At the beginning of this year I asked God to give me a word for the year. After meditating quietly for a while I got the word ‘Presence’ When Moses was in the wilderness with the Israelites he said to God that he didn’t want to journey any further if God did not come with […]Presence
When I sit down to read a book, I love the escapism; I love to fall into the story, in my mind, I become part of the story. I eagerly read on, page upon page, chapter after chapter, absorbing the storyline and enjoying it.
This is why I feel sorry for publishers and literary agents. They seem incapable of enjoying a good yarn. Instead, they are constantly thinking, not about the plot, the storyline, sub-plots, and plot twists, the characters, the heroes, and the villains, they only concentrate on grammar. They are the grammar police, they are interested in out of place hyphens, articles, punctuation, pronouns, prepositions, spellings, capitalisations, verb forms, verb tenses, and auxiliary verbs, to name just a few. I have no clue what most of them are anyway.
When I read a work of fiction, I don’t go through it looking for an antecedent that is out of place. I just enjoy the story.
Another example would be a sentence such as:
“Where’s me dog gone?” Tom said in his best Welsh accent.
Yes, I fully appreciate that that is not what an Oxford professor of English would say, but I am writing the speech characteristics of a 13-year-old Welsh boy with limited education, and ‘they’ don’t like it. (Nb. I have placed the word ‘they’, meaning publishers and agents, in inverted commas purely to annoy the grammar police). Surely, they think, this common boy of little worth should say: “I say old boy, would one happen to know the whereabouts of my canine friend?”
So, my friendly agents and publishers. Why not just sit down by the fire with a nice glass of red wine and read to enjoy? Reject a book if the story’s lousy, but not because of a misplaced preposition.
This, of course, is one of the reasons that the Booker Prize winner for 2020 Douglas Stuart and his novel Shuggie Bain was turned down 32 times before it was published. Agents and publishers don’t read, they just look for faults and reasons not to publish.
Golden sands and an azure sky
Nearly noon and the sun sits high
above the beach on which we lie
soaking up the rays.
Slapping on the factor fifty
Looking very slightly shifty
Easy find an empty beach
Suntan on my little peach
Deserted left, deserted right
Sun so hot, sun so bright
Sand too hot to lie straight down
Our skins go golden brown
Skinny dipping in the sea
No one minds, there’s none to see
This island paradise we’ve found
Weekdays on Coochiemudlo.
©joseph r mason 2019
Did the elders not seek your face?
Did they not pray out loud to you?
Did they not wait upon you
And seek your guidance?
Did we not fast and pray
To do your good pleasure?
Late into the night
To seek your true guidance?
Did we not take your precepts to the people?
Did we not tell them the word from the Lord?
Then why oh Lord have they not heard?
Why Oh Lord do they not listen to your truths?
Are we like prophets of old?
Despised in our own house.
For You will withdraw Your blessing,
From a house divided against itself.
When they say, oh Lord,
We do not like the style of worship,
Did they ask you?
Did they really seek your face?
When they say Lord,
We do not like the drums
We do not like the cymbals
Do they argue with your Psalms?
The unerring word of God?
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet,
Praise Him with the harp and lyre,
Praise Him with tambourine and dancing,
Praise Him with the strings and flute,
Praise Him with the clash of cymbals,
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
Where oh Lord does it say
Praise Him with long faces
Praise Him with frowns and without movement
Praise Him on the mighty organ
Be downcast and Praise the Lord.
Is it all about you, Lord? Is it all about you?
Or is it all about me Lord? All about me.
For now you have withdrawn you blessing
From a house divided against itself.
Who’s church is it anyway?
Is it your church Lord? The church of the Lord?
Or the church of fools? Whose god is the church ?
Divided against itself,
for its own pleasure and destruction.
Separated from You until you heal its wounds.
Lord have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us.
May the name of the Lord be praised.
©joseph r mason
Marriage is often described as an institution, even a great institution, ordained by God. Poppycock. An institution is somewhere they send you once the straight jacket is on. That statement itself might strike a chord with some, especially the straight jacket bit, as that is how many people view marriage. As soon as they get that ring on your finger, they’ll have you in a straight jacket, you son’s be able to move without permission.
Well I have news, marriage is not an institution, it is a relationship. Admittedly, it not always easy, sometimes it needs working at, often it is quite difficult. But at the end of the day, it is a relationship. It is not a place for control, ego or selfishness, especially if a Christian marriage, it is not even about give and take. It is about give, give and give some more.
