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Bible and crossThe 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 have omitted — 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.

Acts 12:20-23

The Death of Herod

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain,[a] they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

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Last week’s post described Herod Antipas’s ire and humiliation over the disappearance of Peter, who makes no more significant appearances in Acts, other than in Chapter 15.

As my post explains, Herod Antipas — i.e. his men — searched for Peter but could not find him. Herod then sentenced his 16 guards assigned to Peter to death.

Matthew Henry thought that their sentence was commuted — because of the events in today’s post. John MacArthur says that they did die.

Regardless, my post said that the death penalty was Roman law for a guard who, even inadvertently, allowed a prisoner to escape.

In any event, Herod Antipas was completely humiliated. He wanted to put Peter on stage for a kangaroo trial and bloody death after Passover that year. He had already had the apostle James — St James the Great — beheaded in a more low-key way. Peter was to be the great public spectacle, akin to Jesus before the Crucifixion.

However, God foiled Herod’s evil plan for Peter at every stage.

And God wasn’t finished yet.

As I wrote last week, after Herod was humiliated, he left Judea for Caesarea, where he staged lavish performances praising Caesar, who had just returned from a triumphant trip to Britain. He was surrounded by the great and the good of the day. They went to sponge off Herod, enjoying his hospitality. They went to honour Caesar, not Herod.

Herod Antipas was saturated with sin. Not only was he angry with the most devout followers of Christ, he was also infuriated by others, as Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us, possibly for trivial reasons.

In verse 20, we discover that he was angry with the people of two ancient cities, Tyre and Sidon. Those cities appear occasionally in both the Old and New Testaments. In 2015, I wrote about Matthew 11:20-24, saying that Sidon was a Phoenecian port city, first mentioned in Genesis 10. The Egyptians sent their wheat to Sidon. From there, ships sent the wheat to Mediterranean ports. Tyre was a nearby fortified city, mentioned in Judges 19. It provided the cedars of Lebanon for Solomon’s temple. The two cities were — not surprisingly — steeped in idolatry, corruption and vice. This is why Jesus’s comment about the two cities — a judgment against the Jews of his time — was such a stinging curse (i.e. ‘Woe to you’):

21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

Also see the parallel in Luke 10:13-15, with more about the two cities.

MacArthur explains that, at the time of Herod Antipas, who was their king for all intents and purposes:

Tyre and Sidon are two free cities north of Caesarea. Caesarea is right on the Mediterranean Sea west of Jerusalem. And up north in Syria, north of Galilee is Tyre and Sidon, coastal cities, free cities, technically belonging to Syria. They were the neighbors of Galilee and of Herod’s territory, so there was a necessary interdependence.

That interdependence had to do with foodstuffs passing through those cities. Both depended on food from Galilee. Tyre and Sidon did not produce their own, as they traded.

MacArthur tells us:

Herod was mad. Maybe he didn’t like the duties or the tariffs that Tyre and Sidon were charging him for his movement of materials. So he got mad at them and he cut off all supplies and they were hurting badly. Herod was very angry and when Tyre and Sidon couldn’t get the food they needed and the supply they needed from Galilee and Israel they were in trouble. And so they knew they needed to make a treaty with Herod.

The people of Tyre and Sidon made an ally out of a man named Blastus, the king’s chamberlain — his trusted attendant or treasurer — who acted as their intermediary. Henry wrote that they likely used bribes.

In any event, they asked for peace, because they were in danger of going hungry.

Herod agreed a date to speak to them. This was a situation he must have relished: having two powerful ports — comparable to city states — being forced to grovel at his feet.

Herod made sure he donned his most royal robes, looked majestic on his throne and delivered an oration to them (verse 21). He milked this for all it was worth. MacArthur says:

He decided that the whole world would know how super he was, how great he was, and watch these two nations bow at his feet, these two cities.

MacArthur adds that all the great and the good who saw the performances lauding Caesar were likely to have been in attendance. The performances had taken place the day before.

Henry agrees with MacArthur that the Jewish historian Josephus also wrote about this event (emphases mine):

he had all the mucky mucks and the leaders all arriving in Caesarea and they met in the amphitheatre that had been built by his grandfather, Herod the Great. I was in that place where that is, big massive amphitheatre and there he had his big throne and all the people were sitting around cheer upon cheer cheering people and he comes out splendid in his royal apparel and Josephus said he had a silver robe on, made of silver. And the sun just came and splattered off of that thing and he just looked resplend[ent] in all of his glory, which is just what he wanted. He was going to get out there and sit in his throne and the cheering people, and he was going to watch all the Tyre and Sidon people bowing down to him and … eat up every second of it. This was day one, the tip of the hat to Caesar, day two my day, see. So he got day one out of the way and the second day comes in his silver robe and he’s the glory of man at its pinnacle. All the Rome pomp and circumstances there, the soldiers, the whole shot, everything is set up and all the little mealy mouth favor seekers are sitting in the chairs cheering, crowds lining everywhere.

This was a big deal. If this were to happen today, it would have been discussed for days on all the cable news channels, on Internet sites, tweeted about and hyped beyond reason. It would have been in all the newspapers and analysed endlessly. It would have been filmed live as a great televisual showdown.

So, duly puffed up with himself, Herod Antipas gave an oration. Henry paints the picture for us:

He made a speech to the men of Tyre and Sidon, a fine oration, in which, probably, after he had aggravated their fault, and commended their submission, he concluded with an assurance that he would pass by their offence and receive them into his favour again–proud enough that he had it in his power whom he would to keep alive, as well as whom he would to slay; and probably he kept them in suspense as to what their doom should be, till he made this oration to them, that the act of grace might come to them with the more pleasing surprise.

If that had occurred today, there would have been a lengthy commercial break between oration and conclusion of perceived mercy.

Amazingly, those who heard the oration — and, frankly, this isn’t too different to our times — pronounced the ‘voice of a god, and not of man’ (verse 22).

Immediately, an angel of the Lord struck him down. He breathed his last, but not before being eaten by worms (verse 23).

N.B.: Herod Antipas was sentenced to death by worms. Those worms did not eat him in his grave. They ate him alive. We all know how hideous maggots and grubs are. Imagine being eaten by them. Talk about a spectacle. That was God’s — and Jesus Christ’s — message to him, those watching and us.

Henry analyses this for us, including Herod’s quasi-Judaism:

his fault was that he said nothing, did not rebuke their flattery, nor disown the title they had given him, nor give God the glory (Acts 12:23); but he took it to himself, was very willing it should terminate in himself, and that he should be thought a god and have divine honours paid him. Si populus vult decipi, decipiatur–if the people will be deceived, let them. And it was worse in him who was a Jew, and professed to believe in one God only, than it was in the heathen emperors, who had gods many and lords many.

This brings us back to Jesus’s curse on Chorazin and Bethsaida cited above. If we know and ignore God’s will and Christ Jesus, we will surely perish.

We cannot know God unless we truly believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour.

As Henry explains:

Now he was reckoned with for vexing the church of Christ, killing James, imprisoning Peter, and all the other mischiefs he had done.

Also:

The angel smote him with a sore disease just at that instant when he was strutting at the applauses of the people, and adoring his own shadow. Thus the king of Tyre said in his pride, I am a god, I sit in the seat of God; and set his heart as the heart of God; but he shall be a man, and no God, a weak mortal man, in the hand of him that slayeth him (Ezekiel 28:2-9), so Herod here. Potent princes must know, not only that God is omnipotent, but that angels also are greater in power and might than they. The angel smote him, because he gave not the glory to God; angels are jealous for God’s honour, and as soon as ever they have commission are ready to smite those that usurp his prerogatives, and rob God of his honour.

Henry adds the following for his audience, as the microscope was in its infancy then. His words are also pertinent for us today, four centuries later:

Surprising discoveries have of late been made by microscopes of the multitude of worms that there are in human bodies, and how much they contribute to the diseases of them, which is a good reason why we should not be proud of our bodies, or of any of their accomplishments, and why we should not pamper our bodies, for this is but feeding the worms, and feeding them for the worms.

Yes! A thousand times yes!

Of the worms, MacArthur tells us:

Josephus says they ate him for five days before he died. That’s a sickening debasing terrible way to die. Just when a man thinks he has exalted himself to the place of glory God crushes him to a place of humility. And I say to you, you can’t fight God because his power can’t be contested and His punishment can’t be avoided. Don’t fight God. He was painfully smitten. The pompous fool done in by worms.

