Pamper yourself because its all about you!

The marketers and sellers in today’s world, in order to make us part with our cash, are telling us to enjoy, indulge, pamper and put ourselves first.girl-lying-on-the-tropical-beach-H3FY5W

We are constantly being fed the line that sometimes it is a good thing to put ourselves first and forget the others. As if we sinful people needed any encouragement to indulge in love of self and egocentric behavior.

If we look to the scriptures we see that this has ever been the line of attack that Satan invariably uses.

He flattered our first parents with the idea that they were being deprived of opportunities and experiences and pleasures by God by denying them the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

In the parable the younger son feels that he is being repressed and denied good things by his father and seeks through gaining his inheritance to find freedom and “the good life” but instead finds that many of life’s so called pleasure are fleeting and in the end not worth the having.

Sad to say that the Church is not devoid of those who would tell us that we can have it all and be free of many of life’s problems by professing Christ and jumping on their particular bandwagon of philosophy.

The devotees of this sort of teaching find too late that even the “Christian” must take “the rough with the smooth” and often a great deal more of the former.

We are told by the scriptures again and again that self denial and tribulation are part and parcel of the Christian life. They are unavoidable but in the overall scheme of God’s purposes they are a gateway to true and lasting blessing; if encountered in the same manner as Christ, the apostles and their successors did, by faith, prayer and patience.

How ironic it is that for every one person who teaches the scriptural truth about self denial and the certainty of earthly suffering, we have so many others who will seek to pursue the same line as the enemy of the Saviour and his saints.

Emperor Pedro the second.

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The 58 year reign of Brazilian Emperor Pedro the second was one of the high periods of Brazilian history. It marked thanks to his influence a period of political stability, respect for freedom of speech, vibrant economic growth and a parliamentary system which worked well.

Against staunch opposition he pushed through the abolition of slavery and was a sponsor of culture, learning and the sciences. (Quoted from Wiki)

Despite all this Pedro was overthrown and exiled by a military coup devoid of any popular support.

In view of Brazil’s subsequent history many have looked back at that period and regarded the removal Pedro and all he stood for as a false and retrograde step with long term consequences for the well being of the nation.

We to can look back at our history and lament the false steps we have taken which have resulted in failure and disappointment and long term consequences. Yet we can no more change the past than change the colour of the sky.

We seldom know when we are well off; we are ever looking away to things that seem bigger and better.

Contentment with all the blessings and good things that God bestows is a blessing in itself and something we should all seek for.

The story of Ruth.

While there are many profound and deep things found in Scripture there are also many simple and plain histories recounted with morals, lessons and spiritual importance, among these is the book of Ruth.

Placed as it is in the time of the Judges, this story stands in incongruity to the idolatry and national disobedience that characterized this time in Israel’s history.

It may be speculated that this story occurred during one of the “revivals” of true religion and obedience to God that punctuated the apostasy and anarchy which characterized succeeding generations throughout this period but we do not know for sure.

The Book of Ruth stands as an oasis in a spiritual wasteland and a fruitful tropical island in an angry sea.

We Christians of today may only give a passing look at this simple story and think of it as only a romantic tale but we thereby miss a great deal of spiritual truth.

Upon a closer examination we might learn a great deal more than we expect.

Philip Mauro entitled his work on the book “Ruth the satisfied stranger”.

There is no doubt that this devoted Moabitess, as well as being a progenitor of King David and thereby according to the flesh through the Davidic line an ancestor our Lord Jesus Christ, was also a first fruit of the Gentile believers who would be grafted into spiritual vine and Church of the firstborn.

After losing and leaving so much she found even greater and truer blessings among the chosen people of God by coming to dwell in the land of promise.

She by simple faith and devotion entered into the hope of the future Messiah and Saviour and became an example of what those of like faith would also find who would likewise come.

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Even if isolated from the rest of the scripture, the lessons of the book are useful and helpful.

However when placed in its Biblical setting and context, in knowledge of future events, this little book takes on a new importance in understanding the manner and means of God’s working in history and through the lives of believers.

God not only works in the large scale but also works in the small and mundane.

He works in the long term and not contingently meeting things as they arise.

