Thursday, June 14, 2018

FESTIVALS & HOLIDAYS

Festivals/Holidays
God had festivals and holidays for us in mind from the very beginning. When He created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, He said on the fourth day of creation week, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years…”’ Genesis 1:14. The Hebrew word here for ‘seasons’ not only has to do with climate, but also includes the idea of festive gatherings, or seasonal celebration. Thus, the sun, the moon and the stars are our great calendar in the sky.
If you think that this is all a bit too ‘religious’ then keep in mind that the word ‘holiday’ comes from the Old English for holy day. Like the sun, the moon and the stars, a proper understanding of the 4th Commandment will shed light upon God’s original intention for us. The words ‘day’ and ‘holy’ should now leap out at you: ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work .... For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.’ Exodus 20:8-11. To sabbath is to rest. That is what a holiday is, a rest. A sabbatical is related. Noting that some Christians get entangled in red tape trying to keep the Lord’s Day, while some jettison the Fourth to leave only Nine Commandments, and others argue about which day of the week the sabbath ought to fall on, God is telling us to rest from our usual labours for one day out of every seven. He has set it apart for us. We ought to do likewise. He has given it to us as a holy day, a holiday. As the Son of Man says, ‘The Sabbath was made for man…’ Mark 2:27.
Notice that God, after He had made the ‘calendar’, as it were ‘circled’ the Sabbath day by blessing it and setting it apart: ‘Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God … rested … from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made’ Genesis 2:1-3.
Up till the time of Jesus and the subsequent demolition of the Temple at Jerusalem there were four quarterly festivals, viz, Spring, Unleavened Bread/Passover (Matthew 26:17-20), Summer, Harvest/Pentecost (Acts 2:1), Autumn, Ingathering/Tabernacles (John 7:2), and Winter, Dedication/Lights (John 10:22). All these Old Testament festivals pointed to Jesus and ended with Him. The Temple’s destruction signified this. Jesus is where we go to meet with God, not the Temple at Jerusalem. Jesus says, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them’ Matthew 18:20. This of course refers to His churches dotted all over the planet.
A plethora of holy days and Christian festivals have been added to the Christian calendar over the centuries, Christmas and Easter being the two main ones. But keep in mind that God wants you to have holidays. He wants you, like Adam in the Garden, once week to put down your gardening tools and leave all your other daily labours, to rest and to meet with Him. When you are lying on a beach or skiing down a slope or whatever on vacation, remember who your holidays originally came from. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Milestone or Millstone?


Milestone or Millstone?

Stained glass windows, wooden tabletops, baby in a bathtub’s palms: pictures, patterns, and paduasoys. Corduroy pants, corrugated roofs, furrowed foreheads: style, strength and struggle. Ripples on a pond, rings in a tree, wrinkles on a face: whirls, whorls and worry.

‘Why do things come in threes?’ asked the inquisitive young man. ‘Because God is triune, this is His creation, and you, I, and our neighbour are His image,’ replied the wise old man. ‘Then am I triune if God is triune?’ ‘Yes,’ answered the old man, adding, ‘The One who made the earth, the sea, and the sky is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And He has made you body, soul, and spirit. Thus you are a soul-spirit with a body.’ While looking at its joints the young man pointed his right digit upward, saying, ‘Well, I see that there may be even three aspects to the one thing.’ ‘Yes, very clever!’ said the old man with a philosophical tone to his voice. ‘Creation, Fall, Redemption. We are here due to God’s creation. But these wrinkles on my face are due to the rebellious Fall of man. However, the joy in my heart is due to His gracious redemption.’

Like an almost deflated balloon, lines began to crease the young man’s brow! And after a pensive pause he said, ‘Does this mean WWIII looms?’ Then, as one would look at a fish in a pond the old man stared into the young man’s soul. Then he answered, ‘WWIII already rages. It is a hidden war. It is below the surface, spiritual. Therefore this war is fought not with the weapons of this world. In WWI trenches were full of bodies; the outer man. In WWII souls were lost at sea; the inner man. And the war that is now being waged is an attack on our spirit, that which animates us. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.”’

The young spoke again, ‘Didn’t Nietzsche’s madman run around in daylight with a lit lantern announcing that we have killed God?’ ‘Yes,’ the old man replied, ‘If God is dead then we are triply dead. But it is not we who kill God! For, God is a Spirit and is unable to be killed. Rather it is God who kills us – first spiritually, second physically, and third everlastingly in the torments of hellfire! For, “the wages of sin is death.” And, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Only a madman would kill that which saves us from the wrath of God!’

