Miscellaneous

Jim Holmes Interviews Dr. Timothy Cross

 

Jim Holmes asks Timothy Cross a few questions. . .

(Jim Holmes is a publishing consultant. He blogs regularly on www.blogspot52.com. This article is copyright © and is reproduced from Blogspot52 with permission.)

Some months ago, I completed work on an editorial project involving Dr. Timothy Cross. Timothy, author of over thirty books, resides in Cardiff, Wales. When he first showed me his proposed manuscript, I liked it immediately, and recommended it for publication by the company I was working for at the time. Then, through a series of events, it ended up being brought into print by Christian Focus. The title chosen makes me think of Twitter. And that could be a blog post in and of itself!

I so much like the way that Timothy wrote the book, that I thought I should share some background to the story with you. It comes in the form of an interview. Enjoy!

To purchase a copy of the book, check out this link here or here.


Jim: The English language uses many sayings from the Bible, and people often quote them without even realizing they are quoting from the Word of God. You have been working on this fascinating book, “A Little Bird Told Me–Everyday Expressions from Scripture”, for some months. How did you first come up with the idea?

Timothy: Like an oak tree, the book grew from a small acorn! I kept on hearing politicians, colleagues and even footballers using expressions from the Bible without realizing it, and I thought that pointing out that these were biblical expressions, and explaining their meaning would make for interesting messages for my gospel slot on the monthly South Wales Talking Magazine. The response to the messages was very encouraging, and I typed up some of them and these were published as a mini series in the Evangelical Times. This wider audience response was also very favourable and I thought ‘I’m on to something here’. Surprisingly, the subject does not seem to be very well covered in Christian literature, and this motivated me to get a compilation of everyday expressions from the Bible and their meaning into print.   My experience reveals that both Christians and non Christians seem to have a fascination for the origins of and background to  expressions from the Bible which are in everyday use.

Jim: Tell us about some of the blessings to you personally in working on this project.

Timothy: If one is convinced that the Bible is no ordinary book but the very Word of God itself, then digging into Scriptures–whether it is preparing a sermon or researching a book or for personal devotions–is one of the greatest privileges and blessings possible this side of eternity. The more I study the Bible (and I have been at it a long time!) the more I am convinced of its divine inspiration. According to 2 Timothy 3:15, the purpose of ‘all Scripture’ is to lead us to Christ. Thus when a believer studies Scripture in the right spirit, the Lord Jesus always draws closer. The inspired Word and the incarnate Word, while distinguishable in principle, in practice are inextricable in our personal experience.

Jim: We’ve heard it said that all writers get “Writer’s Block”. Is this true of you? How do you deal with it?

Timothy: At the risk of being a heretic I have never suffered from ‘writer’s block’ and I have written over thirty books. A godly elder once told me that when it comes to sermon preparation,  ‘Let the message make an impression on your soul, then there will be no trouble with expression.’ The same applies, I believe to Christian writing. Christian writing is unlike secular creative writing in that it is not original but rather a matter expounding the Scriptures which have been given. Saying that though all Christian writers and preachers aspire to expounding the Scriptures with both clarity and passion and not put any human barriers between them and the hearers/readers.

Jim: What was the most surprising or inspiring saying that you think you used in this book?

Timothy: When people say ‘I’m almost at my wits’ end’ they never fail to be surprised when you say to them, ‘Did you know that you have just quoted from Psalm 107:27?’ Choosing the most inspiring saying from the fifty-two is difficult. You are asking me to choose a Quality Street chocolate! I personally though find it incredibly heartwarming when Almighty God refers to His redeemed children as ‘The apple of my eye’–see Chapter 1.. This can only be explained by divine grace–God’s love for the undeserving and ill-deserving.

Jim: There are 52 readings in this book. That could seem an unusual number. Tell us about this.