God will never be defeated by unbelievers or mockers.

Next time — Acts 12:24-25

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Bible read me 1The 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.

Acts 5:7-11

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you[a] sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

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Last week’s post concerned the first part of this shocking episode: Ananias’s death, a sentence God carried out through Peter for deceiving Him and the Holy Spirit.

If you haven’t already read it, I strongly recommend doing so, because it concerns the sometimes fatal folly of humans trying to pull one over on the Holy Trinity. Not recommended. In the case of Ananias, it was his sin unto death: the last one before God decides to pull the plug on someone’s life in cases of egregious offence.

Acts 5:6 tells us that young men wrapped up Ananias’s body and carried it out — implying out of the city — for burial. Matthew Henry explains that they:

buried it decently, though he died in sin, and by an immediate stroke of divine vengeance.

Three hours later after the death of Ananias, Sapphira, his wife, walked in (verse 7). She did not know what happened nor that Peter, the Apostles and others present knew the two had consciously not given all the money from their property sale to the congregation. They kept some back for themselves.

Given those circumstances, both our commentators surmise that she thought she was in for a lot of love, given the donation. She was, in John MacArthur’s estimation:

expecting to get in on the laurels.

Henry tells us that all this took place at Solomon’s Porch of the temple in Jerusalem, because the next few verses took place there, the subject of next week’s entry about the signs and wonders done.

He thought that the original idea came from Sapphira herself:

perhaps … first in the transgression, and tempted her husband to eat this forbidden fruit.

Peter confronted her about the amount of money from the property sale. She agreed with what he said (verse 8) and, therefore, lied to him. He then asked her a question similar to the one he posed to Ananias (verse 9). How could the two of them have agreed to test the Holy Spirit? He then told her that the men who buried her husband were ready to take her body, too!

Henry explains the couple’s thought process (emphases mine):

Ananias and his wife agreed to tell the same story, and the bargain being private, and by consent kept to themselves, nobody could disprove them, and therefore they thought they might safely stand in the lie, and should gain credit to it. It is sad to see those relations who should quicken one another to that which is good harden one another in that which is evil …

That they agreed together to do it, making the bond of their relation to each other (which by the divine institution is a sacred tie) to become a bond of iniquity. It is hard to say which is worse between yoke-fellows and other relations–a discord in good or concord in evil.

Peter made sure that, before Sapphira breathed her last, she was aware of her sin — testing the Holy Spirit:

It seems to intimate that their agreeing together to do it was a further tempting of the Spirit; as if, when they had engaged to keep one another’s counsel in this matter, even the Spirit of the Lord himself could not discover them. Thus they digged deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, but were made to know it is in vain. “How is it that you are thus infatuated? What strange stupidity has seized you, that you would venture to make trial of that which is past dispute? How is it that you, who are baptized Christians, do not understand yourselves better? How durst you run so great a risk?”

Henry gives us examples from the Old Testament where people tested God:

That they tempted the Spirit of the Lord; as Israel tempted God in the desert, when they said, Is the Lord among us, or is he not? after they had seen so many miraculous proofs of his power; and not only his presence, but his presidency, when they said, Can God furnish a table? So here, “Can the Spirit in the apostles discover this fraud? Can they discern that this is but a part of the price, when we tell them it is the whole?” Can he judge through this dark cloud? Job 22:13. They saw that the apostles had the gift of tongues; but had they the gift of discerning spirits? Those that presume upon security and impunity in sin tempt the Spirit of God; they tempt God as if he were altogether such a one as themselves.

As soon as Peter made Sapphira aware of her sin, she dropped dead at his feet (verse 10). It could be a combination of being found out and the sudden knowledge that her husband dropped dead was too much for her. All this, in Henry’s words:

struck her as a thunderbolt and took her away as with a whirlwind.

The Holy Spirit was working powerfully through Peter, giving him the discernment, the right words to say and the most effective delivery.

Henry advises us not to consider every sudden death as being divine punishment:

We must not think that all who die suddenly are sinners above others; perhaps it is in favour to them, that they have a quick passage: however, it is forewarning to all to be always ready. But here it is plain that it was in judgment.

He also does not think they were eternally saved, either:

Some put the question concerning the eternal state of Ananias and Sapphira, and incline to think that the destruction of the flesh was that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. And I should go in with that charitable opinion if there had been any space given them to repent, as there was to the incestuous Corinthian. But secret things belong not to us. It is said, She fell down at Peter’s feet; there, where she should have laid the whole price and did not, she was herself laid, as it were to make up the deficiency.

The young men, having just returned, came in to remove her body to bury it beside her husband’s. Henry points out:

it is not said, They wound her up, as they did Ananias, but, They carried her out as she was, and buried her by her husband; and probably an inscription was set over their graves, intimating that they were joint-monuments of divine wrath against those that lie to the Holy Ghost.

Not surprisingly, those who learned of these deaths from attempting to deceive God and the Holy Spirit were struck with ‘great fear’ (verse 11).

This whole event really should be in the three-year Lectionary. If it scares people — the clergy’s great and near-universal fear — so much the better!

We in the West have such a blessing of creature comforts that we have forgotten the wrath of God! Woe betide us!

MacArthur says:

Oh, there are lessons here, what are they? God hates sin. Especi­ally sins in Christians’ lives. Second, God punishes sin. I Peter 4:17, says Judgement must begin at the house of God. And if God cares about the sins of the saints that much and punishes them that stringent­ly, I say to you who are unbelievers, beware of the judgement of God upon you. And so we see lessons, powerful, speaking to our hearts.

Some will wonder whether the Apostles kept the money that Ananias brought them. Henry thought so:

I am apt to think they did … What they brought was not polluted to those to whom they brought it; but what they kept back was polluted to those that kept it back.

The tone of Acts 5 changes in the verses that follow and we return to the glorious wonders that the Holy Spirit made possible in the earliest days of the Apostolic Era.

Next time: Acts 5:12-16

Bible read me 2The 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.

Acts 5:1-6

Ananias and Sapphira

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

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The story of Ananias and Sapphira is one of the most dramatic and instructive in the New Testament with regard to Christian living.

In last week’s post, I cited the final verses of Acts 4, which concluded a description of the generous spirit of giving among the new Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit on and after the first Pentecost. No one was in need or want.

Those who could do so volunteered to sell property and give the proceeds to the disciples to be used for the benefit of the quickly growing community of converts, which, thanks to Peter’s bold evangelism, probably exceeded 20,000 at this point. Scripture gives us the numbers of men. John MacArthur asks us to add on extra for women and children.

Acts 4 ends with this:

36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Of this gentleman, MacArthur says (emphases mine):

Now Joseph was, verse 36, by the apostles nicknamed or surnamed Barnabas. Now Barnabas means the son of consolation, encouragement or exhortation. Apparently Barnabas or Joseph had the gift of exhortation, so they just called him, son of exhortation. And he plays an important part. You remember Barnabas was the man who accompanied the apostle Paul later on in his first miss­ionary journey. Barnabas in chapter 11 verses 22 and following is giv­ing a little counsel, and it’s kinda a beautiful thing to see. Apparent­ly a beloved fellow, you remember he and Paul had a little falling out over John Mark and they parted ways, ’cause Barnabas was such a loving soul, he just couldn’t give up on John Mark. So apparently he was a very dear, a very precious man, and so here he is, his name is Barnabas and he was a Levite and that’s interesting because the Levites were the priestly family, they couldn’t own any property. You say, well how did he get this property? Well, I think it’s another indication that the Old Covenant had passed away. The Old Covenant passing away, then freed the Levites from the bondage of the old law, and he had the right then to own property. And so apparently he’s purchased this, now if he was a Levite he wouldn’t be very wealthy ’cause a priest didn’t make any money, they pretty much lived off of what other people supplied them. And so this was a big thing to him and perhaps he had saved and scrimped and all the way along to be able to have this. He was from the country of Cyprus. Well it says in 37, “Having land, he sold it, and he brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Isn’t that interesting? That was something that probably was his whole lifetime investment, if any history of the Levites is any indic­ation. And he sold it and just said here, you do with what you want.

That brings us to today’s verses. Note that verse 1 begins with ‘but’. Think in terms of ‘however’, signifying something of an opposite nature to come. Matthew Henry explains:

The chapter begins with a melancholy but, which puts a stop to the pleasant and agreeable prospect of things which we had in the foregoing chapters; as every man, so every church, in its best state has its but.

