You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Christianity’ tag.

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.

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

Bible kevinroosecomThe 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 (Divorce and Remarriage, Parts 1, 2 and 3).

Matthew 5:31-32

Divorce

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

——————————————————————

Matthew 5, 6 and 7 recount Jesus’s entire Sermon on the Mount. We often stop at the Beatitudes, but the three chapters have difficult verses, many of which we ignore in our own notionally Christian lives.

Our Lord’s objective was to pierce the self-righteousness of the Jewish leadership and impress upon those who heard Him preach that the ordinary Jews were not to imitate the hierarchy’s example. They invented a number of get-out clauses for their own sinful convenience.

Last week’s post looked at Matthew 5:25-26, verses which urge us to come to an arrangement with those who accuse us of wrongdoing. Where we can mend the relationship, Jesus urges us to do so rather than risk a judgement by a court — or an eternal one by Him on the Last Day. We are to resist anger, grudges and bitterness.

Today’s passage is preceded by His condemnation of lust and adultery:

Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

The message is not so much to remove our right eye or hand — traditionally considered by the Jews to be the most powerful body parts — but to pray for the divine grace and Spirit-inspired fortitude to avoid temptation.

Today’s two verses are found elsewhere in the New Testament. I wrote about Mark 10:10-12 in 2012 and Luke 16:18 in 2014. Both of those posts discuss the rampant divorce, particularly among the Jewish leaders, which had been escalating throughout the Old Testament era to Jesus’s day.

From the beginning, God made a covenant with Israel, the precursor of Christ’s with His Bride, the Church. Nothing could break the Old Covenant, despite God’s punishments of His people; in the end, after repentance, He forgave them and showed them mercy. In the Christian era, despite false teaching and apostasy, nothing shall ultimately come between Christ and the Church.

The covenant started with the creation and union of Adam and Eve. John MacArthur explains how this works in a context of couples, which they then marred with Original Sin, the tensions of which exist today (emphases mine):

Now prior to the fall marriage was pure bliss, the man was the head, the woman was the help meet. The man’s headship was a loving, caring provision of understanding. The woman’s being a help meet was a loving, caring submissiveness to the one who was given as her leader. It was beautiful, her heart was totally devoted to him, his heart was totally devoted to her, and according to Genesis 1:27 and 28, they ruled together, they ruled together. But that ended …

… literally what happened was in the fall man was elevated to rule in the house, to rule in the home. He’d had a soft kind of dominance before, held had a loving, caring approach before but now he is set in a place of ruling with authority. [‘Mashal’] is a different word than the word for rule in Genesis 1:28, completely different word, completely different concept. A new dimension of his rule has come about. The woman then is made immediately subordinate to the man.

People say, oh there’s too much male chauvinism in the world, and they’re exactly right and this is why. Because of the curse and because woman led in the sin God set man over her to control her, to subdue her as it were, to be her head. And frankly without Jesus Christ it can be very abusive, I agree, sinful man has been chauvinistic, I’m the first one to agree, only in Christ, only in the Spirit can a right kind of headship be restored and that’s the meaning of Ephesians chapter 5. Only in Christ, apart from that there will be oppressiveness. On the other hand, man is installed in this case as a ruler and woman, it says, her desire shall be to her husband.

In Moses’s time, adultery began to become a problem. In fact, so much so that he allowed a bill of divorce, which in the Jewish religion is called a get. Deuteronomy 24:1-4:

Laws Concerning Divorce

24 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

From this, we understand three things: divorce is permitted because of a wife’s  ‘indecency’, remarriage can lead to another divorce and excessive adultery would have led to defiling the land God gave to His chosen people.

Although stoning was allowed and took place in cases of adultery, as time passed, it was done less and less.

A certificate of divorce became the norm. Note that it had to be written out. This was to eliminate impulsive decisions taken in anger. A husband couldn’t tell his wife he was divorcing her, he actually had to be able to write such a statement. Most men could not write in that era and, for this reason, divorces were relatively rare.

On the other hand, the Jewish leaders, being educated, were able to add new meanings to the word ‘indecency’. From an original context of adultery, it came to encompass anything which displeased the husband: his wife’s looks, her ability to cook, her family and so on. Although the leaders presented themselves as following every aspect of the law, they created various means of twisting it to fit their own appetites. By the time our Lord began His ministry, divorces among the Jewish elite were frequent.

Therefore, although Jesus acknowledged that divorce is allowed (verse 25), He said that improper divorce is akin to adultery (verse 26). It may be driven by lust for another, fornication. Ultimately, remarriage often involves marrying a woman to whom a man has no right.

Matthew Henry explains:

He reduced the ordinance of marriage to its primitive institution: They two shall be one flesh, not to be easily separated, and therefore divorce is not to be allowed, except in case of adultery, which breaks the marriage covenant but he that puts away his wife upon any other pretence, causeth her to commit adultery, and him also that shall marry her when she is thus divorced. Note, Those who lead others into temptation to sin, or leave them in it, or expose them to it, make themselves guilty of their sin, and will be accountable for it. This is one way of being partaker with adulterers Psalm 50:18.

