Revised Christianity??

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A story is told of an archaeologist returning to his work inside a pyramid and finding a man chiseling away at the pyramid to bring its internal measurement into line with his interpretation of prophecy.57f9645272048e19f1e6c60fb164f2d2--chisel-set-tool-steel

So the tendency today is to look back at history and reshape it into line with our current ideas and prejudices. This is being seen today in the push to rename schools and streets and remove statues. Also the trend to write revisionist history among our academics is part of this attempt to “remove the landmarks”.

Christianity itself is not immune from this desire to re-mould it into forms more acceptable and less offensive to so-called modern man.

It has always been the case that some people would take a part of the Christian message and run with it while conveniently avoiding those things that are of no interest to him and to affronting to his own self worth.

The modernist takes the ethics and values of Christianity and attempts to conform society to his imagined portrayal of Christ as merely a social reformer.

The ritualist takes the scriptures and distorts them into a series of religious acts and ceremonies which sinful man must perform to obtain access and acceptance with God and superimposes a hierarchy he must implicitly believe and obey.

Others, to whom I have often referred, make the gospel message a source of earthly health, wealth and personal fulfillment and remove the self denial and bearing of the Cross.

While we all read the Bibles through the glasses of our own point of view we must put ourselves to one side and hear what the Word of God actually says.

The Reformers for all their shortcomings reminded those willing to hear that the Scriptures alone are the source of God’s truth. We are to believe nothing that is not revealed or is able to be reasonably deduced from scripture. In this we are to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to remove the veil and open our eyes to God’s truth revealed therein.

While there is still room to differ in some interpretations of Scripture the fundamental doctrines of Christianity must remain inviolate and implicitly believed.

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A mixed bag!

We all know people whose Christianity stands out and are an adornment to the church they attend.

We also know some whose Christianity although genuine is still being formed and having the rough edges smoothed.

Then there are those who profess Christianity but are really a hindrance to the work of Christ’s church and a constant blot on the spiritual landscape.

We read that when the Children of Israel left Egypt there travelled with them a” mixed multitude” who use the opportunity to get out of slavery and get the great material benefits offered in the promised land.imagesmixed multitude

Unfortunately when the way became hard and material comforts did not come up to their expectations they became the ringleaders in the murmuring and complaining which plagued Moses thus bringing God’s judgment and plagues upon the people as a whole.

Lest we be found finger pointing we must examine ourselves to make sure we are not modern day examples of these “whingers”.

Standing up for God’s revealed truth is the duty of all His faithful people but it is to be done with love and the use of reason. Zeal and passion are to play their part but governed by the love of Christ for the erring from the way.

To be found a “troublers’ of Israel” and a false professor of Christ in the Church and in the world is something we must pray we never be.

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Arthur_Lowe

Arthur Lowe (22 September 1915 – 15 April 1982) was one of the iconic figures of British film and television. Most of those who worked with him said that his best known character of “Dad’s Army” “Captain Mainwaring” pronounced Mannering, was very like himself especially in pomposity.Dads35Statue of Captain Mainwaring, Arthur Lowe’s Dad’s Army character in Thetford.

It does make it easier when we “be ourselves” and not pretend to be something we are not and not likely to be.

The wonder of true Christianity it that it makes us into new creations without robbing us of what is intrinsically “ourselves”.

Like the work of art that needs the centuries of dirt and grime removed before it re-appears in the true and living colours with which it was painted, we need the power of God to remove the grime of sin and shame and to impart His grace to our lives, to bring us at last to our eternal state of Christ’ like perfection.

Revised Christianity??

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!

Spiritual footwear

Apart from the useful military vehicles that the U.S. sent to the Soviet Union as part of “Lend Lease” during The Second World War, the most valuable items sent were thousands of “felt ” military boots.

These boots not only protected the Russian soldier’s feet from cold and frostbite but also prevented them  from freezing to the ground.9933796258f76ec759a47e5df2ddc9cc--felt-boots-ww-uniforms

The Germans by contrast with their “hobnailed “ boots suffered terribly from the icy conditions as the nails transmitted the cold to their feet and resulted in many cases of frostbite and amputations.

