God’s peculiar people and holy nation.

Julian Kennedy's photo.

The vision given Peter on the roof of Simon the tanner’s house in Acts 10 had far-reaching consequences. ‘The cleansing of that which before was rightly held to be common or unclean extended beyond the mere matter of animals and food. The distinction in animals was part of a host of regulations regarding cleanness and uncleanness, all of which in turn spoke to Israel of a NATIONAL distinction and separation. If the distinction in meats were to fall, the distinction between Jew and Gentile would fall with it.’* This has indeed happened through the gospel as Paul explains in Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

2:16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

So to look for a rebuilt Jewish temple and sacrifices in a millennial kingdom is not only fanciful, it directly flies in the face of God’s purposes and the Biblical teaching that there is ONE PEOPLE of God, Abraham’s children, consisting all the elect who believe. They are God’s PECULIAR  NATION

 

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Trinidad

There follows a power-point of our holiday in July and August 2013. 

 

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DSCF6726 A plasticene model!

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Proudly independent since 1962 (formerly British). English is the language (often Pigeon English!)

 

 

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Coconut plantation near Mayaro.

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DSCF6791Look what you can make from them!

 

DSCF6580 2 Much rain means greenery.

DSCF6685Us. Julian, Joseph and Marie.

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False religion abounds.

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Fast ferry to Tobago. North coastal mountain range of Trinidad in background.

 

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Rubbish-a common site.

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Lovely waterfalls for bathing.

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Mosquito net and aircon-two necessities!

 

DSCF6720 999443_1383258821902438_1686834955_n A comparison!

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Wonderful wildlife. Giant Leatherback Turtle and Scarlet Ibis.

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Many beautiful plants.

 

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There will be no earthly millenium!

There is much Biblical proof that there is ONLY ONE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST, which bisects time into THIS AGE and THE AGE TO COME, His coming will be THE END OF THE WORLD as we know it and the beginning of ETERNITY. We are in the LAST DAYS of planet earth as we know it.

Proof:

1)      Only TWO AGES. Ephesians 1:21. ‘Not only in this world (aeon=age) but also that which is to come.’ Christ also spoke of marriage in this world but not in the next thereby excluding any earthly millennium after the resurrection. Matthew 12:26. Jew and Gentile are manifestly united and all equal in the church (Eph. 2:13-22) and hence there does not fit with any Jewish millennial kingdom with the Jews in the ascendancy. An earthly millennium or temple, the product of a dispensational eschatology also denies the fundamental unity of the church in all ages-Israel is the church and the church is Israel (Galatians 3:7,29. Romans 2:28,29).

2)      Christ’s coming is called the DAY OF THE LORD. There can only be ONE DAY OF THE LORD.

What happens on that day? A public (Matthew 24:27,30-no secret rapture!), global appearing of the ascended KING of Kings at the Last trump with his angels (Matt.24:31,25:31) to separate the harvest of souls, destruction of Antichrist and his forces, general resurrection, judgement and ushering in of new heavens and earth ie eternal state. Matthew 13:39, John 5:28,29,I Cor. 15:52, I Thess. 4:16-18,II Thess. 1:7-9, II Tim.4:1,Jude 14. Acts 3:21 in particular states it is the time of the restitution of ALL THINGS. Heb. 12:26. An earthly millennial reign from a restored temple in Jerusalem with sinners still on earth is NOT the restitution of all things, and it is a retrograde step back to a building which was a type of Christ (‘A greater than the temple is here’ ,Matthew 12:6). Romans 8:21-24 links our complete redemption with the NEW CREATION. Why would Christ need to descend again if he is already reigning in a millennial kingdom on earth?

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3)      We are in the LAST DAYS now. How could this be true if there was still a 1000 year earthly reign to come? I Cor.10:11.These last days, which stretch from Christ’s first to His second coming include Christ’s ministry- Heb.1:7,Pentecost Acts 2:17, falling away of professing church, apostasy,the coming of Antichrist (II Thess.2:8, peril and persecution (worst ever) II Tim.1:3, II Peter 3:1-10.Matthew 24:24-31. Christ has once appeared to bring salvation by the cross, He will come back ONCE MORE to usher in universal salvation and the vindication of His justice and to avenge and  vindicate  His saints. Heb.9:28. This is our hope. NOT any earthly Jewish reign from Jerusalem. His coming is cataclysmic Rev.6:10-17.

Why would our prayer be COME LORD JESUS if it were to an erthly reign with sinners still on earth? No! COME LORD JESUS and usher in thy UNIVERSAL REIGN OF ABSOLUTE RIGHTEOUSNESS in which there are no sinners and  no sin at all. Revelation21,22.

