Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Thoughts on Righteousness.

Some thoughts:

If our identity is tied up in what we do, if our sense of righteousness/success comes from what we achieve, we will never know peace or a true sense of success, whether or not we succeed or fail. Our lives will be tied to a kind a self-willed hell, where everything relies on us. (The great risk of life is that this self-willed hell continue into the afterlife, where - who knows - it may well end up being our eternal state.)

But if our identity - if our righteousness/ sense of success is in Christ - then success or failure in anything we do are no longer an issue. Having Christ as our righteousness frees us to do whatever God is asking us to do, without having to feel that anything - success -failure -depends on us. For Jesus has already succeeded, on the cross. If our identity and our sense of success and righteousness is in Christ then we need not ever fear anything coming between us and our destiny. Praise the Lord!

BTW the whole book of Romans in the Bible is on this theme, and is most useful for understanding how we might have our righteousness in Christ, not in ourselves.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Ceaseless Love.

God could no more stop loving you
Than the sun could cease to shine
God could no more stop loving you
Than the stars could choose themselves to realign

There is no place where God's grace
Cannot reach to shine His light
Turn to Him, you'll see His face
Hide in Him, you'll know His might
Live in Him, you'll know His power
Let this be, this very hour.



Friday, 8 September 2017

What is missing.

A piece of my life is missing: the wife I'm supposed to marry. 
Every day I hope, but the day to come seems to tarry 

The fact that the blessing that is missing, is missing, 
Can also be a blessing. 
But the blessing that is missing, can also be a blessing 
When it is no longer missing. 

Your absence is a cross i bear 
Like a man carrying a hole 
Where a whole is meant to be. 

This absence is a blessing that I share
with others, who carry burdens, I help them bear. 

But your presence would also be a cross for me to bear
For I would be Christ to you, 
Carrying your burdens, loving you, and this would be 
To others also
A blessing too
And you would be 
A blessing, in so many ways, to me. 

God in his riches fills up the empty and fulfils the full. 
God in his grace is present in every time and every sort of place. 
God in his kindness is the Father whose presence is there 
Even when a tiny bird falls out of the sky. 
How much more, for you and I? 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Gotham

Brilliant TV show! They have done Batman really well. There is a dimension of depth to Bruce Wayne and Alfred's relationship.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Thoughts on God's intentions.

Gandalf: BILBO BAGGINS! DO NOT TAKE ME FOR SOME CONJURER OF CHEAP TRICKS! I AM NOT TRYING TO ROB YOU! [gently] I'm trying to help you. [Bilbo, frightened, hugs Gandalf] All your long years, we have been friends. Trust me, as you once did. Let it go.

This may be one of my last posts here - I have a feeling the end of the usefulness of this blog may be approaching - but who knows?

But my thought is this: like Gandalf's speech to Bilbo in Lord of the Rings, God's word is intended to help us. Not to harm us.

Today people often use as a rule of thumb, 'do what you want as long as you don't hurt yourself or anybody else.'

But the question then becomes - whose authority will you believe when it comes to what is harmful to self or others?

God's definition of harmful should surely be believed because only He knows all the facts.

Where scripture defines something as harmful, not allowable, or as not helpful, or as not what God intended, or as something to be left behind once a person decides to follow Jesus, surely we deny that definition of what is harmful at our own peril. You or I cannot know everything. We need to be humble before God about what He says in the Bible and accept His definition of what is helpful and what is harmful.

And what is most harmful? Our own habitual sins. Not anybody else's.

& by the way probably the most helpful thing we can all do is realise we are all sinners, and forgive others, and be forgiven ourselves...

Matthew 6:14
    "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins."

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Poem - Dead to Thee.

With one stroke of the pen, you wrote me out of your story,
As simply and completely as closing the door of a tomb.
I, with a tome of 800 pages, I praised your hidden glory!
Should I take back a single word, into the artistic womb?
Change what I had written, make a clean sweep with the broom?

