When you look at both of these two pictures you might be surprised to find out that they are the same bird, a male redpoll. From the back it appears to be a fairly non-descript bird and easily mistaken for some other bird such as a sparrow. From the from he is far more colourful, especially in the spring when the male’s breast becomes quite red. The female is less colourful though. I took the picture with its back towards me first, and it required patience when it flew off before it returned awaiting its turn at the feeder.
There are many issues where it helps to see both sides before one makes a judgment. Even if at first sight it looks unprepossessing. It is all too easy to fire off a tweet before you have time to think what you are saying. Equally we can judge people from some less than flattering first impression. You can often tell the editorial stance of a newspaper by how flattering or unflattering the pictures they chose to publish of politicians and other public figures. We have to be mindful that our perceptions are being formed with people with agendas.
In the same vein it can be applied in Christian matters in many areas, especially where two opposite concepts are held in tension. The very essence of the Gospel is that God’s love for his creation is held in tension with His justice for those who have rebelled against Him. We are naturally attracted to the idea of a loving God and these days it is easy to watch or follow those who preach a positive and upbeat message. At times we all need to hear a positive and uplifting message in a world where everything seems to be such doom and gloom. Though if that is all we ever hear, in time, it becomes saccharin sweet. The danger then is to go in the opposite direction and concentrate on the sinfulness of man and become judgmental. God’s love and justice are two sides of the same coin. A coin that is the same on both side in this part of the world, if not yours, is a fake.
The fact is that a couple of days before I took these photos I noticed a female redpoll at the feeder, and because it had been nearly a year since I had last seen a redpoll in my garden my first reaction was to think it was a sparrow. It was only when I noticed it was too small to be a sparrow that I took a closer look. Therefore, I was on the lookout for it to come back, otherwise I might have missed this one. Jesus said that the truth would set us free (John 8:32), but we often settle for a one-sided view of the truth.
David Rose 2017.
The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of individuals within the church being likened to different parts of the human body, in his letter to the Corinthian church known as 1st Corinthians in Chapter 12 verses 12 to 31. This concept is of a medical nature so it is not unreasonable to assume the idea behind may have originated with Paul’s companion Luke, who was a physician as well as the writer of two books of the New Testament. So far so good. We do not hear much about Luke himself in Scripture but he must have had a good intellect in order to write his Gospel and the book of Acts. It would be a mistake to dismiss him as a nonentity because his chose not to blow his own trumpet. I suspect that part of Luke’s role was not just to be Paul’s doctor but also as his sparring partner. I suspect that Luke first used this analogy with Paul because Paul expected other believers to be just like him and became frustrated when they did not quite get his arguments. I wonder how many times Luke had to say to Paul “You can’t expect everybody to be just like you.” Then going on to explain how all the different organs of the body are needed for the body to function well. In part, I suspect, Paul when he used the analogy he was preaching to himself, it was a message he needed to learn himself. In verse 21 Paul argues: ‘So the eye cannot say to the hand “I have no need of you!” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”‘ We assume that when John Mark left prematurely on Paul’s first missionary journey that the fault lay entirely with John Mark. Before Paul set out on his second missionary journey he told Barnabas that he had no need of John Mark. Yet by the end of his life in 2 Timothy chapter 4, he could ask Timothy to ask the same John Mark to come and help him because Paul found him useful. So just maybe some of the reason for John Mark’s return home early lay at Paul’s attitude towards John Mark?
David Rose, 2016.
This winter we have been invaded by hundreds of foreign migrants from Scandinavia and Russia. These feathered migrants are welcomed by nature enthusiasts. The birds pictured here are waxwings that originate in Russia. Attempts to photograph them have been frustrated by their habit of perching high up in trees and then all too often being spooked by either the click of a camera or some other movement. This year they have been numerous here in the Cairngorms unlike previous years. I caught these birds in the late afternoon sunshine. More of them were in a taller tree adjacent to this one and after a while I noticed some birds diving behind a nearby building which turned and returning to the trees. Out of sight was a Rowan tree.The waxwings were feeding on the berries and I managed to get a couple of shots of them feeding before they flew off. Funny though when the question of human migration comes up it tends to produce screaming headlines and negative feelings. Just a thought. Not that there is any easy solution.
David Rose. 2016.