Timothy: There was no predetermined plan to this, but rather just the way the work panned out. It began with six chapters, and I never thought that these would go beyond the South Wales Talking Magazine and Evangelical Times. The Lord’s people kept encouraging me, though, so I continued my research, and the chapters came to 31, which I thought would be suitable for daily devotionals–31 days being in most months. A publisher–you!–then asked me to increase the chapters to 52. I was reticent, as I was by then working on other writing projects. Before I knew it, though, extra ‘Everyday Sayings from the Bible’ came to my mind and attention, and these were written up. In fact I now have several extra chapters which are not included in the work. Books have an ideal length in my opinion. I like them to be neither too long nor too short. Fifty-two–the number of weeks in a year–seemed to be the ideal length. Each chapter is self contained while being in line with the overall theme. It can be read either one chapter at a time or a few chapters at a time in a pick up, put down manner. It might even make a daily travelling companion for someone commuting to work, or a spiritual ‘pick me up’ during the lunch hour.

Jim: You are very good at drawing lines of application from the truth you are writing about to us in our modern world. How would you advise ordinary people to cultivate this practice when dealing with family, friends and neighbours?

Timothy: If this compliment is true, it stems from my years in the pulpit. Pulpit preaching is a matter of the explanation and the application of a biblical text–not so much a matter of making the Bible relevant, but rather bringing people under its eternal relevance. While the Bible was written in a certain context which should always be borne in mind when accurately expounding it, as the Word of God it is also timeless. God is our eternal contemporary and thus His Word is always relevant. Similarly, human nature does not change even if human technology does. Those in Bible times shared the same hopes, fears, aspirations, stresses and perplexities as we do. But their needs–just as our needs–were met by the saving and sustaining grace of God in Christ.

Jim: Are you available to give talks to people at churches, conferences, etc., on the topics in this book? What is the best way for people to contact you if so?

Timothy: Yes!–though I have quite a full diary of preaching engagements, involved as I am in the local church. I am contactable via the contact section of my website.

Jim: Dr. Cross, it has been a pleasure interviewing you on this subject. Thank you for taking the time for this interview!

Timothy: You are more than welcome. If the readers find half the blessing in reading the work as the blessing I had in preparing the work, I will be more than amply repaid.


To purchase a copy of the book, check out this link here or here.

To read a sample excerpt from the book, click or tap here.

This interview is © copyright, blogspot52.com 2015 and may be reproduced in its entirety provided due acknowledgement is made of the copyright holder, with or without graphic or illustrative content.
Posted by Site Developer in Miscellaneous, Writing, 0 comments

Lessons from Bees

Bees

While sitting in my parents’ back garden recently, I was struck by the very pleasant sound of the singing of birds and humming of bees. I would like to have recorded it. Playing it back, you would have been hard pressed to know that it was an urban, not a rural, setting.

 

This got me thinking about the bees. Being rather partial to honey, I did a bit of research. Did you know the following facts?

A honey bee flaps its wings some twelve thousand times a minute. They are the only insects who produce food for human consumption; maintain a temperature of 33 degrees centigrade in their hives, even if it is minus 33 degrees outside; and communicate with each other by dancing.

There are references to honey in the Bible. The promised land of Canaan is described as ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ (Exodus 3:4). Then, in the time of Samson, we read about a swarm of bees that had made their nest in the carcass of a lion. From this, Samson invented a riddle which went: ‘Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet’ (Judges 14:14).

 

Designed

 

But are there any spiritual lessons to be gleaned from bees and honey? Yes there are. If we have the spiritual insight, when we consider how bees are designed and how a hive operates with queen bee and worker bees each knowing their specific role — along with the place of bees in the cycle of nature, in the pollination of plants — surely we have to stand in awe of God the great creator.

Does not an observation of the universe, both on the macro scale and micro scale, give evidence of intelligent design? How do we explain the stars? How do we explain the honey bee without bringing the almighty, all-wise God into the equation?

Divine creation is one of the main themes of the Bible. The message of the Bible can be summarised under headings of creation, man’s fall and redemption. Its opening pages tell us, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ ‘and God said, let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind’ (Genesis 1:1,24).

The created order is the vehicle and theatre of God’s praise. As Mrs C. F. Alexander’s famous hymn puts it:

 

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

 

Delectable

 

In the longest chapter of the Bible, Psalm 119, we read in verse 103, ‘How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth’.

