Wednesday, 26 July 2017

What to do once you have turned to Jesus.

When a person has turned to Jesus - received forgiveness for their sins, been washed in His blood - it is not always immediately obvious what one should do next. Here is a practical list:

1) Tell a Christian friend. 

One thing is - tell someone ! Preferably someone you can trust. An evangelical Christian (I am not ruling out Catholics or Coptics or Orthodox or Pentecostals here, any of whom might be evangelical in their faith - i.e. outgoing - witnessing to Christ) 

I would say, though, that if you had been going to a church where the message of the gospel has not been preached that you should not talk to the priest or minister at that church about your experience. It is possible that they will minimise it, or that they will feel uncomfortable about it and make you think you are a psychological case. 

No, talk to someone you know is fully on board with the gospel of Christ, who knows the scriptures, someone whom you know will support you and affirm your decision. (I think of a lady called Helga whom I know, as the type of person one should talk to. She is a faithful Christian, reads the Bible, often bears witness to Jesus in a gentle way, someone like that.) 

By the way, if you're not sure who to speak to, ask God to show you. God will certainly guide you to the right person. 

2) With your friend's help and prayers, find a Christian fellowship to attend. 

It might be a bible study, or a church, or some sort of weekly gathering of Christians, but it's really important to find a place where your faith is affirmed and you can be part of the Body of Christ.

You need to hear the Word of God preached - i.e. the Bible - you need to hear someone tell you what God is saying to you in the Bible, to have it explained and expounded. This is what will make your faith grow - and faith is your shield for the inevitable attacks that will follow. 

For, once you are a Christian, you become a target for the "heavenly powers and authorities" - the spiritual powers arrayed against God. But don't worry - Jesus has already conquered these powers by dying on the cross! We are more than conquerers through Him. 

3) Ask for God's guidance about your life. 

Thirdly, there may be things God wishes you to change about your life. Start asking God for guidance about what he wants you to do with your time, your resources, & your whole life. Ask God to rule over every aspect of your life. God is very gentle and He will take you step by step into your new life with Jesus. Walk with God, obey His promptings. There may be difficult decisions to make, but if Jesus' Spirit strengthens you in your inner being* you will be able to make those decisions. 

*Ephesians 3:16-17 "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" 


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Friendship and Jesus

A friend of mine sings in a choir, & from time to time he brings me a choir part to learn which he records (used to be on a cassette, then I recorded it on computer & burned it to CD, now he just records it on his iPhone.)
But the thing is - what makes these meetings very enjoyable is not the job itself per se but the good conversation that comes out of the friendship that we share. We chat about everything from his marriage (he's always ribbing his wife) to the weather to politics and religion!
It set me to thinking about prayer - what God wants from us is not first of all our willingness to do his will or follow his teachings or laws, but our friendship*.  It's something to think about.
(Of course, doing His will/receiving forgiveness for our sins is a natural consequence if we are friends with Him, because the primary way God shows his love for us is by forgiving our sins, that is the gospel, and being friends with Him we should accept that forgiveness. And I would suppose if we are friends with Him we will want to do God's will, also! "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." Luke 11:28)
But doing His will should not be the primary thing here. I think I have got it wrong for years - the thing I've put first in prayer is trying to know His will then doing it - which is important but only secondary in importance. It should be the consequence not the starting point.
I see now that when praying, living, doing things I must put my friendship with God/love for God first - and let Him take care of the rest. This way, which is Jesus' way, fills me with peace!
I wonder how long I can keep hold of this revelation, before it slips through my fingers and I get it all wrong again, and I end up all bent and broken? But then I have to remember - it's God holding onto me, not me holding onto Him.
~ ~ ~ ~
(*I think it is clear all through the Old Testament and the New that God wants a relationship with us that transcends rules and obligation - in the OT when Israel is unfaithful, God uses the language of a heart-broken father whose son has gone astray or a husband who is heart-broken because his wife has slept around behind his back. And take the book of Job for instance: Job suffers unjustly, he has been a righteous man and God allows him to suffer, so Job sues God, but at the end of the book God appears and answers the lawsuit, & God's answer is that Job doesn't know everything whereas God does know everything. But Job is satisfied, awed, and humbled by the fact that God takes the trouble to answer Him (even before God restores Job's fortunes). This fact is the amazing thing that should never cease to amaze us: that the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe wants our friendship and our love. It is actually more amazing and incredible than any fictional story or myth could ever be.  )

