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Monday, 13 December 2010

You will take your memory with you!

When we stand before God’s Judgement seat, we will have left our wardrobe behind - but our memory will still be intact! Hold on! We’re not there yet!

First, is there a better way of getting ready for the great event, a way which has so far escaped us? Yes, there is. Come with me and discover a secret:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"
Robert Browning

The Bible asks us to get ready by committing God’s words to memory:

KJV Proverbs 7:1 My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee.
2 Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
3 Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.

Here Solomon tells us Wisdom invites us to do memory work. Likewise the Psalmist says we should esteem God’s word hidden in the heart, as buried treasure:

KJV Psa 19:10 More to be desired are [the judgements of the LORD] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. 12 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.

So, when do we get too old to do memory work? Should the over 55’s lament their lot with a sigh and a wish: “Yes, well, if I were twenty years younger I might rise to the challenge!”

Have I got news for you!! There’s no ceiling to God’s memory bank! For example, Samuel T. Spear, D.D. a 19th century American writer, tells how he began to systematically memorise the Bible at 74 years old. In a short time he was able to repeat from memory a substantial part of the entire New Testament. He said:

“I am not now sorry that about five years ago I resolved to do what during these years I had been seeking to do. My only regret is that the resolution was formed at so late a period. Had its date been much earlier, as it might have been, and as I now think it should have been, the benefit to me, as I have no doubt, would have been correspondingly greater. What I have gained in the way of mental relief and spiritual comfort from the process described I would not exchange for all the honour and wealth of this world.”

Well, you say, that’s all very well for special people with doctoral degrees, but lesser mortals like me can’t rise to such dizzy heights! Yes, you can!

Did you know the latest medical research tends to show that throughout our lives we grow new neurons in our brain by focused mental exercise. It’s called the science of Neurogenesis. Says Mike Logan

“Our brain is not physically fixed, it is constantly changing, losing some neurons, growing some neurons, making or deleting connections, and we can encourage that growth . . . . Thoughts are things. They are electrical and chemical activities that by their very existence are changing the physical structure of your brain. Although you can’t stop it (and you wouldn’t want to), you can have some control over it. The question then becomes, are you changing your brain for better or for worse?

According to James Adams a study published in a journal Science, researchers Elizabeth Gould and Charles Gross of Princeton's Department of Psychology showed that new neurons are continually being added to the cerebral cortex of adult monkeys. The cerebral cortex is the largest and most complex region of the brain and is the seat of high-level decision-making, thinking, and personality. Monkeys and humans are reputed to have fundamentally similar brains, so the research is likely to translate to humans. For more details, click here

In a recently published book ("Can’t Remember What I Forgot"”) Dr. Sue Halpern of Columbia University, reports on experiments done on mice. View the video which reports the research. The experiments tend to show we have potential to grow neurons and thus improve mental activity. She quotes research which asserts that growing older simply means we produce less brain cells, and less quickly.

With some basic memory training, you could in fact memorise the entire New Testament with comparitive ease. There is no such thing as a “bad memory,” only an untrained one!

One key advantage of memorising from the KJV, is that it was written for the illiterate as well as the learned, and in such a way as to impinge itself on the memory. Alliteration (repeated letters and syllables), balanced phrasing, and deliberate metric rhythm . . . all these tend to attach themselves to the memory as soon as they are heard.

Take one simple example at random, to illustrate how the structure of the Bible lends itself to being remembered:

KJV Psalm 95
1 O come, let us sing . ,
. . . let us make a joyful noise . .
2 Let us come before his presence . . .
3 For the LORD is a great God . .

6 O come, let us worship . .
. . . let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
7 For he is our God . . . .

Said the Psalmist,

Psa 119: 9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Are we hiding God’s Words in our hearts? What stops us doing some serious memory work on the Bible?

As we grow old together, unlike poor John Lennon, we have time to sing his song and smell the flowers!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Islam in Australia

This past w/e a couple of friends joined me in a visit south-west of Sydney to the Muslem-dominated area of Auburn-Lakemba-Liverpool. The first evening, Friday, Samuel Green (Australian fellowship of evangelical students, or AFES) led a team of students in a debate with Abdullah Kunde. The topic was "God: Trinity or Tawheed?" The next day saw another debate, this time with Mustafa Arja: "Did Christ die for the sins of the world?" Hundreds of Muslem students, young and old, listened intently to impassioned debate. Christians were there in much smaller numbers. Where is the missionary spirit in our churches? Islam is right under our noses, yet we still ‘pass by the other side,’ having no oil and wine to pour in (Luke 10:34).