The psalmist is surely describing every Christian’s testimony here. Christians have been given a spiritual taste — a love for God’s Word. Just as honey is energising and agreeable to the taste, so is the Bible, the written Word of the living God, to the believer.

It is the written revelation of the one, true God, and his plan of salvation to save a people for himself and his glory. It reveals the way in which condemned sinners can be eternally saved. Its message, in a nutshell, is that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

There is, and there can be, no sweeter message than the saving grace and mercy of God to sinners, through Christ. ‘How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth’!

 

Disarmed

 

Finally, we note that bees possess a painful sting. No one wants a bee sting. One skin remedy for it, we are told, is to remove the barb left by the bee, and then, as the sting is acidic, neutralise it with a mild alkali, such as bicarbonate of soda.

In 1 Corinthians 15:56, Paul writes ‘the sting of death is sin’. Death and the afterlife would not be a problem for us if we did not have to stand before God as condemned sinners. The problem is though that we are sinners and we will have to stand before God one day. ‘It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27).

But in 1 Corinthians 15:55 Paul is able to proclaim, ‘O death, where is thy sting?’ Every Christian is able to echo Paul’s triumphant exclamation here, for Jesus has taken the sting of death away for all who believe in him. Jesus has neutralised death’s horrific effects by dying in our place and taking the punishment for our sins which we deserved.

The gospel affirms, ‘Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3) and assures us, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1).

The wonders of the honey bee then lead us to consider the wonder of God himself. He is a creator of infinite wisdom. He has given us his precious and sweet Word. And in his Son he has provided a way — the only way — in which our sins can be forgiven and fellowship with God restored and assured, for time and eternity.

© Timothy Cross

(Featured image from www.publicdomainpictures.net)

Posted by Site Developer in Miscellaneous, Providence, Salvation, 0 comments

The Longest Day

June 21st is the longest day of the year — the day when the sun rises the earliest and sets the latest. Before 21 June, the days get longer. Afterwards they grow shorter, until the dark days of winter are on us once again.

If we believe the Bible, we look beyond these regular events and see the hand of God himself. He states in Genesis 8:22: ‘While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease’.

 

The longest day

 

According to biblical history, the longest day that ever occurred was in the time of Joshua, when God actually lengthened a day to ensure that Israel was victorious in battle.

Joshua 10:12-14 records: ‘Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon in the valley of Aijalon”.

‘And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. … There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD hearkened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel’.

Here, then, we are dealing with a unique day. The Lord of the universe suspended natural laws for the benefit of his people.

If we believe in God, miracles present no difficulty. Almighty God was more than able to control his creation in Joshua’s day, just as he had previously parted the waters of the Red Sea in the time of Moses.

Just as also, in the fullness of time, he was able to raise his own Son from the dead. Our Father is omnipotent!

 

The longest night

 

In the Bible, all roads lead to Calvary — the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross in the sinner’s place. Calvary was a unique day in every sense of the word.

Here we are dealing with the longest ever night — for when God punished his Son for sins not his own, he sent darkness at midday.

We read: ‘Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:45-46).

Painful days always seem to go slowly. Calvary, therefore, was certainly a long day and a long night for the Lord Jesus. His physical and spiritual sufferings are beyond our comprehension.

Yet the Scripture testifies that this long, dark day, paradoxically, is the brightest day of all. For as the sun was darkened and Christ himself bore the wrath of God, the eternal salvation of all who believe in Jesus was procured.

The death of Christ on the cross in time was an event of eternal significance. The Bible’s explains Christ’s death as follows:

‘Christ … offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins’ and ‘by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:12,14).

Christ’s death, then, was an eternal sacrifice. It is sufficient to save us for all eternity. Here we are dealing with God himself and his way of salvation. ‘I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it’ (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

 

The eternal day

 

Finally, we note that Revelation 21:25 says of the eternal city of God — that glorious eternal home of the redeemed — that ‘there shall be no night there’.

Why not? Because ‘the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb’.

If we are believers we are heading for eternal day! Few of us will miss the night. At night time, worries always seem more complicated, burdens heavier and bodily pain more acute.

But there will be no such experiences in glory! Christians may take heart, therefore, that in heaven they will endure night no more.

