Friday, February 27, 2015

RAISING THE STANDARD


RAISING THE STANDARD
Introduction
The 25th April is the centenary of the landing of the ANZACs at Gallipoli. ANZAC Day is a day when Australia stops to honour and remember those Australians and New Zealanders that fought and died for our freedom and for justice: those who fought and those who gave their lives in war and conflict for the cause of peace. In particular we remember those, and we are inspired by those, who died at what many call “the birth of our nation” at ANZAC Cove.
Back in those days as children they would have learned and would have grown up singing the following words:

To help the weak against the strong,
To guard the right against wrong,
And bear the flag of Truth along.
Helping the weak against the strong takes physical strength mixed with spiritual fortitude. One writer, speaking of those who were at ANZAC Cove, says, “Mental strain and physical illness reduced the bodies of our finest youth to gaunt skeletons held together only by determination."
Yes, it was shear determination that held these brave men together when they were fighting to help the weak against the strong! It was, it is, and will ever remain the honourable thing to do! It is just to guard the right against the wrong, for this is to hold up the flag, the banner of truth!
There is a verse of Scripture that is notoriously difficult to translate from the original Hebrew. It is Isaiah 59:9. The New King James Version of the Bible renders it thus,
“So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:9.
The Banner
We’ll let the experts in Old Testament Hebrew debate which is the best way to translate this text, as to whether it is when the enemy comes in like a flood that the Spirit will raise a banner or standard or whether it is the LORD Himself who, like a river driven by the breath of the LORD, that comes in like a flood. But either way, the LORD will cause those in the East and those in the West to fear His name! For, “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun.”
Earlier on in his Book Isaiah says of the LORD, “He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, and will whistle to them from the end of the earth; surely they will come with speed, swiftly.” Isaiah 5:26.
There’s that picture of the Spirit of the LORD lifting up a standard! We see the same thing going on in Isaiah 13:2, “Lift up a banner on the high mountain, raise your voice to them; wave your hand, that they may enter the gates of the nobles.” Isaiah 13:2. And the same is pictured again in Isaiah 18:3, “All the inhabitants of the world and the dwellers on the earth: when he lifts up a banner on the mountains, you see it; and when he blows a trumpet you hear it.” Isaiah 18:3.
So, we might all agree then that the words,when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him” are completely in line with the Book of Isaiah and indeed the rest of Scripture! 
I remember as an Army Chaplain marching in my first ANZAC Day parade here in Brisbane. The regiment I was attached too held its banner high. As I looked at those who were marching I could see the sun glinting off of the rising sun badges on their slouch hats!
What a glorious sight to see them marching on ANZAC Day with their flags and their banners waving in the breeze, as they breathed in the air of freedom, as they marched to the beat of liberty, with the Australian sun glinting off of the “Rising Sun” badge on their slouch hats! They were there because the LORD has lifted up standard against the enemy – the enemy of truth, of justice, and of freedom.
 As I marched on that particular ANZAC Day the people lining the streets were crying out, “Thank you!” They were thanking the “Diggers” for their determination to help the weak against the strong, to guard the right against the wrong, and bear the flag of truth along – just like our Australian forefathers, just like all those brave men and women who fought and who died in the Great War.
But we’re not here to glorify war. War is hell and we all long for the day when all wars will cease, for the times when the nations, as Isaiah says elsewhere, “Shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4b.
When we look at the news on TV we have to wonder how it will ever be possible for all wars to cease! Surely all mankind would have rally under His banner for this ever to happen?
It was a Padre, the Reverend Arthur White, who began our “Dawn Service” tradition. He had conducted a service at 0400h on the morning of the departure of the earliest ANZACs to leave Australia. After the Great War, at dawn on 25th April in 1923 he and twenty others watched a wreath they had thrown into the water. As it floated out to sea, he recited these words, “As the sun rises and goeth down we will remember them.
How can we forget them? How can we ever forget our fallen? They have made the supreme sacrifice!
In Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem “For the Fallen” from which our “Ode of Remembrance” is taken, we find the following words:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

Yes, they fell with their faces to the foe. They were brave! We will remember them. We ought to!

