END OF THE WORLD

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Two verses that teach very clearly that we are living in the LAST DAYS before the return of Christ and that his return will mean the end of the universe as we know it and the redemption of that universe-no earthly millennium!

I Cor.10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

ACTS 3 :20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

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Boy Meets Girl

2011-09-10 01.24.00

“Boy meets girl” (say hello to courtship) by Joshua Harris.  Publisher Multnomah books 2nd Edition 2005.  Paperback  247 pages  ISBN 1-57673-709-8. Reviewed by Dr Julian Kennedy, CPRC, Ballymena. price £9  (15$ US)

 

When Josh Harris got his first book entitled “I kissed dating goodbye” published at the amazingly young age of  21 , it became clear from the response he got, and it was a Christian best-seller, that he would have to write a sequel. His first book had trashed the idea of Christian dating as the best way to get to know and marry someone because as he showed, it was fraught with unnecessary temptation and betrayed a worldly attitude to relationships that was for the most part selfish and sinful. Too often these “romances” were fleeting and heart-breaking and destructive. So what is the alternative? Thus he penned “Boy meets girl” as a guide to young people moving beyond friendship into the realm of courtship which he adamantly defines as a relationship that tests out whether marriage is for a couple. He clearly states courtship should only be embarked upon when two people desire and are ready for marriage. The aim is marriage! Harris is strong on the correct focus of courtship, that it is to be God himself and our aim is to love the other unselfishly desiring their best.

This contrasts markedly with the self-centredness and impatience and frequently wrong physical expressions of lust in dating. The aim of courtship is to get to know the other’s character, convictions, aims and spirituality, and careful listening is vital. He sensibly explains the need for frankness concerning past relationships. He is very practical, listing standards of physical contact that should not be exceeded, ideas for “courtship conversations” (dates).The man is to lead. Courtship should occur in the sphere of accountability in the church and to both sets of parents with advice  being  sought from close family and church leaders before it is embarked upon. Couples are best to pursue courtship in the sphere of  Christian community and friendship with others and not cut themselves off and become exclusive.

Theologically, Harris is Head Pastor of Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland , a Reformed Charismatic church! Hence you would expect some differences from Protestant Reformed teaching.

His quote from a book entitled “When God weeps” would make us wary, though the description of what happened on the cross is very vivid and biblical. The errors here, one major and one minor concern the mistaken idea that “God is on display in his underwear” when we know Christ was shamefully naked, but more importantly “Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed”. If he had added “by his flock or his people” we would heartily concur.

Throughout the book Harris uses real life examples of couples who courted well and others badly and many of the stories teach serious lessons. Mistakes in this area can be forgiven and rectified but there is also long-term fall out. He lists good questions to ask that assess whether the relationship is heading toward marriage but he mistakenly quotes from other writers that give apparent support to the erroneous idea that marriages can be broken and that remarriage is permissible apart from the death of a spouse, quoting Matthew 5:31,32 and I Cor.7:12-16 which actually teach the opposite.

This book is nevertheless highly recommended for Reformed young people who want to honour God in their courtships as one that gives not only a sound basis or ethos to courtship but also good practical guidelines to follow. It is also a worthwhile read for parents of young people of marriageable age and church leaders who may be called upon to advise their single young people in this vitally important area of life.

Christ’s controversies- (3) in the Temple/temple tax and (4) Roman taxes.

3. Temple controversies/Temple tax

The temple.

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John 2

Matthew 21, Mar 11, Luke 19/20.

Christ twice cleansed the temple, both times at Passover, first near the start of his ministry and then again on Palm Sunday at the beginning of Passion week. These events happened in the outer court of the gentiles (see diagram).

Was there a need for this cleansing? Clearly the temple authorities and the merchants and moneychangers thought not, but Christ said it was a scene of sinful thieving, worse than just a shop, and one that displaced and discouraged worship.

The first time he is confronted with clamour for a sign and he states that the resurrection will suffice when he will be declared to be the son of God with power (Romans 1:4). The second time his authority is questioned and he points the Pharisees to John’s baptism which was his public ordination into not only the priesthood at age 30 (Numbers 4:3,8:7) but also messiah-ship (John 1:34). Christ quotes from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 and fulfils Psalm 69:9.

Following on from Christ’s giving two major reasons he had authority to cleanse the temple he follows them with five others namely:

1) It is his “father’s house”, and he is the builder of it (Hebrews 3:3-6) it is “his temple” (Malachi 3:1).

