Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Despised One - Jesus

It doesn’t look good on His reference folder. In large print it says this Jesus was: Despised, rejected, charged with blasphemy, condemned and crucified. How is it possible for such a character to be worshipped? How could such a condemned man attract legions of men and women to call him Lord and risk everything to serve him? How can it be that his disciples would claim as their ‘banner’ the symbol of shame, torture and death, the cross?

Something must have overturned the negative remarks or at least transformed them. It is this ‘something’ which lifted an obscure Jewish Rabbi from a turbulent period of history into life’s most important and distinctive person!

Entombed, with the Sanhedrin’s seal over the stone door and guarded by a contingent of soldiers, the unimaginable happened. Jesus rose from the dead! The stone rolled; the soldiers fainted, the angels rejoiced and the demons shuddered. The man from Nazareth left His former body, bearer of the sins of the world, in the dust. Now He was exhibiting his new, glorified, imperishable and undefiled body in its radiant power.

Now to hear that is to react with scepticism. What authority exists to offer authenticating support to ‘pour acid’ on doubt and unbelief? I would offer the following: The prophecies of 39 books called the Tenach (also known as the Old Testament); the changed behaviour of the disciples; the failure of the ‘government’ to refute the claims regarding Christ’s resurrection; and the existence of the Church.

From Genesis through to Malachi there is the prophecy that someone was coming. Clues are scattered throughout the books revealing his character, work, suffering, victory, authority and victory. Statements and promises stretched over two thousand years merge into one person. Read psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Psalm 110 for starters. Our celebration of Christmas hangs on the awareness that the Babe of Bethlehem was the promised one. Jesus, in John 5:39 emphasised the importance of the thirty-nine books for they spoke about him.

Those unfamiliar with the Bible tend to imagine it was written by one author. In their minds the book takes on the appearance of a Novel. Even when it is explained to them the 66 books took a period of approximately 2,000 years to compile it fails to compute. Add to such a statement various languages and Middle Eastern countries of origin the uniqueness of the Scriptures can be overwhelming. Can such a majestic book with a central character involved happen by chance? Mathematically it is impossible! Only the oversight of God could guarantee such unity. I also admit I stand in awe of those faithful men and women who are unnamed and unnumbered who copied the manuscripts. This was often done at the risk of their lives.

Another reason for accepting the resurrection of Christ as historical is the change in the disciples. Before the Sunday event they were dispirited, beaten and cowering in an upper–room. Afterwards, they were transformed into heroes of the Faith. These men in particular suffered for their conviction. Everyone (apart from John) were martyred. Their legacy was not in bank balances accumulated or honours bestowed. No their legacy is commitment to the Truth of what was written in the thirty-nine books, verified before their eyes and sealed by Christ’s resurrection. That is why when these men and women preached their opening words seem to have been “It is written!”

The Jewish and Roman Governing authorities had an easy solution to undermining the message of the disciples of Christ. Take the people to the tomb. If, as was declared, some of His followers stole the body, arrest and charge them. To do so would have meant putting the soldiers who were on duty at the time under oath. It would also have revealed the conspiracy of the Sanhedrin to cover up the fact. Can you imagine the political fall–out from such court proceeding. This is why the authorities resorted to threats, banishment, slander and ultimately approval for imprisonment and death.

Why didn’t Jesus simply appear before the National Leaders and prove His resurrection. What seems reasonable at first glance is actually counter–productive. First, they didn’t want to believe. This is shown in their bribing of the soldiers to keep quiet about it. Secondly, for Jesus to have done that would have meant He would need to do it for everyone. The ‘currency’ Jesus requires from a person to become His follower can be ‘paid for’ by those destitute to the unimaginably rich. It’s called ‘Faith’ in the truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection (Romans 10:8-13).


Part two follows next week.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Death's Shroud is Shredded

The following blog ‘thought’ was written some time ago and ‘filed.’ It was written in a conversational style between me and the Lord. This world in which we live is covered by a shroud of death. We are all affected and one day it will envelop us. The Bible calls it an enemy. We see its impact everywhere. In Psalm 23 the writer believes that there is a way through this ‘Shroud’  which he calls a valley. His point is that the Lord will walk with us and that His rod and staff will comfort us. Could we say they are His word and promises?  I invite you to ‘listen in’ to my talk with the Lord.
Into the Valley of the Shadow.

            “The phone call has left me with mixed emotions Lord. The family friend called to say her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. How long he will be in the valley of the shadow of death isn’t certain, but it isn’t a long walk. I found it difficult to put words together without soundly glib, pious or hard hearted. In such times as this I would rather be there and simply give her and her man a hug.