Let’s ponder our verse again, So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

The Banner Unfurled
Now, Scripture says that our last enemy is death. So, how ultimately is the Spirit of the LORD going to raise up a standard against death? Well, it’s all about Jesus, isn’t it? It’s all about Jesus being lifted up. It’s all about Jesus defeating Satan and death by setting His face to the foe and heading towards Jerusalem and the cross that awaited Him! It’s all about the Spirit of the LORD lifting up a standard against death through Jesus being raised from the dead! It’s all about Jesus and His resurrection! His being raised to glory.

Of Jesus Paul says to the Corinthians, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:25-26. So, we have it on good authority then that our greatest enemy, even death itself, will be defeated. Think about it: death itself has been conquered by Jesus! He is risen!

Jesus has crushed the serpent’s head! He has defanged the serpent! He has removed the sting from death’s tail! Jesus has dealt the deathblow to death! Jesus is the standard that the Spirit of the LORD has lifted up.

Jesus Himself said before He went to the cross, “‘Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.’ This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” John 12:31-32.

There is a famous painting by Rembrandt called “Raising of the Cross.” Christ is depicted as already having been nailed to the cross and there are soldiers raising it so that it stands vertical. However, there at the feet of Jesus is a man wearing a blue painter’s beret. Wow! It’s Rembrandt himself! He has painted himself as one of those raising the cross!

That’s the trouble, isn’t it? Jesus didn’t die for His friends. He died for His enemies! For, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8b. Yes, we needed to be reconciled to God because we (i.e., all mankind) were His enemies! But look at our verse again, the second half, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

Like Rembrandt in his painting, and as Jesus has said, we are to lift Him up. Yes, the cross condemns us, but, at the same time, it saves us! The cross condemns us because He had to lay down His own life to save us from death and the punishment thereof, i.e., the wages of our sin. We couldn’t and we can’t save ourselves because as sinners we are at war with God!

But the cross saves us because Christ by His substitutionary death has received in full from God the punishment that we each deserve! And by His perfect life as our representative He has paid in full what each of us owes to God, i.e., perfect obedience to His revealed will.

In a nutshell God has imputed or accounted or transferred our sin to the Man Christ Jesus and punished Him instead of us and He imputes or accounts or transfers Christ’s righteousness to us and rewards us along with the Christ Jesus.

Yes, the Spirit of the LORD lifted up a standard. For Paul says to the Romans, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11.

The Spirit of the LORD who raises the standard has raised Christ from the dead and will likewise raise us from the dead unto everlasting life. God has given us His Spirit as a token or deposit of this good news!

The 1998 Oscar winning war epic, Saving Private Ryan, tells the story of the daring rescue of Private Ryan, the last survivor of four brothers, by a Captain and a small unit that had been sent to find him. It was loosely based on a real event.

Well, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Jesus is the Captain who has single-handedly rescued us. He has rescued us from all our enemies, sin, self and Satan. He even has rescued us from our last enemy which is death!

Conclusion
When you look around the world today, when you look at the news, when you see the wars that are going on, when you see the apparent decline of Christianity in the West, you may be thinking that the enemy is coming in like a flood. Well, don’t despair, just keep in mind, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

Raise the standard! Lift up Jesus Christ!

Monday, February 9, 2015

BOOKS, TV/MOVIES


Books, TV/Movies

Speaking of books, I spent a year or two reading or rereading a lot of the classics including such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and his Jekyll and Hyde, also George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. I especially enjoyed The Adventures of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett (1721-71). Rather than watch the in-flight entertainment I read this 1748 novel on a plane trip to and from Hawaii, also enjoying reading it on the beach at Waikiki! I couldn’t, as they say, put it down! Some books, TV shows and movies, like Doctor Who’s Tardis, seem to be able to, if you will let them, transport us to other times, other cultures, and other worlds. On a trip back to Scotland I had to stop off at a monument to Tobias Smollett. He comes from the place where I grew up!

I remember deciding as a sixteen-year-old that I was going to read the whole Bible. I got to the middle of the third book, i.e., Leviticus, before my wheels really got stuck in the mud of ye olde King Jamesian English of the Bible version I was attempting to read. I gave up only to pick it up again sixteen years later. This time I came at it armed with a dictionary. With the Bible in one hand and a dictionary in the other I was able to complete the mission! And wow! The Book transported me from Earth to Heaven and back to Earth again! In other words I became a Christian convert through reading the Book of Books.