I would still praise you, if you'd have it, though now I understand
The secret is you don't deserve it. Not a bit. Not in the least.
Should this make me love you less? I love you, but not the hand
That made that stroke upon the page that meant we ceased,
At least, not that hand upon that day, when my heart got creased.

That same hand I would love greatly if it were raised in welcome now.
I would love that hand evermore! Have no doubt, I forgive thee.
But my guess is, you will never read these words. You won't allow
The thought to enter in your mind that I could ever be
Anything but dead to thee.

God and Satan.

Some points:

*God and Satan are not two sides of the same coin/ equivalent. Satan is a created creature, who went wrong and turned away from God. God is Sovereign Ruler over all creation and Creator of everything.

*Jesus and Judas' names are not the same either in meaning or etymology (can you believe someone once told me this and sincerely believed it? As is common in such cases, he didn't want to know the facts of the matter.) Jesus' name is Yeshua or Yehoshua, i.e., Joshua, and means "Yahweh Saves", Judas' name is Yehudah and means "Yahweh be praised."  - and if you think it's unusual that they both start with J (or Y in Hebrew) Y is the most common letter to start names in in Hebrew of those days, since the diminutive Ya or Ye stands for Yahweh.

*Good and evil are not equivalent/ two sides of the same coin. (Does anyone really believe this?) It is a thing people say who have read too much Eastern philosophy for their own good. Goodness is exemplified by the self-sacrifice of Jesus for others, and ultimately it is much greater than evil which has already been defeated by Christ on the cross; this fact is demonstrated by the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at HIs right hand on high.

*God can use evil deeds that created beings do, to accomplish His own purposes, seen by the fact that God used Satan through Judas to get Jesus crucified - God used the evil that Judas did to save the world. Every evil that befalls us, every ill that occurs, God can use to bring forth greater good.

*Ultimately God's sovereign will, will be seen to rule over everything.

*God wishes for us to accomplish God's will - not by doing evil and thereby becoming an unwilling instrument in God's hands, but primarily by coming to know God, by having a relationship with God, by participating in the life of the Trinity through Jesus, and our lives then will bear fruit because we are 'plugged in' to the ultimate energy of the three-Persona-ed-God Who rules and runs the universe, the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Listen if you have ears.

A more nuanced understanding of this phenomenon, whereby closed mindedness is characterised as open mindedness:

What is happening is that the opponents of various social measures that 'everyone agrees on' are being characterised as intolerant, clinging to tradition, the modern equivalent of the Pharisees in the gospels.

The fact that some people who oppose the (wrong) factual assertions accompanying these social measures  have come to this conclusion by a process of measured, thoughtful research/reasoning does not matter, and certainly does not fit into the current narrative. Particularly, a conversion story to conservatism is certainly not the kind of story the progressives want to hear.

Someone who starts out open minded, considers the evidence, then comes to a conclusion, is then characterised these days as closed minded if they come to the conclusion we disagree with. But it is those who won't even look at the evidence who are truly closed minded.

"Hear - if you have ears," Jesus said. But today, more and more people are characterising those they disagree with as figures of caricature, less and less will they even read or listen to what they actually say, or engage with any of their arguments. Something CS Lewis predicted a long time ago.

An ominous sign, I think, reminiscent of times in the past that have not ended well for those not in the status quo.

Open and Closed mindedness.

It seems to me that people are less and less inclined to listen to or consider an opinion different from their own.

It used to be that open-mindedness meant an ability to consider different opinions, to weigh evidence, and perhaps come to a new point of view, a different point of view, a different opinion as to the truth of this or that matter.

These days they don't even read something all the way through if it differs from their own established opinion. They certainly don't consider or weigh evidence. Even the most uneducated person considers that their own opinion is an absolute.

Facebook confirms this.

No, what 'Open-Mindedness' means for this generation of Westerners is, 'Agrees with me.' If someone agrees with me about something then they are according to this definition open minded. If they disagree then they are closed- minded.

What is upsetting about this is that if a person truly is open-minded then likely they have considered the evidence. But once they have come to a decision about that evidence they will appear closed-minded, but only because they now know. 

