Sunday, June 28, 2015

SCOTUS: A NEW KIND OF TYRANNY?

SCOTUS: A NEW KIND OF TYRANNY?

The 5 – 4 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to make all 50 states of the union endorse, encourage and promote unnatural sex by redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is reason for great concern.
First off SCOTUS, to my knowledge, never actually provided a definition of the thousands of years old Biblical institution of marriage that the States are supposed to comply with. And secondly, how on earth did SCOTUS come up with its decision to bring chaos into the American household?
To me it is all quite straightforward and no mystery whatsoever: It is on account of a liberal view of the Constitution and the Holy Scriptures upon which the Constitution is based.
A “wax-nose” view of Scripture is held by Theological liberals whereby, very simply and very briefly, the Bible is viewed as a record of humanity’s search for God rather than God’s revelation to humanity. With such a view the Bible can be twisted this way and that in order to make it say whatever you want it to say.
The refrain is that those people back then do not know what we know today and therefore wrote a lot of things out of ignorance. In other words, they got things wrong! Apply this to the American Constitution and you can see something of where the five of the nine SCOTUS members are coming from. An example of this erroneous way of thinking would be that were James Madison et al to construct the Constitution today they would have most certainly intended that same-sex couples not be excluded from marriage! In other words, (like the Bible as viewed by Liberal Theologians), the Constitution can be twisted (like a wax-nose) to point in whatever direction most suits the political views of the liberal judges! Thus politics not truth that drives these five judges, (unlike the Christian who believes that God’s Law upon which human law is derived is absolute, truth to the liberal is merely relative, which is to say that these judges are Post Modernists and as such, unlike those who hold the Christian worldview, have a worldview of uncertainties.)  
Why should I, as a resident of Australia (not America), care what happens in America? Well, the United States of America is a great experiment, a great Christian experiment! If America goes under the whole of the West goes down with her because America as a world power is what protects and maintains the Western freedoms we all enjoy. America is our big brother defending the rest of us against bullies such as ISIS and the utopian follies of Socialism etc. But alas! There are five liberal judges wanting the whole of the Union to destabilize the very bedrock upon which society, including all of Western society, rests, i.e., Biblical marriage which is between one man and one woman for life!
In light of recent events (such as the vilification of bakers for their refusal to go against their consciences and bake cakes that openly promote a gay lifestyle) as a Christian minister who is a marriage celebrant I am getting a little nervous, foreseeing a time when I will be hated and thrown in prison for my refusal to marry same-sex couples an account of my holding the thousands of years old and Biblical definition of marriage.
Please do not ask me to concur with those five liberal judges who endorse and promote sodomy and now would have every one of the fifty States of America submit to their will and do likewise! This is not freedom. This is not the America of the Founding Fathers! This is tyranny!  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A FATHER'S LOVE


A Father’s Love

 

My wife Dorothy and I share an evening meal once a week at our place with our daughters and their husbands. I was silently watching my little two-year old grandson playing with his daddy. My tall son-in-law was sitting on the carpet and his son had his undivided attention.

I thank the Lord that he gave me three daughters all of whom I love dearly. However, I perceive that there is a special relationship between a father and a son, just as my wife Dorothy has that special ‘girly’ relationship with our three daughters. At the end of our evening together the boy’s dad picks his son up in his strong arms and carries him. It’s plain to see that he loves his son. In this I see a cameo of God’s love for His children.

An Army Chaplain was lamenting that his grandson, the apple of his eye, had grown up and had gone off the rails. I pray for my little grandson daily that he’ll always know a close walk with the Lord. However, I’m reminded that God’s people, from Adam till today, have been known to wander from the well-lit paths of righteousness to play the fool in the shadows. One only has to read the warnings in the Book of Proverbs about the flattering seductress. However, ‘A wise son makes glad a father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother’ Proverbs 10:1. I pray my little grandson will grow up wise!

God’s children in the wilderness years were easily enticed away from their loving heavenly Father. Indeed, it’s during tough times that our love for our Father is most tested.  We look to God to protect us, but when devastation and destruction comes we tend to question His love for us. Wandering in the wilderness His children had been afraid to enter the Promised Land. So Moses in a speech reminded them of how God had looked after them, and, ‘In the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place’ Deuteronomy 1:31.

How does a man carry his son? He wraps his arms around him and holds him close to his heart. But look again at God: ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are His everlasting arms’ Deuteronomy 33:27a. How did Job manage to trust God when his faith was so sorely tested? God asked Job rhetorically, ‘Have you an arm like God?’ Job 40:9a.