But, what does the bible have to say on the subject?
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 7) starts us off well by saying: “A man does well not to marry.” and some would agree, but he was not saying it for that reason. He believed that Christ should be central to our being and that marriage might be a diversion. He went on to say in the next few verses “2 But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. 3 A man should fulfil his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfil her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other’s needs. 4 A wife is not the master of her own body, but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body, but his wife is.” – Men, please take note of the second part of the last verse!
Now there are some interesting statements which show relationship. Firstly, every one should have their own spouse and not someone else’s. But more interesting is the equality that Paul suggests in the following verses, no suggestion of the man lauding it over the woman, or vice versa I might add. Men often seem to cling on to the “head of the household” notion when they talk of marriage. But Paul is not suggesting this. Even in his letter to the Ephesians where there is the much misquoted verses 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. The word “submit” is not there in the original Greek. As for being head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, that too is misread to man’s advantage. We omit the next bit! 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Read and reflect. Love your wife as Christ loved you, and that meant dying for you. Would you lay down your life for your wife? Note however, the favour is not returned, no where does it say wives love your husbands enough to die for them. Later in the same section we get 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Again the emphasis is on the husband doing the running and doing the loving, what do we get in return? Respect!
Christ is God, God is Spirit, in heaven there is no pecking order, God is not in charge of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not the third part of the trinity in rank. God the father is not Colonel in chief and Christ his lieutenant. They are in an equal relationship because there is only one God. Jesus does not have his own agenda, the Spirit does not go and do his or her own thing, they are one and the same and beyond our comprehension. This is how it should be in marriage, the bible says that when a man marries a woman they also become one. Equal partners? No, not at all, a partnership is still made up of more than one, The Trinity is not a partnership. Marriage is not a partnership. It is a however a relationship where each delight in the other person. Expectancy rather than expectations, which is different from expecting something from the other. God does not have any expectations from us, only the excitement of expectancy. Marriage is very much like our relationship with God. We are often told to put God first, above all other things. Well I do not believe that is the way our Father sees it at all. God wants to be at the centre of our lives, not on top of us like a big boss, remote and frightening. He does not want to be the first amongst a list of values, but the centre of everything. It is the same with a marriage. It should be a central facet of our joint existence, not a hierarchical system. Then it will work.
But what if it doesn’t?
Paul says, “10 For married people I have a command which is not my own but the Lord’s: a wife must not leave her husband; 11 but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband; and a husband must not divorce his wife.” (Corinthians 7:10,11: see also Matthew 5:32 ; 19:9 ; Mark 10:11 , 12 ; Luke 16:18 .)
Jesus is especially blunt on the subject in Mark Ch10, where he says “He said to them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. 12 In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery.”” Now there is a couple of verses and a subject you don’t hear preached on. But that might be a subject for another time……
Remember: 21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 
Only four verses later and a complete change of mood, an earth shattering, life changing announcement, a prophesy which, once fulfilled would turn upside down everything which was religious in the Middle East and spread across the world even until today.
“For unto us a child is born” Not just any baby is spoken of here, this announces the birth of a very special infant, these words of Isaiah announced the birth of the saviour, Jesus Christ. Isaiah of course had no idea who this baby was, would be and would become. He had no inkling of the significance of this prophecy. Isaiah would not find out the implication of this or any of his words until after he had died and met with God face to face. What a shock it must have been to Isaiah when he asked God to whom he referred in these verses. “Hey God, what did you mean by ‘Unto us a son is given’? Whose son you talking about|?” “Well, mine of course” said God. Mind blowing or what.
This child was to change the world in ways Isaiah could not imagine, this child has changed the world in ways we cannot comprehend, this child will continue to change the world in ways no man can envisage.
“And the government shall be upon His shoulders” This is quite a strange phrase for today, what does he mean by government? Thousands of politicians, ministers, local councillors and civil servants sitting on Jesus’ shoulders? No, don’t be silly. What Jesus did take upon his shoulders was his cross, Now Isaiah also said in chapter 22 verse 22, And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open . Now the key of David is the key to the Kingdom, which means that the cross is the key to the Kingdom. So where does government come into it? See also Revelation 3 verse 7, He that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; This is almost identical to what Isaiah said, except this is Jesus talking. He is saying that he cross is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus carried the cross on His shoulders. “What has this to do with government?” I hear you shout. “Get to the point” you cry. Jesus had which or what government on His shoulders? Through His death on the cross, Christ defeated Satan, defeated evil, defeated death itself. Up until that time, Satan and his evil cohorts had reign to govern the world, until that time Satan was undefeated, the prince of this world. Satan’s was the government that Christ bore on his shoulders at Calvary that first Easter. Christ bore all the sin of the world on the cross. Now consider again the cross, think again on the suffering of Christ, the humiliation, pain and grief. Christ should now govern your life, not sin. As Christians, we are crucified dead with Him, buried with Him, resurrected with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places. I’ll explain that one later.
