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Saturday, 13 October 2018

He will fight for us!

One of the major news stories of this past week has been the unanimous decision of the five judges of the UK Supreme Court, to vindicate Daniel and Amy McArthur, the Christian owners of the Asher Bakery in Northern Ireland, after a four-year legal battle in which the homosexual activist who had targeted the bakery - in a manner that could well have been described as entrapment - was supported, and funded, by the taxpayer! By the way, I suspect that the bakery is called the Asher Bakery on the basis of Gen.49:20. The aged patriarch, Israel (Jacob) is at the ends of his mortal life, and speaks over his sons. One of those sons was named Asher. "Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties." Perhaps someone can confirm (or refute) my suspicion!

Many of us, who have been praying for the McArthurs for all of those four years, are praising Almighty God for this decision. Many are also praising God for the release, also announced this week, of Pastor Andrew Brunson after more than two years in a Turkish prison, or under house arrest. Many of us continue to pray for Asia, the Pakistani mother whose appeal against the death sentence has finally been heard by the Supreme Court of that country, but who must now await their verdict.

However, it was the Asher Bakery case that made me think of the record of Gideon - especially the events recorded in the Book of the Judges, chapter 7. I encourage you to look up the story and read it for yourself. The part that I recalled is in verses 20 - 23: "... the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, “A sword for YHWH and for Gideon!” They stood every man in his place round about the camp, and all the [Midian] army ran; they cried out and fled. When they blew the three hundred trumpets, YHWH set every man’s sword against his fellow and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah,as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian."

The point is, of course, that the Children of Israel were faced with a (humanly speaking) superior force - yet faith in YHWH, and obedience to His instructions (even although, on the surface, they seemed crazy!), brought them victory. This was the first thing that Daniel McArthur did - He gave the glory to God for the victory.

I am reminded of another story from the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The citizens of Feldkirch, in Austria, were effectively under siege. Napoleon's massive army was preparing to attack. French soldiers had been spotted on the heights above the little town, which is situated on the Austrian/Swiss/Lichtenstein border. A council of the citizens was hastily summoned to decide if they should try to defend themselves, or display the white flag of surrender. 

It happened to be Resurrection Day, and the people had gathered in the church building. The pastor arose and said, "Friends, we have been counting on our own strength and, apparently, that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord's resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us."

The Council accepted his plan, and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived, during the night, to defend the town. Before the worship service had ended, the French troops had broken camp and left!

You and I may be facing circumstances that threaten to crush us. Let us call out to the Lord; place our trust in Him; and depend on His almighty power. How He will respond is up to Him - but He will respond to the cries of His own people.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Is Hamas innocent?

This is not, and has never been intended to be, a purely Judaism-supporting blog. However, I object strenuously to the fake news, and the failure by most of the MSM to report news that would show the State of Israel in a good light. I also follow One Who was born a Jew; lived as a Jew, in the land that is known as Israel; and died on a Roman cross under a placard that read "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (written in the three most commonly-spoken languages of the time!).

Having said that, I do not support every policy of the secular Israeli government. For example, I have been informed that the abortion laws in Israel are among the most liberal in the world. I have not been able to confirm that information but, if true, then I certainly do not support such laws, and pray that they will be repealed. I certainly do not agree with permission being granted to those whose lifestyle is an abomination to HaShem, to parade, and flaunt that lifestyle in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Nevertheless this week, as every week, Hamas terrorists and their supporters took part in violent riots along the Gaza border. For many Israeli families, the Gaza Strip is a short walk from their back gardens. IDF (Israel Defence Force) soldiers don’t just protect a border, but what lies behind it - Jewish families, Jewish homes, and Jewish children. The world refuses to blame terrorists who brag about their plans to “tear down that border and tear out their hearts from their [the Jews] bodies,” (a quote from Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar). 

"Palestinian" terrorism has nothing to do with Jerusalem, and everything to do with Islam! How can their supporters explain the verifiable fact that Muslims were carrying out terror attacks in the Holy Land - long before Pres. Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and even before the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14th, 1948? Muslims who call themselves "Palestinians" (such an ethnic, or national, group has never actually existed!) carry out their attacks, not in the name of "Palestine", but "in the name of Allah"! Hamas - predictably - took advantage of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem to stage violent riots, aimed at over-running the Israel-Gaza border. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) claimed that some 50,000 Muslims took part in those riots along the border. Some 52 Hamas rioters and terrorists were killed - an unnecessary loss of life that was the responsibility of Hamas! It was Hamas that sent those 50,000 Gazans to the border with Israel - with the incentive of US$100 being offered to families who joined. With these human shields for cover, Hamas terrorists used bombs, guns, Molotov cocktails, and burning kites, to attack Israel!