In the Bible, ‘night’ is often used to symbolise sin, danger and evil. By God’s grace we will be for ever free from sin, and eternally beyond the reach of danger and evil — all because Jesus bore the dark night of Calvary for us.

He delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into his glorious kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). Christians enjoy Christ — both as the Sun of righteousness and the Light of the world — now and eternally.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say

‘I am this dark world’s light.

Look unto me, thy morn shall rise

And all thy days be bright!’

I looked to Jesus and I found

In him my Star, my Sun

And in that light of life I’ll walk

Till travelling days are done.

 

Copyright, Timothy Cross

 

Posted by Site Developer in Bible, Miracles, Miscellaneous, 0 comments

Dealing with Hurt and Offence

DEALING WITH HURT AND OFFENCE – WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

 

A hazard of the boxing ring is the distinct possibility of getting physically hurt. Every boxer, professional or amateur, knows the risk of, for instance, a broken nose, a cut eyebrow, being winded by a body punch or even being knocked out cold, risking long-term brain damage.

A hazard of life generally though is also the distinct possibility of getting hurt it some way. Here, I am not referring to something as unsubtle as a black eye, but to the more insidious pain  of inner hurt, and that crushing feeling of  inward offence. To be human is to be sensitive. Being on the receiving end of a deliberate or accidental offence and consequently feeling hurt inside can be a great problem for us all at sometime. What do we do at such times? Does the Bible – God’s Word – address this issue? Yes it does. Consider the following:-

 

  1. First of all, it is not wrong for us to feel hurt. Mark 3:5 describes an occasion when the Lord Jesus Himself looked around at them with anger, grieved by their hardness of heart. Then in 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul relates how Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm … If both the sinless Son of God and the great Apostle Paul winced with inward hurt then, we will too. We are only human and we are part of a fallen world. So whilst we do not welcome getting hurt, it is unrealistic not to expect it at some time. How though are we meant to react?

 

  1. The Bible teaches non-retaliation. By this it warns us not to add fuel to the fire and make a bad situation worse. Jesus said in Matthew 6:39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And Paul wrote in Romans 12:17 and 19: Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all … Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ Vengeance then is God’s prerogative, not ours. It is natural, of course, to want to retaliate and ‘get even.’ But the Christian Faith is not natural – it is a supernatural Faith. God’s Holy Spirit, living within us, enables us to live and empowers us to live, think, act and not act, in a way and manner altogether differently from the normal.

 

  1. The Bible often reminds us that we have a Father in heaven to Whom we can turn when we get hurt – or in fact at any time. Call upon Me in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15). Cast your burden on the LORD and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22).

In this, we have the positive example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. How did He deal with personal offence? 1 Peter 2:23 tells us: When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered He did not threaten; but He trusted to Him Who judges justly. In leaving the personal abuse He received in God’s hand, Jesus has given us, His followers, an example to emulate.

 

  1. In praying to God about those who have wounded us, is it wrong to pray that He will take vengeance upon them? Putting my head on the block, I would suggest that it is not necessarily wrong, not that I can ever recall doing this. Many of the Psalms are what are known as ‘imprecatory’ Psalms. In these, the Psalmist prays that God would avenge his enemies. It is certainly infinitely better to ask God for vengeance on our enemies than to take revenge ourselves, for we can be sure that God will never punish unjustly, or too much or too little, or be handicapped by wounded pride and personal prejudice as we are. Remember too that in God’s dealings with us – including the harsher people and providences He sends our way – Psalm 145:17 holds true: The LORD is just in all His ways, and kind in all His doings. Even our pain then will turn out ultimately for our blessing, for Romans 8:28 says that without exception We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.

 

  1. Finally, no matter what internal scars we carry, if we are Christians, we must always remind ourselves and rejoice that our Gospel is a Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Your sins are forgiven for His sake (1 John 2:12).