            As she talked she expressed her appreciation of the Christian Fellowship both of them enjoyed. Their church is very supportive in practical ways such as meals, being drivers, mowing the lawn amongst other things. Individuals as well as the church family undergird them with prayer and pastoral care.

            My friend is dying Lord and we are a long way away. The comforting thing is that they both know you as their Lord and Saviour. He isn’t afraid of dying, but he isn’t really enjoying the pain. Please be to him peace and strength as you walk with him in this valley. We are so fortunate to have a faith grounded in the historical reality of your coming; your blameless life; your substitutionary death, resurrection and ascension. The words of Revelation as so explosive to the believer’s heart, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:17-18. Knowing also you promised nothing could separate you from your people is a real source of comfort.

            One of the most beautiful passages surrounding the death experiences of your disciples is found in John 17:24. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” Because of your Risen Life, men and women have the opportunity to be born again. This makes them fit to stand in your holy presence.  By faith we know you now. Then we will see you face to face! How the hearts of your people long for that glorious day.

            It’s such a relief to be able to talk openly with a dying man or woman about death and beyond. Faith in you is so liberating, humbling and at the same time exhilarating. I’m guessing here but I suspect you are saddened by those who reject your offer of pardon for offensive behaviour and attitude towards you and Your Heavenly Father. They travel the valley’s one way track alone to face you the Lord who is their judge, not their saviour.

            In times such as this an old song surges to the mind, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. Heaven’s laid up somewhere beyond the blue…” We are pilgrims with a destiny. We take John 14:1-3 on the strength of your promise and your resurrection, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

            In upholding my friends to you in their journey of mixed emotions the unshakeable hope we have because of you Jesus is our consolation. The valley of the shadow of Death has been robbed of its terror for your disciples. It isn’t always a pleasant experience but in the light of your word it is short. “Death has been swallowed up in victory…thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.


Personal soliloquy. Read and dwell awhile in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

Postcard from God.  The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23


Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Diseased Heart - Kills.

Research released by The Heart Foundation showed that Tasmania had the highest rate of cardiovascular disease in Australia. Lack of exercise, poor diet, alcohol and smoking combined with high blood pressure and cholesterol combined to kill. The sad part was that many were in life’s prime and their failure to look after themselves was fatal.

This becomes a metaphor for moral and spiritual heart problems. With the Bible the heart is the term which can cover a person’s total inner life. The Bible could be described as the X-Ray machine or the MRI of the soul and what it reveals is a threatening disease. An assistant to the Great Physician who is Jesus Christ wrote ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)In other words, each of us are in a terminal state, morally and spiritually. This doesn’t simply apply to earthly life and relationships for it also affects our eternity.

As God can see the heart we cannot fool Him by acting nice. Those closest to us have seen the outworking of our diseased heart through our tongue, business dealings, immoral behaviour or hypocritical life. In the media we read or see reports of the more virulent expressions of a diseased heart in child abuse, murder, corruption and the madness of the Islamic State with its cruelty and depravity. In our own solitude we may long to be cured and find resources to enable us to change and live with a wholesome heart. Can the Bible show us the Great Physicians healthy heart program?

Because the issues of the heart are moral and spiritual it requires similar medication, diet and exercise to deal with it. As with any doctorand patient relationship the sufferer must realise he has a problem. Then he must have faith in the doctor’s training, skill and understanding of the issues involved and the treatment needed. In the moral and spiritual sickness realm there are many ‘quacks’ whether religious or humanistic. Trouble is they cannot see the inner realm of your person. But Dr Jesus can! He is the creator of the world. He is the Lord and more than that He is the Saviour who has authority to work on a person’s inner being.

Let us read two testimonies from the Bible of those who have undergone Jesus Christ’s transforming surgery and treatment.

David: ‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ (Psalm 51) How could Jesus do that? By the authority of being the one who dealt with sin on the cross and rose from the dead, leaving a believer’s sin in the tomb.

People: ‘When the people heard this (about Jesus, the cross and resurrection and their own heart) they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”’ (Acts 2:37) Peter replied “Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The effect of that on those who believed is told in Acts 2:46: ‘They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

The Bible is the moral and spiritual resource book for a continual healthy and happy heart. Within its pages you will find lifestyle ‘diets’ which will safeguard you from the depravity and diseases rampant in the world scene. There are certain ‘exercises’ such as worship, doing good deeds and caring for others which keep your inner life trim and terrific. Another great feature of allowing Jesus Christ to cleanse your life is that He puts a new song within. Instead of a lament you can have the heavenly rhapsody. It even sounds out and keeps us in harmony with the Lord in the darkest of times.

