Threefold Authority

This post is brought to you by the number three.

I mentioned in a previous post that the number three is very significant in scripture. The problem is, though, that it is significant for more than one thing.

Three days is a prophetic time in scripture that points forwards to Christ's death and resurrection. Examples are Jonah's three days in the belly of the fish, and Moses' declaration that the people should take a three day journey into the wilderness in order to offer sacrifices. (Mt 12:40, Ex 5:3)

Three is also significant in that is one of the numbers of established witness: by the testimony of two or three witnesses a thing is firmly established. An example would be Abraham's three visitors who testified against Sodom. Most other examples of witnesses tend to be twos rather than threes: Joshua and Caleb who gave a good witness after spying out the land, Moses and Elijah who witnessed Christ's transfiguration, and the two witnesses in Revelation. But it is still worth bearing in mind that three can be used in this way too. (Dt 19:15, Mt 18:15)

But the threes that have been jumping out at me lately are the threes of God's delegated authority. Within the Godhead of course we have Father, Son and Spirit who set the example for all the others. In the heavens God established Sun, Moon and Stars. In the created order he established Man, Woman and all the animals. In the family his order is husband, wife, children. And in the church we have the pattern of Apostles, Elders, and all God's people.

It is interesting to speculate about a possible link between the final two uses of three. Three is the number of the community of God. Two is the number of the community of man (husband and wife). Either of these two numbers can be used to establish something, which reflects the fact that God has delegated his governmental authority to man.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc 4:12)


Snow is falling...

From the mouths of infants

My 2½ year old son is starting early with his good confessions of faith. Yesterday while I was giving him his tea, we were listening to "Open the Eyes of My Heart" by Sonicflood (A firm favourite of Michael and mine) While they were singing the chorus, "Holy Holy Holy, I want to see you," Michael looked at me and said, "Michael not holy holy holy?" I agreed. He thought for a minute and then replied: "Just Jesus."

That evening as Jacqueline was putting him to bed, she asked him to sit nicely and not squirm around because Mummum had a sore head. He knelt up, put his hand on her head and said: "Make you all better. Amen!"

My Cup Overflows

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of bringing the word to the good folks at our Lutterworth congregation. I shared on the foundation, heart, and means of restoration: The Lordship of Christ, the worship of God, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I concluded from Amos 9, that the result of a restored life is overflowing joy: "New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills."

As I was preparing I felt stirred to do something a bit different. I felt I should take a saucer, and a glass, and fill it to overflowing with wine at the relevant point in my message. At the time I felt confident I had heard from God, so I assembled everything I needed there and then. But doubts quickly tried to crowd in: "What if it comes across like a gimmick?", "What if they confuse it for the wine in breaking bread?" Never the less, I determined that I would do it. I'd rather be a fool for Christ than be disobedient to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. What did I have to lose? Just my pride and a good bottle of wine - nothing in comparison.

I need not have worried. Matthew was there leading worship, and he had already decided to break bread. So there was no chance of confusion there. Also, just before I reached the point in my message, a lady in the congregation interrupted me and shared on Psalm 23: the anointing of joy, and our cup running over! Praise God! We all heard from God and went away blessed. God is good.


Which Version?

I have nearly finished reading the Bible through in two years. I have often over the years tried to read the Bible through in one year, and even succeeded a couple of times, but my success rate at this has been around 30%, and I think I'm not alone at finding it a challenge. But reading the Bible through in two years I have found much more achievable and more rewarding — you have more time to reflect on what you are reading.

I want to do the same over the next two years. And with my birthday approaching at the right time, I have asked for a Two-Year Bible. The only question I have is what version? I did a scary calculation today, and realised that I have been reading the NIV almost exclusively now for over seventeen years! Time for a change methinks.

I had thought of going to the New Living translation, because they have a two-year version, and because Keri Jones, our apostle always recommends it so highly. But my recent meditations in Amos have made me think twice. The layers of symbolism in Amos 1:3 and similar verses is an excellent place to compare versions:

ESV: For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment

NIV: For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.

NLT: The people of Damascus have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not let them go unpunished any longer!

