shaking  hands ryan2point0wordpresscomWe think of the word Establishment to mean those running the country who govern our lives.

However, in the May 2015 issue of Tatler, Matthew Bell tells us (p. 104):

In 1955, Henry Fairlie, political commentator of The Spectator, coined the term ‘Establishment’ … As Fairlie said: ‘The exercise of power in Britain (more specifically, in England) cannot be understood unless it is recognised that it is exercised socially.’

The article goes on to look at what Tatler call A-Grade Entertainers who bring together the notional great and the good. They throw grand parties, host weekends away and introduce other influential people to each other.

Of course, this has been going on forever not only in England but all over the world. Matthew Bell did fine work looking at hosts from a century ago as well as those today. Some are household names, others less so. He also explored what a top host needs to succeed. Besides the obvious connections, money and large house, one also needs bags of charm, endless patience, interest in others and a good sense of humour.

My point is that conspiracy theorists would do better to study these political-artistic social connections rather than focus on Bilderberg and the Masons.

A-listers enjoying champagne and canapés at someone’s home are likely a more representative nexus of power.

Holy Spirit as dove stained glassSunday, May 24, 2015, is Pentecost Sunday, traditionally called Whit Sunday.

In the UK, the last Monday in May is Whitsun Bank Holiday. This year is one of those infrequent times when the Church feast coincides with that very weekend.

Pentecost is considered as being the Church’s birthday. The original group of Apostles and disciples were equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, enabling them to preach, teach and heal in the name of Christ. The Church was able to expand during this Apostolic Age, embracing not only Jews but also Gentiles. Although the Apostolic Age ended when the original group left this mortal coil, we, too, receive the same gifts from the Holy Spirit which continue to operate in a quieter though still powerful way. My post from 2010 explains more.

Students of the New Testament know that the Holy Spirit did not come by accident. At the Last Supper, our Lord promised His followers a Helper to enable them to continue His work. My 2012 post has a Lutheran perspective on Pentecost from Martin Luther as well as Pastors Larry Peters and Johnold Strey.

My 2013 post features a Reformed explanation of Pentecost, highlighting a sermon by the Revd P G Mathew, formerly of India. Dr Mathew worked as a scientist before ordination. He is a Reformed (Calvinist) clergyman with three graduate degrees in theology and serves as pastor of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California.

Mathew has another sermon which is apposite for Pentecost, ‘Christ’s Great Commission’. It is particularly apposite for those who feel that our Lord is distant. In the following excerpts, Mathew explains why this is far from the truth (emphases mine):

In John 14:18 Jesus promised his disciples: “I will not leave you as orphans”–meaning as those who are homeless, defenseless, fatherless, and motherless. This is true. He will be with us by his Holy Spirit, and he will be with us always. He will be with us every moment of every day all our days until the end of the age. This means that when we are young he is with us; when we are old he is with us; when we are weak he is with us; when we are strong he is with us; when we are sick he is with us; when we are healthy he is with us; when we are poor he is with us; when we are rich he is with us; when we are attacked he is with us; when we are hated he is with us; when we are beaten he is with us; when we are stoned, as Stephen was, he is with us; when we are martyred he will be with us. He gives grace, doesn’t he? Though we go through the flood and the fire, God will be with us, all the days of our lives …

In Hebrews 13:5 God says “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Then the writer to the Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (v. 8). To St. Paul this Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). And Paul drew this tremendous conclusion: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10). In Philippians 4:13 he declared , “I can do everything through who give me the strength.”

God has given us peace in Christ. He said, “I am with you always”–to bless us, to keep us and to give us peace. And in Luke 24:52 it says the disciples who were timid, fearful, and hiding now returned to Jerusalem with great joy as a result of this blessing. They hid no longer. They went into the temple to praise and worship God. The Lord blessed them and gave them peace. He gave them courage and boldness. Soon afterwards they received the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the great commission beginning in Jerusalem and going to the ends of the earth. [Evangelist] William Carey was right–the Lord expects the commission to continue until he comes again.

