Great Expectations

jesus-christ-triumphal-entry-949744-wallpaperIt just dawned on me what it was that led to the people who called for Jesus to be crucified only a week after hailing him as the Messiah… their expectations!

We are often told from pulpits that the Pharisees and the religious ‘establishment’ in Jerusalem ‘turned the crowd against Jesus’. That has an element of truth in it, but it wasn’t in just one week that it was achieved. The people had been fed a diet of expectation all their lives. It was the received wisdom, from specific interpretations of their scriptures, that the Messiah was about to come, but he would be a warrior king who would supernaturally eject the Romans from Judaea and ‘restore the kingdom’ i.e. just as it was in King David’s time.

That was why they cried ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ (Matt. 21:9). They were expecting this revolution, this spiritual freeing of their nation from oppression. They had heard many things, and many rumours about this prophet from a far-off part.

Imagine their disappointment when he actually did not challenge the Romans, nor be drawn on any questions about how they should ‘deal’ with the Imperialists. Instead he continued in his teaching he had always maintained… that he wants his followers to be servants, to everyone, and to love all, even enemies! It wasn’t a battle cry, or a call to arms, or anything remotely like that. No, it was the opposite! This man they had been told was coming even arrived on a donkey! The donkey and colt were ready for him to use for his ‘triumphal’ entry, just as Zechariah had prophesied, so these people were not properly informed on scripture after all. The first thing Jesus did on arrival? He went to the Temple and drove out those who had commercialised his religion! His attacks were not on their conquerors, but their own religious leaders. He just could not have been their glorious Messiah! So when the call came for his death, they were only too eager to join in.

What are our expectations of Jesus? Do we decide in advance what we think he will do for us, or who or what he will be to us?

Or do we just accept who he iswhat he is, and most importantly, what he asks us to be, and to do? It’s all there in our gospel records, so why the false expectations?

Grace be with you.

All truth is God’s truth!

1280582410I came across a little video shared on Facebook by a couple of friends. It was about ‘supporting Israel’. I watched it, and behind the nice bright-eyed and bushy-tailed teenage ‘Merican youth presenters enthusiastically saying twee soundbites like “Gaad always keeps his promises!” [wondering now if that is how one pronounces ‘G-d’! (see last post)], I found little substance of biblical note: smiling white teeth doth not a doctrinal argument make, methinks.

So, being the thought-challenger/ mythbuster/ dissenting voice/ argumentative git [delete according to your worldview] that I am, I posted a comment, which was not lengthy (not by my usual standards!) outlining a biblical argument against their point of view and dual-covenant theology, quoting Paul from Romans and pointing out what Jesus said in John 8. I mentioned to a friend who had, like me, posted something on the same site but had no response, leaving us thinking that they had deleted our comments. This has been a common practice on some Christian sites, sorry to say. He then read my comment, ‘liked’ it and replied ‘Good points!’

48 hours later, I had received nothing else in response. I looked up the post, and right there at the top, was my comment. The post had over 600,000 views, more than 5000 ‘likes’ and over 400 comments, yet absolutely nobody else had reacted to mine! I was even expecting a flame like “you must just hate the Jews!” (typical reaction to a ‘dissenter’) but I was nonplussed – this was social media, and there were no reactions at all? I asked a friend who works in IT if it was possible that it was only me who could see what I wrote, and the reply was that it would certainly be possible for them to alter a comment’s status. I looked again via a friend’s page – it was there! Cogs whirred in my brain… then I created a false identity on a new Facebook account, looked again; it was nowhere to be seen! The site had changed my comment so that only my ‘friends’ could see it!