Also I would point out that while we moderns are revolted by the sacrificial system attendant on the Old Testament worship of Israel’s God yet when compared to the vain and debauched worship of the heathen who “knew not God” it was not without attraction.

Ruth being a Moabite was probably familiar with the Moabite worship of Chemosh and the vile rites associated with it: this added to the character and witness of Naomi made Israel’s God and His worship attractive and compelling.

Would that we all by our life and witness made Christianity attractive to those outside.

In Christ we find all that is eternally satisfying, yet we still have the old desires for fast satisfaction and worldly pleasure, so it is a constant battle to be forever seeking the better things of God and His kingdom.ruth

 

Ruth’s marriage to Boaz and subsequent bringing Obed the grandfather of David into the world is not merely a “Happy ever after” ending as a fairy tale would have it.

It shows forth the overruling providence of God in the deliverance and eternal well being of those who place their trust in Him coupled with the unfolding of His eternal plan and providence in the election and Salvation of a people for Himself through the saving work of His Son Jesus Christ.

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Pamper yourself because its all about you!

Set down my name Sir!

Said the Warrior of Bunyan’s”Pilgrim’s Progress” when sword in hand he entered the battle to overcome sin and adversity and attain the glorious reward of God.

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I fear we today are of a more pacifist spirit when it comes to our Christianity. We want to lay back and enjoy the sweet things of Christ but will endure no pains to support His work and cause.

As the spirit of this world becomes more hostile to Christian morality and purity of life, the line will be drawn between those who will prevaricate and compromise and those who will pay the inevitable price of loyalty to Christ and His revealed commandments.

Many will stumble and fall before Satan’s onslaught, yet some will fall to rise again and others will fall to rise no more.

We can all suspect that we succumb to the temptation to flee Christ’s banner for fear of loss and suffering. When it comes to the choice of “Fight or flight” most would imitate Peter. Let us hope they would imitate him in his sorrow and repentance.

Let us all pray for grace to be given when it is most needed. We can none of us hope to stand without empowerment from the Spirit of God.

While we seek grace to maintain our faith in trying times we must also seek that courage which not only resists the wiles and attacks of the adversary but we must also seek for the fighting spirit to fight for God’s truth and the salvation of sinful men in the midst of hostile satanically inspire persecution and ridicule.

The soldier is not solely expected to stand in defense but to vigorously to attack the enemy’s strongholds.

Of course we mean this in a spiritual and Christian sense yet the victory obtained is far more real and substantial than that obtained in earthly war.

John Knox

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One only needs to look at a person like John Knox to see Christian courage and fortitude in the face of powerful opposition. Such was his courage that the Earl of Morton regent of Scotland said over his grave, “Here lies one who never feared any flesh”.

Some would say he lived in different times and may have exceeded his purview as a minister of the gospel, yet many of the religious freedoms and civil liberties we now enjoy were won by people such as Knox.

Yet Knox was not a religious zealot or mere fanatic, his zeal for God and the reformation of the church was tempered by compassion and tenderness. He knew when to wield the Sword of the Spirit and when to be conciliatory.

While many would smudge Christianity so that it is more in accord with worldly trends, people like Knox knew that compromising God’s revealed commands and the pure Gospel of Christ would invariably lead to wholesale apostasy.

Are we not seeing the results of this in the “latinitudinarian” spirit in the visible Church? I mean by this the allowance of anything and everything in the Church regardless of its appropriateness or being based on  scripture .

In harmony with Worldly trends we hold to no fundamental doctrines or truths or at least fail to preach and teach them. No wonder we see our young people rudderless when it comes to Christian truth.

Those who point out this trend in the Church are met with the same accusations that come from the “god-less” World, you are unloving, judgmental and “troublers of Israel”.

Departure from the faith starts in small steps and with few noticing but the “end of the way is death”.

As I have pointed out before many of those who seek to make Christianity relevant to a post modern world have a tendency to turn away from  plain and historic teaching God in His Word and look anywhere and everywhere else for guidance and opinions and input to apply to the teaching and practice of Christians and churches.

The first Christians and the Apostles did no such thing. They received the message straight from God and delivered it to mankind without fear or favour and with no consultation with “flesh and blood”.