Let us, therefore, use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to further the Gospel, through words when we can and through impeccable example when we cannot.

June 18, 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

File:Napoleon-Bonaparte-4085.jpgLittle did Napoleon Bonaparte realise that he would end up exiled on one of the most remote islands in the world — even today. (Photo credit: villains.wikia.com)

The Duke of Wellington, who commanded a coalition army of British, German and Dutch forces, emerged victorious.  (Photo credit: thisdaythen.blogspot.com)

The Battle of Waterloo was important not only because Napoleon lost but also (emphases mine):

It definitively ended the series of wars that had convulsed Europe—and involved many other regions of the world—since the French Revolution of the early 1790s. It also ended the First French Empire and the political and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest commanders and statesmen in history.[ab] Finally, it ushered in almost half a century of international peace in Europe; no further major conflict occurred until the Crimean War.

After his decisive defeat, Napoleon:

attempted to flee to the United States, but the British blocked his escape route. He surrendered to British custody and spent the last six years of his life in confinement on the remote island of Saint Helena. His death in 1821, at the age of 51, was received by shock and grief throughout Europe and the New World. In 1840, roughly one million people lined the streets of Paris to witness his remains returning to France, where they still reside at Les Invalides.[8]

It is for these reasons that we still speak of a Waterloo moment two centuries later.

Other men have also had Waterloo moments, although not of this scale. The Red Bulletin, Red Bull’s freebie magazine which appears in various countries around the world, includes some of their stories in its June 2015 issue.

As for Napoleon, the magazine says that his true Waterloo moment was not so much defeat in battle but the subsequent exile to St Helena (p. 22)!

Summarised below are a few of the magazine’s lesser, but still significant, Waterloo moments in history.

Inventors and designers

These unsung heroes are news to me and may be to you, too. From ‘Forgotten Heroes’ on page 24 of the magazine:

Coffee: Did you know that the 21st century coffee capsule was actually invented in 1970? Eric Favre presented his invention to Nestlé at that time but the multinational rejected it in favour of … instant coffee. So last century!

Logo: Nike lucked out with their swoosh logo, which Carolyn Davidson designed when she was a student. Nike paid her $35 for the ubiquitous design. Fortunately, the company later gave her shares in their stock as further recognition.

Photography: Who knew that photography was invented in Brazil in 1833? Hercules Florence, a painter, was the man, but he kept his invention private. Europeans, developing techniques separately, got the credit.

Physics: In 1956, physicist Hugh Everett published his work positing the existence of a parallel universe. His peers denounced him as being mad. Consequently, Everett retired from his scientific work. Nearly 60 years later, the basic tenets of his theories have been widely acknowledged — and accepted.

Never say never

These men were sure of their convictions — and badly mistaken. From ‘The Faulty Forecasts’ on page 26:

Trains: In 1838, Prussia’s Frederick William III said railways would never take off:

What would the advantage be of arriving somewhere a couple of hours earlier?

Planes: An unnamed Boeing engineer said in 1933 that the twin-engine Boeing 247, capable of carrying 10 people, represented the apogee of aircraft technology:

There will never be a bigger plane built.

Music: In 1962, talent scout Dick Rowe refused to sign the Beatles to Decca Records:

Guitar groups are on their way out.

Conclusion

For some it’s a Waterloo moment, for others, it’s eating humble pie.

When we are too confident of our abilities or predictions, it might be advisable to stay silent and see how things develop!

Sometimes I feel younger than I actually am. Could I be thinking like the Millennial generation?

Specifically:

– Working for enjoyment not necessarily advancement or a big salary.

– Preferring a slower pace of life to loads of activity.

– Enjoying the quiet moments in life.

– Dreading when the phone rings and preferring email instead.

– Taking time to smell the roses.

