Out of the heart

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10

The Scripture clearly shows the connection between the heart and the mouth: “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

However often in professional situations this is not the case at least in my observations.  The constraints of professional conduct cause doctors and other professionals to speak the logical truth arising from their analyses rather than what they might think in their hearts about the person they are dealing with.  Similarly, a salesman will not express his heart very often if he wants to make a sale.

This is not always a bad thing.  We can’t often do what we want nor should we.  Jeremiah records God saying that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all else and that no one but He can understand it (Jer. 17:9).

Jesus said that it was out of heart that all forms of wickedness arise (Matthew 15:18).  Paul and James talk about the flesh and the Spirit being in opposition so that you can’t do what you want to (Galatians 5:17, James 4:4-6).  At the end of Romans 7 Paul says the secret is to do what Jesus says which is the same as walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

Logically

So Jesus died for all our sins past, present and future. Therefore there can be no law against anything any more if it is all forgiven.

23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 

1 Corinthians 10:23

Logical.

But then why not go out and sin?  Because God knows that the response of a believing heart to the revelation of Jesus’ death is gratefulness and a desire to please Him (1 John 4:19).  Paul says we died to sin when Jesus died (Romans 6:1-11).  The revelation that God sent His Son to die for us works in our hearts automatically and we want to do what pleases Him (Romans 7:23).  We are wed to Him in a way and forever spoilt for anything else.

However in some ways we haven’t changed.  The old nature still wants to do the wrong thing (Romans 7:14-25).  So the answer is to offer ourselves, our every member, to God as a love slave to Him (Romans 12:1-2). Then He will show us what to do and He will work within us to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12).

Freedom

The passage below is taken from Eugene Peterson’s introduction to Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them “in their place.” The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom. The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived.

Paul of Tarsus was doing his diligent best to add yet another chapter to this dreary history when he was converted by Jesus to something radically and entirely different—a free life in God. Through Jesus, Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal Savior who set us free to live a free life. God did not coerce us from without, but set us free from within.

It was a glorious experience, and Paul set off telling others, introducing and inviting everyone he met into this free life. In his early travels he founded a series of churches in the Roman province of Galatia. A few years later Paul learned that religious leaders of the old school had come into those churches, called his views and authority into question, and were reintroducing the old ways, herding all these freedom-loving Christians back into the corral of religious rules and regulations.

Paul was, of course, furious. He was furious with the old guard for coming in with their strong-arm religious tactics and intimidating the Christians into giving up their free life in Jesus. But he was also furious with the Christians for caving in to the intimidation.

His letter to the Galatian churches helps them, and us, recover the original freedom. It also gives direction in the nature of God’s gift of freedom—most necessary guidance, for freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered.

Peterson, Eugene H.. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language . The Navigators. Kindle Edition.

You cannot serve God and Mammon

The bible says, quite rightly of course, that money answers all things (Ecclesiastes 10:19). It also says that the love of it is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10 KJV).

Jesus was completely unconcerned about having or not having money. He was supremely confident in His Father’s care and so wasn’t bothered when He ran out or who looked after His money. In Matthew 17:24-27 Jesus’ and Peter’s tax is due.

Every October I have to make sure I have enough money to pay the taxes that fall due on that day for the previous year. So I can imagine what it would be like to come to that day and not have a penny to give. But was He bothered?

No, first He says He and Peter shouldn’t be paying this tax anyway and secondly, a fish had swallowed a coin some time ago which He knew was available for them on the first bite of Peter’s line.

And then there was the small matter of who He told to look after His money – a thief who would betray Him – Judas (see John 12:6 and 13:29).

Oh, that I could be so trusting and so free from the love of money!

Tearing apart the Lion of Judah

Samson tore apart a lion of Judah in the Old Testament.  I don’t think anything is ever put in the Bible by accident.  A lot of the OT foreshadows things in the NT.

So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah.

Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.

Then he went down and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion. He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.

Judges 14:5-9

You could see Samson as a representation, or a picture in a shadow, of the powers that were at work to crucify Jesus, the Lion of Judah.  As we know the honey of our salvation and healing, something sweet, came from that death also.  Like Samson, we too need to take the honey out of the death of Jesus.

