Issue 92 Summer 2009
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord Jesus, our
Saviour. We trust that you are enjoying & rejoicing in the
Lord’s rich blessings. My spiritual dad used to say why
limit yourself to the grace of God when you can enjoy ‘the riches
of his grace’ [Eph 1:7]. In this issue Ken brings some
thoughts on the Trinity and Philip asks ‘what will Jesus
Thoughts on the Trinity
What will Jesus do?
Persona non grata in Ramallah
The world's tallest building
A Palestinian state
God resists the proud
Thoughts on the Trinity [KK]
Our older readers will recall how thrilled we were to hear about the successful conquest of Mt Everest – now hundreds climb it every year and those ‘high and terrifying slopes’ have become a rubbish dump. We live in an age of triviality, when serious matters are downgraded and insignificant ones magnified and given an importance beyond their deserving. All is reduced by the media to a series of witty sound-bites. This is particularly true in the realm of spiritual and moral matters. Major issues are dismissed with the words ‘so-what’ or ‘big deal’ or the dismissive ‘whatever’. There is little room in our busy world for wonder or amazement. Yet we live in a world of wonder.
The Trinity, an attempt to describe the indescribable, cannot be trivialised. The word is used to express the doctrine of the unity of God as subsisting in three distinct Persons. It took centuries for the doctrine to be worked out: it is expressed in the sonorous language of the Athanasian creed - the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
A W Tozer called that ‘A chicken dinner to my soul’. The existence of three different forms of a substance is easily understood if we consider water, because its three manifestations – ice, water and steam – all contain the same chemical substance H2O.
There are two references in scripture where we have a sight into what is happening in heaven: one from the OT, one from the NT. In both those creatures nearest the throne cry out HOLY, HOLY, HOLY [Isaiah 6:3, Rev 4:8]. Add to these the words of the great commission of Jesus in Matt 28:16-20 ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ and the words with which we commonly end our acts of worship 2 Cor 13:14 ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.’
When we use such an expression we are acknowledging the mystery that is God.
At least three times in scripture they all appear together. All are present at the creation where in Gen 1 we have a word for God that is plural in Hebrew [Elohim] ‘In the beginning God’. In Gen 1:3 we read of the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters and John 1:3 tells us that ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made’.
Then at Jesus' baptism in Mark 1:10-11 the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus and the voice of God proclaims ‘This is My beloved Son’.
At the end of the book we have Rev 1:1 ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him’ and Rev 22:17 ‘the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"’ Trinity expresses the mystery of God and shows that He is incomprehensible. This is of course offensive to the human mind which humanists claim has the ability to understand everything.
We do of course live in a world of miracle of which much remains unexplored. The greatest British man of science (Isaac Newton) discovered the force of gravity which effects us all yet it has never been explained. He was acutely aware of all that he did not know or understand. “I do not know what I seem to the world, but I seem to myself to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
The Age of Enlightenment was in vogue in Wesley’s day when humanist teaching was developing the principal that man could understand and control everything, and as he did so the world would get better and better… yet the last century has seen two savage and barbarous world wars!
I can suggest three reasons for drawing attention to the Trinity in our sophisticated world.
First it helps us regain a sense of perspective. It tells us that God is beyond our understanding, glorious and awesome, and it shows the folly of pretending that we can understand Him, second guess Him or tell Him how to run things. Isaiah 24:45 says of God that He makes fools of diviners, overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense.
Second it presents God as He is - a focus of awe and reverence: those who meet God in scripture fall down in worship [Ezekiel, Daniel] and Isaiah cries out ‘I am undone’. It rebukes the slovenliness and casualness of some of our worship.
Third it opens up our minds to wonder at the greatness and immensity of our Creator God and the world which He has made. At a time of pressure, speed and cynicism when our lives are so full of many things we need to rediscover the ‘one thing needful’ which Jesus told Martha.
What Will Jesus Do? [PW]
The popular slogan, “what would Jesus do?” is useful in making us stop to think out what Jesus might have done in a given situation. Sometimes it can challenge us to realise that our actions are contrary to the example of Jesus.
In the run up to the European elections, the slogan came to prominence when the British National Party used it in their election literature. Those who chose to use it in this way must have a strange understanding of Jesus. Few Christians would agree that Jesus would vote BNP. I wonder if the BNP even realise that Jesus was a Jew?
The use of WWJD by the BNP illustrates a danger in slogan. We can respond to it in accordance to a stereotype image of Jesus. A Jesus modelled in our own imagination. An imagination readily influenced by the current thinking of this world and not the eternal word of God.
