Assaulting the Almighty

During the Second World War blitz on England, falling bombs were not the only danger to the population.

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The anti aircraft artillery barrage, while not very effective against German aircraft, did make the bombers fly higher and spoil their accuracy.

However what goes up must come down and shrapnel from the explosive shells rained back to earth posing a danger to those on the ground.

So when sinful man launches his attacks on the Almighty, the arrows he fires redound upon and injure himself.

The same goes for those who rejoice in contradicting God’s holy and wise laws and cast beneath their feet the message of Salvation.

Sadder still are those who pose as Christians yet do all they can to water down and relegate those parts of Scripture that do not conform to their own conceptions.

True, their impending judgment may be slow in coming but it is sure and certain none the less unless repentance and mercy intervenes.

Communication Breakdown!

Apparently one of the symptoms of mental illness is the fact that the afflicted cannot seem to make themselves understood by those around them and have difficulty comprehending what others are trying to convey to them.

In the same way sinful man has lost the ability to understand the things of God in fact they are hateful to him.

Man by nature is dead in sin and cut off from God and, unless aided by the Holy Spirit in conversion is unwilling and indeed  unable to obtain a fatherly hearing from God because his speech is drowned out by his willfulness in rebellion and sin.

As the blind man told the inquisitive Pharisees ” God does not listen to sinners. John 9:31″.

“We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”

While most today make man the first mover in salvation, the scriptures lay the salvation of man first to last, in the will of God and power of His Spirit working in the sinner’s heart moving him to repentance and seeking to God through faith.

Sin is the great communication barrier between God and us and it is only when it is repented of and dealt with by the blood of Christ that the channels are opened and the way of fellowship cleared.

The mock turtle.

cary grant mock turtle

 

Believe it or not, this costumed character from the 1933 “live action” version of “Alice in Wonderland” is Hollywood heart-throb Cary Grant .

True it was early on in his career but it does display a willingness on his part to put aside his trademark debonair good looks to perform a role to entertain the young.

Many of the actors who played Lewis Carroll’s characters in this film were popular actors and comedians at the time, with well known faces and mannerisms and yet under some of their costumes they were almost unrecognizable unless you listened carefully and knew where to look for them.

Generally famous people are known for their self promotion and greedy seeking after publicity to further their career.

So for well known personalities to efface and disguise themselves in order to perform roles in which they may or may not be recognized is remarkable.

Self promotion is not something that sits well in the sphere of Christianity.

When the ministry has more to do with the charisma of the “personality” in the spotlight and his obvious talents and less to do with the glory of God and the salvation of sinners, spiritual failure is sure to be the ultimate result, regardless of the hype and hysteria.

We have no shortage of “show ponies’‘ in our churches today.

People who are the Christian equivalent of exhibitionists. Their overarching desire is to be seen as special or talented and be admired.

We are all prone to fall into this trap to some degree and we all have need to humble ourselves and do as John the Baptist did in like circumstance.” He must increase while I must decrease”.

While it is true someone must be out the front, they should not be there seeking fame or reputation for themselves.

Human nature being what it is, some notoriety is unavoidable for many in prominent positions in the church but we have no business seeking it as an end in itself: rather it is all about proclaiming the gospel message and bringing glory to Christ and He alone.

We ourselves are incidental in the service of Christ and all the reward we seek is his well done and all the glory belongs to Him.

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Esau.

Was in many ways an admirable figure. He was the sort of  “out- doorsy, self reliant man that is admired and envied by most.

He reveled in the wide open spaces and pushed himself to his limits in manly pursuits, especially hunting.esau.jpeg

Unfortunately while he spent much time abroad in nature, like many of our famous naturalists today, he never sought to know and obey the God of creation.

He had a very two dimensional and short sighted view of existence and could see no further than his next meal and   immediate carnal pleasure.

When cheated out of His birthright and blessing all he could think about was getting revenge on his devious brother rather than blaming his own short sightedness and foolishness and seeking repentance and trying to amend his life.