Sunday, 9 July 2017

ἀδελφοποίησις - Adelphopoiesis - A lovely custom from the Orthodox Church

ἀδελφοποίησις

This is something I had never heard of before - it is a really beautiful custom from the Orthodox Church that has lasted from the earliest days of Christianity to today, 'brother - making', the making of two friends into brothers, or sisters, in the sight of God. I won't use my own words to describe it. Theological historian Robin Darling Young speaks about this custom in this article from her own experience:

  
"This is a subject about which I have the good fortune to speak not merely as a scholar or an observer, but as a participant. Nine years ago I was joined in devout sisterhood to another woman, apparently in just such a ceremony as Boswell claims to elucidate in his book. The ceremony took place during a journey to some of the Syrian Christian communities of Turkey and the Middle East, and the other member of this same-sex union was my colleague Professor Susan Ashbrook Harvey of Brown University. During the course of our travels we paid a visit to St. Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem, the residence of the Syrian Orthodox archbishop. There our host, Archbishop Dionysius Behnam Jajaweh, remarked that since we had survived the rigors of Syria and Eastern Turkey in amicable good humor, we two women must be good friends indeed. Would we like to be joined as sisters the next morning after the bishop’s Sunday liturgy in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? Intrigued, we agreed, and on a Sunday in late June of 1985, we followed the bishop and a monk through the Old City to a side chapel in the Holy Sepulchre where, according to the Syrian Orthodox, lies the actual tomb of Jesus. After the liturgy, the bishop had us join our right hands together and he wrapped them in a portion of his garment. He pronounced a series of prayers over us, told us that we were united as sisters, and admonished us not to quarrel. Ours was a sisterhood stronger than blood, confirmed in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he said, and since it was a spiritual union, it would last beyond the grave.

Our friendship has indeed endured and flourished beyond the accidental association of two scholars sharing an interest in the Syriac-speaking Christianity of late antiquity. The blessing of the Syrian Orthodox Church was a precious instance of our participation in the life of an ancient and noble Christian tradition. Although neither of us took the trouble to investigate the subject, each privately assumed that the ritual of that summer was some Christian descendant of an adoption ceremony used by the early church to solemnify a state-that of friendship-which comes highly recommended in the Christian tradition (“Henceforth I call you not servants . . . but I have called you friends.” [John15:15]). 

*Note - the existence this custom has been used by modern scholars to claim that the ancient Orthodox church had a form of same sex marriage - this is patently false, as the rest of  the article shows.

Self Publishing today

As you may or may not know, essentially my books are self-published. A lot of people have been asking me about this lately, and a few friends have asked for help with self-publishing, so I just thought I would put up a post about self-publishing with a few helpful links.

Smashwords
The first is Smashwords - Smashwords puts your ebook up on Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster & Kobo:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/RobertDenethon

As an example, here are my books on the iBookstore, put there by Smashwords:
https://itunes.apple.com/au/author/robert-denethon/id909096568?mt=11

This is the most important document to read re Smashwords, the Style Guide written by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, because it tells you how to format Word files for smashwords:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

*Note Smashwords is pretty easy to use but the process of preparing a .doc file can be a little fiddly. Best thing to do sometimes is strip out all the formatting (on a Mac, paste it into TextEdit and select "Make Plain Text" then select it all and paste into a .doc file.) (Of course, it loses all bold and italics, which can be annoying, but sometimes it's the only way of getting rid of the unwanted formatting Smashwords doesn't like) 

Amazon
Next of course is Amazon. Through Amazon you can sell physical books and ebooks. Note that the physical books through kdp or Createspace are print on demand - means no up front cost, when someone orders a book Amazon prints one copy to send out to them there and then, and then takes a royalty out of what they were paid for the book and pays you.

https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Denethon/e/B00DEXJ8GM

To get your ebook onto Amazon you use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing - you can put your ebooks onto Amazon through them, and physical books too now.
https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

This is  Createspace - for putting physical books on Amazon - actually kdp.amazon.com uses the exact same submission requirements for physical books (because Amazon bought Createspace about five years ago, and they are now migrating their system over to their own self-publishing section in kdp.amazon.com)
https://www.createspace.com

Here is how you create a Createspace and kdp cover template:
https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do

This link on Createspace contains lots of other useful info, including the submission requirements for kdp and Createspace (pay especial attention to margins!) :
https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/Index.jsp#content4

An afterthought - IngramSparks ~

BTW IngramSparks - they have a printing facility in Sydney so if you're in Australia you can get physical books delivered cheaper through them than Amazon, but it costs around US$49 to publish through them initially:

https://www.ingramspark.com

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

There is no Rest apart from Jesus

There is no peace, no rest, apart from Jesus.

The peace Jesus gives is not a reward for anything - it is the free gift of Himself.

