“The Time of Year When Kings go Off to War.”

DSC00328At 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.

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No Mess Christianity?

DSC_2197This 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.

David Rose

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Why did Jesus chose Peter, James, and John?

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.

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Jesus: The priest in the Order of Melchizedek.

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.

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Jairus – An Unsung Hero.

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.

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Women in the Bible as Types of the Church.

In one of my previous posts I referred to the concept that women in the Bible can be representatives or types of the Church. But I did not explain where I got it from. Now, of course, this does not include those women who personify evil like Jezebel and the witch of Endor. That would be ridiculous. I was first introduced to the idea that women in the Bible might symbolic of the Church by a gentleman by the name of Stan Harman. He told a story of when he was serving in the Army as part of his National Service. This was either during WW2 or just after. He was serving in Northern Ireland near the border with what was then the Irish Free State. This was long before the more recent ‘troubles.’ As well as witnessing to his fellow servicemen he was also in contact with local civilian believers. It was suggested to him along with a couple of his fellow servicemen that he should visit an old man who lived in an isolated part of the Mourne Mountains. They were told he was a believer. They were expecting to share their faith with him. But instead of the old man being on the receiving end of their wisdom, he told them to sit down and listen to what the Lord had been showing him. Because he lived by himself he had a lot of time to read the Bible. One of the things that had struck him the most as he read the Scriptures was that when he came across a female Bible character he found that she symbolised the Church. And continued to expound his point. Now Stan was due to preach again after he returned that night and he had chosen the parable of the woman with the lost coin as he subject. He was intending explain this parable as referring to the lost coin as an unsaved person. If the old man was right then it must refer to a backsliding Christian instead. On that occasion he decided to carry on with the version he had prepared, but now many years later he had come to agree with the old man.

David Rose, 2017.

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Patience is a Virtue.

DSC_2029 (2)Last week I was walking along a path that went through an ungrazed meadow. As I walked along I would disturb many butterflies. Unfortunately these were all ringlet butterflies which are dark brown colour and because I had photographed them before I was not particularly interested in them. When came to the highest point of this path and began to descend I stood for a while. There seemed to be ringlets all around fluttering about but rarely settling. It was difficult to estimate their numbers. There must have been ten or more within a few feet of me. As I looked further afield I might there might have several hundred across the whole meadow. But they all seemed to be that dull brown colour. Until I noticed a flutter of light blue move towards me before landing in the long grass a few yards from me. I presumed from local experience to be a common blue butterfly. I tried to stealthily manoeuvre in that direction. But before I reached that point I noticed another male common blue sitting on a blade of grass. I then saw that there was also a female common blue underneath him and that they were no doubt mating.

Likewise in life we often find we have to go through many mundane and often boring routines, in order for the exception to be highlighted. A prospector has to go through tons of gravel in order to get the occasional nugget. When it comes to reading the Bible there are times when you seem to be going through the motions. Take 1 Chronicles which starts with seemingly endless genealogies but hidden among them is the prayer of Jabez. “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!” This has been the subject of several books where people have shared their insights. The fact is that many Christians as they watch or listen to their favourite preachers in the Christian media think that every time they open a Bible a fresh revelation or insight happens. Somehow I doubt it. So we should not be ashamed just because when we open our Bibles we do not get blinding flashes of inspiration everyday. More often than not it can be a slow dawning through persistent and consistent reading of Scripture that we get fresh insights. Last year I published a post (The Father’s Will) based on thoughts on the later chapters of 1 Chronicles where David’s preparations for the temple that he himself had been forbidden to build, but instead told that it was to be done by his son Solomon. As I was reading through these lists which most Christians find boring I realised how much it was the will of David that the temple should be built and that there was also a comparison between what was the will of God the Father and that which was accomplished by Jesus, God the Son. We just have to be sure that we do not give up too soon.

David Rose, 2017.

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There are Two ‘i’s in the Word Christian.

DSC_2019Question: How do we know when some random thought that comes into our heads is from the Lord or not? The answer is not as simple as one might think. There might be some thoughts that are clearly not in line with Scripture and are easily dismissed. Equally, there are others that speak to the very depths of our souls which convict us of our shortcomings, which makes us fairly sure that it is the Lord. But in between there are many others which can leave us puzzled, at least initially. A week or so ago whilst dreaming one morning I found myself saying “The world is looking for Christians with two eyes in them.” I immediately thought that was stupid and woke up. As I went over that statement again in my mind I realised that it might make more sense if it was referring to the letter i, which in English is also the personal pronoun. And that the word Christian contains two ‘i’s. If we take the first ‘i’ as being our natural selves with all our idiosyncrasies and characteristics. Then as Christians we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through which people can hopefully see God working in them as the second ‘i’. So the statement means that people are neither looking for carnal Christians who have no evidence of the outworking of God in their lives or Christians living as automata under the control of the Holy Spirit, but people who are clearly human in their behaviour but also something of the divine in them. Even if we are unaware of what they see of God in us.