13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:13-18

Our spiritual footwear is all important. Only the true gospel can help us stand in the Christian life, all substitutes will freeze our feet to the ground of this “World”. the true message of Salvation. alone can support us as we move forward in the faith and conquer in Jesus name.

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Modern reformers?

15 When they had assembled their fellow Levites and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the Lord, as the king had ordered, following the word of the Lord. 16 The priests went into the sanctuary of the Lord to purify it. They brought out to the courtyard of the Lord’s temple everything unclean that they found in the temple of the Lord. The Levites took it and carried it out to the Kidron Valley. 17 They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of the Lord. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the Lord itself, finishing on the sixteenth day of the first month. 2 Chronicles 29: 15-17 N.I.V.

King Hezekiah entered wholeheartedly into the task of reformation.

The idolatrous rubbish which had been accumulated in the past was removed and destroyed while the discarded utensils, tables and altar were restored and re-consecrated to the God ordained ministry of the temple.

There were no half measures here.2467933

We to need a reformation in the Church and seek for a return to the plain teaching of scripture and genuine worship.

Too long have we had teachers and leaders who discard elements of Gospel truth because they do not accord with the “mores” of the times. Too long have we had those who look to the world for methods and gimmicks to appear more appealing to “New Age” and world loving people.

Unfortunately this is not as simple as taking stuff to the rubbish tip or starting a bonfire: rather it is a question of ordinary Christians giving themselves to prayer and speaking and standing up for God’s revealed truth and a return to the message once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

 

 

Spiritual footwear

Lord Woolton Pie.

Lord Woolton pie was a vegetable pie covered with potato pastry invented during the time of wartime rationing in England. It was meant to provide a substitute meal due to the shortage of meat and maintain public nutrition. It was not universally popular because to most people a pie by definition had to have meat in it.220px-Woolton_pie_(4653443530).jpg

“The recipe involved dicing and cooking potatoes (or parsnips), cauliflower, swede, carrots and possibly turnip. Rolled oats and chopped spring onions were added to the thickened vegetable water which was poured over the vegetables themselves. The dish was topped with potato pastry and grated cheese and served with vegetable gravy. The recipe could be adapted to reflect the availability and seasonality of ingredients.” Quoted from Wikipedia.wooltonpie

After the War this recipe was quickly forgotten having served its purpose.

“Professor John Fuller has noted that Woolton pie and similar wartime austerity dishes “were forgotten as quickly as possible when conditions returned to normal”.[5] (One notable exception to this pattern is carrot cake which, while not invented during the war, was popularised in the United Kingdom during that period because it used the widely available root vegetable in place of some of the scarce flour, fat and sugar found in other cakes.)” Anton-Cartoons-Punch-1941-04-09-340.jpg

A repetitious and bland diet is the bane of some people’s lives. We all like variety and new taste sensations. Many for health reasons are compelled to stay away from foods and beverages that they once enjoyed. They are conscious of the consequences to their health if they eat the things they shouldn’t.

Others due to time of war and famine are compelled to subsist on whatever is available and often they are just enough for subsistence.

The other end of the scale is the gourmet who disdains humble foods and is forever seeking new foods and flavours.

Numbers 11 tells that the children of Israel got tired of the “manna “ that God to them day by day.

 

It came to them without any more effort than it took to go and gather it.

No doubt they prepared it in every conceivable way and added what else they had in store to it but at last they had had enough and began to murmur against Moses and through him against the Lord.

18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’” 21 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” 23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord‘s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not._31 Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. 32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving.” 

Kibroth-hattaavah means graves of craving or greed.

In his anger God sent them quails in abundance and the people prepared them up but while the meat was still in their teeth the Lord smote many of them with a great plague.quail-in-the-desert-e1402282675584

The people had turned their nose up at the sustenance God provided for them and evidenced their greed and lack of trust in God by hoarding up the quails.

Instead of gratitude and reverence for  God who had done such wonderful things for them ,they abused the grace which saved and sustained them

To many of our modern “Christian thinkers” this judgment appears excessive and petty yet the reality is our God is a “consuming fire” and not to be trifled with.