In the ESV (which is a recent discovery I am appreciating more and more) the NKJV and NASB the word and is preserved which allows an exploration of all the layers of significance. In the NIV the dynamic equivalence has obviously picked up on the tetrad and translated it to fit better with this form using even instead, but you miss the possibility that this is actually a seven split into 3 and 4. Whilst in the NLT you are completely oblivious to any levels of prophetic symbolism at all!

What to do? Am I splitting hairs (and numbers) and could do with just taking in the broad-brushstrokes? Should I stick with the ol' faithful NIV and aim for 20 years!? Or should I go to the ESV and really dig down deep!?

Any comments or advice appreciated. Two years is a long time so I want to get the right version before I set out!!


Feed for thought

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For three, and for four

OK, here is what I've got on Amos' use of numbers in the first two chapters of his book.


First, the structure has been carefully chosen to be very close to the tetrad forms of the kind found in Proverbs 30.

Three things are never satisfied; four never say, "Enough" (v15)
Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand (v18)
Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up (v21)
Three things are stately in their tread; four are stately in their stride (v29)

These tetrad forms were apparently a popular Jewish teaching device of the time. The introduction of the elements as three, and then four, was to give emphasis to the fourth item. I guess they are an ultra-micro version of a three-point sermon with a conclusion — no wonder they were popular! ;-) The fact that Amos chose to use a form (very similar) to these tetrads, perhaps implies that he was a prophet who also had a teaching ministry, or maybe a prophetic teacher — I like that! This might also explain his reticence to include himself among the mainstream prophets of his day. (pure speculation of course!)

But I stressed, that his words are very close to this kind of tetrad, because although they are crafted to have the same form as this device, Amos' words are not tetrads! If they had been they would have been subtly different. If Amos had said:

"For three sins of Damascus I will not revoke the punishment; for four my wrath will not be turned away."

This would have been a true tetrad. But he didn't; the structure of the sentence is very close, but subtly and deliberately different. Also note that unlike the tetrads in proverbs, no list of four sins or transgressions is listed - just one! What Amos is actually saying is "For three sins and for four", in other words in a roundabout way he is saying: "For seven sins of Damascus...."


This leads on to the second point. The symbolic use of the number seven in scripture is clear and unambiguous. It represents fullness or completeness, because on the seventh day God rested from all his work of creation. Seven transgressions would thus correspond to a full measure of sinfulness.

Compare this with the following scriptures:

In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. (Ge 15:16)

In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (1Th 2:16)

God is the creator of emotions, and he is an emotional God. He feels anger, love, zeal, even hatred and jealousy. But unlike human emotions, the emotions of God are never from wrong motives or out of control. God is never in an out of control rage, but he does decide to get angry. In his mercy and his forbearance he does not respond immediately to sin, but allows time for repentance and restoration, but there comes a point when sinfulness reaches its limit, and God decides, enough is enough; I'm going to get angry now.

Amos was prophesying that the sins of the neighbouring nations, and of Judah and Israel themselves, had reached that limit; God's judgement was imminent.

And something else I can't quite put my finger on....

The third layer of symbolism is one that I have not quite pinned down yet! I just have a gut instinct that there must be more here. I'm not trying to force the scriptures to say anything that is contrary to the plain reading of the text; I'm not looking for any "hidden coded messages". I believe, despite what some may think after reading the latter part of Daniel, that the purpose of prophetic symbolism, and all prophetic communication for that matter, is always to illuminate never to obfuscate! And it is for this reason that I feel there is more here.

The main message of Amos is clearest understood as "For seven sins of....", so why would he split it into 3 / 4 unless there was some more significant symbolism to be communicated by doing so. Although the tetrad device is clever, I do not for one minute think that the prophet communicated this way just to show off how clever or educated he was. "I may be a farm boy, but get a load of this..." No, just doesn't sit right. The prophet is bringing the symbolism of the number 3 and/or the number 4 into play.

My first reaction was to link this and contrast it with the three righteous men mentioned by Ezekiel in his judgements of the nations: Noah, Daniel and Job could save only themselves if they were present (Eze 14:16,18). But on closer inspection it didn't seem to stick.