Thinking about divorce today, our reasons for undertaking it are similar to the Jewish hierarchy’s, especially the notion of ‘irreconcilable differences’.

MacArthur sums it up this way:

the point that the Lord is making is just know when you go in you’re going in on the right terms with a commitment to stay there. Because divorce proliferates adultery.

Jesus elaborates on this in Matthew 19, which we will look at in due course, as it is also not in the Lectionary. It seems its compilers and editors did not wish to offend our delicate sensibilities. Matthew 19:3-9:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

The message for us is to take marriage seriously. It would be a mistake to marry for sexual attraction alone, although that seems to be an overriding reason for many couples. We need to look at long-term compatibility and pragmatism: cooking, housekeeping, cleanliness, managing money, child-rearing, restraining impulses (anger), avoiding addiction (gambling, drink, drugs) and so on.

The Catholic Church has a lengthy pre-marital course lasting several weeks. This used to be called Pre-Cana and now goes under another name. I knew a couple who attended it in the 1980s. They were shocked at how ill-matched and ill-prepared some of the other couples in their class were. It was not unusual for couples to argue during the courses. Some engagements were broken as issues regarding children, money and gambling came to light. 

I am not sure how strict certain Catholic parishes are on these pre-marital classes now. I know of a couple who were able to claim an excused absence for several of them. After a few years of marriage, they recently divorced. The husband ran off with another woman.

This is only one example of many proving our Lord’s point about divorce.

Regarding the marital covenant and the parallel with God’s covenant with His people, the Old Testament has examples of how serious this is. He will reject our praises and worship. Could this be one reason why our churches are emptying? MacArthur cites Malachi 2:

Judah Profaned the Covenant

10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant[e] of the man who does this, who )brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[f] And what was the one God[g] seeking?[h] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[i] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[j] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[k] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

The Book of Hosea tells the story of an adulterous marriage with eventual reconciliation. Hosea 1:2-11:

Hosea’s Wife and Children

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord. So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy,[a] for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People,[b] for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”[c]

10 [d] Yet (P)the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children[e] of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

MacArthur explains:

Hosea is to become a dramatization; he is going to enact in his life a great drama to illustrate great spiritual truth. Now here’s what Hosea was to do, Hosea was to marry a woman, a woman by the name of Gomer, and having married her, discover that she had become a prostitute or a harlot. And in spite of that he was to be faithful to his vow, no matter what the pain, no matter what the unfaithfulness, no matter what the excruciating agony, no matter what the price he was to be faithful to his harlot, prostitute, debauched, vile wife, no matter what she did, why? Because this was a pageant to demonstrate how faithful God would be to His wayward wife, Israel. And it sets for us the standard of relationship in a marriage as it is the image for God’s relationship to His people ...

Now I do not believe for a moment that God forced her into her harlotries to be an illustration. I believe God worked in His sovereignty with her own will. But the heart of the story is that dear Hosea was to be faithful and forgiving no matter what she did. In fact as we go into the story we find out that when she went into harlotry he actually paid her bills, because he felt so bound by the vow he had made when he married her, he followed her around paying her bills.

Ultimately, Gomer failed in her adulterous pursuits, and Hosea persevered in preserving his marriage:

here in a sense is a husband who is chastening and judging all the while and supporting, so that she stays alive.

And you see exactly this in God’s relation to Israel. God on the one hand is judging and chastening and dealing with Israel, on the other hand God is the very life of the nation, right? You look at Israel today, and God is chastening the land of Israel and yet at the same time God is the sustenance of that people. And so Hosea works with this ambivalence, a wife who is a prostitute and a harlot, and he wants so much for her to be judged and he wants so much for her to be condemned in this so she’ll return and yet he, he goes along because of the vow that he has to her as a husband and he makes sure her needs are met. Incredible commitment …

The point is God’s unchanging love for Israel is based on the permanent promise He made which is based upon His character. And so even though Israel became a harlot, God said I’ll bring her back, even though she bore children of harlotry God said I’ll change their names. And so it was that Hosea was to live the illustration of an adulterous wife to be brought back, to be brought back to a place of blessing.

In closing, I wanted to bring to light research MacArthur cited in his sermons. He wrote and preached them in 1978. Even then, the damage divorce brings was becoming crystal clear.

Armand Nicholi, MD, a psychiatrist who is also on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, looked at the effect divorce and parental absence had on families. His research appeared in a 1978 edition of Christianity Today. He warned:

Certain trends prevalent today will incapacitate the family, destroy its integrity and cause its members to suffer such crippling emotional conflicts that they will become an intolerable burden to society. If any one factor influences the character development and emotional stability an individual, it is the quality of the relationship he or she experiences as a child with both parents.

And:

Conversely if people suffering from severe non-organic emotional illness have one experience in common, it is the absence of a parent through death, divorce, etc. A parent’s inaccessibility either physically, emotionally or both can profoundly influence a child’s emotional health.

