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Showing posts from March, 2012

Legend of Veronica

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(Taken from http://www.tourstotheholyland.com/)

The Via Dolorosa - Visit Its Fourteen Posts The route to Jesus' death consists of fourteen stations, beginning with the Monastery of Flagellation where the trial of Jesus took place and extending towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where, according to the Christian gospels, Jesus was crucified and buried.

It was on the grounds where the Monastery of Flagellation now stands that, in the year 30 AD, Jesus was sent to his death. This location thus marks the first station on the Via Dolorosa. The second station on the path consists of an ancient Roman arch onto which the words spoken by the Roman emperor who sent Jesus to his death are carved. Walking past the ruins of the ancient arch, you will arrive at the third station on the Via Dolorosa, this time commemorating Jesus' first lapse of exhaustion. The third station consists of a small chapel owned by the Armenian Catholic order.

The fourth post on Christ's journey is the sp…

The Passion

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As Easter approaches I hear frequent references to the Passion of the Christ, a film directed by Mel Gibson. Often phrases like "too gory", "awkward with the sub-titles", "too many suggested Catholic traditions".

But I found camera angles and scene composition to have been handled masterfully.

One scene stands out in my memory. Jesus has been flogged dreadfully, and He is returned to Pilate's Porch. The procurator speaks in Latin, but then as Jesus is led in, the look on the man's face speaks volumes without words. 'You almost killed this poor wretch; I have seldom seen so much abuse; I did not intend all of this; the man truly is without fault; his countenance does not match the situation; where is the rage; he said he was a king; do I have to go on further with this'.

As I speak to people about  the film, I must commend its presentation of the voluntariness of Jesus' arrest. He knew what was coming. He knew what was in the plan of G…

Some New Thing

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Acts 17: 21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)I love the story of Acts 17. Paul has left behind his accomplices Silas and Timothy to enter alone the City of Wisdom. Silas, the missionary partner coming to Paul out of that dissension with Barnabas over John Mark. Timothy coming to Paul from Lystra, the community which almost took his life by stoning, the community which fatherly love compelled him to re-visit.

But now alone he presents the good news in synagogue and market, until invited to the great centre of intellectual gymnastics, Mars Hill. Paul uses their superstition, their statues, their poetry, their love of nature and their incessant curiosity to bring them to the point of challenge that there is one supreme Lord of heaven and earth. This is One who is very close to them and their next breath. Though they still feel or grope after Him as if blind.

With the stage set, Paul give…

Sons of Thunder

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He doesn't seem to hurry. Yet He has told us that many villages must be visited during his allotted time. Allotted? Does that mean that he foresees some abrupt end to this marvelous circuit?

He leaves us most nights, from  hospitable quaint home or makeshift roadside camp. It would seem that prayer is so very much more important to him than sleep. But the following day no signs of lagging or fatigue. The crowds never let up. They press in smiling; straining to hear or watch. Becoming almost rude in their eagerness

At the most unpredictable times he will step off to the side, seat himself upon a wagon or boulder and tell one of his stories. Straight out of where they live. Challenging them to forgive, to share, to seek no haughty posture, to approach the Almighty as a father, involved and merciful and in the commonplace.

He knows the prophets, but does not swing such knowledge around as a hammer of condemnation or of authority. The bunch of us try to clear the way for him, village…

Thanks Again, Bill

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Constancy of Love... Sonnet CXVI.

LET me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare

What is the Battle of Gog-Magog?

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Ezekiel describes an unprecedented battle displaying the intervention of God for the miraculous rescue of Israel from a multi-national coalition from the north.

The 38th and 39th chapters speak of a great shaking felt by all of creation and resulting in the destruction of five-sixths of the assaulting group led by Gog-Magog. The 37th chapter had already described the revivifying of the "valley of dry bones", Israel in its declension and dispersion. The prophet witnesses in a vision the return of the people, the placing of flesh upon bone and the infilling of restorative breath (the Spirit of God) for the creation of an army.

I had always looked at the battle of the next two chapters as the conclusive battle of Armageddon described in Revelation 16-19, the one so overwhelming that there would never again be its equal. But an interesting feature arrests the attention in Ezekiel 38. The enemies have noted a time of relative security, peace and prosperity in Israel and they b…

Spiritual Care to Mentally Ill

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Tonight (March 19th) I watched Craig Rennebohm's video. I believe that he is deeply convinced of the value of every inner person. He is fascinated and hopeful in the balanced combination of various disciplines to serve mentally ill "consumers/clients".