A closer look at the casualties betrays the violent nature of the allegedly 'peaceful' protests! Terrorists have been shot whilst trying to plant explosive devices at the border fence. Others have been killed as they attempted to open fire on Israeli soldiers. Yet Israel has repeatedly warned Hamas, and its supporters in Gaza, that "Anyone who tries to invade Israel will be shot!" Approximately 4,000 Israeli families live within a mere 2 miles of the border. Israel is obliged to protect these families - and now there have been more than 50 additional deaths. 

The world refuses to blame terrorists who brag about their plans to “tear down that border and tear out their hearts from their bodies,” (a quote from Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar). Hamas is a Muslim terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007, whose declared goal is the destruction of the State of Israel. Hamas is responsible for Gaza, but instead of providing welfare for its citizens, Hamas brainwashes the Gazans, uses them as pawns against Israel, and exploits them as human shields, even involving/using young children! "Palestinians" participating in the violent Gaza riots have repeatedly flown swastika flags, and sent kites with swastikas on them with firebombs attached into Israeli territory.

The Hamas terrorist group is leading and orchestrating the recent wave of violence from Gaza, aimed at breaking the border fence, storming Israel with thousands of rioters and attacking Israeli civilians. Israeli is not instigating this violence and Israel has the right to self-defense. Israel, like any other country, has a right to defend itself. Israel will not allow terrorists to invade its territory. Hamas, which rules Gaza, is an Islamic terrorist organization that threatens to kill Jews. Hamas terrorists use civilians as human shields and send children to the front line during the riots along the Gaza border. IDF soldiers don’t just protect a border, but what lies behind it - Jewish families, Jewish homes, and Jewish children.

Israel will not apologise for defending itself against Hamas - and I shall not apologise for seeking to spread the truth!

Friday, 5 October 2018

A new song!

About this time, last year, with the possibility that my wife and I would be asked to provide some music ministry at Christmas, I wrote the following words. They are sung to the well-known melody "Hallelujah" composed by the late Leonard Cohen. 

One autumn night near Bethlehem
Some shepherds heard an angel say:
“For you I have good news, Hallelujah!
In David’s town a Child is born
The Son of God, the Son of Man
The Saviour of the world"; Hallelujah!”

                Hallelujah! x 4

Some thirty years have come and gone
The Child is now a grown Man
Acknowledged by HaShem, Hallelujah!
He ministers in deed and word
His followers know, He is the Lord
The Holy One of Israel, Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! x 4

But some cannot accept the Truth
They hound Yeshua to His death
With nails and spear they pierce Him. Hallelujah!
His body’s laid within a tomb
But death could never conquer Him
He rose again, in power, Hallelujah!

                Hallelujah! x 4

And one day soon the clouds will part
And in our heads, or in our hearts,
We’ll hear Him call our names, Hallelujah!
The shofar sounds, the dead will rise,
We’ll go to meet Him in the skies;
With Him forevermore, Hallelujah!

                Hallelujah! x 4

The marriage-supper of the Lamb
To see, at last, the great I AM
What wonder that will be, Hallelujah!
A heaven new, an earth as well
Where we shall in His presence dwell
In perfect harmony. Hallelujah!

                Hallelujah! x 4

With no more sin and no more night
We’ll live in His eternal light
His praise shall be our song, Hallelujah!
The King of kings; the Lord of lords;
The great I AM; the living Word;
Yeshua Mashiach, Hallelujah!

                Hallelujah! x 8 

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

What if?!

My personal devotions, at this time, include reading through the Gospel according to Matthew. Yesterday, and again this morning, I have been looking at the final part of what is usually referred to as "The Sermon on the Mount" - words of the Lord Jesus as found in Matthew 5 - 7. It was verses 21-23 that, not for the first time, hit me. They read: Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’

These are, I would claim, some of the most frightening words in the whole of the Bible! Jesus is saying that it is possible for you, and for me, to live a religious life, with good works and prophetic words, and even miracles being performed - yet without Him having ever known us! As a result, we are cast out - instructed to depart from Him!

There is, of course, a direct link between these words and those immediately preceding them, in which Jesus warns against false prophets. These were people who had all of the correct language; who went about, apparently doing good; who could quote from the Scriptures; who may have been involved in, and even have held office in, the local church - but who were deceiving those who listened to them, because they did not have a true relationship with the Lord. Indeed, it is worse! James wrote: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” |(1:22). Yes, many of these false prophets are deceiving even themselves!