Moving around was also problematic, and some of this was driven by divorce. Nicholi’s research published in 1978 revealed that:

50% of the U. S. population lived at a different address 5 years ago. Consequently young people have no sense of roots, have no concept of extended friendships.

Nicholi saw the 1970s reality and correctly predicted a stark future:

The trend toward quick and easy divorce, and the ever increasing divorce rate subjects more and more children to physically and emotionally absent parents. The divorce rate has risen 700% in this century, and it continues to rise. There is now one divorce for every 1.8 marriages. Over 1 million children a year are involved in divorce cases, and 13 million children under 18 now have one or both parents missing.

First, the quality of family life will continue to deteriorate, producing a society with a higher incidence of mental illness than ever before. 95% of our hospital beds will be taken up by mentally ill people. This illness will be characterized primarily by a lack of self-control. We can expect the assassination of people in authority to be frequent occurrences. Crimes of violence will increase, even those within the family, the suicide rate will rise. As sexuality becomes more unlimited more separated from family and emotionally commitment the deadening effect will cause more bizarre experimenting and widespread perversion.

We’re seeing and living this out today.

Our Lord is perfect in all things, including His exhortations about marriage and divorce. Why do we continue to ignore Him?

Next time: Matthew 6:7-15

 

My sincere thanks to reader John J Flanagan, who has kindly taken the time to discuss his experiences in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).

His guest post follows. Please feel free to comment or ask him questions to which he can respond directly.

———————————————————————

What are the differences between the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS)?

I freely admit I am not an expert and certainly not a theologian, but I would refer interested parties to read for themselves the websites and Q&A sections on this topic posted at both the OPC and the LCMS websites.

I was a member of an OPC church for a few years, and eventually returned to the LCMS. Prior to that I was on a spiritual journey after 40 years as a Catholic, looking for the truth of God and His word first in the Bible, than checking out various denominations, like Baptists, non-denominational, Reformed, and OPC and PCA. I had been a member of an LCMS congregation as well, but I felt so confused by the varying interpretations each denomination had that I could not be sure in which church I belonged.

The OPC is a solid and faithful church, in my view, but I do not agree with all of the doctrines taught. First, the positives: Sola Scriptura, noting as the Bible declares that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and by Christ alone, apart from any works. The OPC believes in infant Baptism, as do Lutherans. End times: Lutherans are amillennial, however, while most OPC ministers are amillennial, some are Post Millennial. The OPC tends to regard communion as a memorial or symbol but Christ is present by His spirit, while Lutherans believe Christ is bodily present at the sacrament. The OPC and LCMS also views Baptism differently, in the sense that Lutherans believe one is regenerated or born again, while God does not necessarily regenerate a person being Baptized, although it is within His sovereignty to do so.
The OPC views Law and Grace differently than Lutherans. The Reformed view is that the Law is designed to suppress wickedness and promote righteousness, whereas, the Lutheran view is that the Law leads us to Christ and repentance.

This is a thumbnail sketch. I have often been struggling with varying interpretations that sincere and God loving Christians apply to the same scriptural verses. It can be confusing, but I have found that Lutheranism explains scripture better, in my view, and the OPC and Reformed lean heavily on the Westminster Confessions. In any case, I suppose Our Lord will determine which church reflects the most accurate interpretation of these things.

Those of you interested in understanding the various denominational teachings should read further materials, but the first and primary way to do that is to keep your hand on the Bible as you read, and pray for wisdom.

I must add that the OPC is, of course, Calvinistic. It follows the five points of Calvinism, also believing in double predestination, which Luther rejected. Other differences, like the Presbyterian form of government, the simplicity of the worship service, rejection of icons, set it apart from Lutheran traditions. The OPC has about 300 churches and about 30,000 members. On the plus side, they rejected post modernism long ago, and split from the very liberal Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), as later did the group which formed the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). But having looked at this as closely as I am able, in my humble opinion, the LCMS is where I shall remain, and I pray that we remain faithful in the years to come.

My previous post cautioned parents on notional children’s classics.

This post, also inspired by the 11-17 April 2015 issue of the Radio Times, discusses children’s dictionaries, specifically the 2007 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

Having recovered from the UK’s Book Trust salami slicing of children’s books, I had hoped for lighter fare. Then, I ran across the article ‘Wild words’ (pp. 146-147) by Robert Macfarlane, Cambridge Fellow and author of a new book Landmarks, which explores the richness of British nature terminology.

Macfarlane tells us that the Oxford Junior Dictionary no longer contains the words for commonly found flora and fauna, including acorn, adder, ash, beech, ivy, kingfisher, lark and too many others to list here (p. 147).

He cites the then-editor of the dictionary, Vineeta Gupta, who said that children do not need these words so much anymore as we are living in a technological society, not a rural one.

A Daily Telegraph article from 2008 has her quote in full. She had also dropped words relating to Christianity (emphases mine):

When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don’t go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as “Pentecost” or “Whitsun” would have been in 20 years ago but not now.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Nor could mother-of-four Lisa Saunders from Northern Ireland who, the Telegraph says:

painstakingly compared entries from the junior dictionaries, aimed at children aged seven or over, dating from 1978, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, said she was “horrified” by the vast number of words that have been removed, most since 2003.