2) Messiah has the right (Psalm 69:9)-he fulfils the prophetic messianic psalm.

3) It is meant to be a house of prayer.

4) He is the son of David and hence a king. Kings alone could build, repair and cleanse the temple. Think of Solomon, Zerubbabel (kingly line), Josiah, Joash, Hezekiah.

5) Psalm 8 speaks of babes praising God, hence, as in other places he accepts divine worship.

What are the results of this confrontation?

Silence, when there should have been shame-they knew John was from God. They sought his death, indeed all his actions and claims in the temple were directly responsible for his subsequent fake trial in the presence of the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:59, Mark 14:58), and the cross. Even on the cross he was taunted by passers by, who must have heard, with the same claims (Matthew 27:40, Mark 15:29,30). Even Stephen the first martyr after Christ was similarly charged by a twisting of what he had said (Acts 6:14). Christ’s zeal for his father’s house and glory, were what led to his death (being eaten up) and for 2,000 years since then, the same zeal and similar charges of blasphemy have led to the deaths of thousands if not millions of Christ’s witnesses who have followed in his footsteps by his all-conquering grace.

Matthew 17

Matthew 17:24-27 describes an incident just after the transfiguration when Christ and Peter in their home town of Capernaum are approached by those who collected the yearly temple tax at Passover time asking Peter, the lead disciple whether his master paid it. Without hesitation he affirmed that he did, as all males over 20 were bound to (see institution of this poll tax in OT verses below). It was first levied for the tabernacle in the wilderness, also at special times eg when Joash repaired the temple and in the days of Nehemiah. It was the collectors of this tax whose tables Christ overturned in the temple on the Monday of Passover or Passion week.

Exodus 30:11-16   Exodus 38:24-26    II Chronicles 24:6-14    Nehemiah 10:32,33

Christ did not HAVE to pay this tax because he was the God the king’s son but to avoid unnecessary offence (I Thess.5:22) he miraculously provided it for Peter and himself.

Finally he gives another answer backing up his authority to cleanse the temple in Matthew 21:32-45 in the parable of the vineyard. Here he clearly identifies himself as the son and heir of God’s vineyard (Israel) and the chief cornerstone of Psalm 118 rejected by the builders (the scribes and Pharisees) and David’s Lord (Psalm 110).

4.Roman taxes

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Passages for consideration..

Matthew 22:15-22

Mark 12:13-17

Luke 20:20-26

Taxes have always been a source of controversy because people don’t like to part with their (hard-earned) money and often they despise the government or whoever is imposing the tax. The American War of independence started over tea taxes to the UK, the Northern Revolt of Israel started over Rehoboam’s  taxes.

Those who came to deliberately ensnare Christ and seek a charge against him were representatives of the Pharisees and Herodians, the latter being gentry with civil power among the Jews. Though they were opposite sides of the political spectrum like Herod and Pilate they united in their hatred of Christ.

There were at least two kinds of taxes in those days..

Roman taxes on…

1) Trading and goods (eg Matthew at the receipt of custom by the highway, or at city gate)

2) Land tax

3) Poll tax (the cause of Augustus census in Luke 2:1)

So everyone paid some tax, it may have only been 1% of earnings!

Then there was the Temple Tax that only Jews paid.

Today we looked at the three-fold condemnation of Christ’s opponents here: they were guilty of hypocrisy (play acting they respected him), of craftiness (trying to get him to say something for which he could be charged by the authorities) and of wickedness (because they were out to get him killed). However Christ openly accuses them of tempting him and calls them hypocrites to their faces.

The Biblical Principles he explains to them, namely that paying their taxes is right are founded on teaching that covers almost all of Scripture from the fourth commandment to honour those in authority over us to explicit teaching in the epistles namely:

I Peter 2:11-17, Romans 13:1-7, I Timothy 2:1-4and Revelation 13:10. The sum of these is that God ordains all in authority and for his sake we are to be subject to them. The apostle exemplify this in Acts 5 and so does Paul in all his brushes with Kings and Commanders.

It is worth noting that Christ was born because of Claudius’ tax census. John the Baptist told tax collectors to be honest (Luke 3:13). Matthew and his tax collecting friends were converted under Christ’s ministry as was Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector.

Finally Christ himself placed himself under the authority of Pilate (John 18:36, 19:11).

Hence rebellion is never justified, we should pay our taxes and keep to the speed limit, for example!