Something to chew over, and come back to another day, I think. My good friend Matthew has already suggested a possible significance of the 3 / 4 split in a comment on my previous post, that I think has some mileage.


A way with numbers

“For three transgressions of Damascus,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment..." (Amos 1:3)

It seems I'm not the only one who is intrigued by numbers. The more I read in the prophetic writings, the more I am struck by the significance and prophetic symbolism in the numbers they chose. This is particularly true with the books of Daniel and Revelation which I have studied in some depth, but I believe it is also true of some of the other prophets.

Take the above quote from the beginning of Amos, repeated throughout chapters 1 and 2. If you are like me, you have probably skipped over the numbers here without giving them much thought. But I suddenly have a new found respect and admiration for this "rustic" prophet. Far from being a simple farm lad, he had an ingenious grip on the prophetic symbolism of numbers. I believe there are at least three layers of meaning carefully chosen and crafted together in this phrase....

....Unfortunately I don't have enough time to fully expound them today, so you'll have to come back tomorrow if you want to know what I've discovered. ;-) If you can't wait here are some clues: Abraham. Proverbs. Completeness / Fullness.


Sorry! This is what happens when you post in a hurry! The link to Abraham is tenuous at best! What I had in mind was actually Eze 14:16,18. And as Ezekiel was some 200 years after Amos, he could not really have been building on this revelation. In my haste I misrecalled the number of righteous men for which God would spare the city when Abraham pleaded for Sodom. Although Abraham had three visitors the number which he "bargained" down to was 10 not 3. Kinda takes the wind out of my sails on this one. But hey, you don't get fresh revelation if you're not prepared to explore some new avenues... but some turn out to be blind alleys.

Three is still a significant number in the scriptures even without this link. So I may still post on it anyway.


The Continuance of the Prophets

And I raised up some of your sons for prophets,
and some of your young men for Nazirites.
Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?”
declares the Lord. (Amos 2:11)

“For the Lord God does nothing
without revealing his secret
to his servants the prophets.
The lion has roared;
who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken;
who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7-8)

I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ (Amos 7:14-15)

I have been stirred to look at the book of Amos recently. As I have been reading and meditating, and looking into some of the detail of the prophet and his book, I came across some interesting information.

The above quotes from Amos do not look at all remarkable until you consider this fact: he was the first of the prophets whose utterances are recorded in the canon of scripture among the prophetic writings. Yet he does not claim to be the first of the prophets; he makes reference to a continuous lineage of prophets, and implies a company of contemporaneous prophets to which he barely considers to include himself.

It struck me that this is much like the cessationist debate, but in reverse! There is certainly no doubt as to whether there was a continuance of prophetic ministries before the canon of prophetic writings were started. Amos makes reference to a whole lineage and company of God's prophetic people that had nothing at all to do with the writing of scripture. It seems clear to me, and to Amos, that God's desire to have a prophetic people is an eternal and continuous thing, that is for the most part independent of the process of inspiration and writing of the word of God.

God has always desired to have a prophetic people, before, during and after his word was written!

“Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Nu 11:29)


Infinite Beauty

My post on perfect numbers generated some interesting discussion, so at the risk of being labelled a geek again, I thought I would continue for one more post on the amazing beauty and infinate detail that exists in God's creation, not just in the details without (the vastness of the Cosmos) but also the infinite details within, and in particular in numbers. What's so beautiful about numbers, I hear you say? How can a number have infinate detail?

Consider the snowflake; though it is tiny, it has beautiful detail, and were you to magnify these details, you would see just as much beauty on the finer details that exist upon these details. There are details on details, and further details on these details, right the way down to the atomic level. Not quite infinate detail, but these types of shapes are known as fractals, and can be represented by mathematical equations which do indeed, theoretically at least, have infinate detail. There is as much beauty and detail, no matter how much you zoom in: infinity enclosed within a finite space. Incredible!

One of the simplest of these mathematical equations (Zn+1 = Zn2 + C) is also one of the most beautiful. It's called the Mandelbot Set, after its discoverer, but the infinate beauty of this equation was crafted by God, just waiting for man to discover it.