I love that poem ‘Footprints in the Sand.’ ‘You promised me Lord, that if I followed You, You would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed You most, have You not been there for me? The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”’
 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

VISIONS


Visions

 Because they were one of God’s methods of revelation the Bible contains a record of many visions. Visions increased with the arrival of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Joel 2:28 with Acts 2:17). One of my favourites is part of what John sees on the Isle of Patmos: ‘Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea’ Revelation 21:1. Sometimes the visions contained real scenes and other times they contained symbols. Context helps us decide which. However, my old theological professor never tired of saying that what John saw was this old heaven and this old earth renewed not replaced!

It is precisely because visions in the Bible are revelation from God that we can determine how we are supposed to understand them. The Bible is self-interpreting, which is to say that ‘The infallible rule of interpretation is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.’ (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1, para. 4)

I don’t know about you but I think there is more than enough going on with the revelation of the sixty-six books of the Bible than having to worry about people claiming to have had a vision. Whereas the former can be interpreted objectively, on account of it being subjective interpreting the latter is fraught with many dangers. Not the least of them being darkness posing as light! I recall one preacher telling his congregation about the vision he had while looking at a tapestry. What it meant to him might have been edifying but it was wasted on me, so much so that I saw it as my cue to leave that congregation to find another in which the Bible was expounded! This is not to suggest that Christians cannot experience the close and intimate presence of God.  However, I personally favour the Spirit working with His written Word in my heart than me wondering whether Satan was trying to trick me with a lying sign or wonder! The former is objective (and therefore can be tested against the rest of Scripture) but the latter is subjective for the one who experienced the vision and also for anyone who wishes to believe it.

New religions have been formed by people claiming to have had visions, e.g., Joseph Smith’s ‘Mormonism’ and Muhammad’s ‘Islam.’   

After my conversion and thus my becoming spiritually tuned into God as a new Christian I entered into an intellectual and emotional wrestling match at the subjective level. How was I supposed to tell the difference between the Spirit of God acting on my personal life and the spirit of darkness posing as light? Scripture says, ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.’ 1 John 4:1. How are we to test the spirits? We test their view of the Jesus revealed in the Bible. Scripture says that He is the Word, the final revelation of God, which is to say that there are no more prophets to come after Him. E.g., ‘God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son’ Hebrews 1a.

The Bible is complete. Jesus is the last prophet. ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth’ Job 19:25.    

Sunday, May 31, 2015

CAN BONES LIVE?


The Spirit of the LORD set Ezekiel in a valley of dry bones and asked him, ‘Can these bones live?’ (Ezek. 37:3) What are bones anyway? I suppose that they are the internal scaffolding that supports the body. Why would Joseph wish to have his bones carried out of Egypt when God rescued Israel from slavery? (Gen. 50:25) Why would Moses take the bones of Joseph with him? (Ex. 13:19) Are we done with our bones when we die? Towards his latter years my father would often say that he was ready for the ‘bone-yard.’ Can bones live?

In the Bible it is considered a thing to be dreaded to have your bones left as food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field (Ezek. 29:5). Abraham made such a big deal out of buying a burial plot for Sarah and himself (Gen. 23; 25:10). Isaac and Rebekah his wife were subsequently buried in the same cave. As was Jacob’s wife Leah. Then Joseph and his brothers buried his father Jacob in the same plot, just as Jacob had commanded them, ‘For his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place’ Genesis 50:13; John 4:5. The LORD Himself buried the bones of Moses. No one knows exactly where (Deut. 34:6). None less than the Devil disputed about the body of Moses (Jude 9). Can bones live?

Some believe in cryonics, having their dead bodies frozen and stored in safety, hoping science will advance enough to be able to resuscitate them. I suppose the opposite to this might be cremation, which to most reasonable minds, would place the dead person well beyond the reach of resuscitation. For, who would expect human dust in an urn sitting on some mantelpiece ever to spring back to life? Can bones live?

As we have seen in the few pages of the Bible mentioned above, believers did not wish that their bodies be thrown on the scrap heap after death. Rather, they wanted to have their bones stored in a safe place. When Jesus was taken down from the cross His dead body was not thrown in the village dump as so much refuse. Rather, His body was carefully washed, wrapped in strips of linen with spices mingled through them. Why all this special care for bodies even after death? The answer is stated in the Apostles’ Creed so-called where therein is written: ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body … and the life everlasting.’ This is why we keep our graveyards neat and tidy! Bones can live!