Gird up the loins of your mind.

If you were a Middle Eastern shepherd
 and wore a flowing robe,
 try running fast without hitching it up!
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Daily Meditation

19 September 2013 from Rev Martin VanderWal, Wingham PRC,Canada.I Peter 1:13, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”What hope is this?  A hope that requires you to “gird up the loins of your mind?”  This Word of God denies a hope that only waits around, a hope that is only passive, or a hope that is lazy.  True, Christian hope does not allow you to walk around with your robe down around your feet.  Going here and there, chatting with this or that person, is not what true hope is about.  In order to exercise yourself in the Bible’s hope, you must gird up your loins.  If you do not, your robe will trip you up, and ruin your hope.Yet, no physical robe is this, but the robe of your mind.  Scripture tells you to gird up the loins of your mind.  You cannot take a casual approach to hope with your mind.  You cannot allow your mind to be lazy, to wander here and there, to take up every oddity or vanity or pleasant thing into it.  You mind is not to be left idle.  Gird up the loins of your mind.

This Word of God continues to tell us exactly what it means to gird up the loins of your mind.  It means to keep your mind in a working-mode, of being focused and concentrated on the task at hand.  Having the loins of your mind girded up, you are able to pay attention to a proper object, without being distracting by unimportant matters.  It means that you are sober in your mind.

Being sober is the opposite of being drunk.  When a man is inebriated, he cannot focus and concentrate.   Both his short-term and long-term memory is severely impaired.  He cannot keep his attention on a subject, but soon wanders off.  He is forgetful of himself, of others, and of his very circumstances.  His mind is in a fog, dimmed by alcohol.

But your sobriety does not mean only that you are clear of the sin of drunkenness.  Your sobriety means also that your mind is not dimmed from its spiritual sight of faith by the things of this world.  The Christian can be shamefully drunken with the pleasures of his earthly life.  He has status among men, enjoying their praise.  He has many material goods.  He may be consumed with politics, hobbies, or sports.  Especially today distractions abound.  When the Christian’s mind is taken with these earthly matters, he is in a state of spiritual drunkenness.  His hope is severely impaired.

Those pleasures you must shake off.  Gird up the loins of your mind!  Be sober!  Hope to the end!

Gather up your mind, all its abilities and powers, and turn them together.  Point them in one direction, and to one point: forward, to the end.  That end must be before your mind, the object of your concentrated attention.

Plenty there is to occupy your mind.  For there is “the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  What unsearchable, boundless, and matchless grace that is to be brought unto you!  It is the grace of perfect glory, the perfect glory of a resurrected body and soul together, translated to eternal life and glory.  It is the grace that will cloth your mortal body with immortality.  It is the grace that will make you, body and soul, to be perfectly like the glorified body of your Lord Jesus Christ, to see Him as He is.  It is the grace that shall bring you into the glorious presence of your Heavenly Father, to enjoy His fellowship and favor forever and ever, as you praise and bless His name forever and ever.  What grace!

That grace is wholly and completely assured.  It is “to be brought unto you.”  Simply is this truth declared, with no conditions attached.  Its assurance is shown over and over in this chapter: verses 4,5,  12, 23, and 25.  Its assurance rests wholly in the blood of Christ’s sufferings, the one who will be revealed in glory, when this grace will be brought unto you.

What things these are, to which you are called to turn with your mind!  What precious things to occupy your thoughts!  What room can you possibly have for the vanities of this present life?!

Let this hope be your strength for your pilgrimage today.  Let it be your strength to work as a faithful steward in God’s house of the sake of this hope.  Let it be your strength to remain faithful in the midst of so many pressing temptations.  Let it be your strength to bear every burden the Lord has placed on your shoulders.  Let it be your strength to perfect holiness in the fear of your God.

Gird up the loins of your mind.

in 21st  century parlance…FOCUS!

‘Seek first His kingdom.Set your affections on things above.’ (JK)

A Millennial Temple?

This is taken verbatim from the Standard Bearer of the Protestant Reformed Churches archive on RFPA website.

 

 

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The Historical Development of the Builing of God’s Temple (11)

George C. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

“For every house is builded by some (man); but he that built all things is God.”