Here's another Java Applet I wrote so you can try it out for yourself:

To explore the infinite (within the limits of the computer's arithmetic) detail in this fractal, drag a box around the area you wish to explore and then click in this box. You can repeat this as often as you like, increasing the magnification each time. When the screen stays blank, your computer has run out of decimal places to perform the calculations . Press the 'Reset' button and start again!


Perfect Numbers

I took a number of books on holiday to read. Apart from the Bible I took a book on Church history that I still have to finish, a collection of early Christian writings, and a good paperback novel which I bought in the airport.

The paperback I bought this time was "Fermat's Last theorem" by Simon Singh. I had already read his follow up book "The Code Book" and found it fascinating. Despite this book being about mathematics, I found it a rivetting read.

As part of the background to the theorem, Singh provides some background to some mathematical theories in the dramatic historical context in which they were first formulated. One such concept that particularly caught my imagination was the idea of "Perfect Numbers"

Every number has a set of divisors: numbers that can divide the original number into another whole number. If the only whole number (apart from itself) that can be a divisor is 1, then the number is said to be "Prime". Examples of prime numbers are: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 etc. If the sum of the divisors is more than the number itself, that number is said to be "excessive". If the sum of the divisors is less than the number it is "deficient". But if the sum of the divisors is exactly equal to the number itself then it is said to be a "perfect" number. The first 2 perfect numbers are 6 (1 + 2 + 3) and 28 (1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14).

Why this caught my interest is that some early Christian writers, like Augustine, noticed a link between these perfect numbers and the numbers involved with God's creation: God created the world in 6 days, and the moon which was created to mark the months has a 28 day cycle. This, they say, points to the initial perfection in all God made.

Now, I'm still unconvinced on the merits of this link. One has to be very wary of imposing modern scientific understanding upon the text of the scriptures, which neither knows, nor cares about such ways of viewing the world. The language of Genesis is one of description, not mechanics, and it holds true regardless of what the current scientific theories might be (I don't include Darwinism as a scientific theory!). Also the term "perfect" is a happy accident; if Pythagoras had named them "balanced" numbers instead, I wonder if the connection would have been so apparent. Finally the third "perfect" number is 496 which has no scriptural references whatsoever.

Never the less, I can't help but like elegant connections and details like this. God's creation was indeed perfect in every way before sin marred it. Who knows if God chose these numbers to reveal this perfection or not? One thing that I particularly like is the restoration of the number 6. This number has often been associated with evil or demons, but even Revelation 13 is very clear: it is man's number. Man was the pinnacle of God's perfect creation, created on the sixth day. To me the fact that 6 is a perfect number is a fitting reminder that man was created perfect, and is destined to return to perfection. Man does not belong to the devil nor to demons, but to his perfect Creator.


1100 miles and 20 degrees.

Hi, I'm back.

We had a fantastic time in Portugal. The weather was gloriously sunny and warm for the majority of the time we were there. Bit of a shock to the system coming home though: yesterday morning I was sipping my second cup of strong filter coffee in T-shirt and shades, overlooking a panoramic view of the sea; this morning I was scraping the ice off my car!


Off to Portugal!

Hooray! Tomorrow the Hamer-Hodges family fly off to Portugal for a much needed week's break in the sun. It's still about 20°C out there and sunny!

Michael has been looking forward to it sooo much! He even packed a little bag of toys a week or so ago, and said "I go to Portugal now?" Just one more big-sleep now, and we can all go on the big aeroplane.

Don't miss my posts too much! ;-) I've left you something meaty to chew over while I'm away; I look forward to reading your thoughts when I get back.

Abundant Blessings.

Blood, Fire and Billows of Smoke

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
" `In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
(Acts 2:14-21)

I mentioned in a previous post that the imagery of "Blood, Fire and Billows of Smoke" in Joel 2 / Acts 2 fascinates me. It's one of those places in scripture, where you just know there is great revelation to be unlocked if only you could get a handle on it. I have often stopped to chew it over when I have read it, but it has only been recently in the light of conversations had on this blog, revisiting scriptures relating to baptism in the spirit, and re-reading Jordan's book, that the pieces of the puzzle finally seem to be fitting together. I'm not claiming I have the definitive exegesis, or that what everyone else says is wrong, but for me, this seems to satisfy in a way that other explanations haven't. I certainly think at least there is some mileage in it, or I wouldn't be sharing it. Anyway, read on and see what you think.