I thought it was bad enough when we had Christian sites deleting comments and blocking commenters (had that done to me!) since they were blatantly silencing someone with a differing theological view, but at least that was clear. This tactic is worse as far as I’m concerned, since one would be unaware that they had in effect been ‘silenced’ since all of their own friends would verify that their comment was active. It’s indicative of ‘thought control’ and an inability to deal with a simple theological debate; if you set yourself up to post articles and videos on social media promoting any religious point of view, you are making yourself a ‘teacher’ to the wider church, and if you will not take criticism head-on and be able to reply with a decent counter-argument, you are unworthy of that ministry. In my book of definitions, you’re a deceiver!

That I had to resort to underhand ‘lurking’ with a false name to uncover this is, quite frankly, ridiculous! And the fact that this particular issue is an important political one, betrays more about what motives may be behind such artful gagging practices!

My fellow believers need to be aware of such tactics. Keep listening to the same old stuff and you will never be aware that what you are being taught may be only one flawed interpretation, or that what is presented to you as ‘what all true Christians believe and accept’ is actually only held by a small number, and is based more on a cultural or traditional stance than on actual biblical study!

How on earth can we who state that we believe in the One, who is ‘the Truth’ (John 14:6) ever hope to convince anyone to follow Jesus, if what we say and do is lies, or tainted by deception, or by attempts to silence any dissent to our view without an ability to explain ourselves? A very good statement by a famous pastor that I was very glad to read recently has now been undermined by a revelation that he may be covering his tracks and has not been honest about what he knew or when he knew it! Any ‘good work’ you do can be undone by a moment’s false witness in any shape or form, so why do it?

And if someone, or some church, or come Christian organisation or website, continues to do this, wilfully and deliberately, what does that say about them?

Grace be with you.

I WORSHIP GOD! NOT G-d!!

Brief rant here! I’m getting sick and tired of seeing my Lord referred to all across social media as G-d! This must only come from the same superstition that led to the loss of the real pronunciation of YHWH! Yes, it was folk superstition, borne from the belief that God’s name was not to be taken in vain. Leaving aside all that that entails, it became a fear that if one were to mention the name of God out loud, one just might do something bad with it, so… let’s just ban anyone from actually saying it. Once the Hebrew language started dying, Masorete scribes began inserting vowel diacritics into the scriptures, but they deliberately put the wrong vowels into YHWH to prevent it being pronounced. Now, nobody really knows the exact pronunciation.

It’s nothing but fearful superstition, and now the modern marriage of our faith with just about everything Jewish, as if Judaism has wonderful holy insights into the gospel that we mere Gentiles are unworthy to really comprehend; it has led us to this nonsense! I understand my faith far better than anyone from the religion left behind by those who couldn’t see who he was, thank you!

How would we worship? “Oh Lord, our G-d…”??? Or pray? Stop it NOW! Before you lose out to common sense.

And his real name is Jesus. Wonderful, beautiful Jesus. Who calms my raging storm. Rant subsiding… thank you, Lord Jesus.

Grace be with you.

Judaeo-Christianity?

There is a new heresy going around the evangelical community these days! I do not use that word lightly, since I do not like branding people as heretics. However, some people well deserve it since they are clearly deceivers – even when presented with the truth, and shown that what they are saying is clearly false or misguided, they continue to say it. Such people deserve to be ignored completely, if you ask me. Some people may inadvertently promote something they believed was true, but are able to realise their mistake and recant it; thankfully they are in the majority of those who promote untruths (myself included, to be humbly honest). Many more simply have a belief in something that I personally may find untrue, but they are entitled to believe it and we shall agree to differ. The vast majority of these cases are doctrines and opinions that are secondary to salvation. The one I wish to address now is not secondary – it undermines the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Where does it come from? The Religious Right in the USA! How can we discern it? Watch out for the term ‘Judaeo-Christian values’! Yes!

The term Judaeo-Christian is actually a fairly new construct. It only appeared first in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1899. By today’s standards of ‘new words of the year’ and the speed of the spread of new coinages via television and the internet, it seems old, but relative to the history of the English language and what it purports to represent i.e. ‘Judaeo-Christianity’, it’s a pretty young word!

