This is a picture of a female red-breasted merganser and it was the first time had seen one. At first I was unsure of what I was seeing. It is slightly smaller than a goosander of which I am more familiar. In fact there was also a male goosander within sight of this bird which confused me because on the one hand you could tell by its size that it was smaller, yet I was worried that there might some variation in the plumage of a female goosander that I was unaware of. So when I got home I checked my bird identification books and found that the closest to what I had photographed was a female red-breasted merganser (only the male has the eponymous red breast). I still had my doubts though. While the feathers that stick out of the back of its head are characteristic of the merganser, maybe I feared this was just a scruffy looking female goosander so to make sure I decided to consult a work colleague who is more expert than myself in these matters. When I showed this picture to him he immediately confirmed that this was a merganser though when I had first broached the subject he was somewhat sceptical. So as a result it was several days before I felt it safe to post this picture on Facebook. However, another person posted a picture that he claimed were red-breasted mergansers which were in fact goosanders.
So what are the lessons that we can draw from this? Simple, check your facts before you post your comments on social media. However, there is an aversion in some Christian circles to scholarship. All you need is The Holy Spirit so you don’t need to bother with reference books. I once turned up at a Bible study on Matthew with a Bible commentary on Mathew and the person leading looked at it as if he had never seen or heard of such a thing as a commentary. I was shocked. Sadly, just because atheist intellectuals virulently attack Christianity, and traditional centres of Christian learning have watered down their theology, all academia and learning is tarred with the same brush. It is just that the secular media only reports on things that appear to question Christianity and put it in a poor light, ignoring those who still support Biblical values. But that is no reason why Christians should use sloppy nonsensical arguments because of woeful ignorance. “After all logic was invented by the pagan Greeks” seems to be their reasoning. It is not that God is illogical but that His logic is higher than man’s logic, and thus better than the greatest of the Greek philosophers. Let’s face it, it is very easy to get our facts mixed up with our faulty memories, so spending a short piece of time checking the facts is better than having admit you have got them wrong.
David Rose, 2018.
The parable of the ten virgins at the beginning of Matthew 25 is a parable that many Christians are familiar with but there are some questions you need to ask yourself. 1) Who is the bridegroom? Christ. 2) Who is the bride? The Church. 3) Does the bride have any difficulty getting into the marriage feast? No. So if you are a Bible-believing Christian why are so many of us worried about being one of the foolish virgins being left out in the cold? In part this may be due to those who argue that a Christian can lose their salvation, and see this parable as evidence for a loss of salvation. But as the bride is symbolic of the corporate body of Christ, are the ‘virgins’ to be interpreted as individuals or bodies? The virgins are symbolic of persons known to the bride but not necessarily the groom. There are many pseudo-Christian sects about that in this day and age the secular public think as being Christian (such as the JWs and Mormons). Could those be the foolish virgins? If so who are the wise if they are allowed in? Maybe what Jesus is trying to get at here is that there are out there whom you would label as heretical because of their views in one particular area or another but they may not be as bad as we might like to think. The virgins were the bride’s “fellow-travellers,” a phrase that has fallen somewhat out of fashion these days, but before the collapse of communism it was often used of left-wingers who sympathised with the communists but were not actually members of the party. Of course when communists did come to power the fellow travellers would often be the first to be lined up and shot. Just merely being associated with the church will not guarantee salvation. So what was the difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the end. Now most commentators argue that the oil is a metaphor the Holy Spirit. But that does not necessarily mean they were all speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit’s role in salvation is first to convict the sinner. So by responding the wise virgins received the seal of the Spirit. All ten had fallen asleep but maybe there was also an unbelief among the foolish virgins that the Bridegroom would not come for his Bride, hence the lack of preparation. People looking at the Church today can see many obvious imperfections and doubt that Christ would have anything to do with it.
But let us consider the positive things about this parable, the Bridegroom meets with His Bride and takes her into the feast. The five wise virgins get into the feast because they are with the Bride. To get in we need to be with the Bride. True, mainstream denominations seem to be compromising in many areas to such an extent that we may begin to doubt that a particular denomination has ceased to be a part of the Bride. And there those that are always looking to criticise and find fault for the sake of it. They would write off all ten of the virgins on one ground or another. But the five wise virgins still get in. The thing is if we witnessed the scene beforehand we might have come to wrong conclusions about who would have been considered wise and who would be foolish. The virgins strictly speaking were not invited by the groom by name, he was inviting the bride and she was expected to come with her friends and they would get in only because they were with her. So the bridegroom was never coming for the five foolish virgins only the bride so make sure you are part of the Bride then all your fears are baseless.