Signs on the Earth

Jordan points out in "Through New Eyes" that this scripture is a Chiasm ["A chiasm is a literary device in which parallel ideas or terms are presented in a sandwich form instead of normal parallelism"]

 (A) I will show wonders in the heaven above
    (B) and signs on the earth below
    (B) blood and fire and billows of smoke
 (A) The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood

This helps, because is shows that "Blood, fire and billows of smoke" are related to "Signs of the Earth Below". Jordan suggests that the imagery of Blood fire and smoke are to do with war, and links this to the darkening of the heavenly bodies representing human authority and rule. Whilst this is certainly plausible, I don't find it very satisfying. The scripture uses many symbolisms for war, but never "blood, fire and billows of smoke", what is more these symbols are very powerful scriptural pictures that are used elsewhere, and not in the context of war. The darkening of the sun and moon does not have to represent the fall of a human government either. They are there to govern time and seasons, so they could equally be pointing to the end of an age in some other way than just geo-political. Couple this to the fact that Peter includes these verses in the fulfilment of what happened at Pentecost and the explanation of war seems even less satisfying.

Blood + Fire-and-Billows-of-Smoke

Since "Blood, fire and billows of smoke" only occur together in Joel 2 and Acts 2, we must de-couple at least one of these symbols to examine where the other two are used together. The most fruitful approach I have found is in separating "blood" from "fire and billows of smoke." This seems a good way to proceed, because Joel 2 is a prophecy about the baptism in the Spirit, and we have already come across the column of fire and smoke in relation to baptism in the Spirit pictured in the Old Testament, described as baptised in the cloud. (1Co 10:2)

Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. (Isa 4:5)

Fire and billows of smoke is also the language of Sinai, and represents the awesome presence of God that none but Moses could approach.

Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently (Ex 19:18)

It is also repeated in the description of the altar of incense, when the priest would go behind the curtain on the day of atonement. Here again it represents the awesome holy presence of God, that only the high priest could enter.

He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain.He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony, so that he will not die. (Lev 16:12-13)

The way in changed forever

This second image of fire and billows of smoke is particularly useful as we are told in Hebrews about this event: But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Heb 9:7) So now we have all three elements re-united again: blood, fire, and billows of smoke. If this is the event they are referring to, then they represent the means by which sinful man is permitted to come into the presence of almighty God.

So we have signs on the earth relating to the way man comes before God, and signs in the heavens relating to the end of an age. Is it beyond the realms of reason to assume that these are both connected, and relate to Pentecost? Could it be that they represent the end of an age of how man comes into the presence of God! Before it was exclusive to the high priest, but now it is inclusive of "all flesh"; before man had to come into the presence, but now the presence is poured out; before it was limited to once a year, but now we have an abiding presence of God within us that will never leave us nor forsake us.

So where's the blood and smoke?

Joel prophecies that the day of Pentecost will be marked by "Blood, fire and billows of smoke", but when we come to the New Testament scriptures we see that the only sign that is given is one of fire.

"I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Mt 3:11)

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:3-4)

The fulfilment of the sign of fire is clear, but it begs the question: where is the blood and the billows of smoke. After pondering this question for some time I am of the opinion that this is exactly the question the scriptures want us to ask! The blood and smoke speak volumes by their absence!

The absence of blood is easy: we no longer need to come before the Lord by shedding blood, because it has been shed once for all by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Our sins have been covered, and God's wrath fully propitiated. Christ's blood now seals an eternal covenant by which we may now enter boldly without fear of condemnation.

But the absence of smoke is not without precedent in scripture either. Consider Isaiah chapter 6; above the fiery coals of the altar, he saw not the billows of smoke that should have shielded his gaze from the holy presence, but he saw the Lord himself! It is also interesting that the first consequence of this encounter is that his lips were consecrated with this same fire, to enable him to declare the very words of God!

