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Saturday, 26 March 2016


Good Friday came and went, that's it for another year. At the time of writing, Easter Sunday is yet to come. Our worship celebration at our church was excellent. Contrary to wider culture, our worship of Jesus Crucified was not shrouded with glum faces and mournful dirge, weeping over the unjustifiable demise of an innocent, righteous man. Rather, it was a celebration of what the Lord accomplished while he hung there - an atonement made for the sins of the whole world, and a victory over the Adversary who held the whole of Adam's descendants captive. Little wonder, that on his very last breath, he shouted out, It is finished! Not the kind of reaction made by anyone else with his dying breath. But Jesus did it because his was a cry of victory, and not of defeat.

Mosaic at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.
No other human endeavour in history has ever eclipsed this event. Yes, for an example, we may think that putting a couple of men on the moon in 1969 was a great achievement in the quest to conquer the Final Frontier. It might well have been a "giant leap for mankind" - which reminds me in a way of the post-deluge descendants of Noah attempting to "Reach to the heavens" by constructing a giant ziggurat in the plains of Shinar, later to be the site of the ancient city of Babylon. This was an attempt to reach the stars by their own pride-driven efforts. Their efforts with the ziggurat took them no closer to the stars in a literal sense than if their self efforts would have brought to God! But no matter how great mankind's achievements might have been, the intervention of God himself into human affairs at such a manner will always remain unique, unattainable by any other human who ever lived.

I greatly thank and praise God for such a wonderful demonstration of his love and mercy for us all who is without strength. Here is the Divine Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - having a council in eternity past, most certainly before anything was created:-
"Whom shall I send? Who shall go for us?"
"Here am I. Send me."
Isaiah 6:8.
And such was the response of the Second Person in the Godhead. And all three partied in great joy, before commencing with creation. Such as I like to imagine the unity within the Holy Trinity, with their love for each other so strong, it was, and will always be, unbreakable.

Except for one brief moment.

That was when Jesus, the incarnated Second Person of the Godhead, while hanging in agony on the cross, cried out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Just imagine it! For the Son to be separated from the Father and from the Holy Spirit for the very first time in all eternity. This must have had a soul-crushing effect to a much greater intensity than the physical pain he was suffering. Yet he still cried out with a powerful tone of voice, It is finished! Father, to you I commit my spirit.

Since this is the Easter weekend, I felt that it was a good idea to look into some of the seemingly apparent contradictions found in the four presentations of the narration, as our very souls depend on the veracity of the story, which holds the only true hope for salvation. It's basically set on just one verse in the entire New Testament.

After his death, since this was the Preparation for the Passover, the lambs slain all over Israel had to be roasted and eaten later that night, the body of Jesus (along with the two others crucified with him) had to be taken down, and buried in an unused tomb which has only been hewn out recently. There the body was laid to rest for three days and three nights. Three days and three nights? Yes, according to his own words recorded in Matthew 12:40. Here Jesus was quoting from the prophet Jonah. When the prophet ran away from a commission God had assigned to him, he boarded a ship which was caught in a storm, and was threatening the lives of the crew. The only life-saving solution was Jonah to be thrown overboard. In the sea, Jonah was swallowed up by a large fish or whale, and in its stomach the prophet spent three days and three nights before being spewed out alive onto the beach. This was the same duration the body of Jesus remained in the tomb.

The awkwardness of this lies in the fact that this statement made by the Lord does not appear in any of the following three Gospels, or for that matter, anywhere else in the New Testament. It is just one, single, solitary verse, yet has a powerful effect in the way such things should be thought through. If Jesus was crucified on a Friday, as all church traditions demand, then the duration of three days and three nights cannot be taken literally. Even the acceptance of the last three hours of Friday daylight after his death, all day Saturday, and just a few moments of Sunday morning, would give only two nights rather than three, that is, what we today would refer as Friday and Saturday nights. Checking through various commentaries on this verse, I have not come across any explanation which is satisfying to my soul. Coming to think of it, the idea of a Friday crucifixion had always seemed at odds with what I perceive as common sense, even going back to pre-converted adolescence.