But a cynic or critic could easily say that I am just trying to make sense of a nonsensical statement by spiritualising it and deluding myself into thinking that God was trying to speak to me. So while on the whole I think that God was trying to speak to me I have to admit that I am not 100% certain.

David Rose, 2017.

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A Great Disconnect.

DSC_1988There is a great disconnect between the traditional Christian world view and that of the liberal secular view which dominates the News channels and most of the press. Those in the public eye who cling to the authority of the Word of God are seen as a threat by the liberal establishment. When Christian issues are raised the media always seem to get the wrong end of the stick. But this is not the first time in history that people have misconstrued the message that God has been trying to give. The prophet Jeremiah had the difficult task of warning the people of Judah of the impending Babylonian exile. Instead of repenting they regarded him as a threat, a possible traitor, they preferred to listen to false prophets who said what they wanted to hear. Towards the end of the siege of Jerusalem the Lord told Jeremiah that if the people freed their slaves then Judah would stay in the land, but after agreeing to free their slaves they reneged and re-enslaved their fellow Jews. Condemning themselves to become the slaves of Babylon. Some of the poorer people were allowed to remain in the land after the fall of Jerusalem. But they continued to make a catalogue of bad decisions. After the assassination of Gedaliah the remnant fled to Egypt out of fear even though the Lord told them otherwise. In Chapter 44 verse 18 the men said “But ever since stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offering to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.” In other words blaming God and not attributing it to the consequences of their sin. They refused to see it God’s way but it did not stop them finding themselves under Babylonian rule after Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt.

The problem is that when we try and argue something from a Christian perspective then we are accused of being bigoted before we get a chance to fully explain our position. That, of course is prejudice, but the mainstream media will not admit that. Christians then feel that they must step back into the shadows to avert the attention of those who seem intent to persecute them. This in turn emboldens those who promote the secular/liberal agenda to believe that Christianity is in decline. They are blind but they think they are the enlightened ones. We can only pray that their eyes will be opened.

David Rose. 2017.

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Being in the Centre of God’s Will.

DSC_1703

The above picture shows Cairngorm seen through the Sluggan Pass and taken a couple of miles north of Aviemore. As one travels north from Aviemore Cairngorm is hidden behind the hills to the right of the picture. It is only when you reach the point where the pass begins to open up that you begin see the mountain beyond. Initially, it appears towards the right hand part of the gap, but as one continues north it moves towards the centre of the visible gap. Photographically, the ideal shot is where the summit of Cairngorm is over the lowest part of the pass. However, if you continue to travel the summit appears to move to the left of the gap. Though it is difficult to say where exactly the optimum place is exactly where to take your picture. You know when you have gone too far as Cairngorm begins to slide out of view. But we are talking about several hundred yards or metres here rather than a few inches or centimetres.

However, when you hear some people talk about being in the will of God you would think they were referring a mark on a stage where an actor has been told to speak their lines and if they were to move away from that spot they would be moving out of God’s will for their lives. Now there may be some watershed moments in our lives where that might be the case, but for the most part it is not so much as the question of being in God’s will or not, but rather, are we in the optimum place to be in the centre of God’s will for our lives? We may be generally in God’s will by not living an immoral lifestyle, etc., but know there are areas where God is still not at the centre of our lives. But we are all works-in-progress. We live in a world where there is a lot of fear, be it in the secular world where if its not terrorism then there fears over what we eat, the environment, etc. In the church there are also those who peddle fears even if they are often subtle. While as followers of Christ we should aim to be more Christ-like there has to be a reasonable limit to how far we take it. I mean, for example, just because Jesus walked on water we should also be able to walk on water. There might be few out there advocating that (most of them have drowned), but similar arguments are being used by some that just because Jesus did this or that if we do not do it then we should question our salvation. We need to be sure that when we are trying to discern God’s Will for our lives that we are not being swayed by spurious arguments which may deflect us from the path God really wants us to go. Jesus said that perfect love casts out fear, but a church that has lost its first love finds itself tending to resort to fear instead to drive its flock along.

It also has to be said that just because you have a setback that you are no longer in God’s Will for your life, remember Job and his troubles though your critics will condemn you for it. But they will, whatever happens to you anyway.

David Rose, 2017

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