For instance someone I know who looked at the evidence regarding climate change, & the evidence against, with an open mind, and concluded that the evidence against climate change being anything to worry about is a great deal stronger, in fact, the evidence for global warming is altogether spurious. (But don't take anyone's word for it. Check it out yourself. Look at both sides, weigh the evidence)

And what about gay marriage, etc?

Well, one claim that I've seen repeated is that the Bible says nothing about homosexuality. I hardly care what they say about gay marriage in civil society, but when Christians make claims about the Bible- well, one would hope they have been open-minded enough to actually look at what the Bible really does say, rather than simply parroting other people's opinions.

I think the well known section in Romans 1 is clear enough - note that it is in the context that Paul is saying soon afterwards, "Don't judge, because we are all sinners". But the meaning of "arsenokoites" is disputed by some same-sex marriage advocates, which greatly affects the two other New Testament passages to do with homosexuality,  1 Cor 6.9 and 1 Tim 1.10.

In Leviticus 16:19 the greek is "kai meta arsenos ou koiméthésé koitén gunaikos" And with a-man you-shall-not sleep in-a-bed as with a woman, the passage Paul's term very clearly summarises, "arsenokoites", 'man-bedding', translated 'male concubine' in the Latin Vulgate, and 'man-sleeping-with-man' or something similar in the Syriac and Coptic New Testaments.

This article by Daniel Wallace explains the issues very clearly I believe:
https://bible.org/article/review-mel-white-s-what-bible-says-and-doesn-t-say-about-homosexuality

The thing is, does anyone really care enough about what the New Testament really says, to look at the evidence honestly and change their opinion on that basis, if they find themselves disagreeing with God's word? I think this attitude might be very rare.

It makes me feel rather depressed, because many people characterize someone like me  as the one who is 'closed-minded' these days. Yet I was man enough to look into the New Testament, find out what it says, face that fact honestly and allow the scripture to shape my thoughts, allow my opinions to be changed if necessary.

And I was man enough to look at the science behind this or that scientific claim, grasp the issues, weigh the evidence and come to a conclusion based on evidence, even if it made me unpopular.

Where has integrity gone?  Where has honesty gone? They have fled, it would seem, and everyone is too much of a coward to even consider the veracity of this or that claim, & they would rather find safety in conforming to the herd.

Even when the herd might turn out to be a herd of rhinoceroses. Turns out maybe Ionesco was right.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Chronicles of Marwe.

Chronicles of Marwe is coming along, as are two or three other books that I'm readying for release. However another project has taken my attention for a short while, one completely unrelated to my books... 

But I'm quite pleased with where the Chronicles of Marwe is headed. Here's the cover, already created, for a book that isn't finished yet!  

Not sure whether to release the three books as one or separately. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Fragment of a Romantic Poem.

....And I would say to you,
Will you let me be your King? 
Under Aslan, who in this world 
Is Christ, the Lord of everything? 

I would give my life for you 
My lovely bride, my holy Queen,
As Christ was a sacrifice 
For His holy city, to wash her clean. 

Will you my own helpmate be 
Serving Jesus alongside me? 
Will you cleave to me as one,
Two whole tunes, in unity? 

This life is the prelude to 
The wedding banquet yet to come 
This holy anointing that we bear 
Is the promise of our eternal home. 

Every cross we carry here 
Becomes a jewel in our crown.
Every sorrow here we bear
Prepares us for our heavenly throne. 

The rulers who will share Christ's throne 
And rule with him over the All 
Must, like him, bear suffering, 
For this is their holy call. 

But those who suffer also rule 
With Christ, and thus his people build 
At the very gates of Hell, true forth tell
Of heaven in this sorrowing world. 

Thus in this world let our home be 
A place of peace where others find 
A refuge from the cruel world 
Built to Christ's own plans and mind. 

For all Christ's thoughts and wishes for
Our way of life are in His word. 
Together let us build our home 
Upon the foundation of our Lord. 

For unless the Lord builds the house, 
those who build, labour in vain. 
Unless the Lord watches over the city 
The watchmen stay awake in vain. 