That's why, as an independent free-thinker, I prefer to believe in a Thursday crucifixion.* That is, the last three hours of Thursday daytime, all day Friday, and all day Saturday, along with Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night (i.e. the small hours of Sunday morning, as the new Hebrew 24-hour day always begins at sunset). Jesus was already resurrected before daybreak on that Sunday. I am fully aware about going against the grain of all church tradition, which places the crucifixion on the eve of a typical Saturday Sabbath. It was John who gave us a hint that the Sabbath which followed the crucifixion was "a high day" (John 19:31) - meaning the first day of Unleavened Bread, which fell on a Friday. Therefore it would have followed that the two days after the Crucifixion were both Sabbaths - the first day of Unleavened Bread, followed by the normal Saturday Sabbath.

This means then, that at the moment Jesus gave up the ghost, Passover lambs were being slain right across Israel. John backs this idea up in his narration of the Jews not wanting to defile themselves by entering a Gentile palace, "for they wanted to be able to eat the Passover" (John 18:28-29). So at this point in time, when Jesus was brought before Pilate, not only was the Passover not yet eaten, but the lambs themselves were not yet slain. This could explain Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that Christ is our Passover Lamb, who was slain at the same time all other lambs were killed. Therefore, during the Last Supper, which took place after dark, and as such, at the commencement of the day of Preparation, the Passover lambs across Israel were still alive.

But why not assume that the first day of Unleavened Bread fell on the Saturday, the normal Sabbath? After all, doesn't it all make sense? What better day of the week to have the first day of Unleavened Bread to fall on the normal Jewish Sabbath? What is the one obstacle to this idea? The one solitary verse of Matthew 12:40. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

However, it does leave one very apparent contradiction. Such an example is found in Matthew 26:17-19, where Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare a place to eat the Passover. Mark 14:12-15 tells the same story, as does Luke 22:7-20. Each of the three tells us that it was on the first day of Unleavened bread that the Last Supper took place, and they ate the Passover there. This seems to contradict John's version, which insists that the Passover was not yet eaten when Jesus was brought before Pilate.

Yet in Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, and a hint from Matthew 27:62, it was the Day of Preparation when Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. Preparing for what? For the Passover, which included the slaughtering of the lambs and the roasting of the meat. When did Jesus instruct his disciples to prepare the upper room? Apparently, it was soon after sunset, and the start of the Day of Preparation, also called the first day of Unleavened Bread, because that was the day all leavened bread had to be cleared out of every house in Israel before the Passover Lamb is killed. The Last Supper was on the same day as the Crucifixion. But did they eat the Passover Lamb? No, they couldn't have done, for the lambs weren't yet slain. So what was the "passover" they ate during the Last Supper?

Matthew gives us a clue here, (26:26-29) so does Luke (22:7-20). They write that the disciples "prepared the Passover". Then we read about all of them sitting at table when Jesus took the cup of wine and had it passed around to all who sat there. He then said that how he was eager with desire to eat the Passover with them before he suffered, and he will not eat it again before finding fulfilment in the Kingdom of God. He then initiated what we call the Holy Communion - to remember his body broken and his blood shed in order to be "passed over" from judgement and eternal death. His announcement that the bread and the wine will not be eaten until finding fulfilment in his Father's Kingdom is narrated in Revelation 19:1-10, known as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which takes place shortly before his return to Earth.

Just as the original Passover was for Israel to remember how, by slaying a lamb and dubbing the door lintels of their homes with its blood, delivered them from the Angel of Death which struck Egypt, so this "New Passover" is for us to remember the body broken and the blood spilt to deliver us from eternal judgement. The bread will be broken and the cup drank in Heaven, I think, as a reminder that every saint present there, would not be there if the Lord had not atone for them on the cross (Revelation 19:1-10). Just imagine! Every single redeemed human in Heaven, both from Old and New Testament times, together with us as well, would be reminded that they are only there because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Heaven, every saint will be compelled to partake in the Supper, which will, apparently, be carried out with exuberant joy and worship. The entire angelic host will also be there, but they will only be allowed to watch, while offering their praise to God as well.