Hebrews 3:4

It is important for the proper understanding of the presence of the cherubim in the most holy place, to notice carefully that there is a most intimate relationship between the progressive historical revelation of God’s covenant promise and the various stages through which the temple-building passed. The bottom line is that God himself will make a house for David in David’s royal Son (II Samuel 7:8-11). To facilitate a rather clear overview of this temple-building by the great temple-Builder, God in Christ, we must notice that neither the typical tabernacle nor the later temple of Solomon were per se fit abodes, dwelling-places, of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22). We read in Hebrews 3:4 “For every house is builded of some man, but he that built all things is God.” It is also instructive to read: “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house (we underscore); whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence . . .” (Hebrews 3:5, 6). There are many passages in Scripture which teach that God is the Builder of the temple and of the holy city. This was explicitly stated by the prophet Nathan to David. After denying David the privilege and right to build the temple, a house for the Lord, the Lord tells David that He will build a house for David; yes, He will build it out of David’s Seed; He will give him a Son in that temple and on the throne (II Samuel 7:11-12, 27-29; I Kings 11:38). In the New Testament, Christ announces Himself to be the one Who will build the temple. In fact, just this temple building is his proper and convincing credential that he has authority in the temple. He is the Lord of the temple (John 20:14-25). This lesson was never forgotten by the hateful and unbelieving Jewish adversaries (Matthew 26:31, 27:40). Furthermore, the very apostles of Christ never understood that Jesus was the divine master-builder of the spiritual temple until after his resurrection (John 2:22). It was only then that they believed that word of Jesus and believed all the Scriptures (John 2:21, 22). Until this point they were slow of heart to believe that the Christ must suffer all the hellish agonies on the cross and thus enter into his glory (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45)! We do well to allow these Scriptures to sink deep into our hearts. Hence, we should notice that the true temple was not made by the hands of men, but by the Christ of God in his death and resurrection. And into this temple, the church of the living God, both the elect Jews and elect Gentiles enter. Fact is that they constitute the living stones, and are thus the very fabric, the material most unfit, which is made into stones fashioned by God’s grace. These stones are gathered by the Word and Spirit from those who are far and those who are near, to be the habitation of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). This temple David nor Solomon could ever build! Small wonder that at the dedication of the temple the sublime words were uttered by Solomon, “LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven above, or on the earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants what walk before thee with all their heart . . . . and now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee be verified, which thou. speakest unto thy servant David, my father (Confer II Samuel 7:10-17). “But will God indeed dwell on the earth: behold, the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded” (Acts 7:47). Yes, this temple which God will build is the hope of heaven and of earth—through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Listen to the exalted words of the prophet Isaiah, “howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as saith the prophet” (Acts 17:33; Isaiah 66:1). It was because Stephen proved from the Scriptures that the Old Testament law and shadows must give way for the reality, the better and greater temple, encompassing both heaven and earth, that he is stoned to death! The Scriptures everywhere speak of the heaven and of the earth. Heaven must receive the Christ until: the times of the restitution of all things, as spoken of by all the holy prophets, since the world began (Acts 3:21). This is true of all the Scriptures as spoken by “all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken . . .” (Acts 3:24). These are the words of the Scriptures which must guide our thinking and our attempts at formulating the Scriptural data concerning the historical development of God’s true temple! Thus we begin to see that Solomon mall his glory is less than the Christ to come. This one will not merely be a son out of David’s loins by a Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:6) but this one is the Son born from a virgin, whose name is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:21-23). He is both David’s son and Lord (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:41-45). The name “Lord” here implies that he is the Adonai: God, very God of God. This all teaches us that there is need to study the progressive fading away of the shadows and types as embodied in the Old Testament tabernacle till the time that it is removed .forever by the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of this old covenant as “it waxes old, decayed, and ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). This vanishing away is spoken of by the Holy Spirit very clearly in both the prophecy of Jeremiah and that of Isaiah and Ezekiel (Jeremiah 31:31, 7:11; Isaiah 56: 17; Ezekiel 40:27; compare also Haggai 2:6, 7). These are simply some very clear texts which teach very clearly that the old temple will be destroyed to bring in the true and eternal tabernacle of God with men (Revelation 21:3). Here we read the beautiful words, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God.” It is very clear in all the Scriptures that the historical development of the building of God’s temple is purely a wonderwork of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. It is what God has wrought, and He alone! We should also notice particularly that the transition from the Old Testament temple to the New Testament temple, builded by Christ, requires really centuries; it was from the time of the Babylonian captivity till the death and resurrection of Christ. There was a breaking down of the Old Testament temple of Solomon which caused Israel to pine in Babylon. Here Israel learned to sing and utter the words of the Lamentation of Jeremiah, the prophet: “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! . . . . Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness . . . the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy! (Lamentations 1:1-5) This is the painful experience of the remnant according to election in Babylon. Here they sing and sigh, “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land of strangers. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:5, 6). Now it is exactly in this darkest hour of Israel for the people of God, that the prophetic horizons lift, and that we begin to see more and more of the sure prophetic word which shines as a light in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arises in the hearts of God’s people (II Peter 1:19). However, in this prophetic word it becomes abundantly clear that the clock of God is neither turned back, nor does the clock of God stop for seventy years. After Israel has come forth from the refining experience of captivity, they will go forward into the hope of the heavenly temple. A greater and better temple is in the making according to God’s sure and everlasting promise to Abraham and to his seed. This does not appear to be the case when we view the building of the temple of Zerubbabel in the time of Ezra the prophet. Truly, there was great sadness in the heart of those saints in Israel who had seen the beauty and splendor of Solomon’s temple, Do we not read “but many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy . . .” (Ezra 3:12, 13). There was room for weeping when things were viewed as to outward appearance. It looked as if they had not at all recovered from the ignominy of their Babylonian captivity. Here was a small remnant returning, and the house which they were building truly looked, as it were, the “little things that should be despised’ (Haggai 2:2-9). For the glory of the latter house: shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah! It is all the wonder of grace! When we keep these great and basic Scriptural teachings in mind, we will also be able to understand that it required centuries to make this transition from .the typical temple to the rea1 and true temple. This transition is fully fulfilled in the fullness of time in Christ’s death and resurrection. We do well to take special notice of the Biblical teaching of the prophetic writings. This is especially true in our times when the winds of the error of dispensationalism and of a social gospel blow upon the church, seeking to remove us from our own steadfastness. We must stand immovable in the faith that we are the New Testament church, in which both Jew and Greek have a place, a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit (Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:19-22). We shall, therefore, need to pursue this matter further in the next chapter.

