Saturday, July 22, 2017

Compassionate Calvin

(Excerpted from my The Nexus: The True Nature of Nature, which compares and contrasts Darwin's view of nature with that of Calvin): 

https://www.amazon.com/NEXUS-True-Nature-ebook/dp/B006WHGINI/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500685189&sr=1-13&refinements=p_82%3AB006NTVAWY

John Calvin (1509-64) systematized the Christian Religion at the time when the Church that had become very deformed under the papacy and Roman Catholicism, was being reformed. Reformed Christianity, to which I adhere, began at the time of the great Reformation – a time of getting back to what the Bible really teaches.


Perhaps you have been inoculated against Reformed Christianity and the Christian worldview. Perhaps some portion of misinformation propagated by anti-Christians such as Michel Onfray or Richard Dawkins has so gotten stuck in your craw that it causes you to spit whenever you hear Calvin’s name mentioned! A small sample of the teeth gnashing and vitriol spewing that the name of Calvin causes in some can be found in the following caricature of Calvin 
and some of his Biblical understandings, as painted by the Darwinist and ‘journalist’ Christopher Hitchens,


"According to the really extreme religious totalitarians, such as John Calvin, who borrowed his awful doctrine from Augustine, an infinity of punishment can be awaiting you even before you are born. Long ago it was written which souls would be chosen or ‘elected’ when the time came to divide the sheep from the goats. No appeal against this primordial sentence is possible, and no good works or profession of faith can save one who has not been fortunate enough to be picked. Calvin’s Geneva was a prototypical totalitarian state, and Calvin himself a sadist and torturer and killer, who burned Servetus (one of the great thinkers and questioners of the day) while the man was still alive. The lesser wretchedness induced in Calvin’s followers, compelled [them] to waste their lives worrying if they had been ‘elected’ or not…"

              Hitchens goes on to state that he has had some crazy people phone him ‘with hoarse voices condemning me to death or hell or both’ … And of ‘the eternal blackening of my name by religious frauds and liars.’ Crazy people are crazy whatever their worldview, but, in the interest of truth, sanity, and the un-blackening of the name of John Calvin, Francis Nigel Lee sets the record straight,

"Servetus had blasphemously described the most blessed Trinity as a three-headed dog and a monster from hell! Yet even at a time when the Catholic Inquisition was seeking to slay Servetus and every Protestant city in Europe had expelled him or condemned him, Calvin corresponded with him and sent him a copy of his Institutes. For Calvin sought to win Servetus to Christ!

"Knowing full well that Calvin favoured the punishment of exile for heretics and the death penalty for blasphemers, the wretched Servetus arrogantly made his way to Geneva planning to overthrow Calvin and de-christianize the city. Put on trial by the civil magistrates of Geneva (and not by Calvin who was neither a judge nor a citizen of that city) Servetus was found guilty of blasphemy and sedition and sentenced to death by burning. Calvin unsuccessfully tried to get Servetus to recant his errors. When Servetus would not recant, Calvin pleaded for a milder form of punishment. And later still, Calvin also pleaded with Servetus in his death cell to get right with God and accept the Divine Christ as his Lord and Master!
                "Rarely in the annals of history has so much evangelical concern ever been shown to such a monstrous miscreant, as Calvin showed to Michael Servetus, enemy of Christ and Christianity and of public law and order! Even during that highly intolerant age, the gentle Calvin tenderly yet firmly presented Christ and His salvation to the very man who had sought to destroy him!" 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TEENAGERS


Teenagers

Should parents brace themselves and expect trouble when their children become teenagers? Well, first off it shocks me to hear parents say that they are trying to raise their children without outwardly influencing them, so that they can ‘decide for themselves’ which religion or what they want to believe when they are older! However, the Bible makes it plain that Christian parents are to ‘Train up the child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it’ Proverbs 22:6. To paraphrase in broad terms: ‘Catechise the child on which way you want them to go, and when he starts to sprout a beard or when she begins to menstruate, he or she will continue to obey what you have taught them.’ Thus, Christian parents ought not to expect that little Johnny or Jenny will automatically ‘go off the rails’ at puberty or beyond!