To counter this danger we need to immerse ourselves in scripture. The Bible, in its entirety, is the only true guide to Jesus. The better our understanding of the Word the clearer our understanding of what Jesus would do.
A Better Question
There is a much better question to the one asked above. It involves changing the word ‘would’ to ‘will’. What will Jesus do? Finding the answer to this question will change our priorities and clarify our response to some of the issues of the present day.
The idea that God might intervene in human affairs has been completely obliterated from secular thinking. Like the scoffers described in the second letter of Peter the secular world does not believe that God will ever act in judgement. If people believe in God at all, it is in a remote being who distances himself from man’s problems. Sadly the church follows where the world leads.
It is not just the more liberal Christian press that discounts the intervention of God. Evangelical sources often write as if the problems of this present world are to be solved by man. Many of the popular books from Christian publishers are written from this perspective and closely reflect the priorities of the world. In some parts of what is called the evangelical church it has become popular to ridicule those who take an interest in prophecy. They have closed their eyes to the signs that God is preparing to soon intervene.
If authors had a clear understanding of the Second Coming their writing would be transformed. A new set of priorities would arise. Jesus is going to intervene in world history. The way in which He intervenes has been foretold. Neither His words nor His actions are politically correct according to the current worldview. To side with Jesus is to be out of step with the world in which we live. We will look at some areas where Jesus as revealed through scripture does not conform.
Christians should be responsible stewards of this planet which God has given to us. The responsible use of scarce resources and avoidance of pollution are commendable. But should Christian thinking stop there? Many years ago my father wrote an interpretation of Revelation chapter 8 in which he related the trumpet judgements to the destructive forces let loose during the 20th century. Hence the title of this newsletter ‘Trumpet Sounds’. Trees have been wiped out by disease, grasslands devastated by drought, the seas have been polluted and great numbers of ships destroyed by war. On land water sources have dried up or been contaminated. Even the amount of sunlight has been reduced. Some parts of the world are now receiving 30% less sunlight than they did in the early part of the 20th century. These are warnings to the church and through the church to the world that God is soon going to call people to account.
We regard the earth as an inanimate object. From our perspective it is a lump of molten elements with a hard crust. How can it be capable of feelings or action? However scripture portrays the whole of creation as being affected by our sin. In Romans 8 it is described as groaning and eagerly awaiting the day of its deliverance. In Leviticus 18 Israel is warned that the land itself will respond to their sin by vomiting them out. This is brought to a climax in Isaiah 24 where the earth is described as tearing itself apart under the weight of sin. This is figurative language but in some way beyond our understanding the whole natural order is corrupted by our sin. Sin, not greenhouse gasses, is the primary cause of the environmental problems our generation faces. This is the prophetic word the church should be bringing to the world.
What will Jesus do when He comes again? He will rule with an iron rod to eradicate sin and bring this world back into harmony with its creator. The Old Testament is filled with promises of the wonderful restoration of this earth when Jesus comes to reign.
Our response to climate change, in the light of scripture, should be to preach the gospel with more urgency and not be distracted by the false priorities of the world. As Christians we know both the cause and the cure.
The world longs for peace. We are all agreed that peace is better than war. On our televisions we see the graphic pictures of war. Images of the incredible destruction brought about by modern weapons. Framed on a television screen it can seem remote. It is just another story in the news. But when we stop to remember that it is actually happening as we watch we feel for those caught up in the conflict. Under those explosions there are real people terrified as to what the next moment may bring. People who if they survive will have had their lives ripped apart never to be the same again.
Then there are the hidden wars. The elimination of people groups that rarely makes the news, groups who do not fit and have little hope for the future. Ethnic cleansing of one race by another happens away from the public eye. We pray for those who are working to bring such conflicts into the open.
The world hopes that it can build institutions that will bind people together. It believes that through education it can remove all prejudice and build a common vision of a world without war. A golden new age as our Prime minister recently called it. Such philosophies cannot cope with people who will not conform. Those who say that there can be no enduring peace until this world receives its King. Jesus said that throughout this present age there would be wars and rumours of wars, all promises of peace will prove false.
What will Jesus do? He will bring peace. But it will be a peace through conquest. He will come to lead the armies of heaven against the armies of this world. He will fight against those in rebellion against his rule.
Our response to the call for peace is to declare that there will be no real peace outside the Kingdom of God. We pray for peace and, if opportunity arises, stand with those who are suffering. But the hope for which we eagerly wait is the return of Christ to rule this world with justice and righteousness. There is no other source of lasting peace.