Only God can give peace. It is a gift from Him. It is the gift of His presence.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and wall the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:2

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and krevealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and  you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 25-30

(7 July removed the list of things that don't bring peace. Let's face it - it is everything and anything except Jesus!) 

Same Sex Marriage

It's a strange thing - that people really believe they can redefine marriage, a sacrament founded by God.

No matter what society decides, no matter what laws may be rewritten, no matter how people behave as if it were true, no matter how much they pretend, no matter what people believe, no matter how much coercion they try to bring on others to believe something different, no matter how much they succeed at that coercion, they can never make a marriage between two people of the same sex into a spiritual union in the sight of God.

I believe same-sex marriage is a sentimental act - a fiction - play-acting.

It is in a way a sweet sentimental act - it expresses the wish of gay people that their relationship could be more than it is - but the Bible teaches that it is not and never will be the real thing, real marriage, in God's sight.

Believing that same sex marriage is not real in God's sight should in no way stop any Christian from being kind and polite and friendly to gay couples - in fact, believing that same-sex marriage is not real in God's sight will not stop any Christian from loving same-sex couples with Christ's love, any more than disagreeing with anyone about anything should stop us from loving them now.

All true Christians will see this the same way, for our desire is to show God's love to everyone, regardless of what they think, believe, do, regardless of the state of their hearts, or their actions. (False Christians, who compromise with the world, will of course hate the true Christians for insisting that gay marriage is not marriage in God's sight. They won't be able to help themselves.)

But Jesus defines marriage as between a man and a woman. In God's sight, this is the only sort of marriage that is recognised as a marriage. No one can change this and no one ever will.

Furthermore, God provides instructions for the case where a marriage is not a marriage - Jesus tells how to view this.

It has also been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except in the case of immorality, forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:32

It has been said that this teaching of Jesus' was a slight dig at Herod's marriage to his ex-sister-in-law, which was clearly immoral in the sight of God, even more so since Herod was divorced. Whether or not this is the case, it is permissible to get divorced in the case of 'immorality', i.e. a marriage that is immoral in God's sight.

It is interesting to reflect on this fact. If someone is in a same-sex marriage, Jesus does not hold them to their vows.

(A few minor improvements, 9 July 2017.)



Sunday, 25 June 2017

God and Magic 4

Elymas 

People who perform magic are looking for power. Yet the person who is saved by grace in Jesus Christ is the most powerful of all, for, as Paul says, we are seated in the heavenly places:

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:6-10

Perfectly illustrating this power differential is this story from Acts of the Apostles:

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Acts 13:1-12

The name Bar-Jesus means son of Jesus; but it was not our Jesus of course - Jesus was not exactly an uncommon name in the New Testament era. 

There is no indication that this man Bar-Jesus/Elymas repented. When Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, pronounced God's punishment, immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand, but it does not say when this blindness was lifted. Elymas probably did not even reflect on the gospel - in his blindness he probably thought he had met a magician more powerful than he was. The New Testament says nothing more about him. 

There is no one in thrall to evil so much as someone who's entire livelihood is dependant on doing wrong. In this case, Elymas could see clearly that his position and livelihood was in danger from Paul's preaching. Elymas opposed Paul and Barnabas because he could see that if the proconsul's eyes were opened - if he began to see clearly when the gospel cleansed his eyesight - then he would be able to see that Elymas was a deceiver and a liar, and then Elymas would lose everything. 

Balaam

Balaam in the Old Testament was another false prophet like this, a false prophet dependant for his livelihood on his lies. Balak the king of the Moabites asked him to go up the mountain and curse the Israelites - Balaam's donkey, however, would not go. God opened the mouth of the donkey, who rebuked Balaam, and then he saw God's angel stopping him. God let him past when Balaam agreed to speak only the words God gave him. 

Balaam's ultimate fate was to be killed by the Israelites as a punishment for divination, 

Balaam also, the son of Beor, the one who practiced divination, was killed with the sword by the people of Israel among the rest of their slain. Joshua 13:22 

Balaam is mentioned in the New Testament in Jude 1:11 as one of three examples of extreme, unrepentant sinfulness - Cain, Balaam, and Korah. 

...Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

Balaam's story from the book of Judges is given below. 

On reading it, one wonders, why is Balaam so renowned for evil? When he was instructed by King Balak to go up the mountain to curse the Israelites, he did not curse them - he obeyed God's message, given through his own donkey and then the angel. What did Balaam do wrong? 

2 Peter 2:15 says Balaam "...loved the wages of unrighteousness." Jude 12 says of people like him that they "...run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit."