Now for the best bit of this verse. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. When I read this, and I often do, I always put in another “wonderful”, try it out loud, read it slowly, prayerfully savouring every word, and smile when you read it, smile on the inside and smile on the outside. “And His name shall be called wonderful,……….. Wonderful counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Now this is a real praise verse, one to be included in your prayers of thanksgiving.
Taking this literally one superlative at a time, the Hebrew word for wonderful is Pala, and Pala means to be marvellous, be wonderful, be surpassing, be extraordinary, to be separate by distinguishing action This is a great description of Jesus as he is the most marvellous and wonderful person we can ever know. He surpasses all others in every way we can possibly imagine, He is extra ordinary in every way and oh so separate from mortal man by all that he has done, a man set apart by God his father to do the will of the father. And yet, still, He was a man, but a man, a wonderful man.
Counsellor. Funny word this, what a way to describe God. Look it up in an English Thesaurus and it gives you therapist, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, analyst, or shrink. The Hebrew lexicon gives: to advise, consult, give counsel, counsel, purpose, devise, plan. Let’s face it, there are not to my knowledge and hymns or songs which go, “My Jesus, my therapist” or “What a shrink we have in Jesus”
But it is true, He is all of these things, “What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins, and grief to bear, What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer”. That is why he is called Counsellor, he is the ultimate psychotherapist, the top Harley Street shrink, the great Citizens Advice Bureau in the sky . Take your troubles to Jesus, tell him all about them, pour out your grief and woes upon him and through the Holy Spirit, answers will come.
Wonderful Counsellor. The first words used to describe this Son have usually been separated in the English Bibles to form two words. But Isaiah himself joins these two terms together in Isaiah 28:29. So probably, as with the other titles, the one word enhances the other—he is a wonder of a counsellor.
The Mighty God, The everlasting Father. Isaiah is talking about Jesus, who is God, mighty God and through the trinity is also the everlasting father and at the same time the Holy Spirit. A difficult concept to imagine, being three different entities whist being one single individual all at the same time. But man is also a triune being, a subject we also cover later as well as the trinity of God.
The Everlasting Father. Fairly self-explanatory. God is everlasting, He always has been. He always will be. But, I hear you cry, I thought this prophesy was all about Jesus, not the Father. Confusion reigns, but this shows up in a couple of other prophecies. In Isaiah 48:15-16 the God is speaking and says, “I, even I, have spoken; Yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper. Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me. The statements of Jesus confirm the fact that the “Son” who is given is also known as the Father. Jesus said, “I am not of this world” (John 8:23), “I came in My Father’s name” (John 5:43), and finally, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). So Jesus is the expressed image of the Father, the Sovereign king-maker. By taking this title, Everlasting Father, the Messiah is to be known as the One who is the sovereign Lord over the ever changing years—he produces and directs eternity. Such a name belongs to a god, not just any divine creature or spiritual being, but to the God.
The Prince of Peace. This last title means that the Messiah will be one who ensures for his people have peace. He will be a prince who brings peace.