In some of my previous posts I have referred to King David and Absalom’s attempt to usurp him. I also suggested that Absalom was a type of the antichrist because he attempting to prevent Solomon becoming king and building the Temple as foretold by the prophet Nathan. I return again to that part in his life. There is an episode when David was fleeing Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 15 vv-19-22. In an exchange between David and Ittai the Gittite, the king suggested that Ittai and by implication the 600 Gittites which he commanded stay behind as because they were foreigners Absalom would leave him and his men alone. But Ittai declares his loyalties to David whether this might lead to his death. Sometimes we are surprised by those who stay loyal to God when the chips are down. When it comes to eschatology there seems to be no shortage of experts who sort out prophecies to their own satisfaction and have their lists of good guys and bad guys. The problem is that events tend to spoil things and then those experts have explain their failures. I can remember it stated the Meshech and Tubal were Moscow (Russia) and Ukraine. At the present time these two countries are enemies even if the conflict between them is on the back-burner while Russia is involved in Syria. Again much was made about the four “blood red moons” a year or two back, well they have come and gone yet even though we have been living through interesting times since then few have attributed events directly to the moons. Though no doubt somebody will be working on it. The fact is that the experts in the first century got the first coming of the Messiah wrong so why should we be too surprised if the experts get it wrong for the second coming.
David Rose, 2016.
There is a passage in Psalm 107 (23-37) which states:- “Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.” The Israelites of old were not known as a maritime nation, in fact they hated the sea which they thought of as a place of chaos. The only story of a sea voyage in the Old Testament is that of Jonah which included a storm or tempest. But the seamen involved were all pagans who prayed to their own gods. But when Jonah told them about the God he believed in, but was disobeying, they became more afraid of Jonah’s God than the storm and began to pray to Jonah’s God before eventually threw Jonah overboard to what they believed was certain death. Some years ago I heard that there was a Jewish tradition that the sailors went back to the shores of Israel and went up to Jerusalem to pray in the temple and offer sacrifices to Jonah’s God. This passage in Psalm 107 seems to confirm this. The irony is that in refusing to preach to one lot of pagans he leads to the conversion of another bunch of heathens, before going on to successfully lead the Ninevites to repentance. Not for nothing did Jesus say when asked for a sign gave the example of Jonah; not only in that the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the ‘fish’ represent the death and resurrection of Christ but also that Jesus’ mission was also to bring in those beyond the boundaries of Judaism. An inference that was not lost on His hearers.
David Rose, 2016.
Every time there is an incident involving Islamic extremists somebody will counter that “Islam is a peaceful religion.” Clearly, the jihadists of Islamic State are not peaceful and it appears to some that apologists for Islam are being wilfully ignorant with much heat and vitriol being voiced on the social media. Now there are strands of Islam that more moderate but they have been victims of violence from their fellow Muslims. (Earlier this year a Glasgow shopkeeper wished a happy Easter to his Christian customers was murdered by another Muslim who drove up from Bradford in England to specifically to do the deed.) However, while we may well descry militant Islam we have to ask ourselves how peaceful are other religions including our own? While most are regarded as peaceful there are usually some that have been originators of conflict in the past. For example Judaism, today it is a peaceful religion as a whole. But in 66AD when the Jewish Revolt broke out it would have been hard to persuade a fellow Roman citizen that Judaism was peaceful as the Roman military casualties rose. After the Jews were exiled from the Land they had no option but to adopt more peaceful habits. On the other hand when Christianity was a persecuted minority religion it tended towards pacifism. But when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire then suddenly Christianity had territory to defend. It then had to justify defending the Empire from pagan barbarian hordes. The concept of the “just war” was developed that force was sometimes needed to combat evil. Then in the eleventh century the Crusades came along and western Christianity seemed to get very militant. The Normans developed the concept of the armoured knight and expanded their influence outside of Normandy. The rest of Europe found themselves having to adopt the same style of warfare. Normans would fight at mercenaries around Europe including Italy. Here they were initially welcomed by the Pope as a means of ousting the Byzantines from much of southern Italy. Unfortunately, they introduced the Feudal system as well reducing the local populace serfdom which did not go down well. News that the Turks had captured Jerusalem and stopped pilgrims going there gave the Pope what seemed a clever idea. Fill all these Norman knights, who were causing havoc, with zeal to go charging off to the Holy Land where they could kill Muslims rather than their fellow Christians. The Normans were of Viking descent, and their pagan forebears believed that they had to die sword in hand in order to go to Valhalla. So it was quite easy for the Pope to persuade their descendants that it would be a good thing to die sword in hand fighting the enemies of Christendom because in so doing they would go straight to Heaven. The result was carnage but that is the difference between a ‘good’ idea and a ‘God’ idea. One of the consequences of the Crusades is that today’s Islamic extremists refer to Western armed forces as “Crusaders” in their propaganda and makes it difficult when the West intervenes in the Arab world. They find it hard to see Christianity as a peaceful religion. Of course the atheists and secularists look on all of this smugly arguing that all that is needed for sweetness and light to bloom forth is the removal of religion. This is without mentioning those conflicts between nations that claim to be Christian. If you really believe that look at the example of atheist regimes, like Soviet Russia under Stalin where millions died, the same could be said of China under Chairman Mao, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and how many have died in North Korea through starvation or political oppression. The irony in all this is that the term terrorist was first used during the French Revolution where it was given to those who promoted the new atheist constitution during the Reign of Terror by the frequent use of the guillotine. The fact is that where a belief is in the ascendency in any country then given the right circumstances it will try and impose itself on minorities. So while we all like think we are ‘peaceful’ others may disagree. We have to take the plank out of our own eye first. Just because some incidents highlight violence coming from one religion does not mean others have been blameless in the past. It only takes a small number of fanatics to start a persecution if others acquiesce by saying and doing nothing.
