Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Golden Stairs, by Edward Burne-Jones

This is considered to be one of the best of Burne Jones's pictures.

What are we to make of these figures?

Their white gowns and naked feet suggest their heavenly character. Yet the environment in which they walk seems to plain; it is in the open air, with pidgeons nesting in the rather ramshackle-looking roof tiles.

As Christians we walk through a world that groans and creaks at the seem. Yet we are indwellt by the Holy Spirit and have the power to live like Christ, representing to men our heavenly saviour.

Notice that each of the ladies in the picture has a different musical instrument in their dainty hands. Likewise each of us has been given a different gift by the Holy Spirit. We are all called to exercise ministry in different ways.

Romans 12
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:

5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

7 or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching;

8 or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Note also that we do not see where the ladies have come from and we do not see clearly where they are going.

John 3
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

The Christian life begins by the working of the Holy Spirit. The redeemed sinner has been drawn by the Holy Spirit and is born again by the Spirit. She is a new creation. The Christian life is not merely a change of conduct, but a change of person and idenity; it is a supernatural change in a person.

It is by the Holy Spirit's work that we display those virtues that should characterise the child of God.

Galatians 5
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

25 ¶ If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

It is only through the Spirit's power that we can perservere and overcome this world. We need to walk in the Spirit, by faith in Christ's sanctifying work.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can show ourselves to be as beautiful and pure as the young women in this picture.

Earthbound by Evelyn De Morgan

This is such a delightful painting. The contrast between the blue of the cloth that the angel holds and the orange robe of the king is magnificent. Also noteworthy is the fantasy landscape and the realistic hands and feet.

The king truly seems a pathetic figure. He casts his gaze downward at his money, ignoring the beautiful sky and the majestic angel before him. In contrast a spirit in the distance soars into the air.

Tragically, many are like that king; absorbed in their pursuit of earthly gain and ignorant of the glories of heaven and the wonders that God will bestow upon those who look to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 18
24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

It is not that giving up riches is a condition of receiving eternal life. No, if it was it would be a salvation of works. Rather, riches blind people to their neediness. Earthly riches distract people from their spiritual darkness and poverty.

In Ezekiel 28 we see the pride of a wealthy king compared to the pride that lead to Satan's downfall. Wealth lifts people up, filling them with pride. They become self-satisfied. Yet through the work of the Holy Spirit, it is possible for the rich to come to know of their need for the Gospel.

What is the angel doing? I think perhaps the angel is using the cloth, with its celestial decoration to distract the man from his obsession with gold and to bring to the realisation of the wonders of heaven.

God is not far from any of us (Acts 17:27). The wonders of creation point us toward the creator. The light of the Gospel is being preached to all nations, though its course is sadly slow in some parts. There is a witness to all of the reality of God and the reality of His grace.

Matthew 16
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Tragically, many settle for much less than the whole world and yet lose their soul.

There is much misunderstanding about the meaning of this verse. Many confuse the loss of soul with going to hell. However, the actual word translated soul here, psyche, is translated in the previous verse as life.

The loss of the soul does not necessarilly mean the going to hell but means the loss of the kind of life that God wants us to live.

Through Jesus Christ, we can obtain not only eternal life, but life in abundance. We can experience a quality of existence that is beyond imagination. We can experience a union with God that is beyond anything we know now. We can receive heavenly rewards that are undreamed of and have the privilege of ruling over both earth and heaven.

Yet so many Christians get distracted by earthly conerns. They refuse to look beyond their immediate needs and their worldy desire for wealth and status. To follow that path will lead to the loss of heavenly inheritance; to fail to obtain the full glories of God's new race of heavenly humanity. Such Christians have found eternal life, they are justified and secure in Christ, yet they will miss out on so much that they might otherwise enjoy.

Let us not look downward at the vain toys of this world, but let us look upward to heaven. Let us set our affections on things above.

Artwork by Alphonse Maria Mucha (1860-1939)

Mucha was one of the finest artist working in the Art Nouveau movement.

His pictures seem to capture a vision of exotic, yet slightly familiar beauty and subtle eroticism. His pictures capture a yearning for a beauty that is absent in much of Twentieth century life. Though his images were used in advertising, there is nothing vulgar about them. They seem close to home, yet at the same time they are ethereal and unearthly.

I love Mucha's pictures because they are in a real sense a continuation of the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic movement's attempt to capture a vision of beauty abstracted from ordinary experience. Mucha was a Burne Jones for the Twentieth century.

Mucha was one of the last well known artists to aspire to a vision of real beauty located in the human form. Twentieth century art quickly abandoned any sense of idealism and ambraced the ugly and quirky. I believe it is quite legitmate to enjoy, or at least appreciate art which is ugly and reflects the depravity of the world. Nevertheless I think truly Christian art must not abandon the aspiration for the beautiful. Art must find its ultimate source in the beauty of what God has made and in the reflection of His goodness. The ugliness of so much modern art is truly a reflection of the godlessness of modern thought.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Russian Imperial Double Stout

My parents and I went to a brewery shop where they sell very fine ales.

I bought a couple of bottles of Russian Imperial Double Stout. Unusually for a beer, it had a cork in the bottle and a alcoholic volume of 9%.

It smelt like Christmas pudding and tasted like a mix of port and rum.


I saw a lot of badgers this weekend, snuffling about at night.

I also saw a couple of foxes, one at night and one in daylight. I had never seen a fox in daylight before.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Down South

Sorry I have not been around the last couple of days. I am down south seeing my old folks.

Been drinking a lot of beer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Yahoo News: Rhodesian ex-PM Ian Smith dies

Yahoo News: Rhodesian ex-PM Ian Smith dies

Ian Smith, the former prime minister of Rhodesia (no Zimbabwe) died yesterday. The Zimbawean government has announced that he will be neither mourned nor missed.

Ian Smith may have been derided by the world as a racist, but I believe he was a good man.

Rhodesia was one of the last of the British colonies. At the time, the British government had a policy of granting Independence and majority Black rule to her African colonies. However, the electorates in those countries were not ready for democracy and fell one by one to Communists who relied on intimidation and manipulation.