We discover that Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property. Furthermore, both husband and wife knew that Ananias was going to withhold some of the proceeds for themselves (verse 2).

When Ananias brought the portion of the proceeds for the apostles to do with as they saw fit, Peter asked why he lied to the Holy Spirit because his heart was now filled with Satan (verse 3).

Both MacArthur and Henry say that the couple wanted to appear to be as good as Barnabas. It seemed they thought they were on to a win-win situation — a deceptive one. They pledged to the apostles they would donate all the proceeds but knew from the start they would hold some back for themselves. No one would ever know, right?

Henry contrasts the rich young man who encountered Jesus and this couple:

It was commendable, and so far it was right, in that rich young man, that he would not pretend to follow Christ, when, if it should come to a pinch, he knew he could not come up to his terms, but he went away sorrowful. Ananias and Sapphira pretended they could come up to the terms, that they might have the credit of being disciples, when really they could not, and so were a discredit to discipleship.

MacArthur describes what probably happened before the sale:

You see, they had vowed to the Holy Spirit and publicly in front of the congregation that they were going to sell this thing and give it all to the Lord. That was the physical action; it was a lie, they lied to God and to men, and ah, that’s really what Peter says at the end of verse 4, is that you didn’t only lie to men, but you lied to God. So they just put a big lie on. That was really the physical act sin, but behind every physical act sin, watch this, is a mental attitude sin, and the mental attitude sin was, was the secret sin, you know like Lewis Sperry Chafer says, secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven. They thought they were sneaky. And the mental attitude sin was this, hypocrisy based on a desire for spiritual status. I’ll say it again, hypocrisy based on a desire for spiritual status. You see they wanted to be elevated in the minds of everybody else, spiritually, they wanted everybody to think they were super spiritual. And they believed that they would be applau­ded for sacrifice and they could save a little cash at the same time.

By the way, Ananias is alone before Peter. (We’ll get to Sapphira next week.)

Peter asked Ananias why he contrived in his heart to lie — not to man but to God (verse 4). Henry says that the Holy Spirit drove Peter to this truth and to say it aloud:

The Spirit of God in Peter not only discovered the fact without any information (when perhaps no man in the world knew it but the man and his wife themselves), but likewise discerned the principle of reigning infidelity in the heart of Ananias, which was at the bottom of it, and therefore proceeded against him so suddenly.

Some may ask if Ananias changed his mind after making the sale. Henry surmised that if such were the case:

Peter would have taken Ananias aside, and have bidden him go home, and fetch the rest of the money, and repent of his folly in attempting to put this cheat upon them …

However:

he knew that his heart was fully set in him to do this evil, and therefore allowed him not space to repent.

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, could discern that Satan had entered Ananias and could corrupt the new, fledgling set of Christians. MacArthur explains:

Hypocrisy was the dirty sin, hypocrisy was the mental attitude sin, the core sin, creating the impression they were giving all, and they were really pious, and they were really spiritual. And dear ones, this is Satan’s initial move to the inside, to corrupt the church, the sin of hypocrisy among Christians.

Peter’s words were true, because when Ananias heard them, he dropped dead (verse 5). Furthermore, those who heard of what happened were struck with ‘great fear’.

Peter convicted Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit (verse 3) and of lying to God (verse 4).

Ananias received divine judgement — death sentence — for his grave sins.

MacArthur says:

You say, how did he die? I’ll tell ya how he died. He died by judicial act of God’s judgement. You say, well what were the physical causes? I think the shock of the whole thing just stopped his heart, right then. I think his conscience was so struck with the horror of what Peter had just said that he just stopped living.

Had Ananias received the Holy Spirit previously? Henry thought it possible:

1. … Some think that Ananias was one of those that had received the Holy Ghost, and was filled with his gifts, but, having provoked the Spirit to withdraw from him, now Satan filled his heart; as, when the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, an evil spirit from God troubled him. Satan is a lying spirit; he was so in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets, and so he was in the mouth of Ananias, and by this made it appear that he filled his heart.

2. The sin itself: He lied to the Holy Ghost; a sin of such a heinous nature that he could not have been guilty of it if Satan had not filled his heart.

Some will wonder if this really took place. MacArthur gives us an example from English history:

English history records for us the account of the Dean of Saint Paul’s who went in to see Edward [I], and Edward [I] was so mad, he looked at him with a glare that struck him so hard that he fell over dead. Now if Edward [I] can do that, I think God can do it

Therefore:

I think God just brought to the attention of Ananias such a flagrant, blatant act of sin at such a shocking moment of time and he was so discovered, that instead of having to go out and kill himself, he just stopped his heart, dead. In sheer fear and terror.

MacArthur cites other examples in the New Testament whereby God takes people out when they are sinning against Him egregiously. I have broken these up into separate paragraphs so that we all can read them more easily:

Does God actually kill Christians? Yes, He does. Not always though, but He does. You say, you mean that God would actually take the life of a Christian? Yes. You say, What gives you belief in that? I’ll tell you, it’s simple; it’s right in the Word of God. And if the Bible says it, I believe it, and as somebody said, that settles it. [I] Corinthians 11, and you listen well, talking about communion, the Lord’s Table, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgement to himself.” You come to the table of the Lord as a Christian and your heart’s not pure, you’re com­ing and you’re going to eat and you’re going to do it unworthily, unless your heart is clean and there’s no open sin in your life. Listen, he says some of you are doing this and, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” … actually taken the lives of some of you Corinthians because of the way you come to the Lord’s Table.

Let me give you another one. It’s [I] John 5:16 says this, “If any man sees his brother (Christian) sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it.” You say, what is the sin unto death? It’s that last sin that a sinning believer commits when God says, that’s it, I’ve had it, you’re comin’ home. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, and sometimes a Christian lives in sin, and God finally just says, I’m sorry, that’s all, and takes him outta the world. That’s ultimate discipline.

Let me show you one other passage, maybe you never thought of it in this light, but I read it to you in this light. James 1:18, “Of His own will begot He us (he says) with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” God begot us, to be a living example to the world of what His creatures oughta be, you see? We’re to be examples, that’s why He saved us and left us here, now watch, verse 21, well verse 19, let’s go right through it, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, (now to whom is he speaking when he uses those words, Christians or non-Christians? Christians, he says my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, and slow to speak, and slow to wrath; For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (listen) Wherefore, (here you are beloved brethren, God has called you to be examples, so do this) put away filthiness overflowing of wickedness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Do Christians need to do something to have their souls saved? No, that’s a problem isn’t it? It’s not a problem if you understand the Greek word for “souls” is also the word for lives. You know what he’s saying? Put the wickedness out of your life, put the filthiness out of your life, receive the Word, or you’ll die. That’s what he’s saying. That’s how strong God spoke in the early church. If you want to save your lives, ya better get into the Word and put away the filthiness. Now that’s serious stuff.

God will not be mocked.

Atheists do not have a get-out clause by saying, ‘Well, I don’t believe in God. I’m okay.’ No, they are not ‘okay’. Divine judgement concerns everyone.

Verse 6 tells us that Ananias’s corpse was wrapped up and the young men removed it from the congregation to bury it.

MacArthur says they took him out of the city for burial.

To be continued next week.

This really should be in the three-year Lectionary. Can’t you just imagine theologians and clergy saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to scare anyone off’?

Christians have it too easy these days. We ignore or rationalise the hard truths of Holy Scripture because ‘they’re not nice’.

I would suggest that if clergy actually preached from the Bible as John MacArthur does, our mainline denomination churches would have the attendance they did in the 20th century. It sounds paradoxical, but MacArthur proves my case with his huge congregation. No church growth malarkey for him, just the word of God.

Next time: Acts 5:7-11

 

On Maundy Thursday — March 24, 2016 — a Christian-friendly Muslim was brutally murdered in a district of Glasgow.

There was little reporting after Easter weekend. Move along, there’s nothing to see.

Asad Shah, 40, was a newsagent who owned his own shop in Shawlands, Glasgow. He moved from Pakistan to Scotland in the 1990s and, by all accounts, was a happy, outgoing man who had many friends and acquaintances.

Asad was an Ahmadiyya (Ahmadi). They are among the most peaceful Muslim groups. Because the Ahmadis reject violence and jihad, they are also among the most persecuted. Fundamentalist Muslims do not consider Ahmadis to be true Muslims.