Tawheed declares the absolute unity and indivisibility of God, which is the fundamental doctrine of Islam. The doctrine of Father – Son -- Holy Spirit flies in the face of that, Abdullah contended. No wonder this is so, he said, seeing that the Bible is corrupted, whereas the Qur'an is perfectly preserved. The DVD of this debate is available. He cited the ‘corrupt texts’ of John 8:1-12 (the woman caught in adultery) and the longer ending of St. Mark 16: 9 – 20 (being no part of the original Gospel - therefore by definition, corrupt). Compare the Koran, which he said has been standardised to one Text, so everyone can confidently point to the Text and say: “this is the Word of God,” without any doubt. So holy is this book that no criticism of it is allowed! Whereas Christian scholars constantly pull apart the words of the Bible, until the young Christian wonders what it is he actually believes! Do you think this is a powerful argument? perhaps you would like to comment below? If “the earliest and best manuscripts do not have these verses,” why are they in the Text at all? Either the scholarship which relegates them to the ‘margin,’ is unsound, or Islam has an understandable advantage over us here?

Samuel Green (AFES) also debated with Mustafa Arja: "Did Christ die for the sins of the world?" Mustafa’s foundation plank was Sura 4, 157 in the Koran. This denies Christ’s crucifixion, and therefore his atoning sacrifice, and resurrection, claiming instead that someone else died in his place. Also, because God knew from the beginning we were going to fall, He therefore does not expect perfection from us. Then again, how can it be a just act for the innocent to die for the guilty? As to the way of salvation, he said, the Bible is inconsistent because it teaches justification by works for the most part, whereas the Apostle Paul taught another way. As to the Bible’s authority, Samuel emphasised we accept not just some of the OT prophets, but all of them, as being the words of God not man. Isaiah 53 was a shared focus. It predicts a future individual servant of Jehovah who will be cut off (i.e. die, 53:8) as an unblemished (in the moral sense) Lamb-sacrifice. Compare Jesus who showed moral perfection, with Mohammed who admitted his sinfulness and needed to ask for forgiveness (Suras, 40:55; 41:19; 48:2)

Many arguments were raised and discussed on both sides. Keeping the channels open with our Muslem friends is so important. They claim to accept the authority (up to a point!) of the five books of Moses and the four Gospels, so we have a shared basis from which to start discussing the Faith. Having said that, please consider the import of KJV 1 Cor. 2:14, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. How does that insight affect the way we approach a discussion with a Muslem as to what is true and life-changing about God and what He has revealed?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Relatively speaking, it’s an absolute mess!

Today, the news of student riots in London reached Sydney . . .

Violent crowds broke shop windows in Oxford Street and smashed their way through windows of the Treasury and other departments in the Whitehall government district, set fire to a giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and sprayed graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill outside the Houses of Parliament. Snooker balls, flares and paint bombs were thrown and one police officer suffered serious neck injuries. Police charged the protesters with batons several times and mounted police were deployed to break up the advancing crowds. Julian Phillips, 23, a student at Goldsmiths College in London, part of the University of London, had blood pouring from a cut on his head. He explained, "The guys who were next to me were pushing a metal fence towards them but a policeman decided to lash out at me instead with a baton." He said he was demonstrating because "education is a right, not a privilege."

I found myself asking the question, “What made the students so angry, that anarchy ruled in Parliament Square, and Winston Churchill’s statue was treated with utter contempt?” The answer was not far away. Their erstwhile hero Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal-democrats in Parliament had ratted on his promise (and it was a promise), to scrap student tuition fees altogether. They have now to pay more, not less, for their education. But, that was not the reason why they were smashing up the place. The reason was anger that he broke a promise. Clegg said, “'I regret of course that I can't keep the promise that I made because - just as in life - sometimes you are not fully in control of all the things you need to deliver those pledges.”