Ian Smith did not want this to be the fate of Rhodesia and was determined to preserve the minority white government until the country was ready for majority rule. Thus, he declared a unilateral decleration of independence from Britain.

Tragically, his actions were condemned by the international community and pressure was applied to topple the Smith regime. Smith also had to wage war against the Communist guerrillas who are now running the country under Mugabe.

I think the vindictive opposition of Britain to Ian Smith is one of the saddest chapters in our history.

What followed with the setting up of Mugabe's brutal regime shows the folly of Britain's opposition to Smith's government.

Times: 25 million exposed to risk of ID fraud due to missing database

Times: 25 million exposed to risk of ID fraud due to missing database

The present government seems utterly incompetent. Just wait till they set up their planned national ID database.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ramparts of God's House, by John Melhuish Strudwick

This is an unusual picture from the Victorian era.

There are lots of paintings of the resurrection of the dead, but there are very few artistic attempts to portray heaven.

What is most obvious about the picture is that there is no sign of Christ (or St. Peter as tradition usually holds), only lots of angels. I am not entirely comfortable with artistic depictions of our Lord, so I suppose showing only angels is okay. It certainly is true that there are multitudes of angels in heaven (Hebrews 12:22, Rev 5:11). Nevertheless, it seems a little unhealthy to portray heaven without any sign of our Lord Jesus Christ. As glorious as heaven is, the most wonderful feature of it will be the fact that Jesus Christ will be there. It will be great to see angels in heaven, but being in the company of the Son of God will be far more delightful. This picture cannot in a full sense be said to be a Christian vision.

This picture would appear to depict the state of Christian's after death, not the resurrection. It is true that Christians are going to heaven to be with the Lord in between death and the resurrection:

2 Corinthians 5
1 For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

3 if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

6 ¶ Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

Philippians 5
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

However, the real hope of the Christian is not death (though sadly some hymns give this impression) but the coming of Christ when the believer will be glorified and transfigured. Then the believer will ever be with the Lord, sharing in His glory and experiencing that glory in the flesh. The faithful Christian shall then receive her reward and inheritance. The problem with paintings like this is that they distract from the Christian's central hope in the coming of the Lord.

One thing I do like about the picture is the simple, unrealistic style in which the moon and stars are portrayed beneath the ramparts. The artist seems to be implying that God's heaven is more 'real' or more glorious than the moon or stars.

The 6 Days of Creation, by Edward Burne Jones

More angels!

This is my favorite of Edward Burne Jones' works. It is not one picture, but a series of six paintings, based on the six days of creation. Each of the angels, beginning in the first picture with one solitary angel, holds a globe showing a part of God's creative work. As we come to days 5 and 6, we see a whole gang of angels with their globes. The paintings present a glorious mass of feathers and robes.

The picture would seem to assume that the angels were created before the creation week. I believe that to be a valid conclusion. Angels are not part of this world, this cosmos. They are of a different, heavenly order.

One questionable feature of the picture is the sea shells on the ground beneath the angels' feet. Is Burne Jones advocating the Gap theory? I do think that there are very strong biblical arguments for a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, but I would not use the Gap theory to explain the fossil record. That only leads to confusion.

Job 38
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Declare, if thou hast understanding.

5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?
Or who hath stretched the line upon it?

6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?
Or who laid the corner stone thereof;

7 when the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

The angels were joyful witnesses of God's creation. They were created to worship God and to adore Him forever and they delighted in His work of creation.

Let me quote Erich Sauer:

Thus this, so to speak, circular movement from God to God, which for earth and mankind has been given Divine revelation in the Biblical history, unfolds itself at the same time against a cosmic universal background. The starry world of God encircles the events of earth. The worlds of suns and stars, which on a cloud-free night, out of a dark, blue-black firmament sparkle upon man's earth, are in a certain sense cosmic world-frames, observers and partakers of that which here below comes to pass frm God.

Ezekiel saw the four Living Beings as they bore, as it were the throne chariot of God; and John saw them as representatives of the whole worshipping creation, surrounding in eternal praise the throne of the Most High. In the highest view this whole symbol will declare that God is the Lord of the universe. Everything should serve Him. The whole realm of created things, in its members, heads, and representatives, should be subject to Him and should glorify Him, and in this sense the whole universe, as one entire kingdom of God, forms at the same time the cosmic background of God's saving acts on earth.

Erich Sauer, From Eternity to Eternity, p.16

Times: Police action over TV film 'undermined free speech'

Times: Police action over TV film 'undermined free speech'

Not very impressive.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Proposal by Lawrence Alam-Tadema

I think this is one of the best of Lawrence Alma-Tadema's paintings.

The girl looks so excited and happy about the proposal. It is obvious that she intends to accept the offer, but she is trying to look very coy. She wants to keep the young man dangling for just a little longer.

The girl is wearing Roman clothes, but she is every inch an English girl. That is the delightful thing about Alma-Tadema's paintings; although he paints scenes from Roman life, all of his women look like Victorian English ladies.

That is the secret about Alam-Tadema's images. He presents the idea that although people in different times and places may dress and look different, essentially they are still people, with the same hopes and desires. In Alma-Tadema's mind, everybody everywhere hoped for the joys of family and children.

To an extent this is true. All of humanity is created in the image of God. Marriage was created for all. Though societies may pervert marriage and family, the desire for loving family relations as God intended can be found throughout the world and throughout history.

Elephant Celebs by Max Ernst

Just in case anyone was getting sick of all these sentimental angels, here is something a bit different.

What a menacing image!

It looks a bit like a huge vacuum cleaner, but imagine cleaning your house with that.

The elephant is a sort of machine/ animal hybrid. It is distinctly masculine.

It is lead by the headless naked woman. It advances towards her without reflection or passion. It is an animalistic sexuality. It moves towards her body without regard to her lack of a head.

It is not an attractive image.

God created sex to be enjoyed in marriage. Sex without marriage, without love, without regard to God's order is a dangerous thing.