The Christians reverence and submission towards God are important and pleasing in His sight. Our complaining, griping and grousing about His providence and purposes are not.

The “easy going”, all merciful and passively tolerant deity of today’s Christianity bears no resemblance to the Holy God of Scripture.

While we are indeed saved by grace through faith, our walk is to be one of obedience, submission and trust. When we forget this and walk in our own self pleasing , sinful ways and attitudes we can expect chastisement, if indeed we truly belong to the Lord.

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In one ear and out the other.

I have great difficulty in retaining in my memory many of the things people tell me.

I fear I would never make much of a waiter in a restaurant.

It makes me wonder how much of what God’s message to us,that we actually hear in church is kept in the memory and meditated upon at a later time.

The Puritans did all they could to encourage their hearers to go over among themselves and with each other what they heard in the preaching of the Word.

They also expected them to teach and examine their children as to their understanding.

Nowadays we content ourselves with retaining a few salient points from the message and maybe we remember an anecdote used to illustrate what the pastor was saying.

Others go away with a short lived glow imparted by the experience of uplifting worship and pleasure, interrupted by a few words of teaching , challenge or encouragement which we know are part of the routine and to be expected.

How many sit in our modern churches and hear reams upon reams of preaching good , bad and indifferent and are none the better for them?

Even among the sincere seekers after truth, how little is kept in the memory and remembered or utilized in the mundane events or trials and tribulations of life.

One often wonders why God chose such an ephemeral means as the preaching of the word of scripture as the main means of grace for the church.

The fault here does not “Lie in the Stars” and certainly not the wise purposes of God.

While allowance is to be made for our all too human frailty, there are many reasons why we do not gain more benefit and blessing from the hearing of God Word.

One obvious problem is that in many of the places of worship we attend today very little of the word of God preached in them.

In the vernacular of that “civil servant” Sir Humphrey Appleby we are only getting the simplified and palatable “Janet and John” bit. (Janet and John were characters in an infant “learn to read” book from some years ago).

Also when the “Word” is preached, very often it is not being mixed with faith in the hearers (Hebrews 4:2).

Often it is crowded out by worldly thoughts, cares and problems.

Sometimes we are overcome by drowsiness and lethargy due to our worldly pleasures and pursuits.

Either way we miss out on much that we could gain from the preaching of the Word and not preparing ourselves ,as much as we can for its reception.

How thankful we must be that the “Hand of the Lord is not shortened” and that by His Spirit’s work in our hearts and minds,  even the crumbs of the Word and its preaching carry power and fulfill the purpose He has for them in our lives.

Let us pray and strive to  be faithful hearers and remember-ers of the Word but also hearty and obedient doers of it.

 

Lord Woolton Pie.

The Blunted blade!

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (N.I.V.)

How few in this current age of the Church are willing or able to wield this “double edged” sword?

The typical sword of the times of the Bible was an, if you will pardon the expression a “hacking and slashing” weapon wielded with a great deal of brute force.

This phraseology speaks to me more of a surgical blade cutting only in order to remove diseased tissue and probing for problems.

Yet there is no escaping the fact that a sword is a weapon used in warfare and throughout the history of Christianity it has been used to great effect as such.

This passage raises the question of how we are to use the Word of God today.

images play swordsIt can only be said that the tendency of many in the church and among Christians generally, is to “blunt” this blade of the scriptures and and make it less an offensive or defensive weapon and more a self help book.

As I said previously we are at the stage where those “seekers” who come into our modern services are not confronted by what the Bible says about their current lost and sinful state or their alienation from their Maker. Indeed apart from a few carefully selected and paraphrased verses they are not taught very much about what the Bible says about anything. If they do receive any teaching it is only at a later stage in their development and at their discretion

The situation is today that the rush to get people into church has meant streamlining the way of salvation to the stage that it is little more than upraised hand or a signed card followed by baptism that is all that is required to profess and be regarded Christian.

While this may be adequate for acceptance to church membership, much more is called for by the scriptures in order to be called a Christian.