The conflict between Arab and Jew
This is a divisive issue both in the world and the church. Some churchgoers come down emphatically on the side of the Arabs. They see a great deal of suffering and injustice. Israel is regarded as an occupying power that claims land belonging to others. Others strongly support Israel and its claim to the Land.
The majority within the church would probably feel more comfortable if Christians stayed out of politics especially such controversial issues. They would argue that as Christians we should be united in standing against injustice, condemning suffering, feeding the hungry and healing the sick. There is a humanitarian aspect to the ministry of Jesus about which we are all agreed. As Christians we should show compassion to all.
But how would we answer the question ‘what would Jesus do’, in this context? Would He come down on one side or the other? Would He focus on the humanitarian issues and stay out of politics? Would He decide that the issues were too complex to resolve and stand aside from the debate? Would He affirm what unites us and avoid divisions within the church at all cost?
Let’s instead ask ‘what will Jesus do? There are many places in the Bible, which make clear that towards the end of this present age God will gather Israel back to their land. Their presence there will be a cause of strife. Eventually, when the surrounding nations make war on the gathered nation, Jesus will personally intervene to rescue Israel. He will bring Israel to repentance and give them a new heart. The Bible sets this at the time when Jesus comes to reign on the throne of David.
The conflict between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau has been running for four thousand years. It will be brought to its conclusion at the time of Christ’s return. According to His sovereign will, God chose Isaac and Jacob over Ishmael and Esau. But Ishmael and Esau can enter into the promises to Isaac and Jacob through Christ. There is no injustice only a requirement to submit to the sovereign will of God. The plan of God is to restore Jacob. The Arab nations described figuratively as Edom and Esau are free to co-operate with God and in so doing share in the abundance of God’s blessing. If they oppose God they will come under His wrath.
When the Jews started to return to Israel, many Arabs welcomed them. They recognised that the returning Jews would bring prosperity and benefits to the region. However there were some who stirred up hatred. They spread lies and false propaganda. The hatred has culminated in several attempts to wipe Israel out.
The solution to the present conflict is not land for peace. A Palestinian state will achieve nothing but worsening conditions for the Arab people trapped within it. The only solution is to remove the hatred. This will not happen so long as Islam claims an Allah given right to the land. Instead of seeking peace, hatred is fostered in school and mosque. Ultimately this will lead to a final attempt to eradicate the Jews.
What will Jesus do? He will punish the Arabs for their persecution of the Jews. Jesus is going to pour out His wrath on the surrounding nations. According to scripture their lands will be desolate forever.
There are those who if they read the above would vehemently protest. They would argue that God can not be blind to the injustice suffered by the Arab’s at the hands of the Jews. The Bible is clear that God is mindful of the dispute. In his foreknowledge He has already judged in favour of the Jews. Isaiah 34 tells of how God will bring recompense on Edom. In verse 8 the word ‘cause’ has the sense of a legal dispute. The word controversy in Jeremiah 35: 8 is the same and also means a legal dispute.
The injustice suffered by the Arabs is of their own making to which there is an instant solution. Welcome the Jews, help the Jews, ensure that the Jews enjoy real security and allow the Jews to bring prosperity to the region. The Arabs have a choice, persist in their hatred of the Jews and bring down God’s fierce wrath or welcome and support the Jews and be greatly blessed by God.
What would Jesus do if He were on earth today? He would warn the surrounding nations of the consequence of harbouring hatred against Israel. He would call on them to lay down their arms and to seek reconciliation.
Persona Non-Grata in Ramallah [PW]
However hard you try it seems impossible to appease Arab anti-Semitism. In July Daniel Barenboim appeared in Ramallah to conduct a concert by the Jewish-Arab Orchestra. Barenboim is known for his support for the Palestinians. He is a frequent critic of Israel and strongly supports the Arab position. But all this was not enough to prevent this world renowned musician facing opposition from a broad coalition of Palestinian Authority groups.
Barenboim, a Jew who once lived in Israel, received Palestinian Authority citizenship in January 2008 in a ceremony in Ramallah, explaining, “I believe that the fate of the Palestinian people is interwoven with that of the Jewish people… We are either blessed or cursed to live with each other, and I prefer the first option.”
Despite his support for the Palestinians a coalition of Arab groups declared their opposition to him and called for a boycott of the concert. The groups included PA’s Union of Authors and Poets, the Union of Artists, and those involved in the official PA-wide campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel.
The World’s Tallest Building [PW]
Emaar Properties has won the contract to build a tower higher even than its own Burj Dubai, at present the world’s tallest building (818m). In a deal worth 100 billion Saudi riyals (US$26.6bn, Dh98bn), Kingdom Holding chose Emaar from a list of five bidders to build the 1,100m tower and surrounding Kingdom City in Jeddah.