But, atheists are allowed to break promises. As the London atheist bus campaign said two years ago, "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

When asked, “How do you think that not believing in God affects or informs your politics?” Clegg said,

“Well, my moral frame of reference Is clearly a Judaeo-Christian one. . . . . I think that fundamental concepts of tolerance, of compassion (of truthfulness), of love for your neighbour run very deep in our culture but they are also intimately bound up with our Christian heritage. . . . . Some of that ethos I very much espouse.”

Notice in the list of Biblical virtues there’s no place for truth-telling. But, truth is the essential ingredient of judgement and justice.

When I heard Jimmy Carter quote Micah 6:8 in his 1977 inaugural speech, it was clear we were in for an interesting time – a man of principle in politics (!), who knew how to aim for both justice and kindness.

KJV Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

How did Carter achieve it? - only at great cost to himself. For one thing, his ratings declined! He also continued to teach Sabbath Bible classes, and remained firmly oriented in Biblical truth. He believed it. He loved it. Truth for him was not a relative concept – it was rooted in the God who had revealed absolute truth(s) about Himself in the Bible. He was never my hero, but he was and is an example to follow - a man of truth.

Only by believing in absolute truth is it possible for a graduate of Westminster School, London (as is Nick Clegg), to acknowledge the value of his school motto: Dat deus incrementum [“God gives the increase,” 1 Cor 3:6}.

Not like that he doesn’t!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Two baptisms or one?

I was visiting a pastor today to offer prayer support for his family, and for his ministry. We found ourselves talking about the nine gifts of the Spirit. “Have you been baptised in the Spirit and spoken in tongues to prove it?” he asked me. We share common ground – a person becomes a Christian when he repents of his sins, and commits his life to Christ, but there’s more. “Well, yes, 1 Cor. 12:13 says all Christians have been baptised into the body of Christ by One Spirit." “Agreed," he says, “It’s the indwelling of the Spirit which every Christian has, but that’s not the baptism of the enduement of power for serving God, is it? Christ said He came to baptise in or with the Holy Spirit (Mat. 3:11). The book of Acts shows empowerment came on the disciples, with the descent of the Spirit!” “So, you take the book of Acts as normative for all Christians when they first receive Christ, they must be specially endued and prove that by speaking in tongues?” “Yes! You can be baptised into the Body of Christ, be indwelt by the Spirit, but not be empowered to witness, which every believer needs!” “So, you distinguish between the Holy Spirit baptising us into the Body (1 Cor. 12:13), as being something different from Christ baptising us into the sphere of the Holy Spirit, for power (Mat. 3:1)? As to the first, it’s the Spirit baptising, but as to the second it’s the Saviour baptising.” He goes on, “I teach my men to speak in tongues for five minutes or so, all together at the beginning of a prayer session, so we get tuned to the Spirit, and stop thinking carnally!” “Is that the same thing as exercising the gift of tongues?” No, says the pastor, “a gift of tongues is more than that. Praying in tongues is not exercising a gift, it’s doing what you first did when you were baptised in the Spirit. So, it’s not subject to the need for special interpretation, which it would be if it were exercising a gift of tongues. It’s like prophecy. You can get swept up in a spirit of prophecy in a meeting, but that’s not the same as having a gift of prophecy, which is an ongoing thing. If a person regularly shows regularly by a 'word of knowledge' and a 'word of wisdom' that they have that gift, then we have a third aspect – the gift of a prophet in the church!” “So, you would say a ‘word of knowledge’ (I Cor. 12:8) is a supernatural thing, where God gives you information about a person which you have not learned through the usual natural channels of communication.” “That’s right!” “And a ‘word of wisdom’ is where God tells you how to use that knowledge to someone’s benefit?” “That’s correct! - I’ve sat next to someone on public transport and God revealed to me a whole lot about that person, and I was able to help them with that knowledge.”

What do you think about this? Do you think there are two aspects to the baptism of the Spirit – one being a mere fact, the other being an experience? The first concerns the work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), the other concerns the work of Christ (Mat. 3:11)? One is about membership in the Body of Christ; the other’s about the dynamic of knowing the Spirit’s presence and power? How can we know for sure that an experience of speaking in unknown syllables is not psychological (‘soulish’), versus spiritual? Did the gift of prophecy “fail,” with the death of the Apostles (1 Cor. 13:8)? We have all twenty-seven books of the New Testament now. Do we, then, need any other special way of receiving communication from God? When you comment, please support your view, using Scripture.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Why did John Lennon die early?