“The Christian faith still has a strong following,” she said. “To eradicate so many words associated with the Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it.”

Ms Saunders realised words were being removed when she was helping her son with his homework and discovered that “moss” and “fern”, which were in editions up until 2003, were no longer listed.

“I decide to take a closer look and compare the new version to the other editions,” said the mother of four from Co Down, Northern Ireland. “I was completely horrified by the vast number of words which have been removed. We know that language moves on and we can’t be fuddy-duddy about it but you don’t cull hundreds of important words in order to get in a different set of ICT words.”

Message to Oxford Dictionaries staff: Britain has plenty of mosses, ferns, acorns, kingfishers and tons of ivy, never mind the rest of the plants and animals named by the words you omitted. Then there is the matter of Christianity (deleted words emboldened in the next sentence). We still have plenty of vicars; we still celebrate Pentecost which some of us call Whitsun; we go to churches named after saints; some of us were taught by nuns and nearly every church or chapel service includes a psalm. Furthermore, most children today will already know the meanings of the new IT-friendly words: blog, cut and paste, MP3 player and voice mail, among others.

In 2009, Wildlife Promise picked Oxford University Press (OUP) up on the omission of so many words describing the natural world. They tell us that OUP has no intention of reinstating them:

Oxford University Press released an official statement: The dictionary “is not designed for children to use as they progress higher up the school years, and should be regarded as an introduction to language and the practice of using dictionaries.” The words included in it, the statement continues, are selected based on the “language children will commonly come across at home and at school.” The books also must include words “covering the main religious faiths” and must now pay special attention to computer-related words. These concerns, says the company, must be balanced with keeping the book small enough to be accessible for children between the ages of 8 and 11.

Digging around, I found more people who, happily, are just as upset about the nature omissions, although not the Christian terms. Even in 2015, they are asking OUP to reinstate the words for flora and fauna which are commonly seen not only in Britain but elsewhere in the world.

Authors Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo are two of 28 writers who addressed an open letter to OUP in January 2015:

“We base this plea on two considerations. Firstly, the belief that nature and culture have been linked from the beginnings of our history,” reads the letter.

Secondly, childhood is undergoing profound change; some of this is negative; and the rapid decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem.”

“There is a shocking, proven connection between the decline in natural play and the decline in children’s well-being,” they write, adding that obesity and anti-social behaviour are some consequences.

“We recognize the need to introduce new words and to make room for them and do not intend to comment in detail on the choice of words added. However, it is worrying that in contrast to those taken out, many are associated with the interior, solitary childhoods of today.”

Laurence Rose of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told Huffington Post Canada that, when he complained about the omission of names for still-common birds, the OUP responded as follows (summarised):

All of the words that were reportedly removed from the 2007 version of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, geared towards seven-year-old readers, are included in the Primary Dictionary, intended for those eight years old and up, according to the statement.

Odd that, having one dictionary for seven-year-olds and another for eight-year-olds. However, that is one solution: buy the Primary Dictionary rather than the Junior edition.

Back to Robert Macfarlane now. His book Landmarks introduces all of us to words we’ve probably not heard of before from all British dialects. The Guardian‘s review says:

Is there another book – fiction or nonfiction – so generous in its nature, that has in its very structure the matrices of other writing and study and poetry fixed intricately into its threads and lines like webs within webs or currents within streams within rivers within seas? Landmarks may be single-minded in its pursuit of the exact, the particular, but in its articulation it sounds a chord of voices – of communities, writers, literatures – that may include the reader’s own.

This comes from the idea of placing at the end of every section a swath of words cut and lifted from dictionaries and phrase books, from common usage, idiolect, slang and poetry. Words for stones and rubble, chucky, clitter, and fedspar; for ice, pipkrares and shuckle; for hill and gully and livestock and branches and leaves and weathers and, in “Ways of Walking”, for a certain kind of mud – muxy rout and slunk. These glossaries are both summaries and a way ahead, where words are like “migrant birds, arriving from distant places… or strangers let into the home”, that they may enliven us with their meanings and stories and give back so much that has been culled.

The Telegraph says:

The languages of forestry, mountaineering, archaeology and geology mix with the coinages of poets. Gerard Manley Hopkins is a prominent contributor: his “wimpling”, the action of wind on a bird’s wing, is joined by “shadowtackle”, shifting patterns of light and shade on woodland floors, caused, Macfarlane says, “by the light filtering-action of the canopy in the wind”.

Landmarks presents hundreds of words and phrases for weather and natural phenomena, and for working and playing in the countryside. Suppose you jump into a lake or pond and muck about. If you are in Shetland you are “bumbelling”. In other parts of Scotland you are “dooking”, in Galloway you are “jabblin” or “puddling”, in Northern Ireland you “skite”, and in Kent you “squashle”.