When I sat down at my computer to write this, I was worried about how others would react. What if they said “This bloke’s not a Bible scholar? Who does he think he is”? Well fortunately, unlike John Bunyan, who spent twelve years in jail for preaching the Gospel as an un-licensed preacher, there is nothing but my own conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit to stop me. If my musings are rubbish, then I waste my own time. However, if my thoughts were considered acceptable and one person has a better understanding of some bible verses as a result, then all would not have been in vain. There used to be a programme on BBC Radio 4 called “The Tingle Factor”. In this programme, esteemed and distinguished guests, actors, writers, politicians and anyone else who could have some small claim to fame would be asked to discuss pieces of music, which, when played would evoke memories of days past, make the hairs on the back of their necks stand on end, or give them a feeling called “the tingle factor”. They would describe these events from the past and what the passage meant to them. Some of these accounts were humorous, some moving, others tragic. Some of the people involved were humorous, some moving, others tragic. Some of the music was humorous, some moving, some tragic. But as I drove around the country on my numerous business trips, the radio would play out the misery of these peoples lives, another half hour would pass, and I would be nearer my journeys end. The music was key to many of these people’s lives and would often mark momentous events, life changing situations, great tragedy or huge catastrophes. There are many verses in the Bible that have a similar affect on people, some are well known, some less so. All are key in telling the story of the Bible. I know it can be wrong to take individual verses and try to use them to tell their own narrative. Here I hope I am not doing this, here I am taking some verses that will be examined in context, using the backbone of the adjacent verses and the chapters and books from which they are extracted. Looking at the structure in which they are set and not just using them as slogans or catchphases. It is important that any commentary, however short, amateurish or banal, should be scripturally and spiritually correct. After all a verse out of context is a pretext. Hopefully, what I say may be informative, sometimes humorous, sometimes moving but never tragic. Most importantly, I hope this is in plain English. I do not seek an award from the Plain English Society; I just hope that someone, by reading what is here, may get a glimpse of life. Why plain English? Well the problem is, many, well at least some of the commentaries written on various aspects of the Bible are written in a language alien to most people. All very well for the Christian or theologian, they both speak that hidden and most mysterious of all languages, Chritianese, the language which shrouds the simple message of the gospels into a deep and impenetrable vagueness. The most popular Bible, the King James Version is itself written in an archaic language which although beautiful, is not at all helpful to our understanding. I implore you therefore to beg, buy or borrow a modern translation such as the New International Version. Years ago, my own conversion was hindered by Chritianese. I was in my mid twenties and dating a “religious bird”. To help me in my carnal quest, I went along to church with her on Sunday evenings. She went to a small assembly, most of the people there were, very, very old, they sang hymns that were very, very old. They used the King James Version of the bible; all other translations were banned and probably burned at regular intervals. The evening service was supposed to be a “Gospel” meeting. The morning communion service being reserved for God fearing believers only. Week after week I went along to the “Gospel” meeting and I heard how “I was saved by Grace”. Problem was I didn’t know anyone called Grace. They told me “I was redeemed by the blood of the Lamb”. Ah hah! I thought, perhaps Grace was a butcher or a vet? “The Lamb who was slain and now sits at the right hand of the throne of God”? No, Grace worked at the abattoirs! They spoke in their very own language, Chritianese, and I had not the slightest idea what they were going on about. Unfortunately, this is still going on today. Churches communicate in their own “church speak” to the exclusion, alienation and ultimate damnation of outsiders. But, being a forward thinking little group, one day, they had a children’s outreach service. A chap called Jonathan Day, I believe he was from an organisation called Operation Mobilisation, was supposed to be the speaker. Except he didn’t say a word. Instead, a ventriloquist’s doll, sounding incredibly like Jonathan, upon whose knee he sat, was the speaker. Jonathan obviously found it hard to follow what the poor little chap was saying, because his mouth sometimes seemed to move in time with the dolls. But, he preached the gospel, but this time in words of one syllable; he spoke English, like what it should be spoke. There was a meeting of minds, not mine and Jonathans, but me and the vent! (We in the know, refer to ventriloquist’s dolls as vents). The thick, wooden empty skull met and communicated on equal terms with the vent. Result? I understood, I believed and was baptised. Not there and then, but some months later at the first available baptism, (there are procedures you understand). Anyway, to get back to the plot, I have tried to keep to plain English, and having complained about the KJV, I quote it a lot, and I am and will be eternally grateful to that little and still thriving Brethren Assembly, Lee Street Church, Horley, Surrey, without whom I would be destined for the fires of hell. So, no letters of complaint about Brethren bashing. In case you were wondering what happened to the religious bird, well I married her in 1977 and as far as I know, she hasn’t regretted a moment.