In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which has been taught to many young Christians since it was written in 1647, we read the following: ‘What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death? The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.’ Notice that Christians believe that their bodies remain united to Christ – even in the grave! He has indeed promised never to leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Yes, I am more than mere flesh and bone. However, I am not less than flesh and bone either! I am body, soul, spirit. As the Apostle under inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, ‘Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Thus we are soul-spirits with bodies. Jesus saves the whole man – including our bones! Bones can live!

The resurrected Jesus made sure that Thomas and the rest of the disciples knew that He was resurrected with the self-same body that was nailed to the tree. ‘“Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marvelled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of fish and some honeycomb. He took it and ate it in their presence’ Luke 24:39-43. Bones can live!

Meanwhile back in the Valley of Dry Bones with Ezekiel: ‘So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. As I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. And He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army’ Ezekiel 37:7-10. Bones can live!
 

Depositing Ashes Service

As Chaplain to "The Rats of Tobruk" in Brisbane I get attend and even officiate at various of their functions. We deposited the ashes of one of the "Rats" at the Military section at Pinnaroo, Brisbane, Queensland. A whole lot more was spoken but the following is an outline of the service for Eddie Stott:

"We are gathered together in the presence of God to remember His sovereignty in death as in life and to seek His Word for our hearts. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)." (Reformed Book of Common Order)

We meet here today to remember Edward Stott, a relative, a friend and a Rat of Tubruk, a member of the Bramble Bay sub-branch of the Rats of Tobruk, and to acknowledge his life and also to place his ashes in their resting place until the day of the general resurrection.

Let us pray:
“Eternal God, before whom the generations of people rise and pass away, we come together before You. As You have sent us into this life, so You have a appointed a time for our departure from it. As You give, so You take away, that we may be mindful of our frailty and acknowledge the brevity of all things here.

“Speak to us in the solemnity of this time as we wait upon You with reverent and submissive hearts. Speak to us through the Scriptures of things eternal and bring comfort, hope and courage to Your faithful people, God of our salvation. AMEN.” (Reformed Book of Common Order)

Jock Hunter, Secretary of the Rats of Tobruk to say a few words…

Reading:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a place a table before me
In the presence of mine enemies:
You anointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23)

Some words of encouragement:
As a “Rat” I’m sure Eddie would have known full well what it was like to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And now Eddie has gone through the veil of death itself after living a long life. We give thanks for that long life.

But friends, if you have the Good Shepherd walking though the valley with you, travelling through life with you, life with all its hills and valleys, you can know the peace that transcends all understanding.

With the Lord as your shepherd you can know an inner peace, a comfort even in the presence of your enemies. For the Lord is as close as the mention of His name. And the Shepherd protects His flock – even as we go through death’s dark valley.

Scripture says that the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. He says that His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. So we follow Him through the valley of the shadow of death. We come out the other side of death just as He did. He was raised again from the dead and at some future date so will all who follow Him.

Eddie’s remains can remain here until that future date.

Placing the Urn
“Eternal God who has been the dwelling place of our fathers in all generations, be to each of us our strength, our fortress, and our refuge in this day of our affliction, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“O God, who of Thy compassion and pity did send Thy Son into this world to suffer and to die for our salvation, we give Thee thanks for His victory over sin on the cross of Calvary. We thank Thee for His triumph for us over death and for His wondrous resurrection which has brought life and immortality to light for all who believe His glorious Gospel. Grant unto us the assurance that, as Christ rose from the dead and became the first fruits of them that slept, so those who fall asleep in Christ rise with Him.

“Almighty God, who dost continue unto us the solemn trust of life, forgive us all our past unfaithfulness. Remind us now of that day when we too shall be called to render our account to Thee. Raise us, by Thy Holy Spirit, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. Grant that we may so live by faith in Thy dear Son that when we shall depart this life we may hear Him say, “Come ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” We ask these things, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ our only Redeemer and Mediator.

“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.” (Reformed Book of Common Order)


Sunday, May 24, 2015

IRELAND REDEFINES MARRIAGE


The Republic of Ireland voted in favour of changing its constitution in order to permit same-sex or homosexual marriage. The people have spoken! Democracy lives in Ireland! However, is the redefining of marriage a wise thing?

Apparently 4% of the Irish population identify themselves as either homosexual/lesbian or bisexual. Sure, the figure may be more due to some wishing not to disclose their sexual preferences but the figure certainly includes homosexuals who are against redefining marriage.  