We do feel that during the years of separation from his brother, Esau may have mellowed somewhat.

We see this in the kindly way he received his estranged brother upon his return home.

Perhaps rather it was more to do with the restraining hand of God upon him than anything else

Yet the behavior of his descendants toward their kinsman in latter days betrays the continuance of a long held grudge and resentment towards the  Jacob’s descendants, the Children of Israel  because of God’s favour  abundantly lavished upon them ,contrasting with the passing over of Esau and his descendants.

While it is a great deep and beyond our comprehension, God’s sovereignty in election and choosing one over another is repeatedly taught in scripture. Yet it never diminishes the fact that we are responsible for the wrong we do and for our turning away from God and living in disobedience to Him and his Word.

Let us be diligent in our seeking the Lord while he may be found!

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Assaulting the Almighty

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

The Weapons of our Warfare!

The “Smith” gun.

During the early days of World War two and the imminent of threat of invasion of Britain the greatest need of the defenders was for effective anti-tank weapons, especially for the Home Guard.

So desperate were they for an answer to the seemingly unstoppable German tanks, that someone suggested they place upside down dinner plates on the local roads to arouse the curiosity of the German tank crews to provoke them to leave their vehicles and investigate ,hoping to dispose of them in the process.

One weapon developed was the Smith Gun.220px-The_Smith_Three_Inch_Mobile_Gun_H18832

“The Smith Gun was an ad hoc anti-tank artillery piece used by the British Army and Home Guard during the Second World War. With a German invasion of Great Britain seeming likely after the defeat in the Battle of France, most available weaponry was diverted to the regular British Army, leaving the Home Guard short on supplies, particularly anti-tank weaponry. The Smith Gun was designed by a retired Army Major named William H. Smith as a makeshift anti-tank weapon, and was put into production in 1941 following a demonstration to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill”. (Quoted from wiki)

Unfortunately by the time the”Smith Gun” arrived the threat of invasion had largely subsided.

To operate this weapon it had to be turned on its side, which was not always easy to do as it was heavy and awkward to handle especially on uneven ground.

It required a high firing trajectory and with the shortage of ammunition, target practice was not always possible.4088263_orig

It had a mixed operational history and was quickly withdrawn from service at the end of the war.

It is understandable in those desperate days that for all its faults this weapon was jumped upon.

There are many in the churches today who feel that we can no longer rely on the Bible as our primary weapon in the fight against sin and our endeavour to save people from its clutches.

They regard its claim to inerrancy and  faith in the utility Scriptures for God’s saving purposes in the world ,as being “Old hat” and not worthy of credence for twenty first century man.

These often well meaning people, seek to supplement and sometimes replace the preaching of the Word with worldly methods and devices that can only be regarded as gimmicks.

I fear that for many so called ministers of the Word that the last thing they want to do is preach it. Very often they will substitute anything else for the actual exposition and proclamation of the Scriptures.

God does not need us to “second guess” Him. He has warned us against using carnal weapons and must look to the Captain of our Salvation for our supply and ammunition.

Christ has not left His army without the weapons they need to fight their spiritual enemies. The Bible as the in-scripturated Word of God is an “arsenal of freedom” that we despise at our peril.

Supported by fervent prayer and trusting faith we are well equipped for whatever the world, Satan and ungodly men can throw against us.

Empowered by the Spirit, we have all the means we need to overcome the enemy’s seemingly impregnable defenses.

Through Christ and His grace, the Church and individual Christian is more than capable of withstanding any attack and assault if only we will avail ourselves of them.

It will endure and prevail when all our man made designs and devices will end on the scrap heap.

Strangers and Sojourners.

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“9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:9-11 E.S.V.

The Christian in his or her original state is no different from the non-Christian. We were to without God and without hope.

The Apostle Peter places the originating cause of our difference from the people of godless world at large solely in the reality of God’s choice of the believer.