“How shall we know when we aim at God’s glory?

Why is this vitally important?

Because as the Westminster Confession (the major creed of Presbyterianism) Larger Catechism   states, ‘Man’s chief and highest end (purpose) is to glorify God, and to fully enjoy Him forever.’

A. (1.) When we prefer God’s glory above all other things; above credit, estate, relations; when the glory of God coming in competition with them, we prefer his glory before them. If relations lie in our way to heaven, we must either leap over them, or tread upon them. A child must unchild himself, and forget he is a child; he must know neither father nor mother in God’s cause. Deut. 33:9, “Who said unto his father and mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren.” This is to aim at God’s glory.

(2.) We aim at God’s glory, when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross ours. Lord, I am content to be a loser, if thou be a gainer; to have less health, if I have more grace, and thou more glory. Let it be food or bitter medicine if thou gives it me. Lord, I desire that which may be most for thy glory. Our blessed Saviour said, “not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matt. 26:39. If God might have more glory by his sufferings, he was content to suffer. John 12:28, “Father, glorify thy name.”

(3.) We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem, so that his glory may be increased. A man that has God in his heart, and God’s glory in his eye, desires that God should be exalted. If this be effected, no matter whom the instrument, he rejoices. Phil. 1:15, “Some preach Christ of envy: notwithstanding Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice;” they preached Christ of envy, they envied Paul that concourse of people, and they preached that they might outshine him in gifts, and get away some of his hearers: well, says Paul, Christ is preached, and God is like to have the glory, therefore I rejoice; let my candle go out, if the Sun of Righteousness may but shine.

2. We glorify God by a frank confession of sin. The thief on the cross had dishonoured God in his life, but at his death he brought glory to God by confession of sin. Luke 23:41, “We indeed suffer justly.” He acknowledged he deserved not only crucifixion, but damnation. Josh. 7:19, “My son, give, I, pray thee, glory to God, and make confession unto him.” A humble confession exalts God. How is God’s free grace magnified in crowning those who deserve to be condemned! The excusing and mincing of sin casts a reproach upon God. Adam denied not that he tasted the forbidden fruit, but, instead of a full confession, he taxed God. Gen. 3:12. “The woman whom thou gavest me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat;” if thou had not given me the woman to be a tempter, I would not have sinned. Confession glorifies God, because it clears him; it acknowledges that he is holy and righteous, whatever he does. Nehemiah vindicates God’s righteousness; chap. 9:33. “Thou art just in all that is brought upon us.” A confession is frank when it is free, not forced. Luke 15:18. “I have sinned against heaven and before thee.” The prodigal charged himself with sin before his Father charged him with it.

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The prodigal son.