But what are teenagers faced with in the ‘real world’? Promiscuity and pregnancy, drug and alcohol-dependency, bawdy-songs? or, as they say, ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll!’? Teens ought not to be left to experiment and make up their own minds about these things. For obviously this simply is asking for trouble. Sex is not evil. Neither are drugs. The same way that not all rock ‘n’ roll consists of bawdy songs! Rather than an outright condemnation of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, the Bible simply sets the parameters. Parents are to train up their children in these areas, i.e., warn them of the dangers of the illicit use and abuse of sex and drugs (and drink), and how a lot of modern pop-music accompanies and encourages and even glorifies an ungodly life-style.

If the old adage is true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, then teenagers must be impressionable! If older people get ‘set in their ways’, then we must point our children in the way they should go during their formative years. Teenagers apparently love to leave the church in droves. How should we retain our youth? Introduce rock ‘n’ roll sounding bands? ‘The Scriptural formula for keeping teenagers in Church is to catechize them as infants.’ Richard Bacon.

Presbyterians have been making good use of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for well over three hundred years to train up their children in the way they should go. In a series of 107 questions and answers it simply teaches what the Bible has to say about each question raised. E.g., Westminster Shorter Catechism 9: ‘Quest. What is the work of creation? Ans. The work of creation is, God’s making all things out of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.’ I chose this example to illustrate something of the problem teenagers face today. Did God create everything out of nothing? Did He simply command things into being? Did He do it over the space of six days? And was everything ‘very good’ in the beginning? The untrained and unequipped, i.e., the un-catechised teenager, will have all their bones broken in pieces and will be eaten alive if he or she falls into the lion’s den of non-Christian education! But Daniel said, ‘Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His… He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things… You have given me wisdom and power.’ Daniel 2:20-23.
           Teenagers need to know how to negotiate life’s journey. Therefore, let us teach them how to glorify God and enjoy Him forever

Friday, June 30, 2017

REST IN PEACE


REST IN PEACE

The other week, Patsy and Helen wanted to know what the title of my little Homily was going to be, so that they could put it into today’s Order of Service. I wasn’t really sure, until I was sitting in Church last Sunday morning. That’s when it just sort of came to me: “Rest In Peace!” I wanted the title to reflect, or at least summarize, the essence of the previous reading, in particular the bit where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus is saying that He will give rest to anyone who comes to Him, that that person will find rest for their soul. 

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Labouring and being heavy laden includes the troubles we face in this life. However, it also means being weighed down by the knowledge of what the Bible calls “sin”, an acute knowing that you don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s the burden of an awakened conscience, an accusing conscience that gives you no rest – until you come to Jesus!

The meaning of this is deep, very deep, deeper than the deepest ocean. It is beautifully summed up in the words of George Matheson’s beautiful hymn: 
“O, love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

The love of Jesus is the type of love that will not let you go. It is an eternal love, a love that lasts forever. That’s why George Matheson could write those words, “I rest my weary soul in Thee!” 

Matheson was born in Glasgow in 1842. He wrote that hymn forty years later, and said, “I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes.” It sort of just came to him on the eve of his sister’s wedding. 

Matheson himself had been engaged to be married some twenty years or so earlier. But when his fiancée discovered that he was going blind, and that there was nothing the doctors could do about it, she said that she couldn’t go through life with a blind-man. So she left him! His sister’s wedding reminded him of that tragic time. His sister had looked after him in his years of blindness, and now, by getting married, understandable as it was, she was leaving him too!

People will disappoint you. They have their own lives to lead with their own sets of problems, but the love of Jesus will never let you go! You need to rest in Him. His rest is forever. As did George Matheson before him, so Allan Barker has entered into His eternal rest.