The Bible is made up of sixty-six books written in ancient Hebrew and Greek (with a smidgin of Aramaic) over a period of some fifteen hundred years by over forty different authors. Books, TV series and documentaries galore have been made about the Bible and the stories contained therein, not forgetting major movies. Some are pro-Bible and others are anti-Bible. And others are just downright weird! Yet for all the criticism of its contents the Holy Bible is still the best-selling book ever. Why? Why in an age of entertainment would the Bible be a bestseller? Well, first off, the Bible does not say that entertainment itself is wrong. Indeed, many of the Bible stories are designed to be entertaining. However, not in the sense of leaving us entertained as in amused, but rather to leave us in a state of awe, (though some stories are amusing, such as when Moses confronted his brother Aaron about the golden calf and Aaron said, ‘They gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’ (Exodus 32:24b). Hilarious! We are awestruck, for example, when God delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego from certain death in the fiery furnace, Daniel from the den of lions, David from Goliath, Jonah from the belly of a fish, (not to mention the Ninevites from judgment), and a huge portion of humanity from Hell.

Not all books, (and not all TV and movies) are about entertainment. There are text-books, history-books, technical books. The Book of Books primarily is about salvation, i.e., how God in Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world and all who believe in Him for salvation. Have you read it? I was pleased when someone, after I had struggled to read the whole of ye olde King James’ Version, gave me a version in modern English! I wish I had known about the easier to read versions sooner! Och well, the end result would have been the same. I would have become an adopted child of God with His only Son, Jesus Christ, as my Saviour! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Shadows o Ben Lomond


THE SHADOWS O BEN LOMOND
 

Upon white pillow ma grey heid

No far fae gabbin wi the deid

Aroon ma bed ma faimily stauns

A’ greetin as they haud ma hauns
 

But me Ah’m runnin up the brae

Tae catch the sun at the break o day

And watch the light dance on the loch

Fae the shadows o Ben Lomond


 
 
 
 
Leave me go, don’t haud me back

Let me go runnin up that track

Beneath ma feet yon bluebells squeak

 Their fragrance lifts me tae the peak
 

Aye me Ah’m runnin up the brae

Tae catch the sun at the break o day

And watch the light dance on the loch

Fae the shadows o Ben Lomond


Whit’s that that’s tuggin at ma airm

Ah know it disnae mean me herm

For Ah must go up yon great height

Tae see the loch at the mornin’s light


Aye me Ah’m runnin up the brae

Tae catch the sun at break o day

And watch the light dance on the loch

Fae the shadows o Ben Lomond


 
 
 
 
Well, ma faimily, Ah love ye a’

But noo it’s time an’ Ah must awa

Tae scale the ben, an Ah cannae be late

The Keeper o’ the Loch has set the date


Aye me Ah’m runnin up the brae

Tae catch the sun at the break o day

And watch the light dance on the loch

Fae the shadows o Ben Lomond

Saturday, January 10, 2015

ABRAHAM: God's Comforting Promise


GOD’S COMFORTING PROMISE

14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. 17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.’ 18 Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord.” Genesis 13:14-18.

Introduction

“Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie,
O what a panic’s in thy breastie!”

The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote those words in 1785 after he had upturned a mouse and her nest while he was ploughing a field. He could see that the timid little mouse was in a troubled state! In the poem Burns then begins to look at things from the mouse’s point of view. And he runs a comparison between himself and the wee mouse. He ends his poem to the mouse by saying,

“Still thou art blest compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee;
But oh! I backward cast my e’e
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!”

In the following I would like us as Christians to know that we don’t have to panic like a little mouse. Neither do we have to “guess an’ fear” about our future – or even the future of the planet earth! Why? Because our sovereign God is in control of all things. Just as He was in control of the plow with which Robert Burns upturned the little mouse’s house!

The general gist of the following is summed up in these words: The LORD comforts the compliant by confirming His Word to them.

Compliance

Genesis chapter 13 began by telling us Abram, after his escapade down in Egypt, is back on track. Chapter 13 ends by informing us that Abram is still on track. Genesis 13:18, “Then Abram moved his tent [etc.] and built an altar there to the LORD.” So it’s not without reason that Abram is called the father of the faithful. However, as we’ve already seen, and will no doubt see in the future, Abram is anything but perfect. For like the rest of us, Abram struggled at times to do the right thing by God. But here in this chapter we see that Abram is compliant to the will of the LORD. For, if you remember, Abram was told to get out of his country (Genesis 12:1).