– Enjoying board games.

The London Evening Standard‘s ES Magazine had a feature in their May 15, 2015, issue: ‘How slow can you go?’ by Richard Godwin (pp. 17-18).

Godwin tells us that Londoners are the fourth fastest walkers in the world but that some Millennials are opting out and rebelling by taking life easier.

There is now a board game café in London where the younger generation gathers to have a friendly beer and play draughts (checkers, for my American readers).

These men and women have grown up with various incarnations of video games and, quite frankly, have tired of them.

Similarly, they are spending fewer hours online. The Internet detracts from their leisure time.

Slow-drip coffee is replacing espresso in establishments which Millennials frequent.

The BBC caught up with the slow trend to bring us Slow TV earlier this year:

A two-hour canal trip down one of Britain’s historic waterways, an hour of uninterrupted birdsong and a close-up, real-time examination of the making of a glass jug are among the “deliberately unhurried” programmes beginning on BBC4 on Sunday.

The season of programmes is intended as an antidote to the digital age, reflecting a recent Scandinavian TV phenomenon that can be traced back to the earliest days of film.

Cassian Harrison, the editor of BBC4, said: “We are so used to the conventional grammar of television in which everything gets faster and faster, we thought it would be interesting to make something that wasn’t continually shouting at you and coming up with the next climactic moment.”

It was highly popular and it seems the broadcaster is planning another series.

Of course, there is also Slow Food, although that movement started with an earlier generation back in 1989. Italian Carlo Petrini and his friends — old enough to have Millennial children — have seen Slow Food expand worldwide.

When it comes to work, Millennials are looking for careers rather than jobs. They will accept lower pay if they are doing something they enjoy. They are also looking for flexibility in employment — unconventional hours and overseas postings.

It seems to be a Western thing, however. PwC Global conducted a survey of their own younger employees on the topic of work-life balance:

PwC’s NextGen study also uncovered similarities and differences among Millennial employees around the world. For example, Millennial workers in each participating PwC office aspire to have greater work/life balance, but the issue appears to be less of a priority among workers in the East region (Pacific nations) than in other parts of the world.

Older generations criticise Millennials for being lazy. However, the glut of university degrees actually devalues further education, making it difficult to get on the career ladder. Without a decent-paying job, it then becomes hard to move out of the family home into one’s own abode. Having enough money to marry and raise children responsibly in these circumstances is also an issue.

So, it is no wonder that Millennials are living life in the slow lane — whilst playing the waiting game.

That said, in response to a contentious article in Elite Daily and the ensuing explosive comments, reader Brad Cahill said that every generation goes through the same thing in terms of time:

It ticks at the same speed for everybody… and you’ll get your turn too. The notion that any particular generation is in any way better than another is absurd. All meet with their own challenges indigenous to their lifespans. Neither good nor bad… it all simply is. Relax and do your best… that’s it.

Sound advice. Unfortunately, he was told that he was too old to know what he was talking about!

Bible ancient-futurenetMy thanks to cyberfriend Lleweton for this news item.

On May 14, 2015, the Daily Express reported that Aberystwyth University will no longer place Gideon Bibles in student accommodation because they are

inappropriate in a multicultural university …

Those words did not come from a university spokesperson, however, but from Aberystwyth student John David Morgan.

He and another student, Daniel Brothers, are behind the move.

The Students’ Union conducted a poll to gauge support for the Bible restriction. Aberystwyth University has 10,000 students, but only five per cent of them turned up to participate. Although 63 per cent approved of the restriction, that was only 300 students.

The article refers to a ban, but it is a call for the routine placement of Bibles in every room to be stopped.

An earlier vote took place on campus last year, garnering a similar small participation with a huge negative result:

A survey of students at Pentre Jane Morgan halls of residence, conducted by Aberystwyth Students’ Union in 2014, found almost half felt the compulsory inclusion of the holy book placed in rooms by Christian evangelists Gideon International was “uncomfortable” or “unacceptable”.