Our foundation stone Jesus became
When dying, He took all our sin and shame. 
And God sealed Him as the only Son 
When He rose Him up again 

And God made Him reign over all 
When He ascended to sit on God's throne,
He is our King, and I'll be yours
And you will be my Queen and home.

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.
Isaiah 30:29 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

More about Rationality.

Thoughts. 

People usually use rationality to justify decisions they have already taken. (Hence the term 'rationalisation'.

Or (sometimes) to resist taking a decision when someone seems to be pressuring them to take a particular decision. (Hence how it can force someone to take the reverse decision to the one a 'rational' person is recommending.)

The wonderful thing about Jesus is that his arguments were not argued from a rational basis, he was not a philosopher, but rather much of His teaching is bearing witness about two things:

1) What the human heart is like (not good!)
2) What the human heart might be like if we were more like God our Father, who is perfect & perfectly loving.

Following Jesus is a matter of a changed heart, first and foremost, a heart changed by God to love others instead of loving self. The mind, the rationality, the rationalisations, follows.

Jesus turns the world's way upside down. He tells us to serve others instead of looking to lord it over them, to forgive and turn the other cheek instead of seeking revenge, to tell the simple truth instead of trying to manipulate.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Perils of Rationality.

What scares me about rational argument is that people can arrive at opposite conclusions and both believe that they are completely rational, then they can justify completely that the other person's point of view is irrational because he (i.e. the other person) is using 'rhetoric' (it's only rhetoric if the other person is using it, it's a rational argument if I'm using it; I think this is how they think).

Take a person (I just met one) who believes vaccination is evil because some children die from it. Yet take diseases like tetanus, for instance - when you think of the havoc that used to cause, the terrible suffering, to so many people, is it not worth a few people risking danger, for the sake of getting rid of that terrible disease? I think accepting the risk of vaccination on behalf of all the people who won't get sick because of vaccination is actually a Christ-like thing to do.

But I just had an argument with a person who sincerely believed me to be completely wrong about this.

It was very distressing, particularly when I got so annoyed with the lady that I purposely brought up climate change, because I just knew she would want to argue about that too... (Ironically it was the Australian ABC, the bastion of climate change belief, who initially alerted me to the other side of the argument online back in 2008/2009, and that was when I went down the rabbit hole.)

This is what scares me about human thinking though. Not many people will honestly look at both sides of an argument. They are too scared of having their minds changed.

And the problem is, if you are a person who goes out of their way to listen to both sides, once you have decided, everyone who is on the other side calls you bigoted, closed-minded, says you are thinking in a box.

Yet it is not the person who has looked at both sides of an argument and then decided that one is right who is closed minded.

(Afterthought added a few minutes later: It is actually the person who has only looked at one side of an argument and refuses to consider the other side who is closed-minded: this is the only rational definition of closed-mindedness. But today, the common definition of closed-minded has changed. People will say you are closed-minded if you have looked at both sides of an argument and come to any conclusion other than the one the person you are arguing with believes. particularly when they have not ever considered in their wildest dreams that they might be wrong or that any person who is in any way rational might disagree with them. )

(Auuugh!)

(PS another Afterthought - this is what is so lovely about Jesus in contrast to the rest of us. His arguments on any subject come from one place alone: complete faith in and submission to a completely loving, good God, His Father in heaven, who is also our Father in heaven through Him. Praise Jesus ! )



Love your Enemies. What about if you are your own worst enemy?

Jesus' beautiful words, quoted tonight at Mt Pleasant baptist church by John Dickson, apologist here:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them."

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-36 English Standard Version (ESV)

The wonderful thing about these verses is that Jesus is telling us to do nothing more than He did Himself.

Who has not been on the wrong end of the wrath of a Christian who thought they were 'in the right?' Those who think they are 'in the right' often do more damage than any number of evil people who know they are doing the wrong thing.

We often do bad by ourselves too - by giving in to passions, selfishness, a divisive spirit, having to be 'right', intellectual pride  - various evil habits that make us our own worst enemies (my habits if I'm truthful at times).