This meant that he was to get out from his kindred – even from his father’s house. And you know Abram’s father Terah and his nephew Lot left Ur of the Chaldeans and came with him. But Abram’s father died back in a place called Haran. And we’ve already looked at the amicable separation between Abram and his nephew Lot. But for now I want you to notice something that is all too often overlooked today.

The thing too often overlooked is the sovereignty of God in world events. Be it a sparrow dropping from a tree or a hair from your head or bombs from a plane. Or be it the upturning of a mouse’s house with your plough-blade. Be it anything that comes to pass, all things comply with the secret or hidden will of God. That is, whatever things come to pass – come to pass because they have been ordained by God. And this of course is not to say men are not held accountable to God for their actions good or bad. But it is to say that God is still in control!

At no point has He lost control, either in the past, present or future. So this means that when the Christian puts his head on his pillow at night he can sleep! He can sleep because his heavenly Father is watching over him and every atom of the universe.


God is busy even as you sleep working His purposes out. We’re not always privy to how He does this. Therefore, this we’ll call the “secret” will of God. For instance, none of us knows the moment we’re going to die! Neither does anyone know when the Lord is going to return bodily. God has a secret or hidden will – His decretive will. It is secret or hidden from our view (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29). But the Christian should be comforted knowing that God is in control – control of all things. There’s great comfort expressed in the words of the old hymn,   Whate’er my God ordains is right: His holy will abideth.

But there is an even greater comfort to be had by being obedient to God. When you know what God would have you do and you do it, that is comfort to your soul. Take Abram and Lot for instance. Both were compliant to the secret or hidden will of God. However, only one of them was conscious he was doing the will of God and that one was Abram. Abram let his nephew Lot choose where he wanted to live. If Lot went to the right Abram would go to the left and vice-versa. Lot chose to go and dwell in the cities of the plain of Jordan – even as far as Sodom!

Now then, it has to be admitted that both Abram and Lot were compliant to the secret will of God. As we are reminded of the Proverb, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” 16:33. But here’s the difference between Abram and Lot in this instance. Both were compliant to the secret will of God. But only Abram was compliant to God’s revealed will. Abram separated himself from Lot because of what God had already told him to do. Therefore he was being obedient to the revealed will of God. However, Lot saw the whole thing as his opportunity to move from tent-life to city-life. But I want you to see that, though Lot wasn’t focused on the things of God, he was still complying with the will of God, albeit the secret will of God!

God had told Abram to get out from his kindred. The LORD had revealed this to Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans, this is the revealed will of God then. But Lot, as you know, was the last of Abram’s kindred. So when Abram asked Lot to choose where he wanted to go Abram was complying to the REVEALED will of God, wasn’t he?

Both Abram and Lot got themselves entangled in all that nonsense when they went down to Egypt. Abram learned his lesson to “Come out from among them and be separate” 2 Corinthians 6:17. But Lot? Well, he can’t wait to get back in among it all again. So he dashes off to dwell in the cities of the plain. And when he got there? Well he’s like those today who seem to have no confidence in the sovereign power of God in all things. To put it bluntly, they’re too busy looking at the things of the world and not the things of God! Therefore, like Lot in Sodom, their hearts become troubled when they see evil around them! They forget the words of the Shepherd Psalm, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” They forget that Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” John 16:33b. They forget that Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” All authority over what? Over everything. Even every atom of the universe. Even you and me and the Devil! Therefore since Christ has overcome the world and has all authority in heaven and on earth, Christians should find comfort in this knowledge.

But instead we see Christian book-stores flooded with scary End-times books! However, the Lord hasn’t revealed the date of His return. It’s part of His secret will. You’ll know all about it after He returns like a thief in the night. So why all the scary books? The thing I find scary about these kinds of books is that some of them are written by Christians who claim that God has revealed His secret will in Scripture! They’ve been promoting the any-second-rapture of the church for over one hundred years. So this means that they have been wrong for over the last one hundred years!

How long will it take for them to realize that what Jesus says is true, that no one knows the day or the hour of His return! And with regard to the supposed rapture of the church Jesus prayed these words in John 17:15, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” Does this sound like the entire believing church of Jesus Christ is suddenly going to leave the planet earth to the unbelievers? Anyway, as Abram and Lot were compliant to the sovereign secret will of God, so are all other things. Therefore there is great assurance to be had for the Christian in the knowledge that God has control of all things Whate’er my God ordains is right: His holy will abideth!” But more than that, there is even greater comfort in knowing that you are doing the will of God.