Western society has over the years increasingly tolerated and encouraged sexuality outside of God's created system of love and marriage. We see the carnage of this in unhappiness, misery, depression, unwanted pregnancy and abortion and sexually transmitted illness.

The world created by the sexual revolution is as menacing as the metal elephant in the picture.

Angeli Laudantes by Edward Burne Jones

There are several versions of this picture.

The one on the right is a tapestry.

There is a stained glass window based on this picture that I saw at Salisbury cathedral.

An interesting feature of these angels is the flame on their foreheads. The folds of their robes are wonderful.

Notice they have rather solemn expressions. The angels take great joy in their worship of God. That is what they are created to do. However, worshipping God is still a solemn thing. Much of the worship in many churches today (and often the word worship is inappropriate) lacks any sense of solemnity. We must take care that the music we use in worship is reverant and honoring to God.

A couple of pictures by Edward Burne Jones


A magnigicent angel image.

This picture reminds me of a comment made by Tim Warner about the second coming of our Lord. If you read the article you will see what I mean- The Sheep and Goats Parable-Who Will Repopulate the Earth?

Love leading the pilgrim

A similarly themed picture.

We do not read much in Scripture about the love of angels. So perhaps it seems surprising that Burne Jones has portrayed love in the form of an angel. I suppose a good verse on the love of angels might be Hebrews 1:

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

or perhaps (again bringing up children again):

Matthew 18
10 ¶ Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Nevertheless, we cannot doubt that angels do love. They dwell in the presence of God who is love. They have experienced for longer than we have the communion of love within the Trinity and this must surely have shaped their existence.

Like the angels we are also called to be God's ministers. Perhaps we, living in this world of despair and suffering are in a far better position than the angels to show love through our deeks of kindness and compassion.

Hebrews 13
1 Let brotherly love continue.

2 Be not fogtful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

1 Thessalonians 3
12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

13 to the end he may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An illustration of Lucifer in Paradise Lost, by Gustave Dore

I think this is the best ever artistic depiction of Satan.

Conventionally in art, Satan is portrayed as an ugly red creature with horns and cloven hoofs. While the red colour and horns have foundation in Revelation 12, a more accurate portrayal based on that text would probably be of a serpentine creature, a giant snake, rather than an humanoid figure.

Dore departs from convention in drawing Lucifer as an handsome angel. This reflects the Biblical idea of Satan as an angel.

Ezekiel 28
17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

Often sin is attractive to the eye. That is because so often it is a corruption of that which is good. Sexual sin is attractive to people because it is a corruption of the divinely created blessing of marital sex.

Let us beware of false teachers. So much in false religion is attractive. The worship in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy is beautiful and majestic, yet this facade betrays an ignorance of the Gospel. The evangelists of cults come across as pleasent, sincere and knowledgeable in Scripture, yet they present a message that contradicts the truth.

Note that Lucifer in this picture has been wounded in battle with God's angels and he is armed for war.

There are battles in heaven. We do not understand everything about these battles. We do not know what weapons creatures with ethereal bodies would use or what effect these battles have on this world, but we know they are fought.

Revelation 12
7 ¶ And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

Christians do not directly engage in warfare with fallen angels; if we did we would have no hope of victory, for they are greater than us in power and strength. However, through our prayers we fight against them. By preaching the Gospel, we bring men out of the captivity of Satan's kingdom and the domminion of his counterfeit heavenly government.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Notice that Lucifer's feet are bare. Dore always portrays his angels with barefeet. No doubt angels have no practical need for shoes, as they live in the perfect and ordered realm of heaven. However, their barefeet reflect the fact that they dwell in the very presence of God, the holiest part of the universe.

Satan once dwellt in the presence of God. We read in Ezekiel 28:

13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

That Satan fell into sin having dwellt in the very presence of God is a lesson for us.

The Christian posesses eternal life. She lives a divine life and is indwellt by the Holy Ghost. Spiritually her identity is in heaven. Yet Christians so often fall into sin, even though they have experienced God. We can fall away. We can grieve the Spirit of God. Let us not have a false confidence, but let us walk with humility and exercise moment by moment faith in Christ for His sanctifying work through the cross.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Some more pictures of the Annunciation

Edward Burne Jones

Definitely one of the best.

I love Edward Burne Jones. His pictures have such grace and beauty. His figures do not belong in this world.

Edward Reginald Frampton

Another Pre-Raphaelite.

This one very much reflects the mix of classical and medieval style that you get in Pre-Rapaelite painting (and to an extent in early Renaissance painting).

I love this style, but somehow these sort of pictures always look like they are from a fairy tale.

Lorenzo Lotto

A very surprised looking Mary and a very earnest looking Gabriel. This Gabriel seems very conscious of the importance of his message.

God the Father makes it into this one, which I think is disappointing. The Holy of Holies contained images of cherubim, so images of angels cannot be too bad. However, I am unconfortable with attempts to portray God.

James Tissot

A rather more middle eastern looking Mary and a Gabriel that looks even more ethereal than Arthur Hughes's version (see below).

William Adolphe Bouguereau

A distinctly Popish artist.

Much as Bouguereau's Romanism is obnoxious, I do like the purity of his style. Bouguereau's paintings make me feel like converting to wretched Catholicism.

Annunciation by Dante Gabriel Rosseti

Another Pre-Raphaelite painting of the annunciation.

This painting was almost universally derided in its day. However, it is now regarded as one of the best ever paintings of the annunciation.

Traditionally, Mary is shown in prayer. Here she is depicted as being awoken from her sleep by Gabriel.

Sometimes the Lord enters peoples' lives by surprise. We see so many examples of this in Scripture- Paul on the way to Damascus, Moses discovery of the burning bush, Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

People set their lives on a course and often new circumstances lead them away from that course and into the light of the reality of God. Think of the thunderstorm that lead Martin Luther to become a monk and eventually to discover the doctrine of justifcation. While it cannot be denied that some people do seek God, sometimes God reaches them before they do.