The young man deeply pondered these words and tried to surface from the silence with these words, ‘The Saviour was put to death by men!’ ‘Yes,’ replied the old man, ‘but it says in Scripture, in the Book of Acts, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know – Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Therefore God the Son in the Person of Jesus Christ is the great High Priest who offered up Himself for our sins. Thus God slew His only begotten Son to bring us life. Paradox? Yes. God a madman? Definitely not!’ The young man was now quiet.

Gently breaking beneath the surface tension the old man then added, ‘“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Those the Father has chosen, the Son has Redeemed. These the Spirit regenerates. The Spirit reveals the Son who reveals the Father.’ In wonderment the young man drew breath and said, ‘Then even salvation is triune!’ “Yes,’ replied the old man, ‘Believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And repent and believe in His gospel, the message of Christ’s cross.’ The conversation thus being ended the old man pronounced this benediction: ‘“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”’

Dear reader, many great events have taken place in history. The greatest of all was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jay Adams puts it like this, ‘The cross was not merely an act of compassion and mercy directed toward mankind; it was a cosmic event in which God demonstrated who and what He is before all the universe.’ Do you really know who and what God is? We need to be careful what we believe about God, for Jesus says, ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.’ Matthew 18:6. Do you see the cross as a milestone or millstone?

Friday, June 8, 2018

GOING OUT WITH JOY


Going Out With Joy

The mangled diesel locomotive engine was dragged into the Winnipeg workshop for repair. Every trade began to swarm all over it, like ants on a freshly-trodden cockroach, each carrying away bits and pieces. My workmate and I had the task of replacing and/or repairing anything that had to do with pipes on the unit. With a play on words, we affectionately called the project ‘the wreck of the Ella Fitzgerald’ – after the ‘The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald,’ a Gordon Lightfoot song about a ship that sank with all hands lost in a storm of mystery on Lake Superior back in 1975. We were happy not to know whether anyone had died at the controls of this mangled mess of a locomotive when it had crashed. We also were happy to be kept in steady employment, my mate and I often saying, ‘They wreck’em, an’ we fix’em.’ Who would have thought that such a wreck as this could have been brought back to life! In the process of time it was a joy to see the finished item go out, with everything put back together in full working order, and proudly sporting a glowing new coat of paint. Joyous applause!

It’s amazing what they can do with broken human bodies too. Like the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ of the 70’s they can rebuild us, and in some ways, make us better than before. When I got a ‘bionic’ replacement lens for my left eye the pages in my books were no longer jaundiced, but glowed white again. Mind you, repairing bits and pieces of us is a far cry from our being raised from the dead. But wouldn’t that be nice? However, the fictional Frankenstein monster with all his ‘railway track’ scars is not what we have in mind! Yet some folk arrange to have their bodies frozen when they die in the hope that medical science of the future will be able to raise them from the dead. All Christians die in the hope of the resurrection. But our hope is not that of crossed fingers, but rather the belief that God will resurrect us all from the dead, that we’ll be better than before, that the mortal will put on immortality, that the bodies of corruption and decay that we have grown so accustomed to will put on incorruption.

Lazarus, a man who had Jesus for a friend, died. Jesus said to one of Lazarus’ sisters, ‘Your brother shall rise again.’ She mistakenly thought the Lord was referring to the resurrection on the last day. But, ‘Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”’ John 11:39. Two old friends of mine (who knew each other) died of unrelated illnesses within two days of each other. I attended the funeral service for each, the second of which had an ‘open casket’ in church. I was thinking to myself as I looked upon the face of my friend at rest, ‘I’ll see you again, but you’ll look far, far better than you’re looking now!’ Is the God, who in the beginning spoke, and things that were not became things that are, not able to do a simple thing like bring my old friends back to life?

Like Lazarus’ flesh, when we die our flesh will see corruption. But even though Jesus was beaten to pulp, a crown of thorns thrust upon His head, nailed hands and feet to a tree, and a spear thrust into His side after He was dead, when He was laid in the tomb His flesh saw no corruption (Acts 2:27&31; 13:37).

Jesus raising Lazarus is a token of our Christian hope. The resurrection of Jesus Himself is the evidence of our hope. No one will be able to deny the evidence for His bodily resurrection when Christ Jesus returns again to earth, for every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7). Along with Job we can say, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!’ Job 19:25-27.