David Rose, 2016.
In Acts Chapter 9 after Saul’s conversion that for three days after his arrival in Damascus that he prayed and fasted. Then Ananias showed up and healed him. The question that arises to me is how far into those three days did God begin to talk to Ananias about going to Saul and heal him. It could be understood from the text that it was only shortly before his visit that the Lord spoke and Ananias quickly agreed to visit Saul. But considering Saul’s fearsome reputation it might have taken Ananias some time to have the confidence to leave his house and seek out Saul in the “street called Straight.” One could have expected the church in Damascus to have been praying for God to intervene, though they probably were not expecting the way he intervened. Hoping for God to strike Saul down dead not giving him ‘new life.’ The conversation between the Lord and Ananias is covered in six verses given to him in a vision and Ananias expressed his doubts before apparently agreeing to go. What is recorded was probably the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, as when he actually went to Saul he adds that he was there to give Saul the Holy Spirit as well. After the vision ended there would have been doubts arising in Ananias’ mind almost immediately along the lines of “was that just a dream or what?” One suspects Ananias would have also consulted other members of the church leadership about his vision to discuss it. They no doubt came to the conclusion, “we will stay here and pray for you.” Relieved that they had not been chosen to visit Saul themselves. He might have made discreet enquiries about Saul and his situation to find out if he was really blind, but sooner or later the delaying tactics would have had to end and he was faced with certain arrest if the vision had been false. We know Saul’s conversion was genuine but Ananias did not have that hindsight. Saul came with an escort who one assumes was still guarding him so Ananias had to get past them to see Saul. Did Ananias reason that “if this is from the Lord and Saul is expecting me I will announce myself to those with him and they will let me see him? If they say no, then I have been mistaken.” Possibly. When he was ushered in he addressed Saul as “Brother” though initially this might have been through gritted teeth because of his reputation. In fact, the Lord had said to Ananias that Saul would suffer for the Lord’s name which might be a hint that Ananias had been praying earlier for Saul to suffer. However, any such feeling seems to have dissipated almost immediately, as Saul was healed with the laying on of his hands and subsequent baptism. Of course, Saul did not actually the title of the post as far as we know but he might have been entitled to
Another question arises as to how many of his escorts also became converts to Christ. After all they saw the healing of Saul’s blindness. In verse 25 is states that Saul’s followers helped him escape from Damascus by lowering over the city walls. Now the wording might be to detach blame for any consequences to the local church from Saul’s escape. Did those who followed him to Damascus still follow him at the time of his departure? Just a thought.
David Rose 2016
We live in an age which idolises the concept of equality, at least as far as the Western world is concerned. But in practice some “animals are more equal than others.” Those who are articulate in voicing their opinions get listened to, appear on chat shows, or become experts on 24 hour news channels. The rest of us are left out in the cold because we can only think of the witty reply five minutes after the conversation has moved on. This has left many with a feeling of disenfranchisement. We find that traditionally held Christian views are ridiculed by the main stream media. We moan about political correctness and can easily quote some ridiculous example (calling short people vertically challenged, etc.) But when people are able to “say it as it is” all too soon the tone and language descends to the gutter. It is very easy to say something which may not be wrong in itself but can be taken out of context by critics and distorted out of all proportion. One sometime suspect that those who apologise for remarks made in the social media do so, as much as, from embarrassment from those who agree with their original comments as from their hostile critics. Christians are caught in the cross-fire. On the one hand secularists and their allies want us to tone down our beliefs, or at least keep them private so Christians when they argue for more freedom to preach the Gospel find themselves accused of peddling hate that all too soon seems to rise to the surface when restrictions are removed. We get lumped together with White Supremacist groups that use (or should that be abuse) the term “Christian” to espouse some very un-Christian views. But secularists are blind to their own hatred of the God they claim not to believe in. James had a lot to say about the tongue, including “No man has tamed the tongue.” But Proverbs has many verses in which the virtue of wise words are extolled as opposed to folly. This feeling of disenfranchisement does not only affect true Christians but many others leading to a general suspicion of the political establishment in many countries. In Britain this has led to the Brexit vote and in America the rise of Donald Trump. One of Churchill’s famous quotes is about democracy being “the least worst system of government.” It now looks as if the American electorate will be choosing the one whom they consider to be the least worst candidate for their next president, and I do not envy their choice.