So this links in with the fact that the signs in the heavens reveal a change of an age. It is no longer one man who enters the presence of God, to make atonement for the people. But it is now a people who have been touched by the fire from heaven, and whose lips have been opened to declare the wonders of God, who take the presence of God with them, out to the whole word to declare to every nation tribe and tongue the good news of Christ's atoning sacrifice for sins, and that the way to God has been changed forever. It is open:

Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved!


Sticking my oar in!

I couldn't resist! I have recently been browsing wider in the Christian blogsphere, and I came across a big debate on the gifts of the Spirit. Sadly the debate was not on "How do we best move in the spiritual gifts?" or "How should the gifts be administrated?", but the age-old "Are the gifts of the Spirit for today?" cessationist / charismatic argument.

There are still many of our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are in expressions of the church where the gifts of the Spirit do not operate, or if they do, they are ignored or suppressed. What is more, some of them actually seem to like it this way! They actually argue that the church is better off without the gifts of the Spirit, and that God never intended them to last beyond the "apostolic" age!

What I found most ironic was one site where many cessationists were patting themselves on the back for their doctrinal correctness, and bandying around the term Sola Scriptura. How sad! A term that was originally intended to restore biblical practice to the church, has now been distorted to the point where it means that God can only communicate through the scriptures! Surely, if these people want to claim "Sola Scriptura", they should base their doctrine on the gifts of the Spirit on what the scriptures actually say about the gifts, and not on their misguided notions of the implications of Sola Scriptura!

I guess the reason I stuck my oar in, and joined the debate is that I once used to attend congregations like these. I was never deliberately cessationist in my theology, but I had received no teaching on the gifts, and had no experience of their operation. I was concerned about the discrepancy between my experience and what I read in the letters and Acts, but I had no idea what to do about it. I knew people who allegedly spoke in tongues, but because in the circles I moved in at the time, it was frowned upon, they used to put their hands in front of their mouths, and all you could hear were slurping noises! The first time I properly heard someone speak in tongues, the words were coming out of my own mouth! No-one laid hands on me, no-one directed me. Just a young man earnestly praying alone in his room for God to fill him with his Spirit so he could effectively witness to his friends, who got what he asked for! I don't know if my comments have done any good, but even if they encourage one person to seek God and find out for themselves what he can do... it will have been worth it.

If you want to follow the debate, or flex your theological muscles and join in, the best place to start seems to be Adrian Warnock's blog.


Bon fire and billows of smoke

Had a great time at the Eagles' tonight! They really know how to put on a firework display! I was very impressed.

Michael loves fireworks, but until tonight has only ever caught a few from his bedroom window as we have been putting him to bed. He had been counting the days until he could see "Lots and lots of rockets!" He wasn't disappointed!

Thanks Andrew, much appreciated.


Staying Close to Stay Full

One last observation (for now) from the river in Ezekiel 47. As I mentioned before the river flows from underneath the temple. It comes from the presence of God. To stay in the river, we have to stay close to God.

We can see this in another portion of scripture that talks about baptism:

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1Co 10:1-2)

We often pick up on the fact that the passage through the Red Sea was a picture of water baptism. But Paul also states that being under the cloud was also a picture of baptism.

Now we know that the cloud represents the presence of God. And it was this presence that led them for forty years in the wilderness.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out--until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels. (Ex 40:36-38)

If "baptism in the sea" represents water baptism, what can "baptism in the cloud" mean except baptism in the Holy Spirit: the presence of God within us.

It is interesting, in this case, to notice again the difference between these two baptisms. For although they passed through the sea as a one-off, they stayed under the cloud for the entire duration of their pilgrimage to the promised land. Baptism in the Spirit does not mean a one-off filling, but a life continually led by the Holy Spirit. If we are baptised in the Spirit we should be leading lives that are continually led, guided and prompted by the stirrings of the Holy Spirit within us. As we obey these promptings and stay close, we stay in the river, and so we stay full. As it says in Galatians 5:25:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.


Staying Under to Stay Full

Back to the image of the river again. The picture in Ezekiel 47 reminds me of what Matthew shared with us on Sunday: the difference between the baptism in water and the baptism in the Spirit.

When we are baptised in water we come up again straight away, but when we are baptised in the Spirit we are meant to stay under forever!