The thing is, Balaam was only toeing the line because he knew God was more powerful than he was. His heart was still far from God. He wanted to curse the Israelites. He wanted the money Balak was offering him. And perhaps worst of all, despite the fact that he was obeying God, his concentration was upon himself - he did not really acknowledge the truth, that without God's intervention, he would have gone on to curse the Israelites. 

The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
    the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,

No, there was no cleverness in Balaam, no talent, no ability. Even his very life he owed God. Instead, he uses this event as an opportunity to boost his standing in the eyes of Balak. 

Balaam was judged not for his actions but the wicked thoughts in his heart, the evil desires he was cherishing. And are we so different from him? 

The fact is, at a certain time in our lives, every person who has ever lived, except for Jesus, has had a heart that is far from God, a heart that is divided, a heart that is against God. A heart that is an enemy of God. And what is the cure for this? 

It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! For if, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Romans 5:10-11

(How wonderful God's love is! - [ added afterwards ] - this loving Lord who comes to our poor, Godless world, to suffer in order to save us. ) (And the thing that separates people from His love, that stops them loving Him, is their divided hearts! ) We all need a new heart, an undivided heart. This is what we all need, a new spirit within us, a pure heart, (a heart dedicated first of all to Christ!). It is something we desperately need, and comes through accepting Christ's forgiveness and being washed in his blood. A new heart is something only God can give: 

And I will give them an undivided heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34

Friends, we must not harden our hearts in these days against God's gift of Himself, Jesus' gift of His body and blood, in case we miss out on the rest God is offering us. We must pray for God to heal us, to give us new hearts, we must listen for His loving voice, for today is the day of the Lord. 