They have high respect for Jesus. They believe that, after His death, He was transported to Pakistan and was buried there. His notional tomb is a site of Ahmadi veneration. (See Jean Devriendt comment to Le Monde‘s article.)

This is an important detail, because Asad had a Facebook account on which he posted his final message at 5:10 p.m. on Maundy Thursday:

Good Friday and a very Happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation … Let’s follow the real footstep of beloved holy Jesus Christ and get the real success in both worlds.

One cannot help but hope that Asad’s soul is with our Lord and that he has found ‘success’ in the world to come.

Scotland’s Daily Record reported on March 29 that Asad also posted his own videos with peaceful messages on his Facebook page. In November 2014, a London-based Muslim group opposed to Ahmadi teachings posted them on Daily Motion, a video hosting site, and accused him of being a ‘false prophet’.

Hours after Asad posted his Easter message, he was stabbed in the head with a kitchen knife then was stomped on outside his shop. The Daily Record reported that a man from Bradford (northern England) named Tanveer Ahmed was charged with his murder on March 29 in Glasgow Sheriff Court and remanded in custody. He is due to appear in court again this week.

The case is being rightly treated by authorities as ‘religiously prejudiced’.

Of course, when it was initially reported and few details were available, author Douglas Murray noted:

Most of the UK press began by going big on this story and referring to it as an act of ‘religious hatred’, comfortably leaving readers with the distinct feeling that – post-Brussels – the Muslim shopkeeper must have been killed by an ‘Islamophobe’.

Indeed. And:

Had that been the case, by now the press would be crawling over every view the killer had ever held and every Facebook connection he had ever made. They would be asking why he had done it and investigating every one of his associates.

You bet.

The truth turned out to be something quite different. Consequently, the media lost interest. The last reports that I could find are dated March 29, 2016.

On Easter Sunday, The Guardian reported that Scotland’s only Muslim minister Humza Yousaf tweeted:

No ifs, no buts, no living in denial – vile cancer of sectarianism needs stamped out wherever it exists – including amongst Muslims.

The paper also reported the statement which was issued on behalf of the Ahmadi community:

In any society, all members of the public have a right to safety and it is up to the government and police to protect members of the public as best they can. It is up to the government to root out all forms of extremism and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has been speaking about the importance of this for many years.

Friends and acquaintances of Asad have generously raised more than £90,000 pounds to help his family.

The Guardian reported that Asad’s younger sister, who lives in England and travelled to Scotland to be with family members, expressed her deep gratitude to the donors. Of her late brother, she extolled his humble, gentle nature and said he was:

A real gentleman. He embraced Scotland and Glasgow. He was so proud to be a Glaswegian and so loyal to the city. He knew so many people.

May Asad rest in peace. My condolences to his family and friends who will miss him greatly.

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 (‘Jesus’ Power over Death’, Parts 1 and 2).

Matthew 9:18-26

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly[a] the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

—————————————————————————————————-

Matthew structured his Gospel to show the Jews and us that Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour.

His accounts of our Lord’s miracles in chapters 8 and 9 demonstrate His divine power over disease, demons, nature and death.

Over the past few weeks, we have read of Jesus’s cleansing of the leper (Matthew 8:1-4), the healing of the centurion’s service from a distance (Matthew 8:5-13), restoring Peter’s mother-in-law to health (Matthew 8:14-17), stopping the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), driving demons into swine (Matthew 8:28-34) and the healing of the paralysed man (Matthew 9:1-8).

Today we have the healing of the woman issuing blood and raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead.

I wrote at length about Mark’s and Luke’s fuller accounts of these miracles in 2012 and 2013. This means that neither of these miracles appears in the three-year Lectionary, which is a crying shame. They are two creative miracles which occur at approximately the same time and bring much relief to all concerned.

For a fuller explanation of these miracles, please read my discussions of Mark 5:21-34, Mark 5:35-43, Luke 8:40-48 and Luke 8:49-56.

Incidentally, in reading these accounts, we see that one of the biblically perfect numbers — 12 — features prominently. Mark tells us that the girl is 12-years-old. The woman with the blood flow has suffered for 12 years.

Matthew does not name this man as Jairus, although both Mark and Luke do. Matthew merely refers to him as a ruler (verse 18). Jairus, as the other two Gospel writers tell us, was the ruler of the synagogue. This would have been the synagogue in Capernaum.

From this information we can deduce that he was powerful locally and that, in approaching Jesus, going against the norms of his hierarchy in Jerusalem. That said, Jairus had no problem in publicly kneeling before Him. He explained that his daughter has just died but if He were to come and lay His hand on her, she will live.

Matthew Henry tells us that Jairus’s appeal in this situation should be ours as well:

Note, In trouble we should visit God: the death of our relations should drive us to Christ, who is our life it is well if any thing will do it. When affliction is in our families, we must not sit down astonished, but, as Job, fall down and worship.

Jesus immediately followed Jairus to his home (verse 19). On the way, the woman with the blood flow touched the fringe of His garment in desperation (verse 20).

From the time of Moses, women were ritually unclean when they had their menses. They had to live away from the rest of the household and have a ritual bath once their monthly period had ended. (This is something orthodox Jewish women still do.) Anyone who touched a ritually unclean woman or anything of hers was also unclean and needed to be purified according to Jewish law.

Therefore, let us imagine her sense of isolation and loneliness over so many years. We do not know if she lived on her own or adjacent to the family home. In any event, she would have had no visitors or relatives to give her a hug, converse at length with her and share meals with her. If she had been married, it could be that her husband divorced her. She would no doubt have been pondering why she had such a blood flow and what she might have done spiritually to cause it.

To compound matters, Luke tells us that she had spent all her money in vain on physicians for a cure. Remember that, until the 19th century, medicine was largely a primitive affair. In this lady’s era, she was given potions, herbs and, possibly, animal parts wrapped in linen — all of which would have been in vain.

Even worse, this blood flow would have been odorous and painful. It is possible that the lady suffered from obstetric fistula, which is still common today in Africa. As I wrote when examining Luke’s account, Wikipedia describes it as follows (emphases mine):

The most direct consequence of an obstetric fistula is the constant leaking of urine, feces, and blood as a result of a hole that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum.[11] This endless leaking has both physical and societal penalties. The acid in the urine, feces, and blood causes severe burn wounds on the legs from the continuous dripping.[12] Nerve damage that can result from the leaking can cause women to struggle with walking and eventually lose mobility. In an attempt to avoid the dripping, women limit their intake of water and liquid which can ultimately lead to dangerous cases of dehydration. Ulcerations and infections can persist as well as kidney disease and kidney failure which can each lead to death. Further, only a quarter of women who suffer a fistula in their first birth are able to have a living baby, and therefore have miniscule chances of conceiving a healthy baby later on.

These physical consequences of obstetric fistula lead to severe socio-cultural stigmatization. Most girls are divorced or abandoned by their husbands and partners, disowned by family, ridiculed by friends, and even isolated by health workers. Women with obstetric fistula become worthless in the eyes of society because they are no longer able to give birth and they secrete a harsh odor. [13] Now marginalized members of society, girls are pushed to the brims of their villages and towns, often to live in isolation in a hut where they will likely die from starvation or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces, and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. Because such consequences highly stigmatize and marginalize the woman, the intense loneliness and shame can lead to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Further, women are sometimes forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because the extreme poverty and social isolation that results from obstetric fistula eliminates all other income opportunities. Because only 7.5% of women with fistula are able to access treatment (as found by the UNFPA in 2003), the vast majority of women are forced to suffer the consequences of obstructed and prolonged labor simply because options and access to help is so incredibly limited (there is one hospital dedicated to fistula treatment in the world, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).[14]

We can better understand why this woman was desperate to touch the fringe of Jesus’s garment (verses 20, 21). Matthew and Luke specify ‘fringe’. John MacArthur explains:

Now, in the Old Testament, in Numbers 15:37-41, and Deuteronomy 22:12, the Jews were told that they were to mark their garments with a zizith.  It’s the Hebrew word.  Basically, it’s translated in the Old Testament fringeKraspedon is the Greek word, and it really means a tassel. And they did this: they wove blue thread through their garment; and they had four tassels of kind of a blue color, a bright blue color on their garment; and those tassels were woven in a certain configuration with certain kinds of thread, seven times around and eight times, and there were, there was the significance of various numbers. But the sum total, without going into detail, was that the threads were put together to represent the word of God, faithfulness, loyalty to the word of God, and holiness unto the Lord.  So that every time a Jew went anywhere, the world knew that he belonged to God.  And every time he took his clothes off or put his clothes on, he saw those things and it was a reminder to him.  We have some of that today.  Some people have a little cross, maybe, that they wear, or sign of a fish; and every time you put that on or you look at it, maybe you’re reminded who you belong to.  That’s what that was for them.