Gabriel is not shown with wings in this picture. We know that seraphim and cherubim have wings, but the Scriptures do not indicate that all angels have wings. Often the angels in Scripture seem very much like humans in appearance. That they eat and are capable of intercourse with humans (Genesis 6) suggests that their bodies are similar to ours in nature. That should remind us that in the resurrection, when believers are glorified, they shall have a nature that is physical. Our flesh will be redeemed. We shall be delivered from these bodies of death by our glorious transfiguration through the power of Christ's resurrection.

Notice Gabriel's flaming feet. Angels are sometimes depicted in the Bible as fiery beings.

Hebrews 1
7 And of the angels he saith,
Who maketh his angels spirits,
and his ministers a flame of fire.

The angels reflect the essential purity, holiness and awesomeness of God. That is why men and women were sometimes afraid when they met angels. The angels made known the reality of God's awesome power and presence. Our God is a consuming fire. THe revelation of God's purity makes us only more conscious of our sin and filthines. It makes known our need to for the cleansing work of Christ.

The Annunciation by Arthur Hughes

A rather more traditional, though still innovative image of the annunciation, by Arthur Hughes, a Pre-Raphaelite painter.

This is one of the more ethereal depictions of Gabriel. This angel truly is an unearthly being.

Notice the contrast between mary's and Gabriel's barefeet. Mary's rest on the ground, but Gabriel's point vertically.

Though we live in this world with its mundane and coarse patterns, we can have experience of God. We read in scripture about so many who have had their lives changed when they came to know God. God entered their mundane and earth-centred lives and brought them into contact with the things of heaven.

Though we live in this world, we can have contact with heaven. We can know the blessings of an ethereal life. For it is said of the Christian in Ephesians:

chapter 1
3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

chapter 2
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6 and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

We can live a life an heavenly life, a life that is lived with the knowledge of our celestial position in Christ.

The Annunciation by Rene Magritte

This is not the most well known of Magritte's paintings, but I would say it is my favorite. Maybe because it deals with a religious theme. Or maybe because I like the contrast between the landscape and the corrugated iron.

There is a long tradition of artistic depictions of the annunciation of our Lord's nativity. Traditionally such scenes would show the angel Gabriel and Mary.

Here we have a landscape that looks fitting for a renaisance era picture, but instead of the angel and the virgin, we see a sheet of corrugated iron.#

It is as though Magritte is saying we cannot believe in the annunciation any more. We live in the world of factories and machine guns. It is as though he cannot even imagine the reality of an angel appearing to a virgin. Where the believer would see an angel and a girl, he sees only that cold, forbidding screen of steel.

The modern unbeliever lives a life of despair. He cannot see the beauty and wonder of God. For the modern man life is filled with bleakness. There is no hope.

The piece of lace that hangs over the iron screen is though to be a memory of the death of the artists' mother. Her body was discovered drowned, wearing only a lace nightgown.

For the unbeliever death looms menacingly. There is no hope for him or her. Death has all the coldness of that metallic screen.

Without the salvation of God in Christ we are left without any hope in the world.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Cute Picture of Jacob's Ladder and some thoughts

What are these angels thinking? What would run through the mind of an angel at such a time?

They look a little curious. They are keeping a slight distance.

The man they look at is hardly elegant in his sleep. No doubt he was dirty and sweaty from his travels. There is a great contrast between their purity and beauty and his own coarseness. Their barefeet gleam as they tread the celestial staircase, in contrast to Jacob's dusty feet.

The second angel up looks excited and is calling to his fellows. Perhaps he is saying:

Look, it's that man.

No, not just any man. The man our Lord is so concerned about. The one He sent us to watch over. Come and have a look at him. Maybe you have some idea what the big deal is about this guy.

Psalm 8

4 what is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honor.

6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet:

The angels are wonderful creatures. In their glory and beauty they reflect the wonder and holiness of God.

Yet God is not accomplishing His purpose in establishing His eternal kingdom through angels. No, God has chosen to work through humanity and it will be glorified men and women who exercise domminion over the universe when the Son of man puts down all rulers and authorities that oppose His rule. The saints will inherit the earth with Christ, and not only earth but heaven, for they shall judge angels.

God was mindful of that man Jacob. A weak and frail man, lacking in faith and integrity of character.

God loved that man in all his failings. From the ancestry of Jacob came our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was a man, knowing all the limitations of our weak flesh. He did not take on the beautiful and heavenly flesh of angels, but the flesh of men.

Yet now this man, the risen and ascended Christ is seated in heaven, Lord over all. His flesh is glorified. His humanity now reflects the glory of God as does the flesh of angels.

Those men and women who are in Christ shall one day be brought into that position of heavenly glory. The Christian may feel frail and weak and dirty, yet one day she shall be transformed into the likeness of Christ. In Christ the Christian shall be deified in her flesh. Those Christians who have faithfully served their Lord will inherit all, as He has. They shall rule over multitudes of angels. They will ascend higher than Jacob's ladder.

Do those angels in the picture long to look into these things?

Examining a Popular Quote

by Rose

"Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone"

I think everyone who is in church nowadays has heard this quote at least once.

I have been trying to analyze it. Something - I am not sure what it is - but something doesn't logically sit right with that statement.

(Disclaimer: I do believe that most every Christian will love other Christians and have good works. Most, upon conversion, exhibit a change of life. I do believe that the world will not know we are Christians unless they can see evidence of this, that being our confession of the same, love for one another and good works. However, there are exceptions to every rule. For example, a convert who has no Bible [or even one who doesn't ever read his Bible] or a convert who has no Christian church to be with or no other Christian to disciple him... Does faith in Christ save him despite his lack of growth and fruit? I say yes... the Bible says we are saved by faith alone in Christ, His having COMPLETED the work. So in that case, his faith may very well be alone, but he would be saved anyway.)

"Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone"

This leaves no room for exception and is very unclear. I take issue with it.