Isaiah 9 vs 2
2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.  KJV
2* Those who walked in the dark have seen a bright light. And it shines upon everyone who lives in the land of darkest shadows.  CEV
What a superb verse to start with. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light!” Who are they? In the Hebrew, the people referred to are the nation of Israel. As far as they were concerned they were all that mattered. As far as prophecy was concerned, the people of Israel were the only people God had communication with. As far as the Old Testament and the writers of it were concerned, no one else existed. The people of Israel were a very elitist society. Although the world was populated with what the Jews disparagingly called “Gentiles”, from the far west of Portugal across to the ends of Russia, China and beyond, up to the Arctic Circle and down to the tip of Africa, and although no one knew at the time, all across the length and breadth of the Americas Australia and New Zealand as well, as far as the Jews were concerned, they were it! No one else was there. No one else mattered to God, no one else knew God, and as far as they believed, God cared even less for the “Gentiles” than they did. If the Jews had understood these prophecies, their most likely reaction would be; does he mean us? Surely not! The Jews truly believed that they walked not in darkness, but in the light of God. Consider this, the world then, geographically, was very similar to the world we know today, apart from the odd plate shift and a few volcanic bits that come and go occasionally. When we read the bible, especially the Old Testament, most people think of the Middle East as being “the world”. Because it is a written history that is very introspective and self-centred, we forget that there were many other civilisations spread across the globe, in China and Japan, there were an advanced and cultured people. Across Europe there was civilisation. All across America there would have been Native American Indians. Even in the Antipodes, aboriginal tribes were probably established and thriving. The whole world as we know it today was populated by many peoples of different races, all made in Gods image, all created from the same dust, all in need of salvation. All Gentiles, every one of them walking in darkness. But what is this darkness and what is this light? Before looking at the darkness, it might be easier to see what is the light referenced here. Jesus called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12), John the apostle referred to Jesus as the light (John 1:9), in a passage that comes up later. Those who receive the gospel, receive the light. Those who live in Christ live in the light. What we are talking about, in plain English is good & bad. The light is the good, the darkness is the bad. Jesus is light. Satan is darkness. Heaven is light; hell is darkness, the dark pit of hell, as it is sometimes referred to. So to look at this in a contemporary setting, and this is very much aimed at the non-Christian. In the “Lord of the Rings, written by Tolkien, a devout Catholic, what was the dark side? The bad guys! In Star Wars, The evil empire and Darth Vader were “on the dark side”. Even in Harry Potter, they spoke of the dark side. (“He who cannot be named went to the dark side”) So basically, Light = Good and Darkness = Evil. Enough of novels, back to the bible again. So what is this light and dark? Christ said, in Acts 26:16-18, as an instruction to Saul on the Damascus Road, 16 “I have appeared to you, because I have chosen you to be my servant. You are to tell others what you have learned about me and what I will show you later.” Then Jesus went on to say, 17 “I will protect you from the Jews and from the Gentiles that I am sending you to. 18 I want you to open their eyes, so that they will turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then their sins will be forgiven, and by faith in me they will become part of God’s holy people.” (Another great passage, worthy of mention later.) Jesus, the risen Lord spoke directly to Saul and gave a commission that would take him to the end of his mortal life and beyond. Why beyond? Because we still have the letters or Epistles of Paul (the apostle formally know as Saul) to teach us, as Christians, how to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the love of God. How plain can the message be? Here the Bible is quite simply equating the power of Satan to darkness and overwhelming power of God to light.
“On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” Sounds a bit like the well know Crimea poem, “Into the valley of death rode the five thousand…..” Well that is exactly it. Without the light of Jesus, death is the only thing on the agenda. What is meant by death, well apart from physical death, which like tax is unavoidable; there is also spiritual death. Now that is a little trickier to understand! Physical death is very easy, your heart stops beating, you stop breathing and your brain cells stop functioning, all three will happen, but not necessarily in that order. Death is a fact of life, or death is a fact of death, depending on your viewpoint. Your lights go out and there is no one in. You are an ex-person, to paraphrase Monty Python. Spiritual death is a much more serious business. It is the one thing that Jesus despaired of on the cross. He did not complain about the excruciating agony, an agony which we could not comprehend, the agony caused by his very flesh being ripped away by the scourge of whipping, the agony made worse by a crown made of thorns, long needle like thorns being forced down on the head, the agony of having nails driven through your wrists and feet, nails which would be driven through your flesh, trough your bone, splintering it on the way, the searing agony as the cross was dropped into the post hole, your entire weight being taken by three rusty nails, the humiliation of being hung naked for all to see. No he despaired, when the sin of the world was placed on His shoulders and God, His Father, who could not look upon sin, turned away. Jesus then and only then cried out, “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me”. Spiritual death is like that, when the Father turns away from you. That is the Heavenly Father, who is light; you are then left in the darkness, the impenetrable darkness of spiritual death.
The other thing I didn’t mention, if you are not heaven bound, then physical death is still not the end, you still have eternal life, but you spend it in agony in the fires of hell. The choice is yours, heaven or hell. So choose wisely.
God however has given us this choice, of our own free will. He has given all mankind a way out, a free ticket to heaven. A completely free entry to paradise.