Under authority

When Jesus was twelve years old, he went up to Jerusalem with His family and stayed behind doing His Father’s business (Luke 2:41-52).  The trouble was that His earthly father and mother didn’t understand that.  They didn’t know that at 12 He was ready to start His ministry.

It would have been a challenge to me to have let my 12 year old son or daughter start his or her ministry especially if it meant they stayed behind on a trip we were on without letting me know .  But I hope I would recognise that they had a ministry if I saw it and that I would pray to God for wisdom on what to do.

It is interesting to speculate what could have happened if Joseph and Mary had let Jesus carry on His Father’s work at 12.  Would He have been crucified at 16?

We will never know because, as it says in v.51, He was subject to His earthly guardians.

To this day the age of majority among orthodox Jews is 30.  So for 18 years He waited, while His parents didn’t understand, until He was no longer legally under their authority.  No doubt this was part of His learning process as it says in Hebrews 5:8.  They still didn’t understand after He was 30.  But at that stage He could minister and still be righteous according to the law He had made Himself subject to.

Teenagers these days can be happy that majority occurs at 18.  But will they stay submitted to their parents even for that long?

Dissenting

I am a bible believing Christian. As a result of reading the bible many people like us over many centuries and in many cultures have concluded that aspects of the Sacrifice of the Mass are in flat contradiction to what the bible says.

For instance, the writer to the Hebrews says that there was one sacrifice for sins for all time, that is, Christ’s death on the cross back in about 33 AD on a hill in present day Israel (see Hebrews 10:1-18). He goes on to say that there is therefore no more need for other sacrifices. Yet the Roman Catholic doctrine clearly teaches that the priests participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass are sacrificing Christ afresh every time it is carried out.

Again, the Roman Catholic mass includes transubstantiation during which only a Roman Catholic priest has the power to change a piece of bread and a cup of wine into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus.

Many who call themselves Christians and who read the Bible have concluded that this is nonsense at best and priest craft and blasphemy at worst.

I am of those who believe that this doctrine is a hindrance to people encountering the living Christ through the Holy Spirit in true spiritual communion. We believe that Jesus clearly intended what He said in John 6 that His words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood are spirit and life (v. 66) and not to be taken literally. Cannibalism in any culture is rightly regarded as abhorrent but yet this is what Roman Catholics are taught to do with God’s Son!

There is a long tradition of dissenters that can be read in such books as E.H. Broadbent’s “The Pilgrim Church” or of Protestants which can be read about in the various volumes of D’Aubigne’s “History of the Reformation” and other textbooks.

I would advise everyone that you read some of these books rather than being led by the nose by a clergy that has been revealed in recent times to be as corrupt as it ever was in the days of the Borgias.

That is not to say that individual priests are all tarred with the same brush. Many of them, including no doubt the ones local to you are well meaning people with good intentions. However we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

My parent’s families on both sides going back many generations are Roman Catholic and if we didn’t go to Mass sometimes we would have to avoid funerals, marriages and christenings. However we remain sitting when others kneel during the transubstantiation part of the mass and we avoid taking the bread and wine. Not that it is anything but bread and wine but we don’t want to show approval of something which we disagree with so fundamentally.

Star Gazing

I find the science behind the Star of Bethlehem fascinating. I have always loved astronomy and Psalms 8 and 19 are among my favourites. The heavens declare the glory of God in more ways than one.

If, like me, your faith is not a blind one but uses the reason that God has given us all to bolster it and if you, like me, enjoy scientific truth searching then I think this will encourage you.

The truth is that God announced His first coming with clear signs in the heavens – which you can see now using computer software that you can buy off the shelf. These include the Star of Bethlehem which turns out to have been a particularly close conjunction between Jupiter and Venus (the second and third brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon) that took place on June 17th 2BC.

I won’t repeat here what Rick Larson has dealt with in depth in his excellent website and DVDs. To understand what I have written below I strongly recommend you read the materials at that site first.