Dear reader, have you been duped into thinking that death is the end and that you cannot take anything with you when you die? Then, before you go, make sure that you have Jesus for a friend. For He carries His lambs across the threshold of death and shall raise you on the last day. For the Lord says, ‘Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.’ John 5:28-29. To believers He says, ‘For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.’ Isaiah 55:11. Isn’t God wonderful?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

THE DUST-EATERS


The Dust-Eaters

Angels are individual spirit-beings. In the beginning, when God created them they all were good. Jehovah-triune likened them to singing ‘morning stars’ (Job 38:7). I suppose therefore in their natural state angels have or are ‘bodies’ of light. However, Scripture makes it very clear that not all angels remained good. For Peter, for example, says, ‘God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.’ 2 Peter 2:4. And Jude says, ‘And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved under everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.’ Jude 6. The Bible refers to these fallen angels as demons.

John says, ‘And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world: he was cast to earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’ Revelation 12:7-9. Luther and Calvin held that Michael is the uncreated Angel of the LORD, i.e., the eternal Word who became flesh. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world and the Bright and Morning Star who came down from heaven (John 1:8, 3:13, 9:5; Rev. 22:16). Indeed, Jesus cast out demons aplenty, even a whole legion of trembling demons from one man (Mark 5:8-9).

Michael, Gabriel, and Satan are the only angels with names in the Bible; in which only Michael is referred to as THE archangel (Jude 9). Paul apparently is referring to ranks of (fallen) angels where he says, ‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ Ephesians 6:12. As Michael is the head of His angels, so our adversary the Devil has (fallen) angels under him (Rev. 12:7-9).

John says, ‘For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.’ 1 John 3:8. Paul says to the Romans, ‘And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.’ Romans 16:20. In the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve had sided with him in his rebellion against God, Jehovah-Triune said to the devil-possessed serpent, ‘On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.’ Genesis 3:14b. Therefore the devil is a dust-eater. Help! Are we not dust? Will the devil devour us? Changing the picture slightly, Scripture does say, ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ 1 Peter 5:8. But we have this following piece of good news to comfort us, ‘As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For he knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:13-14.

‘Lucifer’ means ‘light-bearer.’ Paul says, ‘For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.’ 2 Corinthians 11:14. But just as the stars disappear with the brightness of the dawn, so Satan and his demons will vanish before the face of Christ, the Light of the World, for the Sun of Righteousness has arisen with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2). And John has seen Satan’s final end, ‘The devil… was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone… [to] be tormented day and night forever and ever.’ Revelation 20:10. How is this accomplished? ‘At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people… And many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever.’ Daniel 12:1-3. Christ’s cross and resurrection crushed the serpent’s skull. Thus the devil and all his demons are dust-eaters!

‘Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And then He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”’ Luke 10:17-20. 

Dear Christian, the Word is our sword. ‘And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…’ 2 Peter 1:19.

Friday, May 25, 2018

PRIVATE PROPERTY


Private Property

The idea of private property is not a human invention. It comes from God.[1] Own a piece of property and you are free to develop it and/or things on it. “If someone owns land, they can accumulate possessions. The Bible called this being blessed. Karl Marx called this capitalism.”[2] And there’s the rub. I have lived for many years in three different countries in which I have seen that the basis of liberty, i.e., owning private property, has always had to stand vigilant guard against Marxist marauding forces.


I grew up in a social housing estate in a low socioeconomic area of Scotland. To be sure, these were in the decades when Scotland was still recovering from the economic devastation of WWII with its attendant social upheaval. The words of Lonnie Donegan sum it up where he sings, “Oh, my old man’s a dustman/He wears a dustman’s hat/He wears cor blimey trousers/And he lives in a council flat.” Your guess is as good as mine as to what “cor blimey trousers” are, but we all know what a council flat is. For the English it is their castle – “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” For the Scots it’s their “wee bit hill and glen” that their ancestors fought and died for – even if they have noisy neighbours living above them and also through the walls. Thus, the landed gentry in Scotland with their family pile and sprawling estates with their “No Trespassing – Private Property” signs were either at best envied or at worst despised or both by the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”[3]

Sometimes a few drinks would help some Scots “breathe free” with the idea of liberty. Will Fyffe illustrates this in the lines of his song, “I Belong To Glasgow” where he sang, “I’m only a common old working chap as anyone here can see/But when I get a couple of drinks on a Saturday, Glasgow belongs to me.” We need more than a couple of drinks to gain our freedom as individuals. For, as Lord Acton says, “Property, not conscience, is the basis of liberty.”[4]