It is only through His undeserved and indeed ill-deserved mercy that those who were once “not a people” became the people of God.

It is because of this high calling that Christians are to live differently and on a more exalted and heavenly plane than those around them.

This world is not our final dwelling place and because of this, our attitude towards it must be that of strangers and sojourners, with the expectancy of departing from it at any time.

Instead of involving ourselves with the  inordinate pursuit of world’s passions and desires we must place our ultimate desire in seeking to glorify our Lord and Saviour by living holy and God glorifying lives in serving our fellow men and women.

We are to show forth the Excellencies and saving mercies of the one who has saved us and has a wondrous eternal reward in store for His chosen, blood bought and redeemed people . This merciful God , continues to call others to Himself by the proclamation of the glorious gospel of Christ.

To Him alone be the Glory of our Salvation.

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Editorial Note:

The only feedback I get regarding this blog is from “followers ” and ” likes”.

The only comments I recieve are spam or treated as spam by WordPress.

Since most of my readers appear to be in the United States, I can only wonder what they make of most of my references to my favourite genres in films and history.

I can only hope that despite these seemingly obscure sources, the lessons and conclusions I have tried to draw and illustrate from them, will not be lost in translation.

 

 

The Weapons of our Warfare!

Hobart’s Funnies!!

Is not a Tasmanian comic strip. They were a series of armoured and often amphibious vehicles designed to convey troups across water and marshy terrain and obstacles . They also made vehicles that cleared minefields.

I quote from Wiki,

“Hobart’s Funnies were a number of unusually modified tanks operated during the Second World War by the 79th Armoured Division of the British Army or by specialists from the Royal Engineers.BU_002335

They were designed in light of problems that more standard tanks experienced during the amphibious Dieppe Raid, so that the new models would be able to overcome the problems of the planned Invasion of Normandy. These tanks played a major part on the Commonwealth beaches during the landings. They were forerunners of the modern combat engineering vehicle and were named after their commander, Major General Percy Hobart.e7c0a7378478fe8bb1a04e8be80112ea

By early 1944, Hobart could demonstrate to Eisenhower and Montgomery a brigade each of swimming DD tanks, Crab mine clearers, and Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers – AVRE (Engineer) tanks along with a regiment of Crocodile flame-throwing tanks.

Montgomery considered that the US forces should use them. A third of the “funnies” were offered to the Americans of all the vehicles available, but take-up was minimal. Eisenhower was in favour of the Duplex drive (DD) amphibious tanks but left the decision on the others to General Bradley. None of the other designs were used, because it was thought that they required specialised training and an additional support organisation. Also, the Americans were reluctant to make use of funnies based on the Churchill tank as they did not want the logistical complexity of adding another tank model to their inventory.images

In the light of operations during the US landing on Omaha beach, Bradley’s decision has been criticised as it was felt that use of the range of “funnies” would have saved American lives.  After D-Day, American forces did make limited use of the Sherman Crab mine-clearing tank.”

As the use of these vehicles would have no doubt saved  American lives it is sad they did not put their prejudices aside and make use of these ingenious vehicles.index

In the same way when the gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ is offered freely to all it is no less than tragic that the prejudices and love of sin by men and women holds them from receiving the grace of God and the promise of life eternal.

Baptising Sinners or Christians?

Most denominations who practice baptism of adults only administer it upon a profession of faith. While it is not to be expected of new Christians to understand all of the Christian faith and belief it would be expected that they would have a fundamental understanding of the gospel of salvation and the work of Christ and repentance of known sin.

In one particular church of my knowledge I have attended baptismal services and having listened to the “Testimony” of the person baptized I was astounded by the ignorance of simple Christianity and lack of understanding of the saving work of Christ. Now some years later I hear of a baptismal service attended by a friend of mine, who having a conversation with the person was astonished by the absence of any Christian understanding at all.