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
    and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
    they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
    ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3

~~~~~~~~ 

The story of Balaam Judges 22-25:3  
Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak's message. And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the Lord speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”

Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these. And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’” But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.” And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.” So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”

Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.” And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, on the border formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the border. And Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.” Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent for Balaam and for the princes who were with him.

And in the morning Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw a fraction of the people.

And Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me here seven altars, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” Balak did as Balaam had said. And Balak and Balaam offered on each altar a bull and a ram. And Balaam said to Balak, “Stand beside your burnt offering, and I will go. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever he shows me I will tell you.” And he went to a bare height, and God met Balaam. And Balaam said to him, “I have arranged the seven altars and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram.” And the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” And he returned to him, and behold, he and all the princes of Moab were standing beside his burnt offering. And Balaam took up his discourse and said,

“From Aram Balak has brought me,
    the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:
‘Come, curse Jacob for me,
    and come, denounce Israel!’
How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
    How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
For from the top of the crags I see him,
    from the hills I behold him;
behold, a people dwelling alone,
    and not counting itself among the nations!
Who can count the dust of Jacob
    or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
    and let my end be like his!”
And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.” And he answered and said, “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

And Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place, from which you may see them. You shall see only a fraction of them and shall not see them all. Then curse them for me from there.” And he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offering, while I meet the Lord over there.” And the Lord met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and thus shall you speak.” And he came to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?” And Balaam took up his discourse and said,

“Rise, Balak, and hear;
    give ear to me, O son of Zippor:
God is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
    Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Behold, I received a command to bless:
    he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
    nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
    and the shout of a king is among them.
God brings them out of Egypt
    and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
For there is no enchantment against Jacob,
    no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
    ‘What has God wrought!’
Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up
    and as a lion it lifts itself;
it does not lie down until it has devoured the prey
    and drunk the blood of the slain.”
And Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.” But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘All that the Lord says, that I must do’?” And Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the desert. And Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me here seven altars and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said,

“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
    the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    who sees the vision of the Almighty,
    falling down with his eyes uncovered:
How lovely are your tents, O Jacob,
    your encampments, O Israel!
Like palm groves that stretch afar,
    like gardens beside a river,
like aloes that the Lord has planted,
    like cedar trees beside the waters.
Water shall flow from his buckets,
    and his seed shall be in many waters;
his king shall be higher than Agag,
    and his kingdom shall be exalted.
God brings him out of Egypt
    and is for him like the horns of the wild ox;
he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries,
    and shall break their bones in pieces
    and pierce them through with his arrows.
He crouched, he lay down like a lion
    and like a lioness; who will rouse him up?
Blessed are those who bless you,
    and cursed are those who curse you.”
And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the Lord has held you back from honor.” And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the Lord speaks, that will I speak’? And now, behold, I am going to my people. Come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”

And he took up his discourse and said,

“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
    the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
    falling down with his eyes uncovered:
I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
    and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Edom shall be dispossessed;
    Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
    Israel is doing valiantly.
And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
    and destroy the survivors of cities!”
Then he looked on Amalek and took up his discourse and said,

“Amalek was the first among the nations,
    but its end is utter destruction.”
And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said,

“Enduring is your dwelling place,
    and your nest is set in the rock.
Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned
    when Asshur takes you away captive.”
And he took up his discourse and said,

“Alas, who shall live when God does this?
    But ships shall come from Kittim
and shall afflict Asshur and Eber;
    and he too shall come to utter destruction.”
Then Balaam rose and went back to his place. And Balak also went his way.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Fire Of Heaven

The Fire of Heaven Trilogy by Bill Myers is a great read, but the third book, Fire of Heaven, from which the trilogy gets its name, is the best.

Ordinarily I am very reluctant to read anything that puts the book of Revelation into fictional form; for one thing, the warnings inside the book itself about adding anything to God's word are very clear. But Bill Myers is a Christian author I trust. He is very biblical and his books are always a revelation of Jesus.  

And strangely enough Bill Myers avoids the usual pitfalls and instead writes something approaching an allegory. And he also undermines any literalism anyone might have about his interpretations of the prophecies in the story itself by pointing out that no one before Jesus' coming had any clue about how the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament would be fulfilled, so therefore, when this passage from Revelation is fulfilled it would likely be in a very different form from anything anyone guesses.