I have created two short stories below based around pivotal events which led to the Magi (or the three wise men as they are more commonly known) leaving their city in the East and coming to a stable in Bethlehem in Judea some time up to 2 years after the star appeared. You can read that story in full in Matthew’s gospel chapter 2 verses 1-12.

The first story deals with a hypothetical lesson taught by the old testament prophet Daniel to the children of his fellow Jewish captives in Ancient Babylon about 585 BC. During this lesson, which presumes knowledge about the stars from previous lessons, Daniel explains how the Magi would know when the Messiah was coming.

The second story tries to describe the reaction of the successors of the Magi, many generations and centuries later, when they finally see the events occurring in the heavens that they had been awaiting so long.

[The Magi themselves are a fascinating study in their own right. The empire appropriate administrative systems that Daniel and his fellow Jewish exiles (Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego) put in place lasted for over a thousand years from about 600 BC to 500 AD surviving numerous dynasties and bringing untold blessings to the peoples of central Asia for all that time (Gen. 12:3). But that needs another blog.]

Daniel the Prophet Teaches Messianic Astronomy

Asenah was looking forward to today’s lesson with his super “uncle” Daniel. It was going to be on his favourite subject: Astronomy. His uncle could be scary at times but he knew so much that was fascinating and never more so than when it came to the stars. He knew all about the names of the stars and the wandering stars and the comets and meteors and eclipses and….. and well everything there was to know about everything in the sky above them. So Asenah was excited.

“Today, I am going to teach you something very special about the coming Saviour of the world.” Daniel said. Asenah knew that the stars contained a very ancient story in them about this coming Messiah who would be his people’s salvation as well as that of the whole world.

“You know that God named the stars as our esteemed prophet Isaiah and a writer of the psalms has said. So can you tell me which stars are connected with the coming King?”

Asenah and the other students knew the answers, this was an easy question. He put his hand up.

“Go ahead Micaiah, son of Shadrech” Daniel had asked Asenah’s brother for the answer.

“The wandering star Jupiter, the King of the wandering stars, and Regulus the king star in the constellation of Leo, the symbol of the tribe of Judah.” Micaiah answered.

“Very good, Micaiah. Those are indeed the two main stars associated with the coming King.”

“Anyone else want to tell me what a conjunction is?” The question that Daniel asked this time was not so easy but still several hands went up.

“Yes, Samuel son of Meshach, what is your answer?”
Samuel was one of the brighter ones in the class. He answered confidently: “A conjunction is where a wandering star and a fixed star or another wandering star meet up and dance together.”

“Well done Samuel, that is true. So today I am going to speak to you about triple conjunctions and one to look out for in particular.”

At this stage Daniel brought down one of his large star charts and spread it out on the table in the middle of the classroom. On it was drawn an accurate picture of the part of the sky above them that included the constellation Leo:

(Daniel’s star chart might not have been quite like this but would have contained the same details)

“As you know, I have a lot of these charts.”, Daniel said, stating the obvious (they were all around the classroom from floor to ceiling), “You also know how I told you what Shem, the son of Noah, told our father Abraham about the coming Messiah, how he was to look out for His signs in the heavens.

We know from our fathers the importance of the king star, Regulus, and the king wandering star (or planet as you could call it), Jupiter. You also know that Jupiter, the king planet wanders in and out among the 12 constellations of the tribes of Israel doing dances with them. So, now I am telling you, that when you see the king planet Jupiter doing a dance around the king star Regulus in the constellation of our tribe Judah – when it crowns the king star with a triple conjunction – then know that the Messiah is about to come.”

Asenah never forgot that lesson.

The Capital of the Parthian Empire 3 – 2 BC

Melchior was on star gazing duty that evening. He and his Magi companions and ancestors had been observing, taking notes and drawing up star charts for centuries now. Always the focus was on the king planet Jupiter and the king star Regulus. For over 500 years they had continued to look for the predicted dance and so often it had seemed tantalizingly close. But over the last 9 months it had finally happened.

In September of the previous year, Jupiter passed as close as it ever has to Regulus and went on its way.

Jupiter passing Regulus in September of 3 BC

In December it was half way through the constellation on its way westward when it turned back for its second pass by Regulus. It reached Regulus this second time in February. In the middle of May it went back for its third pass thus fulfilling the requirements of a triple conjunction for the first time in all the centuries they had been looking for it.