Of course, it was the sign then of being holy unto the Lord; and in Matthew 23:5, it says, “The Pharisees made theirs very big.”  See, the bigger your tassel, the more holy you were, they thought.  And you might be interested to know that in times in Europe when the Jews have been persecuted, they have still worn them, but they’ve worn them on their undergarments; and in contemporary times today, you’ll find them still on the prayer shawl of an orthodox Jew;  little blue tassels.

Mark and Luke record that Jesus felt power going out of Him at the moment the woman touched — actually, grabbed — His fringe. Jesus turned around and asked who had touched His garment. In Matthew’s account, He turns around and sees her.

They also record that she approached Him trembling and falling down at His feet, telling Him about her illness.

Jesus says that her faith has made her well (verse 22). MacArthur says that the word for ‘well’ was not just one denoting physical health but also salvation. All three Gospel accounts in Greek use the word sodzo:

it doesn’t use the word for healing, iaomai, the normal word for healing.  You know what it used?  Sodzo: The word means to be saved

She was fully healed — and saved — at that moment.

Jesus refers to her as ‘daughter’, an affectionate and familial term. She became one of His own at that moment. Earlier in Matthew 9, He called the healed paralytic ‘son’ (Matthew 9:2), and, in that case, the man’s sins were forgiven as well as his body made fully functional once again.

MacArthur analyses her faith:

She had faith, didn’t she?  She said, “If I can just touch that thing.”  You say, “Well, it’s not exactly a perfected mature thing.”  No, it’s almost like superstition, isn’t it?  It’s almost kind of magical.  Say, “Well, the Lord certainly isn’t going to respond to that.”  Listen, faith as the grain of a mustard seed would move a mountain.  The Lord will take, the Lord will take an inadequate faith like the man’s that is somewhat selfish, and He’ll take an inadequate faith like the lady’s that is somewhat superstitious, and He’ll move it from there to the saving faith.  He couldn’t let that lady go or the, or all she would’ve remembered maybe was the superstition.  He had to pull her into the fullness of a relationship. I don’t really believe she was healed by her faith.  I think she was healed by the sovereignty of God.  God chose to heal her.  Jesus just said He’d felt power go out of Him

I think there’s a redemptive element in her faith.  Oh, she wanted to just grab on; and it was kind of a, kind of a superstitious thing, in a way.  Jesus wouldn’t leave it at that.  He drew her out, and He saved her.

Matthew Henry has a similar, but slightly fuller take:

She believed she should be healed if she did but touch the very hem of his garment, the very extremity of it. Note, There is virtue in every thing that belongs to Christ. The holy oil with which the high priest was anointed, ran down to the skirts of his garments, Psalm 133:2. Such a fulness of grace is there in Christ, that from it we may all receive, John 1:16.

… he will not only have his power magnified in her cure, but his grace magnified in her comfort and commendation: the triumphs of her faith must be to her praise and honour. He turned about to see for her (Matthew 9:22), and soon discovered her. Note, It is great encouragement to humble Christians, that they who hide themselves from men are known to Christ, who sees in secret their applications to heaven when most private. Now here,

(1.) He puts gladness into her heart, by that word, Daughter, be of good comfort. She feared being chidden for coming clandestinely, but she is encouraged …

(2.) He puts honour upon her faith. That grace of all others gives most honour to Christ, and therefore he puts most honour upon it Thy faith has made thee whole. Thus by faith she obtained a good report. And as of all graces Christ puts the greatest honour upon faith, so of all believers he puts the greatest honour upon those that are most humble as here on this woman, who had more faith than she thought she had. She had reason to be of good comfort, not only because she was made whole, but because her faith had made her whole

Now we turn to Jairus. When we read of Jesus’s creative miracles, we find people approaching Him in different ways and with various sentiments. Whereas the centurion told Jesus that a word from Him at a distance could heal his servant, Jairus says that if only He lay His hand on his daughter she would come back to life.

Regardless, Jesus knew what was in the heart of everyone He healed. In addition to being restored, their sins were forgiven or He told them they had saving faith. He accepted them whether their faith was lesser or greater, imperfect as it was.

When Jesus reached Jairus’s house, the group of mourners and flute players were already there (verse 23), as Jewish law directed. MacArthur explains:

The Talmud says this, “The husband is bound to bury his dead wife and to make lamentations in mourning for her according to the custom of all countries; and also the very poorest among the Israelites will not allow her less than two flutes and one wailing woman.”  I mean even if you were in abject poverty, you had to hire one wailing woman and two flutes.  Now, if you’re wealthy, the Talmud said, it should be in accord with your wealth.

So here is a man who probably had a lot of means, and the place was filled with flutes, and you could imagine what a mess:  Ripping and tearing, screaming and shrieking and wailing, and guys all over the place playing flutes.  In fact, they did this in the Roman world, too, and they said, and Seneca wrote that there were so many flute players playing, and there was so much screaming at the death of Emperor Claudius that they felt that Claudius himself probably heard it, even though he was dead. So you can see what a funeral was like in those times.

Jesus told the group that the girl was sleeping, not dead (verse 24). Those gathered laughed at Him in their disbelief, even though He was based in Capernaum, so, surely they would have heard of His  restorative miracles.

Henry explains why Jesus used the word ‘sleep’. Briefly, when we die, our souls go to be with the Lord whilst our bodies are at rest in a short death, awaiting the Last Day when we shall be brought together whole in perfection — body and soul — to spend eternity with Him:

They sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14) they not only rest from the toils and labours of the day, but rest in hope of a joyful waking again in the morning of the resurrection, when they shall wake refreshed, wake to a new life, wake to be richly dressed and crowned, and wake to sleep no more. (2.) The consideration of this should moderate our grief at the death of our dear relations: “say not, They are lost no, they are but gone before: say not, They are slain no, they are but fallen asleep and the apostle speaks of it as an absurd thing to imagine that they that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished (1 Corinthians 15:18) give place, therefore, to those comforts which the covenant of grace ministers, fetched from the future state, and the glory to be revealed.

The crowd were told to leave the house and wait outside. Jesus entered Jairus’s home, took the girl by the hand and, through His power, she rose from the dead (verse 25).

Matthew’s account tells us that news of this resurrection spread throughout the district (verse 26). By contrast, Mark’s and Luke’s tell us that He told the parents not to speak of it.

Mark’s version has Jesus calling the girl talitha cumi (Mark 5:41), a term of affection which is a warmer way of saying ‘little girl’.

In closing, MacArthur has interesting quotes on life and death with regard to Jesus. They help us to reflect more on Him as Saviour and Redeemer.

The first comes from Mahatma Gandhi:

Fifteen years before Gandhi’s death, he wrote this.  “I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul.  It fills my whole being, and I find a solace in the Bhagavad and Upanishads that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount.”  Utterly at peace, utterly comfortable with his Hinduism.  Just before his death, he wrote this.  “My days are numbered.  I am not likely to live very long, perhaps a year or a little more.  For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond.”  Footnote:  It was interesting; he must have been reading Pilgrim’s Progress.  Then he said this.  “All about me is darkness, and I am desperately praying for light.”  Even Mahatma Gandhi, who seemed to have it all together as he began to face the inevitability of death, saw it all falling apart.

The second — much more encouraging — is from G B Hardy, a Canadian scientist:

When I looked at religion, I said I have two questions.  Question No. 1:  Has anybody ever conquered death?  Question No. 2: If they did, did they make a way for me to conquer, too?”  He said, “I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Confucius, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Mohammed, and it was occupied; and I came to the tomb of Jesus, and it was emptyAnd I said, ‘There is One who conquered death.’  And I asked the second question, ‘Did He make a way for me to do it?’  And I opened the Bible, and He said, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.'”

May those who continue to doubt be filled with divine grace that they may believe and live for evermore.

Next time: Matthew 9:27-31

slipperyMany thanks to loyal reader Llew, who sent in the link to the Spiked article cited below!