There is so much more the Saviour and Great Physician, Jesus Christ offers. Read about it in the book, the Bible. As the Psalmist so neatly put it ‘Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.’ Psalm 119:111.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Most Excellent Way

Spirituality is defined by a number of action words. Love is one of these. It’s a response to a command more than an emotion. Another defining word is Paul’s imperative, ‘follow.’  He concludes his teaching about Love’s primacy in 1 Corinthians 13 by urging them to follow the way of Love! (1 Corinthians 14:1)

In the Gospels this word ‘follow’ comes through loud and clear. A disciple of Christ is one who has responded to the call of Jesus to “come, follow.” This is a journey through the experience of accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour. This takes a person into a new lifestyle. The implication of ‘follow’ is that the Lord is always ahead and bids us to catch up.

The word used by Paul to follow the way of love is more aggressive than a simple following. This is no meandering or casual stroll. It means to Pursue. He wanted the Corinthians to be determined, committed and zealous so as to catch up with Love which they had allowed to move on without them.

To pursue something requires a focus and a priority that allows incidentals to the main feature to be put aside. Pursuing Love is unending as it’s always ahead of us. As we follow the most excellent way, we’re shown opportunities to demonstrate, and test, our sincerity. Those occasions will highlight aspects of the sixteen facets of Love Paul had already mentioned in the love poem! Revisit them. An inability to remember the way the Lord wants us to respond, or the resources available to us, is a guarantee of misunderstanding the power and wonder of love.

What was outlined at the beginning of the love poem Paul sums up at the end of the passage! The Christian life is not a mental exercise nor a theory to debate. Christianity isn’t a passive faith. Christ calls men and women to a journey, to follow, to be and to act. In concluding the most excellent way’s impossible demands, the apostle called them to get out of their self-opinionated rut and pursue Christ and His Love.

Paul doesn’t knock the Corinthians desire for God to bestow various gifts of the Spirit. He had written earlier to remind them that such gifts are always and only at God’s prerogative. In the end result it doesn’t matter. When you’re in hot pursuit of the most excellent way, side issues are lost in ‘the dust.’ Let God do what He wants to do is the unconscious attitude of those focused on Christ. Disciples are under instruction to follow their Teacher. In turn, they must love, Love!

As the letter draws to its conclusion Paul wants to encourage his readers. He knows they are in for a hard time in the anti-Christ community and in their endeavours at reconciliation. ‘Be on your guard’, he wrote, ‘stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in Love.’ (1 Cor.16:14)

   By the time the letter had been read many of the readers or hearers could well feel like failures. And they were. They may have felt like Peter who had betrayed Jesus and then went and wept. Twice Jesus asked him, “Peter, do you Love (agape) me?” The third time Jesus asked him, “Peter, do you love me (as a friend, phileo)?”  Peter who wasn’t prepared to use the word (agape) for what is termed the most excellent way, replied “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love (Phileo) you.” (John 21:15-17). Jesus responded to that and in a sense recommissioned him.

Peter went on from that to live out the highest quality of Love (agape) by the grace of God within relationships and ministry.

Such a ‘Peter’ experience may well have gripped many within the Corinthian fellowship. The acceptance by Jesus of Peter’s reply and subsequent events in his life should have encourage them. It may well be a similar lifeline for us. We know we have failed to live out the high calling of Love. When called to get up and get going again we may fear further failure. The first steps towards pursuing the way of Love (agape) for us may well be our own personal yet timid reply, “Lord You know all things, you know I love (Phileo) you as my Saviour, Lord and friend.

The concluding words in the Corinthian letter tells them that despite of all their immaturity and difficulties, Paul knows them to be in the embrace of Christ. To them he sends his Love. ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love (agape) be with you all in Christ Jesus.’ 1 Corinthians 16:23-24. K.J.V.

Christ would have us do that for each other too!

The power to do that is to have our love and affection settled upon Christ Jesus. Most, if not all powerlessness to love from a Christian perspective comes from failure to love Jesus as Lord. We will run out of the power of love if we slacken our faith and gratitude to Him. 1 John 4:19 holds the key: We love, because he first loved us.’