If few readers are likely to memorise 50 terms related to peat and turf, none will forget that in North Yorkshire steams rising from a wet moor under bright sun are called “summer geese”. Macfarlane is beguiled by a fiery light produced by sun on hoar frost, called an “ammil”, at least in Devon, but his purpose is anything but whimsical. “We have become experts in analysing what nature can do for us, but lack a language for what it can do to us,” he writes.

In the Radio Times, Macfarlane elaborates on ammil, which is the

thin glittering film of ice that lacquers leaves and twigs when freeze follows thaw

and the Shetlandic term pirr means

a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water

whereas, to someone from Exmoor, zwer is

the sound made by a covey of partridges taking flight

whilst, in Sussex, smeuse is

the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal.

What a lovely book written by not only a naturalist but also someone who truly loves the English language.

It’s reassuring to know in the natural world ‘there’s a name for that’.

Yes, darling, it’s a buttercup. And that, over there, is a bluebell.

Bible read me 2Incredibly, this gem came from an atheist commenting on a Telegraph article about Good Friday:

I would encourage all Christians to not just read their Bibles (and so few of you do) but also to learn more about the historicity of your God and the scriptures written on his behalf. This comment is not meant to challenge your faith by the way – simply that I, regardless of my atheism, have found it to be a fascinating exploration and I suspect that many Christians would be similarly interested.

Yes, Christians do owe it to themselves — and their offspring — to read Holy Scripture regularly in order to find out more about our religious heritage and God our Father’s plan for humanity’s redemption.

Yes, the Bible is a fascinating history.

Yes, Christians would be ‘similarly interested’ if they read it.

So, why don’t we?

Those who travel to France visit this nation’s beautiful churches as much as its museums.

In fact, tourists — and the French — consider churches to be must-see places. They reflect France’s history and culture through the centuries.

However, in recent decades, these aesthetic places of worship have been allowed to deteriorate.

It is not for the Vatican to appropriate money for their repair, but the French government, which has owned Catholic Church property since 1905.

Whilst churches are in dire need all over the country, those in Paris receive the most visitors and worshippers. The centrist news site L’Atlantico reports that more and more buildings have tape fencing off dangerous areas. These comprise crumbling frescoes, leaky ceilings, fragile stained glass windows and other unstable aspects that people need to avoid. Some neighbourhood churches have closed because they are structurally unviable. They serve as public toilets and graffiti canvases.

As is true with any other building, the longer a church deteriorates, the more expensive it is to repair. Yet, in some cases, especially in Paris, local governments are slow to release money for this purpose.

Patrimoine en blog reported in 2013 that since 2000, more than 24 French churches have been demolished. The number is no doubt higher now.

Priests and worshippers can sometimes save churches via petitions to local councils or by private subscription to have them restored.

Some churches end up, as in other Western countries, being sold for conversion into flats, restaurants or other venues.

In larger cities, churches have a donation box dedicated towards ongoing maintenance. However, the money that well-intentioned visitors leave is but a drop in the bucket.

In 2014, Le Figaro gave us an idea of what repairs actually cost:

[Our] frescoes are deteriorating … and they could disappear within four years,’ Father Thibaut Verny, parish priest at Notre Dame-de-Lorette stated, estimating that it would cost €800,000 to restore the cupola and two chapels.

In Paris, churches are seen internationally as public monuments. A private organisation, World Monument Fund, maintains a list of churches in danger.

You would think that Paris’s mayor and local government officials would find that embarrassing.

However, Maxime Cumunel, spokesperson for l’Observatoire du patrimoine [heritage] religieux, told Le Figaro:

In 12 years, the mayor’s office [Socialist] preferred to finance the Jean-Bouin stadium and the Gaîté Lyrique [cultural centre]. Everything is a question of priority when you’re managing a budget of €8 billion.

€8 billion and practically nothing for churches!

The commenters at L’Atlantico said the same thing. One wrote that in recent years over €800 million went to Paris’s community organisations and minority groups. A secularist said that, even if the day comes where there is only one Christian left in France, church buildings must be preserved as national monuments. Another reader, however, took a dark view of the situation, saying that Parisian officials might want to see churches demolished to wipe out France’s Christian history in an effort to make it more secularised, communitarian, multi-cultural and inoffensive.

Last year, Le Figaro contacted the mayor’s office in Paris. The response was frosty:

… it was ‘particularly mistaken to purport that churches are in a state of deterioration, even worse to speak of a declining budget’.

This month, Patrimoine en blog analysed a recent statement from Paris’s Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, who succeeded Bertrand Delanoë. She promises an ‘unprecedented’ plan to restore the city’s churches. Patrimoine cites La Tribune de ‘Art‘s explanation:

Unfortunately, even if some believed it, this trick is too transparent to be credible for long. The €80 million involved in this plan is nearly equivalent to the year to the €157 million from Bertrand Delanoë’s two terms in office (€90 million, then €67 million). These numbers, the €80 million and the €157 million, aren’t ours. €157 million is what the Mayor’s office said via Danielle Pourthaud, the former deputy in charge of Heritage, in 2013. The €80 million announced by Bruno Julliard and Anne Hidalgo are promised between now and 2020.