It was 30 years ago today (Dec. 8th, in Oz) that David Chapman killed John Lennon, shooting him four times in the back, as he was standing with Yoko Ono outside their apartment in New York City. Why did the then-deranged youth with an evangelical heritage commit such an unchristian act? Chapman answered this himself at his trial:

"I would listen to [the] music and I would get angry at him, for saying that he didn't believe in God . . . and that he didn't believe in the Beatles. This was another thing that angered me, even though this record had been done at least 10 years previously. I just wanted to scream out loud, 'Who does he think he is, saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?' Saying that he doesn't believe in Jesus and things like that. At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage.”

Chapman had no right to wound or take the life of another, but the murderous act may be partly explained as having been brought on by John Lennon’s own words. Jesus said: "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” KJV Mat. 12:37. Said John Lennon, “I have more years behind me than before and I hate the idea of growing old.” Yet another time he alluded to Paul McCartney’s, “Yesterday”, saying: “I don’t believe in ‘yesterday’ ... Life begins at 40, so they promise and I believe it. What's going to come?”

Paul McCartney was right to believe in yesterday, for, even if the broken romance he wrote about was painful, there may still have been some aspects of it which were worth remembering, into old age. Sanity is said to rest in the continuity of our memories.

The writer to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (AD 64) who were suffering for their belief in Jesus as their Messiah, were told to take courage by believing in the God of Yesterday: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Heb 13:8). Because John Lennon had no faith in the historical past - and the accuracy of the Bible in recording that past - he therefore deprived himself of any faith in the future either. Confidence in the future depends on trusting God’s Word, when it claims to explain the past.

We remember at Christmas time the event which fulfilled the prophecies of old time. Micah wrote his prophecy in BC 720, to teach that the promised Messiah would come:

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2).
The prophet Micah predicted that the deliverer yet to come (it took another seven hundred years to be fulfilled!) was actually God Incarnate, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” How wonderfully different would John Lennon’s life have been, if he had believed that! He would have used his immense talents in the service of the eternal God, and he would probably have never lacked an audience, even to the end of time. He would have done well to live into old age.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Oprah and the spirit of antichrist

The Apostle John was referring to false teachers like Oprah Winfrey, when he said:

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:3).

Here the Apostle says the spirit of antichrist speaks when someone denies that Jesus is the Christ who has come in the flesh. John had warned about this once already, in the previous verse 2. Most preserved manuscripts of 1 John (of which there are over 600) have it in the Text a second time - whereas the modern critical Text now omits it for being unnecessary. But, it is necessary! What other way but repetition did the ancients have to emphasise a point and underline it, put it in bold, or in Capitals? [The whole manuscript was written in capitals!] Repetition, then, was a necessary way of emphasising a critical truth. Just as a false prophet in Moses’ times rejected the unity of God (Deut. 13:5), so the false teacher of Christian times rejected the Incarnation (1 John 2:22). The Gnostics thought of the divine Christ as a spirit which descended on Jesus at His baptism, and left him before the crucifixion. Such a spirit, Oprah calls her “Christ-consciousness,” in true New Age fashion.

Bill Muehlenberg says:
“Unquestionably, Oprah Winfrey is the most influential woman in the world today. The television show host, author, publisher, actress, philanthropist, and media personality is a multi-millionaire, and when she speaks, people – especially her legions of dedicated female followers – consider her utterances to be almost divine revelation.”

You may leave out the “almost,” in the last phrase. Oprah Winfrey was named Orpah on her birth certificate, but two letters got interchanged along the way. Oprah is like Orpah in the book of Ruth, after whom she was named. Ruth clung to the God of Israel and refused to return to paganism. But her sister Orpah went back to her old pagan ways, which is what Oprah Winfrey has done. She once believed Jesus was the Son of God who had died for her sins on the Cross of Calvary. Hear her testimony, if you doubt my words.