It causes us pain to lose a loved-one. But Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” He wants us to come to Him, and to be yoked to Him, as in the old days oxen were yoked or joined together to plough a field or whatever. Jesus says His yoke is easy. It’s easy and light because He does all the heavy-lifting! But you have to open your heart to Him. You have to trust Him, trust His promise, even in times of grief, times when we go through pain.

“Oh, joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.”

Allan loved rural Australia. Can you picture a thunderstorm rolling through the Outback? Can you see the ghost gumtrees against the backdrop of dark thunderclouds? Can you hear the sulphur-crested cockatoos shrieking as they flee the deluge? Can you see and smell the steam rising from the hot earth after the storm has passed through? Can you see the magnificent rainbow in the sky?

George Matheson said that he changed only one word after he had written his beautiful hymn, because he was asked to. It’s in the line that speaks of the rainbow, the sign of God’s covenant promise. Instead of, “I trace the rainbow through the rain” the original had “I climb the rainbow through the rain.” Climbing rainbows in the rain gives a picture of hardship, weary toil. The years of weary toil are over for Allan Barker!

I visited Allan a few times when he was at the Care Centre in Ferny Grove before he moved down to Victoria. One of the things Allan is remembered for is being a Rat of Tobruk. He was twenty-two years old when he was involved in the Siege of Tobruk in1941. Surviving that he then went on to reach the rank of Lieutenant and even living to the right good age of ninety-eight! Wow! 

One of the downsides to living that long is that you lose a lot of your old friends over the years simply by outliving them! Then Allan lost his wife Daphne (Del) in October 2012. How hard it is to lose the ones we love! And now it’s Allan’s turn. So, we say for Allan, a friend, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a great, great grandfather, and a Rat of Tobruk, “Rest In Peace.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NO CORRUPTION!


NO CORRUPTION!

What was Adam like before he sinned? Well, we have acknowledged something just by asking this question, which is that there once was time when Adam was without sin! Therefore, we can safely say that the sinless Adam would be void of all of sin’s corrupting effects on every aspect of his being, body, soul, and spirit. None of us can say that of ourselves, none except Jesus! Indeed, Scripture refers to “the first man Adam” and to Jesus as “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45).

To sin is to break God’s Law, because “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Thus, neither the first Adam (pre-Fall) or the last Adam (post-Fall) were lawless, i.e., sinners. Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15b. It was when Adam ate the forbidden fruit that he (and we) became sinners, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” Romans 5:12. “For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23a.

Whereas the first Adam subsequently became corrupted, the last Adam always remained uncorrupted, i.e., without the decaying effects of sin, body, soul, and spirit. Scripture says that even in death Jesus’ body saw no corruption! “‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David … fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption, but He whom God raised up saw no corruption” Acts 16:34b-35. Thus, even in death the last Adam remained as was the first Adam pre-Fall, i.e., without corruption!


Did Jesus really die on the cross then? Of course He did! And He died for our sins, not His own. He had no sin of His own. Whilst nailed to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” Luke 23:46. James says that “the body without the spirit is dead” James 2:26. Therefore, according to the Bible, human death occurs when the spirit leaves the body. Then the rot sets in – but not for Jesus! For He “saw no corruption.” Thus, in death, unlike King David and unlike Lazarus, Jesus’ body saw no decay, no putrefaction.

How was it that Jesus saw no corruption after being dead “three days”? Was He cryogenically frozen to preserve His organ tissue? Was He embalmed? No! He was taken down from the cross and had His body wrapped in strips of linen. Then He was laid to rest in a tomb. Let’s just say that even in death God preserved Him, body and soul and spirit. “‘A body You have prepared for Me’” and “‘Not one of His bones shall be broken’” and “‘For You will not leave My soul in Hades’” and “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’ and “‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ Hebrews 10:5b; John 19:36b; Acts 16:34b.

Jesus was incorruptible before He was raised from the dead and He is certainly incorruptible after He was raised from the dead! Do you want to know what something with no corruption looks like? Then look to Jesus!