This saying has two the parts:
Faith and Works
(Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone [implied is that it comes with Works]

I am trying to think of an illustrative example for this saying that will support it or oppose it. I came up with a few unsatisfactory ones:

Fire and Oxygen
"Fire alone burns, but the fire that burns is never alone." (it comes with oxygen)

Fire and Ashes
"Fire alone burns, but the fire that burns is never alone." (it comes with ashes)

Does anyone have any thoughts on this or any better illustrations to either support or oppose the idea in the quote?

Times: Divorce case judge tells sheikh to take off on his flying carpet

Times: Divorce case judge tells sheikh to take off on his flying carpet

I got a really guilty pleasure from this.

But it was a very guilty one. I have to say that the comment was potentially offensive and unacceptable. I think it is right he should step down.

However funny the remark was, it was prompted by the man's ethnicity. We must not laugh at a person because of their ethnic background.

Don't just ask for your money back: Be glad you were there

Times: Staggering, slurring and too little singing puts £1 million tour in doubt

This week, the pop singer Amy Winehouse gave a disastrous performance at Birmingham. Hardly surprising when she is overwhelmed by addiction to drugs and alcohol and her husband has just been put in jail. It is sad that people can get so messed up.

Apparently, she could barely sing that night. When fans booed her, she called them 'mugs' for buying a ticket.

Unsurprisingly some people want their money back. However, I think they ought to be glad that they were present at a moment in pop music history.

Amy Winehouse has enough talent to be remembered as an artist. In years to come, people are going to talk about Amy Winehouse's drug-fuelled meltdown. They are going to talk about her incompetent performance this week in Birmingham and the tragedy of it all. The people who attended the concert will be able to talk about how bad she was at every music festival they attend.

And probably their concert ticket will be worth a bit too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Preaching at an Indepdent Chapel

This morning I preached at an independent chapel in Worcester.

I hope you will be edified by my sermon:

Ezekiel 28
11 ¶ Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.

13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

18 Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.

19 All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.

This seems at first a very strange chapter. The first verses of it seem relatively straightforward. It is a prophecy of God’s judgement on Ithobalus, the king of Tyre, in modern-day Lebanon. We learn that this king is wise, handsome and incredibly wealthy. Yet he is also proud.

On this Remembrance Sunday, we think of those who have died in wars because of the pride and vanity of rulers. When a ruler is proud, often he thinks little of the lives of his subjects.

The last century has seen many dictators. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Sadam Hussein.

Yet God resists the proud. So often in their pride, rulers will overstretch themselves. Hitler believed that there were no limits to how far he could conquer. He dominated Europe. Yet in his pride, he brought the German nation to ruin. God resists the proud.

Yet this passage says some things about the King of Tyre that do not seem to fit a human being. He has been in the Garden of God, he has been in the mountain of God and walked in the midst of the stones of fire, (whatever they are) and most notably of all, he is said to be a Cherub, one the highest ranks of angels. What is going on this text?

We see this in Psalms. In many psalms we see things that seem to reflect the experience of David. Then a few verses later, we see statements that can only apply to the messiah, Jesus Christ, the son of David.

In this passage, Ezekiel takes us from the king of Tyre, a contemporary example of evil conduct and pride to Satan, the originator of all evil.

Satan is real. To deny his existence is folly. Sadly there are many professing Christians who refuse to believe in Satan’s existence. They prefer to see him as an allegory or symbol. But this is to deny the record of Scripture. The Lord Jesus not only taught that Satan is real, but He was tempted personally by Satan.

At the very beginning of our Bibles in Genesis we read of how it is through the Serpent’s temptation that sin entered the world. If we take Satan out of the world, the whole record of the Bible’s revelation of man’s history falls apart.

When we read in the newspapers daily about the terrible things that go on in the world, it should not be difficult to believe in the reality of Satan.

Some people feel that the idea of a personal devil allows people to make excuses for their sin. However, the excuse that ‘the devil made me do it’ is not accepted in the courts of heaven. Eve tried to blame the serpent for her sin. God judged the serpent, but He also judged Eve.

Some Christians make the mistake of getting obsessed with Satan.

If you go to some churches, you sometimes hear preachers rebuking the Devil.
I would suggest to you that this is a rather silly thing to do. If I stood here and I said “We rebuke you, Satan!” I would be wasting my breath. Satan is not everywhere. He is not God and he is thankfully not here in this church to listen to me.

Some Christians get really obsessed with demon possession. You can read a lot of Christian books on the subject of exorcism and spiritual warfare. I would suggest that a lot of these books are very sensational and very unbalanced.

I don’t think that many people are possessed by demons today. In the life of our Lord Jesus we see many incidents of demon possession, in contrast, we see less in Acts and very little mention of possession in the Old Testament or Paul’s epistles. Satan varies his methods. He made great use of possession in the time of our Lord, but that does not mean that this is always his way. I believe that the work of the cross has weakened Satan’s power and so we do not need to be continually casting out demons.

Our role is to preach the Word of God. The Word of God has power and that power was obtained by the cross of Christ and His resurrection. Our business today is not to exorcise but to make Christ known. In the Gospel we find the answer to Satan’s hold over men and women.

In this passage we learn that Satan was the anointed cherub. What is a cherub? The cherubim are one of the highest ranks of angels. In their glory, they reflect God’s power and authority. In the holy of holies there were statues of cherubim. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, cherubim were set up to guard paradise and keep them out.

It is staggering to think that such an holy being could have fallen into sin. In verse 15 we learn of Satan:

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day thou was created until iniquity was found in thee.

It should not therefore be such a surprise when we see the low state of Christendom. In history we read about the violence of the crusades and the scheming of popes. We see far too many Protestant ministers who deny such fundamental truths as the resurrection and virgin birth of Christ. We also see the most tedious and petty divisions in churches and denominations. We see televangelists squandering large sums of money on lavish lifestyles. When we see the failure of so much of professed Christianity we need not be surprised to learn that Satan was the anointed cherub, the guardian of the throne of God.

That Satan is an angel is a fact mentioned by Paul. Paul said:

Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great marvel if his ministers also be transformed as the minister’s of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

A lot of the people who come knocking on your door with the Bible in their hands are not good news. There are a lot of people out there who bring a message that seems like Christianity, but which is not the real thing. It is so important for us to know the Bible and to able to test what is in accordance with its teachings and what is not. Don’t let yourself be taken in by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Get to know your Bible.