New Age thinking has long since taken over this mega-communicator. For Oprah, the Christ spirit is radically divided from the Jesus of history. We can embrace the Christ-consciousness (our ‘higher self’) which was thought to inhabit Jesus temporarily, but the object of our faith is not the belief that ‘Jesus is the Christ who has come in the flesh.’ It’s all about feeling, not belief. If I feel it, it must be right. So, I am God; Oprah is God; the corporate identity of the American middle-income woman, aged 35 – 50, is God. And so, Jesus is not exclusively God! Neither did “God so love the world that He sent His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Were the Apostle John here today, he would say of Oprah’s global promotion of New Age ideas, in her TV shows: “.

. . and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

“Oprah & Friends” led a year-long course on the New Age teachings of A Course in Miracles. The course teaches that we are all potentially Christs, that Jesus is not touched by evil, that he never died, that sin and guilt are unreal and that there is no death. The course claims the spirit of Jesus as its divine source (via the channeler Helen Schucman, who mediated the spirit). The Jesus of the course says: “I was not ‘punished’ because you were bad . . . . I have been correctly referred to as ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,’ but . . . correctly understood, it is a very symbol that speaks of my innocence. And innocence is wisdom, because it is unaware of evil, and evil does not exist.” As one of the Course promoters said, “. . . if the Bible were the literal truth, the Course would have to be viewed as inspired by demons.” (1)

“To her audience of more than 22 million mostly female viewers, she has become a post modern priestess—an icon of church-free spirituality.” Sydney will see the celebs looking for a guest appearance . . . Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban and so on. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has even been touted to make an appearance, as has yachtswoman Jessica Watson, astronaut Andy Thomas and writers Thomas Keneally, Peter Carey and Tim Winton.

But, let’s remember - according to the Bible - goodness consists not in the act itself, but in the motive and reason for doing it: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” KJV 1 Cor 13:3. That is, love (“charity”) from Jesus Christ who is God’s Son - who has come in the flesh - is what matters. Repent Oprah, and show your fans the right way to lasting happiness.

(1) Douglas Groothius. Revealing the New Age Jesus, IVP, 1990, pp. 198 - 201

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Gaza v. Israel: Whose side is God on?

Five ships of the Free Gaza Movement went full tilt this week to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, yet when the crunch came the only ship that saw violence, among the flotilla of boats trying to break through, was the crew of the Miva Marmara. Some on board claimed they were peacefully sleeping when the Israelis touched down on deck and opened fire indiscriminately. The Israeli forces counterclaimed, saying that the outbreak of violence resulted from the fact that the Marmara was controlled by and carrying activists belonging to the IHH, a violent Turkish organization that supports Islamic terrorism. “The IHH activists never intended to reach Gaza. Their goal was to pick a very public fight with Israel, and use the outcome to further besmirch the Jewish state in the media. These tactics of the IHH mirror those of Hamas, which also publicly supported the flotilla and sent representatives to Turkey to bless its embarkation,” says Israel Today

Who caused the violence? Whom should we believe?

“The first casualty when war comes is truth," said Hiram Johnson, a Californian politician, referring to a uncensored unreliable supposed eyewitness memoir of Australians fighting on Gallipoli. So, when we hear conflicting reports on the news media, in the attempt to apportion blame - as between terrorists on the one hand and the Israeli government on the other - it’s best to take most of what is said with a fair amount of salt.

The direct conflict between the Palestinians and Israel entails the very existence of Israel. The religious side of this conflict can be understood from the Hamas charter which allies itself with Islam, and is bent on destroying Israel. Thus, it is written into their Charter article 15, which states: "The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews' usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised." In article 11 the charter states the land of Israel and the territories constitute the land of Palestine: "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up." Article 20 declares Israel's existence is null and void: "The Balfour Declaration and the Mandate Instrument, and all their consequences are hereby declared null and void."

Now that couldn’t be clearer, could it? In effect, the words mean: “The land of Israel belongs to us.” Signed, Hamas.

On the other hand, were I, who happens to be a Christian - were I a citizen of Israel and resident there, I would need to acknowledge Israel’s governmental authority over my life. Holy Scripture obliges me to do this: “. . . Be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good." (Romans 13: 1-4) I could not deny, then, Israel’s right to exist, for these Scriptures exclude that option for a Christian.