The UK Parliament will be debating assisted dying in September 2015. Over the past few years, several high profile cases have come to light of older Britons who have ended it all with professional help. Sometimes this was because of terminal illness, however, not always.

Secularist supporters

In August 2015, university lecturer and author Kevin Yuill wrote an article for Spiked — the UK’s libertarian, secular humanist/atheist site — about the curious case of retired nurse Gill Pharaoh.

Pharaoh was 75 and relatively healthy when she died on July 21, 2015, at the LifeCircle clinic in Switzerland. Yuill says she was ‘healthy’, but her final entry states that, in recent years, she’d suffered an attack of shingles, ongoing tinnitus and joint pain. A lot of other older people have these ailments, too. But she wanted to end her life her way.

Yuill cites Pharaoh’s blog. She wanted

people to remember me as I now am – as a bit worn around the edges but still recognisably me!

But how was she to know what she would be like in five or even 15 years’ time? Only the Almighty knows that. Maybe she would have continued to age gracefully apart from physical complaints which are entirely normal, albeit annoying, aspects of growing old.

Pharaoh had no faith. She objected to British law with regard to assisted death because it

originates from a god in whom we have no belief.

Pharaoh blogged about her decision-making regarding ending her own life. She also gave a interview to The Times (Murdoch paper, ergo paywall), summarised in the Daily Mail. Yuill says she was searching for validation and recognition. He introduces his article with a précis of Christopher Lasch‘s excellent 1979 book, The Culture of Narcissism. If you can buy or borrow a copy, it will be more relevant today than when it was written. I read it in the early 1980s in the US and was shocked. Needless to say, my work colleagues told me the man was talking out of his hat. Yet, how correct he was. His book warns about attention-seeking behaviour which demands that everyone else acquiesces to one’s wishes. What Pharaoh wanted was a change in the law.

The Daily Mail article quotes Pharaoh as saying that her mother had dementia and that, if she could have done so, she would have helped her mother die. My family members and I have had parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s, for shorter and longer periods of time. None of us, even the agnostics, ever thought of putting them to death.

Another high profile case in Britain was that of 68-year old Bob Cole, who ended his days at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland on August 14, 2015. Cole’s wife Ann Hall, who suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy, had died at the clinic 18 months before.

Cole had mesothelioma, a lung cancer, which left him doubled over — in his words, ‘crouching like an animal’. He, too, wanted a change in the law. The Telegraph reports (aforementioned link) that he told The Sun (another Murdoch paper, like The Times) in an interview:

I should be able to die with dignity in my own country, in my own bed. The law needs to change. How do you change the law? People have got to take a stand. So that’s what I’m doing today. 

The politicians need to have the guts to change this law. Just bite the bullet. Accept that the British public want this change. If they don’t it will be forced upon them because the public feeling is overwhelming.

Is ‘public feeling overwhelming’ on this issue?

In any event, there are British organisations promoting legalised assisted death. Dignity in Dying were informed once Bob Cole died. Gill Pharaoh had been a member of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS). What role do such groups play in encouraging personal publicity for past and future high profile assisted suicides?

Yuill has a point when he says that people who want to terminate their lives through assisted dying should do so quietly with no publicity.

Judeo-Christian supporters

Only days after my reader Llew forwarded me the Spiked article, I read an article in The Telegraph which left me speechless.

‘”There is nothing sacred about suffering”, insist faith leaders in assisted dying call’ shocked me.

Among these faith leaders are

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism and Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain a leading figure in Reform Judaism …

That is bad enough. However, there are Christians, too: Baroness Richardson, first female President of Methodist Conference, along with prominent Anglicans such as Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, and ‘a handful of Anglican clerics’.

It should be noted that the Church of England officially opposes euthanasia.

These men and women, Jews and Christians, are opposing the government — and God.

In a letter to The Telegraph, the article says, they wrote that:

far from being a sin, helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to “gracefully hand back” their lives to God.

There is, they insist “nothing sacred” about suffering in itself and no one should be “obliged to endure it”, they insist.

Wow. Just. Wow.

How can one ‘gracefully hand back’ one’s life to God by terminating it? He gave us life. Only He can legitimately end it. It is not up to us to decide when that moment is. Not so long ago, this sort of attitude would have been rightly condemned.

Well, Rob Marris (Labour) will have his Assisted Dying Bill debated within the next few weeks. May life-respecting and God-fearing heads prevail.

Why the law should stay as it is

The Telegraph article included the following rationale for maintaining the status quo:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, co-chair of the Campaign group Living and Dying Well, which opposes a change, said: “The law exists to protect us, all of us and especially the most vulnerable among us, from harm – including self-harm.

“People who are terminally ill are especially vulnerable. As a society we go to considerable lengths to discourage and prevent suicide.

“Licensing assisted suicide for terminally ill people would fly in the face of that.”

I couldn’t agree more. In 2014, I pointed out that children’s euthanasia was already legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. There’s no minimum age in Belgium and in the other two countries a child only needs to be 12 years old before he can request his own death. These kids could be disabled, suffering from terminal illness or have a curable condition such as anorexia. This is a very slippery slope.

Returning to the Spiked article, Kevin Yuill pointed out that, on the other end of the age spectrum, a Dutch citizen’s initiative Uit Vrije Wil (Out of Free Will) received 117,000 letters of support in 2010 for a relaxation of the Netherlands’ law which would allow persons over the age of 70 to end their own lives just because they were tired of living!

And this isn’t a European phenomenon, either. My aforementioned post from 2014 gave these statistics:

In 2005, Gallup’s poll on the subject found that a majority of Christians in the United States support euthanasia: 75% of Catholics, 70% of Protestants and 61% of Evangelicals. A majority of Catholics and Protestants also support physician-assisted suicide, PAS — 60% and 52%, respectively — although only 32% of Evangelicals do.

It’s pretty clear that the rise of secularism in the 1960s, possibly before, brought about legalised control over life and death, beginning with abortion. A person can be his own god, making decisions only the Almighty rightly has control over.

Does God pardon Christian suicide?

John MacArthur’s Grace to You (GTY) ministry team wrote a worthwhile article, ‘Can one who commits suicide be saved?’

It’s short and well worth reading. On the one hand, as Christians are saved, in principle, suicide

can be forgiven like any other sin.

HOWEVER … on the other hand …

GTY say that this would be (emphases mine) only 

in a time of extreme weakness.

They explain:

… we question the faith of those who take their lives or even consider it seriously–it may well be that they have never been truly saved.

In which case, there is the issue of the second death at Judgement Day leading to eternal condemnation.

Their article cites Scripture saying that a true Christian has hope and purpose in his life. As such, suicide would not enter into the equation. And:

Furthermore, one who repeatedly considers suicide is practicing sin in his heart (Proverbs 23:7), and 1 John 3:9 says that “no one who is born of God practices sin.” And finally, suicide is often the ultimate evidence of a heart that rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ, because it is an act where the sinner is taking his life into his own hands completely rather than submitting to God’s will for it. Surely many of those who have taken their lives will hear those horrifying words from the Lord Jesus at the judgment–“I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

The article concludes:

So though it may be possible for a true believer to commit suicide, we believe that is an unusual occurrence. Someone considering suicide should be challenged above all to examine himself to see whether he is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Bible verses against suicide and assisted death

There are many web pages with notional Scripture verses against suicide which includes assisted death. However, most of the verses are not very helpful.

The best page I have found is Adrian Warnock’s on Patheos.

Warnock is a physician and author. He also serves as part of the leadership team at Jubilee Church London.

Any Christian who is considering ending his own life through assisted dying would do well to read Warnock’s selection of Bible verses, meditate on them then pray fervently and frequently.

Here are the first three (emphases in the original):

This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it (John 11:4).

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10).

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8–10.)

His page has several more.

Conclusion

Christians who listen to their clergy and leaders who advocate for euthanasia or assisted dying are in danger of dying an everlasting death. As they are making a considered, premeditated decision, they are guilty of murdering themselves.

Clergy advocating assisted dying would do well to examine their hearts humbly before the Lord, repent and publicly say they were wrong. They could be sending Christians — and themselves — to an eternal death. Theirs is such an irresponsible and reprehensible position to adopt.

No one knows why the Lord sends us debilitating and lengthy illnesses. However, He works everything to His purpose. In these situations, Christians must have hope, faith and pray whilst seeking palliative relief.