Scripture says, “It is not yet revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” 1 John 3:2b. For us then, when we are raised from the dead, just like Jesus, we will have no corruption. “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
See also:
https://escapethebox.blog/blog/


Friday, June 2, 2017

MYTHS & MYSTERIES


Myths & Mysteries

Myths and mysteries invariably make me think of mists, (perhaps because the words sound so similar?) And when I think of mists, I think of viewing Scottish scenery in the rain, which in turn reminds me of what the Bible says about faith: ‘Now faith is the confidence of what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.’ Hebrews 11:1. Faith kicks in whenever a tour guide says that there is a mountain over there when all we can see is mist! Thus, there are times when the tour guide needs to be taken at their word!

Some call the Bible a book of myths, while others believe its truthfulness but acknowledge that it contains certain mysteries. The Bible claims to have been written by God (albeit using men). Should we take the Bible’s ‘tour guide’ at His word? Or should we just climb back onto the bus out of the rain? If faith is ‘assurance about what we do not see,’ we must presume the tour guide knows what they are talking about.

The tour guide for the Christian is the triune God, Father, Son or Word, Holy Spirit. And God says, ‘In the beginning God [i.e., ‘Elohim’, a plurality of Persons, He, in the singular] created the heavens and the earth’ Genesis 1:1. Is this a myth? Is this a mystery? Is this a mountain covered in scotch mist? Well, the Bible says ‘what may be known about God is plain … because God has made it plain … For since the creation of the world [i.e., the cosmos] God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse’ Romans 1:19-20. The sun, the moon, the planets and the stars, the earth, the sea and the skies, the flora and the fauna, the bens and the glens (i.e., mountains and valleys), you and me – everything, has been made by God. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made’ John 1:1-3.

Are you still sitting there on the bus viewing everything through steamed-up windows? Or are you out there walking around looking at things with the ‘tour guide’? Are you sitting there thinking that God is a myth? Or are you walking with the Lord while contemplating the mystery of the Trinity? There’s a big difference between these two ways of thinking. The ‘tour guide’ says of the former that he/she is one of those who ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’ Romans 1:18. Of the latter He says, ‘The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law’ Deuteronomy 29:29. Yes, how can God be three Persons but one God? How can ‘Our Father which art in heaven … give us [who art on earth] this day our daily bread’? How can the Son/Word, i.e., Jesus, be both God and Man in One Person? And, how can the Spirit of God be everywhere at once while ‘hovering over the waters’?

Dear Christian, you are not on a mystery tour. And you have not come to a mist-covered mountain. ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem … You have come to God … to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant’ Hebrew 12:22-24.

Dear non-Christian, come off the bus, join us as we explore myths and mysteries with our ‘tour guide.’ He knows all things!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

MOODS


Moods

Some people are moody. You never know what you’re going to get with them. Will they be in an angry or a happy mood today? It can be a bit like Esther approaching the king, will I get my head cut off or will he be pleased to see me?

Outward things, such as décor and music, may help to set our various moods. From dark and dingy to bright and bubbly, colours and wall-designs may affect our mood. Glenn Miller had a big hit in 1940 with the tune ‘In the Mood.’ Hearing it may put you in the mood for dancing! They had a young David play his harp for King Saul to try to change his mood (1 Samuel 16:23). It has been said that music soothes the soul.

We talk of ‘being under the weather.’ I can relate to this! I lived on the west coast of Scotland for some nineteen years, but have now lived in Queensland, Australia for twenty-odd years. Let me open the curtains in the morning to bright and sunny weather any day, over looking out at cold, wet and windy Scottish weather! Even fickle weather can set your mood for the rest of the day.

We tend to hum, whistle or sing when we’re happy. ‘Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.’ James 4:13b. In the Bible, it’s obvious that words, tunes and instruments help set the mood. Some Psalms have musical directions in their headings, e.g., ‘To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments.’ Psalm 4. ‘To the Chief Musician. With flutes.’ Psalm 5. ‘To the tune of “Death of the Son.”’ Psalm 9. ‘Set to “The Deer of the Dawn.”’ Psalm 22. ‘Set to “The Lilies.”’ Psalm 45.