We do not hear today much of repentance and being born again. We hear nothing of entering the narrow door that leads to the narrow way that leads to salvation. We hear nothing about the holy living without which no one will see the Lord. Yet this is scriptural and biblical, however little interest is shown by our modern preachers and teachers and church leaders.

Worst of all there is little thought given to these fundamental failings by the average person in the “pew”.

When we turn back to the actual teaching of scripture we are left with a powerful “weapon” which has fallen out of use and no desire on many people’s part to wield it.

Perhaps some might say that it is for the Spirit of God to wield this weapon and we are best to leave it to Him and therefore become less liable to cause offense among those we hope to win to Christ.

While it is true that the Blessed Spirit of God works in and through the Word and works mightily indeed, the fact is the Word is in our hands, is it to be a closed book opened only on certain occasions and only among certain audiences?

Again, many will say that the Scriptures as the Word of God and the preaching of it, no longer has any authority with the World at large and therefore we must find other means of spreading the message of Christianity.

Whether this line of argument is correct or not still leaves us with the dilemma of what to do with this “spiritual sword” which we were obviously expected to use frequently and vigorously.

I think it is true to say that for most non believers the Bible has never had more than a sentimental place in their lives.

The sad fact is that for many Christians today, the authority of the Bible as the word of God is waning, especially on issues where professing believers want to fall into line with Worldly thought and values and morals.

I say again. We all have the sinful tendency to seek to blunt the force of the Word of God when it goes against our fleshly desires and self will. The fact is that in this modern age we see this practice soaring to new heights in the church with the consequences that there is no moral and spiritual force behind anything we say and do in our Christian teaching and doctrine.

Better to be called “simplistic” and “old fashioned” and unashamedly preach the Word of God to all and sundry, without fear or favour, relying on the Spirit’s power working with the Word to open the hearts, minds and souls of men and women to God’s salvation in Christ.cropped-Sword11

This has always been the tried and true “power of salvation” and nothing; even in our modern relativistic age is needed more in our dealings with other believers and the whole World of unsaved sinners.

The “Bush Tuckerman”

Les Hiddins recounts the story of two German aviators who in 1932 crash landed in the “Kimberley’s” in North Western Australia.P282

In a hostile and unfamiliar environment they survived for some time but became so weak that they resigned themselves to death.

They were found sheltering in a cave by a group of Aborigines who brought them food but the men were too weak to chew it, so the Aborigines chewed it for them.

After being lost for 53 days they were taken overland to hospital in Wyndham.

hqdefaultHiddins adds that if they had known what to look for in the edible plants and environment around them, they would have found sufficient food to keep them alive until rescued.

In a spiritual sense we to are surrounded by the food we need to grow as Christians. The problem is we do not have the appetite, understanding and faith to benefit from it.

Many of us are satisfied by the milk and water “baby food” on offer at many churches and never progress to the strong meat of the Word of God.

Some Christian leaders are calling for Christians to be “Self feeding” thus making Christian preaching and teaching unnecessary on a Sunday.

Rather we should seek to the faithful preaching of the Word wherever we can find it and reinforce it with our on prayerful study of the Scriptures.

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The Blunted blade!

Haters of the Human Race?

Was how many Gentiles describe the Jewish nation in ancient times. The Jews were notorious for their contempt and lack of dealings with Non-Jews except for strictly commercial and financial reasons.

We have an instance of this attitude in Acts 22: 17-23

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,”

Hitherto the Jewish crowd had listened to Paul’s defense in silence. When the Apostle mentioned his appointed mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles the mob went wild.

It seems that although the Jewish religious leaders had no use or desire for the salvation of Jesus Christ themselves they still resented the idea that it should be freely proclaimed to the Gentile World at large.

They would not partake of the food set before them and yet would not spare a crumb for the Heathen nations dwelling in darkness.

Lest we unsparingly condemn these people, we must beware that there is nothing of this attitude in ourselves. We must guard ourselves from looking at some people as so far “beyond the pale” that they are not worth preaching the gospel of salvation to.

Jesus, when He saw the multitudes coming to Him had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. In such a way we should look at the sin be-nighted people we meet each day.

The Saint’s Refuge!