The basic problem is — and this seems to include certain clergymen, too — lack of faith, a love of self and pride in one’s own abilities and decision-making. I’ll return to these themes soon in another context.

Samuel Rutherford St. Andrews.jpgIn the early 1990s, one of London’s principal museums had an exhibition on death as represented in art of the 16th and 17th centuries.

I spent an afternoon looking at all the paintings and reading the explanations underneath. Nearly all the paintings of families included a small memento mori of children or parents who predeceased them.

Although this Dutch family portrait was not among the exhibits, it is typical of what I viewed that afternoon. The two small reclining figures to the left of the mother’s head are her children who died in infancy.

The exhibition also emphasised that people at that time believed a ‘good’ death was essential. This meant that one mustn’t die in violent circumstances — brawl, stabbing — because it could mean that the deceased might have been engaging in sin (e.g. drunkenness, anger, revenge) which caused his demise.

A prominent Scottish Presbyterian minister of the day was Samuel Rutherford, made Professor of Divinity at St Andrews University in 1638.

He wrote (emphases mine):

What you do amiss in your life today, you may amend tomorrow; for as many suns as God maketh to arise upon you, you have as many new lives; but you can die but once; and if you mar that business, you cannot come back to mend that piece of work again; no man sinneth twice in dying ill; as we die but once, so we die but ill or well once.

Rutherford, incidentally, was diligent in serving his congregation prior to his appointment at St Andrews. He was known for his Bible study, scholarly preaching and visiting the sick.

Those of us who have Christian blogs will be heartened to read this of Rutherford during the time he lived in Aberdeen:

‘his writing desk’, was said to be, ‘perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in Christendom’.[4]

May we pray and strive for the same result.

As some of us know, vulnerability — principally because of age or loss — can create a vacuum to be filled by an unscrupulous, manipulative fraudster.

This has been the case throughout history, although there was a time when the most serious menace a widow in my mother’s city could face was a series of obscene phone calls in the middle of the night. Her other widowed friends warned her that a local man read the obituaries in the local newspaper and looked up the telephone numbers of households where men had recently died, specifically those death notices which mentioned surviving widows. Yes, my mother, as did her friends in their time, received several of these calls over a period of a few weeks.

That is distressing enough, particularly as, when the phone rang at 2 or 3 a.m., she thought I had been seriously injured or died in an accident. It really isn’t big, clever or funny. Nobody knows what happened to that heavy breather on the other end of the phone. He might have died by now or moved away.

Some years earlier, my late grandmother recalled the pigeon drop. It was rampant in her urban neighbourhood — a different city — in the 1970s. Two confidence tricksters — a thirtysomething man and woman — preyed on elderly widows to part with their savings in order to somehow magically get more money. The man presented the money angle; the woman the emotional ‘we really want you to have the cash, you’re so adorable’ gambit.

Anyone with half an ounce of common sense could see where that was going to end, right? Not necessarily. Some of Grandma’s friends were even taken in by the scam, despite the fact that all the senior citizens clubs in her area warned against even talking to these grifters.

Today, I heard an hour-long programme on French radio station RTL about how lone confidence tricksters can prey on married couples and split them apart.

I’ve written about Flavie Flament’s afternoon show on RTL once before, with regard to etiquette.  Her show on May 13, 2014 focussed on the true story of a manipulative man who one day began communicating with a married woman —  Ghislaine (pron. ‘Ghee-len’) de Védrines — and managed to defraud the couple of a serious sum of money. He is now serving a prison term. The woman and her husband, Jean Marchand, have since written a book about their decade-long ordeal. A psychiatrist was also on the show to explain how this occurs.

The psychiatrist, Marie-France Hirigoyen, said that manipulative grifters can sense vulnerability and gradually — my words, not hers — go in for the kill, if you’ll pardon the expression. She said that loss triggers vulnerability in most cases: death, divorce or, perhaps, a job.

Strangely, in Ghislaine (pron. ‘Ghee-len’) de Védrines and Jean Marchand’s case, they were married and living together with their children. Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the show which explained exactly how Ghislaine was ensnared in this man’s universe. Although Jean explained that he tried to tell her time and time again that the man was no good, she refused to believe him.

Amazingly (to my mind, anyway), this disagreement filtered down to their children, who began taking sides with Mom or Dad.

The weird thing is that Ghislaine never actually met this man until later on. However, he contacted her by telephone and he emailed, targeting her mind first and then her wallet.

Therefore, this scenario could happen to anyone, including a married couple who are parents of younger children living at home.

The danger was that once Ghislaine was trapped, she couldn’t get out because the conman had such a psychological hold on her. I watched the show as it took place live in the studio. Ghislaine and her husband look completely normal and middle class. You would not think that one of them would fall prey to such a scam, particularly one that stretched over ten years.

They — along with the psychiatrist — ran through characteristics that these con artists have in common: persuasive communication, drawing the ‘mark’ (targeted person) away from their family and friends, encouraging the mark to trust no one but the con artist himself and ensuring that they have secret communications.

Jean remained by his wife’s side throughout the ordeal, even though — because of the con artist’s manipulative persuasion — Ghislaine couldn’t bear to be with him. She ended up going through psychotherapy and fully regrets that she was taken in by a man who threatened every aspect of the stable family life and financial security she once knew.

It’s interesting that the title of the couple’s book is Diabolique, which needs no translation.

I’m still surprised thinking about it now, hours later. However, it just goes to show us that evil can work under a series of subtle disguises, seemingly good, so ‘good’ that it can seriously damage people, their relationships and their future.

If we’re going through trauma, the best advice we can follow is not to be drawn in by chance acquaintances, whether in real life or online.

This story is proof that a con artist can penetrate even a marriage and active family life.

At least, in this case, the husband persevered. He never gave up reclaiming his wife’s affections and putting his family back together.

As for Ghislaine, she said that the most important thing a mark can do is to apologise to their loved ones by admitting they made a serious mistake.

Some family members would not take a sincere apology well and possibly reject that person.

Fortunately for Ghislaine, her family has forgiven her, although both she and Jean admit that things are no longer what they once were.

We as Christians are called to be kind to strangers. Yet, we can bear in mind Jesus’s words to the Apostles when he sent them out to preach and heal (Matthew 10:16):

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance in our daily dealings with the world.

window_pfcross271w St Mary the Virgin Gillingham DorsetOne of the worst aspects about the death of a loved one is that family express their grief for the deceased but have little subsequent time for the survivor — child (especially adult), spouse or sibling.

This is a stark and uncomfortable fact.

Social logic dictates that family will always be with us through thick and thin: ‘blood is thicker than water’.

However, that is not always the case. And many of us can speak to it from personal experience.

Family, for many people, is not the be all and end all when it comes to death. Readers might not enjoy reading this, however, it is often, sadly, true.

When a relative is dying or terminally ill, it is helpful to cultivate the alliance of a trusted carer of that person. This might be a private social worker (as it is in the US for some elderly people), hospice carer or director of an assisted care facility where the loved one resides. Failing that, a funeral director can often be helpful.

At the time of death, some family members may express heartfelt sympathy and request details as to mortuary visitation or funeral service.

However gratifying this is, it might not extend to your greater comfort in the weeks, months and years ahead.

It is not unusual for these relatives to think of the person dying. In fact, it is perfectly normal.

That said, they are not necessarily thinking of your needs as well.

A mourner might confuse the two inadvertently.

A relative offering sympathy with regard to the death of a family member might not have the mourner in mind.

That is not meant to be a harsh or adversarial statement.

However, the fact of the matter is that, sometimes, when family members suddenly contact you to express their deepest sympathy, they’re not doing it so much for you as for the person who is soon to meet — or has met — his or her Maker.

Therefore, please do not build up false hopes that physically distant family members from whom you have not heard from in three decades will suddenly email, phone, write or visit in future to see if they can do anything to help.

The sad truth is that, in many — not all, however — cases, they may well forget all about you soon afterward.

Although you are the survivor and the one who is the principal mourner, their regard for you might be infinitesimal.

It’s not necessarily intentional. It’s just the way our minds largely operate when they are oriented towards the worldly rather than the godly.

Along with this comes the added burden of blame on the survivor for the death of the loved one. The ‘why didn’t you do such and such’. The ‘it should have been you’, not him or her.  The ‘I have such fond memories of your father, mother, sister, brother’ which turns out not to extend to you in your months of grief to come.

