception or desire for.
The message here is simple yet commonly ignored.
However much the wicked plot and scheme and join evil hands together and no matter how much in the short term they may succeed, the truth remains that God is not mocked.
God sees everything and sooner or later will judge those who plot and engage in iniquity and sin with a high hand.
While the hand of God’s mercy has for so long been held out it is just as certain that the day of mercy will end and those who reject Christ and His salvation will reap to themselves the whirlwind that they have sown.
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’
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‘!
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.
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.
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
This is a title of one of the puritan Thomas Brook’ s books published in 1666.
The Old Testament story of Noah is rather a relevant one at the moment, at least in my opinion. The circumstances that provoke God’s judgment on mankind then, are certainly similar to the immorality, violence and rebellion against God we see at work today.
While most, even in the church attribute mythical features to this occurrence, I for one, have no difficulty in believing in a great flood even a universal one.
When one considers that seven tenths of the Earth is already covered in water it is quite conceivable that under the hand of God the dry land could be covered with water as well.
The “Ark” is more problematical but the Bible merely states what God commanded and that Noah obeyed, it does not offer explanations or tell us the storage arrangements.
Many of the nations in ancient times had similar stories in their history, although they may have differed in detail.
Some would say that the writer of Genesis borrowed this story from other nations but again it seems to me that the plain and unvarnished and matter of fact story of Noah is unlike anything the pagan nations with their wild excesses and grotesque deities would likely produce.
Believing the truth of this portion of Scripture, one can only wonder how you or I would respond to this command of God given to Noah.
It is not for nothing that the famous believers of the Old Testament are set forth by the writers of the New as great examples of faith and examples to be followed.
With less light than we have and only rudimentary knowledge of the purposes of God they achieved things which still astonish us and leave us dumbfounded.
To build the ark and collect the animals together was a daunting work in itself but considering it was accomplished under the stares of a jeering and scoffing mankind is incredible.
Also that Noah found time to be “preacher of Righteousness” to his sin enslaved neighbors adds to the amazement.
It is very evocative to imagine Noah and his family standing upon a renovated Earth. (For us Science fiction fans it would be akin to colonizing a new planet.)
Mankind indeed got a new start but unfortunately sin went with him into the new world and because of this it was not long before it again reigned unto death and mankind reveled in wickedness.
Noah fled into the Ark to escape the wrath to come and we all must flee to Christ to escape the wrath that is to come on the “children of disobedience”.
One of the many tragic occurrences in war is the accidental targeting , firing and injuring or killing people who are fighting on your side or not involved at all.
It is obvious to anyone that has been involve in Church leadership and organization that conflict and personal differences and misunderstandings are common and a source of turmoil in many churches.
Sinful lapses by prominent members confront the whole congregation with the need to find a correct course of action. This is made harder when feelings run high.
Sadly , as in the case of family break up there is the all to human tendency to take one side over the other and not see both sides of the problem.
Often the way these situations are handled and dealt with is less than ideal and fall far short of the love motivated ideal taught and exemplified by Christ and his Apostles.
Bitter feelings, disappointment and broken relationships mar the fellowship of the Church and hamstring its Christ given task in the world.
In the heat of the moment we say and do things as individuals that we cannot unsay or undo no matter how much we regret it.
As leaders in the Church, we can enact pronouncements and make judgments in a way that contradicts a loving Christian spirit and does more harm than good.
Our zealous and proper endeavour to combat sin in our midst can quite easily descend into a Pharisee- like “stoning “of the sinner, when our proper aim should be the restoring to spiritual health and fellowship the erring and the wayward.
The adage that “christians” are the only ones “who shoot their own wounded”, whether true or not, is a popular source of mud thrown by Satan and the World at the Church, especially in light of the many denominations, splits and factions that exist in Christianity.
Christian love and graciousness is never indeed to be a cloak for sinful practices or a blind eye shown to false doctrine. Rather it is to be seen in applying Christ’s truth and love to any problem and situation that confronts us, not only to preserve and maintain our harmony with one another but as a part of our witness to the World and unsaved around us.
Media, friend or foe?
There is no doubt that “media” has always been a force for either good or ill.
Today the airwaves and cable networks are a battleground between ideologies and world views, truth and error, with an influence on millions.