In these two cases I do not blame the person themselves, rather the blame for this falls upon the shoulders of the pastors and church leadership. There is so little serious Bible teaching in the church today there is no wonder that ignorance of Christianity abounds even among professing believers.

There also seems to be a fear that refusing a person baptism will drive them away from the church. So they satisfy themselves with a positive answer to a simple acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Saviour regardless of whether the person knows what this means or not.

I would not expect too much of candidates for baptism but I would not reduce it to the level of rubber stamp either.

It is not only necessary that teaching the Word of God be foremost in the work of the minister and church but it is als o necessary that  people are asked whether they know understand and live by the teaching of God’s Word and trust in Christ as Saviour from sin.

Jephthah

32And what more shall I say? Time will not allow me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and obtained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,…Hebrews 11:32-33 Berean study Bible

Were we modern believers to list the Old Testament heroes of the faith, we would no doubt relegate many of them to a footnote or ignore them altogether, Jephthah the Gileadite would probably fall into this category.

The writer to the Hebrews thought differently, he mentions him in the same breath with Gideon, Samuel and David and enrolls him in the ranks of those who “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness and obtained promises”.

Jephthah was from the mountainous region of Gilead. It was something akin to what the highlands of Scotland were to the rest of Britain only in the land of Israel.Gilead-mountains-west-of-Ajlun-tb031701141-bibleplaces

It was famous for spices and medicinal balms and if the prophet Elijah, another of its inhabitants was anything to go by a wild and wooly place.

Jephthah got off to a bad start in life when his parentage was held against him by his father’s other sons and told to get lost. He took up residence in a Syrian area called “Tob”.

Like David long after him he gathered a group of malcontents and no-hopers around him and survived by raiding the country side.

It was during this time that Israel district was menaced and warred against by the Ammonites, a long time and bitter foe. This was made worse by the fact that the Ammonites were descended from Lot the nephew of Abraham and therefore kindred.

It was in this time of national danger that the elders of Gilead probably with his kinfolk among them sought out Jephthah to lead them against the Ammonites. Naturally saw the irony in this and reproved them with their former treatment of him. Yet the elders continued to plead with him and Jephthah agreed to lead them if they would continue to accept his leadership. They  agreed on oath to do this and to make it even more solemn they all went to Mizpah where Jephthah lived and laid all this out before the Lord, this may have been the place that Jacob and Laban had made their pact and thus used for this purpose ever since.

To his credit, Jephthah’s first action was to try and parley with the King of Ammon to avoid war. He reminded this king that during Israel’s conquest of the Land of Canaan, no hostile action was taken against Ammon and none of their legitimate territory was taken indeed the only tribes who action was taken against were those who attacked the children of Israel in the first place.

The king of Ammon even without any truth in his claim demanded the return of lands supposedly taken from him.  Jephthah pointed out that if the Ammonites claimed  that their own god Chemosh  had allowed them to conquer land and add it to their own they would not certainly give it up and besides why were they waiting till now to make this claim so long after the event. Despite the weakness of his claim the king of Ammon was set on war.

It was now that the spirit of the Lord came mightily on Jephthah and he advanced towards the enemy.

It was here he made his vow to the Lord which he would afterwards come to regret. Although the motive for this action may have been religious zeal and done in the heat of action it was ill considered and misguided.

While it shows his faith in the Lord and the necessity of seeking to Him for victory it showed a grave misunderstanding of the nature of the God he served.

The subject of making religious vows is too complex to discuss here it is only necessary to remark that God nowhere requires of us to vow rashly and make promises we have no right to make or in  justice expect  keep.

As Jesus said it is better to make our yes mean yes and our no mean no.

He the promised the Lord that whatever first came out to meet him when he returned home would be offered as a burnt offering to the Lord. The folly of making such a promise is obvious and not worthy of a servant of the Lord. If nothing else it shows how much foolishness and superstition there remains in all of us and we think God is impressed by such things.