David Rose, 2018.
People are always decrying Christmas for its commercialism, whether it is Santa Specials on steam railways like this one, or big businesses with billions over turnover. Equally, there are those who dismiss Christmas as purely pagan. The danger with this type of argument is that if it is taken to extremes it questions the sovereignty of God. In Genesis Chapter 1 every stage of creation as being good or very good, yet if you accept everything that is coming from those who attack traditional Christian festivals for their alleged pagan origins seem to give the impression that Adam and Eve were confined to the Garden of Eden because everything outside was pagan and demonic. True, a lot of pagan imagery reflects the seasonal variations but God created the seasons. So one can argue that the pagans have borrowed their imagery from God’s creation in the first place, in that case the Church is only reclaiming what was rightfully theirs anyway. When people hear the teaching that everything is pagan they become very fearful of offending God in some trivial that they lose their freedom in Christ.
A second thought concerning Christmas is about the shepherds. Apparently, by the time of Jesus’ birth shepherds had become very low status and looked down upon by other Jews. Interestingly in Genesis chapters 46-7 when Joseph met with his father and brothers in Egypt, Joseph told his brothers that “Shepherds were detestable to the Egyptians,” It would appear that when the Israelites entered the promised land and settled down they forgot how their ancestors originated their wealth. The Jewish religious leaders claimed they were the sons of Abraham when they confronted Jesus who questioned that they were true sons of Abraham. In John chapter 8 verses 39-41 Jesus said “If you were Abraham’ children, then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God, Abraham did not do such things.” If you accept that the “Angel of the Lord” who met with Abraham in Genesis chapter 18 was actually the pre-incarnate Christ then Abraham gave hospitality to Christ himself. Whereas the priesthood and most of the other religious leaders did not even entertain the thought that Jesus could be the Messiah. So when the birth of Jesus was announced to the shepherds that night maybe it was because they were continuing in the same business as Abraham.
David Rose, 2017.
I took this picture several years ago during a very cold and snowy winter. But it would be difficult to repeat it now. Not just because there is a lot less snow. But also because the land this side of the fence has changed hands and been bought by the neighbouring householder and contractors have been fencing it off with head-height timber and felling some of the trees either side thus all but ruining the view for the general public. It seems that the line from the old Joni Mitchell song that “you do not know what you’ve got until its gone” is suddenly very appropriate. True, one could still take a picture from the other side of the gate, but what one would not have are the trees that frame the shot. It is a shock when something you think as timeless suddenly comes to an end. Even so how many times have we been aware of a time limitation only to realise too late that the time has passed. Like vouchers which are often given out like confetti. Occasionally you are reminded of some voucher that you have been given only to find that it had expired or that the conditions did not apply in your case. But there is one offer that is time limited which we need to take up before it is too late. And that is the offer of salvation which Christ paid for on the cross. We have to repent and accept what Christ has done for us, and we only have this life in which to do so. Get right with God now and do not leave too late.
David Rose, 2017.
The account of the attempt to push Jesus off a cliff near his home town of Nazareth is recorded in Luke Chapter 4 verses 28-30, following on from His reading of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue there. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up and drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built , in order to throw Him down the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.” There have been many suggestions over the years as to what actually happened. One explanation that I have heard of in recent years is that of an “event horizon,” whereby spiritual forces somehow intervene in the physical and temporal universe. Though I find this as an admission that there is no natural explanation without actually saying how the heavenly realm actually intervened. A few weeks ago I heard Terry Crist of Hillsong Church Phoenix (on the Hillsong Channel) state his opinion that he thought that Jesus became invisible so He could just disappear through the crowd. Personally, I don’t buy it, no disrespect to him but I think there is another possible clue as to how it occurred earlier in the same chapter. While Jesus is being tempted by Satan, the Devil quotes part of Psalm 91. “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Of course, we are all aware of how the Devil used, or rather misused, this quote but surely it refers to an instance where angels would intervene to prevent harm happening to the Messiah rather than voluntarily jumping off a high building. So maybe it was an invisible force of angels that blocked the way to the cliff-edge, forcing those man-handling Jesus to let go, and then make a path through the crowd for Jesus to escape. If you have a better explanation I would to hear it.