On what grounds does Hamas deny Israel’s right to be a lawfully constituted State present in the Middle East? The obvious answer is found in the devout Muslem’s appeal to the later verses of the Koran, which have final interpretative authority for him. He denies Israel’s right to control Palestine. Mohammed laid it down in the Quran, and in the Sunna, that the Jews were a fair target for annihilation. Walid Shoeblatt explains this in a video dialogue with Dave Hunt.

When it comes to family squabbles between the sons of Abraham, Ishmael (Arab) and Isaac (Jew) set a fatal precedent into the future, as shown in Genesis 21:10:

“And the child [Isaac] grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. 11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Muslem genealogists trace the descent of Mohammed from Abraham to Ishmael, from Ishmael to Kedar (Bedouin Arabs) and through to Mohammed. Kedar (Gen 25:13) was the tribal founder of the Arab Bedouins, a malignant and fierce people. Kedar was the second son of Ishmael, whose posterity was cruel and merciless. Even before Ishmael was born, God through Moses set out the pattern for all time, as between Ishmael (the Arab) and Isaac (the Jew)

And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. 12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.Gen 16:10

And so it has been, ever since; so it is, and so it will be until Jesus Christ returns to resolve the mess.

Now, the interesting thing is that there are some devout Orthodox Jews living in Jerusalem, with their heads all day long in the Torah (Five Books of Moses). But, neither do they recognise Israel’s right to exist as a State! That’s a bemusing thought, when you consider those same people get privilege and State protection all the while! The so-called ultra-Orthodox say not until Messiah comes will the Israeli government have legitimacy. But, how would they justify such an extreme position? They would doubtless say, ‘God never promised legitimacy to Israel until those who return to Israel do so as believers in Jehovah: most returning Jews are hardly believers, to say the least.’

Whose land is it, Mohammed’s or Moses’? Truth is, the legal ownership of the land of Israel belongs neither to Israel nor to the Islamic ‘authorities.’ It belongs only to Jehovah, who often called ‘eretz Israel “my land.” (2 Chron. 7:20; Isa 14:25; Jer. 2:7; Ezek. 38:5, 16; Joel 1:6; 3:2)

In the KJV of 2 Chron. 7:20 Jehovah refers to the approaching Temple destruction (586 BC) and the Babylonian exile, saying:

Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.

The AV translation mirrors the Massoretic Text of the Hebrew exactly, including the words emphasised above. Every word in the Bible is significant and should be translated for maximum impact. By what right, then, did the NRS translate the verse with the word “my” omitted, as follows ?

Then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

The sophisticated atheistic Israeli ‘polly’ may think he has the freehold rights of the land. On the other hand, the devout Muslem believes he will inevitably ‘retrieve’ the legal rights to the land, thus reversing the 1948 dispossession! Both are wrong. God says, “It’s my land.” Only He actually owns the land, and He will dispose of it through His Son. One day the final campaign of Armageddon will get under way. The prophet Joel flagged this event as early as the eighth century BC:

I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. Joel 3:2

Notice the last three words of this verse!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

'Born on this day'

D.L. Moody had his first spiritual birthday, April 21st 1855, when he was converted to Jesus Christ through Robert Kimball. “It seemed to me I was in love with all creation. I had not a bitter feeling against any man, and I was ready to take all men to my heart.” (1) DL Moody went on to saturate himself in the Bible of the English speaking peoples: the King James Version. As a result he made it accessible to the countless urban masses in the nineteenth century looking for a hope to carry them through a difficult life. He was thought to have travelled more than a million miles and addressed more than 100 million people.” (2)

What did DL Moody believe about the Bible? He accepted it literally for a start. ”Moody rejected attempts to set aside literal interpretation of the crossing of the Red Sea, the story of Jonah and the fish . . . as being essentially objections to the supernatural character of the Bible, and not worthy of the Christian’s serious consideration. “I notice,” said Moody, “if a man goes to cut up the Bible and comes to you with the truth and says, ‘I don’t believe this and I don’t believe that’ – I notice when he begins to doubt portions of the Word of God he soon doubts all.” Verbal plenary inspiration involved verbal infallibility of the scriptures as originally given in Hebrew Aramaic, and Greek, and the King James Version . . . “(3)