The fact remains that the Lord delivers Israel and Ammon is defeated.

 

Upon Jephthah’s return his only daughter joyfully comes to meet him and as she is the first out of the door the loving father is bound to keep his vow.a jephthah

Whether Jephthah actually sacrifices her or devotes his daughter  herself to perpetual virginity  is still a bone of contention.

To have killed her would have gone against God’s  abhorrence of human sacrifice.

There are here many questions that cannot be fully answered.

What is clear is that Jephtha regretted his foolish vow and felt bound to act on it because it was to the Lord.

So we are left wondering why this man should be held forth as a hero of the faith and what lessons we so long after can learn from him?

There is no doubt that the faith he had in the Lord was real and it prompted his actions in a time of great peril.

He did not act unilaterally but sought unto the Lord his God to fight on his behalf and give Israel victory. What is more he shows no doubt whatsoever about the ability of God and his power although unseen and undeserved by Israel’s constant backsliding.

This perhaps is what the Hebrew Christians needed to know and remember when faced by the passing of the old temple dispensation and the persecution they were undergoing by both Jew and Gentile alike.

It is this we need to know even now when the church is beset by both open enemies and false friends.

Secondly we must remember that the story of faith is less about us and our inherent qualities and graces but rather about the great God and Saviour we worship and serve. It is what he does with our faith and obedience that is so wondrous and startling. It is this that makes the unbelieving world think again and causes sinful men and women to come and make our God their God.

This portion of Scripture also cautions us to be circumspect and thoughtful in our dealings with God. Our rashness and folly reflect badly on our life and witness. They cause the name of God to be blasphemed by those around us who look more at our weaknesses and sins than at our words and profession.

Postscript: In writing this I did not have access to my usual Bible Dictionairys. I looked at Hasting’s Bible dictionary a rather “liberal” and “Higher Critical” work. It informed me that some sections of the story of Jephthah were a later addition and no part of the original text. Yet it gave not one shred of evidence for this assertion. In the same way many today dispense with Bible truth and Theology and yet fail to give any sound reason for doing so except there own theories and preferences and desire for acceptance with post christian society.

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Hobart’s Funnies!!

Ersatz; Beware of Imitations!

 

Germany experienced dire food and material shortages caused by being blockaded during the two world wars. They therefore endeavored to replace these goods with other less satisfactory materials.

Examples being making tea out of raspberry and catnip leaves or substituting roasted acorns or normal beans for coffee.into-the-darkness-chap-07-0818

In World War II, Ersatzbrot (replacement bread) made of potato starch, frequently stretched with extenders such as sawdust, was furnished to prisoners of war. (Wiki)

The soldiers at the front used powdered ashes as a replacement for pepper.

All sorts of contrivances were used to try and meet the need for replacements and keep up appearances, from wooden shoes to sausage casings full of who knew what?

Satan to, has his substitutes and shams meant to fool people and lead them away from God’s reality.

  • He takes sexual promiscuity and perversion and calls it love.
  • He takes man’s search for affluence, pleasure and material possessions and calls it the way to happiness.
  •  He takes a person’s desire for freedom and liberty and turns it into licentiousness and lawlessness.
  • He takes a person’s admiration for others and turns it into idolatry.

Etc.

There is no doubt that the world in its credulity is fooled by these substitutions of falsehoods for realities but for the Christian to be fooled by them is lamentable.

We all need eyes opened by God to see things as they are and not be fobbed off by Satan’s imitations and sin’s “gilded potsherds” Proverbs 26:23

Higher Criticism

At the current time as in the past there have always been Bible scholars who have delighted in attempting to saw through the tree branch which they themselves have supposedly been sitting on. (This is in addition to the attacks by infidels and atheist on the authority and validity of Scripture.)1960s-businessman-in-shirt-and-tie-sitting-on-and-sawing-off-tree-cmt2a1

While Christianity and the Bible welcome all honest examination there have been many who studied the scriptures only to discredit them and consign them to oblivion.