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

We have here the description of the person seeking protection and the identity of the One who protects. These are very concrete terms for something very intangible.

We can see and feel bricks, concrete or solid rock. We can vividly imagine mountain strongholds and other means of halting approaching enemies.

I fear we may all have a harder time in expressing like faith in our God as our fortress and defender.

Even when in the past, we have found God to be “a very present help in time of trouble” and a refuge from the assailing storm, we still doubt His ability and willingness to do so again in the present crisis.

Maybe it not actually the reality of God’s protection that is at stake but rather the fact of our abiding that is in question.

If we are seeking and putting our trust in other means of protection it is no wonder we are feeling exposed and vulnerable.

The non Christian indeed has hiding places he or she resorts to: unfortunately they will find at last that they are unavailing and futile.

If they do by chance resort to God it is coming to someone they know nothing of and have no relationship with.

It is only by believing in Christ and His saving work and taking God at His Word in the protection of His people that we can come into the hope and faith seen here in the Psalmist’s words.

“3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his opinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” Psalm 91:3-6

The attacks we face are of various kinds, they are not always frontal assaults.

It could be the snare of a crafty enemy cunningly laid for us to fall into. It could be the virulent disease of false doctrine or moral laxity and compromise. The attack could come from any direction and at any time. Whether in the daytime of prosperity or the mid-night of moral, spiritual or doctrinal decline, God is as the mother hens protecting wings and sturdy shield.

No darkness, no stealth or cunning can prevail to thwart God’s perpetual keeping of His people at all times of peril.

‘7 A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.” Psalm 91:7-8

What a contrast is the fate and experience of the wicked?

No shift or dodge, No mere carnal defense will prevent their fall and avoid the just consequence of their rejection of God. They will be a visible object lesson of the results of rejecting freely offered mercy through Jesus Christ.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge —
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.

Our choices in life have inevitable consequences even as Christians. By imitating the world’s attitudes and values we can fall into the habit of trusting in deceitful riches and carnal means of security.

God’s promises are truer than any insurance policy and our casting ourselves upon Him and His faithfulness are sure means of protection.

Despite the trials, tribulations and diseases that befall the Christian in common with others, the promise of verse 10 is still an absolute one, inasmuch as not only are we spared many of these ills by God’s grace, we also find the evil that happens to us transformed into lasting good and the plague that touches us is turned into Spiritual health.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

We have here the great mystery of the Angelic protection of the believer.

Satan used this verse to tempt Jesus into a presumptuous action to demonstrate His divine son ship which He totally rejected but it does not detract from the truth that the angels are ministering to and protecting God’s people in ways we know little of.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91 E.S.V.

These wondrous Old Testament promises hold true for the New Testament believer.

God had promised Moses and the children of Israel that He would send an Angel ahead of them to pave their way into the Promised Land. Yet Moses realized that no angelic being could substitute for the presence of God Himself.

Verses 14 to 16 show us that our security and protection is directly in the hands of God our Father.

While we are not promised freedom from ill we are promised ultimate deliverance and triumph.

Though we may indeed appear to be in peril and suffer in common with others, the difference is we will never fail or fall finally or fully through our being “kept by the power of God unto Salvation”.

The Day of our deliverance is at hand and our Saviour is ever near.

“Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:18

 

 

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Faith finds its luster in action — and not just in notion. It enters our hearts — and not just our heads. (Samuel Ward)1577-1640.Samuel_Ward_(1577–1640)

 

Haters of the Human Race?

Caricatures!

One of the criticisms of Charles Dickens works by other authors was that the characters he created were just caricatures and not full orbed or rounded people.

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All the notable traits of his characters were accentuated and distorted for comedy and dramatic effect removing some of the true to life aspects of their portrayal.uriah heep.jpeg

I fear that many of us as Christians are little more than caricatures of Christianity rather than true examples of Christianity in living practice.

We may have some of the trappings of Christianity but are lacking in the most necessary attributes such as selflessness and genuine meekness.

Worse still we may have the “holier than thou” attitude savouring more of the Pharisee than the follower of Christ.

Others may have a Christianity which is all head and little heart, while others have only a sentimental or Sunday worship Christianity.