3. We glorify God by believing. Rom. 4:20. “Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Unbelief affronts God, it gives him the lie; “he that believeth not, maketh God a liar.” I John 5:10. But faith brings glory to God; it sets to its seal that God is true. John 3:33. He that believes flies to God’s mercy and truth, as to an altar of refuge, he engarrisons himself in the promises, and trusts all he has with God. Psalm 31:5, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” This is a great way of bringing glory to God, and God honours faith because faith honours him. It is a great honour we do to a man when we trust him with all we have, when we put our lives and estates into his hand; it is a sign we have a good opinion of him (think of Joseph). The three children glorified God by believing. “The God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and will deliver us,” Dan. 3:17. Faith knows there are no impossibilities with God, and will trust him where it cannot see him.

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Abraham.

4. We glorify God, by being tender of his glory. God’s glory is dear to him as the apple of his eye. An innocent child weeps to see a disgrace done to his father. Psalm 69:9, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” When we hear God reproached and His name taken in vain, it is as if we were reproached; when God’s glory suffers, it is as if we suffered. This is to be tender of God’s glory.

5. We glorify God by fruitfulness. John 15:8. “Hereby is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” As it is dishonouring God to be barren, so fruitfulness honours him. Phil. 1:11. “Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory.” We must not be like the fig tree in the gospel, which had nothing but leaves, but like the pomecitron, that is continually either mellowing or blossoming, and is never without fruit. It is not profession, but fruit that glorifies God. God expects to have his glory from us in this way. 1 Cor. 9:7, “Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit of it?” Trees in the forest may be barren, but trees in the garden are fruitful. We must bring forth the fruits of love and good works. Matt. 5:16.”Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Faith sanctifies our works, and works testify our faith; to be doing good to others, to be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, much glorifies God. Thus Christ glorified his Father; “he went about doing good.” Acts 10:38. By being fruitful, we are fair in God’s eyes. Jer. 11:16. “The Lord called thy name a green olive-tree, fair and of goodly fruit.” And we must bear much fruit; it is muchness of fruit that glorifies God: “if ye bear much fruit.” The spouse’s breasts are compared to clusters of grapes, to show how fertile she was, Cant. 7:7. Though the lowest degree of grace may bring salvation to you, yet it will not bring much glory to God. It was not a spark of love Christ commended in Mary, but much love; “she loved much,” Luke 7:47.

6. We glorify God by being contented in that state in which Providence has placed us. We give God the glory of his wisdom, when we rest satisfied with what he carves out to us. Thus Paul glorified God. The Lord cast him into as great variety of conditions as any man, “in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft,” 2 Cor. 11:23, yet he had learned to be content. Paul could sail either in a storm or a calm; he could be anything that God would have him; he could either want or abound, Phil. 4:13. A good Christian argues thus: It is God that has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased, but that might have been a snare to me: he has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition. Surely this glorifies God much; God counts himself much honoured by such a Christian. Here says God, is one after mine own heart; let me do what I will with him, I hear no murmuring, he is content. This shows abundance of grace. When grace is crowning, it is not so much to be content; but when grace is conflicting with inconveniences, then to be content is a glorious thing indeed. For one to be content when he is in heaven is no wonder; but to be content under the cross is like a Christian. This man must needs bring glory to God; for he shows to all the world, that though he has little meal in his barrel, yet he has enough in God to make him content: he says, as David, Psalm 16:5, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance; the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places.”

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Paul in prison.

7. We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has bound together his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; d. What an encouragement is this to the service of God to think, while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory. Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, You will honour and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away? So, for God to say, Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified.

8. We glorify God by living to God 2 Cor. 5:15, “That they which live should not live to themselves, but unto him who died for them.” Rom. 14:8, “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord.” The Mammonist lives to his money, the Epicure lives to his belly; the design of a sinner’s life is to gratify lust, but we glorify God when we live to God.” (from Man’s Chief End is to Glorify God, Thomas Watson )

On the Birth Date of Jesus of Nazareth (based on material by Uri Marcus)

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Most Gentile Christians wouldn’t bother to speculate about the time when Jesus was born. They celebrate it on December 25th even though they may suspect that there is no Biblical basis for choosing that date. However, there are many Messianic Believers who, from a Jewish perspective, are convinced that the time of year when Jesus was really born was at the Feast of Tabernacles.

It should be noted that Tabernacles occurs in the Autumn, or during the September or October time-frame, but it varies from year to year because the Jewish calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and doesn’t track with the Gregorian calendar.

The calculation of the time of Jesus’ birth begins with Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. According  to Luke 1:5 he was a priest of the order of Abijah. He was performing his duties, burning incense in the Temple, when an angel appeared and said his wife Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son, and he would be called John.