If asked as a chaplain to enumerate the non-negotiables in presenting a healthy faith foundation, (I believe) he might use the following: 1) God is good. 2) God is involved. 3) God may be consulted. 4) God is not responsible for all that hurts. 5) God is especially tender to the broken and contrite. 6) God wants you in some community of faith and nurture. 7) God finds no person more worthy than others of the benefits of Christ's passion and resurrection. 8) Jesus understands human suffering.

I liked particularly his image of standing beside the consumer and facing the world together, and in the simple day-to-day. The mentally ill are usually so terribly down on themselves, and they need the affirmation and simple sou…

I Heard That

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Could anything be more terrifying than the day the sceptic and God-detractor hears the Almighty say "I heard that." All the smart talk and mockery voiced in the days of darkness, then exposed in the fullness of light in judgment. Too late to hide or retract. Judgment thundering forward. In the 35th chapter of Ezekiel the prophet speaks against Edom which had long mocked Israel and every one of her difficulties: 13Thus with your mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me: I have heard them. 14Thus saith the Lord GOD; When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate. 15As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it: and they shall know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel's Shepherd

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Imagine a place of such delightful security that sheep could even sleep peacefully in the woods! We haven't seen it yet. There is not such peace in our nation, community or congregation. But Ezekiel foresaw a time when no frail, self-serving man would shepherd the flock, but rather God himself with his "servant David a prince among them". Is this a foreshadowing of the Millenial reign of Jesus on earth? Of Heaven? Chapter 34: 22Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. 23And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. 24And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it. 25And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.

Your Cross

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Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me...(Luke 14: 27a) You have it. Increasingly you are coming to know it. A cross. A burden that grates the will, slows the apparent progress, humiliates in the presence of puzzled onlookers. It is not His cross. The monumental one-time offering for atonement for sin at Golgotha. That transaction required a blameless first-born "lamb". Only Christ proved Himself worthy. Only complete obedience and holiness, garbed in flesh, could suffer so intensely the wrongdoing of perverted justice of men. And purchase with blood the satisfaction of the Heavenly Father. But there is something that you desire that the Spirit will not allow you to have. Time and again you consider going forward, only to register again that inward check; only to discover again that portion of scripture which blocks your path. It is as if you are in your own Gethsemane, your own "olive press", and you travail over your will in contradistincti…

First the Altar

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In a recent reading from the prophet Ezekiel I noticed that his first concern was with the waywardness of the purportedly faithful. He looked to the prophets, priests and princes of Jerusalem and their venturing into folly. It was all about people-pleasing, unjust gain, oppressive justice, securing the praises of men and effecting a compromise with the idolatry of the surrounding communities.

For these things the backsliding people of God were going to bring judgment, shame, exile and barrenness upon themselves. (chapters 22-24)

The prophet then went on to describe the coming collapse in commercial enterprises. He describes with great detail the crash of the mercantile wealth of seafaring Tyre (chapters 26-28). It was to become a place of bare rock, foraging sea birds and pitiful drying nets. Gone the glory of the once great centre of the world's riches! Both the Babylonians and the later Greeks brought this about.

But notice the order of things. First the decline of the centres of f…

Fresh Encounter

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Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.

As in the dawning o'er the waveless ocean,
The image of the morning-star doth rest,
So in this stillness, Thou beholdest only
Thine image in the waters of my breast.
When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eyes look up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose, beneath Thy wings o'er shadowing,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.


--Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896. Author and abolitionist.)

Havana Bay

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Novelist Martin Cruz Smith is a master of atmosphere. Moscow detective Arkady Renko has been sent to Cuba to investigate the strange death of an informant found dead from unknown causes (heart attack?) as if fishing in the common fashion floating in an inner tube on Havana Bay. A most unlikely activity for this one-time Russian acquaintance who has been looking for impropriety and kickbacks in the sugar industry. Possible diplomatic disaster for Moscow/Cuba/Panama.

The unofficial investigation brings Arkady into contact with an association of former Angola war heroes who are intent upon burying the memory and activities of the deceased, and particularly as they pertain to a dusty former hotel on the bay shore with promising and lucrative casino development prospects. Would Castro ever countenence this tempting return of American rhythms to the Island?

Enter an unscrupulous American developer with another securities defrauder both on the lam from the States.