Ezra 9

Ezra    Nine    Rejecting Mixed Marriages

Intermingling with the heathen, especially in marriage has been a satanic ploy since the birth of the Israelite nation eg Numbers 25:1 and 31:16 where Balaam somehow got them to fall, and also in individuals like Samson (with Delilah) and Solomon with his many pagan wives (I Kings 11:1-4). Paul was very aware of this when he wrote II Cor.6:14, 15. God ordained marriage of one flesh means one faith, for mutual sanctification and to picture Christ and his church-marrying a pagan is none of these.

II 1. The leaders and their sons were most involved. God’s people were told to be separate (Deut.7:1-3), they knew this was wrong (9:11). This sin was terrible because it had been the cause if their captivity in the first place (9:1), inevitably led to idolatry, was saying that the wickedness of the heathen didn’t matter and broke down the antithesis that God initiated (Gen.3:15). Ezra knew that this sin could cause the loss of the nation’s holiness and faith in one generation.

3. The reason for this prohibition was to save the Jews from physical and spiritual extinction! They knew that the Babylonian captivity was the result of spiritual whoredom (9:13) and history was to repeat itself under Nehemiah (Neh. 13:22ff). It’s a bit like saying we could allow unsaved to partake of the Lord’s Supper, it doesn’t matter (see Isaiah 52:1, 11 and Ex.33:16). Nowadays this attitude leads to syncretism (mixing Christianity and pagan religions), false ecumenism, mixed marriages (unsaved spouse may never repent), and open communion.

Holy means separated unto God. To go to the other extreme it did not mean Jews could not associate with gentiles (Acts 10:28 and Gal.2:11ff) and the attitude of the Pharisees.

2. I Cor.6, 7 speak of:

a) not taking brethren to court.

b) that certain sins not repented of, exclude from the kingdom.

c) fornication is forbidden 6:15 which is the equivalent of marrying a heathen cf 7:39.

d) freedom to marry a believer if you cannot contain (have gift of singleness)

e) stay put with an unsaved spouse unless they insist of separating, in which case remain  separate and do not remarry.

4. The application is no mixed sex courtship or marriage with unbelievers or business associations with them. Marry in the Lord (PR people Amos 3:3). Our youth ought to be taught this by parents, church leaders and through good books.

III 2. We cannot be sure if these men had more than one wife but we can infer from Malachi 2:10-16 that many had divorced their Jewish wives to marry these heathen and for others it was their first marriage (10:2, 3, 19).

3. This was wrong according to Genesis 2:24 and Jesus interpretation in Matthew 19:9 and I Cor.6, 7. The only basis they might have appealed to was Deut. 24:1-4 which was a sufferance by Moses for hard-hearted unbelieving Israel.

4. I Cor.7 teaches us there is no obligation for separation from an unbelieving spouse if you have been converted before them.

5. Psalm 1 speaks of spiritual separation from the ungodly. It is right to aim for their conversion but without compromising our godliness.

a) There is a right separation in churches (denominations), in the world and in schools (if we have them).

b) Chapter 10:15 is a poor rendering in the AV it should read that these men opposed Ezra. We must expect opposition especially on this topic of divorce and remarriage but also on many other doctrines.

c) There was grief (10:1),Ezra and the people sorrowed, they repented, they had lost fellowship with God v15 and the necessary separation from spouses and children would be painful (but they would not be totally cut off from them and were duty bound to support them). Repentance from this sin in the church means separation from second spouses (and possibly children).

IV.1. Excommunication would be mandatory for this sin in the church (v8). Church order precludes those on second marriages and still living together from the Lord’s supper. Here Ezra instituted repentance (by the word) and church discipline (leading the people to the cross).

2. Strong marriages between believers strengthens the church (Mal.2:11, 15). We are to teach this to our children.

3. This history is for our admonition.

Review: Satan’s tactics to destroy church.

Undermine her purity and consecration by:

1)      Serious sin among the members (I Cor.5)

2) False teaching and schism (Judaizers, Arminius,FV etc)

3) False ecumenism (Tobiah, Ahab/Jehosh, with RCs)

4) Outright persecution-from state or other religions.

The antithesis of Genesis 3:15 must be maintained, this whole episode was a breakdown of that God-ordained separation.

Excellent quote from Lion Bible Handbook: click to enlarge         1510697_10202058142553971_2066713385_n

All previous.