I do not mean to be purposely discouraging. In fact, far from it (Rx: focus on prayer and the Bible, my usual reliable prescription for all problems).

However, I have experienced this myself in the past and have had more succour from those outside the family than within it.

In caring for the stranger, a biblical tenet, friends and outsiders might have been more understanding, better trained, more experienced — who knows?

No matter how uplifting a message of sympathy is from a family member upon a death of a loved one, it might not necessarily follow that that person is around later on for practical or moral support.

This, I believe, is the crux of grief for many: the disappointment which follows after all the well-wishers have left, never to return.

I pray that is not true for you.

Yet, dealing with a family member’s death can often be a lonely position in which to find oneself.

This post is meant to set expectations, not to falsely raise hopes of relations in an hour of need.

May the Lord bless all those who are grieving at present and who are about to do so. As a fellow survivor without the usual family help — outside that of my loving better half — my sympathies and prayers also go to you.

It is far from an easy journey, practically and emotionally.

May God’s grace, Christ’s intercession and the guidance of the Holy Spirit be with all mourners this day and always.

Further reading:

‘Grief and Loss: Getting over the Loss of Someone Close to You’ (TWU Counseling Center)

‘Traumatic and Sudden Loss’ (Grief Speaks)

‘The Grief Process’ (Morris Bros, Tavistock, Devon, UK)

‘A Death in the Family’ (Matthews Mortuary, Montpelier, Idaho)

‘Help for Hurting Families’ (Catholic Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey)

Bible boy_reading_bibleContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

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

Luke 8:49-56

49While he was still speaking, someone fromthe ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

—————————————————————————————–

My last post on Luke 8 tells the first half of Jairus’s story. He was the ruler — or one of the rulers (leaders) — of his synagogue. His 12-year old daughter was dying and he asked Jesus to go to his house to heal her.

I wrote about Mark’s treatment of this miracle in 2012.  Mark adds a touching detail, described below. Matthew’s account (Matthew 9:23-26), on the other hand, is perfunctory by comparison with Mark’s and Luke’s. However, it does add the epilogue which the other two do not (emphases mine):

23And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26And the report of this went through all that district.

Now on to Luke’s account. In verse 49, a messenger from Jairus’s house comes to say that there is no point in asking Jesus to see the girl as she has died.

Jesus answers the man with a message of faith (verse 50): fear not, only believe and she will be well. Matthew Henry has two excellent observations here:

Note, Our faith in Christ should be bold and daring, as well as our zeal for him. They that are willing to do any thing for him may depend upon his doing great things for them, above what they are able to ask or think. When the patient is dead there is no room for prayer, or the use of means but here, though the child is dead, yet believe, and all shall be well. Post mortem medicusto call in the physician after death, is an absurdity but not post mortem Christusto call in Christ after death.

When he arrived at Jairus’s home, He directed everyone to stay outside except Jairus, his wife and His inner circle of Apostles, Peter, John and James (verse 51).

Outside, the mourners carried on. Jewish funerals then were loud, emotive affairs marked by much wailing and music. John MacArthur explains:

He stopped the crowd from following Him. He stopped the other disciples who He probably used as sort of a perimeter guard and He just took those three with Him because He knew the chaos would be there, He didn’t want to add more chaos. He didn’t want to drag the entire crowd into that environment. And He didn’t even want all the disciples going, not even all the twelve Apostles. But just three, and this is the first occasion when Jesus separated Peter, James and John out from the rest…first time. He does it in the future … because He can’t always work with that many and He always has to have an inner circle and it’s these three, Peter the leader, John the lover, and James who became the first martyr. He selected these three to be His most intimate. They were the ones who reported from the disciples and apostles their concerns to Jesus and they were the ones who went back to the disciples with Jesus’ concerns. Every leader has to have an intimate circle and it was these three that Jesus chose.

Jesus told the crowd to stop their mourning because the girl was ‘not dead but sleeping’ (verse 52). This is why many parents explain that a loved one who has died is ‘asleep’. It is also why we use the expression ‘rest in peace’. The body dies but the soul of the believer ascends to Heaven. On the Day of Judgment, body and soul will be reunited, made anew. Henry’s commentary says:

it is applicable to all that die in the Lord therefore we should not sorrow for them as those that have no hope, because death is but a sleep to them, not only as it is a rest from all the toils of the days of time, but as there will be a resurrection, a waking and rising again to all the glories of the days of eternity.

John MacArthur reviews other biblical references to sleep and death:

Even in the Old Testament it talks about those who have fallen asleep. You remember Paul’s sermon in Acts 13 … he’s talking about David who had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep. But he whom God raised did not undergo decay. He fell asleep. Why does he talk about David’s death, his body goes into the grave, he talks about his decay in the grave, that’s asleep? Sure because it’s temporary…it’s temporary. A good way to see this is in John chapter 11 at the death of Lazarus. You remember the story because it’s so familiar. And he comes, verse 11, our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, he says. “But I go that I may awaken him out of sleep.” Jesus redefines death as temporary. The disciples said to Him, “Lord, if he’s fallen asleep, he’ll wake up.” I mean, they’re used to the normal terminology. “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought He was speaking of literal sleep. So Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Lazarus is dead, but I’m glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there so that you may believe.'” Let’s go to him. I’m glad he died. I’m glad I didn’t get there when he was just sick, I’m glad he’s died because…He says in verse 25…”I am the resurrection and the life, who believes in Me shall live even if he dies,” and He shows it to be true. In verse 43 He says to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth. Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go.” It was…it was true to redefine death from a permanent situation to a temporary one because that’s reality. Death is just a form of sleep. In fact, it’s a brief sleep, very brief. The body may sleep a little while but the spirit doesn’t sleep at all. It goes into the next life, into the next world.

When Jesus told the mourners that the girl is only asleep, they mocked Him (verse 53). Henry has this analysis:

They were unworthy to be the witnesses of this work of wonder they who in the midst of their mourning were so merrily disposed as to laugh at him for what he said would, it may be, have found something to laugh at in what he did, and therefore are justly shut out.

Once inside the house, our Lord took the girl by the hand and told her to ‘arise’ (verse 54). Mark’s account says that He addressed her as talitha (Mark 5:41), an affectionate term which meant ‘lamb’ in Aramaic. This was the language of the region at that time.

Once again, we see not only Jesus’s healing power but also His gentleness. Remember that he addressed the woman with the blood loss as ‘daughter’ when He healed her on the way to Jairus’s home.

Luke tells us that, at Jesus’s touch and request to arise, the girl’s ‘spirit returned’ (verse 55). He healed her instantly, with no recovery time needed. Such was the nature of His creative miracles.

Ever the pragmatist, our Lord instructed her parents to get her something to eat. Jesus is mindful of human needs, nourishment being one of them.

Luke’s account tells us of her parents’ astonishment (verse 56), no doubt the same which the woman healed of her hemorrhage experienced. It was a profound joy mixed with fear and awe. They recognised that they were in the presence of Someone extraordinary. The Gerasenes also knew that, after Jesus drove the legion of demons out of the man and allowed them to enter into the swine who then ran down the bank to their death. However, instead of embracing Him, they asked Him to leave.

Our Lord’s instructions to people following these miracles would make a good study for anyone reading the New Testament. Luke 8 is a wonderful starting point. Jesus told the man healed of demons to go and tell others what happened to him. However, with regard to Jairus and his wife, He asked them to tell no one.

There are a number of reasons why, most of which I explored with Mark’s account. It could also be that our Lord was passing condemnation on the mourners who laughed at Him. That said, Matthew tells us that news of the miracle spread throughout the area.

John MacArthur adds another reason, a warm, affectionate one:

I think it was really designed for the moment. I think the Lord was saying, “Stay where you are. I’ve cleared the house. It’s just us. That’s the way it needs to be. Just enjoy the reunion. The imaginable…unimaginable thrill of resurrection, the restoration of love, the restoration of life. Don’t feel some obligation to satisfy the curious crowd … Just enjoy what has been done. Just enjoy the power of God, enjoy the life fo the girl, celebrate, worship, give thanks to God. And maybe Jesus had more to say to them about the gospel. There are lots of people who can spread the Word, the Word would get spread for sure. It did. But you have another priority, enjoy this gift. Enjoy My power, enjoy My goodness, enjoy My company, enjoy My grace, rejoice in the life I give and later on you’ll have plenty of opportunity to tell the story.”

Next time: Luke 9:1-6

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