Most, if not all in my church, and in other churches as well, will disagree with me on the issue of a Thursday crucifixion. But that won't stop me from worshipping God with them and celebrating his redemption for us. My fellowship is my spiritual home. I belong there, and I'm willing to submit to my Elders, as God would want me to do, and I would be the first to say that God's presence was felt during the Good Friday meeting. Yet if I'm branded as one of "the lunatic fringe" so be it. My final authority is the Holy Scriptures, and it's my passion to uphold its truthfulness and historical veracity. Even if some may scoff at me for believing, in addition to a Thursday crucifixion, a six literal-day Creation over Darwinism, as well as my passion for Eternal Security of the Believer. But in our land and its culture, it's very unlikely that I would ever be scoffed. This is because I'm from a low background in education, occupation, and social status. Not only would I be ignored, but to be seen as irrelevant and totally disregarded.

Fine, as long as they don't disregard the Bible and the Gospel of salvation either.

I wish you all a happy Easter. God bless.


An excellent, scholastic reference source for a Thursday crucifixion is in the book:
How Close Are We? by Dave Hunt, Copyright 1993, Harvest House Publishers.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Pride, Prejudice, and Jealousy

One of the most notable characters in the New Testament, other than the Lord Jesus Christ, is Simon - renamed Peter by the Lord himself. A full blown extrovert, he stumbled his way through all four Gospels with barely keeping his mouth shut. He was one of only three men in all of human history who had the wonderful privilege to witness the Transfiguration of the Lord to his full glory, and also watching the appearance of Moses and Elijah appearing in their post-mortal glories. What was talked about between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, only Luke gives us a clue (9:28-36) which touched on his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. But it was Peter, who should have been kneeling with his face to the ground, instead, his anxiety of such a vision caused him to speak, which all three of the Gospel writers recorded: Lord, let us build three tents: One for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Such a statement uttered out of impulsiveness without proper forethought is a hallmark of his character.

Another bloomer can be found in Matthew 16:21-23, where, after foretelling by the Lord of his accusations, death and resurrection all taking place in Jerusalem, Peter, swollen with pride, exclaims that these things would never happen to him. What was the cause of his pride? It was built on the commendation Jesus gave him shortly before for identifying him as "The Christ, the Son of the living God." It was this pride which opened the door of his heart for Satan to enter, and ending with the sternest rebuke Jesus has to make to anyone other than to the Pharisees.

Within the same person, I am wondering whether prejudice is related to pride. And there are at least two occasions where Peter had demonstrated this trait. The first was when God sends an angel to Cornelius with an order to dispatch some men to bring Peter to his home (Acts 10.) Peter was a Jew while Cornelius was a Roman centurion. Just before the men had arrived at Peter's lodgings at Joppa, Peter was praying on the rooftop, and he began to feel hungry. He received a vision of a large sheet, held by its four corners, containing animals which the Law has forbidden for any Israelite to eat, and therefore rendered unclean. The vision, which appeared three times, had to be used by God to break his prejudice and convince the apostle that the three Gentile men arriving at his lodgings were sent by God. Even at Cornelius' house, Peter had to utter such words which the Authorised Version has put so succinctly:  
And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
In other words, it was an abomination for a Jew to enter a house of a non-Jew, let alone fellowship!

But even with prejudice overcome, remnants of it might be linked with fear. That is, fear of what others would think. Such was a classic case some years after the Ascension. Peter most likely felt rather nervous or ill at ease while eating at a non-Jewish table. Because as soon as some men sent by James arrived, Peter suddenly withdrew, even taking fellow-Jews, including Barnabas, with him (Galatians 2:11-14.) It was Paul, himself a Jew, who rebuked Peter in front of them all, calling his action an act of hypocrisy and not walking according to the Gospel.

Also in the case of Peter, a glimpse of a third trait, jealousy, is recorded in the apostle's character. This was when the mother of James and John, on one occasion, approached Jesus with a request for her sons to sit right next to him on either side of his throne (Matthew 29:20-28). The Lord's answer was that it was not up to him to grant the request, but that of his Father. Peter, along with the other disciples, expressed displeasure, to put it mildly, an acknowledgement of jealousy seen in the apostle's character - along with a momentary showing of pride and a more enduring sense of prejudice. But as I look into history, I also wonder whether the third trait is related to the other two. And I having studied some history, there is good evidence that jealousy has always been fully embedded in western culture. Using an example, reading about slavery which dominated the Deep South during the eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries, pride in slave ownership, prejudice against social equality, and jealousy over the superior strength, good looks, and superb physique of each of their chattel, each making up the threefold pillar which supported such a culture, allowing the trade to exist before abolition in 1865.