Our next topic which should take us up to the end of 2014 is Malachi. To download see: Malachi Study Guide

Fear not

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Do we not all fear? We may fear failure at work, being unable to cope with some given responsibility, fear being hurt (even by God), fear the loss of loved ones, fear the eternal loss of loved ones, fear persecution or violent death, fear illness, decrepitude and death itself. This ought not to be! The command “fear not “, first spoken to Hagar in the wilderness bewailing the impending death of her son Ishmael, is repeated 75 times in Scripture (60 in the Old Testament). As regards the eternal destiny of our loved ones we should say firstly that predestination is God’s prerogative (Romans 9:21) and like Job we must acquiesce with his decree and righteous judgment (Job 22:21). “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

Here are some examples of “fear not”: Joseph wants to reassure his brothers that he means them no harm (Genesis 50). David wants to reassure his son Solomon in his commission to build the temple (II Sam.9:7). God wants to reassure the captives they will return (Jeremiah 46:27,28) and he, through Haggai wants to strengthen the hands of the returned Jews, in rebuilding the temple in Haggai 2:5.Note that the basis for this reassurance is his spirit being in and with them. It is worth emphasising that the Spirit of God, he who seals us unto the day of redemption, is the basis of all our confidence! Why? Because it was by his power that Christ died and rose again, and that same power is at work in us!

Elijah wants to reassure the widow that if she cares for his needs then hers will be met (I Kings 17:3).

The chapter that thrice says “fear not” is Isaiah 41 namely verses 10, 13 and 14. These verses are written in the context of Israel’s enemies and are vitally relevant to us, the church, who are the Israel of God, in the face of our spiritual enemies, the world, flesh and devil.

Twice God tells his newly commissioned servants namely Joshua (Joshua 1:9) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:6 and 3:9) to fear not. In the first instance it is to take the land of Canaan from her enemies and the second to be strong in telling Israel her sins. Likewise in the New Testament in the calling of the first disciples in Luke 5:10, Christ wants to reassure them that, with him, they will be up to the task.

The Lord reassures Paul that there is nothing to fear with the impending shipwreck and that he and all his fellow passengers will make it safe to land and he eventually to Rome (Acts 27:24).

Our Lord Christ specifically addresses the fear of persecution and death in Revelation 2:10 and Matthew 10:28.  In the first instance it is imprisonment and in the second martyrdom for the faith. Christ encourages us by telling us to fear God above all else and also promises great reward to those thus persecuted.

The major issue here is, how convinced are we of the love of God? Because we are told by John, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). We have to be convinced that love is one of the unchanging, infinite, attributes of God and we are the recipients of it. We are loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). This love actually had no beginning as it started in the electing mind and purpose of God before the world was made and it has no end because it is covenant love, consisting of mutual indwelling of us in him and he in us for ever. We are his friend-servants.

As to circumstances that may providentially befall us, we must recognise God’s sovereign hand over everything that happens and say with Paul,” And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom.8:28) and, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35-39). We must believe what he says in II Cor.12:9 that his grace is always sufficient  for us-otherwise how could our forbears have been able to lay down their lives for him in so many painful ways?

A story from Corrie Ten Boom comes to mind. In speaking to her father about the suffering the Nazis were inflicting on the Jews and all who aided them she worried if she would cope being sent to a concentration camp (which she was). He replied, “When do I give you your train ticket Corrie? Is it a month, or a week before the trip?  No, of course not, it is when you are on the platform and about to depart on the train.” So it is with God’s grace. Fearful Ridley who’s finger could not stand the heat of a candle flame in the prison the night before his execution, died triumphantly burnt at the stake the next day alongside his elder brother Archbishop Latimer who taught him the same lesson from the flame.

It is Reformed teaching that everything serves the salvation of God’s elect.” Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:23,24). Our Father is with us every step of the way!

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Latimer and Ridley.

 

 

How do we get peat?

If we have a coal fire or wood stove we can burn wood, coal or peat and these fuels will give us heat. Coal for longest, then peat, then wood that burns fastest. But how did peat form in our landscape. Peat is found and dug up in peat bogs which are raised areas of land above the usual level of the grass round about. Peat is basically compressed wet, semi-decomposed plant material that has formed in an anaerobic situation (that is a place lacking oxygen).The pictures below show peat cutting and the implement used.

219972420_9ef5bc18d9 WP_20140217_002 WP_20140217_003 SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA blanket_bog_formation

Click on images to enlarge.