It also reportedly found only four per cent stated their inclusion in rooms were a “good idea”.

But the Students’ Union has been blasted for passing a motion that gathered so few votes in its favour.

On its website, the Students’ Union said the 475 votes cast was “almost double the minimum requirement” as set out in their “democratic structure”.

A spokesperson added: “475 students voting is a higher number than any attendance at a democratic meeting and so we are delighted that we have managed to open up democratically to this extent.”

According to John David Morgan, students will still be able to request a Bible.

How long, though, before being seen reading one will be taboo?

As for Aberystwyth’s administration, the Huffington Post says:

The university said it would review the situation, pending on the SU vote.

Let’s hope they overturn the proposal, approved by such a small number of students.

On Sunday, May 17, 2015, the 1 p.m. BBC1 news broadcast had a segment about the likely possibility that Islamic State (IS) militants are on board migrant boats to Europe.

A summary of the story is on the BBC website.

Abdul Basit Haroun, an adviser to the Libyan government, is saying what Egyptian and Italian officials surmised months ago.

Haroun says he has had conversations with smugglers in parts of North Africa controlled by militants.

According to him, IS allows the boats to continue operating as long as they receive half the income. As Libya has had such a weak central government, it is easy for IS to take control of the situation. Local militias also are thought to be partners with the smugglers.

The televised news story explained that, in some cases, IS arranges with the boat owner to take a certain number of militants. Once on board, these militants are segregated from the migrants. The men in charge of the boat are told in advance that the boats must not capsize and must complete the journey. It is thought that these journeys have been successful thus far.

Once the migrants land in Europe, the IS militants blend in with everyone else and could be travelling anywhere. Authorities would have a difficult time detecting them and, for this reason, have little evidence this is happening.

However, that does not mean it is not happening.

Meanwhile, Europe has thousands of home-grown radicals going to Syria with others returning from the country.

The centrist London Evening Standard has the best coverage of the situation in the UK.

Last week, the paper told us that a 17-year old Londoner who intended to fight with ISIS then returned once he arrived in Turkey will face no prosecution, even though he refused to participate in a government counter-radicalisation programme:

… the prosecution had to be abandoned after the  Attorney General, the Government’s top law officer, refused to authorise the charge. He ruled that taking the boy to court would not be in the public interest because of his age and immaturity and the fact that he came home before entering Syria to fight.

The decision is the only occasion on which the prosecution of a Syria-related offence has been vetoed on the grounds of public interest despite the existence of enough evidence to justify charges.

Anything could happen now.

In April, the father of a 15-year old girl who ran away from her East London home in December 2014 to become an IS bride in Syria, admitted that he took her on

a flag-burning rally led by hate preacher Anjem Choudary outside the US Embassy in 2012 …

Images of Mr Hussen, 47, at the US Embassy protest emerged after his 15-year-old daughter Amira and two teenage friends went missing from their family homes in east London, prompting an international police hunt.

He has expressed his regret at taking part in the rally and has apologised. Also:

Mr Hussen said he was “disappointed and upset” at his daughter for apparently joining IS. She has reportedly not had contact with her family since she left the UK in December.

This just shows how strongly young people can be influenced.

Additional Evening Standard articles on young British radicals can be found within the two aforementioned links.

Nazir Afzal, the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service in north-west England, told The Guardian in April 2015 that another 7/7 attack could happen.

He says that, for some young people, IS terrorists have the appeal of popstars. So far, adult appeals against radicalism, even those which are neighbourhood-based, have been unsuccessful. Afzal thinks the approach must change:

The reality is that they’re no more than narcissistic, murderous cowboys. We need to stand up and say that very, very clearly, rather than allow kids to be drawn to them like the equivalent of pop idols.

True, but this is a form of youthful rebellion — in all its meanings — and it is unlikely that grown-ups will be listened to.