For the last 2 or 300 hundred years the Bible has been dissected and scrutinized by so called scholars seeking to de-mythologize and subject it to the strictures of human reason.

Not daring to throw it out in its entirety they have tried to whittle it down to more credible and manageable proportions and attacked selected parts of it and indirectly discredit the whole.

They have questioned and discarded the avowed Pauline authorship of several New Testament letters. They claim that Paul could not have written these because a certain word the writer uses does not appear anywhere else  and is not  used  frequently in the epistles they regard as genuine or perhaps a passage in his writing does not seem to be typical of his writing style or sound like something Paul would say.

For other writings ,because  the Gnostic heresy was established and  flourished in the second century ,it  means that any mention of similar heretical theories in the New Testament writings must have come in answer to it and therefore must place them much later in time and makes them more remote from apostolic times and renders them  less genuine and authoritative.

They make a concerted effort to place  a great deal  of the New Testament as we now have it well into the second century A.D. and by doing this rob these writings of their claim to inspiration or Apostolic authority.

The gospels are not free from attack, the claim is made that the compilers of the original materials allowed traditions and legends to creep in and be incorporated into the narrative.

They therefore exert themselves to remove from the original document the supposed later, incredible and to their mind, unacceptable additions.

These “higher critics” have invariably denied the miraculous aspects of the gospels and so have attempted to de-bunk them at every turn.

 

The Old Testament has been violently hacked, dissected and assailed. We only have to look at the “higher” critic’s efforts to remove the predictions of the future from Isaiah and Daniel and the consigning of portions of these prophecies to other but unknown authors.

The critics invariably credit the portions of the Old Testament they do not like to some later redactor or editor and thus remove the perceived difficulty.

The end result of all this effort has been to shake some Christian’s confidence in the Bible and reduce it to fallible book, with good characters, stories and teaching but not anyway authoritative for the modern man who has outgrown the thinking of past ages.

The fact remains that low views of the Bible have always led to the Church’s decline and I think this is seen in the state of many, if not most of the churches of today.

What do you think of the Bible?

Some claim to have gone beyond the Bible and hear from God directly.

A theologian said in a sermon I heard, that Christ is the Word of God not the Bible. The fact is without the Bible we know nothing about Christ and cannot infallibly know His will and truth.

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We cannot have one spark of real humility till we are abased before God, as guilty, helpless, and undone creatures, who have no hope but in the tender mercy of God in Christ Jesus.-Charles SimeonCharlesSimeon

 

 

Ersatz; Beware of Imitations!

Philedem

This was the codename given to a British officer attached to the Cretan resistance during the German occupation in the Second World War. He was portrayed by Dirk Bogarde in the film “Ill met by Moonlight”.https://i1.wp.com/c8.alamy.com/comp/BKD5E7/ill-met-by-moonlight-1956-laurence-payne-david-oxley-cyril-cusack-BKD5E7.jpg

The German conquest of Greece and Crete was a very bloody affair and under the enemy occupation the kindness shown by the Cretans to Allied stragglers involved them in much suffering and to terrible reprisals. They fiercely resisted the Germans, hiding in the mountains and descending to attack them by surprise.https://i1.wp.com/www.explorecrete.com/crete-satellite/crete-mod.jpg

Even today Cretan men wear traditional, bushy mustaches and black shirts in memory of the losses and suffering endured at that time.

Like all peoples the Cretan have their strengths and weaknesses.

Nearly two thousand years before, the Apostle Paul ,having left Titus to shepherd the church on Crete, quotes one of their own “prophets” describing the nature of the people he had deal with.

“One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”” Titus 1:12 (I bet this made him popular)

Titus was to carry on the work that Paul himself had begun and make up what was still lacking in the church organization by appointing local leaders.

The Apostle had no misapprehensions about the difficulties in Christian work among such people.