The order in which the priestly families performed their duties is given in 1 Chronicles 24:7-18. According to the Mishnah, the cycle begins on the first Shabbat (Sabbath) of Nisan (March/April), and each family of priests would minister in turn for one week. Since there are 24 families, each family would minister about twice a year. The cycle would be delayed slightly because all priests, regardless of their families, were required to be at the Temple for the three festivals of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

The family of Abijah was eighth in line, so Zacharias would have had his first period of duty during the Jewish month of Sivan (about June) and his second period during the month of Kislev about six months later. There is no way of knowing for sure which period of duty is referred to in Luke’s Gospel, but if it is surmised that it is the first period we get some very interesting results.

Zacharias finished his first period of duty about the middle of Sivan. Because of his unbelief, God struck him dumb. Nevertheless, he went home to his wife and she became pregnant. Count off 40 weeks, the usual period of gestation, and we get to the month of Nisan the following year. Beginning on the 14th of Nisan, and lasting for eight days, we have the festivals of Passover, unleavened bread and First Fruits, which are all occur in the spring. This raises the distinct possibility that John the Baptist was born at Passover, which coincides with the Jewish expectation that Elijah would come at Passover. It has always been the Jewish custom to put an extra cup of wine on the table at Passover, in the hope that Elijah will come and drink it.

If John the Baptist was born at Passover, Jesus must have been born six months later during the autumn feasts Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and most probably at Tabernacles. In Luke 1:26 and 36 we are told that Jesus was six months younger than John.

When the decree went out for everyone to go to their home town to be registered, Joseph and Mary set off for Bethlehem. They would have set out in good time, before Mary was fully 40 weeks pregnant, because she wouldn’t want to be jogged into childbirth while riding on a donkey. Besides, they would have wanted to complete the journey before the Day of Atonement, which is two weeks before Tabernacles.

We are given a clue about the time of the birth by the angel who appeared to the shepherds and said “Fear not. For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”. (Luke 2:10). There are actually two clues here. Tabernacles is known as “The Season of our Joy”, and it is also known as the “Festival of the Nations (or Gentiles)”. The angel was actually giving them a greeting for the Festival of Tabernacles. This is the only festival where the nations are positively encouraged to participate with negative results if they do not. (Zechariah 14:16-19).

Likewise, during Tabernacles (Succot), Jewish families today in Israel construct a flimsy shelter called a “Succah”, made of loosely assembled walls and a leafy overhead covering. In the Succah, we eat or sleep. This is a reminder to us that we were completely dependent on God as we wandered for forty years in the desert after departing from Egypt and were led by “a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.” Because of this experience, we recall that “God is with us” (Emmanuel).

In this same narrative in Luke 2 regarding the Shepherds to whom an angel of the Lord appears, note that the text says that they were “watching over their flocks, AT NIGHT.” The angel brings them a message that their Messiah was born in the town of David, during that day which had just passed to night. This message was accompanied by the appearance of a great heavenly host, praising God. When we consider the seasons in Israel, and the weather patterns, one might ask “What is the latest time of year in which shepherds would still be outside with their flocks in the Judean hills, AT NIGHT?” November through February are far too cold in Israel to be doing this kind of activity. The answer of course points to the end of October, at the latest, for temperature reasons alone. Depending of the Hebrew calendar in any given year, as mentioned above, Tabernacles always falls in the September-October time frame, when the weather is still warm and pleasant outside, especially AT NIGHT. For these reasons, and many others not documented here, we think Jesus is verylikely to have been born at Tabernacles.

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And so, the birth of  Jesus at Succot fulfils another prophecy: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel – which means, “God is with us”. (Matt. 1:23, quoting from Isaiah 7:14) and note the wording of John 1:14. ‘He dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us.’

If this is not enough, we also have to consider the type of dwelling in which Jesus was born. Had it not been for the inconvenience caused by the census, he would have been born in a house like all other children. But he wasn’t, he was born in a type of Succah where servants of a household slept, or where they kept sheep and cattle. Luke uses the Greek word for “manger” but because Jesus was Jewish, and it was most likely the festival of Succot, the text probably describes a Succah. This would make sense since we know that  Jesus would fulfil every aspect of Torah from his birth until his death. The link here is directly to commandment in Leviticus Chapter 23, verse 42, “Live in booths (Succot) for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in Succot so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in Succot when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

Eight days later, according to Luke 2:21, Jesus was circumcised. Mary would still have been ceremonially unclean for 33 days after the Jesus’ birth, in accordance with Leviticus 12. Owing to her requirement to present a purification offering at the Temple in Jerusalem after this period, she would most likely have remained in Bethlehem, just a short distance from Jerusalem.