Just before John Calvin died, his friends, noticing he was really sick, tried to get him to lie down in his bed. “What?” replied Calvin, “And have the Lord come for me and catch me idle!” Calvin knew the comfort that comes from consciously complying to the will of God! He was a doer of the Word.

Now, to be sure there’re many mysteries in the world, e.g., the date of Christ’s return, the suffering of the seeming innocent etc. But these and like mysteries are mysteries because God has a secret or hidden will. However, He also has a revealed will which is for our comfort. Look at Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

So the general idea then, is that we leave all the mysteries with God. What is a mystery to us makes sense to God so we leave its secret with Him. But those things He has revealed to us in His Word we consciously seek to do! In the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

That should be the constant prayer of the Christian. He ought to pray that the Lord’s will be done on earth – beginning with himself. Therefore every Christian should search the Scriptures to find out what is God’s revealed will – and then go and do it! And if this be the attitude of the Christian he will find great comfort in the Word of God. Because obedience or conscious compliance to the revealed will of God brings comfort.

Comfort

First we need to define what we mean by the word “comfort.” Most of us, I’m sure, think of “comfort” as soft cushions and soft pillows! Most of us think that to “comfort” someone is to give them a soft shoulder to cry on. And no doubt the word “comfort” can be used in this way. But in the following we’re using the word “comfort” the way the Bible uses it, i.e., where comfort means to strengthen, or literally to fort-ify with or fortify together. E.g., the Comforter, the Holy Spirit is the One who strengthens us. He gets alongside us and strengthen us, as in the Lord’s Supper for example. Well, look what’s happening in our text.

Abram is being compliant to the Word of God which has already been revealed to him. “And the LORD said to Abram...” (Genesis 13:14). God spoke to Abram. So the LORD got alongside Abram and strengthened him with words of comfort. However notice that the LORD did this AFTER Abram had complied to what he’d been told to do. So Abram was a doer of the Word of God and God continued to strengthen him.

And what exactly has Abram done? Well, he’s separated himself from Lot – his last kin. Abram now has no blood relatives left with him, no next-of-kin, unless, of course you include Sarai Technically Sarai was Abram’s half-sister, as well as his wife, and she also was barren (Genesis 11:30). But did the LORD tell Abram to divorce his half-sister who was his wife? No! This speaks volumes against those who believe in ongoing revelation, and claim God told them to leave their wife and become a missionary or whatever.

First off God has given us all His revealed will in the form of the Bible. And secondly, though God permits divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts, He hates it. And what better example than Abram and Sarai? The LORD has told Abram to separate from his kindred. Isn’t Sarai Abram’s kindred and his wife? However, there’s no mention of the LORD telling Abram to dump his wife. In fact don’t we hear echoes loud and clear here of what our Lord says in Matthew 19:4ff.? “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” Matthew 19:4-6. And didn’t the Lord give Adam a wife in order to help him, even comfort, i.e., strengthen him? So wives, get alongside your husbands and strengthen them!

Look at this short excerpt from Malachi 2:14-16 which spells out the main purpose of marriage, “The LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth...she is your companion and your wife by covenant...Did He not make them one...and why one? HE SEEKS GODLY OFFSPRING. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce.” Malachi 2:14-16.

So, if we put it all together, the LORD wants a man to find a woman, make an unbreakable covenant with her, leaving his father and mother to raise godly offspring. Therefore God will comfort, strengthen those who are striving to be obedient to Him in marriage. Is this not what’s taking place as we see the LORD invisibly superintend the life of Abram?

Is it not a great comfort then, to know that God always complies with His own revealed will? God is telling Abram He’ll bless his marriage with as much offspring as dust on the earth (Genesis 13:16). God is reminding him of the promise already made that He’d make him into a great nation. By this, of course, is meant the church as Paul says in Galatians 3:7, “Therefore know that only those who are faith are sons of Abraham.” And some other time we’ll look more closely at this along with the fact that Christ is the ultimate Promised Seed of Abram (Galatians 3:16). But for now we are strengthened in the knowledge that God never acts contrary to His own revealed will. However, look what else is happening in our text: Abram did what the Lord had told him to do. He has now separated himself from his nephew Lot. This must have broken Abram’s heart. Abram loved his nephew Lot! But Abram complied with the revealed will of God. He obeyed the LORD. However, is the LORD oblivious to what Abram must be going through at this time? No, the LORD came and comforted him with words of encouragement.