The completeness of scripture precludes the need for consultation with the theories and practices of the times. It makes no difference whether it is re-clothed in the garb of direct divine revelation in other words “God told me so”.

Again we see this wreaking havoc and uncertainty in the modern Church.

For many ministers and Christian leaders they more concerned with the feelings and rights of those they would reach for Christ and therefore they promise welcome to all regardless.

Christ indeed welcomes all who came to Him but when did He ever condone or encourage them in their sin. We all come to Christ as sinners yet how many come to a profession of Christianity and instead of obeying the call to repent and walk in holiness of life are remaining not only worldly but willfully engaging in sinful lifestyles.

They even call for acceptance of the ongoing sinful practice by talking about the love of God and Jesus accepting sinners.

This is where we have arrived by divesting the Church of a teaching and preaching role regarding scriptural truth or by re-interpreting the Bible in terms alien from our historic understanding.

The triumph of sin and sinful men in the church is not so much their victory but the “Church’s surrender”.

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There are some that are apt to think , that if an angel should come from heaven and reveal God’s will to them, it would work more upon them than the written word; but I would have these men study the conference between Abraham and Dives, (Luke 16:27-31) “They have Moses and the prophets;” if they will not profit by them, neither would they profit by any that should come out of hell, or down from heaven to them; for it is the same God that speaks to them by the written word, and by a voice from heaven. The difference is only in the outward clothing; therefore if God’s speaking by writing will not amend us no more will God’s speaking by a voice.O bless God exceedingly for the written Word! Let us cleave close to it, and not expect any revelations of new truths, but say with the Apostle ,as in Galatians 1:8-9

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” N.I.V. ;

From  a Sermon “The Godly man’s Ark ” by Edmund Calamy the elder

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Victor Mature: (January 29, 1913 – August 4, 1999

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Is one of my favourite actors.

He does not readily fall into the Hollywood stereo-typical image yet was a staple of Epic films and a variety of film genres.

He was notorious for not taking his acting career seriously as he regarded it as merely a means to an end and a source of income.

He said himself that “he was pretty proud of fifty percent of his movies”. (wiki)

He appeared in some of the “Biblical epics” that were popular “box office” draws at the time. These were “spectacular “ dramatizations of Bible and religious stories with their meanings reduced to a sub Christian message of peace among men and human liberty surrounded by action and special effects.

One of the great failings we have as human beings is that we take ourselves so seriously and yet take God and His Word so casually.

One would have thought that the threat of an eternal hell and the hope of free salvation would have people frantically poring over the scriptures and gratefully taking by faith the salvation so expensively won by Christ on the cross.

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Instead like Samson (also played by Mature) in the hands of the Philistines, the gospel message is laughed at; it is distorted, watered down or rejected wholesale.

Others turn Christianity into a religion of superstition and holy objects as we see portrayed in the film “the Robe”images robe

 

 

 

We may take many things in life lightly but we should never fail to take seriously God and His Word , eternity depends upon it.

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Set down my name Sir!

Bypassing the Gospel !

In this country the current trend is to build “ring roads “and “By-passes” around our regional towns and cities so that travelers are not delayed by slower municipal speeds and “round-abouts” or traffic lights.index by pass

It is coming to the point where you can travel right round the country and not arrive anywhere.

I wonder if the same could be said about the current trends in Christianity “so called”.

Firstly, there seems to be a fundamental desire and flagrant attempt to detour around the Cross of Christ and the problem of sin and the need for repentance and change of life.

The old gospel and message of Salvation is skipped or hurried over so that people can get their hands on the “New life” and the promised abundant blessings of Christianity, though there is a still ongoing discussion about exactly what form they will take.

Worse still and I hope I am wrong, I feel there is also a move a-foot to bypass our Lord Jesus Christ completely and proceed directly to the Holy Spirit and the promised manifestations of His power.

A charismatic “preacher” on a visit to a former eastern bloc country told questioners that the crowds were not coming to hear him preach the Gospel of Christ but rather to witness and experience the power and working of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Since when does the Spirit of Christ work apart from the Word of Christ and the message of the Gospel?

Yes there may be some lip service paid to Christ but people want the promised gifts of healing etc. like Children, they cannot wait to open their presents at Christmas time, no matter who gave the gift in the first place.