So now Melchior was out again observing and his companions had joined him because something remarkable had started happening in June. Venus was coming closer to Jupiter and tonight it looked like they would be so close they would be indistinguishable from each other. Such a close conjunction was a rare sight, but it was even more significant after the triple conjunction that had been happening over the previous 9 months.

Melchior wondered if the Messiah had been conceived in September and was being born tonight in Bethlehem in Judea as the prophet Micah foretold. These were indeed exciting times!

Jupiter and Venus in an extraordinary conjunction on June 17th, 2 BC.

The three Magi loaded up their camels. They were taking a visit to the neighboring Roman empire on a mission to see their new born king. The king planet would lead their way westward.

An Explanation and some References

The above stories about Daniel and the Magi are mainly based on information that you can find at Rick Larson’s excellent website Bethlehemstar.com. If you haven’t already read the material on that site please do so before asking me any question about this post since most of the answers to your questions can be found there.

However, some of the above stories are at least partly speculation. I will deal with some of the more speculative points below.

  1. There is no direct evidence that Noah’s son Shem interpreted the gospel in the stars to Abraham. They were both alive at the same time on earth (Shem lived to a very great age) and it is possible that Abraham met Shem. Some scholars believe that Shem was Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18–20 and Hebrews 7). But there is no biblical evidence to suggest that Shem told Abraham what to look out for nor that Abraham subsequently passed down that information to his descendants so that Daniel knew it. It is a nice idea though, it could have been true. Either way, we are left wondering why the Magi were so knowledgeable about the star that had appeared for just one day (June 17, 2BC) and why they thought it was so special.
  2. The gospel in the stars is a theory that many people have problems with. I like it and think that it glorifies God to say that He has written the gospel in the constellations. But since we have the bible it is not something I get hung up about. If you don’t agree I don’t blame you. Just don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is no better explanation that I know of for the Bethlehem Star than the one described in detail at Larson’s site. I have written more about the gospel in the stars in this post.
  3. There is a good reason to believe that each of the 12 tribes of Israel had a corresponding constellation. The connection between the constellation of Leo and the tribe of Judah is one of the more obvious ones. I am slow to say what the other ones are but, take it that Daniel and the Magi would have taken some of this for granted even if, these days, Christians are (understandably) not inclined to look to the constellations. Again, Rick Larson does a good job of dealing with this problem.

The pictures in this post are screen shots from a computer application called Starry Night: Complete Space & Astronomy Pack available online. I love the way it is possible to verify the positions of the stars and planets on any night in history (or in the future) using a computer program. God created the universe with such order inbuilt.

Oh, and yes, the implications of this are that Jesus was actually born on June 17th, not December 25th.

Being Grateful for the Everyday

We need to count our blessings and be grateful for the things we take for granted every day. Most of Ireland’s citizens live like kings with freedom to worship, a government that’s accountable to them and a host of public services which the most needy never have to pay for. We also need to remember why this is so.

Come out of your foolish fears and preoccupations stoked by baseless conspiracy theories and count your blessings:

  • Education- subsidised and free
  • Health care-public and private
  • Justice & security- Gardai with integrity, courts where justice is served, fair judges
  • Fresh flowing water
  • Secure food supplies
  • Elaborate and effective waste removal and treatment systems
  • Elaborate dwelling places with all sorts of facilities such as:
    • Hot showers
    • Electric ovens
    • Central heating
    • Flushable toilets
    • Comfortable furniture and beds
    • TV
    • Computers
    • etc.
  • Motor vehicles
  • Mobile phones
  • Holidays
  • Recreational trips
  • Parks maintained for our pleasure
  • Eating out
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Freedom of speech (and writing!)
  • Accountable government
  • Transport systems
  • Greenways and tourist attractions, etc.

We also need to remember our history and why we enjoy such freedoms. To say that we owe most if not all of our current wealth, security and freedoms to the United States is not the ravings of a man with some kind of imagined agenda. It is the plain truth to those who have open enough minds to appreciate it.