Well, it is me asking the question “where did it come from?”, since nobody else I know seems to be curious! It hinges on another question a friend posed to me recently, which was “why did Billy Graham, a great preacher of the gospel, seek an audience with the Pope?” At first I could not answer it, and it is puzzling to those of us who call ourselves true protestants, since we stand against the false doctrines of Rome. We have no respect for that constructed religion and have stood against it for many centuries (and yes, I know we all fall into the trap of a constructed religion! – another debate!). However, I now see the answer is quite simple. In order to maintain support for their political cause, the Religious Right in the USA have sought conservative bedfellows to bolster their position, and found it in the Roman Catholic church, which has always been ultra-conservative on issues like abortion, homosexuality and ‘family values’ [ha! – from a priesthood that has not one child between them (officially)] – this to the detriment of their religious cause. Therefore they can easily be branded as a political movement and not a religious one, despite their label! They have marked out their priorities in clear signs. What they are to do with the new Pope, Francis, clearly a political radical, remains to be seen in entirety.

They also found support in conservative Judaism, which has led to this heresy I am addressing. The foremost proponent in this vanguard that I can see is John Hagee, a man who has sought an audience with every Israeli Prime Minister in his lifetime, supported Israel against all critics, and gone so far as to say things like “Jesus never claimed he was the Messiah, so the Jews cannot be blamed for killing him!” and “we don’t need to evangelise the Jews, since they have their own way to God.” This is the point at which he crosses over from being a gospel preacher to becoming a quasi-politico campaigner, bent on appeasing his allies at the cost of his stance on gospel truth!

Let me iterate clearly right now, before the Anti-Defamation League calls me an anti-semite; the holocaust against the Jews was undeniable and despicable, we had to stop the Nazis in their anti-Semitic campaign of destruction of a race, and we must help defend the Israeli people against terror. I have the utmost sympathy for the people in Israel who are suffering from the ongoing turmoil between the two states of Israel and Palestine, and I also sympathise with the people of Palestine; unreservedly on both counts.

BUT: there is a heresy going around, and it is that Judaism and Christianity are the same religion! That we worship the same God! This is ludicrous! It shows me just how far we have allowed the Religious Right to take us down their path of falsehood. No more! Stand for the truth, brothers and sisters:

Jesus came to fulfil the law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17).

He stated, as clearly as he possibly could: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6)

The Jews of his time divided into two camps; those who saw who he was, like all those before them who believed and looked forward to his coming (Luke 2:38), and those who did not see who he was. These same people claimed to be believers and that God was their Father. Jesus told them clearly in a long dialogue in John chapter 8: “If God were your Father, you would love me…” and told them they were not children of God, but of the devil!

Who are you going to listen to? Hagee? or Jesus? If this argument that “they worship the same God as us” is continued, then why not include Muslims? They worship the God of Abraham and Moses!

When I hear of believers attending synagogues, I cringe! What next? Partake of the Mass?

When I hear them quote from the Talmud, the written expression of the faith of the Pharisees that Jesus condemned, that also describes my Lord as a traitor to the faith and wishes a thousand deaths upon him, I start to become judgmental! Please help me to not be.

If you wish to declare support for Israel in your politics, by all means follow your conscience, but don’t let your political belief dilute your faith in the one and only saviour, Jesus Christ. Judaism cannot save anyone!

Grace be with you.

Brian Houston and Chrislam: my brief take on it.


I’m not going into a huge debate on this topic. I’m sure there’s already about ten million comments out there! What struck me when I listened to Houston was something I actually wonder has been picked up much. It comes down to my constant rant: be informed!