If the day of Jesus’ birth was the first day of Succot, then the day of his circumcision would be the eighth day after Succot which, in accordance with Torah is also day of sacred assembly. Leviticus 23:39. On this day, called “Simchat Torah” or “Rejoicing in Torah,” we complete our annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Genesis. It is considered to be a time of “fulfilment” of the Torah and also a new beginning for it, in our lives, since Torah is never abandoned. This indeed would seem to be a fitting holiday for Jesus’ circumcision and dedication before God, since He came to set the Torah on a firm foundation by correctly interpreting it and fulfilling it (i.e., becoming the goal to which the Law and the Prophets pointed), thereby making a way to renew the Torah in our lives. (Matt. 5:17-19).

When the days of Mary’s purification were over, they would have then returned back to Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:39). But each year, and in accordance with the required pilgrimage commandments in Torah, Joseph and Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover. (Luke 2:41). During one of these visits, probably when Jesus was about two years old, they went to Bethlehem and stayed, not in a succah or stable this time, but in a house. (Matt. 2:11). They were visited there by the Magi, and then had to flee to Egypt to escape from Herod because he was killing all the male children two years old and under.

And so, by starting from Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, and his first period of duty in the Temple, and doing a few simple calculations, we discover that the Jewishness of the Gospel becomes profoundly evident, giving new import to many passages of Scripture previously misunderstood.

What then should we do now? Should Christians continue observing Christmas on December 25th (which incidentally is entirely pagan in its origins), or are we going to begin recognizing our Hebraic roots and understanding the purpose of the feasts which the Father in His wisdom gave the Jews in Old Testament times.

Some may believe that it does not matter when we celebrate the birth of the Messiah; it can be any of the twelve months of the year! No, fact is we are not anywhere told to celebrate it!

But we must recognise the  importance of Messianic prophecy and fulfilment! The birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles was for prophetic reasons foreshadowing in effect the coming of Christ to reign. These are important pictures to treasure in our hearts! If it is important enough to God that He would cause Jesus’ birth AND coronation as King to takes place at an appointed season on the Jewish Calendar, then it should be important to us, regardless of the world’s traditions. Therefore, we should heed the words of Paul who quoting the Father, urged the Church at Corinth to:…”come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.

If we do this (and we don’t have to become Jewish to do it) we will be true to Scripture and not compromising with a degraded world that uses any excuse, even an unbiblical religious festival, as an excuse for revelling and excess. We worship the One who tabernacled among us.

Define grace?

  1. God’s grace is His perfection of beauty. Psalm 27:4  ‘ One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.’ Psalm  90:17 ‘And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.’ and Psalm 50:2 ‘Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.’

 

       2.    God’s grace is His attitude of favour that saves. Titus 2:11 ‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men ‘

 

       3.    God’s grace is His power to conform saints to the image of Christ through God teaching us. Titus 2:12.’ Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and    worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;’

 

I shall never forget sitting on the banks of the River Cree in Newton Stewart as a student reading my Bible and coming across Psalm 50. As I surveyed the scene rather like in this picture it occurred to me in a deep way that the beauty before me showed that the Creator God who made it was Himself pure beauty.

                        grassy_river_bank

With thanks to Rev.MMcGeown of Limerick Reformed Fellowship.

‘Out of the Saltshaker ‘ by Rebecca Manley Pippert

 

 

 

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Book review

‘Out of the Saltshaker ‘ by Rebecca Manley Pippert

Paperback   291 pages  Inter- Varsity Press  2004   Leicester, England. ISBN 0-85111-646-9

 I thought I would read this as background to the British Reformed Fellowship conference to be held at Bangor, Northern Ireland late July 2012 which was on the theme’ Ye shall be my witnesses’ because I knew this to be an influential book on personal evangelism.

The title is based on the Biblical fact that believers are salt and she sees the local church as the saltshaker-we need to be out in the world witnessing, to reach outside of our comfortable ghetto in  the church to others.

The book is a real mixture. There are a lot of worthwhile points of which believers need to take note but the underlying theology is also a mix of truth (God is sovereign) and error (He loves all men , Christ died for all men, God’s deepest desire is that no-one perish  and you can become regenerate by asking Christ into your heart).

In chapter one she rightly makes clear our manner should not be offensive, that we should not be hesitant for fear of offending  but she fails to mention that the message always is an offence-because it is basically stating that all human beings are sinners and are living wrongly. She says we need to show sincere interest  for  those we hope to influence, use questions to get to know them and what they believe, and establish a caring relationship. We need to be authentic- God can and should be a natural part of any discussion and we should not be afraid to be transparent and even share our failings. Sharing the gospel entails sharing our lives. (1 Thess.2:8).In support of this Pippert shows how our Lord Jesus related to others exposing His vulnerability eg when thirsty, in the garden etc. She shows that she understands a bit of Christology by saying that the Lord was radical in His identification with and radically different from the world.