So how may we know that we are not among their number; that we are not going to hear those dreadful words spoken to us by the Lord Jesus? The answer is actually in that quotation from James. It's all to do with the Word, and our being faithful, and obedient, to it. One commentator writes: "A man who speaks the truth, but acts the lie, is also in a sense, a false prophet." The people to whom the Saviour utters those words are false because their lives have not been lived in harmony with what their lips spoke.

What does this mean, in practice, for you and for me? I would suggest that it means that I may be able to quote from the Bible; I may be involved in a local church fellowship - even in a position of leadership; I may do lots of 'good works' that encourage others to think well of me; I may preach, and cast out demons, and perform miracles; and yet not be obedient to the will, and Word, of God! It was so in earlier times. The prophet Amos has much to say to us today. Speaking the Word of YHWH to the Chosen People, he writes: I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs;  to the melody of your harps I will not listen.” (5:21-23). Those were strong words, and I believe that they apply to much of the contemporary church! Similar passages may be found in the writings of other prophets.

The test of true faith in the Lord Jesus, the Christ, is obedience to His will. It is not sufficient, for example, to make a decision entirely on my own, and then expect Father God to bless it. I must pray for the guidance that has already been promised, and then act in accordance with that guidance. How does that guidance come? In many different ways - through my reading of the Word; through prayer; through a message preached; through a trusted friend; etc. 

I must also be careful with whom I spend my time! I am not to totally divorce myself from "the world" (society that cares nothing for the things of God), but I must spend time with those who also love the Lord, and seek to do His will. I must be careful about the witness I give to others - my friends; my work colleagues; my neighbours; etc. I am the Lord's ambassador (II Cor.5:20) - representing Him to those who do not know Him. I am, as the old poem puts it, the only Bible that some folk will ever read! 

For a long time I have maintained that the Church, worldwide, needs more of the gift of spiritual discernment. However, those words of Jesus remind me that I need to be as discerning about myself as I may be about others! It was only a short time ago that the Jewish people celebrated Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. This comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year. Those ten days - the Days of Awe - are a period of self-examination. I am convinced that, when Paul gave us the words often read when disciples of Jesus celebrate the Lord's Supper, with his exhortation: ... let a man examine himself ...” (I Cor. 11:28), he was not thinking of a cursory two-minute self-examination as the elements are being served, but of that "Days of Awe" examination to which he had submitted himself as an observant Jew.

Let Warren Wiersbe have the last word. In his commentary on these verses from Matthew he writes: "Those who have trusted Christ, and have proved their faith by obedience, will have nothing to fear. Their house is founded on the Rock, and it will stand. But those who have professed to trust Christ, yet who have not obeyed God's will, will be condemned." (my emphases).

Where do you stand, as you read this post? That is a question that I may only answer for me. You must answer for you. May it be that you will have confidence that you have that relationship with the Lord Jesus that is true life. If you do not, then the best time to put that right is now!

Friday, 21 September 2018

Profitable remembering!

The story is told of a Persian shepherd who, because of his great devotion and faithfulness to his king, was promoted to the position of Prime Minister. [Perhaps that is where some modern countries should look!!!!]. The other ministers of state were angry that one with such a lowly origin should have been so highly honoured. They sought, therefore, to bring in some evil report that would place him in a position of disfavour. 

After having watched him closely for some time, they found nothing objectionable - apart from the fact that, once a week, he would enter a little room which he kept locked, and would shut himself away there for an hour.

The ministers informed their monarch of this, declaring that they were certain that the Prime Minister and former shepherd must be gathering there a secret hoard of his master's precious possessions. The king doubted their story, but felt obliged to grant them permission to break into, and search, the room. They did so - but all that they found there was a small bundle containing a dilapidated pair of shoes, and an old cloak.

The Prime Minister was brought before the king and asked to explain himself, and why he kept the items that had been found in the room. He replied: "I wore these things when I was a shepherd. I look at them regularly, lest I forget what I once was, and how unworthy I am of all of the kindness and honour that your majesty has bestowed upon me."

I cannot vouch for the veracity of that story - but it does have a lesson for all of us who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus. While we are encouraged, by the apostle Paul, to "[forget] what lies behind, and [strain] forward to what lies ahead, " (Phil.3:13), it is sometimes useful to recall what we once were, before "He drew [us] up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set [our] feet upon a rock, making [our] steps secure." (Ps.40:2). Remembering the depths from which we have been taken, should help us to appreciate the heights to which we have now been lifted in the Christ.

As beggars plucked out of abject poverty, we are permitted, through the grace of Almighty God, "... Who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses," to have been "made ... alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and [to have been] raised ... up with Him, and made [to] sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph.2:4-6).

Such remembering of our past will, surely, keep us both humble, and usable. That will be profitable remembering!