However, there are some Christians out there who seem to treat the promises of God in such a way that they can do the spiritual equivalent of jumping off high buildings and are surprised when they do not get a soft landing. The promises of God are not excuses for lazy spiritual practices, such as, lack of Bible reading, lack of prayer and meditation on Christian things, etc.
David Rose, 2017.
At this time of year in Britain we remember the dead of the Two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. The Christian Church as a whole has historically a problem with when the prospect of war arises. There is a strong element of pacifism within the Church. When King David proposed to build the first temple in 2 Samuel chapter 7 the Lord spoke to Nathan the prophet to say that it was not for David to build the temple but his son. The reason given later by Solomon was that David was a man of war. Despite David writing most of the Psalms pacifists will leap on this as support for their position. Yet come to chapter 11 when David encounters Bathsheba preachers line up to decry David for staying in Jerusalem and succumbing to temptation. It seems to me that David is in a no-win situation. Either he is a warmonger who can’t build the temple or he doesn’t fight and is a moral failure. Later in 2 Samuel chapter 21 David was nearly killed when fighting the Philistines and had to be persuaded not to go into battle in future as he was getting too old. So maybe David’s fault in staying in Jerusalem was in being premature in delegating the fighting to Joab. After all the siege of Rabbah did not take much in manoeuvring of forces, rather just a case of not letting any of the Ammonites escaping before they were starved into submission. In fact David had stayed in Jerusalem when the war broke out against the Ammonites the previous year, only coming on the scene after reinforcements were required. Yet he did not fall into temptation then. There is nothing wrong in delegation, yet the way I have heard some preachers teach on this episode you might begin to think that there was.
Actually the more I think about it, his downfall was as much as his inactions as his actions. He was idling on the roof of his palace when he saw Bathsheba. His mistake was in misunderstanding how God would fulfil His promise to David. David must have come to the conclusion that none of his existing sons were up to the job of building the temple and sought to provide another woman to be the mother of that child. Bathsheba seemed to be the “perfect ten” to David when it came her looks which seemed to have blinded him to the obvious complications of her being another man’s wife. I sometimes wonder which is the most extraordinary thing about this whole episode, that God allowed David to sin in this way, or that even after he was exposed as an adulterer and murderer by Nathan, God allowed David and Bathsheba to have another son who would build God’s temple.
David Rose, 2017.
This male chaffinch has something wrong with its right foot. I am not sure whether it is because of a birth defect, accident or disease. It is unable to perch at the bird-feeders in my garden so it has to depend on that which the other birds chuck out to get at the ones they prefer. There are some types of birdseed that are marketed as being “no mess.” That is, that there are none of the larger seeds like wheat which smaller birds that are able to use the feeders find too big and discard them. But if I bought such seed this chaffinch would find it more difficult to feed. On a previous post a couple of years ago I likened to the feeder as a source of spiritual food for Christians, i.e., the Word of God, The Bible. Also that those that just listened to Christian messages, whether in the local church or the media were effectively getting second-hand spiritual food. But some Christians find it difficult to read the Scriptures systematically for whatever reason. But how many churches would like a no mess form of Christianity? Where new believers behave perfectly, attending all the right meetings, develop good prayer habits, follow a good Bible-reading plan, etc. And, of course, never have an episode of back-sliding. The problem today is that many converts are coming from chaotic lifestyles and they bring their poor choices with them. There are also a lot more distractions with the rise of social media, gaming, and other online activities which previous generations did not have to deal with. So it would appear that the Church in general will have to develop strategies which allow for the expected inconsistencies of new believers without lowering the Biblical standards of our forefathers in the faith when it comes to the long-term aim of sanctification. To me it looks like Christianity if it is to recover its lost ground will have to accept that life is going to get messier.
This is another post in the thinking the unthinkable series.