“Christian” groups have not been backwards in coming forwards to utilize the “media” to help spread their particular conception of the Christian “message” ,tragically some of the foremost and most skillful availers of this medium, when weighed in the balances of scriptural truth are found wanting and erroneous, deluded and deluding.
It is no longer, at least for the undiscerning, the choice between wearing a white or black hat it is rather become a choice between many shades of grey with the consequences seemingly being of little eternal but much temporal importance.
When our only focus is the satiating of our carnal needs and desires, it is no wonder then that the glib and gaudy promises and man exalting and pleasing teachings of these “gurus” in Christian guise are greedily grasped at and accepted. The promise of Health, wealth and heaven as well, is surely too good to pass up.
It is only when we look back at the Spirit inspired Word of God and diligently hear what it has to say, that the true nature of God, good and evil, sin and holiness and the true way of Salvation and Christian living are clearly revealed. This Word alone reveals to us the “Gospel worthy of all acceptation” and the way to God and holiness.
All we see and hear must be measured and judged by what God has clearly revealed to us in His Word.
Also we are hearken to what the most faithful and true followers of Christ have preached, believed and professed as illumined by the light of Scripture.
Otherwise we will find ourselves deluded and deceived and without hope here or hereafter.
When one looks back at the trends that promised to take the Church and Christianity by storm and start a World –changing revival, we can only marvels how many of them departed as quickly as they came.
Those who seek to debunk and de-construct the Gospel and thereby the Church, find at last that they have nothing real and substantial to offer in its place.
Others who seek to embellish Christianity with devices that amount to gimmicks and lures, discover that the crowds which throng their meetings come only for a cheap thrill and leave when they are bored , seeking fresh excitement elsewhere.
Genuine Christianity is not appealing to the unconverted sinner and the self satisfied man of the World, it never was. The things of God are above and beyond their understanding and do not appeal to their predilections and desires.
Yes, they would like to think that they will go to some nice place when they die they find the way of Salvation too humbling and the cost of following Christ to expensive in self denial and sacrifice.
The gospel promises great things to come for those who believe and persevere in the faith but the fact remains that despite the promises of “prosperity” gospel-lers, to be a follower of Christ is not easy and often galling to flesh and blood.
It is only when a person is “born again” that they can begin to find the strength and peace in Christ necessary to counter ,endure and yes even rejoice in the midst of the trials and tribulation which beset the people of God for Christ’s sake.
Anyone can put up their hand or sign a card or go up the front.
This may be enough for many of our local churches and denominations because it swells their membership books and adds to their offerings but only those who show in themselves the work of the Spirit by newness of life are those whom God counts as being His people.
When we have sifted through all the googols , gimmicks and gimcracks of past and all the “nine day wonders” and finding them barren .wanting and false, we are left solely with the proclamation of the old gospel of “Christ and Him crucified “ as the power of God unto salvation Romans 1:16.
Amiability, no proof of Christianity
We often meet people who, in the old parlance would be referred to as “nature’s gentleman” or generally as the “salt of the earth”.
These people by their speech and behavior engender all that is best and admirable in human nature. Like the rich young ruler they are loveable, greatly admired and sought after as friends.
I myself have many numerous people who would fall readily into this category.
These “paragons” of virtue often have many of the characteristics’ of Christians yet do not regard themselves as such or at least do not associate themselves with the visible body of Christ.
Others do indeed pass current in the local church and are universally accepted as Christians of legal tender.
In our tender heartedness we tell ourselves that God Himself must have a soft spot for these upright and humanitarian people. At least we can hope that if not actual Christians yet they are not far away from the “kingdom of heaven”.
These “rough diamonds” in the church may be accepted by all as genuine believers and born again Christians. It is not our place to judge anyone’s heart and the complete knowledge of anyone’s spiritual state is only truly known to God.
However we often find with these wonderful people that come to our churches and sit in our pews come to a point in their profession of faith that is a spiritual “bridge too far”.
They are taught what the Bible says about renouncing our own righteousness and clothing ourselves in the righteousness of Christ and seeing ourselves as God sees us as lost sinners, clothed in rags and it “ sticks in their craw”.