Our sin offends almighty God, but in Christ He had mercy upon us. Every Christian is a recipient of the mercy of God – a full and free forgiveness, gained by Christ’s undergoing the punishment for our sins, in our place, on Calvary’s cross. Surely, if we know that God, in Christ, has forgiven us all our sins, our attitude towards others will be that much more merciful. Hence Paul exhorted in Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

So, in this wonderful, but at times painful world, it pays to fix our eyes on Jesus and His redeeming love. The cross of Christ  keeps everything that happens to us in its right perspective:-

 

Give me a sight O Saviour

Of Thy wondrous love to me

Of the love that brought Thee down to earth

To die on Calvary

 

O wonder of all wonders

That through Thy death for me

My open sins, my secret sins

Can all forgiven be

 

O make me understand it

Help me to take it in

What it meant for Thee, the Holy One

To bear away my sin.

 

TC.

Posted by Site Developer in Bible, Miscellaneous, Prayer

Keeping Body and Soul Together

KEEPING BODY AND SOUL TOGETHER: PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL NECESSITITES

 

When the Apostle Paul found himself both in a Roman prison cell and approaching the end of his earthly life, he wrote the following request to my namesake Timothy: ‘When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments’ (2 Timothy 4:13). The request divides neatly into two. i. Paul requested his ‘cloak’ for his physical well-being and ii. Paul requested ‘the books and … the parchments’ for study – for his mental and spiritual well-being.

 

  1. The Cloak

 

‘When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas …’ The cloak referred to here was a heavy, outer garment, made of Cicilian goats’ hair. Simple in design, it would have been sleeveless and circular in shape when laid flat, the only notable feature being a hole for the head. 2 Timothy 4:21 suggests that winter was approaching. Paul’s prison cell would have lacked our central heating! His thick cloak would have helped maintain a degree of bodily warmth and comfort.

According to the Bible, we are ‘bi-partite’ beings. That is, we are constituted of body and soul. Almighty God made us this way. ‘The LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7). We should take care of our bodies, as they are the vehicle in which we glorify God our maker. This will always be so, for the ultimate Christian hope – that is, our confident expectation based on the sure promises of God – is not the salvation of the soul, but the resurrection of the body. Even now though, we should be good stewards of the bodies God has given us. They are actually – if we belong to Jesus – the temple of God Himself. ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? … (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Food and clothing are basic requirements for our body well-being. The Lord Jesus – God’s own Son – assures us that God our Father will ensure that His adopted children will never lack  either whilst their earthly life lasts. Jesus said ‘Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?’ (Matthew 6:26,28-30).

 

  1. The Books and the Parchments

 

‘When you come, bring … the books and above all the parchments …’ The consensus is that Paul was here requesting the Holy Scriptures that were extant in his day – our Old Testament which foretold the coming of Christ, and perhaps the sayings of the Saviour which had been written down, similar to the kind utilised by Luke when he researched and compiled his Gospel (Luke 1:1-4). ‘The books’ refer to papyrus scrolls. ‘The parchments’ refer to the more expensive animal skins on which the scribes carefully and reverently copied the sacred Scriptures.

It is evident from our verse and its context that the Apostle Paul prized the Scriptures very highly. He knew that they were no ordinary writings but the very Word of God written. He had stated to Timothy a little earlier ‘All Scripture is inspired by God (that is ‘God-breathed’) and profitable …’ (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul was aware that his remaining time on earth was short. Nevertheless, he wished to use the time had had left profitably – and nothing was more profitable to Paul than the Scriptures. He was a life-long disciple of Christ – and the name ‘disciple’ means ‘learner.’ Thus Paul, vastly experienced in the ways of God though he was, never lost the desire to learn in the school of Christ.  Paul loved the Saviour. Paul longed to know the Saviour better and make Him better known. The means by which he did this were the Scriptures – ‘the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (2 Timothy 3:15). The inspired Word and the incarnate Word are, of course, distinct. Yet in our Christian experience they co-alesce and are less distinguishable. Jesus Himself said that ‘the Scriptures (are) they that bear witness to Me’ (John 5:39).