That applies to you too, Houston! You see, you said “way back in the Old Testament… we had Muslims…”

Point of information: Islam was founded by Muhammad in the 7th century, WAY past even the NEW Testament! A little bit of education hurts nobody, Brian!
Let me surmise that maybe, just maybe, you mean the Ishmaelites, known today as the Arabs. Yes, they were around then. They are also descendants of Abraham, but through his concubine Hagar, not his wife Sarah. Yes, they knew who Yahweh (the Great ‘I Am’) was (as did the captive Israelites in Egypt when Moses told them “‘I Am’ sent me!”). We even read in the account in Genesis 16 & 17 how it was Sarah who forced Hagar out of Abraham’s house through jealousy, but that God sought her out and commanded her to return to Abraham and made promises of blessing to her and then to Ishmael. Yahweh was known to all these peoples and their descendants, but of course, they all at various times turned away to other gods and served their own desires and agendas (including the Israelites many, many times!). So, IF you mean that, Brian, then we are in agreement; they have always really known who God is, now they all just need to come to an understanding of who exactly Jesus is.

What Muhammad did was to turn his people away from this one true God to worship yet another. We say “we worship God!” Muslims say “we worship God!” However, this does not mean the same god, as many on both sides would try to make us believe. Did this ‘same god’ who gave us his sinless Son to fulfil his whole law and redeem (and offer freely his forgiveness to) all who would come to him, then seven centuries later, decide to tell another bunch of people that they had to undergo all this religious law-keeping again in order to please him and maybe work for a chance of redemption? I think not!

Mr. Houston, we have a small problem here in Northern Ireland when we talk about you, since we have to ask if someone means “Hillsong Brian Houston, or local Brian Houston?” – we have a local Christian singer-songwriter here of the same name. Actually, I believe he’s emigrated to Nashville now but maintains links here! Point is; just because you have a namesake, this does not mean that you are him! Obviously! We need to disambiguate (distinguish which one we mean) before we talk about either you or the other Brian. So it is with ‘god’. Are you then still trying to say that both Christians and Muslims worship the same god?

IF that is what you mean, you’re talking rubbish! And you undermine everything that Jesus accomplished for me and you, since you suggest that there are other religious ways to obtain God’s mercy. Islam is a false religion! And shocker for some: so is Judaism!! As is also the attempts to take Christians back to law-keeping!

My God is nothing like this Muslim god, who demands ritual, works, religion, and a lifetime of blind devotion to a tiny hope that you might just do enough for him. My God gives generously of his grace to all who would only believe and trust him: He is generous and faithful, and loving and giving, and I am assured of his gift of eternal life. Now he simply asks such things from me as devotion, praise, prayer, seeking, working for him and his kingdom, and my regenerated heart responds to that positively. I give to God not because I fear I must, but because I know he loves me.

I shall choose to believe you were simply a bit confused about timelines and applied ‘Muslims’ anachronistically to the Ishmaelites, unless I hear you spouting heresy like this again, sir.

Grace be with you.

Support Israel! Why?

Last night at church, yet again, we were exhorted to support Israel in its struggle against the surrounding Arab nations. Again I wondered to myself: Why? What reason is there for Christians to support a foreign nation that believes in a false religion, against other foreign nations that believe in a false religion? Do you want me to say that again? Has it sunk home? Judaism is just as false as Islam. Both religions have rejected Christ as saviour. If we are true evangelicals, then there is light and dark, truth and untruth, and truth is in Jesus Christ. No, He IS The Truth! Paul had to make his stand clear and unequivocal when he turned from Judaism and embraced his new faith in Christ. Many tried to impose the law on Christian believers, and make them just a sect of Judaism (the Judaisers), but Paul opposed them to their faces, and wrote what is probably his angriest letter to the Galatians about these people. Read the entire book with the understanding that he is writing with rage. I would recommend The Message, since it captures the anger very well, though be mindful that it is a paraphrase and not a true translation. Christians who start to support Israel often end up trying to justify everything about them, then embrace Old Testament law and trappings, like religious feasts, and finish where John Hagee is now, saying that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God!! Be wary lest ye trip!