You see, Fire of Heaven book III is the story of the two witnesses in Revelation 11: in Bill's book, a married couple who together are prophets, warning the unfaithful church and pronouncing God's judgement on the world. Both in their own way are unfaithful to God at various points in the story, and their story is really about something every Christian must do: coming to the point of letting one's own hopes and very life die, so that Jesus can work through us. For -

  'unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life' John 12:24-25

This is the small story from Revelation dramatised in the book: 

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouth and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.  Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

But after the three and a half days the breath[b] of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Revelation 11:1-13

Of course, like every prophecy in Revelation this one has been interpreted many ways. Some say the two witnesses are the lampstands of Christianity and Judaism, others that they are two churches in Jerusalem. 

But the intriguing explanation to me was always that they are a married couple - you see, in Greek it says 'fire comes from their mouth' not 'mouths' as it is sometimes translated. So two witnesses, having only one mouth, some scholars have reasoned are therefore one flesh - i.e. a married couple. 

What is so marvellous about Fire of Heaven is not, however, its prophetic potential as a literal description of coming events - Bill Myers explicitly refuses to claim that he is describing what will happen (a good thing too - for that would be adding something to the words written down by John) - rather, he is bringing a message for all Christians about what following Christ ought to mean, particularly for modern Western Christians.  

In a strange, very intense way, this book is truly romantic as well. It is an allegory of Christian marriage - as well as a very prophetic look at the modern Western church - it is a full allegorical description of what is lacking in the life of the modern Western Christian - i.e., death to self, obedience to and love for Jesus Christ. 

I am still in the desert in my life - the wilderness - what I thought was God's will, due to my completely stuffing it (everything) up, has gone completely wrong. But you see, now I realise how inevitable this was. I could not really, truly come to the point of dying to myself until I had stuffed everything up I thought God wanted me to do completely, and now, I am at the point where I am resigned, but now believing and trusting that nothing can be done in my strength, but that the Lord Jesus is all, and in all. 

And when we truly begin to comprehend how great God the Father's love for us is - that he gives his only Son, to save us, so that we will not perish but have eternal life - then we realise how many great things are surely still in store for us - and we must have faith in the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - that He will bring everything to pass, that is meant to be. For God sees the future, in every detail. 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Towards a theology of science - or, the role of basic honesty, humility, and patience

What is science? This video of Richard Feynman, the famous physicist, is particularly good:

Science is basically this: forming a theory that fits the known facts better than other theories. Devise a test to see if it is true - this test must contain a prediction. Perform the test - if the data from the test fits the prediction, then the theory is true, otherwise it is not.

Without the data you have nothing.

This procedure demands at least four qualities of character from the scientist: honesty, humility, patience and perseverance. Where honesty is lacking, results can't be trusted - now, an honest, humble scientist can acknowledge to himself that he might be cherry-picking the data or overlooking something, for humility acknowledges, 'I might be wrong about this.' Patience is able to wait until a real result is found. Perseverance keeps going, even though so far, the efforts have been fruitless. These are qualities of character, that can be taught, but necessarily must be taught from a young age...

An increasing problem is that funding for science is being made conditional on political or economic usefulness in their results for scientists in universities - which really is not helpful - in a sense this forces scientists to dress up their results as propaganda or economically beneficial. Indeed, a lot of so-called science is actually propaganda dressed up as science.

For instance, right now, somewhere in a school in a Western country, a high-school guidance counsellor, on the authority of possessing a psychology degree or at least some sort of guidance qualification that claims scientific authority, will be telling a student struggling with thoughts of same-sex attraction, "Once gay, always gay." Yet the data says otherwise - sexual identity in late adolescence is extremely fluid, actually, particularly among young women, and those who are unsure of their sexuality become almost exclusively heterosexual. And another longitudinal study found of those at 26 years old who had felt some same sex attraction, only half of them still experienced that.

Another example - reporters on certain TV channels are often claiming this or that weather event as evidence of 'climate change*,' the propagandistic euphemism constructed in the late 2000s to obscure the clear evidence that much so-called science concerning global warming is a beat-up and a fraud (read the 2009 emails leaked from the Hadley Climate Centre if you doubt what I'm saying). Climate always changes - the only question is, is this change a result of extra CO2 being put into the atmosphere by humans? (Usually the sensible answer is either 'probably not,' or 'only a small percentage of it is')

Along the same lines quite often a study comes out saying that 'this computer model shows that such and such will happen in the future.' What is sad is that many so-called science reporters report these studies as proven fact without looking any deeper - invariably these computer models do not have any authority to claim to be able to model future events, because invariably they so far have not done so. Only computer models that have demonstrated their ability to model the future successfully should be heeded, yet quite often science reporters will report an unproven computer model as if it was a proven factual account of the most likely future.

Indeed - science reporters often do not report facts, science journals and science departments will take ideological stands against employees who discover facts they do not like. It took more than fourteen years for Mary Schweitzer, a scientist who discovered soft tissue in T-Rex fossils, to have her results accepted by mainstream palaeontology. Mark Armitage, a microscopist who found soft-tissue with remarkably little degradation in a Triceratops horn, was dismissed by California State University, whom he sued and won a $400,000 settlement, because of the quality of his research, actually.
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/10/07/cal-state-northridge-settles-christian-lab-manager-who-said-he-was-fired-creationist

How does all this fit into theology? Well, for one thing, we should expect the world to be comprehensible, because it was created by a rational Deity. And I think we should expect to be surprised sometimes when we find out what the facts are, because in fact, the wisdom of God is higher and more mysterious than human foolishness, God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (I Corinthians 3:19, Isaiah 55:9)