One wonders what the turning point will be and when it will come.

CB064044Disturbing news comes via the Episcopal/Anglican site Stand Firm, which recently explored the discrimination against Christians in the Middle East, specifically, their exclusion from refugee programmes.

A S Haley, who wrote the Stand Firm article, refers us to Philo’s Project which documents the State Department’s refusal to help Christians (emphases mine):

According to a March 26, 2015 article in Newsweek, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in their ancestral home of Iraq prior to 2003. Now the number of Christians is estimated at anywhere from 260,000 to 350,000, with near half of that number displaced within the country. Newsweek explained that Iraq’s remaining Christians have mostly fled north to safer areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. “But now ISIS is threatening them there, too.”

[The Rt. Rev. Julian M. Dobbs, bishop of the Diocese of CANA East (Convocation of Anglicans in North America)], accompanied to the State Department by humanitarian Sir Charles Hoare, 9th Baronet Hoare of Annabella, County Cork, informed State Department officials of a plan by one well-known Christian international aid agency to provide safer housing for Iraqi Christians. Christians are trying to survive in unfinished concrete buildings – such as shopping malls – in the Christian enclave of Ankawa rather than in the UNHCR camp with the other refugees, because they are even threatened by some of the Muslim refugees.

The organization purchased used military tents from British troops in Afghanistan to set up on land that had been provided by the local authorities.

These military tents have sanitary facilities. They are cool in summer and warm in winter. However, there is the problem of transporting them from Afghanistan to Iraq. Neither the British nor the US government intends on doing that, even though it involves only one military aircraft to transport the tents:

So instead, the group is working to raise some $778,000 to transport the tents to Iraq by land. Dobbs revealed that the State Department advised him against setting up emergency housing for Christians in the region, saying it was “totally inappropriate.”

Even worse:

Also inappropriate, it seems, is the resettling of the most vulnerable Assyrian Christians in the United States. Donors in the private sector have offered complete funding for the airfare and the resettlement in the United States of these Iraqi Christians that are sleeping in public buildings, on school floors, or worse. But the State Department – while admitting 4,425 Somalis to the United States in just the first six months of FY2015, and possibly even accepting members of ISIS through the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, all paid for by tax dollars, told Dobbs that they “would not support a special category to bring Assyrian Christians into the United States.”

The United States government has made it clear that there is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation, even though it is exactly that – their religious affiliation – that makes them candidates for asylum based on a credible fear of persecution from ISIS. The State Department, the wider administration, some in Congress and much of the media and other liberal elites insist that Christians cannot be given preferential treatment. Even within the churches, some Christians are so afraid of appearing to give preferential treatment to their fellow Christians that they are reluctant to plead the case of their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, Americans are paying for some very interesting things where refugees are concerned (H/T: Stand Firm):

17.   Welfare use is staggering among refugees. Welfare usage is never counted by officials as part of the cost of the program. Yet, when it is included, the total cost of the refugee program soars to at least 10-20 billion a year.

As some Americans are pushed off of time-limited welfare programs many refugees are going on to life-time cash assistance programs. For instance, 12.7% of refugees are on SSI – a lifetime entitlement to a monthly check / Medicaid for elderly or disabled. This rate of usage is at least 4 times higher than the rate of usage for SSI among the native-born population and is reportedly rising from these already very high levels.

Permanent and intergenerational welfare dependence has been allowed to take hold to a significant degree in some refugee groups.

Find latest welfare usage among refugees here (latest data available is from 2009): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/orr/fy_2009_annual_report_to_congress.pdf

Find table TABLE II-14: Public Assistance Utilization Among refugees who arrived during the 5 years previous to the survey 57.7% are on government medical assistance such as Medicaid, about 25% have no health insurance at all, 70.2% are receiving food stamps, 31.6% are in public housing (an additional percentage is on a public housing waiting list), and 38.3 % are getting cash assistance such as TANF or SSI.