Whatever the trigger may be they find that the reality of Christian teaching and practice are more than mere “flesh and blood “can take.
In many ways the “good” person is further away from belief in the gospel than the unpretentious sinner. Jesus said himself said that He came not too called the “righteous” or rather those who viewed themselves as such but sinners to repentance.
However never let it be said anyone is beyond the reach of the power of God in Salvation.
The “rich young ruler” found, in himself something lacking spiritually, but when Jesus put his finger on the problem he was unwilling to receive the cure.
Others under the invisible work of the convicting Spirit, would humble themselves and take it.
The world may be a better place for lives of the great public benefactors and “good sorts” but the true Christian is one who has been lifted up to a higher and heavenly plane.
True, he may not always be what he or she should be and many times the amiable and worthy “non Christian” may exceed them in good works , generosity and kindness, but if they are grounded on the foundation of Christ and indwelled by Him, they will grow in righteousness and holiness, for they are truly the “salt of the earth”.
No one likes being told how to order and run their life.
Especially so in this “anything-arian” age when most lifestyles and indulgences are tolerated and even applauded.
(Of course this is only up to a certain and ever receding point where peoples scruples and sensibilities are offended.)
History teaches us that people veer from listening to nobody, to listening to anybody, no matter how wrong.
There are always those who never ask for or take advice and follow guidance. Indeed this is often seen as a mark of strength and independence.
These people follow their own whims and desires and “woe betides: anyone who gets in their way.
Contra- wise at the other extreme, there are many people who are suggestible and pliable and will jump on someone’s bandwagon, and in their blind adulation take onboard everything they do and say.
In proof of this we can only ask why so many seemingly reasonable and decent people followed Adolph Hitler to their destruction and caused a holocaust of unspeakable suffering.
Our sinful and self sufficient tendency is not to listen or even welcome advice from those who are wiser than ourselves, sometimes we even resent it.
When we do seek guidance we turn to those whose advice will forward our own carnal ,sinful desires and ends even if it means using dubious and “dodgy “ means.
Fundamentally we look to our own ideas and instincts to lead us forward and are slow to admit that we are not always sufficient of ourselves to cope with the problems and perplexities of life…
It is blatantly obvious from our own experience and our observations of the ungodly people around us, that the last place we, without Divine help, will seek for guidance and wisdom is the Word of God and by prayer.
When we finally come to the end of ourselves and look for fulfillment and the meaning of it all, there are a great many “Worldly –wise men” who will volunteer to show us the way to happiness and to the achievement of all we desire.
They may have a great deal of seeming wisdom and common human experience on their side but the motives they act from and the guaranteed results they promise prove false and delusions.
When we are finally led to the scriptures and read them with an open heart and mind we find truth that speaks to and answers our fundamental problem and shows us the means to cure our spiritual bankruptcy.
We find the solution to the questions of “why we are here” and “what has gone wrong”. We also discover that Christ has paid our debt and blazed a trail for us that leads us to eternal joy and peace. It is only for us to believe and obediently follow Him.
While the “scales” of sin are upon our eyes, we remain blind to this answer to all our needs and questions. It is only by the power of God in giving sight to the spiritually blind that we can see the gate of salvation opened before us.
Even on the more mundane level of day to day existence, the Bible gives guidance and simple common sense advice for all our dealings with people, money and those in authority over us.
In the Wisdom writings of the Old Testament as reinforced by the New, we find out that how we treat others often dictates how they react to us and treat us.
We discover that while money may seem to “answer all things” it is not to be an end in itself.
Rather, it is to be saved and used in ways that benefit the welfare of others as well as us.
Indeed we are given a sense of urgency for the generous use of our money and riches for good purposes because our wealth is only lent to us by the Lord and of themselves have wings to fly away.
Our family relations are not neglected by the Word and were the guidance given more widely followed many marriages and families would have stay intact and not splinter apart.
All this is laid upon the foundation of our restored relationship to God.
Our reconciliation with Him is the spur and impetus to seek reconciliation with others and they, in turn to find peace with God.
The Scripture are full of great advice and wisdom freely offered and we should gladly receive it because it comes from the ever wise and loving God.
One of the great advantages that the Germans had in World War 2 was the high quality optical equipment they produced.
It meant they could see and engage targets at great distance and with great accuracy.