But also - on the other side of the equation - we should expect some scientists to make mistakes, lie, cheat, fudge results, create false data, we should expect them to conspire together at times to exclude true results from peer review, etc etc, particularly when they are under financial pressure, or their career is under threat, or they are under political pressure, but also sometimes even when they aren't under any pressure. We should expect scientists to at times suppress results. Why? Because scientists are human beings, sinful humans, and people in every field and every sphere of life do evil sometimes.

A scientific problem demands a scientific solution. A question that is scientific in nature needs a scientific answer. But for a problem concerning morality, a spiritual problem, a spiritual answer is needed. And scientists are not the only ones whose morality fails at times - we are all in the same boat, in fact, when it comes to that.

And in fact, the answer to this failing of human morality is not found in science, but in Jesus Christ - for, as far as I know, there is no one else I have ever heard of that can turn a bad human being into a good one. And there is no one else anyone knows about who can take away the guilt of sin and turn it into the peace of knowing you are completely forgiven by God.

*interestingly, even unprecedented Antarctic sea ice can now be called 'extreme climate change'. The whole term is now perfect double speak, for it is completely divorced from the idea of warming. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/u-of-m-climate-change-study-postponed-due-to-climate-change-428030543.html

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Toe the LGBTQI line; or pray for them instead? & concerning the Shekinah

In Canada, if parents refuse to go along with their child's gender choice, the child can now be removed from the parents by the authorities by law. Interestingly this article points to efforts to make this type of thing happen in Australia too, but so far it hasn't.

https://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/if-you-dont-like-the-message-you-can-always-thump-the-messenger/19946

We certainly seem to be living in the decline of Christendom in the West, i.e. Christian political influence/worldly power. This might not be a bad thing - as Soren Kierkegaard pointed out in 'Fear and Trembling', Europe and the West was only nominally Christian anyhow, and the one thing the bourgeois people of his day did not understand was salvation by faith, i.e. what faith is, that faith is both serenely easy and incredibly, impossibly difficult; (in fact it is a gift from God and can't be earned). In that book Kierkegaard points out that Abraham had to offer Isaac for sacrifice, before he received God's blessing on his son. Anything significant we receive from Jesus we must first give up, I believe. Perhaps this may include God's blessing on our society. This certainly must include a wife for me, if such a miracle ever happened, for I have already had to give up on more than one before ever marrying them.

But my obsessions aside, what will become of the Western powers is far from decided.

Nevertheless, one thing we must remember is that flesh and blood is not our enemy.

The LGBTQI activists are not our enemies, nor, actually, are Moslem terrorists (though they believe we are their enemies, and indeed believe that they are commanded by God to be our enemies), nor are left-wing politicians our enemies or right-wing economic rationalist politicians nor anyone else who hates Christians.

(& if we don't pray for all these groups, why are we surprised when they descend further and further into irrationality, lies and half-truths?)

No, all these groups, to a lesser or greater extent, are deceived by the real powers that are our enemies. These powers are behind every earthly power that persecutes or hates Christians - these are the heavenly powers opposed to God, the powers that crucified Jesus, this same 'power of the air' that has fought against Israel and caused gentile pagan nations and nominal Christians to hate God's chosen people, the Jews, throughout the centuries, and these same powers have tried to corrupt and destroy God's church through the centuries, from without and within, by persecution, heresy, and at other times by comfortable worldliness and self-indulgence and riches and luxury.

These evil heavenly powers are Satan and his angels, arrayed against God and every sign of God's presence on earth. They have, by the way, already been thoroughly defeated by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. But until he returns to claim final victory, the battles must continue, I believe for the sake of those who might (and will) be saved, plucked away from Satan's kingdom to belong to Jesus, in the interim.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, before Jesus came, by the way, God's presence on earth was the Shekinah, the glory-cloud, on the throne on top of the box of the covenant, and in the holy Jewish temple, although God's presence is also everywhere in heaven and earth. Now, since the abandonment of the Jewish temple by the Holy Spirit* and its destruction, and since the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon those who believe in Jesus, God's presence is found with those who believe and confess Jesus Christ, whose bodies are themselves temples of the Holy Spirit, and who together make up Christ's body on earth - his hands and feet to do God's will and pray and bring God's kingdom on earth.

Accordingly, we must pray for and (when in a position to do so) love and serve LGBTQI activists, Moslem bigots, left wing intolerants, right wing atheists, and anyone and everyone who hates Christians. After all, perhaps the people who are blind need our prayers even more than those who can already see...

*Re the Shekinah, the Glory Cloud, abandoning the temple. It was recorded to have happened in Holy Scripture by the prophet Ezekiel in around 594BC, when the sin of the Israelites was so great that God's glory left the temple, and hovered above the 'mountain which is on the East side of the city', the mount of Olives (Interestingly Jesus spent many nights on the Mount of Olives teaching and praying with his disciples, and the Garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed was at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Christ exhibited a real fondness for this place, beloved (strangely enough) of the Shekinah also...):

 “Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.  Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’S glory...”Ezekiel 10:3-4 

“When the cherubim stood still, the wheels would stand still; and when they rose up, the wheels would rise with them, for the spirit of the living beings was in them. Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them; and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD'S house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them" Ezekiel 10:17-19  

"Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.  Ezekiel 11:22 

 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.” Ezekiel 11:23 

Furthermore, apparently, in the era immediately after the New Testament was written, in 66 AD, the Spirit also is recorded to have left the temple and apparently abode on the Mount of Olives for three and a half years as a witness against the sin of the people. This is not found in scripture, but in other historical sources from the 1st and 2nd centuries, which I give you - whether this contradicts the tearing of the temple curtain when Jesus died I do not know - but the sources include Eusebius, an early Christian writer, so...