The figure of 57.7% dependent upon government medical assistance is actually an undercount since it excludes children under 16.

18.   Medium size towns, such as Bowling Green, KY, Nashville, TN, Ft. Wayne, IN, Boise, ID and Manchester, NH, are serving as the main reception centers for the refugee program.

19. Refugees are not tested for many diseases, such as HIV.  Refugees are a major contributing factor to TB rates among the foreign-born. TB among the foreign-born now accounts for about half of the TB in America.

20. The money the U.S. spends bringing one refugee to the U.S. could have helped 500 individuals overseas in countries where they currently reside.

21. It has never been reported in the U.S. that 47% of loans made to refugees for transportation to the U.S. are unpaid leaving an unpaid balance of $450 million. This amount – slightly out of date, does not include interest or an unknown amount that has been written off. We will announce the new balance as soon as it is available.

Surely, all this could be better organised and managed? I imagine something similar is going on in the UK.

To cap it all off, Stand Firm‘s A S Haley tells us that church agencies are making money by working with the US government in receiving refugees:

Refugees designated to migrate to the United States are advanced travel money by an arm of the U.S. State Department. They land here, and are placed in the hands of (among other agencies) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), which helps them relocate into specific communities, find jobs, and settle in. Then EMM sees that they repay their travel advances to the Government, and pockets one-quarter of its debt collection proceeds for its trouble.

It’s a nifty racket, and ensures that annually over $300,000 comes into the Episcopal Church’s coffers, to help with its bottom line.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Government reimburses EMM for all of its other refugee relocation expenses, to the tune of some $14 million annually

It turns out that a good portion of the refugees EMM is assisting are not just any refugees, but are Muslims from some of the countries to which America has sent troops, bombs or both: Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and (soon) Syria.

… EMM is one of nine major Government contractors engaged in making money to bring in refugees from these war-torn countries, in which the United States has militarily intervened. Five others, along with EMM, operate under the aegis of major American religious denominations: the Church World Service (an umbrella organization), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the evangelically connected World Relief Corporation.

This is much worse than I could have ever imagined. Meanwhile, our Christian brothers and sisters are left to languish under the very real pain of death.

Last Friday, I featured Martin Luther’s marvellous quotes on nature.

Today’s post looks at what Dr Gregory Jackson, a retired Lutheran pastor, current university lecturer, loving husband and doting grandfather has done to make his garden a haven for fauna.

Before I continue, in Anglican parlance, ‘retired’ means the ordained continues preaching or performing other sacerdotal duties without being in charge of a church or as an associate pastoral leader. Anglican locums are often retired priests without parishes who can still preach sermons, give the Sacraments and preside over services. I am fully aware that Dr Jackson has conducted Sunday and feast day online services for several years. Some have been quoted here. I apologise to him for not being able to explain it in Lutheran terms. Mea maxima culpa! I mean no offence whatsoever.

Now to today’s post. Dr Jackson writes Ichabod, which offers not only an exposé of errant Lutheran teaching but also provides insight into organic gardening, the way God intended it to be.

Recently, he explained how he transformed his garden into a Creature Convention Center (CCC) which includes the

Jackson EZ Bird Swing, just to the left of the feeder, a little above eye level.

and the

Jackson Bird Spa – the mulched area just beyond the CCC, between the trees. Ten bird baths.

What struck me most was what he had to say about birds (emphases mine):

Luther saw birds as God’s professors, because they wake up every morning singing cheerfully, not even knowing where the next meal is coming from. Having nothing to eat, they praise God first.

Shouldn’t we be doing the same?

Also:

Very few of them store food. Blue jays store acorns, but they actually create oak forests by “hiding” the acorns that are most promising for germinationbetter than smart scientists can.

How true!