Whilst certain churches are being refurbished and restored, La Tribune de l’Art says it is unclear how these tens of millions of euros are being spent on other Parisian churches — or, indeed, if they will be.

For now, the battle continues. And if you find Paris’s churches in a deplorable state, this is the reason why.

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 4:24-25

24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

—————————————————————————

Matthew 4 begins with Satan tempting Jesus at the end of His 40 days and 40 nights in the desert.

Afterward, Matthew shows us that our Lord fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy by settling in Capernaum — the land of Zebulun and Napthali.

There, Jesus called on people to

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)

Of His move from Nazareth to Capernaum, recall that Jesus began his ministry in Nazareth and had to leave when his fellow townsmen tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:16:30). He had read part of the scroll to the congregation in the synagogue (Luke 4:18-19):

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Incensed, the people asked among themselves who Joseph the carpenter’s son thought He was. Anger escalated when Jesus reminded them of Nazareth’s parlous state during Elijah’s time: a preponderance of widows, a terrible famine and a leprosy epidemic. Our Lord’s teaching session ended as follows (Luke 4:29-30):

29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

He had foreseen this (Luke 4:24):

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

Matthew has the story of His rejection in Nazareth later (Matthew 13:53-58), although it omits the attempt to throw Him off the cliff.

Back to Matthew 4. Having made His base in Capernaum, Jesus then called four fishermen to follow Him: Simon (Peter), his brother Andrew, James son of Zebedee and his brother John (verses 19 and 20):

19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[a] 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

All of this is in the three-year Lectionary readings used in public worship. Oddly, these readings stop with verse 23:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

It is incomprehensible that today’s verses are not part of the Lectionary verses. Why? They are every bit as marvellous.

John MacArthur preached a whole sermon on Matthew 4:23-25.

Word of Jesus’s teaching and healing spread to faraway Syria!

Also in this is the reality of Gentiles coming from far and wide to see and hear Jesus.

The other marvellous aspect of this is that He healed so many diseases instantly and permanently.

Medicine was very primitive in those days, in fact, until the 19th century. The reason people in the Bible considered illness a curse was that many were in chronic pain or physical isolation from disease or ailments. The most physicians, such as they were, could do was to give patients herbs or potions.

Furthermore, there was no developed study of illness. Epilepsy was considered an aspect of lunacy at the time. John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

… the old English says lunatic. It’s translated epileptic. That’s very interesting. Lunatic is a word with a Latin root and the first part luna comes from the moon because the people in those days thought that people were nuts because they got affected by the moon. Lunar sickness, they were sort of, they used to call them moonstruck. That’s where you get the idea of a lunatic; he’s moonstruck. But the best etymological connection for this word for us today is epileptic. The reason we say that is because in Matthew 17:15, that word is used to refer to a seizure that appears to be some kind of epileptic seizure. So our Lord could deal with disease that is caused by demons, all of it, and our Lord could deal with disease that is come kind of disorder in the brain or the nervous system or whatever malfunction creates seizures.

Another constant preoccupation of the time was leprosy, which is contagious. No one went near lepers, who had to be isolated from the rest of the community.

A phenomenon of our Lord’s ministry was the preponderance of demons. MacArthur says that nowhere in the Bible do we read of so many as during His time spent preaching and healing.

This was the most magnificent time the ancient world had ever known.

Matthew Henry explains:

They who came for cures, met with instruction concerning the things that belonged to their peace. It is well if any thing will bring people to Christ and they who come to him will find more in him than they expected. These Syrians, like Naaman the Syrian, coming to be healed of their diseases, many of them being converts, 2 Kings 5:15,17.

John MacArthur explains how word of Jesus travelled. Galilee was a trading centre with much Gentile interaction. As a result, the Galileans were used to new people and new ideas:

And, of course, to a Jew that’s a very despicable thing to do so there was much frowning upon Galilee because of the mixture of people that lived there. But you see Galilee was surrounded by foreign people. Along the coast, the very coastline itself was that great people who sailed the Mediterranean Sea known as the Phoenicians. Along the northern part were Syrians. Along the southern part were Samaritans. You remember the southern part of Israel and the northern part was separated by Samaria where the half-breeds lived. So they had the half-breed Samaritans on the bottom of them and they had on the north and east the Syrians, and on the west they had the Phoenicians.

And so there was a tremendous non-Jewish influence. And it tended to sort of water down the traditionalism and they were open to something fresh and they were open to something new and Jesus knew that. He selected that area. Additionally the roads of the world, the great roads of the world running from the east to the west and the north to the south passed immediately through Galilee. And we know about this, in fact, there was a very famous road in those days known as the Way of the Sea. And the Way of the Sea led from Damascus through Galilee and then made a left turn and went right down to Africa. Things coming from the eastern part of the world would come to Damascus; they’d be taken west to Galilee and then straight down into Africa. The road to the east went through Galilee and then right on out to the furtherest frontiers of the east, so it was a trade route. Because of that there was a tremendous mingling. Jerusalem never had that. Because of Jerusalem’s location it was isolated. It was on a high high plateau. People didn’t bother to go up there. It was in a desolate desert area to the east and a coastline to the west, desert to the south and so Jerusalem never had that trade element, as did Galilee. Traffic of the world passed through there.

