Teaching

JONAH – THE UNIVERSAL RECONCILING LOVE OF GOD

(August 26, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, shares on the most misunderstood book in the Bible…

The book of Jonah is probably the best known book in the Old Testament – but for all the wrong reasons! Most people think of it as a pleasant bedtime story for children about a man who fell off a boat and was swallowed by a whale. A few days later the whale spat him out and he walked off into the land of happy-ever-after.

But that is not what the book of Jonah is about. Its message is much more interesting, challenging and radical than that.  In fact it is one of the most revolutionary books in the Old Testament!

Background to the story
The story of Jonah is set around 2700 years ago and the people of Israel believed that they were in an exclusive relationship with God who loved only them. They had a kind of exclusive and territorial mentality about Yahweh.

God chose Jonah to ‘shake their world’!

Yet we do not actually know much about him. We know that his name means ‘Dove’ and that he came from a town near Nazareth.  He was given an unenviable task – to go to Nineveh, the oldest and most densely populated city of the ancient Assyrian Empire which was also considered to be one of the wickedest cities in the world and its people were known for their ruthlessness, cruelty, child sacrifice, sexual perversion and witchcraft.

1. The reluctance of Jonah
(i) Jonah’s call
God’s call to Jonah was personal and specific – ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me’ (1:2). (more…)

‘EATING JESUS’ BODY AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD’

(July 19, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, explains on this powerful imagery challenge declared by Jesus…

We are living at a time when we are increasingly compelled by the dictates of those who have embraced the philosophy of ‘political correctness’ to avoid the use of language and actions that may ‘cause offence.’  People are being encouraged to rage against those things that they claim have offended them and increasingly that rage is funnelled into legal action!

Consequently a diverse range of people, including comedians, sports people – and preachers – are being silenced for fear of prosecution.

When Jesus caused offence!
Of course, such taking of ‘offence’ is often a manipulative tool to silence and control and as a tactic it has been used for thousands of years.

In fact, Jesus sometimes ‘offended’ those to whom he spoke. For example, one day when he was in Capernaum a crowd gathered to hear what he had to say and they were quick to take offence at his words.

We read in John 6:32 that he said, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.’

And in verse 41-42 we see the outraged response to this – ‘At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven?”  How dare he say that! What an arrogant upstart!’ How offensive are his words!

Despite this reaction, Jesus ploughed ahead – ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”’ (John 6:51-52). (more…)

BAD NEWS OR GOOD NEWS!

(June 26, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, reminds us of scriptural bad news – and scriptural good news…

Nobody likes bad news!

But sometimes we need to hear the bad news if it urges or provokes us to do something that may correct a tragedy or help us avoid disastrous consequences.

In Australia each year bush fires cause heartbreaking devastation to trees, animals, towns and, of course, people. How hard it is to watch the horrendous and frightening images of out-of-control fires raging through trees and homes, destroying livelihoods, creating havoc, causing death, pain, sorrow and financial devastation.

Fortunately many lives are saved each year when advance warning is given that enables people to vacate their properties, perhaps save their animals and leave with some treasured possessions. The tragedies would be significantly worse if warnings were withheld because they represented ‘bad news.’ Therefore, sometimes we do need to hear ‘bad news’ in order to avoid even worse consequences.

Angry response
However, the fact remains that no one likes to be on the receiving end of bad news. Some people deal with it by denying it. Others respond by anger at the person who delivers it.

There is an old saying that states, ‘If you don’t like the message, don’t kill the messenger.’  This advice has been around for a long time. For example, in the middle of the 5th century BC, Sophocles, a Greek poet and playwright, wrote, ‘No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.’

However, in recent days we have seen a ‘messenger’ being savaged by the media and social media. Israel Folau, who quoted from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, has not only lost his employment as a rugby player but has also been roundly condemned as bigoted, intolerant, homophobic and so on.

But the bottom line is that what he tweeted is wholly in line with scripture. He was sharing a message that was not his and if the warning it contained was not to the liking of those who read it, he cannot be blamed for its content! (more…)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHURCH!

(June 6, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, shares about ‘the dynamite’ of Pentecost

The Christian Pentecost is sometimes called the ‘Birthday of the Church.’  While some question the accuracy of that description, it nevertheless is a helpful reminder of a unique day in the life of the church.