Many cite prophecies in scripture about Israel and the end times, as if that means that Israel the nation is in God’s will, and his eye is upon them. That comes down to interpretation; many others looking at Israel in the end times will point elsewhere, or claim metaphorical identity with the name of Israel. Are we not all Israel who believe in Christ? Meaning those of us who are adopted sons of Abraham, through the promise given by Isaac, as Paul outlines in Romans 9 so succinctly? Interpretation of end times prophecies (eschatology) is so vast and all-encompassing, nobody has a right to stand on their particular stance and deny all others: to do so is vain and narrow-minded (yet another blog!). To this argument I say, if God has a plan for the nation of Israel, let him get on with it; he doesn’t need our assistance or interference with that.

So am I denying succour to the innocents killed by Palestinian terrorists? Not at all! Let me state this: I am pro-right and anti-wrong. The attacks on Israel by whomever, the PLO, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. should and must stop. Innocents are dying. It is reprehensible and indefensible. But actions taken by Israel against Palestinian civilians is just as bad. Their idea of dealing with a suicide bomber is to find the house where they came from and bulldoze it (and maybe the rest of the street) to the ground. What other army has armoured bulldozers? Or worse still, just blow it to bits with a helicopter gunship. Never heard of this? I’m not surprised, since our media is downright biassed, and NOT on the side of the Arabs. I watched the BBC evening news a few years ago when the headline was how a young Palestinian woman had strapped a bomb to herself and blown up a bus in Jerusalem, killing 6 people. Near the end of the news, the presenter said “today, Israel launched an attack on a house in the Gaza strip by helicopter gunship, destroying those inside. They said it was the centre of a bomb-making operation”, and that was it! No reporting, investigation or analysis! With the miracle of my Freesat rewind live TV, I went back to the start and timed the first report: 3 minutes. The report on Israel’s ‘retaliation’ was barely more than 10 seconds. Had I not seen it myself, I would never have believed it, but there are forces in the world to uphold and bolster Israel at all costs, particularly to the US taxpayer, since Israel receives more US foreign aid than any other country in the world, yet there are poor countries that could do with it. This unilateral bolstering of Israel really is one of the reasons we have such militant Islamic terrorists in this world, hellbent on the destruction of the US.

When I hear of walls erected around parts of the West Bank and Gaza, in order to control the influx of suicide bombers, I immediately think “what if we had erected an 8-metre high wall around West Belfast during our ‘troubles’ for the same reason? Would it have been right to subject all the citizens there to effective imprisonment and security gates 24/7 to justify controlling a violent minority? NO! There is right and wrong, and again I will say I am pro-right and anti-wrong. When I hear Israeli soldiers recounting how they chased down a 14-year old Palestinian boy who was throwing stones at them, and how they beat him to death with their rifle butts, and hear them laugh, should I just say “well, he deserved it”? I may as well say he was just a dirty Arab, and that they’re all guilty by association, or even by birth. That sounds very like many here, who felt that “the only good fenian (Roman Catholic) is a dead fenian” (and some still do).

We need to open our eyes, folks. Such issues are complex, never just a partisan matter of who’s wrong and who’s right, and being informed about it instead of supporting one side unequivocally HAS to be the Christian way. If we follow He Who IS The Truth, then we should always seek and support the truth. I denounce the killing of innocent civilians in a foreign nation by invaders, therefore I support the Israeli people against the militant Arab leaders, and I also support the thousands of innocent Iraqi people killed, against the leaders of the nations that invaded them, including my own.

Postscript: 19th Sept. – I am so glad to have seen on the ITV news how the most recent attack on Tel-Aviv was covered from both sides. People enjoying a sunny day on the beach in Tel-Aviv running for cover from a missile fired from over the border, thankfully shot down by Israeli fire before it could land, AND the scene at a Palestinian hospital where adults and children were severely injured by an Israeli attack (or defence or retaliation – you choose the word you wish, but children were still injured!). BOTH sides were wrong in this situation IMHO.

Grace be with you.