If one is one's own worst enemy, should one therefore love oneself? Yes, by receiving the forgiveness, grace, friendship of Jesus, Who is so gentle and kind and forgiving, that one might truthfully hope that by receiving from Him His friendship, then His Spirit, influencing and moving in our souls, might make us a little more like Him and more inclined to love those who hurt us and incline us to such gentleness ourselves. Dear Lord let this be so for all Christians, Amen.

How do you love someone who has cast you out of their life completely? (This happens) By praying for them.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Ultima Thule prophecy.

Just had an email query from a reader asking about this prophecy about Ultima Thule in Steam Submarine into Ultima Thule, and where I got the idea from, whether from some Thule prophecy or ancient source or mystical text or other:

I thought my followers who read this blog might be interested in my reply, so I've reproduced it here:

Dear ----

Thankyou for your interest in my books!

No I did not use any source for this, although I sometimes do in my books. I can’t really say where the idea came from, but it may have come out of the following rather bizarre cogitations:

1) I projected forwards our current technology and the modern experience-oriented mindset, to the point where people might wish to join minds to have some sort of mental/emotional communion, a parody of Christian ideas of communion with Christ. I believe such a technology would end in the depersonalisation of massive numbers of people in an addictive mass experience, probably sexual/spiritual/drug-like in nature. Such a technology would be either genetic manipulation/biological of some sort or electronic through some sort of mind/machine interface, but of course in the case of the elves in my Ultima Thule they do it through ‘magic’, which works in that world, and such a mass-mind is the ultimate expression of their mastery of the world through magic, just as the scientists would say it is the ultimate expression of our science. (Both magic and science try to attain mastery over the world - it just so happens that science was successful at doing this in the past in our world and not magic)

2) I was also thinking that in the kingdom of hell, every individual demon or unfortunate person who becomes part of that kingdom ultimately loses their individuality and becomes an expression of Satan’s will and personality, and eventually their own personality or soul becomes more and more a chaotic mess, the left-behind bits of themselves. (See C.S.Lewis’ Perelandra for a rather chilling and I think unfortunately accurate depiction of this process, which I believe can really happen.) This is of course the danger of the occult - it sucks people in and drains them of their individuality, leaving them often mentally ill and spiritually bereft. The opposite of God, I might add, who asks people to consent to His rule over them, then gives them their individuality.

3) And I was also reflecting upon the fact that the world of advertising and mass media these days generally also offers people complete individuality through things they purchase (new car, ‘relationship’, money, fancy house, new TV, Coca Cola etc etc) which ultimately results in a slave mentality and loss of individuality because people become the slaves of whatever outside of themselves (for many, money or success) that they give themselves to (can be any other thing too, romantic love, another person, wisdom, knowledge, even family can enslave someone by becoming an ultimate goal), whereas in contrast Jesus Christ offers faith in Him and subjection to His kingship, which results in a person losing their lives to His reign in service to others, but finding their own complete individuality in Him.

4) Lastly I was wondering what it would take for a loving God to want to give up on a world, destroy that world and create a new heavens and a new earth, which is what happens a little later in that novel, and seems to be how our world will end, Biblically speaking. Ultimately I think something as sinister as that, a ‘mass-mind’ which destroys the souls of those who participate, would make God want to end things, to save the people who could be saved while they still could be.

5) Finally I guess I was probably influenced by thoughts about Star Trek universe’s ultimate enemy, the Borg, and many other sci-fi tropes along those lines. The difference is, I assumed that such a “mass mind” would only work if people entered it willingly, a devastating thought, actually.

So I’m sorry to say, I did not read anywhere in anything I read about Thule or the German Nazi mystical group or anything else about this ‘mass mind’ - it simply came from my own twisted imagination. But I would not be surprised, however, to discover that there was some basis in some text or other. My writing has often come up with such coincidences, for instance the title “Day of Dithingstump” of my latest published novel came to me in a dream, and only afterwards did I discover that a “Dithing Stump” seems to have been an actual word, an Anglo-Saxon blacksmith’s tool for making dishes and helmets.