The tale is full of the feelin…

Worthlessness

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The Church has to get an idea of her own worthlessness. Help in this study will come from a full reading of Ezekiel 16.

She was found conceived in sin and lying in her own bloods. She was fully cleaned up and adorned magnificantly by her Lover. She became quite impressed with herself and began to dally with the idols and strange passions of her godless neighbours. She courted their affections with payments from her inheritance. She was pitifully backslidden, and a spiritual harlot, although she accepted no hire from her sordid liaisons.

Hear the Lord's comment in verse 14 and 15:

14And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.

15But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.


But toward the end of the chapter it becomes apparent that the Lover intends to honour His co…

The Twenty-Seventh

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The how and why of worship at church may be found in this Psalm:

3Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

4One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

5For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

6And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

7Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

8When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

9Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, …

The Footings

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Let Psalm 101 stand as a rebuke, firm and clear, to the murmerings of the populist Emerging Church Movement:

1I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.

2I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.

3I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.


Note that the initiative is God-directed. It is not man-catering. Sincere worship and honouring His priorities will bring the awesome benediction and presence of the Heavenly Father. And THAT must be what draws the people! All else is mere social club.

Note: For more on this controversy see our site at the following link:
https://sites.google.com/site/conversationabove/conversation-tares

Always Appropriate

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In so many places you sense that your testimony for Christ is not appropriate. That people give you the rolling eye. That other transitory things have arrested their attention. And to those things of the world, those idols, they heap all of their spare time, conversation and interest. At times this dissipation almost brings you to tears. The time is late...for a particular life, or for society as we know it.

I remember reading Samuel Rutherford as he referred to such distractions as "foil wrapped treats".

The reproach which you experience for the things you dare to say or the life you dare to live, should not come as a surprise. Read Hebrews 13: 12-16 or the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3-12.

I woke up this morning early with a particular word of encouragement on my mind. It is God's good point of view on your carrying and communicating the Gospel News as you are led by the Spirit. It is found in Isaiah 52 (and later reiterated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10):

6Therefore my p…

More and More of Blessing

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(Today's devotional from J. R. Miller)

“Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”

John 2:10


The world gives its best first and the worst comes afterwards. It is so in all sinful pleasures— first exhilaration and then bitter remorse. It is so in the chase for wealth, power, fame — gratification first, and then painful disappointment. At first money brings gladness, a sort of satisfaction; but as time rolls on and wealth increases, cares multiply, anxieties thicken, burdens grow heavier, and at last the rich man finds that in all his riches he has less comfort than he had in the days when he was a poor boy. It is so in all mere worldly ambitions. The first cups of fame are sweet, but soon they pall upon the taste. This truth holds especially in the sinful life. We need not deny that at the beginning sin is sweet, but bitterness is found at the bottom of the cup. In grace, how…

The Pie Was Done

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2 Samuel 12 contains a message of arresting importance. In their sin David and Bathsheba have conceived a child. After Uriah’s death they marry to cover up the shame. But the child becomes deathly ill.

David separates himself for intense fasting and prayer for the little boy’s recovery. But the child dies all the same. When his servants bring him the bad news, David simply washes up and returns to normal activity with nothing more being said than to comfort his grieving new wife.

Listen to his answer:
23. But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.

It was King David’s assurance that this child of tender years would not be at peril of God’s wrath. As an innocent, he would clearly be a recipient of mercy and bound for the place of the righteous dead, a place which the father saw as his own intended destination.

What does this say about the panic in some churches and families for the administration of infant baptism, …

Shot in the Arm for a Senior

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Psalm 71:

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.
(NIV)

Gentlemanly

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Jesus is a gentleman. To the hypocrite He is blasting words of fire. To the oppressor (a man such as Herod) He is terrifyingly silent. To the haughty and self-assured (a man such as the lawyer who elicited the parable of the Good Samaritan) He is succinctly challenging.

But to the needy, neglected and humbly petitioning He is patience, compassion, ready help and sensitive courtesy.

I love the story in Mark 7: 31-37. People have brought to Jesus a man who is deaf and dumb, beseeching that He might lay hands on him as other prophets of old would have done. Jesus takes him aside to a quiet and more private place. He wants to minister intimately and without embarrassment, fanfare or ostentation.

Then the Lord "looks to heaven". He will only give the credit to His Heavenly Father and wants to let the man know that it is entirely natural for Him to call upon such power in the here-and-now.

Then Jesus sighs. There are worlds of comfort and encouragement in this act. Messiah has come, h…