She is absolutely mistaken in alleging that Jesus loved the Pharisees but she is correct in saying He was absolutely intolerant of false religion and in saying He is the only one in the universe who can control us without destroying us. She rightly says the only ultimately important things are God and people but mistakenly thinks there is some of God’s image left in fallen mankind and goes as far as saying something of Christ is in all men. She also correctly exposes the Pharisees for their hypocritical separateness from the people as opposed to Christ’s being a friend of sinners.

One of the rallying calls that ‘evangelicals’ use in this sphere is the call to ‘share Christ’s love’ with unbelievers-well there is no doubt we are called to love our brethren (Matthew 25:40), to do good to all (Gal.6:10) and to love even our enemies (Matt.5:44) but our love cannot accurately reflect Christ’s love which ultimately is only toward His elect and is rejected and trampled on by the reprobate. In a later chapter she speaks of the primary means of pleasing God being through proper relationships and in this she speaks truth (Jer.22:16. 1 John 4:21)although there is much more to it eg our personal devotion to God and  public worship.

In another chapter she acknowledges the antithesis and speaks of Christ’s clear denunciation of sin, but that it is the work of the Spirit to convict and He resides in us. She speaks graphically of His ministry of the towel and the whip! Fear God alone.

Having said this she states rightly the need for diligent and persistent prayer for those God brings across our path and goes as far as saying learning to care for others requires sound theology-but then to her shame she quotes from Mother Theresa talking about the Roman Catholic mass and seeing Christ in every poor beggar!

In a chapter entitled ‘Practicing the presence of Christ’ she states that ‘to let people inside our lives is a frightening, but essential ingredient in evangelism’-which I believe would concur with Paul in 1 Thess.2:8 and 2 Timothy 3:10.She also rightly says we will be judged by our faithfulness and obedience rather than success. The reason for the book’s title comes to the fore where she asks how we can be the salt of the earth if we never get out of the saltshaker-that is the fellowship of Christians. In commenting about conversation she rightly says that the truth of faith may be above reason but it is not contrary to it. She also says witness is telling others what God has done for us (As Paul did in Acts 26:9-23). She also mentions that evangelism is a process-it generally takes time and various circumstances to bring a person to conversion. She rightly mentions the warning of not casting pearls before swine (Matt.10:14).And we need to tailor our ecclesiastical vocabulary!

She, I think, is right in saying God has uniquely placed and gifted us to reach certain people. Can we arouse their curiosity so they will want to hear as Christ did with the woman at the well? Generally we need to show love and care to ‘earn a hearing’ for the gospel. She is dead right when she says that our workplace and personal interests should be our target zone for the gospel. She is also dead right saying sin is choosing self-rule rather than being ruled by God. But she is dead wrong when she encourages new converts to find a church where they feel comfortable! In presenting the gospel she calls God’s love of mankind the central truth rather than the glory or holiness of God but correctly lists preaching, prayer, worship and living witness as the means by which the Spirit works.

Pippert contradicts herself on the subject of regeneration and conversion-she states that transformation is the work of the sovereign Spirit, that conversion is beyond our ability to control but she sees conversion being the human ability of repenting and believing that precedes it. She does not believe any of the five points of Calvinism and takes Revelation 3:20, as so many do, out of context implying our ability to influence regeneration whereas we know we are wholly passive in what is exclusively His work. Even more dangerous and misleading is her encouraging ‘converts’ to thank God for entering their lives after ‘praying the prayer’.

Here is a quote-‘One of the primary ways we block God’s Spirit is through being judgemental and critical of others.’ Try telling that to Stephen in Acts 7 or Christ  in His denunciation of the Pharisees. However she is right in saying we must ask God to find a way to break through the spiritual deception and self-deception of people and that as God’s people we are called to be a close family that welcomes others into our midst. Hospitality is one means. Churches and Bible study groups should think of activities to which they could invite their friends. Pippert disobeys the clear prohibition of scripture every time she ‘preaches’ but she captures the essence of true worship when she says our worship life should direct people to experience the transcendent God and be God-centred. She challenges churches to have an evangelism strategy and every member see evangelism as a way of life and ministers taking the lead by example. Finally near the very end she misinterprets Christ’s nickname of Simon Peter calling him a rock rather than a stone! Her use of the Bridge Illustration is commendable but it needs adapted to purge out it’s  Arminianism. Overall it is a worthwhile read for the titbits of truth relating to our evangelism  but it is such a shame that the underlying theology is faulty.