That’s the most excellent way! (1 Corinthians 12:31)



Saturday, August 9, 2014

4th - 8th August 2014
A Jane Austen Encounter

(Stone House Ink February 2014)


Donna Fletcher Crow

About the Book

Join Elizabeth and Richard on the Jane Austen trail. Visit all the sites so redolent of Jane and her characters in the beautiful city of Bath, stay in the Chawton House Library and visit the charming cottage where Jane's writing flowered and the nearby Steventon church where her father was rector and her own faith established, stand by her grave in Winchester Cathedral, and enjoy your time at the lovely country estate of Godmersham. But don't let your guard down. Evil lurks even in the genteel world of Jane Austen.

About the Author

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
To read more about all of Donna's books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to:
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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Heart of Stone - gone!

There’s a madness within the world scene. Every day it is being played out between nations, in communities, families and between individuals. We witness the catastrophic results in so many horrible and graphic ways. From the acts of terrorists to petty criminals to cheating partners or corrupt officials this self-destructive force holds sway. How can it be defined? Can it be controlled? Is there hope of some other controlling principle?

Psychologists, psychiatrists and philosophers have their theories as to the causes of these acts of madness. However, they cannot explain it any better than Jeremiah 17:9: ‘The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it?’ Within the individual is a problem that requires control and ultimately transforming. Modern thinking doesn’t like the Biblical term or its description for its presence but it remains the best explanation.

The parents of the Human race, Adam and Eve, made a choice that has infected us all. According to Genesis they were given the freedom to enjoy God’s goodness in creation with one condition. That requirement was summed up in not taking of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. When their self–will was aroused they crossed the boundary of God’s ‘do not enter’ and devoured the fruit. The fruit tasted delicious but their rebellion and transgression gave birth to a monster in a once perfect heart. Call it sin, as the Bible does, for it includes the very seeds of what history records as a sad tale of moral, spiritual and society breakdown.

The Hank William’s song ‘Your Cheating Heart’ is an apt description of our individual tendencies. The aftermath of such a heart is seen from corruption to law-court procedures from mayhem to wars and more. Again the Scriptures reveal a progression of the cheating heart. When not dealt with the heart becomes hardened, goes astray and is permeated by evil. (Hebrews 3:8-12)

From such hearts comes the cry “What is God doing? Why doesn’t He stop this madness? He must not exist or is indifferent to His creation!” The fact of the matter is that God has done His best to give people guidelines to control their ‘cheating heart’, the offer of a new power within their heart and forgiveness for their rebellious behaviour to Him and others. So many, indeed the majority plead for that to happen to others but to be left alone personally. An example of this is what God’s word says about sexual purity. It enriches marital life, prevents disease and creates a beautiful family relationship. When people chose to disobey that principle they have no right to blame God for marital breakdown or personal infection and guilt with shame.

God gave the Ten Commandments for the benefit of society. The wayward heart saw it as an intrusion into their right for self-expression and personal freedom. Relational breakdown, society corruption and national power plays with rampant evil consequences have followed its rejection. In certain places the plaques with the Ten Commandments have been forbidden to be hung. Must make people feel guilty and their cheating hearts don’t want to be reminded of their transgressions.

For those who crave for power to overcome the monster within God has provided. So that the seeker might understand the sincerity of God to achieve this on their behalf He recorded the build up to it in the pages of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. It writes about the Saviour, Jesus. He is the promised Messiah the Son of God. He is also called the Great Physician for He deals with the heart matters. By virtue of His life, death and resurrection Jesus can turn a cheating heart into a faithful one. He has authority to forgive, cleans and invest in it a new power to direct and control. All He requires is your permission to ‘operate and install.’

If a person imagines that when they possess a new heart things instantaneously make them perfect they are in for a rude shock. As with any ‘operation’ there is a period of adjustment, prolonged exercise, proper diet and faithfulness to doctor’s orders. The same is true in this new spiritual and moral realm. Failure to follow the Lord’s prescriptions will cause sad and bad ill effects such as hypocrisy, Luke-warmness of spirit and an opening for the cheating heart to sneak in. any surgeon would be dismayed and disappointed with a careless patient and call him to account. So to the Great Physician. He will call those on whom He has invested His life-changing skills for an account of their new lifestyle. We will not be able to bluff Him for He is able to see our heart and has a record of our life. We are not rejected from His realm but we may not receive the full measure of His reward for faithfulness. For those who reject His moral and spiritual surgical implant of a new heart face condemnation and rejection from glory.

The promise of the Lord remains true for those fed up with their hard, deceitful and evil heart. That is ‘A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’ Ezekiel 36:26