Before I share two of his outstanding graphics with you below, this is why Dr Jackson transformed his garden:

Of course, I did all this for the grandchildren. That is one great advantage of being a grandparent. I can have fun in my second childhood because I get to see the world again through the eyes of a child.

Enjoy reading his post in full! And kudos to Norma Boeckler for the superb illustration.

 

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 6:22-23

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

—————————————————————

The text of Matthew 5 – 7 comprises the whole of the Sermon on the Mount.

The first 18 verses of Matthew 6 address the way we are to worship and practice our religion. Our Lord said:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

He told us how to pray with the Lord’s Prayer and how to fast:

17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:17-18)

The second half of the chapter records Jesus’s instruction about treasure and anxiety as to our daily needs. It ends as follows:

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles [heathens] seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  (Matthew 6:31-34)

With regard to the verses on treasure, they begin with:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

and end as follows:

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.[f]

Today’s Forbidden Bible Verses lie between the two.

Our Lord told His audience that the eye illuminates and informs the state of the body (verse 22). A healthy eye indicates a healthy body. In the KJV, the word ‘single’ is used for ‘healthy’. ‘Single’ does not mean one-eyed, it means a fully working, normal eye.

Matthew Henry explains (emphases in bold mine):

now if this eye be single, if it make a true and right judgment, and discern things that differ, especially in the great concern of laying up the treasure so as to choose aright in that, it will rightly guide the affections and actions, which will all be full of the light of grace and comfort but if this be evil and corrupt, and instead of leading the inferior powers, is led, and bribed, and biassed by them, if this be erroneous and misinformed, the heart and life must needs be full of darkness, and the whole conversation corrupt.

How we view the world informs our hearts and our minds.

On the other hand, if our eye is unhealthy, we do not understand the world or God’s purpose properly (verse 23). John MacArthur says it is a metaphor for spiritual illness:

if your eye is dark it is black, there’s no light that comes in you perceive nothing. And that’s the way it is with the heart, if your heart is toward God it lights your entire spiritual being, if your heart is toward the material things, toward the treasure of the world the blinds come down of your spiritual perception and you do not see, spiritually as you ought. Tremendous principle. He takes a physical illustration and He says that the eye is like a window, if that window is clean and clear the light floods the body, if the window is blacked out no light enters. This is a spiritual metaphor.

In this, as in so many other parts of the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord is criticising the Pharisees’ practices. MacArthur tells us:

Now for the Pharisees, their heart was in the earth. They were phonies everyway you cut it, their morality was totally external, that’s what chapter 5 was saying. Their humility was nonexistent, instead of being salt and light they were part of the corruption and and the darkness. Instead of believing in the law of God they defied the law of God and substituted for it their own tradition. Instead of having a really internal heart set of principles they had nothing but an external code of sort of semi-spiritual ethics. Instead of having genuine worship they had a false standard and it was pure hypocrisy. Everything about them was outside, external, self-centered, and self‑motivated. And in contrast to that the Lord is saying, you must have a right heart. That’s why in chapter 5 verse 20 the key verse in all the Sermon on the Mount He says, “Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.'” Theirs is an external righteousness without a right heart, and what I want is a right heart. So your heart and your treasure go together and both need to be toward heaven. What our Lord is speaking of here is a single minded devotion to God and His causes that is undistracted by the world.

MacArthur says that Jesus gives us three messages about treasure.

The first concerns two treasuries. In this case, we are to resist the urge to pile up possessions which can deteriorate or be stolen. We should be providing for ourselves, our families and the future in self-sufficiency as well as exercising charity towards God’s people:

It is not wrong to accumulate money, it is not wrong to accumulate possessions which are then invested in divine causes and in God’s purposes, and God’s purposes are to care for our family and to care for our extended family in the church and to care for even those who are not of the family of God but have need, and to care for the causes of God around the world, and to invest in souls, those things are needful uses of what God gives us. But to stockpile selfishly accumulating with greed and covetousness, piles and piles of things treasuring up for ourselves on earth these commodities is that which our Lord says not to do

The second — today’s verses — is two visions: one with light or one with darkness. The word ‘single’ (‘healthy’) comes from the Greek word haplous, which means generous. We have seen charity appeals which read, ‘Please give generously’. We have also seen instructions for topical creams which say, ‘Apply liberally’. MacArthur unpacks ‘single’ for us:

It is a word that means generous or liberal. He is saying then, if your eye or your heart, because the eye is illustrating the heart, if your heart is generous your whole spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding ... 

