Thinking the Unthinkable- Part 2.

DSC_1703Before I continue I should explain why I chose this title as it was not obvious in part 1. Some people have theology that find it difficult to accept that a good person like Jairus should have a wife who suffered from such a debilitating condition, therefore to them either Jairus or his wife must have some hidden sin which resulted in God punishing them. This is similar to the question that the disciples asked Jesus regarding the man who was born blind in John chapter 9. Though we may think that people don’t think like that these days there is the example of Horatio Spafford the author of the classic hymn “it is well my soul.” He was a Chicago businessman who knew the evangelist D. L. Moody whom he intended to accompany to Europe on one of his missions. He was delayed by a business commitment and his wife and four daughters went ahead while he intended to catch a later ship and join them, But their ship collided with another mid-Atlantic and sank with many lives lost included his children with only his wife surviving. It was on his way over to meet his wife that he wrote the classic hymn. Later they had more children including a son, but he died tragically young, at which point the church he belonged to expelled him because they thought he was under some sort of curse. It is surprising how often similar thoughts can creep in, even when our head knowledge argues against it. Here spiritual warfare cannot be excluded. But I am digressing.

The account of Luke the physician mentions that all the woman’s money had been spent on medical help. As she was classified as ‘unclean,’ regardless of how debilitating her condition was, it would have been virtually impossible to earn any money herself so these funds must have come from her husband. Considering the low status of women in those days it says a lot for her husband that he must have really loved her rather than abandon her to her fate. Nothing in the Gospel accounts would suggest that Jairus was not such a man. Here another objection might arise as why if that was the case why did not Jairus immediately celebrate his wife’s healing by giving her a big hug? The most obvious answer would be that he still considered her to be unclean because the Law required certain rituals to be done before she was officially clean. But in fact she became clean when she touched Jesus even if the bystanders, including the disciples, failed to understand this.

By this time you may be wondering even if it was the case that she was the mother of Jairus’ daughter, what difference does that make? Well, I once heard that where a woman is mentioned in the Bible she is a symbol of the Church, the ‘Bride of Christ.’ As such her healing echoes the idea of the church being the spotless bride. Taken together with the daughter being raised from the dead you have a family being restored. Today in Western Christianity nothing it seems to do seems to halt its decline like all the money that her husband spent on the doctors. The secular media has written off the church and regularly foretells the demise of the church just as the neighbours had written off the daughter’s chance of recovering. That was because they were not taking into account Jesus. Just as Christianity’s critics today will try and deny that Jesus ever existed, despite the evidence. So it would be nice if it was not just two unrelated miracles but two parts of a whole. We are too individualistic in modern culture and forget how important is the concept of the family to God.

David Rose, 2017.

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Thinking the Unthinkable – Part 1.

DSC_1703The origin of this Cairngorm Musing was a thought which dropped into my head whilst reading the Scripture some time ago. It was the passage concerning Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. It is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels with the most detailed account given in Mark chapter 5 verses 22-39, with the account in Luke chapter 8 verses 40-56 being only slightly shorter. It is generally accepted that the woman with the “issue of blood” had probably got this as a result of childbirth. Luke’s version states that she had been suffering with this for about 12 years which was also the approximate age of Jairus’ daughter. The thought that arose in my mind was could the woman be the mother of Jairus’ daughter? The immediate reaction to this is that if this was the case then Scripture would have said so? Another objection would then be, why did not Jairus ask Jesus to heal his wife as well as his daughter? On the other hand the implications to a synagogue leader having a wife who was ceremonially unclean would be very serious for the daughter as well as the parents themselves. Could her illness in part be due to her pining for her mother?

To settle the first question all you have to do is find evidence from the three accounts that Jairus’ wife was at home caring for the daughter. However, only Mark’s account mentions that Jairus’ wife was actually present, but only when all the mourners had been ejected is she mentioned as being with Jesus when he entered the child’s room. This implies that she was outside of the room when Jesus arrived, if not outside of the house altogether. You would expect a mother to be beside a dead or dying child. Unless she was ceremonially unclean and forbidden to come anywhere near the synagogue leader’s house. So far this neither proves nor disproves my question.

As to the second question to answer this takes us away from the narrative of the story itself. If she was Jairus’ wife, then why did he not ask Jesus to heal her earlier? I think the answer to this lies with the fact that her condition was a chronic condition, but it was a condition she seemed to be able to live with. It had become part of the furniture, so to speak. So when the daughter became seriously ill, because it was a new situation he sought out Jesus to help. How often do we treat nagging chronic conditions as something we have to suffer, yet ask God to heal newer symptoms? Even when they might be linked to the underlying cause of the chronic condition.

Another point is – is the daughter an only child? In those days large families tended to be the norm. Would Jairus approach Jesus to heal her if she was just one of many siblings? Though the lack of any specific mention of others does not exclude the possibility of other children. Even so, elders tend to be risk averse and it would be more likely that she was an only child, for Jairus to pushed to ask Jesus to heal her. Of course, if the woman with the issue of blood was the mother she would be unable to have other children because of both her condition and uncleanness.

On the down side is the failure of the gospel writers to make the connection between the two healings. I suspect the disciples themselves might have found it rather hard to reconcile the unclean invalid first called forth by Jesus out of the crowd and fit and ‘clean’ woman seen cooking a meal for her daughter. It could have been that after the woman was healed and walked towards Jairus’ house that she was transformed as she stepped out in faith and became unrecognisable compared to what she had been a few moments earlier. Mark’s Gospel states that after the news of the girl’s death reached them Jesus asked the other disciples to hold back the crowd, thus Matthew would not have been present at the raising of the daughter accounting for his shorter version. Peter, James and John went ahead with Jesus and then had the job of evicting the mourners. They too would not had been looking at the woman during this and found it hard to believe the positive change in the woman. That might explain part of it. Another factor might have been the reluctance to identify the individuals concerned because of the increasing risk of persecution.

To be continued. David Rose, 2017.

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Looking at Both Sides.

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.

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“Parts of the Body”

 

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.

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Welcome Immigrants!

dsc_1343This 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.dsc_1365The 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.

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Surprise, Surprise.

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.

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“Some Went Out on the Sea in Ships.”

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.

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“Peaceful” Religions?

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.

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What Took You So Long?

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

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A Feeling of Disenfranchisement.

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.

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