Almost 2000 years ago a group of about 120 people (Acts 1:15) began a journey that was to impact the whole world. As that group of Jews who were followers of Jesus met to worship and celebrate the Jewish festival of Feast of Harvest (aka the Feast of Weeks), they were not expecting that what they were about to experience would change them, the church and ultimately the world!

The first Christian Pentecost was a hugely significant event. Luke recorded the event in this way: ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  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 2:2-4).

That is what happened, but why did it happen?

Peter explained it this way, ‘Exalted to the right hand of God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear’ (Acts 2:33).

Pentecost was not just a random spiritual revival-type experience for those first Christians – it was a fulfilling of Christ’s promise in John 14:16-17. And it bonded those Christians together as a new community of faith.

The day of Pentecost is significant for many reason, such as:

1. Presence
In the midst of that group a mighty wind began to blow and flames of fire appeared.  In this startling and memorable way God demonstrated his presence with his people. They certainly would never forget those symbols of his powerful presence. (more…)

THE COST AND THE CROWN OF DISCIPLESHIP

(May 16, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, solemnly opens ups on a reality that many Christians tend to either ignore or are unaware of…

Around 67 AD the apostle Paul was in a Roman prison awaiting execution under the order of the Roman Emperor Nero who intensely hated Christians.

As he waited for the sentence to be carried out, he wrote to Timothy, ‘The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

About ten years earlier Paul had written in his letter to the Christians living in Rome, ‘I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world’ (Romans 1:8).

Personal witnessing
In his commentary The Epistle to the Romans the late theologian Karl Barth made the following comment on this Romans 1 verse: ‘The resurrection has proved its power; there are Christians – even in Rome.’ Barth was explaining that Paul was rejoicing and thanking God because the message of Christ crucified and resurrected had penetrated right to the heart of the Roman Empire, to Rome itself, where Christians were living and worshipping.

How amazing it is that within about 25 years from the resurrection of Jesus the good news of his redeeming love and gifts of forgiveness and eternal life had spread ‘all over the world.’ Without the help of mass evangelistic rallies and without the modern aids of radio, television and Facebook the Christian gospel spread like a fire through the simple and effective method of personal witnessing.

And so the Christian message continued of spread for the following centuries and in 311 AD the Roman emperor professed his Christian faith.

But …
1. The successful penetration of the Christian message throughout the world came at a cost!
First of all, the greatest cost of all, the suffering and death of Jesus. (more…)

THE DIVINE DRAMA

(April 12, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, reflects on Easter – the church’s most important celebration …

The death of Jesus is set in the context of the unique relationship between Jesus and his Father and that relationship formed the background theme of John’s gospel.

At the heart of the Christian faith lies a very unusual fact – the One who repeatedly offered eternal life to people suffered at the hands of evil men and was put to death on a cross!

If we are going to remain faithful to the Christian message, we cannot soften this fact or ‘candy coat’ it in any way. The account of Jesus’ death by crucifixion is scandalous – but it is true! The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23, We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.’ The Greek word for ‘stumbling block’ is skandalon.

Certainly the Jews were looking forward to a powerful and victorious Messiah before whom his enemies would quake – not one who would be disgracefully executed!

Was Jesus’ death a tragic mistake?
Were things supposed to end differently?  In his gospel John explained that everything happened to Jesus exactly as it was supposed to.

  • Jesus’ death on the cross was, in fact, the outworking of the divine design that God had planned before he created the world.
  • In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost he referred to this breathtaking truth: ‘This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men’ (Acts 2:23).
  • Jesus’ sacrifice was wholly voluntary and it was the means by which evil forces were conquered and mankind could be restored to intimacy with him.

John made a number of points such as the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross was foreknown and was a fulfilment of God’s purpose. (more…)

IS JESUS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD?

(March 26, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, challenges a undermining deceit…

Is it, as some claim, unloving and bigoted to claim that Jesus is the only way to God?

Today we are being bombarded by a range of views that have one thing in common – they seek to undermine the millennia old Christian principles on which many nations have been built.

One of the worldviews that is being more and more widely peddled and increasingly accepted in today’s rather confused world is called ‘Religious pluralism.’ This is part of the so-called ‘progressive’ agenda of those who seek to erase Western culture, conservative standards and, above all, biblical values.

‘Many’ ways to God?
Religious pluralism, which is usually promoted in the media as a wonderfully tolerant and progressive thing, may be defined as the belief that all religions are equally valid as there are many paths to God (or gods) and the idea that there is only one way to know the true God is objectionable and intolerant.