I had left Scotland and had settled in Canada by the time the much despised by the Scottish Left, Margaret Thatcher took control of the Scots. Miner’s strikes were the order of the day when I returned to Scotland for a visit. However, I did see glimmers of liberty arising in the form new front doors adorning council flats. I asked a friend, “Whit’s wi’ the fancy new front door on yer council hooses?” I was told that it was Thatcher. She was letting people purchase the council houses they had been paying rent on for years. Freedom! As a symbol of that new found freedom the ex-council house domicile would install a new front door of their own choice. Dignity, human dignity was slowly being restored.

Noah Webster of Webster’s Dictionary fame wrote, “Let the people have property and they will have power.” Conversely, the removal of the people’s power comes from the State owning all the property and renting out bits of it to the huddled masses. And on and on it goes as Capitalism with its sword and shield of freedom has to defend itself against the invading forces of Socialism and cut off the thieving heads of the Government Leviathan.

We speak in general terms, but allow a man or woman ownership of a plot of land and you allow them ownership of dignity. Let’s, for a moment, return to Lord Acton: “Property, not conscience, is the basis of liberty.” I can have the liberty of a clear conscience while behind bars as a man falsely accused. Therefore, the shackles of State slavery are removed by ownership of private property.

One of Glasgow’s weans, Gerry Rafferty, (now departed), in his song “Baker Street,” (which is a sad song with a hint of hope towards its end), anyway, there’re the lines which say, “He’s got this dream about buying some land/He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands/And then he’ll settle down/In some quiet little town/And forget about everything.” “Buying some land” is Biblical. Therefore, private property is a good thing. Never despise the things of God.

William J. Federer says, “Ancient Israel was the first nation with private land ownership – the promised ‘LAND.’ …

“Numbers 26:52-56: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance: to every one shall his inheritance be given according to those that were numbered of him. Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit. According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few.

“Deuteronomy 27:17: Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark.[5]

“Landmark”, in case you don’t know, is a boundary stone, a border marker. In other words, don’t steal any of your neighbour’s private property, and that goes for governments, even Socialist governments, too. “Thou shalt not steal” Exodus 20:15 – “By these words the right of property received formal acknowledgment, and a protest was made by anticipation against the maxim of modern socialists – ‘La propriete, c’est le vol.’”[6]

[1] “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fulness, the world and those who dwell therein” Psalm 24:1.
[2] William J. Federer, Rise of the Tyrant, 2015, p. 123.
[3] From Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty.
[4] Lord Acton.
[5] William J. Federer, Rise of the Tyrant, 2015, p. 121.
[6] Pulpit Commentary. 

SOMME TO KOKODA


Somme to Kokoda

My 08.00 taxi arrived at 07.45. Stimulating conversation en route to Brisbane airport includes discussion on origin of the universe. ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Cosmic Egg’ theories come from the driver’s side. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ come from the passenger’s side. Why don’t people simply take God at His Word? Rebellion! For man our war with God began in the Garden of Eden with the devil saying to Eve: ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree in the garden?”’ Genesis 3:1b. All conflict begins here – doubting God’s Word.

The flight to the Army Chaplain’s Conference is pleasant. Green tea and a blueberry muffin. The plane begins to slow. Like a farmer’s tractor passing through a flock of sheep stubborn clouds part slowly to reveal red-tiled Sydney rooftops rising up to greet us. The hour and a half flight passed quickly with nose buried in ‘Somme Mud.’ A few years ago, while my father was still alive, I enquired as to the names of the two youthful people in an old photo on the mantelpiece of his Scottish home. ‘That’s my mother and her brother.’ ‘What happened to my great uncle?’ I enquired. ‘He’s buried in the Somme Mud, son.’ Aussie ‘Digger’ EPF Lynch, who was there, relates some of the horrors of the Great War among the trenches: ‘Dead men are lying in rough rows in the snow near the big burial ground, lying waiting for all that’s to come to them now. And for what do they wait? A few short prayers spoken by a strange padre and a grave in the Somme mud… I land the padre at the cemetery where a long row of shallow graves are dug. Near each open grave lies the body of an Australian soldier. A few are sewn up in grey blankets. Others just lie there in their muddy uniforms, waiting to go to their muddy beds. Into each grave a body is lowered. The men nearby stand to attention. A few of them remove their steel helmets and the padre says a brief burial service and passes on to the next, whilst the wet mud is showered in upon the body of an Australian lad.’ (Somme Mud, pp. 70-71). Perhaps some of these lads met my Scottish great uncle before they all died. So young. So brave.