Moody lacked the training to approach the Bible critically, and so take its words apart. In that weakness was his greatest strength, for he was thus prepared to affirm what few of our educated contemporaries are willing to believe. He sharpened his general affirmation that the Bible is true with statements that all the Bible is inspired, “yes, every word of it.” [Likewise, Dr. Billy Graham was formally trained in anthropology, not theology – so neither did his training take him away from the KJV]. Such a comment today would be seen by many as unintelligible, even stupid. Yet the highly accomplished textual scholar John Burgon, Dean of Canterbury, held the same view, as he lauds the extreme accuracy of the Received Text (transmitted via the KJV):

". . . [T]his Day's Sermon has had for its object to remind you, that the BIBLE is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the Throne! Every Book of it,-- every Chapter of it,-- every Verse of it,--every word of it,--every syllable of it,-- (where are we to stop?) --every letter of it -- is the direct utterance of the Most High! -- Pasa graphe theopneusto. ‘ Well spake the HOLY GHOST, by the mouth of' the many blessed Men who wrote it. -- The Bible is none other than the Word of God: not some part of it, more, some part of it, less; but all alike, the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the Throne;-- absolute,-- faultless,-- unerring,-- supreme!". (4)

DL Moody’s understanding of God and the needs of the human heart were simply phenomenal. Had the Apostle Paul foresight he might have been thinking of Moody when he said: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.(5)

Because he was prepared to be thought foolish, God chose Moody to confound the wise, and he became an immense blessing to countless numbers of needy people. I guess Proverbs 3:5 was a key thought for him, as he said: “It is easier for me to have faith in the Bible than to have faith in D.L. Moody, for Moody has fooled me lots of times.” (6)

(1) 1963 JC Pollock Moody without Sankey, Lon: Hodder, p. 25

(2) 1974 JD Douglas New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, UK: Paternoster.p. 675.

(3) 1976/99 SH Gundry Love them in: The Life and Theology of D. L. Moody, ILL: Moody Press, p. 209

(4) 1861 JW Burgon Inspiration and Interpretation, LON: Parker. Quoted at
VII SERMON IV.(5) 1 Cor. 1: 27-29

(6) Quoted in Christian History, Christianity Today.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Loss of the single eye

The American National Collegiate Athletic Association decided this year to ban all words and logos, all numbers or other symbols, when embedded in the players' eye black. Eye black has been used for centuries to help reduce the glare of sunlight or stadium lights which impair vision of an airborne ball.  The decision to ban ‘other use’ came out of the controversial habit of hundreds of college football players using their eye black to boast of their hometown, home area code, or their love for mother or girlfriend. But Tebowa dedicated Christian, decided to use his eye black to display a Bible reference, and so promote his faith in Jesus Christ.  After a recent Championship Game, 92 million people googled "John 3:16," the verse Tebow ‘wore’during the game. They needed to find out just what the verse actually said. Do you know?

Anyway, is there a parable here? Why should Tebow have offended other players or spectators, just by putting John 3:16 under his eyes? It suggests American College students might know what the verse says, and don’t need to look it up. Maybe the practice was too confronting, when the symbolic use of eyesight is considered. I “see” means “I understand.” “When you look at me like that, it makes me feel you see my faults!” “How can I make my plays when you look in my direction? What are you saying about me, anyway?” “I’m playing this game for God” means, “I’m obeying Jesus’ words when He implies I should do everything - including sport - with “a single eye” to God’s glory, Matthew 6:22. But, is using eye black in that way really preaching? Apparently so. There must be hope for the future of America!

According to the KJV translators Jesus said in Matthew 6:22,

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light..

