Posts for April 2011
5 Posts found

The danger of riches – Deuteronomy 6.1,8-15
Posted: 28 April 2011 in Deuteronomy

Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:….. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.”

The above is one of those warnings about being seduced by material prosperity which are scattered throughout the Bible. Jesus says essentially the same thing when he warns that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The problem with riches is that human beings are inverterate materialists, and there is no idol more seductive than money. Implicit in that fact is the paradoxical notion that those who are blessed by God may be reduced to poverty by him, whereas those not so blessed are left to pursue an idol. 1 Timothy 6.7-9 is also of relevance here:

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

To pursue material prosperity once our basic needs have been met is to use for some other purpose the life given to us in order that we may serve God. It is easy to see how that might be offensive to this consumer driven society of ours, and still more to the theologically nonsensical prosperity gospel, but the Bible means what it says when it says blessed are the poor (Luke 6.20).

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Psalm 144.1 – The Everyday Battle
Posted: 21 April 2011 in Psalms

This is a guest post from Giveacar, a not for profit company in the UK, which raises money for charity by selling second hand cars donated by the public.

Blessed be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. (English Standard Version)

At first glance it seems that this passage actively encourages us to engage in battle as our Lord will be there to protect us; well, this is exactly what it means. The battles in mention are not those plastered on our television screens from war zones such as Libya and Iraq which pit religion against religion, ideology against ideology.

Rather, the battles are those that we face every day; the battle to provide for our family, to provide for the poor, to love your neighbour, to love your enemy! Life is tough, that’s a given. It’s no secret, you’ll fall down, you stumble, you get pushed, you land square on your face. But God’s advice to us is simple, every time that happens; you get back on your feet. You get up just as fast as you can, no matter how many times you need to do it, and he’ll be there to guide and protect you.

Remember this; we are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.

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Jeremiah 10.7-11 – The true God and pagan gods.
Posted: 12 April 2011 in Jeremiah

Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee. But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men. But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.

I am not one who normally mines scripture, looking for fufilled prophecies, but the above passage ends with a prophesy which has certainly been fulfilled, and the pagan gods, worshipped in Jeremiah’s time, have long since disappeared from the pages of history.

The reason for their disappearance is probably not that difficult to see. Although our innate knowledge of God may not be as highly developed as it might be, it is at least sufficient for people to recognise a cosmic soap opera when they see one. In the religion of ancient Egypt for example, the god Seth murders his brother Osiris, and dismembers his body. Distressed by this, his mother….. and so on. Your religious sensibility does not need to be very highly developed before the Egyptian gods start sounding like a  highly dysfunctional group of all too human men and women. It must have become increasingly difficult to believe in them.

The God of the Bible is the God who makes himself known in history, and he is noticably free of the cosmic soap opera type myths which characterised the pagan gods. For reasons which lie hidden in the inner counsels of God, ancient Israel was chosen to be the cradle of a religion which would introduce the true God to the world.

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Proverbs 22.2 – The implications of Divine Providence
Posted: 7 April 2011 in Proverbs

The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.

Verses such as the one above tend to be unpopular in our day. It is easy to see why, because it is an open invitation for people to complacently say that the poor should be “content with their station in life,” which runs directly counter to biblical passages such as James 2.15-17.

But the fact that something can be misused by sinful men doesn’t automatically make it untrue, and verses such as the one quoted must be true, not least because it is scriptural, but also because to deny it is effectively to deny divine providence. The result would be a deist God, who sits in heavenly glory, but allows the universe to go pretty much its own way, without intervening in the lives of men. Even if such a God existed, prayer to him would necessarily be ineffective, and he would be irrelevant to our every day lives, here on earth.

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Acts 10.12-6 – The hidden things of God
Posted: 6 April 2011 in Acts

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

The above passage seems to be an example of God’s mysterious sovereign grace. Why should this one Gentile be the especial recipient of God’s favour, rather than another? The examples of one person being chosen, and not some other, could be endlessly multiplied of course, and the Bible never offers an answer to this question.

The further thought occurred to me that, if the Bible doesn’t answer this question, then perhaps we shouldn’t be asking it in the first place. As a well known verse from Deuteronomy has it:

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut 29.29)

In the physical sciences an attempt can be made to answer questions through a process of observation and inference, but in religion we are restricted to what God has seen fit to reveal to us. Speculation can be pointless at best, and, if we imagine that we should be able to resolve all questions, a short road to atheism at worst. So maybe we should study with our whole being to appropriate a knowledge of those things which have been revealed, but at the same time refrain from speculating about the hidden things of God, knowledge of which he has reserved to himself.

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