Still others are all good works but have little understanding of the truths of the Word and therefore miss the end in all Christ’s service.

How important it is therefore to have a sound understanding and wholehearted seeking for Christ , by His Spirit to graft Himself into our lives and daily lives and make us true imitators of our Saviour .

This is not to say that all Christians are to be alike or that they will no longer have their individuality and idiosyncrasies but rather that they will grow and grow proportionately to the full stature of Christ.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” Ephesians 4:11-13 E.S.V.

Standing for the truth!

I read in a book, (I think A.G. Dickens on the English Reformation), the story of a mentally handicapped man who was refused Church membership because He was not thought capable of understanding Christianity. On his way out of the church he was heard reciting, “Three in one, One in three, One in the middle, He died for me.”

This man, despite his deficiencies made the effort and understood something of the gospel message and believed it.

Many of us, despite much greater mental acuity content ourselves with little knowledge and even less understanding of the things of Christ and the truths of Scripture.

So it happens when our faith is assailed by false doctrine and heresy we “Drop sail” and yield.

There are those who make “discernment” a matter of knowing where demons are present and active. Rather the discerning Christian is the one who recognizes plausible counterfeits of Christianity and rejects them for the falsehoods they are.

The “Christian” leader will inevitably face criticism. Rather be criticized for being faithful, unflinching and honest in the bold proclamation of the “whole counsel of God”, than for watering down, glossing over or ignoring scriptural teaching.

Some church pastors and teachers may be highly successful in drawing great attendances, have lively and exciting worship and a great list of social programs etc. but if they are not proclaiming Scriptural Christianity and the Biblical way of Salvation then all they do will be only splendid sins.

Many say we should not judge lest we be judged.

I say “Preach the Word of God” be faithful to its teaching and do not yield to the fear or favour of men and modify your preaching to mollify them. Then we will have no cause for criticism and know that God is with you in truth.

Stopping Death in its tracks!

Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. Luke 7:11-17 (ESV)

This portion of scripture is precious in that it is a foreshadowing of Christ’s ultimate conquest over death by His Resurrection.

Perhaps only someone who has recently lost someone dear can enter into the emotion and tragedy of this scene.

Death is seen at its worst. A young man, his mother’s only stay and support is cruelly  taken  away in the prime of life.

Yet even as the pall bearers are taking the lifeless body away they are stopped in their course by the one who is the Lord over death and the giver of eternal life.

The sorrowful tears of the bereft mother were exchanged for tears of joy when at the word of Christ; the dead son was restored to her alive.

It was no wonder that fear and worship gripped the amazed crowd of mourners.  God had indeed visited His people. If only they had realized the day of His visitation!

While we may not see the dead visibly raised, the day will come when we will.

In a Spiritual sense we know that through the power of Christ in the gospel, men and women, boys and girls, are being raised from the death of sin and delivered from the second death and brought to the only “life” worthy of the name.

We all have loved ones and neighbours who are as dead in sin as this young man was dead in body.

Let us all pray that like this young man, they will be stopped in their tracks on the way to a hope-less eternity and brought to salvation and life in Christ.

And to Him alone be the glory!

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index harker

Gordon Harker : ( 1885- 1967) was one of the unlikely “lads” who starred and supported in over sixty British films of the thirties, forties and fifties.

If anything he was an “anti-hero” who ended up on top more by good luck than good management.

He invariably played the “lugubrious, shifty cockney”.

imagesharker3(from “The Phantom light”1935)

He was noted for playing “Inspector Hornley” in a trilogy of films and was ably supported by Alistair Sim.inspector-hornleigh-on-holiday-1939-dvd-gordon-harker-alastair-sim-744-p

I confess I originally found him hard to take to and a bit unlikeable but he has a tendency to grow on you and after a while you come to admire him and his worldly wise ways.

In the Christian life we meet all sorts. Many of them are not quite our “cup of tea” and have little appeal for us.

It may be only upon closer examination that we see the truth of their Christianity and the Christ-like characteristics in their daily living. We owe some people a second look and the benefit of the doubt before we write them off.

Caricatures!