Susan Laemmle, Rabbi and former Dean of Religious Life at University of Southern California has made this comment that ‘… all spiritual paths are finally leading to the same sacred ground.’ In other words, she is stating that there are many ways to God. To such people the differences among various religions are superficial for ultimately they all are giving directions to God.

Regrettably there are many who claim to be Christians (even some church pastors!) who make the claim that there are more than one way to God!

The late, highly esteemed conservative theologian, John Stott defined religious pluralism as ‘an affirmation of the validity of every religion, and the refusal to choose between them, and the rejection of world evangelism …’

World evangelism is consequently immediately ruled out when the viewpoint of religious pluralism is embraced. So too is… (more…)

ADVANCE AUSTRALIA… WHERE?

(February 15, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, considers Australia’s future…

Recently Australia Day, January 28, resounded with the singing of our national anthem, the last line of which the first verse is ‘Advance Australia fair.’

However, in reflecting on Australia – its past and present, and thinking about its future – I sense that a more appropriate final line is not a statement but would be a question – ‘Advance Australia where?’

So the question is… As a nation where are we going? In what direction are we heading?

Before Australia had been put on maps, for over 1500 years many people had speculated that there was a large continent in the southern hemisphere for which there was no documentary evidence. Then, just over 400 years ago in 1606, the Portuguese explorer Fernández de Quirós sailed into the southern waters and, discovering that large landmass, called it La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo which means ‘The Southland of the Holy Spirit.’

The Southland of the Holy Spirit
What a great name for a country!  How wonderful it would be if the Spirit of God really had sovereign authority over this nation! (more…)

GOD THE FATHER OR FAIRY GODMOTHER

(January 15, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, challenges us to think outside the proverbial box…

‘Happy New Year!’

How often have we said that this year? And we truly hope that all the people to whom we have given this greeting will indeed have a happy year. However we know that for some this year will not be happy. Regardless of how committed to God we may be, the vagaries of life often present us with unwelcome problems, unrelenting sickness, unexpected sorrow or overwhelming disaster and no one is immune from such events.

The reality is that some quite evil people in the world prosper and some truly godly people suffer. So there is no correlation between Godliness and a trouble-free life.

Yet some Christians try to give the impression that everything is always well in their world – and they maintain this façade until some problem is encountered which often causes them to fall apart.  As we live in a fallen world, inevitably we all struggle at some stage with disturbing and destructive experiences regardless committed we may be in our discipleship or how pious we may present ourselves.   Only self-delusion can maintain the myth that all is always well in our world.

Fairy Godmothers aren’t real!
Recently I have been reflecting on two alternative ideas that Christians have concerning God – God the Father or God the Fairy Godmother.  If we think of God as some kind of ‘fairy godmother’ our conception of God will be one in which he always acts by solving all our problems and ensuring that good things always happen to us.

This is not, however, the character of Lord God Almighty who is revealed in the Bible. We know that fairy godmothers are not real! Nor is such a God real!

The book of Job gives us some telling pointers on which we should reflect. (more…)

CHRISTMAS OR CHRISTMYTH

(December 9, 2018) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, once again challenges us to think outside the proverbial box…

I admit it! There is no such word as ‘Christmyth’ in the English dictionary but I have formed it to make a point of contrast.

The word ‘Christmas’ is first found in Old English, in 1038 and was called Cristes Maesse. It referred to the festival that celebrated the coming of Christ into the world. Maesse, which means ‘dismissal’, refers to the sending out of the worshippers who had celebrated the good news of the birth of the Saviour.

I find that to be so appropriate for the message of the Incarnation is one of redemption and hope that Christians need to ‘go and share’ throughout the world.

My ‘made-up’ word ‘Christmyth’ refers to what I see to be the dominant expression of the festival today. A glorious, unrepeatable, rescue event expressing the loving heart of God has been transformed into a happy myth-laden tale with jolly Santas, red-nosed reindeers and fun!

And in so many ways the church has bought into this sanitised and shallow version of the biblical story by placing an emphasis on the sweet baby in a manger, the heavenly choirs and the ‘silent night.’

Don’t misunderstand me. I really am not a Grinch!  I too enjoy the ‘myth.’ At Christmas time it is so good to see the excitement in the eyes of children and the coming together of friends and families and the singing of the old familiar carols. But I sense that along the way we have so developed the ‘myth’ of Christmas that we have sold-out on the essential truth of the event.

Let’s take this further. (more…)