According to Mark Jesus chose Peter, James and John to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter. He would also chose on other occasions as well such as the transfiguration and in the garden of Gethsemane. No specific reason is for this is given in Scripture. I did not try to solve this problem but in trying to find the answer to another problem. While studying the three accounts I had a problem with the shortness of Matthew’s account. He missed out Jairus meeting Jesus by the lakeside and only has him asking Jesus just before the woman touched Jesus. It eventually occurred to me that the best explanation resolved around the possibility that Matthew was still trying to get off the boat and the crowd had swallowed up Jesus. You see Matthew was a landlubber and he and the other disciples who not fishermen naturally left to the ex-fishermen to jump out of the boat as it neared the shore and drag it into the shallows to beach the boat. So Jesus and the other disciples could step out onto virtually dry land. When the boat carrying Jesus and the disciples neared Capernaum those awaiting his return would have been uncertain as to the exact spot he would land so the people would have quite scattered, but as it became clear which spot they were heading for they would have concentrated at that point. So the density of the crowd would be such that someone standing on the shore would be unable to see Jesus within a short distance as he moved away from the shore as he was obscured by the crowd. As the crowd converged on Jesus it would have been left to those already on the shore to try and protect him, namely Peter, James and John. The fact that there clothing might have been rather wet and soggy might have deterred some of the crowd from pressing too close. So Matthew could have been quite unaware what was happening a relatively short distance away as he was still preoccupied with getting on shore. Because of Jairus’ desperation for Jesus to heal his daughter he was not going to let anyone get in his way. But once Jesus agreed to come Jairus would have been in no mood to dawdle so the pace that walked into Capernaum itself was probably faster than the rest of the disciples expected it to be and most of them would have been trailing in His wake and only caught up with Jesus when he stopped to call the woman who had been healed into the open. Hence Matthew’s account is less detailed than both Luke’s and Mark’s. But before I go on I can see one objection being raised to what I have said so far, namely that Peter, James, and John were not the only fishermen amongst the twelve disciples. True, Andrew, Peter’s brother was also a fisherman for certain and it is also possible that some of the others were as well. But I suspect that Andrew would have been needed to steer the boat and was thus positioned at the back of the boat. Also someone would also have been needed to make sure that everything was left in an orderly manner ready for the next time the boat was needed. So that could easily account for Andrew’s absence from the three. When Jesus chose the three fishermen it can hardly been because they were in some more super-spiritual than the rest of the twelve. After all with Peter’s ability to speak first and think later, and James and John being called the “sons of thunder,” they obviously had a lot still to learn in order to become more Christ-like. I put it to you that it was because they were willing to do the thankless task of jumping in and bringing the Jesus rewarded them with witnessing the miracle.
Today there are many Christians searching for God to reveal Himself to them in some spectacular Transfiguration-like experience. But are they prepared to do the humble thankless tasks that have to be done like putting out the chairs? Do they think that tasks like that belong to less spiritually gifted persons than themselves? Traditionally because fishermen stank of fish they were often looked down upon by their fellow citizens, and the non-fishermen among them might have thought that task of bringing the boat on to the shore as a task below their station. But, it has been said that you can only steer a moving car. So if you want your mountain top experience you have to prepared to leap out of the boat first.
David Rose, 2017.
This is another post in the thinking the unthinkable series. You may ask what does this have to do with the woman with the issue of blood and Jairus’ daughter? It was part of the Mosaic Law that when a person who had been declared unclean was restored to health they had to prove it by showing themselves to a priest along with the required offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus called out the woman with the issue of blood to show herself to him he pronounced her clean. As such he was acknowledging that he was the person prophesied in Psalm 110 as the one who would be a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Few of his contemporaries recognised Him as such, and one of those who did only did so inadvertently. I am referring to the Samaritan leper who along with nine other was healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). He had told them to go an show themselves to the priests and as they went on their way they were healed. But only one of them returned to Jesus to thank Him. In doing so he showed himself to the priest in the order of Melchizedek.