Of course, we Christians are not perfect and most of us do not pretend to be so. We are all works in progress in our spiritual journeys and its is all too easy for the old nature to surface if we are caught off-guard. We have to careful that other people use our words as a pretext and hijack them for their own agenda. Immigration is a sensitive issue on both sides of the Atlantic but just because overt racism has largely been done away with, it does not mean that there is not a lot of closet racism out there, even in Christian circles. So there is a need to be circumspect with our words just in case they cause somebody to violently react in some way. The last thing a Christian should do is add fuel to the fire.
David Rose, 2016.
A couple of months or so ago these were small and adorable, but they are growing up fast. Twice when walking to work in the past fortnight when I passed the field where this picture was taken I found a lamb stuck in the wire fence beside the road and bleating loudly. The fence consists of a square mesh of about 5 inches or 25 centimetres in size. By now their horns are beginning to grow. The problem being that they could force their faces through the hole but when they tried to pull their heads back their small horns caught on the wire. On both occasions I managed to release them. Though they struggled against me and I got the impression that they were not exactly thanking me for my efforts. It got me thinking, does God allow new believers to get away with things which if we try and repeat it later we find that we end up like those lambs. Well and truly snagged. God expects believers to live within certain boundaries. But the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. The young lambs seem to have learnt their lesson as I have noticed that more recently they are staying away from the fence. But all too often we do not learn from our mistakes and we think sheep are stupid! Paul lamented that those he was responsible for bringing to Christ were behaving like babies, still craving milk when they should be moving on to solids. I think that part of the problem today is that new believers hear about freedom on Christ, that traditional denominations are man-made structures, etc., that they descry all forms of a disciplined Christian lifestyle that previous generations would have thought as essential for spiritual growth. If we do not try and set aside a regular ‘quiet time’ then why should we expect to hear from God. Too many Christians seem to think that because they “can do all things through Christ,” we can do the spiritual equivalent of turning up at the Olympic games without any training and expect to beat Usain Bolt in the final of the 100 metres. Then wonder why we fall flat on our faces when we leave the starting blocks instead of streaking to victory. When Paul used the analogy of the Roman soldier in Ephesians 6 where he talked of putting on the whole armour of God he also alluded to the training that Roman soldiers underwent to instil the discipline that Roman soldiers needed to fight and win.
David Rose. 2016.
In one of my previous posts I speculated about Absalom being a type of the Antichrist. One of the characters that appears in the account of Absalom’s rebellion is Ahithophel. He is referred to as David’s counsellor and his advice was spoken of in 2 Samuel 16 v23 as “Now in those days the advice of Ahithophel gave was like that of one who enquires of God. That was how both of David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.” The problem with that statement is if Ahithophel’s advice so godly why he support Absalom? Was it that his wisdom only appeared to be from God? Surely he should have been able to see through Absalom’s blandishment’s just as you would expect a political sage today to see through a political candidate’s grandiose promises as things he is just saying to get elected. Was his wisdom not as godly as it appeared to be? This gives rise to a doubt that what we perceive to be godly wisdom today might not be so godly after all. How much of today’s Christian teaching is actually psychobabble dressed up in Christianese? Firstly, I have to question my own wisdom and where I am getting from. Secondly where are others getting their wisdom from. While I do spend time reading God’s Word, I also watch the Christian media. Now you can come across people who can communicate the truths of Scripture in an entertaining manner. Sometimes listening to such speakers one can ask oneself am I watching this just to be entertained or am I learning something from it. Not that preaching has to be dull and matter of fact to be theologically sound. Even Jesus used hyperbole. Though nowhere in Scripture does it suggest that he told a joke before he started to speak to the crowds just to entertain them. But I am digressing. Back to Ahithophel. Could it have been that he was a moral chameleon who gave godly advice to David because he knew that David would listen to it? There are a lot of people who share Christian values when they are brought up in a Christian environment but when faced with the secular world they backtrack and then expect the church to adopt the values of the outside world. Even when those promoting those values are rabidly anti-Christian. There many stories of people who have lived nearly all their lives under the sound of the Gospel yet only realising their own need for a Saviour in their old age. Most of their friends would have assumed that they were saved until that point. Those who knew Ahithophel would have assumed he was a godly man, but assumptions can turn out to be false.
David Rose, 2016.