Titus would have to exhibit great firmness in teaching and correcting the Cretan Christians: Also he had to be, by his blameless life, hospitableness and self control, a living example to the believers.

To deal with those who would contradict him he had to be sound in the Word of God and able to silence the adversaries of the Gospel.

The great danger among these (and many other) churches was for people to profess a knowledge and belief in God but by their daily living deny what they profess, thus discrediting the Christian faith.

Each age group and class in this society was to be exhorted by Titus to refrain from the sinful traits; they were by nature and tradition prone to. The need for Titus himself and for the believers in general to be sober and sober minded is driven home by Paul time and again.

Titus had been delegated authority by Christ through the Apostle and he was to use it to exhort and rebuke. All of this was in the knowledge, that all of us by nature are self willed, foolish and disobedient, lustful and hateful. Yet by the Grace of God and through His beloved Son we have found mercy, received washing in regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit’s power in our lives, we can overcome the sinful thoughts, behaviors and life styles which only lead to destruction.

I think we must all take on board and apply what Paul teaches here in the letter to Titus as a part of the Word of God for us today.

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“The history of the church seems to indicate to us two positions as true, with reference to this matter,—viz.  1st, That assurance of salvation has been enjoyed more fully and more generally by men who were called to difficult and arduous labours in the cause of Christ, than by ordinary believers in general; and 2dly, That this assurance, as enjoyed by such persons, has been frequently traceable to special circumstances connected with the manner of their conversion as its immediate or proximate cause. So it certainly was with the Reformers.”
William Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation

Precepts and Principles!

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There is now and always was a controversy raging in the Church about whether or how much Christians are bound to observe the Old Testament law. Some have even gone as far to say that the Sermon on the Mount and the “Lord’s Prayer” do not belong to Christians of this age at all because they have elements of law about them, so they belong to a future age.

Today the discussion focuses on such things as tithing, observing Sunday as a day of spiritual rest and questions of diet etc.

Many leaders and professing believers are pressing for discarding the law full stop and repeat that we are no longer under law but under grace like a Buddhist mantra.

While I do not have all the answers but rather many questions I would say this, the Bible is wholly God’s word: We need to be prepared to hear what He has to say in it.

While many of the commandments applied principally to the Jews under the old dispensation, there are many underlying truths that are universal to the people of God as well as rules for society to preserve human life, property and well being.

He is always the same and His will for His people remains the same under grace as well as under law;”Be holy as I am Holy”.

It is from His bountiful saving grace that sinful men, through faith in Christ and what He did on the cross are renewed by his Spirit and able to live holy and pure lives.

Many say today that because we as believers are clothed in the righteousness of Christ that when God looks at us he sees Christ and not our sin, therefore we do not have to worry about striving for holiness as He will work it out in us in time. Yet Paul tells us “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 this suggests the acting out of what God by his Spirit works in us by Holy living and thinking

Our Salvation is wholly and solely by grace through faith yet being clothed in the righteousness of Christ is never to be a cloak for our pursuing sinful practices and behaviours. As Paul clearly says that would make Christ a minister of sin.

Anyone closely looking at the Sermon on the Mount can see that to truly be like the person described requires a new birth and a new heart. Even the thought of sin does not escape Christ’s censure and brings with it guilt, as would the actual deed.https://granosalispaullocandro.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/d43fd-19612bking2bof2bkings2bsermon2bon2bthe2bmount.jpg?w=660

Were the average Christian of today, someone who exemplifies these behaviours and principles, what a witness to the Truth of Christ would be presented to the world?

Should we not aim to be pure in heart, as well as holy in all our living?

As to questions dealing with practical issues we must look at the spirit and intention of God’s commands

For example,

Are we obliged to give a tenth of our income to the work of God in the church as a tithe?  We are constantly exhorted to give to the poor and to the support of God’s work. Surely this says we need to be regular and generous in our giving according to how God has blessed us financially.