As one who has been a believer in the Lord for over forty years, I would not be truthful if I was to claim freedom from these three emotive issues. Pride, prejudice and jealousy, each intertwining to offset my walk with God and from enjoying his love and blessings. Where is my source of pride? Much of it goes to what I have achieved - 35 years of running a business, worldwide travel - especially to the Holy Land - the ability backed by determination to write, despite leaving school without any qualifications nearly half a century earlier, to constantly work on improving grammar, style and so-forth. Then the strength and robust of our marriage over sixteen years, after constantly reading about how glamorous Hollywood-style marriages between celebrities break up as little as only after fourteen months as with the case of Russell Brand and Katy Perry, or 72 days with Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, or even as little as 55 hours - as was the case with Britney Spears and Jason Alexander.*

And celebrities - coming to think of it - there was one instance of celebrity pride I had to laugh at. And I ask you, the reader, to forgive me for seeing the funny side of what should have been a serious matter of misplaced egotism. It concerned a horse racing venue at Cheltenham, where spectators on a balcony, all second-rate professional footballers, were meant to be watching the races. Instead, one of them urinated into a glass in public and then emptied the glass over the rail. A day later a newspaper columnist, in direct reference to the incident, wrote,
When I was a kid, my (footballing) heroes were rarely pictured without a shirt-and-tie, when they weren't in their football strip.
The only snag with his argument was that both offenders, James Collins and Samir Carruthers, were dressed in shirt-and-tie, with Collins himself dressed in a smart suit.

Footballer James Collins throws his urine over the railing
And it is such a comment made by this columnist which arouses prejudice embedded within my own character - the British stigma about wearing a tie which suppose to bring an element of class to the wearer, and in turn engender greater respect. To be honest with you, I'm one of many average guys who don't like ties. Of course, I'll still wear a tie when circumstances call for it, such as on the last occasion which was at my father's funeral. But otherwise, I have always found the tie to be the source of physical discomfort and irritability, an opinion apparently shared by the majority of foreign correspondents and journalists whilst on duty, let alone by just about everyone you see strolling along the shopping precinct on a typical Saturday. I prefer to associate class to good character rather than dress style. But then again, I have always harboured a deep prejudice against the social class strata, along with the English idea that "I must know my place" - still felt in the air despite the increase in social mobility. It looks to me that such professions such as Government ministers, high ranking bishops and archbishops, along with movie actors, together with journalists and reporters, all having received Public School education. With the decline of grammar schools, it looks to me that this has brought a revival of this "Know your place" attitude. Just look at Parliament!

Then as a typical human, I too have my share of jealousy. Stemming from my parent's desire for me to have done a lot better at school, I tend to feel an element of jealousy at university graduates and their promising outlook of a choice career they have the ability to follow. Did you know that my childhood ambition was to become a surgeon? Very far fetched no doubt, but not from my primary school days. Journalism was my second option, especially if global travel was involved. As for wealth and possessions, surprising this may be to you, this has virtually nothing on me. Whether it's a big house, a couple of fast cars, or possessions, it has completely no effect in rousing jealousy. But on the other hand, a Facebook message that one of my friends was about to take off from Heathrow Airport to visit Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and California, on a cold November morning, caused me to sit on the ground green with sheer envy as I started the day's work. The same in the past, before I was married, when a good-looking friend and bachelor is seen for the first time sitting next to a pretty female, particularly in church.

The apostle James asks his readers:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from the desires that battle within you? 
James 4:1.

And he was writing to believers, not unbelievers! It goes to show that we who are regenerated as begotten of God are still not free from such earthly desires. It must lurk in all of us, including Christians. James takes our sinful natures as a matter of course, just as John, in his first letter, has written that anyone who claims to be without sin is a liar (1:8-10) and he is deceived. And apparently this applies to believers, as John addressed his letters to them.