So one of Paul’s final requests on earth was for i. A cloak for his bodily warmth and ii. The Scriptures for the warmth of his soul. His desire for the Word of God surely finds an echo in every believer. A desire for and love for the Bible is one evidence that we have been truly born again. A new life has to be fed and sustained. Hence Peter – Paul’s colleague in the Faith – could write to believers ‘As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby’ (1 Peter 2:2, KJV). If we love the Saviour, we will love the Book which draws us closer to Him. As clothing is essential for our physical well-being, so the Bible is indispensable for our spiritual well-being. It will be so until we see the Saviour fact to face, and the Word in Person renders the Word in print obsolete. It is only when we see Jesus that we will need our Bibles no more.

 

Timothy Cross

 

Posted by Site Developer in Bible, Miscellaneous

The Shortest Verse in the Bible

THE SHORTEST VERSE IN THE BIBLE

 

Did you know that John 11:35 is the shortest verse of all the 31,173 verses which comprise the Bible? John 11:35 is easy to memorise, as it consists of just two words. The verse states succinctly Jesus wept. Whilst John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the entire Bible though, it contains depths which even the greatest of theologians cannot plumb. The verse tells us that Jesus – the eternal Son of God – actually wept – He experienced grief and sorrow, and could not but give physical expression to it.

Meditating on John 11:35, the shortest verse of the Bible, note:-

 

1. The Humanity of our Saviour

 

Jesus wept. John 11:35 reveals the real, tender humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was and is as truly human as He was and is divine – the eternal Son of God. Jesus wept. Grief is a human emotion. It is experienced solely by those made in the image of God, made up of both a body and a soul. In the Lord Jesus Christ then, God actually became man:-

 

Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin (Shorter Catechism).

 

John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Hebrews 2:14 explains Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature … The humanity of the Lord Jesus is important. Eternal deity cannot die. God is immortal. Christ took upon Himself our humanity as an integral part of God’s eternal plan of salvation. He became man so that He could die and so pay the wages of the sin of His people. The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3).

 

2. The Sympathy of our Saviour

 

Jesus wept. Every text has its context. The context of John 11:35 is the death of Lazarus at Bethany, and the consequent grief of Martha and Mary his sisters. Jesus’ tears were tears of deep sympathy. John 11:33 records When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

                John 11:35 then reveals the sympathy of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will all go down into the depths of suffering and sorrow at some time in our lives. God in Christ has experienced those depths too. The God of the Bible is no remote, passive, removed, unfeeling deity. Isaiah foretold that the Lord Jesus would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that in the Lord Jesus we have not a high priest Who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Isaac Watts wrote:-

 

With joy we mediate the grace

Of our High Priest above

His heart is made of tenderness

And overflows with love

 

Touched with a sympathy within

He knows our feeble frame

He knows what sore temptations mean

For He has felt the same.

 

3. The Glory of our Saviour

 

Jesus wept. Paradoxically, the same Bible which reveals that Jesus wept  also reveals the Lord Jesus as the great dryer of tears. John 11 records Him drying Martha and Mary’s tears. Their tears were caused by the death of their brother Lazarus – but Jesus raised Lazarus back to life again, confirming His claim in John 11:25,26 that ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. ‘

                If there was no sin, there would be no tears. Sin has brought misery in its wake. Sin brings God’s judgement, and ultimately death and eternal separation from God’s love – unless it is dealt with. On the cross though Christ died for sinners. He dealt with our sins, so that when we believe in Him, our sins are forgiven, we are reconciled to God and promised an eternal, tear-free existence with God, in His nearer presence.

Tears for the Christian are real. We live in a fallen world. Christians are not immune from suffering. Yet tears for the Christian are only temporary. The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Better, glorious days are surely coming, because of the grace of God in Christ. The Apostle John was actually given a prophetic glimpse of this glorious time promised to all God’s children – and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he wrote it down. In Revelation 21:3 ff. we read: Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; HE WILL WIPE AWAY EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.

                Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible reveals Jesus’ real, tender humanity and sympathy. It also reminds us to keep trusting Jesus, for if we belong to Him, one day, all our tears will be banished forever!

 

Timothy Cross

 

Posted by Site Developer in Bible, Miscellaneous

The Middle Verse of the Bible

THE MIDDLE VERSE OF THE BIBLE

 

It has been calculated that the Bible contains 31,173 verses. Of these 31,173 verses, Psalm 118:8 has been calculated to be the exact middle verse – the exact centre verse of the Bible. Psalm 118:8 reads:-

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

                Here is a verse which almost encapsulates the message of the whole Bible, for the thrust of the Bible’s message is that we put our trust in God alone – His grace, His providence and His promises – for trust in anyone or anything else will ultimately let us down.