In fact, one writer said Judea, that is the south, is on the way to nowhere and Galilee is on the way to everywhere. And so because of the mentality of the people, they were open to change, because of the constant influx of non-Jewish influence, and because of the tremendous population of people in a highly productive agricultural area Jesus was planned by God to begin His ministry there.

Matthew Henry’s analysis of Jesus’s cures examines them by miracle, mystery and mercy:

(1.) The miracle of them. They were wrought in such a manner, as plainly spake them to be the immediate products of a divine and supernatural power, and they were God’s seal to his commission. Nature could not do these things, it was the God of nature the cures were many, of diseases incurable by the art of the physician, of persons that were strangers, of all ages and conditions the cures were wrought openly, before many witnesses, in mixed companies of persons that would have denied the matter of fact, if they could have had any colour for so doing no cure ever failed, or was afterwards called in question they were wrought speedily, and not (as cures by natural causes) gradually they were perfect cures, and wrought with a word’s speaking all which proves him a Teacher come from God, for, otherwise, none could have done the works that he did, John 3:2. He appeals to these as credentials, Matthew 11:4,5; John 5:36. It was expected that the Messiah should work miracles (John 7:31) miracles of this nature (Isaiah 35:5,6) and we have this indisputable proof of his being the Messiah never was there any man that did thus and therefore his healing and his preaching generally went together, for the former confirmed the latter thus here he began to do and to teach, Acts 1:1.

(2.) The mercy of them. The miracles that Moses wrought, to prove his mission, were most of them plagues and judgments, to intimate the terror of that dispensation, though from God but the miracles that Christ wrought, were most of them cures, and all of them (except the cursing of the barren fig tree) blessings and favours for the gospel dispensation is founded, and built up in love, and grace, and sweetness and the management is such as tends not to affright but to allure us to obedience. Christ designed by his cures to win upon people, and to ingratiate himself and his doctrine into their minds, and so to draw them with the bands of love, Hosea 11:4. The miracle of them proved his doctrine a faithful saying, and convinced men’s judgments the mercy of them proved it worthy of all acceptation, and wrought upon their affections. They were not only great works, but good works, that he showed them from his Father (John 10:32) and this goodness was intended to lead men to repentance (Romans 2:4), as also to show that kindness, and beneficence, and doing good to all, to the utmost of our power and opportunity, are essential branches of that holy religion which Christ came into the world to establish.

(3.) The mystery of them. Christ, by curing bodily diseases, intended to show, that his great errand into the world was to cure spiritual maladies. He is the Sun of righteousness, that arises with this healing under his wings. As the Converter of sinners, he is the Physician of souls, and has taught us to call him so, Matthew 9:12,13. Sin is the sickness, disease, and torment of the soul Christ came to take away sin, and so to heal these. And the particular stories of the cures Christ wrought, may not only be applied spiritually, by way of allusion and illustration, but, I believe, are very much intended to reveal to us spiritual things, and to set before us the way and method of Christ’s dealing with souls, in their conversion and sanctification and those cures are recorded, that were most significant and instructive this way and they are therefore so to be explained and improved, to the honour and praise of that glorious Redeemer, who forgiveth all our iniquities, and so healeth all our diseases.

The prophet Malachi spoke of the ‘sun of righteousness’ (Malachi 4:1-3):

The Great Day of the Lord

4 [a] “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

These two verses of Matthew’s — rejected by the Lectionary compilers — add so much to our appreciation of Jesus’s healing miracles, revealing His inexhaustible mercy and love for all, including Gentiles.

Such an editorial decision beggars belief. Congregations can’t bear to hear two additional — and informative — Scripture verses? I do wonder about the Lectionary people.

In closing, John’s Gospel tells us that there were countless additional miracles which do not appear in his account (or the other Gospels) — John 20:30-31:

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Next time: Matthew 5:25-26

BBC viewers will recognise Diarmaid MacCulloch’s name even if, like me, they have trouble spelling it.

The Oxford University Professor of Church History has a new three-part series on BBC2 on Friday nights called Sex and the Church.

In the latest issue of Radio Times (18-24 April 2015, p. 7), he opines on the Church and sexuality. His editorial, ‘Body and soul’ urges clerics to catch up with the rest of the world in this regard.

He states that Jesus had ‘surprisingly few words’ about sex. True. But, then, Jesus did not say much about many specifics of Christian life. Sex is not the only matter on which He remained somewhat silent.

MacCulloch, a Church of England deacon, has been openly gay since the mid-1970s. The son of an Anglican clergyman, he says:

“I was brought up in the presence of the Bible, and I remember with affection what it was like to hold a dogmatic position on the statements of Christian belief. I would now describe myself as a candid friend of Christianity.”[4]

However, why is he so mystified that our most senior clergy continue with cautious statements about sexuality? The New Testament letters, particularly those of St Paul, warn against certain sexual practices — heterosexual and homosexual — equating them with lying, theft and murder. Even if we excuse them, God condemns them all.