“Moreover, at the festival which is called Pentecost, the priests on entering the inner court of the Temple at nightfall, as their custom was in accomplishment of their ministrations, stated that they first became aware of a commotion and a roar, and after that the voice of a great multitude saying “We are departing hence” (Josephus' War VI, 299).

“… A sudden lightning flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure.” Histories, 5:13 Cornelius Tacticus

Rabbi Jonathan “abode on the Mount of Olives hoping that Israel would repent, but they did not; while a Bet Kol [a supernatural voice from heaven] issued forth announcing, Return, O backsliding children [Jer. 3:14]. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you [Mal. 3:7], when they did not repent, it said, I will return to my place [Hosea 5:15]” (Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations 2:11). — Secrets of Golgotha, by Ernest L. Martin. 84.

 “Believers in Christ congregate from all parts of the world, not as of old time because of the glory of Jerusalem, nor that they may worship in the ancient Temple at Jerusalem, but…that they may worship at the Mount of Olives opposite to the city, whither the glory of the LORD migrated when it left the former city.” (Eusebius’ book Proof of the Gospel Book VI, Chapter 18 (288)).

http://beforeitsnews.com/religion/2011/06/pentecost-the-presence-leaves-the-temple-705224.html



Sunday, 11 June 2017

No Condemnation in Christ, & our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

Romans 8:1 is such a wonderful verse. It set me off thinking while I walked the dog today, about various things.

One thing is - when people have various illnesses, misfortunes in their life, even problems such as mental illness, poverty, betrayal by others, the comforting fact about knowing Christ is this: we know he has forgiven our sins - when misfortune strikes the one thing a Christian can know for certain is that it is not a sign of God's disapproval, condemnation, or his lack of forgiveness. I think this thought troubles people who are sick or people who suffer misfortune more than anything - the thought that 'God is punishing me - I deserve it - God is showing his condemnation of me.' But there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The subsequent verses set me to thinking about the Holy Spirit, and certain doubts that are sometimes put into my mind. How do I know I have the Holy Spirit? How do I know I really am a Christian? This verse came to mind:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water." (I've used 'belly' as it's a slightly more literal translation) Living water, in Hebrew, simply means, running water.

It is a wonderful verse, and speaks of the Holy Spirit who works through us, to comfort others, when we believe in Jesus, and the truth is that it is when we are praying for others, serving them for Jesus' sake, serving Jesus for them, that in those moments the Holy Spirit is 'running water', moving through us, flowing outwardly to comfort, strengthen, save and help others. In a sense, our assurance that God is with us comes when we are comforting others.

The other thing I wondering  about this verse was which scripture it was referring to - because I really couldn't think of anywhere in the Old Testament where that exact verse appeared, "out of his belly will flow rivers of living water".

I looked up a few commentaries and one of them pointed to descriptions of the temple in the Old Testament such as this one from Ezekiel:

The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). ... He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets.... Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47: 1-2, 8-12

Now I understood which scriptures Jesus was referring to! The scriptures about the waters that flow from the temple, which really are living waters, in that wherever they flow they bring life. I think Jesus' saying is a kind of puzzle, designed to make us think about who we are, who are Christians, how privileged we are.

You see, Jesus also said of himself:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again John 2:19

Jesus thought of his own body as God's temple.

And likewise, Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us our bodies are God's temple:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body

In this section, actually, Paul is telling the Corinthians to flee sexual immorality because it is a sin against your own body, which is God's temple. But the thought that my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit really is a staggering one, with so many implications.

In the Old Testament times, God had a temple made, so he could live on earth among his people. But this was a temporary solution for achieving his presence on earth. Today God lives in us. Our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit. 

It's an awesome thought. 



Book Review - Planet Narnia.

I am currently reading Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. I'm about a third the way through, but on the basis of the evidence presented so far I don't think anyone could doubt that CS Lewis secretly used the visible (medievally acknowledged) planets as the basis for the 'mood' and 'atmosphere' of each one of the Narnia books.

Here's just a sample of the wonderful, informative, probing writing. It's a small section about the Silver Chair, whose planet is the moon, Luna, which I found very useful in explaining some of the particular qualities of this particular (rather wonderful) book.

The Lunar Logos (Kindle location 3006) 

Luna presents Lewis with a peculiar problem apropos the communication of a theological message. Luna is different from the other six planets in that she borders the realm of mutability and to some extent shares its imperfections: 'the rim of the world that was waste goes through her. Half her orb is turned towards us and shares our curse.' This is a different problem from the one presented by the two infortunas, Mars and Saturn. Here, with Luna, Lewis has to express something 'about Christ' using a symbol that is not good per se (as all six translunary planets are) but partially corrupt. How can Aslan be depicted as the incarnation of such a spiritual symbol? 

The answer is by having him assume the good, upper half of Luna's qualities, and the opposite of the bad, lower half. We will address his assumption of the good, upper half later in this section; his assumption of the opposite of the lower half will be addressed straightaway. Rather than Aslan taking on Lunar doubt and insanity and so on, he is shown to be literally above all that, and to be opposed to it. As Como notes, 'Only in Aslan's country - where all harms are healed - are the highest claims, especially that of certainty, affirmed.' The lower half of the Luna world is not one that he can embody or in which he can appear in very truth, for the whole point of the lunary divide is that, below that line, very truth is not to be had. The only way Aslan can manifest himself in this realm of uncertainty is through the four Signs, delivered before certainty has been left behind, and in the brief revelatory dream that Jill has in chapter 8. 

What is marvellous about reading this book is that it hints at ways that a writer may achieve atmosphere in a book, through the most secretive means - this is what CS Lewis achieves - he never confessed to anyone this underlying means of unity in the Narnia books - & it is a great book to read if you love reading CS Lewis.