So then, we need to ask: What are the words the LORD uses to encourage Abram? Well, all the LORD is doing here is reassuring Abram with what He has already said. In other words, the LORD is coming to Abram and confirming what He has already revealed to him. Thus, the LORD comforts the compliant by confirming His Promise to them.

Confirmation

Think back to what the LORD has already said to Abram as recorded in Genesis 12:1, “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation [etc.]” Now look at what the Lord is saying to Abram in Genesis 13:14ff., “Lift your eyes now and look... for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth...[etc.]”

Abram has complied with what God has already revealed to him. And now the Lord is comforting him by promising that he will be faithful to His own Word. The Lord does the same thing with us in the Lord’s Supper. He brings us comfort by confirming in the Supper that He will be faithful to His own Word. That’s the way it works!

In the Lord’s Supper the Communicant sees that he or she has a place in the will of God – if he or she has been striving to conform to and do the revealed will of God. If you or I do the right thing by God we get to sleep at night. As Christians we should put our heads on our pillows at night and think about whether what we’re doing in life lines up with God’s revealed will, i.e., the Bible. The comfort comes with the confirmation that you are being compliant to the revealed will of God. But if the Christian discovers he’s done or is doing something in life contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture, then he is a troubled spirit. For example look at Abram’s nephew Lot – and what Christian among us cannot relate to this man? We all tend to look at things through the eyes of Lot. He saw the well-watered plain of Jordan. Where Abram is content dwelling in a tent in the hills, Lot wants to go live in the cities of the plain.

Now, you’re going to see in a moment that it was God’s secret will that Lot go there. However, Lot, it would seem, went there for his own selfish reasons. Abram has learned his lesson from the time he went down into Egypt. But Lot, it would seem, is still attracted to the neon lights, the glitter and life-style of the city. It’s easy for us to look at things through the eyes of Lot. Lot followed the desire of his heart. But he wasn’t mindful of the things of God. So he became a troubled spirit. And the LORD would eventually have to send in two of His angels to deliver Lot from Sodom! However, looking through God’s eyes it’s not hard to see God’s grace in sending Lot into Sodom Because like Noah before him, Jonah after him, Lot was a preacher of righteousness.

The Bible calls Lot a “righteous” man (2 Peter 2:7-8). So Lot was a Christian. He was a member of the Christian Church as the Church existed at the time of Abram. And is there anyone who would enjoy living in, say, San Francisco or King’s Cross Sydney witnessing to people involving themselves in the practice of sodomy? Well, that was the mission field Abram’s nephew Lot was sent into by the sovereign God! No! It wasn’t Lot’s intention to go to Sodom as a missionary, but, can you see that it was the secret will of our gracious God that Lot should go there? Lot had one thing in mind but the LORD had another.

So, whatever it is that you’re planning to do, seek confirmation in the Word of God that it’s okay. Otherwise it might just blow up in your face as it did with Lot! Robert Burns expresses this same idea in the same poem I referred to earlier. You’ve probably heard the words:          

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promised joy.

By the way, there are Christians who take great joy in this type of work. But I’m sure you can see the difference between these Christians today and Lot. Lot tended toward self-service whereas Christians living among practicers of sodomy are serving the LORD. And there’s the joy, the joy in doing the revealed will of God as confirmed by His Word. When these Christians put their heads on their pillows at night they can sleep. They know that they are there serving the LORD according to His revealed will. Both Lot & Abram, no doubt, knew beforehand that the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD (Genesis 13:13). No wonder the Apostle Peter says of Lot, “that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” 2 Peter 2:8.

So we see then, that Lot in Sodom was compliant to the hidden or secret will of God. Seen through the eyes of God, Lot went exactly where the LORD wanted him to go. But Lot didn’t enjoy one bit being the conscience of Sodom! He had a troubled spirit because he was not consciously complying to the revealed will of God. And neither was anyone else around him. In other words, if Lot had gone to Sodom with the intention of winning the Sodomites over to the God of Abram he would have spared himself the torment of soul! So, to cut the long story short, Lot was a Christian troubled because he was too busy looking at his evil and wicked surroundings and not the kingdom of God like Abram!