 

Negatively

 

Negatively, Psalm 118:8 is a warning against having a false confidence in any created being. Fallen human beings will let us down, as – as the late Bishop JC Ryle used to say – ‘the best of men are men at best.’ It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Other Scriptures contain a similar warning. Isaiah 2:22, for instance, reads Turn away from man in whose nostrils is breath for of what account is he? Jeremiah 17:5 is more forceful still, for it states Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD.

                Biblical history reveals the glaring faults, foibles and frailties of even great and godly men: Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses could not control his temper; David could not control his lust; Simon Peter had his notorious moment of cowardice etc. Recent history has shaken the confidence of many in man. Here in the UK we have lived through a parliamentary expenses scandal which has revealed that the politicians we voted into office have not always been characterised by integrity. Many are now disillusioned with politics. Then almost everyday we hear about the failings of celebrities – film stars, pop stars and sports stars – who had been put on a pedestal. They are not immune from temptation, and not immune from giving in to temptation and making a shipwreck of their lives. And, truth be told, we cannot really rely on ourselves. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? We can be at ease and full of confidence one day, and then illness, accident or redundancy cuts us down to size, and makes us realise our frailty and vulnerability. God can knock all the human props away from us in a moment. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man. The next verse is a little stronger in emphasis, for it states It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes (Psalm 118:9), that is, to put confidence in the best of men. Psalm 146:3,4 explains: Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish. The folly of trusting in mortal man!

 

Positively

 

Positively, Psalm 118:8 – the middle verse of the Bible – is an exhortation to put our trust in God – specifically, in ‘the LORD’ – the One Who has revealed Himself in the Bible as the God of creation, the God of the covenant and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Again, many Scriptures amplify this point. Jeremiah 17:7 states Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. And Psalm 34 ends by affirming that none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

 

Trusting in the Grace of God

 

The Bible exhorts us to take refuge in God’s grace for our eternal salvation. How is a sinner saved? By trusting in God’s grace; by availing him/herself of God gracious provision in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Faith of the Bible is distinguished by the fact that salvation is God’s work for us and in us, and not what we do ourselves: To one who does not work but trusts Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness (Romans 4:5). Martin Luther said:-

 

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentence to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One Who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.

 

Trusting in the Providence of God

 

The Bible also exhorts God’s children to take refuge in God’s providence. Our God is on the throne. He is at the helm of our lives. The circumstances of our lives are not accidental but providential – divinely ordained. We can trust in God’s providence – the providence of God and the God of providence – for He is all-wise, all-loving and all righteous. God knows best! This God – His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30). Hence We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him who are called according to His purpose.

                The Christian then abandons and abhors all human confidence. Our strong refuge – our place of eternal safety – is in God Himself. He cannot fail. He does not disappoint, for ‘His love is as great as His power, and knows neither measure nor end.’  He is Almighty God, our refuge from both earthly and eternal danger. As the middle verse of the Bible puts it: It is better to take refuge in the LRD than to put confidence in man (Psalm 118:8):-

 

All my hope on God is founded

He doth still my trust renew

Me through change and chance He guideth

Only good and only true

God unknown

He alone

Calls my heart to be His own

 

Pride of man and earthly glory

Sword and crown betray his trust

What with care and toil he buildeth

Tower and temple turn to dust

But God’s power

Hour by hour

Is my temple and my tower.

 

Timothy Cross

Posted by Site Developer in Bible, Miscellaneous

The Shortest Chapter of the Bible

THE SHORTEST CHAPTER OF THE BIBLE

 

Did you know that Psalm 117 is the exact middle chapter of the 1,189 chapters which make up the Bible? Did you know also that Psalm 117 is distinguished by being the shortest chapter in the entire Bible? The Psalm consists of just seventeen words in the original Hebrew.