So I don’t know where my ideas come from, but occasionally they do seem to have a slightly bizarre, coincidental resemblance to something in the real world.

If you do find such a prophecy or mystical writing, please send it to me! I will add it the list of weird things my writing has presaged.

Kind regards,

Robert Denethon.

Not One Jot or Tittle.

In the King James' translation there is this charming phrase, 'not one jot or tittle' - a jot means a dot, essentially, the dot on top of an i, a 'tittle' is the stroke on a "t". Here is the context:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.…Matthew 5:17-19

I am using the King James translation here because the 'jot and tittle' phrase is so memorable, but any translation would do, the point that Jesus is making is the same.

The Law and the Prophets are the Old Testament, the scriptures of Jesus' experience, the Jewish scriptures. And here in this passage Jesus is saying that he has not come to do away with the scriptures but to fulfill them.

In other words, the Bible is very important. It is very important to be obedient to God's word and to teach others to do likewise.

Why are certain churches disappearing today? (In Australia the Uniting Church at present is literally dying because the central office can no longer afford to support the parishes that cannot support themselves, and they are closing the whole organisation. It is like a branch being cut off from the vine... John 15:2)

Why is the Uniting Church dying? Demographics is only part of the picture. Might lack of attention to obedience to God's word and the failure to affirm the value of and uniqueness of the Bible be a reason why this church is dying? I don't think anyone could argue that the Uniting Church, in the end, treated the Bible as just another book, one possibility of spirituality among many, and certainly did not affirm the  unique truth of the Bible by obeying the words written inside it or by teaching others to do the same.

Here in Matthew's gospel Jesus is saying that the Bible not just one holy book among many. The Bible is unique. It is God's Word. And so, if one wishes to follow him, to be great in the kingdom of heaven, one must follow the Bible and teach others to do the same.

In my latest book, "Dragon Den", which I am finishing now, Princess Aerae is enchanted by the clever sorcerer, Zhal, who is really a dragon in disguise, and the initial focus of his efforts is in convincing her that the Aetmedlalin Writings are not unique. (In my books the Aetmedlalin Writings are a symbol for the Bible, Aetmedlalin meaning 'true'  or 'truthful' in the Gryphon tongue). To this end Zhal wishes to convince Princess Aerae there are other prophecies she could follow, the prophecies he wishes her to believe in, to which end he uses flattery and charm and mesmerising speech, for in the end Zhal wishes to take over her entire kingdom.

Princess Aerae in this section is really a symbol or allegory for a part of the Christian church today in the West, which is not being faithful to Jesus Christ because it is not following the Bible faithfully and is not teaching others to do the same. In Aerae's case she is being deceived by the dragon-in-human-disguise, Zhal.

I had a dream during the night that Jesus was pleased with the point I was making in this part of the book. That dream was filled with a sense of His Presence and I am certain it came from Him.

In the scheme of things, when I look back on the recent part my life, it is possible that I am alone today rather than married because I insisted 'this book is true' over various other affirmations various people were making. I don't know this for a fact, I just suspect it.

But let me say, I would very much prefer to be alone than with the woman I love, if being with her meant that I had to compromise on this point. Even if a person's life must be lived alone rather than with one's soul-mate, to affirm this point that the Bible is uniquely true and God's word, well the loneliness will not last forever, but that life of loneliness will end one day in company with Jesus and the saints in heaven in the Messianic Banquet, and that will last forever.

And who knows but that God might have someone else for me, anyway? He is faithful, even when human beings are faithless.

The Bible is God's word and even if it is a single church or a whole denomination or a whole country or even the whole world that disagrees with this, such a church or denomination or country, even such a world, will not last long.

But God's word will last at least until the end of heaven and earth, and God's kingdom will last forever.  And isn't that where we all will want to be, in the end?

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

Please see note below! 

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.  )
~~~~
Afterthought a few weeks later: Doing Jesus' will is as natural as breathing to a Christian. You can't help it. You can't stop wanting to do it. I think I was creating a false dichotomy here. 

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.