In the last century the United States were the only reason in the end that we won the first and second world wars. The alternative of losing the second world war would have been fascist rule in Ireland under a demon possessed and lunatic dictator. Also in the last century the US pursued a series of wars and political and financial campaigns against the USSR and its allies (unpopular with many at the time) which held back the spread of another fascist regime. Many Eastern Europeans are old enough to remember what life was like under communist rule. It would be worth your while talking to them. Believe me you didn’t want to live under that system (maybe watch the Sky series Chernobyl if you need reminding).

And why do we owe so much to the USA? It is because fundamentally it is founded on Christian principles. The biblical basis of the US constitution, culture and philosophy is undeniable. It was written by people who (whether they or their ancestors) had paid a high price for their religious freedom escaping persecution from anti-Christ organised religion in Europe. Obviously they weren’t perfect in their implementation of it, and are still not, but if it wasn’t for the land of the free we wouldn’t be.

We have a bad habit in this land of knocking everyone and in particular the US. There is no doubt that there are some individuals (some in high places) that are an embarrassment to that nation and what it stands for. But we would do well to remember here in our national pride just how small and insignificant a nation we are and how much we are at the mercy of much larger powers. We don’t even bother to maintain an effective deterrent army to protect ourselves, such is our trust in the US and its allies in NATO.

Our lifestyles, culture and freedom were made secure with US (and British) lives which, even publicly, we have only just begun to acknowledge. When they won the war they didn’t come in to our country to take over, strip our assets and send them back to the mother country like the USSR did in Eastern Europe. Instead they supplied industry, jobs and supported our freedoms.

And the main reason they did this was because their nation was, and is, fundamentally Christian.

A Rising Tide

I have felt encouraged by a number of words recently from various sources that are indicating that the Lord is moving, or about to move (depending on where you are) in a new way. This has been referred to as the “Third Wave” by some (e.g. by Sean Booth) and is foretold in a 1947 prophecy given by Smith Wigglesworth and by others.

In Reinhard Bonnke’s autobiography, he relates a story about what a rising tide can do. He was down by the pier where a large ship was moored. It was several thousand tons in weight. He was amazed to find that he could cause it to move simply by leaning against it. This would, of course, have been impossible if the ship was on the river bed or on dry land. But because it was lifted by the tide he was able to do what otherwise would have been impossible.

In Psalm 8:2 David says:

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength

I was reading a commentary on this verse which drew a similar analogy to that drawn by Reinhard:

The work that is done in love loses half its tedium and difficulty. It is as with a stone, which in the air and on the dry ground we strain at but cannot stir. Flood the field where it lies, bury the block beneath the rising water; and now, when its head is submerged, bend to the work. Put your strength to it. Ah! it moves, rises from its bed, rolls on before your arm. So, when under the heavenly influences of grace the tide of love rises, and goes swelling over our duties and difficulties, a child can do a man’s work, and a man can do a giant’s. Let love be present in the heart, and “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God ordaineth strength.” Thomas Guthrie, D.D.” (Emphasis added)

Some people call the move of the Spirit that we are speaking of “revival”. Whatever you call it, it will be a move of love.

During this kind of work of God, watch the babes move mountains. God prefers it this way:

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

Matt. 11:25, 26

Confirmed by Paul:

26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

1 Cor. 1:18-29

I am very encouraged that this third wave is, even now, happening around us. The best qualification you have to be part of it, is awareness of your weakness and inability for “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Oh God! Open our eyes that we may see what you are doing in these days!

  1. God has prepared the agnostic: If you can see it, you should be able to understand that God has used the pandemic to prepare people the world over. It has taken them off the hamster wheel, brought their mortality to the front of their minds and left many of them with nothing else to do but seek God and ask the big questions of life.
  2. God has judged the church: The US election has also been used by God. It has removed so many idols. Many big names called prophets by the people have been proven wrong. Those who have stood at the front of large congregations (including a whole nation in one prominent case!) tempting people to look to them rather than Christ have been taken down. The congregations have not been able to meet and the prophets have been proven wrong. In their place are the ordinary, the looked over, the despised who open their homes to the lost.

Oh God! Open our eyes that we may see what you are doing in these days!