I have yet to discover a single more modern translation which has kept the term ‘single eye’ here! Not that “single” is objected to, for being the basic meaning of the original word ‘haplous.’ Rather, it’s that most moderns think Jesus was using the word in a broader sense, of being ‘sound’ or ‘generous.’ The eye is “sound” because there is no speck in it to cloud the vision. Or, it is “generous,” because the translator feels Jesus is still on-topic with his reference to money just before, vss. 19 -21. But, if Jesus meant “sound” in v. 22, he would probably have used the less ambiguous Gk. adjective ‘hugies,’ referring to being sound in health. If he had meant “generous,” then that ties in the expression solely to the immediate context of being generous in giving. But, the saying does not need the supposed link with the earlier verses. It can stand on its own, and the link is not patent. When Jesus gave the Sermon, there’s no proof that the thought in v. 22 immediately succeeded vss 19-21. Matthew collected his material and structured his Gospel without the same concern for rigorous chronological sequence as we might assume. Neither should we assume, as contemporary translations do, that Jesus left the application of v. 22 to be inferred by the audience. On the contrary, it should be spelt out for all to see. Thus, the KJV translators opted for the word’s basic meaning, which is ‘single.’ “It would be quite impossible to improve on’ single’ by which our Translators have rendered it,” says Richard Trench (1).  Any other rendering keeps the literal artificially apart from the figurative, as if Jesus never mixed the literal with the metaphorical in the same breath? Here, he immediately compares the figure of the eye filling the body with light with the ‘single eye’ [someone with only one motive in all he does - to glorify God], which pure motive is, metaphorically speaking, a light on a godly person’s path in every step he/she takes. The effect of removing the idea of a single motive from the translation is to deprive the reader of the immediate application that Jesus intended, which is, as Paul put it, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (2)

This lifestyle is otherwise referred to by Paul as having “singleness of heart”.(3)

David the Psalmist described it when praying Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. (4) Removing the rendering from which we have derived the expression ‘a single eye’ is a loss to the idiomatic stockpile of the English language.

(1) 1880/1985 R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, MI: Eerdmans, p. 204.

(2) 1 Corinthians 10:31

(3) Eph 6:5; Col 3:2

(4) Psalm 86:11

Friday, 16 April 2010

Nature takes the machine out of the skies

Today’s hot news is about a travel crisis after an eruption under a glacier in Eyjafjallajoekull Iceland, the second eruption in less than a month. "The ash . . . is expected to move south overnight. Up to 5,000 flights could be affected. The Republic of Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland all later shut down their airspace entirely, while there is also major disruption in France, Germany, and Poland. Normal air traffic control services cannot be provided to flights in airspaces affected by volcanic ash, requiring the temporary suspension of air traffic. Experts warned that the tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the ash cloud could be sufficient to jam aircraft engines. . . . The problem could persist for a further 48 hours and could last for a few days. The move silenced Heathrow airport, the world's second busiest and stranded tens of thousands of passengers around the world. “All I can do, like anyone else, is sit and wait."(1)

I ask myself, Is this a reminder of the angel’s words to the prophet Daniel But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.(2)

Harry Ironside says, “Men seem to have a perfect mania for travelling from place to place; and human inventions of all kinds are pressed into service to accelerate and make comfortable those who run to and fro. Coupled with this we have the ever widening diffusion of the productions of the printing press, so that knowledge of all kinds is indeed increased.” [For “printing press” read “Internet”!]. On the other hand, E.J. Young says of the phrase “Many shall run to and fro”: “This phrase is extremely difficult to interpret. . . Calvin translates many shall investigate, and Jerome . . . refers the action to the study of the book itself. . . . However . . these views . . do not . . reflect the force of the Heb. verb [which] means “to go,” “to rove about”.” Young then quotes Job 1:7b and Amos 8:12 in support of the literal sense, saying, “The verb appears to describe a vain travelling about in order to discover knowledge . . . for the sake of increasing knowledge.”

Whether the reader sees in these words a specific fulfilment of prophecy just prior to the Lord Jesus’ return to earth, depends on whether he is living in daily expectation of such an imminent event. Gleason Archer’s comment on the verb in “many shall run” is: “[M]any of God’s people who pay heed to these prophetic sayings will eagerly seek to understand how they are presently being fulfilled or how they are going to be fulfilled in the future.” Thus, if we read Daniel 12:4 from the standpoint of Christ’s imminent return, we will not fail to miss the force of this verse. There’s never been so much travel, nor such an accumulation of knowledge. The KJV translators got it right [cp. NRS]. We can read it as it stands; it’s an entirely accurate prediction of current events and conditions.

Image acknowledgement:

(1) Quoted from on the day.
(2) Daniel 12:4.
(3) 1911/74 H.A. Ironside, Daniel the Prophet, NJ: Loizeaux, p. 223.
(4) 1949 Edward J. Young Prophecy of Daniel, MI:Eerdmans, p.258.
(5) 1985 Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 7. MI: Regency, p. 154