A Green Olive Tree

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. (Psalm 52:8a)

Trees are wonderful things in God’s creation, which the Spirit often inspired the writers of Scripture to use as spiritual metaphors. Here is chosen an olive tree, a common and important tree in much of the Mediterranean. An olive tree is known for its shade, its beauty and of course the tasty and soothing oil produced from its olives. David wrote this Psalm when he had gone to the Tabernacle to visit Ahimilech (1 Sam 21). The Tabernacle represented God’s presence, sacrifice for sin and worship (Today believer’s enjoy the presence of God through His Holy Spirit and our sins have been atoned at the Cross; however, we still gather in worship at places like Chapels). He came here as he fled from Saul and here he also met Doeg, Saul’s chief herdsman, who eventually betrayed Ahimilech (he is what is meant by v. 7!). David loved the LORD and enjoyed being in His presence. He recognised when He was in the house of God, he was like a green olive tree.

Can we say we are like a green olive tree, or are we perhaps a half-dead olive tree, or maybe a dead one like Doeg? Whether we are or whether we are not actually hinges upon being in the house of God. Is the public worship of God our joy & a priority above all others? When we gather together each Lord’s Day (and at other times) we declare our trust in God alone (v. 8b), we praise and thank Him (v. 9a) and we seek His face together (v. 9b). Our spiritual health can be measured by faithful delight in attending worship.

This year as we focus on being rooted, may we root ourselves in the Lord, expressed in and aided by being in His house. Oh the blessings that will follow! Then we shall be like a green olive tree.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Snow

I must confess that the Canadian in me awoke with a smile of glee when I saw how muchimg_20190201_0823085b15d snow had fallen over night (5”?). For the English who love these one off snow storms, and for the many school children home from school today the ‘love of snow’ feeling is mutual.

Snow is mentioned in the Bible some 24 times and still today it can occasionally snow in the Holy Land.

Firstly with snow I am impressed by its beauty and how it graces the rest of creation in such a way that transforms it into a new and wonderful landscape:

For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth’. (Job 37:6a)

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,”
(Job 38:22)

Praise the Lord from the earth,… fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
(Ps 148:7a & 8)

Indeed, the snow of our Creator is meant to point us to Him and be a cause of praise to His holy NAME.

Speaking of holiness, snow is also used to describe God’s holy otherness. After Jesus rose from the dead, we are told that, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” (Matthew 28:3; c.f. Rev 1:14). “As snow,” means pure and radiant, exuding freshness and life. Indeed, that is why Jesus came, so that we might become clean like Him.

The third thing I always think of when I see snow, is not only the wonder of our Creator God, nor His awesome holiness, but that same purity He promises to freely bestow to all who believe and trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sin:

David’s Prayer— Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Ps 51:7)

May we marvel at our Creator today, remember His holiness and turn to Him in faith to be made whiter than snow.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Doomsday Clock

235959

The Doomsday Clock has been in the news quite a bit lately. The Clock, run by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, assesses what they believe to be the chance of human initiated world disaster (e.g. nuclear war). It has been frozen at the highest level since 1953 during the Cold War (it began keeping time in 1947). New rivalries between powerful nations, militarism, climate change, tensions in Europe, uncertainty in the USA, a lack of interest in facts; these are just some of the reasons they’ve left the clock at 2 minutes to midnight (midnight representing Doomsday).

Whilst these are real concerns, the clock is the opinion of a select group of scientists. What humours me, in the most serious sense of that saying, is a) the confidence placed in their timing, and b) what their clock fails to take into consideration.

Confidence: Their clock is always moving, when it is near mid-night some people tremble and when it is far away people lose all concern. We shouldn’t place our confidence in the subjective timing of mere humans, but rather the Lord’s clock-watch.

Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour [of His return and the final judgement].” (Matthew 25:13).

The Lord’s Doomsday Clock is always set at 23:59:59.

This is not mean to engender fear or complacency, but rather to propel us to trust in Him for salvation and so be ready for that great day.

Shortcoming: All of the things that the Clock focuses upon are mere symptoms of the problem (i.e. sin). It is also curious that they didn’t name godlessness, immorality and vice. Sure we should look to apply what God’s Word has to say about modern issues, but more importantly we should seek to apply what it says about the disease of sin and the cure of Christ. It wasn’t because of symptoms that God judged the earth in Noah’s day but because of heart issues and wickedness:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found Favour in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:5–8).

2 Peter 2 makes clear as well that when the Lord’s clock strikes midnight it will be at a time of His own choosing, and the Judgement will fall not merely on sinful deeds (many of which the world no longer consider sinful!) but rather upon ungodliness.

What shall we do to prepare ourselves for the day the Lord’s clock does strike midnight – for unlike the Doomsday Clock which can be reversed by human effort, nothing can retard the advance of God’s eternal clock?

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near” (Isa 55:6)

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

Amazing Grace in the Life of Eric Scolding (1933-2018)

This past Lord’s Day we had a booklet launch for a spiritual biography of our dear departed brother, Eric Scolding. The booklet tells his life story from a faith perspective, a perfect read for any Christian, nominal Christian or earnest seeker of Christ.