Lately, after reading Isaiah's statement that many approach God with their lips, but their hearts are far from him (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8) my main concern was that this prophecy isn't being fulfilled in me, as it was with the Pharisees. Lately, I have stood outside and looking heavenward, pleaded with the Lord to draw my heart ever closer to him. It was at a time of ecstasy, as I have just completed a vigorous workout at the gym, and chances were that the Pituitary Gland was pumping out all sorts of "happiness hormones" into the bloodstream. It was a good moment for a heart-cry to God. And yes, I thoroughly believe that all Old Testament men of faith were drawn to God by his Divine power, and not by self effort, as just about the entire book of Jeremiah can attest, endorsed by Jesus in John 6:44, as well as the seventh chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. To pray for the Lord to bring my heart closer to him seems to be the solution to all my emotional problems.

Are there people who dislike me? I won't let that bother me any more. Even Christians who hate me? (Only one I think.) It no longer matters. Failed at school? No longer important. Wish I had a far more respectable career? Too late now, I'm enjoying retirement. Not a home owner or car owner? My eternal Home is in Heaven, and I most likely will fly! The wonderful truth is, that I'm loved by God, and I love him. My love for God is because he first loved me, and gave up his Son to atone for my sins. With such a revelation as this, it's not only have a humbling power, but also helps me to ask:
What else do I want?


* Source:- Platell's People, The Daily Mail, 19/03/2016.

Also, no infringement of copyright on Mark Large's photo was made as this blog page is not designed to make money.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Three Haunting Verses.

If my forty-plus years of experience as a Christian believer has anything to go by, I believe quite strongly that those who are ignorant of the Bible, or just have a moderate knowledge of it, are prone to be less anxious about the afterlife than those who are very familiar with Scripture. Like the time when I was dining at an Italian family's table in Italy back in 1975. While the pre-teen son attended a Catholic school along with regular weekend seminars, the spirit of the house was filled with self-confidence, even with times of mirth, with an affiliation to their local church, but without any anxieties whether how long they would spend in Purgatory, whether they will reach Heaven sooner or later. As I saw it, they took each day as it came, and enjoyed life in general, as for Catholics in Italy, the Bible can be hard to come by.

Quite a contrast to one miserable soul who once approached me with his conclusion that it would be impossible for such a one like me to spend eternity in Heaven with him. He then quoted Matthew 7:21-23 which, according to him, would define my fate:

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and (in your name) perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!"

On the surface, this person appears happy and contented, willing to talk casually with other men around. But it is not difficult to perceive the unhappiness which lie under his thick, stoical, British skin. This sense of uncertainty which underscores his tendency to mentally scrutinise and judge others, especially those, like me, who does not fit into his model of spiritual manhood. But he is far from unique. I have seen for myself that these three verses tend to leave an element of uncertainty among even the stoutest of believers, at least on a few occasions throughout life. Even with me, I have wondered over the shock of seeing the Lord face to face, having a far-from-pleasing facial expression, and coming out with such a statement: I never knew you. Depart from me, you worker of iniquity!

I believe that such thoughts must have entered the mind of the majority of Christians, prompting them to pray harder, or to make a re-commitment, or to perform better in loving others, or even to attend a church which has the "right" way to conduct a service. These are the sort of statements which can haunt the back of the mind of any sensible believer, regardless of how confident he would appear to others. After all, if Jesus refers to himself as the Saviour, then why wouldn't he be able to save those standing outside?

So we read these verses and tend to take them at face value, simply because we know already that Jesus is the Christ, the Jewish Messiah who was crucified, atoning for our transgressions, was buried, and on the third day defeated death by rising again. So we naturally take him as he is at present. It was quite different back then when he hadn't been ministering for very long. According to the narrators, Jesus had already travelled north across the Galilean area from Nazareth, attended a wedding at Cana, where he performed his first miracle, then journeyed eastwards towards Capernaum, performing more miracles along the way. Thus he was drawing a crowd who were pondering on exactly who this man was.  Then at a spot of high ground near the fishing village, he delivered what we now call The Sermon on the Mount. The crowds were astonished by both his works of goodness and his teachings, but the idea of him being the Son of God and Messiah, having come to atone, was still far from their minds. At best, they may have considered him to be another prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah.

Then drawing his sermon to a close, he made a statement which would force his listeners to re-consider who he really was: Many would say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord..." and I would say to them, "Away from me you evildoers." No man in his right mind would come up with such a statement - unless he is their only true God who will judge them all on that day. This brings to mind the Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park where on Sunday mornings anyone can stand on the soapbox and deliver what he has on his mind, whether political, the economy, ethical matters, or religious issues. But if such a speaker were to declare that many would say to him on that day, 'Lord Lord,' and then ordered them to get out of his sight, it wouldn't be long before someone in the audience would call in the men in white coats to whisk him away to a mental institution! - Unless they all sensed a special divine calling.