Be that as it may, but what was wrong with the definition that marriage is between one man and one woman forever (i.e., till death) that the Irish now wish to change it? Well, apparently the Irish wish to bring in “marriage equality,” suggesting that somehow marriage has been unequal up till now. The idea is that if two men or two women “love” each other then they should be allowed to enter into holy matrimony.

The Roman Catholic Church (which is big but waning in Ireland) considers marriage to be one of its seven sacraments. Therefore, this new definition of marriage cannot be incorporated into its Church dogma without papal authority. If we remember this is a church that, for example, without Biblical authority tells its priests that they cannot marry then we will understand that perhaps it may be swayed by public opinion. However, for Biblical Christians the issue is simple. The question is: Is same-sex marriage Biblical? In other words, does God’s Word teach that marriage is only between one man and one woman forever? Of course it does! And there is the rub. Jesus in Matthew 19:3-6 by referring us to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 and 2 is clearly teaching us that marriage is between only mature males and mature females.

To be sure those who do not care what the Bible says about marriage do not care if two people of the same sex get hitched. Some people may be indifferent on this issue. However, those who voted in Ireland have consciously and unequivocally voted to endorse and promote homosexuality in their society. Is this a good thing? What does the Bible say?

The Bible takes a scientific or empirical approach and calls homosexual acts ‘unnatural.” So that you do not miss what the Bible teaches about homosexual acts consider the following: Someone once said, “A square peg in a round hole may be possible with a bit of force – but it is ugly!” Homosexual “marriage” endorses sodomy and buggery and other unnatural acts. And for the record God forbids such unnatural actions between husbands and wives.  

Some may conclude that what two consenting adults (two males or two females) do in private is their business but the whole of the voting public of Ireland have made it their own personal business. The majority has voted to redefine marriage to include what the Bible describes as something unnatural (e.g., Romans 1). That is Ireland’s prerogative as a sovereign state. But is it wise? The Bible says it isn’t. However, the people of Ireland have spoken.

Monday, May 11, 2015

MOODS


Moods

 As human beings we are subject to various moods. Certain things may put us in a bad mood, e.g. our sports team losing the grand final or the loss of your wallet. A good mood may come upon us when our team wins or we come into money. When it comes to moods we can run the whole gamut from elation all the way down to depression. Our moods are tied to our emotions. If grumpy someone may ask if we got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, and if happy we may be asked if we have just won the lottery! Some of us may spend years trying to keep a lid on our emotions; anger, anxiety etc. However, moods are part of human nature. Mood swings usually relate to responses to events.

Jesus, the perfect human, wept beside a friend’s grave, got angry with money-lenders, and experienced both joy and sorrow. Jesus, being God, has two natures, divine and human. Theologians debate whether Jesus’s divine nature felt pain and suffered when He was on the cross. If we keep in mind that Jesus is one divine Person with two distinct natures forever we’ll get something of an idea how hard it is to know if God has emotions. In other words, a Person not a nature experiences emotion. Oil and water don’t mix and neither do Christ’s two natures. Oil on water can be set on fire but not the water. This is because oil and water have different properties. Therefore, it would seem safe to assume that the divine Person of Christ would experience emotion on two distinct levels, i.e., the physical level and the divine level. The following example may be a tad gruesome but a person having their leg amputated without anaesthetic could be asked how the pain they were experiencing was affecting them emotionally. In other words, we too are affected on different levels.

    Was God in a good mood the day He poured out His angry wrath on His Son as He hung on the cross for the sins of His people? Did the Father experience sadness when His Son died? Did the Spirit mourn or grieve when the Son was laid in the tomb? Did God shout for joy when His Son was raised from the dead? I think we can safely say that God experienced all these moods – humanly speaking! And there’s the rub. We simply have to say that God is without human passions. Otherwise we run the risk of confusing the two natures of Christ.

Is there any practical application in knowing that God through Jesus Christ knows human emotion at a human and divine level? Well, first off let’s acknowledge that God is not subject to moods. You’ll never catch God having a bad day! He’s not subject to His creation or any events. He’s in sovereign control of all things. Hence we hold that Almighty God is without passions (at least as we understand them). Secondly, because in God ‘there is no variation or shadow of turning’ we can approach Him knowing  He won’t chew our heads off for disturbing Him! As the Prophet Jonah said, ‘You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm’ Jonah 4:2b, (cf., Exodus 34:6-7). And thirdly, because of God’s grace we can say ‘“No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives’ Titus 2:12. Therefore, let’s work towards controlling our moods rather than having them control us.

Don’t wait till you’re in the mood: call on Christ today!