So, as we begin to tie it all together, it’s not hard to see that we’re touching on a common problem in the church at large today. Instead of getting on with what we’re supposed to, (i.e., witnessing to the LORD in an evil and wicked time) many are too busy looking at their surroundings. To look at the amount of End-Time books that are flooding the Christian book-stores you’d think the devil was sovereign ruler of the world. We know that the devil, as Peter says, “Walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” 1 Peter 5:8. However, James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” James 4:7-8.

Conclusion

Abram was busy consciously complying to what God told him to do. And the word of the Lord came to him reinforcing what He had already promised him. So Abram was happy to move his tent and build another altar and continue worshipping God. He trusted that God had everything under control and would come good with His promises. But Lot? He still had a lot to learn about the revealed will of God never mind His secret will!

So how is it with you? Are you a “Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie, O what a panic’s in thy breastie!” Or are you confident that God has everything under His sovereign control? Are you overly worried about the things around you or are you busy doing something about it, such as everything revealed in Scripture? Are you obedient to the revealed will of God at home, at work, at school, at play? Are you seeking to be obedient to God in your marriage, if you are married?  Are you striving to bring up a godly offspring?

Always remember that the LORD comforts the compliant by confirming His Promise to them.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Politics


Politics

 Voting is compulsory in Australia. Therefore, unlike Scotland where the citizens are free to reject the candidates in an election simply by staying at home, Australians have to drag themselves to the polling booth in order to ‘spoil’ the ballot if they wish to reject all the candidates! Yes, some are not happy with politics and others would substitute ‘politicians’ for ‘Cretans’ in the adage ‘Cretans are always liars’ Titus 1:12. Why would politics cause some to speak so? It might be a whole range of issues including economics, taxes, national roads, abortion, marriage redefinition, refugees and a whole lot more. We try to vote in politicians who share our views on these and such-like issues. Therefore Western political systems depend on the honesty of their political candidates.

Some would claim that an honest politician is an oxymoron. But is this a fair assessment of Western politicians and politics? Well, it doesn’t help the cause of politicians when we see them never directly answer any questions when being interviewed. No doubt they ramble on about their ‘talking points’ out of fear of the ‘gotcha’ questions whereby some interviewers purposely set out to trip them up in their speech. Thus the derogatory term ‘spin doctor’ has been used of certain politicians.

Should Christians give politics a wide berth? I know of at least one Atheist who thinks Christians ought not to become politicians because they cannot separate their religion from their politics! One can only wonder at the arrogance of this sort of anti-Christian view of politics in light of the fact that there is still a Christian majority in most Western nations![i] However, and more to the point, it is thanks to Christianity that we have democracy in the West in the first place! If it is true that the West was built on the back of Christianity then that which is contrary to it would be sand in the gearbox!

Lenin, Marx, and Engels introduced Atheism into Western politics with their different forms of Socialism in which the citizens ultimately serve the State rather than God, by which the God-given rights of the individual began to give way to the imposed will of the collective. (Some Christians still buy into various shades of Socialism!) Then came the ‘thought police’ in the forms of the KGB and SS etc. in the 20th century. These have morphed into the Political Correctness (PC) movement of the 21st where it is now difficult even to discuss issues without being demonized for disagreeing with the narrative of ‘mob thinking’!

The West was built on the Westminster-system of politics which in turn was built upon Biblical principles. Presbyterianism still clearly displays those biblical principles. There is an ‘issue’ (or a motion). There are those who speak for the motion and those who speak against it. There is a moderator (or referee). After the issue has been discussed sufficiently by both sides it is then put to a vote. The majority wins. This is Western democracy in practice! It is Christianity in politics! No one is shouted down and drowned out by ad hominem attacks! This is freedom of speech!

Because of this system we tend to have a two-party system, i.e., those with left wing views of the issues and those on the right. Yes, some politicians are Independents but they too tend to be either left or right on issues. Always remember, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbour comes and examines him." Proverbs 18:17.