Then there are the reactions of others to our actions that can have us either singing praises or singing the blues, such as, receiving applause or receiving boos for something we have done, (e.g., performing, baking a cake, winning or losing at sports). We can be thankful that those two men that Jesus had called Boanerges, i.e., Sons of Thunder, are not God. They wanted to send thunderbolts to consume a village full of Samaritans because they would not listen to what had they had to say about Jesus. Jesus ‘turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them’ Luke 9:55-56.

   God is not moody. To be sure, in places the Bible speaks of God as being angry or grieved or pleased or displeased etc., in apparent reaction to certain human activities. And yes, God blesses obedience and curses disobedience. However, since He knows the end from the beginning, there is nothing that can sneak up and surprise Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Therefore, He is the mood-setter. ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.’ James 1:17. We can be thankful that God never wakes up in a grumpy mood! For God does not sleep (Psalm 121:4).

God is the Creator, Ruler and Sustainer of all creation. He puts the décor in place (Genesis 1; Psalm 104). He controls the weather (Jonah 1:4; Mark 4:39). And it was He who gave us music. It once said on a wall of an old German opera house: ‘Bach gave us God’s Word. Mozart gave us God’s laughter. Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us Music that we might pray without words.’

May your mood be good.

Monday, April 17, 2017

REVIVAL!


REVIVAL!

What is meant by the word “revival” when Christians use it? I’m sure most would agree that a rival has something to do with the movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men, women and children in any community, causing them to be born again, i.e., born of the Spirit.

Of the Spirit Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8.

The most obvious revival recorded in the Bible surely is that of Acts 2, where the “Promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49; cf., Joel 2:28-29) is poured out by the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26) on the church into which about 3,000 souls were added at that time (Acts 2:41, 47).

Revival, then, is when God, by His Spirit working with His Word, convicts people of their sins and enables them to believe in God for salvation (Acts 2:8; 11,14-37).

Revival is Trinitarian. The Spirit enables people to see the Son who tells us, that to see and to know Him, is to see and to know the Father. (John 14:7; 16:14). God is triune. He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct Persons who are/is one God – a community in eternal covenant with each Other.

Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27. He is Saviour of His people. “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21b. Jesus berated some Jews who were not His people, “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” John 10:26. Thus, revival takes place wherever the Word is faithfully proclaimed, God’s people are present, and the Spirit is pleased to work in their hearts. E.g., “So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood [i.e., a pulpit] which they had made for the purpose... And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people … and the Levites helped the people understand the Law … So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:4-8 abridged). Thus, though the Spirit works with the Word, the Word needs to be proclaimed. The people need to be given the sense of it, and helped to understand it.

The Gospel message is the means by which Jesus calls His sheep. It is the duty of His Church to ensure that people hear the message of the Gospel. His people attend worship services and Bible gatherings, hear and are taught the Word. Then they take what they have learned and spread it abroad in their respective communities (whether at work, or at rest, or at play).


Revival only takes place when the Spirit is pleased to move in a special way in a community – like Europe during the Reformation, like America before its War of Independence and during its Civil War, like in Wales during the Welsh Revivals, like on the Isle of Lewis during its revival etc.

Revival is not about giving any given community or its members the opportunity of salvation. Rather, like ordinary faithful preaching, it is a means by which the Good Shepherd calls those who are His sheep, those who have been chosen beforehand by the Father (John 17:2, 9; Ephesians 1:4). Therefore, the Church needs to keep on getting the Gospel right. Otherwise the bugle call will be unclear and we may end up like the pre-Reformation Church (darkness!) as opposed to the Post- Reformation Church (light!) – post tenebras lux.

Revival would occur, (nay it would already be occurring because the Spirit would already be at work), if the Church was to follow that well-known “revival passage” in 2 Chronicles: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.