Of Scripture, MacCulloch told The Spectator in April 2013:

‘The essence of the authority of God is its thereness,’ he says. ‘It’s a bit like our relationship with our parents. There is nothing you can do about it. You can’t declare someone else to be your dad. That seems to me to be a statement about religion. I have a relationship with the Bible because it’s just there. I may not like what it says, I may not approve of it or obey it, but it’s there and I’ve got to cope with it.’

Oh, okay, then (not).

He closes his Radio Times piece with this:

Cheer up, bishops: in the wise words of Mae West, those who are easily shocked, should be shocked more often.

Wow. He might be upset about the quandary that the Anglican hierarchy are in regarding conducting same-sex unions in church, however, the Church is meant to be in the world, not of it.

The programme concerns ancient scandals:

Having looked last week at how the influential writings of St Augustine set in stone the idea that all sex, even within marriage, was sinful, he turns his attention this week to the revolution that turned that idea on its head for the first time in almost a thousand years: the Reformation.

First MacCulloch tracks back to the 11th century to examine how the Church deliberately set about increasing its power in society by taking control of the formerly civil institution of marriage, while at the same time increasing the pressure on its own clergy to embrace celibacy. A ban on clerical marriage resulted in appalling medieval hypocrisy – thousands of church-run brothels, and a sharp rise in incidents of clerical child abuse (“a pattern of behaviour repeated in recent years”) – which much of the Reformation’s religious revolution was in direct reaction to. The manner in which sexuality subsequently became one of the prime battlegrounds between Catholicism and Protestantism provides rich material for MacCulloch.

What is the purpose of MacCulloch’s telling us that there have been scandals in the Church from time immemorial? Most of us know this. The same licentiousness has taken place in every other social, religious and secular setting throughout history. This includes other world belief systems.

Even if we didn’t know about these ecclesiastical transgressions, true Christians realise that humanity lives in a fallen world. Furthermore, Satan will do whatever he can to destroy godliness. It’s what he does.

May we pray for the grace to improve and enhance Christ’s holy Bride and bring comfort to His followers. May the licentiousness, scandals and worldliness stop.

Temptation is always with us. Most Church historians could have explained this easily whilst revealing historical events.

What sort of ‘friend of Christianity’ is Diarmaid MacCulloch, anyway?

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomMy past few posts have explored what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology. I first borrowed his sermons in 2012. Past posts in the 2015 series — summaries — can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Fowler’s essay, ‘The Extension of the Resurrection’, neatly ties together God’s purpose for creation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, the growth of the Church and the Christian life — with a word or two on the afterlife. It is well worth reading in full.

Emphases mine in the excerpts below. Note Fowler’s distinction between ‘remedial’ and ‘restorative’, as they relate to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, respectively.

How, then, is God’s ultimate objective for mankind achieved and accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The death consequences of man’s sin were dealt with in the crucifixion when Jesus vicariously and substitutionally took mankind’s sin upon Himself on our behalf. In the redemptive act of His death Jesus accomplished the remedial work necessary to remedy the consequences of man’s sin before God. In that it was “impossible for Him to be held in death’s power” (Acts 2:24) for He was personally “without sin” (Heb. 4:15), He was raised from the dead in resurrection. In the resurrection expression of life out of death Jesus accomplished the restorative work of God, allowing the life of God to be restored to man. He took our death in crucifixion that we might have His life by resurrection …

Jesus repetitively promised His disciples in the upper room that He would send “another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would be in them” (cf. Jn. 14:16,17,26,28; 15:26; 16:7,13-17). The word He used for “another” was not heteros, meaning “another of a different kind”, but He used the word allos, meaning “another of the same kind”, because He was promising a Helper who would be just like Him since the Helper would be Him in Spirit-form. Crucified, buried and raised from the dead, Jesus then ascended to the Father (Acts 1:8-11) saying, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;…” Soon thereafter, on Pentecost (Acts 2:14), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon mankind allowing the Spirit of Christ to invest mankind with His life (cf. Acts 2:31-33) … Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25) and told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). The divine life of God is available to man in Jesus Christ. “He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I Jn. 5:11,12) …

We must see beyond the historicity of the empty tomb on that first Easter day, and understand the extension of the resurrection-life and resurrection-power of Jesus Christ in every Christian. Christianity is not just the remembrance of an historical resurrection, but is comprised of the vital dynamic of the risen Lord Jesus functioning in the activity of the Holy Spirit of God by enlivening Christians with the “saving life of Christ” (Rom. 5:10). Christianity is Christ ­ the resurrected Lord Jesus living out His life in Christians every day, to the glory of God.

I hope that you have found this brief series as enlightening and profitable as I have. I also hope that it informs the remainder of our Eastertide 2015 and beyond.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post -- not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 -- resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 636 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

May 2015
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  
Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 785,574 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 636 other followers