They crave excitement and exhilaration to lift them out of the mundane tedium and inescapable stress of daily life.

They have no time for the hearing of teaching from Scripture and the necessity of meditation upon the Word of God that is the only real way to stand firm in the Gospel and united to Christ against the tidal wave of falsehoods and distortions heading our way.

So many today are unwilling to cast over board sin and self interest and therefore grasp eagerly and wholeheartedly the easy believe-ism that passes current in modern preaching. We are all out for what we can get at the lowest price and for the least effort.

The sufferings of the first Christians and subsequently in many times and countries is just their bad luck. To us moderns, persecution is no longer the necessary price for following Jesus.

We just want to get the good things we have and enjoy the good times.

How many plausible voices are out there revising people’s understanding of Scripture so they can hold their heads up and stay relevant and acceptable to a godless and perverted society?

These are the time in which we live, if nothing else they will separate between those who will cling to the truth of Christ and the Gospel from them from those who will be found at last with a “ship-wrecked “faith.

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Many profess to admire the milder beams of the sun of righteousness, but burn with rebellion against its more flaming radiance: so it ought not to be: we are bound to praise a terrible, God and worship him who casts the wicked down to hell. Did not Israel praise him “who overthrew Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea, for his mercy endureth for ever.” The terrible Avenger is to be praised, as well as the loving Redeemer. Against this the sympathy of man’s evil heart with sin rebels; it cries out for an effeminate God in whom pity has strangled justice. The well-instructed servants of Jehovah praise him in all the aspects of his character, whether terrible or tender.” Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David” on Psalm 99 verse 3

Chips Rafferty.

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Chips Rafferty: real name John William Pilbean Goffage : (26 March 1909 – 27 May 1971) was regarded and cast as such in many films as the quintessential “Aussie”.

He invariably played a “Tall, laconic, bushman type”.

In both Britain and the U.S. during the forties up till the seventies he was the first choice if you wanted a real Australian character and flavor for your film.

Although his type of Australian is becoming a rarity, it is still the way many in the world perceive us.

The way the people of this world perceive Christians varies greatly.

We are either “holier than thou” hypocrite or may be anachronistic throw backs to more superstitious times.

Either way your average Christian is out of step with the progress of mankind and if they do not get out of the way they will be trodden underfoot.

Hence the push for the re –thinking of Christianity and all the embarrassment caused by the Bible’s condemnation of the popular sins now calling for acceptance and even applause.

Despite the world’s sin inflicted blindness to right and wrong they will never be fooled by the ploy made by the compromisers of truth  to blend in and buddy up to them.

However dead the unbelieving World‘s consciences may be, they know that their beloved sin is wrong and displeasing to God. This may not stop them in the hardihood of their sinning: they may wish that those who tell them that God is all mercy and indulgent are telling the truth but they know in their heart of hearts that this is not the truth about God or Christianity.

However the people of this world despise the faithful Bible believing Christian they still have a grudging respect for those who stand against the tide of sin and Satan’s deceptions.

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Michah 6:2 “ If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do ?” When there is no law for lewd or loose men . what can the righteous do but glorify God by mourning for the things which they cannot mend, and yet comforting themselves with this: verse 5 “The Lord is in His holy temple, and hath his throne in heaven,” q.d.  though all be in confusion, and we can see no help on earth, yet we will look unto God for aid, who sees and considers the sorrows of His people, and can and will help them, when man will not.” Thomas Hall “The beauties of the Magistracy”

 

Bypassing the Gospel !

A spark of life!

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During a recent frost my Cinerarias were slaughtered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At a loss!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A spark of life!

Martin and Lewis!

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

The two were to speak every day after that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “all singing, all dancing church”!

 

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

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

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

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

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

We depart from this simplicity of worship at our peril.

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

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

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Stephen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Martin and Lewis!

Kith and kin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  John Gregson(15 March 1919 – 8 January 1975)

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

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

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

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

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

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

So in our turn and in our degree must we.

 

Kith and kin.

Chambers of Imagery!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sense of direction!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Farm Gate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When placed in the light of eternity nothing remains ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

Chambers of Imagery!