It would seem that the Arabs are intent on fulfilling a statement attributed to Mohammed in the hadith: “and you will see the barefoot, naked, destitute Bedouin shepherds competing in the construction of tall buildings.” For Muslims the competition between the Arab states to build ever taller buildings is a proof of the veracity of the hadith and therefore Islam.
A Palestinian State [PW]
Responding to President Obama’s Cairo speech, Binyamin Netanyahu accepted for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state. He made this acceptance dependent on the territory being disarmed with solid security guarantees for Israel.
Netanyahu’s speech was condemned by a range of Palestinian factions. PLO Executive Committee Secretary Yasser 'Abd Rabbo, called Netanyahu “a liar and a crook”. Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority president, stated: "The speech has destroyed all peace initiatives and [chances for] a solution." A Hamas spokesman described the speech as racist. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called Netanyahu's speech "akin to a declaration of war”. Such strident responses leaves little hope for negotiation.
Setting aside the comments of the Palestinians, Netanyhu’s speech contained a serious flaw. According to Louis Rene Beres, professor of international law at Purdue University, writing in the Jerusalem Post, international law would not necessarily require Palestinian compliance with treaty obligations for demilitarisation. Any treaty is void if, at the time of entry, it was in conflict with a "peremptory" rule of international law. That is a rule which is accepted by the community of states as one from which "no derogation is permitted." The right of sovereign states to maintain military forces for self-defence is such a rule. Therefore Palestine would be within its lawful right to abrogate any agreement that had previously compelled its demilitarisation. Even if such a legal test were not applied, it would be very easy for the government of the new state to find grounds for lawful treaty termination.
Israel is under pressure to accept a Washington driven road map to peace. But as a demilitarised West Bank is a non-starter, it is in reality a ‘land for nothing’ deal. Even American security guarantees would be worthless in the face of a proven legal right for the Palestinians to arm themselves.
Shlomo Mordechai writing in Israel Today, said of the Netahyahu’s speech, “It was a well calculated and perhaps brilliant move by Netanyahu. Temporarily at least he appeased Washington and threw the ball back into the Palestinians’ court making them look like the rejectionists.”
The speech will at best win only a temporary respite. Obama has changed the relationship between Washington and the Middle East. Under his leadership Israel will be progressively forced into an agreement with the Arabs which will lead to its destruction. How long can Israel survive? How long before the Lord intervenes?
God resists the proud [KK]
The story is told of a young preacher who was invited to preach at Spurgeon’s Tabernacle. He was flattered and ascended the pulpit in obvious high spirits, confident of his ability to deliver a challenging sermon. As he was preaching his confidence began to evaporate, and things went from bad to worse. He concluded his message and descended the pulpit steps dejectedly wishing that the ground would swallow him up. An old saint at the bottom of the steps took him aside and said – ‘Son, if you’d gone up the way you came down you’d have come down the way you went up’.
When is a lemur not a lemur? Answer: when it is a missing link.
To a great fanfare the latest contender for the title of ‘missing link’ was publicised in May. In a documentary on the BBC (which I did not watch) David Attenborough apparently drooled over the 3 foot fossil (called Ida) saying, “Now people can say, ‘Okay, you say we’re primates . . . show us the link.’ The link, they would have said until now, is missing. Well, it is no longer missing.” Attenborough thought that Darwin would have been very excited to have seen this proof of his ideas. Would he? Or would he have shown more caution than his latter day disciples?
Would he have carefully examined the fossil and concluded along with other scientists that it looked remarkably like a 9 month old lemur monkey. But then Darwin did not have behind him 150 years of failure to find supporting evidence.
A more cautious evolutionist concluded his article in the New Scientist as follows, “So, Ida is not a "missing link" – at least not between anthropoids and more primitive primates. Further study may reveal her to be a missing link between other species of Eocene adapiforms, but this hardly solidifies her status as the "eighth wonder of the world". Chris Beard curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
The fossil does in fact have a couple of differences to a Lemur. It lacks both the toothcomb and grooming claw of the modern Lemur. Ida’s teeth are similar to those of a monkey. The conclusion drawn by ‘Answers in Genesis’, “it was a small, tailed, probably tree-climbing, and now extinct primate”.
What is notable about this fossil is the very well preserved soft tissue and stomach contents. Ida was found in the Messel site in Germany from which have come hundreds of well preserved specimens. This of course supports the Creationist view of fossilisation by rapid burial caused by catastrophic events such as the Flood.