In spiritual matters to it is vital necessary to see things clearly and as they are.
It is our inherent blindness and lack of perception which causes us to see things different from the way they actually are and often leads us into Spiritual danger.
We all need to pray that God will gives us eyes to see the truth that he shows us in His Word and to differentiate it from the “ miasma” of lies and distortions which surround us.
The Puritans often refer to the ancient anecdote about a philosopher called Bias.
As I recall it he was shipboard during a violent storm at sea.
While observing the panic and frantic prayers to the “gods” by his otherwise profligate and pagan-istic fellow passengers, he bade them cease their prayers.
He told them that prayers in the ears of the “gods”, coming from such people would only remind the “deities” of their (i.e. the passengers and crew) many sins and wicked deeds and provoke their hoped for saviours to increase their affliction and peril and possibly destroy them.
So when we feel the need to pray, it is often the reminder of past and present sins that makes us reluctant to come before our holy God.
This is the reason why we need to keep short account of our sins and be ever seeking their forgiveness , our cleansing from all unrighteousness and grace for a ever holier life.
This should also make us ever thankful to Jesus Christ who is our great intercessor with the Father and an ever present help in time of trouble.
“The term is most often used in cases where program material comes to an unexpected halt, either through operator error or for technical reasons. Among professional broadcasters, dead air is considered one of the worst things that can occur. Moreover, having dead air during commercial segments or sponsor announcements can cost networks considerable revenue.”(Quoted from Wiki)
It must be said that our media broadcasters are not the only ones who hate “dead air”.
In the workplace, at the gym and in many other places people cannot stand to be without music or a television going. It is almost as if people today cannot stand peace and quiet and to be alone with their thoughts.
For myself personally I love peace and quiet and to hear the birds singing in the trees and the sound of the breeze in the trees.
One wonders to see this in the worship of the church in the noise and activity that swells our services. Quiet for contemplation and meditation is seldom seen in today’s worship.
I wonder how much the voice of God is drowned out by all this noise if He is speaking to us can we separate his voice from the racket that daily besets us.
The media sees silence as a waste and a loss of income. Some people avoid silence because it highlights their own vacuity and emptiness so they fill the air with anything and everything.
To listen is the main way to hear and for the Christian more than anyone else we need to listen to the voice of God.
Unfortunately the modern Church is awash with voices claiming to speak for God. It is only by measuring them against the “straight edge’ of Scripture that we will know the voice of God when we hear it.
The Bluebells which have always grown in masses throughout England during the spring are part of the countryside’s charm.
Unfortunately this pleasure of nature is under threat through the intrusion of a less colourful, less prolifically flowering and only faintly scented invader from Spain.
The Spanish bluebell breeds with the native flower and creates a hybrid which takes over and between them and the invader it will make native bluebells and the wondrous carpet they make every year very rare indeed.
There are a lot people in the Churches today that play the part of these Foreign plants .They may look something like the real thing but they are wishy washy in their colouring and they have no “savour” or fragrance of Christ about them.
Those outside the Church who encounter them are left with a less than encouraging impression of Christians and Christianity.
Worse still these imitators unless they repent and believe the gospel may find a place among those whom Christ will place on his left hand on the Day of Judgment.
The Pax Romana?
One of the early Britons after being conquered was recorded to have said that the Romans created desolation and then called it peace.
In the Church there always have been people ,who in the name of progress and modernization discard and deny great tracts of Scriptural doctrine and Christian practice and yet believe they have made Christianity and the Church more relevant to the World and the non Christian.
In fact they have created“desolation” and the “peace” they have sought is based on falsehood and ignorance.
A recent survey said that the majority of people questioned saw no benefit from being religious.
This is despite the increase of violence in society, drug use, immorality and selfish greed. They do not draw the conclusion that even from a mere moral point of view when Christianity was at least nominally professed these social evils was less prevalent and more vigorously fought opposed.
So for the so called modern reformer by seeking to modify Christianity to appeal to modern man actually destroy the true basis and power of the Gospel and reduce it to an empty shell requiring constant hype and excitement to make up the shortfall.
God save us from these well meaning but misguided people and let us hold on to the tried and true Gospel and the inspired Scriptures as the Word of God.