The Vietnamese driver deposits me at my barracks’ destination. The ‘Padre’ conference included an afternoon trip to the ‘Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway.’ With ten or so other camouflage uniformed ‘padres’ we were guided along the track by two ‘diggers,’ Don and Norm, who actually had fought along the Kokoda Track in the South Pacific in WWII. Under manned and ill-equipped for jungle warfare they had contributed to repelling the Japanese forces who wanted to, as Norm said, ‘Take Australia from us.’ As we contemplate the terrors experienced by these and the men who died a party of Japanese tourists passes by, all smiles and waving to us. We smile back. Peace! We hear also about the gallantry of the native ‘Fuzzie Wuzzies,’ who carried wounded Australian soldiers out of the jungle to safety. ‘Angels,’ Don called them. Indeed – and sent by God! Don had ‘celebrated’ his nineteenth birthday on that gruelling jungle trail. So young. So brave.

Upon hearing I was becoming an Army Chaplain my eldest brother remarked, ‘God’s army is invading the Australian army!’ Then he reminded me of the following verses, ‘Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil… Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…’ Ephesians 6:11-18. Referring to my new role as army chaplain my brother wrote, ‘God bless you brother. Every step of the way. Interesting, isn’t it, that there in the midst of Paul’s extended martial uniform metaphor in Ephesians 6 he should include the image “Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of PEACE”?’

Because of the Prince of Peace, we’re able to say with Scripture, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

LIVING WATERS


Living Waters

‘Pull! Pull! Catch and Drive! In, Away!’ shouted the arched bridge as it echoed its endorsement to the coxed-four gliding underneath it. The rhythmic sound of seats rolling up and down on runners soothes throbbing hearts as oarsmen draw collected breath. ‘In, Out!’ a gurgle of water, followed by the swish of feathered oars. The sight of four crisp puddles disappearing at rapid intervals in the water behind spurs the oarsmen on as fresh sweat drips off ends of noses. ‘Catch and Drive!’ as oars continuously punch holes in Glasgow’s River Clyde.

A five-kilometre ‘Head of the River’ race is the order of the day where obstacles to be avoided en-route include things visible and invisible. Visible: the usual sandbanks and all things floating – e.g., a mother duck with infant family in train. Invisible: patches of ‘dead water’ lurking around every bend. A good cox is he who skilfully negotiates obstacles and takes his crew where the river runs fastest – living waters.

As strong as their weakest man, weary oarsmen travelling backwards revive upon hearing the – at first very faint but growing ever louder – cries of support from the finish line. Calloused hands tighten their grip on blades that flash their club’s colours. Like iron-filings to a magnet the hair on the back of the neck begins to stand to attention as the finish line draws a deep breath, sucking the boat towards it. The adrenalin released at the start of the race begins to recirculate. ‘Pull! Pull!’ Lungs burn hot. Stop-clocks tick. Heart rates and rowing ratings rise. ‘C’mon Loch!’ The boys from Loch Lomond may yet win the day! ‘Lord, give them strength to glorify You in all they do!’ ‘Pull! Pull!’

Jehovah-Jesus says, ‘Come unto Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give You rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30.

‘Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them… He came to them, walking on the sea and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marvelled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.’ Mark 6:47-52.

The calloused heart does not understand the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and so continues to row hopelessly against the wind. But to welcome and to have Jesus on board is to be of good cheer, for He, by His Spirit, is at the helm of creation and everything in it. ‘Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah…’ He knows where the living waters are. For, Scripture says, ‘There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.’ Psalm 46:4. Jesus is the living water, for ‘the Word became flesh and tabernacled with us.’ John 1:14. And He says, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow living waters.’ John 7:37-38. Therefore the Christian sings, ‘Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow…’ (William Williams).

Dear reader, as you row down life’s river, how are you treating God and other people? Are you simply as it were rowing over the top of the mother duck and her young? Are you entangled in the dead branches of sin? Stuck on the sandbar of autonomy? Rowing against the wind? Then turn to God in Jesus Christ. Seek His forgiveness for all your sins. For, God is the ‘fountain of living waters.’ (Jeremiah 2:13). ‘How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.’ Psalm 36:7-9.