In shops you can buy manufactured compressed peat blocks which are shiny and much harder than raw peat and burn for longer.

Short animation.

Next fuels to look out for coal and oil!

The Burning Bush

 The Burning Bush

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Emblem of many Reformed and Presbyterian denominations worldwide.

Mottos mean ”Burning but flourishing” and “Not however consumed”.

This emblem stems from the event recorded in Exodus 3:2 “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him (Moses) in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Moses asked the God of the bush his name and got this reply,

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

In other words I am the eternal, self-existent, unchangeable God..

3:15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

3:16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:

The word LORD capitalised in our Bibles is Jehovah or YAWEH. This name for God has but one letter added to the Hebrew for I AM. See..

God’s name

Now Jehovah is the covenant name of God. The God of his people Israel who are the elect of all ages, the sheep for whom the great I AM incarnate Jesus Christ died. He is their covenant God for ever. He loves them with an unchanging, unquenchable love, like fire!

Every time Christ said I AM, eg I am the door, the Good Shepherd, the way, the truth and life, the resurrection etc he was saying I AM YAWEH!

Why did God appear in this form? In Hebrews 12:29 we read that our God is a “consuming fire”. The heat and destructive power of fire is well known. God ever lives and his ultimate purpose is to consume sin and all his enemies ( II Thess. 1:9). The lake of fire is the final destiny of Satan, the demons, Antichrist and all the reprobate wicked. Fire in Scripture is often used as a purifying energy that tries precious metals I Peter 1:7 and 4:12. The faith of God’s people is like gold.

Fire never actually destroys anything just separates the pure from the impure or if it burns something, changes it to another form and so the destruction of this world will consist of a purifying change into a sinless world of glory but the destruction of hell is eternal. The three Hebrew friends of Daniel came through the fire unscathed. So will the church through all her persecutions in which she burns victoriously through Christ’s grace and Spirit. Hence the emblem, “Aflame yet unconsumed”.

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A Vital Lesson for Life

Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

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Now there are providences of two sorts, seemingly good and seemingly bad, and those do usually as Jacob did, when he blessed the sons of Joseph, cross hands; and lay the blessing where we would not. ‘And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him’ (Gen. 48:17). I say there are providences unto which we would have the blessings entailed, but they are not. And they are providences that smile upon the flesh; to wit, such as cast into the lap, health, wealth, plenty, ease, friends, and abundance of this world’s good: because these, [Manasseh, as his name doth signify,] have in them an aptness to make us forget our toil, our low estate, and from whence we were (Gen. 41:51) but the great blessing is not in them. There are providences again, that take away from us whatever is desirable to the flesh; such is the sickness, losses, crosses, persecution and affliction; and usually in these, thought they make us shudder whenever they come upon us, blessing coucheth, and is ready to help us. For God, as the name of Ephraim signifies, makes us ‘fruitful in the land of our affliction’ (Gen. 41:52). He, therefore, in blessing His people, lays His hands across, guiding them wittingly, and laying the chiefest blessing on the head of Ephraim, or in that providence, that sanctifies affliction… He that has skill to judge of providences aright, has a great ability in him to comprehend with other saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height: but he that has not skill as to discerning of them, is but a child in his judgment in those high and mysterious things. And hence it is, that some shall suck honey out of that, at the which others tremble for fear it should poison them, I have often been made to say, ‘ Sorrow is better than laughter; and the house of mourning better than the house of mirth’ (Eccles. 7:3-5). And I have more often seen, that the afflicted are always the best sort of Christians. There is man, never well, never prospering, never but under afflictions, disappointments and sorrows: why this man, if he be a Christian, is one of the best men. ‘They that go down to the sea…..that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep’ (Psa. 107:23). And it is from hence, for aught I know, that James admonishes the brother of high degree to rejoice in that he is made low. And he renders the reason of it, to wit, for that the fashion the world perisheth, the rich man fadeth away in his way; but the tempted, and he that endureth temptation is blessed (James 1:10-12). Now, I know these things are not excellent in themselves, nor yet to be desired for any profit that they can yield, but God doth use by these, as by a tutor or instructor, to make known to them that are exercised with them, so much of Himself as to make them understand that riches of His goodness that is seldom by other means broken up to the sons of men. And hence ’tis said, that the afterwards of affliction doth yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby (Heb. 12:11)’.
John Bunyan

All Loves Excelling (The Saints’ Knowledge of Christ’s Love)33-35