Yet the listening crowd accepted his bold statement as one who has authority rather than as one of the scribes. They sensed that he had a Divine calling, a conclusion backed by his miracles. So with such a statement delivered, what would be the naturally instinctive human reaction? Wouldn't it be: 
What must we do to do the works God requires? (John 6:28). 

Why not put yourself in their place? Suppose you were among that crowd and as you've listened to the sermon drawing to a close, and you then hear about those shut out of heaven depicted by Matthew. How would you react? What kind of thoughts would go through your mind? You have already heard about the true definition of murder, adultery, divorce, taking oaths, an eye for an eye, loving enemies, giving to the needy, prayer and fasting, and not to worry on daily matters. Suddenly, the true meaning of the Law of Moses is defined. You feel utterly lost and without hope. All traces of feeling righteous before God wither away, like a dried leaf blown away by the wind, or that of a polluted garment. You have come to the end of your tether, and you feel totally helpless, knowing that it's impossible to keep the Law perfectly. So what would be your response?

Surely there must be another way to please God, or else all hope in ourselves is lost! No doubt, this would be the natural reaction, like a drowning man clutching at a straw. And what a wonderful response to such anxieties did the Lord Jesus deliver. You can conclude that in Matthew's version of the discourse, Jesus was preparing the ground. To the point of his listeners asking in or near despair,
What must we do to do the works God requires?
Into this prepared ground the Lord sows the seed which would germinate into eternal life:
The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.

They then asked him to prove his authority along with the authenticity of his answer by asking for a miracle, which brings him to the discourse about himself being the Bread of Life, the true bread from heaven, as opposed to the manna which fell under Moses' ministry. Here is the wonderful news, that rather than the works done by the sinner, it is just one work which God himself performs in the heart which imparts life.

But who are those people standing outside and refused entry? Jesus himself makes it clear who they will be. Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name (didn't we) cast out demons, and (in your name we) done many wonderful works?

It would be easy to say "all religious people," but here the Lord says that they performed in his name. It is the name of Jesus in which these people performed such wonderful works, which fell into three groups: Prophesying, Exorcism, and Miracles. They weren't performed under the name of Buddha, Mohammed, Confutes, or Brahma. Nor any other name. They were performed in Jesus' name. But by reading between the lines, it becomes apparent that they were giving credit to themselves, and were deceived into thinking that by doing such supernatural works, they have a good standing with God without the need for cleansing from sin by the blood of Jesus, or the need for regeneration. I for one, have never prophesied in public. I have never had the experience of casting out a devil, neither is there any record of ever performing a miracle. Yet Jesus says there will be many. It has made me wonder: If there will be so many standing outside, then who will they be?

I use to believe that it were just the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, and other para-faith cults and sects. True enough, Jehovah's Witnesses had "prophesied in his name" and continue to do so to this day. But they only do what they are told - by the organisation masters who sit in the director's office of the Watchtower headquarters at Brooklyn. Among all those aligned with the cults, the vast majority work hard to secure their salvation rather than bathe in the shed Blood of Jesus, even though I'm convinced that a remnant are truly saved, having at least on one occasion, fell upon God's mercy.

Then there is the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout 1,500 years of history, the trusting of Jesus wholly for salvation began to be eclipsed by tradition and customs, mostly embracing Mary as Mediator between God and mankind. The majority of the laity call themselves Christian, even if they may devote themselves to Mary instead of to Jesus, along with the necessity of Purgatory, and for priestly intercession, therefore denying the efficaciousness of the atoning power of the Crucifixion. Devout Catholics could find themselves standing outside, although I believe that there is a remnant of Catholics from all generations who were, and are, truly saved. It is their leaders who must take the greater responsibility. History shows a long line of Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops who had broken bread in the name of Jesus Christ, but had lead atrocious lives of abused power. One author has made reference to the Popes of the Medieval past as "the greatest monsters ever to walk the Earth.* Among them are a great number of Catholic "saints" who had performed miracles in the name of Jesus, mainly to prove that Roman Catholicism is the "one and only true apostolic religion."