Psalm 117 is part of a group of Psalms known as the ‘Hallel’, from which we get the word ‘Hallelujah’  – praise the Lord. The ‘Hallel’ is always sung as part of the Jewish Passover celebrations. Psalm 117 itself is a clarion call to worship the one, true God. The two verses of Psalm 117 read:-

1. Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol Him all peoples! 2. For great is His steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Praise the LORD!

 

We see here, first of all The Call to Divine Worship. Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol Him all peoples! Notice that the call to worship is a universal one, for the God of the Bible is the God of the whole human race, not just the God of the Hebrew race. Paul quotes this Psalm in Romans 15:8 ff. He views it in the light of the universal conquest of the Gospel of Christ. God has His elect in every nation, and He will ensure that these people hear the Gospel of Christ crucified and put their trust in Him and so be eternally saved. Says Paul in Romans 15:8 ff.:- I tell you that Christ became a servant … in order to confirm the promise given to the patriarchs and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. As it is written …’Praise the Lord, all Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise Him …

                The universal plight and peril of humanity is sin. The universal provision of God for this universal plight is the Gospel of Christ. The Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The universal response of the redeemed on their reception of God’s saving mercy in Christ can only be that of praise and thanksgiving. To praise and to extol are synonyms. Praise the LORD all nations. Extol Him all peoples. Note then Psalm 117’s call to divine worship:-

 

Worship is the declaration by the creature of the greatness of his Creator. It is the glad affirmation by the forgiven sinner of the mercy of his Redeemer. It is the united testimony of an adoring congregation to the perfection of their common Lord. It is the summit of the service of the angels and the climax of the eternal purpose of God for His people. It is mans’ supreme goal here and the consummation of his life in heaven (HA Carson).

 

Secondly, Psalm 117 gives us The Causes of Divine Worship. Praise the Lord … For great is His steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. The Psalmist then is praising God for His steadfast love, sure love and specific love. Great is His steadfast love toward us, he says. ‘Us’ is specific, not general. The Psalmist is saying that he has been ‘loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know.’ The wonder of wonders is that the God of the universe actually singles out individual sinners for eternal blessing!

God’s steadfast love  is actually just one word in the Hebrew – the word ‘Hesed.’ Hesed is difficult to translate. It refers to God’s covenant faithfulness; His reliable, dependable love; His grace and mercy; His goodwill and kindness – a love that will not let His people go, but will save, keep and satisfy them for ever. Humbly, we can say that we know more about God’s steadfast love than the Psalmist did, as, unlike him, we have a complete Bible. We know what he didn’t know. The crowning expression and demonstration of God’s love was His sending of His Own Son into the world to procure our salvation. God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He … did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us all (Romans 8:32).

God’s faithfulness cannot be separated from His steadfast love. God’s faithfulness reminds us of the reliability, dependability and loyalty of His love. He will fulfil His everlasting covenant of grace. He will save His people and bring them to glory. We can relay on Him. He cannot be thwarted or frustrated. Great is Thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23). ‘His love is as great as His power, and knows neither measure nor end.’

 

Finally, Psalm 117 ends by giving us The Command to Divine Worship. Its final words are a summons: Praise the LORD!

                Divine worship is the highest occupation in which we can engage. For the believer, worship is both a duty and a delight. ‘It is very meet, right and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God …’ (Book of Common Prayer). We owe almighty God an infinite obligation. He is our Maker, Sustainer and Saviour. He alone is great and worthy to be praised. He alone is God. For great is the LRD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods (Psalm 96:4).

It is the worship of God which distinguishes humans from animals and Christians from no Christians. Worship depends on worth – and God’s worth is infinite. It is the heartfelt worship of God which unites the church militant on earth, with the church triumphant in heaven.

So there is Psalm 117. It is the shortest chapter in the Bible, but it will never become obsolete or need to be revised. The redeemed in heaven – a great multitude from all nations – are one with the redeemed on earth in their praises of God. Both can fittingly employ the words of Psalm 117 in its brief but pungent clarion call to worship God, and the reasons for so doing:-

Praise the LORD all nations! Extol Him all peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Praise the LORD!

 

Timothy Cross

Posted by Site Developer in Miscellaneous