Teaching

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…)

DON’T FORGET TO REMEMBER!

(November 10, 2018) Tomorrow, Sunday, is Remembrance Day and Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, reminds us to remember some important matters we should never forget…

100 years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War 1 came to an end following a signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany. After four and a half years of bitter fighting, which directly involved 32 countries and in which around 100 more participated in that bloody conflict with countless tragedies, peace was finally agreed.

Horrendous destructive trail
The war had lasted for 6 years and was now over. But what a horrendous trail it left in its wake. There was destruction everywhere. The human toll was truly overwhelming. It has been estimated that the total number of military and civilian casualties was around 40 million. Life would never be the same again for countless people whose families were torn apart, whose homes were reduced to ruins and whose countries were almost wiped off the face of the map. Wars had always played a gruesome role in human history but no war had ever before been more devastating than World War 1. It was truly the first global war.

Woodrow Wilson, the United States President at that time described it as ‘The war to end all wars.’ But it wasn’t! Twenty one years later and World War 2 began with even more sophisticated weaponry and once again Germany engaged the Allies and again another horrendous cacophony of hatred, lies, violence, inhumanity and destruction was visited upon the earth. Before it ended, around 80,000,000 people were dead. (more…)

ODD COUPLES!

(October 20, 2018) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, shares…

The 1968 comedy movie, The Odd Couple, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau centred on two men, Felix and Oscar, who decided to live with each other after their wives left them. Felix was neurotically obsessed with tidiness and cleanliness while Oscar was a messy and quick-tempered layabout. They made an odd couple indeed.

Odd couples come in many shapes and forms!

A real life odd couple is Joelison Fernandes da Silva and Evem Medeiros from Brazil. Joelison is 7 feet 8 inches (2.36 meters) tall and his wife is just 5 foot (1.5 meters).

Joelison said, ‘The day I saw her I think it was love at first sight.’

 

 Six oddly coupled but significant Greek words

Recently as I was reading 1 Thessalonians, I particularly noticed what Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica. He stated that he continually remembered ‘before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3 RSV).

It struck me as odd, or at least unexpected, that in these three phrases are found words that normally one would not put together, that is… (more…)

‘GOD COULDN’T POSSIBLY FORGIVE ME…’

(September 10, 2018) Dr Jim McClure, straightshooting theologian, shares…

Every now and then I hear these condemning words from a sad, heavy-hearted Christian, ‘I’ve heard that there’s a sin that God can’t forgive… “the unpardonable sin.” I feel, I think I’ve committed it! God couldn’t possibly forgive me…’

What such a tormented person is really thinking in his (or her) troubled mind is this – ‘Is it possible that I committed such a big sin, or so many sins, that I’ve gone beyond the point where I can’t be forgiven, can’t be saved?’

The good news of the gospel
I feel for such people (incidentally some non-Christians also often believe their sins are too great to be forgiven!). And if they’d share with me I hasten to point out that the gospel – the good news – of Christ is that our sin, whatever they are or how big or many, cannot exceed the love, grace and mercy of God. (more…)

THE KING IS COMING, BUT…

(August 29, 2018) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, shares…

‘Whenever I ask anyone about Jesus’ second coming, I seem to be given an answer that differs from other answers I’ve received from others.’

So wrote a concerned reader, adding, ‘Can you please give me an easy answer to my question: What can we know for sure about the return of Jesus?’

Easy answers can be suspect!
I wish I could give an easy answer to your question… but, like many things theological, an easy answer is often suspect!

The problem is that in the Bible God reveals to us many things that are not easy to grasp but he nevertheless wants us to be aware of them.  To help us he uses what theologians call ‘language of accommodation‘ – that is – terminology with which we are familiar to give us some insight into things that are unfamiliar.

The matter raised by this perturbed reader is in the area of eschatology, or concerning the doctrine of ‘last things.’ With reference to the return of Jesus Christ…

  • We know generally what is going to happen but –
  • We do not know precisely how it is going to happen.

(more…)