We are told that Satan was in Eden, the garden of God. This probably does not refer to the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve were in, because it is referring to Satan’s state before his fall. This would seem to be the heavenly paradise above. The word Eden means ‘delight’ and heaven is a delightful place. The mention of precious stones here should remind us of the description of the celestial New Jerusalem that we read about in Revelation.

Heaven is the place that the Christian is destined for. God has responded to the fall of Satan by doing a new work. This is always God’s pattern. Satan and His angels fell. But God responded to this by creating man. And through man He is accomplishing His purposes. Satan once occupied a place of glory and privilege in heaven. One day, believers in Christ will occupy a place of glory and privilege in heaven.

Jesus Christ, the risen man has been exalted to the highest place in the universe. He is going to claim His authority over creation. But he will not rule alone. Christ is gathering a people who will rule with Him, an heavenly government, a celestial aristocracy if you like. The Christian who has faithfully served the Lord will have a far more glorious position in heaven than Satan ever had.

Satan knows this and it makes him furious. That is why he is at war with the Church of God. For when the Church is brought into its place of glory and privilege over all creation, then Satan will be defeated. He dreads that day.

Wealth is a very significant thing in this chapter. The king of Tyre is seen as one who is proud because of his great wealth. In verse 5:

By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick thou hast increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches.

We read in 1 Timothy 6:10 that ‘the love of money is the root of all evil.’ Some Bible translations say that it is the root of many kinds of evil. I am not a Greek scholar, so I will not presume to judge between these readings. However, this passage in Ezekiel might give a clue as to how the love of money could be the root of all evil.

In this passage, we see that just as the king of Tyre became proud because of his wealth, Lucifer or Satan became proud because of his own kind of wealth; for he was covered in precious stones and dwelt among the stones of fire.

Wealth makes a man proud. And in pride he neglects his need for God. This is the fruit of Satan who in his pride sought to usurp God. How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!

The fact that Satan was in heaven leads to the question, where is he now?

Some people have an idea that Satan is in hell. That idea is from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, not from the Bible. Satan is not in hell. One day he will be in hell, not to reign over it but to be tormented there forever. No, Satan is not in hell, but in the heavens where he makes war on God’s angels. Not that part of heaven where Christ is, but in some unearthly realm, perhaps among the stars. We read in Ephesians 6:12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The word high places is also translated elsewhere in Ephesians as ‘heavenly places.’

God has his heavenly kingdom in which he rules over a multitude of angels. Satan has his heavenly kingdom, in which he rules over his angels. Satan sought to usurp God and in doing so he established his counterfeit kingdom.

Did you know that Satan is the god of this world? This world is his kingdom. That is why the world is in such a mess.

Everything in society is designed to make man think that he does not need God. Satan uses all sorts of things, religion, politics, culture to make people turn away from God.

Satan will do two things for people. He will give them lies to darken their minds and work to keep them busy.

Satan gives people false religious systems. The system of Islam is a false religion. It makes people believe that Jesus Christ did not die to save sinners and that man can come to God by doing good deeds. Another false religious system is evolution. It makes people deny that God created man and think that the Bible is unrealiable. These are Satan's lies.

But Satan also gives people things to do. People find all sorts of things to busy their lives with. Some people dedicate their lives to athletics. They decide that one day they will win the Olympics and so they put all their time and energy into training for athletics. But they never seek God. How tragic that a person should reach the heights of achievement in athletics or sports but never come to know the salvation that is found in Christ!

Other people dedicate their lives to politics. They spend all their life trying to improve society and make the world a better place through legislation. A very worthy intention. But sadly, though we can try to improve the world, ultimately it will be in a mess as long as sinful men are running it and from behind the scenes, Satan. The only hope for the world is the return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom.

But we can be delivered from this evil world system. That deliverance is through the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in Ephesians 2:

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

That is how they used to be. But now:

But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved)

When a person comes to faith in Christ they are born again. They are delivered from Satan’s power. In 1 John it says that ‘He that is born of God overcometh the world’.

If you have been born again, if you have trusted in Christ you are delivered from Satan’s power. Your destiny is secure. You may fall into sin, you may backslide, but nothing that Satan can throw at you can separate you from the love of Christ. If you are born again, you will never be dragged down to hell, no matter how much Satan may rage against you.

That is good news!

Satan is doomed. He can cause a lot of trouble. He continues to deceive the nations. But his time is short. In Romans it says that our feet will bruise Satan shortly. We are going to see him defeated. In verse 17 of this passage we read:

Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou has corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brigtness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

In times to come, Satan is going to be cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented day and night forever.

I have done a lot of street preaching. Sometimes I hear teenagers making silly comments about Satan. I tell them ‘Satan is going to hell and if you continue in your course, if you continue to reject God you will be there with him.’

We don’t need to fear Satan. We need to beware of his schemes. We have to be discerning as to his workings. We have to beware of pride, for it is by pride that he fell. If we are in Christ we cannot be separated from the salvation that is in Him. However, if we become proud, we can stumble and fail to serve our Lord as we should. There is no room for pride in the Christian life. Let us only boast in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything which we are is in Him.

Let us rest secure in the victory that we have in Christ. Let us look forward to that day when our feet bruise Satan.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

We have to work with Musharraf

I don't care that Musharraf is a military dictator. I don't care that he has lawyers arrested. I don't care if he decides to have Benazir Bhutto shot.

Pakistan is a big country. A big country that contains a lot of radical Islamists. A lot of people who would like to blow us up.

Pakistan also has nuclear weapons.

Pakistan has a tense relationship with its neighbour, India, which also has nuclear weapons.

Pakistan also has a hostile neighbour, Iran which would like nuclear weapons and would like to cause us a lot of problems.

Pakistan also has for a neighbour Afghanistan, a major international troublespot.

The idea of Pakistan descending into chaos and civil strife is a nightmare scenario. It is too terrible to contemplate.