We often think of being filled with the Spirit, like taking our cup back to God for him to turn on his "tap" and replenish us. But I think a far more scriptural image, certainly post-pentecost, is to think of it like Ezekiel in chapter 47, being immersed in the river that is the Spirit. This fits both with the concept of "baptism", and the reoccurring New Testament phrasiology of being "In the Spirit". We thus should not ask "have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit", but "are you baptised in the Holy Spirit". It is a lasting position we are meant to live in, not a one-off experience so we can tick the box "Charismatic"!

It's not about trying to get more of the Spirit into us, but like Ezekiel, getting more of us into the Spirit. It's no problem to stay full if you stay in the river.

As I have said in a previous post it is also interesting to note what Jesus says in John 7: "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." It's not a picture of a vessel filled from on high, but of a well springing forth from within. The Holy Spirit, the river we need to get into, is already inside us! We just need to make sure that our well is not blocked, and we do not inhibit his "gushing forth" in our lives.

If this concept of staying in the river, to keep the river within us flowing seems a strange mix of "who's inside who?" compare it with what Jesus says in John 15:4:

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you."


The Hand that made us is divine

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
Does his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The works of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
Whilst all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings, as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found;
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

–Joseph Addison

I was thrilled to discover yesterday on Matthew's Blog, a link to the complete text of "Through New Eyes" by James Jordan. If you haven't read this book, stop what you are doing and download it now! It is an outstanding book that will help you get the most out of the Bible by bridging the gap between our 21st Century way of thinking, and the worldview and symbolism contained in the pages of scripture.

I have been devouring it again, and came across this poem that I really like. It appeals to me both as a scientist and as a believer. The true study of science will never disprove God — how could it?! That is a fantasy propogated by the lies of the Darwinists. The study of God's creation will always point to the creator. That is why, when I was at University, the Physics department had one of the largest Christian Union groups of any faculty, and why when you consider the greatest Physicists of all time: Newton, Einstien, Maxwell — they were all firm believers in the divine hand that had shaped the cosmos.

Jordan, correctly points out in his book, that besides being giant balls of gas, the stars are there for a divine purpose. To reveal to all who will see, aspects of their creator. Not just the majesty and awesome greatness and power of God, but they also speak of his rule and his Kingdom. They were placed in the heavens to govern.

I was meditating on this recently, and I believe it explains the purpose behind, what is one of the most misunderstood scientific discoveries of our time.

In 1924 the astronomer Edwin Hubble (Made famous by the recent spectacular images beamed back from the space telescope that bears his name) made observations of the spectra of light emitted from the stars. He made a remarkable discovery. All the spectra were "red-shifted": the spectral lines for the emission of known elements in the stars did not fall on the frequencies they should have, but occurred at lower frequencies. This is an effect known as a doppler shift. Waves from an object travelling towards you appear to have a higher frequency than stationary waves, and those travelling away from you have lower frequencies. It is the reason for the "neeeeeOOOOOW" sound as a race car goes past: you hear the engine sound make a high-pitch noise as it is approaching, and a low pitch one as it roars away.

The fact that all the spectra of light were red-shifted meant something amazing: all the stars in the universe are moving away from us. This led to the discovery that the Universe is expanding — all the time, and in every direction — something that was also predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity. But this data has been misinterpreted! Georges Lemaître, in 1927 proposed what is now known as the Big Bang theory, by assuming that if the universe will be bigger tomorrow than it is today, it must have been smaller yesterday, and even smaller the day before that, all the way back to when it would shrink to a single point.

It is interesting to note however, that although this theory is today championed by atheists, it's original proponent, Lemaître,was a Christian, and tried to use it as proof that God had created the Universe.

If only Lemaître had read Jordan's book!! (I know it wasn't around then!) Then he would have understood that the eternal expansion of the Universe is there to tell us about the nature of God's kingdom. I believe it to be a cosmic declaration of Isaiah 9 verse 7! Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. And we would have been spared the precedent of trying to explain creation by science; a trap which many Christians still fall into. Creation defines the laws of science; science does not, nor can it, explain the miraculous divine act of creation itself. Its ultimate purpose is to point us to God.

All heaven declares the glory of the risen Lord!