Far more recently are some of the cases of hysteria in the name of "Revival" among the Vineyard and Charismatic churches. Two comes easily to mind: the Toronto Blessing at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, and the Brownsville Revival at the Assemblies of God church at Pensacola. The issue with Pensacola has already been dealt with on one of my other blogs.* But in both cases, thousands from around the world had arrived at these two churches "to get it" rather than experience a genuine conversion to Jesus Christ. Emotional hysteria, including shrieking, violent shaking, rolling on the floor, and other paraphernalia which looked to be classically demonic rather than the work of the Holy Spirit, had influenced many. I would not be surprised at all if many of them, along with their leaders, will find themselves standing outside heaven on that day.

I strongly believe that to those who referred Jesus as Lord yet were still shut out of heaven were professing Christians who trusted in their own righteousness, their own obedience to the Law, or their life experiences instead of trusting in the saving power of Jesus Christ. Often the word "Lord" can be used in the sense of "Employer" or "a man of nobility" when it actually means the Risen Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. That was why the believers living in Roman times were relentlessly persecuted. In those days it was compulsory to declare Caesar as Lord, which is to say, Divine - after succeeding in ending all tribal feuds and declaring Pax Romania across the whole Empire. But instead, these early believers insisted that Jesus Christ is Lord, and not Caesar, who must be held in subjection to him.

However, anyone who confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God has raised in from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9-10.)

And he who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (1 John 5:1.)

He who has the Son has everlasting life (John 3:36.)

He who believes on me has everlasting life (John 6:47.)

Rest assured. If you have Jesus Christ in you, then you will be in his presence forever. 


*Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, Harvest House Publishers, 1994.
*You can read my Blog: Revival or Hysteria, by clicking here.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

E.U. Storm in the Sauna

Back in the seventies, or maybe it was in the eighties, I read this little quip in an edition of Reader's Digest:

Mr A: At any foreign airport, you can always tell when a British 'plane had just landed.
Mr B: Oh, how is that?
Mr A: You can still hear the whining long after the engines shuts down.

Maybe Mr A. has a point. I recall the furor when Prince Harry, during his student years, flew to Australia to work for a couple of months on a conservation project. After arrival, he was grumbling over the project - to the extent that Englishmen Down Under, having their reputation as Whinging Poms stunningly verified - happened to be right from the mouth of a Royal.  

But isn't it true though, that the British, with their worldwide reputation for stoicism, never grumble? Or am I getting the semantics wrong here? Checking at a dictionary, I found that Whining means to complain feebly or petulantly, Whinging means to complain persistently, while Grumble is to complain in a bad tempered way. Ah! that makes it all right then. When an Englishman complains, he never does it in a bad tempered way. Petulantly or persistently indeed, but never with a bad temper. In that case then, I could classify myself as English, even though I am a full-blooded Italian. It used to be the days I attended a sauna at a leisure pool on a regular weekly basis. Very often the thermostat was poorly set, with scarcely any heat to benefit from. To one friend I went with, I muttered, "Even my (six month old) daughter could sit through this!" So I went to complain to the receptionist to the extent that I finally had two duty managers as an audience. As a result, the quality of the service began to improve to the level of becoming the best over a wide geographical area. Having built such a reputation with both friends and management alike, a new verb was coined by a father-and-son duet whenever a matter had to be sorted:
I need to go over and com-frank about this!

At least I will admit that I am a whinger, but never a grumbler. And yes, despite of that, I spent six weeks in Australia, but still saw nothing to whinge about. Or is that really because, at the end of the day, I'm still an Italian? The kind of a wild-mouth individual who throws his arms around in manic gesticulation? However, this facility has closed down for a year for refurbishment, with the intention that it would re-open as a regenerated leisure attraction with a spanking new roof and upgraded water flumes. As I walk past the closed down facility at least every week for the last several weeks, so far I have seen no sign of any work started. Will this once superb attraction end up derelict? Or even demolished?

So were my thoughts on this matter, until visiting a sauna facility at another venue where a rumor was passed around among those sitting with me in the cabin. Apparently, the contractor who was to carry out the work had pulled out in some unknown dispute. My heart dropped. Money troubles? Will the project cost a lot more than the original estimate? Or could it be that after the contract was signed, the Council suddenly decided that the new dome of the flume tower is now to be blue instead of the original red? It was the same with the Town Centre Development. At present, the new structures which will make up the new shopping precinct are now rising. But that was after a good number of years of disputes and deliberations, causing delays for well over a decade.