Human rights and civil liberties are irrelevant here. We need realpolitik. The Bush and Brown must look to Bismarck not to Gladstone.

Musharraf is our ally. We have to talk to him and work with him.

Friday, November 09, 2007

My own terminology

I am writing another sermon for next Lord's Day.

I found myself again using the term Celestial Aristocracy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Gordon Brown is not a godly man

Somebody very close to me keeps referring to Gordon Brown, our prime minister as a 'godly man'. I expect this rather generous description has something to do with the fact that Brown's father was a Church of Scotland minister and his profession to be a Christian.

But, no he is not a godly man. I think this is clear from his policies.

What is godly about all this pro-homosexual legislation? I am not one of these Christians who gets obsessed over the Gay issue and makes that the most pressing issue of the day. However, I do not see how a Bible-believing prime minister could preside over a government which is so committed to the pro-homosexual agenda.

If Gordon Brown is a godly man, why do we hear nothing from him about abortion? If a person supports abortion, they are ungodly no matter what church they go to or where they stand theologically. I do not accept as godly a prime minister who thinks that the slaughter of unborn children is not the great crime of our age.

I appreciate that in British politics it is difficult for a politician to oppose abortion. I appreciate that a Labour prime minister might be unable to get the support of his party to oppose abortion. However, if Gordon Brown really was pro-life, I would like to see some sign of that. I would like to see some indication that he was opposed to abortion on principle. I have never seen such a sign.

Gordon Brown is not a godly man. A godly man could not have played a senior role in Blair's government and a godly man could not preside over the legislative programme that is coming in under Brown.

The Labour government is the Devil's government.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


My mother cooked a delicious French stew called a cassoulet the other day. It is a perfect dish for a winter day. It contains duck, belly pork, chorizo sausage, beans and is cooked in red wine.

It is traditionally considered a peasent dish, but I rather doubt that peasents would have commonly eaten a stew containing both duck and pork.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Biblical Art on the WWW

Biblical Art on the WWW

This is such a great website.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Preaching at Upton Baptist church

I took the evening service at Upton Baptist church yesterday. Although I did have a cold, it went pretty well.

I hope you will be edified by my sermon:

Luke 10
38 ¶ Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42 but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

This passages completely subverts the attitude of people in this society and in the world. Society values men and women of action. People say ‘actions speak louder than words.’ People value men and women who ‘get things done.’

The temptation for the preacher is too excuse Martha in this story. Many would instinctively feel that she was the sensible person in this story, busying herself with the tasks that needed to be done. However, to take this line is to make out that we know better than the Lord Jesus. Our Lord knew that Martha was doing more than she needed to do. She was going overboard.

In the King James Bible the Lord says ‘Martha, thou art careful about many things.’ There may be things that it is right to be careful about. But Martha was troubling herself with more than was necessary. She was preparing too many dishes, trying to get everything perfect. A lot of women who host dinner parties make the mistake of preparing more elaborate food than they can prepare in the available time. And that frequently spoils the evening.

There are a number of very bad ways to preach this passage.

One mistake in preaching this passage is too emphasise the difference between the personality of Mary and the personality of Martha. Mary is spiritual and deep, Martha is sensible and practical. The preacher then tells us that the Church needs both Marys and Marthas and they are all just as valuable. While there is a certain amount of truth in this approach; for the Holy Spirit does give different gifts to Christians and uses different personalities, this misses the main point in this story. Whatever the differences between Mary’s personality and Martha’s; it was their behaviour that was the issue. Martha’s behaviour and attitude was wrong, Mary’s behaviour and attitude was right and to be praised.

Another bad way of preaching this passage is too make it all about justification by faith. Martha is thus portrayed as working for her salvation and Mary is seen as having faith. Justification is certainly by faith. Any attempt to compromise the glorious truth of justification by faith must be rejected. As we shall see, this passage does touch on that issue, but to preach this passage that way is a distortion.

The reason for this is that Martha was a true woman of faith. We read in John chapter 11 that Martha was convinced of the resurrection of the dead. We also read that she confessed that Jesus was the Christ. We often hear of Peter’s confession of Christ, but I think Martha’s is even more wonderful. You will please forgive me if I divert from Luke to bring it up here.

Our Lord says to Martha:

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Jesus asks Martha a yes or no question. He asks Martha to affirm a fact. Do you realise that the difference between heaven and hell comes down to a yes or no to this question? Jesus asked Martha whether she believed that He could give her everlasting life. Did she believe that if she trusted in Him she would never die? She answers:

27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

Martha affirmed Jesus’s claim to be the Christ. Believing that Jesus is the Christ is simply to take Jesus at His word. To trust that he will give you everlasting life. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, if you take him at his word, if you answer yes to his question, you will never die.

Have you come to that point of trusting in Jesus Christ? Are you certain of being raised from the dead to everlasting life?

But we must return to Luke.

We read in this passage that Martha received Jesus into her house. I would like to say a word to Christians about how they use their houses. Do you know that your house is a gift from God? We are responsible to Him for how we use all the gifts that He gives us. There are so many ways in which you can use your house to serve your God. You can host prayer meetings and Bible study meetings. You can provide accomodation for visiting speakers. I don’t think there is an university or college here in Upton, otherwise I would have said that you can provide lodgings for a Christian student. How about inviting single people for Sunday lunch after church? Do you know, for single people, Sunday afternoons can be a really lonely time. Have you thought about inviting a single person to join you for Sunday lunch? It is not only in church that we can serve God. We cannot put too high a premium on hospitality.

However, in seeking to show hospitality, let us beware of pride. Seeking to show off our cooking or how nice our houses are. That is not a right motive for hospitality. And I think we can see that in Martha in this story. Instead of keeping things simple and just offering a few dishes, she was trying to prepare a feast. She wanted the Lord Jesus to remember her for her cooking and for her skills in preparation. She was getting caught up in the things of this world.