You may download a pdf. here or pick up a free hardcopy at the Chapel.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Wisdom for Politics

My default Bible translation is the English Standard Version (ESV). However, as I read the Bible to my 6 month old son I am reading from the International Children’s Bible (ICB) at his bedtime readings. At the moment I am reading to him the wisdom of Proverbs. This book has a lot to say about leadership and politics, from a spiritual perspective. One proverb that had never registered with me before, and perhaps did so because I re-encountered it in a children’s translation, is Proverbs 28:2a. This is what says in the ICB:

When a country is disobedient, it has one ruler after another.

[The ESV renders this verse: When a land transgresses, it has many rulers.]

Another way of putting this would be:

“When a country so blatantly sins against the Lord, its politics will be unstable.”

A child is wiser than a godless leader. Such is the case we find our Parliament in at this juncture in history—political deadlock, little faith in its leaders, instability, little seeking of the King of kings. How much good it would be for each Parliamentarian to have a Bible, read Proverbs, believe what it says and in faith put it into practice.

Years ago I read in Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President how former President Jimmy Carter (1977–81) read the book of Proverbs each month (that’s a chapter a day), every year for the four years that he was in office (He also wrote: Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President, which though it has been some time since I read both books, I did generally profit from reading them).

The pursuit of the wisdom of this world has clearly proven how inferior it is to the wisdom that is from above.

The verse, however, not only speaks to leaders who’ve enacted a string of godless legislation in recent years but also the wicked populace who’ve elected them. Saving faith in Jesus is at, arguably, an historic low. We have the Parliament that we deserved. I expect that the last time an official national day of prayer was called was probably during WWII. When will we cease to seek the face of our rulers and know that justice comes from the Lord? (Prov 29:26).

Yet despite all this, as Christians, even though we be in the minority as Abraham and Lot were in Sodom, may we call out to the Lord to have mercy on our land for the sake of His faithful remnant. May the Lord raise up strong and godly leadership (read the second half of our verse).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Follow Me

10:1. That is the ratio between the number of times Jesus said “follow me” in the Gospels to the occasions He said, “believe in me.” Following of course presumes belief, but discipleship authenticates our faith (e.g. Jn 8:12, 31; 10:27; 13:35). It forms part of the fruit of faith. It is how we come to know Jesus more deeply. It is the mission of the Church to make disciples (Mt 28:19), or “to turn people into fully devoted, mature followers of Christ.” “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and that means it is not Christianity at all. Billy Graham said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have.” DISCIPLESHIP, both becoming a follower and the means of maturing as a follower of Jesus, is our 2019 theme (Jer 17:7­–8a). Jesus said some pretty radical things about following Him (c.f. Mt 8:22; 16:24; 19:21). For instance He said, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:38). Whilst the cost of discipleship may be high (perhaps even our lives), Jesus promised it is worth it (Mt 19:27), especially when compared to the cost of non-discipleship. So with expectancy and God as our helper let us prepare for the great adventure of making and maturing disciples in 2019!

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Xmas?

Many Christians can get quite upset when they see this term used which seems to remove their Lord’s name from the cherished celebration of His birth—Christmas.

Is this, however, really a blasphemous move (like saying Christmas) or maybe a quick way to write out an otherwise long word (like saying X_______mas)?

Either way you cut it, you cannot take Christ out of Christmas with Xmas and here is why.

Christ, Jesus title and not his last name, is spelled this way in Greek: Χριστός. Notice anything? That giant “X” is the Greek letter chi used to express what we would say in English as “ch”. So the X in Xmas is actually the first letter in Christ!

Chi RhoIn fact in early Christian history the chi and the rho (the second letter which looks like an English “p” but actually is an “r”), or the first two letters of Christ, were a common symbol of the Christian faith; indeed long before the cross was ever considered. It was by this sign that the future Roman Emperor, Constantine, perceived in a dream that he would conquer by.

So the next time you see Xmas, don’t get upset, but take the time to explain, Christ can never be taken out of Christmas no matter how you cut it!

Happy Christmas,

Pastor Chris

Did you know?

Christians often use the big word “Incarnation” at Christmastime to refer to the miracle that took place that first Christmas, but have you ever wonder what exactly it means?

The carol “Hark the Herald Angels” says this: hail the incarnate deity, please with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. [Emmanuel means God with us, Matt 1:23b]

Instead of using lots of smaller words to say one thing “the incarnation” has been how Christians have referenced this amazing event of Jesus’ birth. Let’s break down the word (in English):

In-carn-ation[1]

“In” speaks of entering into; “carn”—think carnivore— refers to flesh (but not the flesh of turkeys, which I dare say we will be eating a lot of!), human flesh or form; “ation” speaks of the act or process of entering, taking on or enfleshing.

If you string them all together INCARNATION speaks of the event whereby God the Son, the 2nd member of the Trinity, took on human flesh, and was born of a Virgin so as to be the redeemer of mankind. It was an act that of course began at Jesus conception (Lk 1:31) but which culminated at His birth (Lk 2:1).

JOHN 1:14—And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Praise the Lord for the wonder and grace of the Incarnation.

Now you know!

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/incarnation