Verse 23, “If your eye is evil, your whole body’s full of darkness.” And there you’re introduced to the evil eye, you’ve heard that phrase, haven’t you? Gave ’em an evil eye.

You know what the evil eye is? That’s a Jewish colloquialism, to mean grudgingly. For example in Deuteronomy 15:9 it talks about when you have a slave and it’s coming to the Jubilee Year and he is to be freed, that you have an evil eye toward him. That is you are ungenerous, stingy and you grudge him that freedom. In Proverbs 23:6 it says, “Eat not the bread of him who has an evil eye.”

The third involves the impossibility of serving two masters. ‘Serve’ in this context comes from the Greek doulos, implying slavery. Yes, we can work two jobs with no problem. However, in our Lord’s time, everyone understood the concept of bond slaves — bondservants — who were bound to one master. They could work for no other:

To be a bond slave, to be the property of a master was to be constantly, totally, entirely, 100% devoted to obedience to that one master, it would be utterly impossible to express that to two different masters.

That’s the illustration used in Romans 6 when it says, “Now that we have come to Christ, we must yield ourselves servants to him.” Because we are His slaves, we are no longer the slave of sin. God can only be served beloved with entire and exclusive devotion, He can only be served with single mindedness and if you try to split it with money you will either hate one or the other.

To conclude on the eye, Henry offers this analysis:

The eye, that is, the aims and intentions by the eye we set our end before us, the mark we shoot at, the place we go to, we keep that in view, and direct our motion accordingly in every thing we do in religion there is something or other that we have in our eye now if our eye be single, if we aim honestly, fix right ends, and move rightly towards them, if we aim purely and only at the glory of God, seek his honor and favour, and direct all entirely to him, then the eye is single[.] Paul’s was so when he said, To me to live is Christ and if we be right here, the whole body will be full of light, all the actions will be regular and gracious, pleasing to God and comfortable to ourselves but if this eye be evil, if, instead of aiming only at the glory of God, and our acceptance with him, we look aside at the applause of men, and while we profess to honour God, contrive to honour ourselves, and seek our own things under colour of seeking the things of Christ, this spoils all, the whole conversation will be perverse and unsteady, and the foundations being thus out of course, there can be nothing but confusion and every evil work in the superstructure … The hypocrite soars like the kite [bird], with his eye upon the prey below, which he is ready to come down to when he has a fair opportunity the true Christian soars like the lark, higher and higher, forgetting the things that are beneath.

However, the metaphor of bad eyesight — poor spirituality — affects not only those accumulating material goods but those who are eager to see them stolen or redistributed. To the latter, materialism is as all-consuming as it is to owner of ostentatious bling. Coveting others’ goods violates the Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17):

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Next time: Matthew 7:1-6

Martin Luther had a profound love of God’s creation.

Praying the Gospel features his marvellous quotes on nature:

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.

God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.

Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.

Anyone who has a garden of his own is truly blessed. To be able to admire one’s own plants, tend to them and provide for birds as well as other fauna is a luxury beyond measure.

I’ll look at another post on nature and gardening soon. It is from Dr Gregory Jackson, author of Ichabod, retired Lutheran pastor, current university lecturer, loving husband and doting grandfather.

For now, here is one of his graphics. I cannot help but agree with him and his wife Chris — ‘Mrs Ichabod’ — who asks:

How can anyone glance at a garden and remain an atheist?

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