This world is passing away. This world is coming to a close. We read in the second epistle of Peter that the world is going to be burned or purified. It is going to be transformed. The Christian looks to a new heavens and a new earth. Seeking glory in this world. Delighting in the things of this society which are passing away is folly.

Only things that are eternal will remain. Mary was looking at eternal things. She saw that Jesus was the Son of God and wanted to hear His words to seek more of Him. Martha was getting caught up in the things of this world that were passing away.

One sin leads to another. Martha had shown her pride and she soon showed her anger. She lost her temper and complained to the Lord.

"Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

Loosing your temper is no light matter. The Lord Jesus said that if in you are angry with your brother without a cause, you have committed murder in your heart. Martha was angry with her sister for no good reason.

Martha was a believer and yet she sinned. Christians are not perfect. In every Christian there is that Martha that wants to judge others and complain about unfairness when there is no unfairness. Christians are not perfect.

Maybe you have been hurt by Christians who have said or done things that were wrong. Don’t let that keep you from seeking Christ. Yes, Christians blow it. They need forgiveness just as much as anyone else. The difference is that they have found forgiveness for their sins. They know that they have an advocate in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It says in the firt epistle of John chapter 1:

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Have you found forgiveness for your sin? That forgiveness can be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He can purify you from all unrighteousness.

Notice how the Lord answers Martha. He addresses her by name:

“Martha, Martha”

We can almost hear the tenderness in His lovely voice. Martha had sinned. Martha had blown it and disappointed her master. Yet He loved her. Despite her failing, the Lord still loved Martha. For the love of Christ for sinners is great indeed. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5, verse 8:

8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It was His love for sinners that took the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross. There He demonstrated His love for the lost by bearing in Himself the penalty for the sins of the world. By His sacrifice He made it possible for you and I to be reconciled unto God. To have peace and find acceptance in Him.

Have you come to know the love of Christ for sinners? Have you looked to Christ and received His free gift of redemption?

The Lord told Martha that one thing was needful and Mary had chosen it. What is that thing that Mary had chosen?

Was it listening to preaching? Is that the one thing needful? We certainly do need to listen to preaching. Attending to the Word of God is vital. However, there is more to the Christian life that simply listening to sermons.

No, the one thing that was needful, that thing that Mary had chosen was Jesus Christ Himself. She had chosen to sit at His feet and Hear Him. She had chosen to seek more of His presence and a greater knowledge of Him.

There was an Anglican theologian, WH Griffith Thomas, who wrote a book entitled ‘Christianity is Christ.’ This is absolutely true. The Christian religion is not about things that Christians do, it is not about the churches that Christians join. Christianity is 100% about a person, the man Jesus Christ in whom manhood and deity are united.

Some people say a Christian is a person who follows Christ. That is part of the truth, but only part. I would say Christianity is not so much about following Christ as knowing Christ.

From the start to the finish, the Christian life is about knowing Christ.

The Christian life begins with trust in Christ for the gift of eternal life. We have seen how Martha exercised faith in Christ. She recognised that He was resurrection and the life, the guarantor of eternal life to those who believe. For Jesus is life, He possesses it and gives it to those who put their trust in Him.

Possessing eternal life means that one will certainly live forever. But eternal life also has a dynamic character. For our Lord said:

3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Eternal life involves knowing God and knowing Him through Christ. As the Christian experiences more of the life of Christ, the more she comes to know of God.

The Christian life is a new kind of life. When one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, one is born again. The Christian possesses a new nature one that is patterned after Christ. The apostle Paul was able to say:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Christian is a completely new person modelled after Christ.

The more the Christian grows in the knowledge of Christ, the more she is able to live as He would. She becomes more Christ-like.

As for the future, the Christian will know Christ and be with Him forever. It says in 1 Thessalonians that when Christ comes ‘so shall we ever be with the Lord.’

The delights of heaven will be incredible, but the greatest of all of them is to be with the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have been invited to a friend’s house for dinner, you look forward to going. You may look forward to the food, but more likely, you are looking forward most to seeing your friend. You look forward to being with that person who you admire and who’s company you enjoy. The Christian can look forward to being with the perfect man, the greatest man in history.

In the future, this man Jesus Christ is going to establish His perfect rule and government over the universe. Everything in heaven and earth will be put under His authority. But He will not rule alone. Those Christians who have faithfully served Him will be given a share in reigning with Him. They will constitute a celestial aristocracy, a new heavenly government. They are exalted to the highest position through Christ.

Thus, to know Christ is a most wonderful thing indeed. To say that knowing Christ is life-transforming is an understatement.

Do you know this man Jesus Christ? Have you chosen that better part?

You can know all of the blessings found in Christ if you would only turn to Him. If you would believe on Him and trust Him to give you everlasting life, then He shall indeed. Like Martha, you will have that certainty that you will never die.

For our Lord said of Mary in this story that the best part that she had chosen would never be taken from her. Once you are in Christ, you are in Him forever. It is an everlasting salvation. You can have eternal life.

Choose the best part. Choose the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe on Him and you can enjoy Him forever.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Preaching Next Week

I was going to visit my parents next week, but I got asked to preach at the morning service of an small independent chapel.

I am getting a lot of opportunities to preach these days.

Preaching Tomorrow

I am preaching at a Baptist church and leading the evening service tomorrow.

I am still suffering from a cold, so I would appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wow! This does not happen very often.

I have been offered a part-time job. It is working as an administrator at a drug abuse counselling centre.

This could be awfully interesting.

My God is good to me. He knows my needs and He has always taken care of me.

Jesus Christ was an immigrant

Immigration seems to be the hot issue at the moment.

The other week I was disgusted to read an article published by a Christian organisation attacking immigration. It argued that immigration was contrary to the purposes of God in dividing the nations.

Not everybody is going to agree with my pro-immigration stance. Not everybody is going to be persuaded by the economic argument that immigration creates jobs or the cultural argument that immigration enriches society.

But I would urge Christians to remember that our Lord was an immigrant in His childhood. His parents most likely lived among the Jewish minority in the multicultural city of Alexandria.

Maybe those who are inclined to criticise multi-culturalism also ought to think about that too.