Friday, January 2, 2015

"CHRIST MOMENTS"


“Christ Moments”
I love those “Christ Moments” I experience sometimes when I am running. They usually happen in the quietness of the morning. It doesn’t happen often but it’s when I become conscious of my own breathing and notice that each breath is in perfect rhythm with my footfalls. For a moment my running is virtually effortless at which point my subjective thoughts notice and begin to ponder the presence of the Triune God. He is “the God who holds your breath in His hand.” (Daniel 5:23). It is He who gave humanity its very first breath, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) and if He takes “away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” (Psalm 104:29b.)
In line with the Bible the Atheist Carl Sagan used to say that we are made of the “star-stuff”, or as the line from the old song says, “We are stardust.” (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young).  We are made of the same material as the rest of creation, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Psalm 33:6.
By “Christ Moments” I mean those little flashes we sometimes get of Christ’s Kingdom, i.e., the Kingdom of Heaven as He has revealed it in His breathed-out Word, i.e., the sixty-six books of the Bible. The Spirit is the “breath” of the Father and the Son (who is also known as the Word). In the future form of the Kingdom of God, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them … there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.” (Revelation 21:4b).  “They shall run and not be weary.” (Isaiah 40:31b). Thus, “Christ Moments” are when the presence of God is experienced when your spirit/breath is (spiritually and physically) aware of the presence of the Spirit/Breath of God. It happens when the subjective (you) meets the objective (God). It is the eagle being lifted by the thermals. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31a).
We are not deists! We are Trinitarian. Each person in the Godhead interacts with the Others. God interacts with His creation. He interacts with us. Pay attention to Him! The moments are fleeting, but they are Christ moments! It is us experiencing His “already but not yet” Kingdom. Precious moments. I cherish them! 

(I elaborate more fully about "Christ Moments"  in my 2011 hardcover book "From Mason To Minister" in a chapter by the same name, i.e., "Christ Moments", p. 174.) See - http://www.nordskogpublishing.com/book-through-the-lattice.shtml
 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PHILOSOPHY


Philosophy

 Mention the word ‘philosophy’ and people tend to think of Plato, Socrates and maybe Aristotle. My old professor, who had earned doctorates in theology and philosophy said, ‘There are two general fields of knowledge – theology, the study of God, and philosophy, the study of creation… Christian philosophy is man’s scientific study of God’s universe in nature and in culture as viewed through the spectacles of Scripture (Calvin).’ Francis Nigel Lee.

To ask whether or not one ought to use the Bible to interpret nature and culture is to ask a philosophical question. Related to this question is the ‘chicken and egg’ dichotomy of faith and reason. Which came first? Is it Thomas Aquinas’s ‘I know so that I can believe’ or is it Augustine’s ‘I believe so that I can know’? We believe that Augustine wins here. Faith comes before Reason. For, from Santa to Satan, who has never doubted what they first believed? First we believe (i.e., we have faith). Second we test those beliefs (i.e., we apply reason).

For the child a bite out of a cookie and wrapped presents on Christmas morning may be proof enough that Santa exists. However, as the Apostle puts it, ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11. The adult knows that the red-suited fat man is simply a cultural myth. But what happens when the adult looks at nature and culture and sees evil? Should he or she wax philosophical about theft, rape and murder and insist that these things are not evil because these kinds of things happen in the animal kingdom and human beings, after all, are just highly evolved animals? Or should he or she view these things through the spectacles of Scripture and see clearly that they are indeed evil? Well, it all depends on whether you believe the Bible to be God’s revelation to us or not. And whether or not you believe in the veracity of Scripture is based upon your presuppositions. A presupposition is a thing assumed beforehand.

Whereas Christian Philosophy scientifically studies God’s universe in nature and in culture through the Scriptures, non-Christian Philosophy does not. Why? It is presuppositional. The former has faith that the Bible is God’s revelation to mankind. The latter has faith it is not. However, note that for both it is a matter of faith first and only secondly comes reasoning. But on what grounds does one accept or reject the Bible as God’s Word? Philosophical! And what is your philosophy based on? It starts with faith and then reasons from it.

Christian Philosophy begins with God, the Triune God, i.e., the Father, the Word/Son and the Spirit. Christian Philosophy sees the Godhead containing three Persons as the original One and the Many, Unity in Diversity, the General and the Particular, and sees His universe in nature and culture. These reflect the Creator. The character of God is the measure of all moral good, while evil is that which is defined by God in His Word. Thus, whether considering Santa or Satan, Christian Philosophy does so from the vantage point of God speaking in His Word by His Spirit. Therefore, ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ’ Colossians 2:8.