Constantly are we pointed to the generosity of Christ in giving himself for us as well as the fact that all we have and all we are belongs to God in the first place, to stimulate us to generosity and selflessness in giving back to God.

Are we obliged to observe a day of spiritual rest, renewal and worship on the Lord’s Day? The tendency today is to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday in Church and at worship and then spend the rest of the day engaging in the same pastimes as everyone else i.e. Sport, entertainment and sightseeing. Why did God ordain a day of rest and call it Holy in the first place? What were His intentions in doing so? Have we outgrown the need for a day of “rest” in God’s presence? We must in good conscience answer for ourselves.

Someone might say should we still burn witches or stone adulterers?  This decision in this day and age does not lie with us. However these Old Testament crimes and punishments drive home how much God hates sin. God will punish un-repentant sinners even if man condones and applauds them.

The spirit of the modern church tends to discount and ignore those parts of the Bible that run counter to its sensibilities which are imbibed by interaction with worldly thought and psychology.

All I would say is that we should be listening to what God has said in every age about sin, life and holiness but most of all listen to his Son.

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“Our mind cannot find a comparison too large for expressing the superabundant mercy of the Lord toward his people.”

– David Dickson

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The Frustrated God!

Judging from what we hear from the pulpit, God spends most of His time waiting for people to come to Him so He can rain blessings down on them and meet their financial, marital and psychological needs and desires as well as giving them a sense of community by joining the church.

To many Christian leaders it seems that if they can convince people that God will meet these needs then maybe people will come to him and somehow come to salvation, even though what they are being saved from is left rather vague. The need for repentance from sin and being ‘born from above” is left out of the message as to offensive.

Today it is more a case of come as you are, stay as you are.

He is also a lonely God whose heaven is not complete until men and women seek Him and accept Jesus.

Sin we are led to believe, while it might have been a big deal in the past is something God has turned a blind paternal eye to, so we do not mention it.

Man instead of being a criminal and fugitive is now a victim and suffering from mistakes and poor choices.

It is no wonder the Bible and what it declares to be man’s true estate is not taught or preached. A few paraphrased Bible phrases, fixed like butterflies, are enough to hang a man-centered, felt needs sermon on.

It is true from a human point of view that there are many victims in society and we are everywhere confronted by human need. It is not that we should ignore these needs but rather that they are not the fundamental problem which underlies all else.

God’s revelation is that man is a hell deserving sinner to whom He has offered, through Christ and His shed blood, pardon on repentance of sin and faith in the Saviour.

Man for the most part has rejected this Salvation and prefers to pursue earthly wealth and well being as well as sinful pleasures.

The truth is that all the sinners other needs are nothing compared to the need for deliverance from the love and power of sin.

‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”. John 6:44

Rather than God being passive in man’s salvation and waiting for his initiative it is through His divine drawing and calling that any are saved at all.

Man if left to his own devices would choose to live without God at all and thereby perish in his sin.

God has a better understanding of our needs than we do and He knows what is best for us. He will give and withhold, chastise and comfort according to his infinite wisdom.

Christianity is not for the self seeking and never was

 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me .25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…. ”. Matthew 16:24-25

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“Worship” aims to be as casual and as relaxed as possible, reflecting an easy familiarity with God unbefitting His transcendent majesty. This type of “worship” seems to aim chiefly at making sinners comfortable with the idea of God—purging from our thoughts anything like fear, trembling, reverence, or profound biblical truth. . . .

The decline of true worship in evangelical churches is a troubling sign. It reflects a depreciation of God and a sinful apathy toward His truth among the people of God. Evangelicals have been playing a kind of pop-culture trivial pursuit for decades, and as a result, the evangelical movement has all but lost sight of the glory and grandeur of the One we worship. [1]John MacArthur, Worship (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 10-12.

Philedem

Here or hereafter?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Wooden Wonder!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here or hereafter?