But have you ever wondered about what happened to the other nine? They were heading for the Temple in Jerusalem, and it would have taken them several days to get there. From Galilee Jews usually travelled down the east bank of the Jordan to avoid Samaria and the Samaritans, before crossing over near Jericho and heading up to Jerusalem along the road of which the Parable of the Good Samaritan was set. But they had a problem, though they were free from their leprosy as far as the Jewish religious laws they were still unclean until the required ceremonies were performed. And Jericho was populated largely with members of the priesthood and Levites who did not want to be in contact with those who were still officially unclean. They would, therefore find it difficult to find accommodation among clean people but at the same time they did not want to risk coming into contact with those who were still suffering from conditions which had made them unclean. As the same would have applied when they reached Jerusalem, but in addition they had to offer “On the eighth day he must bring two male lambs and one ewe-lamb a year old without defect, along with three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, one log of oil (Leviticus 14:10). Each one of the nine had to present this for himself as there was no provision for a bulk cleansing. This might have provided a sticking point for the nine. Firstly, because as beggars they would be unlikely to own livestock themselves nor have the money to buy those fit to be sacrificed. Moreover the Temple authorities had been guilty of deliberately making money by insisting the Roman money was unacceptable and insisting it was exchanged into shekels at a disadvantageous rates thus turning the Temple into “a den of thieves.” If they unable to find the resources to afford to be ceremonially cleansed then two possibilities arise:- (1) They failed to provide the necessary offerings because of the cost and were still hanging around the Temple when Jesus arrived there following His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and this enraged him into the cleansing of the Temple. Or (2) somebody else came along who was wealthy enough to pay the costs. Could this be how a rich man like Joseph of Arimathea came to hear about Jesus and believe in Him. Either way Jesus’ instruction to show them to the priests had implications beyond the simple order. One wonders how many others who were healed by Jesus were also sent to be ceremonially cleansed. There may have been quite a crowd hoping to be formally cleansed in the vicinity of the Temple. No wonder in such circumstances the likes of Caiaphas and Ananias were saying that something had to be done about this Jesus. Was Jesus deliberately trying to show up the short comings of the Old Covenant by jamming up the system with people waiting to be ceremonially made clean. One of the problems those such as the nine lepers would have faced was because they were officially unclean anything they made or handled was also considered unclean so they would have found difficult to earn any money. Whereas the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus became clean, the very opposite of what Judaism taught and practised. Unthinkable to the Temple authorities.
David Rose, 2017.
This post is part of the thinking the unthinkable series.
The name Jairus appears to be related to that of an Old Testament character called Jair briefly mentioned in Numbers chapter 32 verses 39-41:- “The descendants of Makir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it and drove out the Amorites who were there. So Moses gave Gilead to the Makirites, the descendants Manasseh, and they settled there. Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, captured their settlements and called them Havvoth Jair. Gilead being situated on the high ground to the east of the Sea of Galilee. That brief account suggests an action hero, the sort of man portrayed in a film by an A-list celebrity, but Jairus is in most people’s minds is just a bit player in a Jesus movie whose role is little better than that of an extra. How many times have you heard a sermon with Jairus as its chief subject, I do not remember one. Yet, the woman with the issue of blood has been the subject of not just many sermons but also has inspired many songs as well. We seem to be taking him for granted, an unsung hero indeed. If he indeed was married to the “woman with the issue of blood,” as I believe was possible, then he must have provided the funds for the money spent on physicians. (See earlier posts in the thinking the unthinkable series.) He must have loved her dearly, a lesser man would have found an excuse to divorce her and marry again in order to secure a son and heir. As such he is a picture of Christ’s love for the Church. It must have been an act of desperation as his daughter’s condition worsened that he felt the need to prostate himself before Jesus. Do we look down on him because of that? He was risking his status as a synagogue elder, John’s Gospel states that known followers of Jesus were being expelled from synagogues towards the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth. How few times have we metaphorically or physically prostrated ourselves before Jesus?
When look at the Western world it has been largely overlooked that humble godly men like Jairus have been the bedrock of society for most of the past 2000 years. Quietly going about their business, raising their families and building a just society. Yet today’s ‘Worldly Wisemen’ despise the Judeo-Christian ethic and want to erase all traces of Biblical influences from the business and cultural marketplace. But their dreams turn into nightmares when the consequences leave a society that finds life meaningless. Superheroes do not really exist in this world yet the more the world tries to tell us that nothing exists outside the physical realm, the more the we crave something more than this mundane everyday existence. A hundred years or more ago nobody wrote stories involving heroes with special superhuman powers, because people generally believed in a supernatural God would right their wrongs, if not in this life then the next. Jairus’ neighbours seem to have written him and his family off as soon as the daughter became ill and seem to have started the preparations for mourning while the daughter was still alive. Matthew states that they were playing flutes, but Jesus did not dance to their tune. Instead he was the ultimate party-pooper as far as they were concerned, when he raised the girl back to life. Jesus is in the resurrection business.
David Rose, 2017.