And so, in a country where agreements between two or more parties seems hard to come by, the news media is at present constantly spewing out the widening rift within our Government itself whether it's wise for the UK to leave the European Union, or to remain. A referendum has been set in June, and our governing ministers are split down the middle on this matter. According to one survey carried out across the UK, the more patriotic exit supporters tend to live in the affluent South, while the majority wishing to remain in the E.U. are to be found in the North, and particularly Scotland. This is something of an irony, as the Scots have their own Parliament, governed by the Scottish National Party. The irony lies in the fact that many Scots would vote for full independence from the English, yet are happy to remain in the E.U.

Where disagreements goes, how could I ever forget a dispute which arose in 2006 during house-group at the one time I had the privilege to host it, while the leader and his wife were away on their holidays? The Scriptural text under study was 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The dispute rose because the stand-in leader used the phrase, If my people, who are called by my name, as applying to the people of England. Despite his strong denial of the matter, I could not help interpreting this as a throwback of Blake-ism. That is, from the time when William Blake wrote the poem,  And did those feet of ancient times, was later put to song and became a popular patriotic hymn. I was out and out against this interpretation of just one verse of Scripture at a very isolated part of the Bible. Just by reading the whole chapter and it becomes immediately apparent that the people he called his own can only be Israel - the one and only nation in the Bible where God calls his own. God spoke these words as a small part of his answer to Solomon's prayer of dedication of the newly-built Temple, which would serve as a house of prayer for the nations.

History sadly points out that Israel did not uphold the conditions needed to sustain the kingdom indefinitely. By the year 586 BC, the kingdom was so corrupt that God had no other choice but to grant the land to enjoy a seventy year Sabbatical rest by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to raze Jerusalem to the ground and taking captive everyone, including its king, into exile. But as for the land, it was never "healed" to the level the Bible demands, and remains much as it has always been to this day. History also reveals that no king has ever reigned over Israel since the 586 BC Exile, and even the present restored sovereignty of Israel remains a republic, without the kingdom being re-instituted.

But this did not stop the American couple Jimmy and Carol Owens releasing a musical, If My People, in the mid-1970's, a copy of the tape cassette I still have among my collection. With co-star Pat Boone featuring as the narrator, the recording was centered on the churches in America praying for the health of the nation in order for the land to be healed towards both economical and judicial health. This caused me to believe that the churches in the States had become spiritually flabby, spineless, and compromising, and no longer having the power to influence the economic health of the nation. So it was assumed that if Christian believers were to humble themselves and pray, and to seek his face and turn from their wicked ways, only then will God will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. The same theory applying to England at our house-group. And that despite the threefold pillar of salvation every true believer has:- Forensic Justification, Imputed Righteousness, and Eternal Security.

Original cover of  the Owen's Album

And here is where I have strongly disagreed with the Owens and with our stand-in leader. As we complain about the European Union, and debate whether we leave or stay, national morality continue to decline, which I think, is linked to the rise of Darwinism as factual history. The concept of Creationism is now held to the point of ridicule. Just the other day an article appeared in the national newspaper about some Chinese researchers writing a Paper about the anatomy and architecture of the human hand. Since English was not their first language, the term to express evolutionary nature was transliterated as "the Creator". The stink this had caused among Western scientists was very remarkable, labeling the Paper as "Creationist crap!" Little wonder that if Creation is held to be so ridiculous to scientific research, so is the wonderful Gospel.

The return to full national sovereignty by exiting the European Union will not turn the UK into a land of ideal living, let alone turn it into a paradise. Neither would remaining in the E.U. would achieve this either. Both national sovereignty and E.U. membership falls short of what God would require for a permanent solution. Only the return of Jesus Christ to take the Throne of David in Jerusalem will enable the land to be healed, not just in Israel, but on a global scale. This healing of the land literally means the restoration of the Earth to its original Edenic state, with humankind living for up to a thousand years in perfect health, and beyond, in the blazing light, love, and holiness of God's presence.

And we won't have anything at all to complain about.