The Love Imperative

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Pastor David Flanders presented a great message this week on the theme of love. Jesus had said that the greatest commandment of the Law is to love the Lord our God. People of faith easily say that this is sensible. What is faith without an object? But Jesus continued, that the second part is like it, “To love your neighbour.”  Essentially the love of God is to be shown not just in prayer, and Bible reading, but in honouring and caring for those made in His image. The two are inseparable. And notice, love is used to some up the greatest “commandment.”

The practical nature of godly love is also evident in scripture. I Corinthians 13, shows the primacy of love,

 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (vs 1-3).”

Love is at the centre. And why? John explains this in First John 4,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (vs 7 – 8).”

How do we love then? Paul continues his discussion in I Corinthians by explaining,

 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (vs 4-8).”

Jesus had said that there is no greater love than sacrifice.  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” Okay, fair enough, most of us will not be called upon to give our final breath for others. But, we can give our lives in other ways. If we are truly “loving our neighbours as ourselves,” we should give of our time, wealth, and compassion. Living sacrifices are creatures of love.

This godly love is an imperative. Moving beyond Jesus’ summing up of the Law as “love,” He reiterated and in fact elevated the status of love with a “new commandment,”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13: 34-35).”

Padre

 

 

 

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Three Hours in Warsaw

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Warsaw Skyline

My train arrived at the central station in Warsaw, and I had a three hour layover before proceeding to Lublin.  So what to do? I went on a brief exploration, but one that would risk missing my train.

Has a Holocaust researcher, I headed for the Korczak memorial in the City Park a short walk away. This incredible educator and orphanage director was a celebrity in his day.a So much so that he had allies who would have allowed for his escape the death camps. He, however, ever an example stayed with his children, and led them to the deportation, giving them courage.

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Korczak Memorial

The park is a peaceful place to kill some time on a summer afternoon, and the trees and flower beds make a great oasis in the city landscape. The fountains are especially impressive, and calming to watch.   There are plenty of places to sit, and just relax.

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Dolphin Fountain

After a brief stay, I made my way back towards the station.  In so doing I passed the impressive architecture of the Palace of Culture and Science.  This is a imposing building, but one which has its own beauty.

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Palace of Culture and Science

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Hard Rock Warsaw

I arrived back at the station with an hour still to spare, so what better than Hard Rock Cafe? The Hard Rock Cafe in Warsaw is really easy to get to from the central rail station. The food is good and the atmosphere in keeping with what one expects from a Hard Rock. The usual musical paraphernalia and shop are here, and the experience was good.
I had several soft drinks and nachos for lunch. The portion size was excellent, and the nachos, cheese and salsa were of really good quality as well.  The service was very attentive and friendly. For those with mobility issues there is a proviso. The main dining room (with standard tables) is down a flight of steps, the ground level dining area only has the high tables with long legged chairs. Outdoor seating, however, is available and at street level and proved to be a nice place to eat under the umbrella on a hot summer’s day.

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Hard Rock Veggie Nachos

After a nice late lunch, it was back to the station and onwards to the Lublin Conference. It was a short stay, but an enjoyable and enriching one.

Padre

 

Lavender Sugar

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It’s summer, and the lavender is in bloom, so it is the perfect time to make lavender sugar.  This is a great little confection that goes well with teas, cream desserts, and as my favourite use, as the sweetener in cheese cake.

It really is simple to do as well.

Ingredients:

  • Lavender Heads about 10-20
  • Granulated White Sugar 2 cups

Method:

Cut the lavender heads just under the bottom blooms, keeping the blossoms on the stem. Place a quarter of the flowers in a 1 Litre (one quart) Kilner or Mason jar.  Pour 1/3 of the sugar over the blooms, then layer a few more flowers and sugar until all is used. Seal tightly and set aside.  The next day, holding the jar firmly, shake vigourously and set aside again. Repeat for 3 days.  The mixture is now ready to be used, and will keep for several weeks (even months).

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The flowers can be filtered out after three days, or kept in the jar.  If retaining them, shake the jar periodically the best mix the lavender into the blend. Then just remove them before use.

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The Battle is Not Our Own

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Source: Bet-ilim

We often feel beset by powers and obstacles which seem insurmountable. At times it seems the world is against us. Have you ever felt that way?

King Jehoshaphat faced a literal overwhelming attack in Second Chronicles 20. An alliance of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir had invaded the frontiers of Judah and had advanced as far as En Gedi. In the face of this onslaught, Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him (vs 3-4).”

Jehoshaphat then called on God in the face of these combined enemies. This was the king’s general approach, and one which leaders and rulers should learn from.  This godly leader was in the habit of seeking God’s guidance before entering into action!

The king then directly proclaims to God “[Your people] have lived in it [the promised land] and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us (vs 8-9).’”

So with, All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LordThen the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah (vs 13-14). . . . ” This Levite and prophet then speaks God’s reply to Jehoshaphat’s appeal and profession of faith:

 “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and seethe deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you (vs 15-17).’”

Jehoshaphat and the people then praised God! And next morning they went out to meet the enemy. This was not a fearful contingent, but one trusting in the word of the Lord. The king made his people’s advance obvious, but more importantly glorifying to God, as they advanced singing!

“Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”  After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated (vs 19-22).” 

The defeat, however, was not at the hand of the people of Judah!  The victory was God’s doing. Look again at verse 22, “The Lord set ambushes . . . .”  What’s more,

“The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.  When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped (vs 23-24).” 

The invading armies destroyed each other.  Judah had nothing else to do but to gather the plunder. Victory was total.  But the battle was the Lord’s.

The mechanism of this triumph is not spelled out for us. Did each army mistake each other for Judah in a similar fashion as Gideon’s defeats of the Midianites in Judges 7? Or was it a case that the alliance was shaky to start with? Remember the idea that “the enemy of my enemy, is my friend,” is a false reasoning.  Did these ungodly people’s own self interests and selfishness undermine their cooperation to the point of mutual destruction.  The detail of the answer may always be hidden from us, but one thing can be sure – God’s preservation of His people was shown in in the outcome. 

So what lessons are to be learned? Firstly, the onslaughts of the world pale in the power of God.  “If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?” Secondly, in the face of adversity seek God as Jehoshaphat did, rather than attempt to do battle by our own strength. And finally, trust in God’s promises with praise and thanksgiving, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever,” as Judah did. And remember, the battle is not our own.

Padre

 

 

 

 

Pasta Salad 1

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I have posted several summer salads recently, most of which were potato based.  Here is a pasta salad recipe.  It is versatile as a basic recipe, and in the pictured batch used gluten free pasta so I could more readily share it with my wife.  It uses fresh salad standards such as tomatoes and cucumber, and has a fresh taste.

Ingredients:

  • Pasta (really any sort will do) 4 cups dry
  • Tomatoes 2 large
  • Cucumber 1/2
  • Spring Onions 2
  • Bell Pepper 1 large (yellow or red)
  • Dried Parsley 1/2 tsp
  • Mayonnaise 3 to 4 heaped Tbs (to taste)
  • Cider Vinegar splash
  • Water to cover
  • Salt sprinkle

Method:

Prepare the pasta according to the manufacturer’s guidelines (using salted water). While the pasta is cooking chop the tomatoes into eighths and place into a mixing bowl.  Dice the onions and pepper into small pieces, and add to the tomatoes.  Cut cucumber into slightly larger pieces and add to bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt, the parsley, and a splash of vinegar and toss. When pasta is cooked run cold water over it to cool and remove excess starch. When well cooled drain very well and add to the veg mixture.  Next stir in the mayonnaise until everything is well coated.  Cover and chill in a refrigerator before serving.

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Inferno Deviled Eggs

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These are not the typical “hot” paprika deviled eggs.  In fact, they are not for the faint of heart. This spicy devil egg filling is tasty and a great alternative to the usual picnic dishes.

Ingredients:

  • Eggs 6
  • Avocado 1/2
  • Jalapeno or similar Chili 1
  • Mayonnaise 1 tsp
  • Tabasco or similar to taste
  • Cayenne Pepper sprinkle

Method:

Cover eggs with salted water in a medium pan.  Bring to the boil for 8 minutes, then immediately place eggs in cold water.  While eggs are cooking scoop the flesh of the avocado into a food processor and blitz until smooth.  When the eggs are cooled, halve them and remove the yolks. Then add the jalapeno, yolks, mayo, and chili sauce to the processor and blend again. Using a small spoon fill the cavities of the egg halves with the yolk mixture and sprinkle with the cayenne.

There are couple of variations for this recipe. The one pictured is as noted above.  However, by halving the amount of egg yolk used from 6 to 3, the bite of the chili is more intense. I have tried it without the yolks at all. This version is hotter still, and may require adding more jalapeno and an extra tsp of mayo to make enough filling.

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Potato and Beetroot Salad

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It is Thoughtful Thursday, and to be fair I am really bogged down with my latest philosophical piece.  It will appear in due course, but for today my “thoughts” turn to dinner.  With that said I present Potato and Beetroot Salad.

Here is another summer potato-based salad.  It has loads of colour and flavour, and makes a great changes form the basic recipe. It is loosely based on Scandinavian dishes, but is ultimately a fusion dish.

Ingredients:

  • New Potatoes 400g/ 14 oz
  • Beets (Beetroot) 300 g* (boiled prepared) or Pickled Beets 300 g*
  • Spring Onions 3
  • Mayonnaise 2 Tbs
  • Dijon Mustard 1 tsp rounded*
  • Celery 1 stock
  • Salt
  • Water to cover

Method:

Bring enough water to cover the potatoes to the boil in a medium pan.  Lightly salt and add the potatoes. Book for about 8 minutes, drain and allow to cool. When the potatoes are sufficiently cooled (room temp or lower). Halve each potato into a large bowl.  Chop the beets into simpler sized pieces and add to the potatoes.  Finely dice the onions and celery and add to the bowl.  Then stir in the mayo (and mustard if using boiled beets, omit is using pickled beets).  Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

I prefer the tangy-ness of the pickled beets, but both versions are nice.

Padre

 

Lies and Revelation

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Robert Daly / Caiaimage/Getty

In First Kings 21, we find that king Ahab had surrounded himself with prophets of his own choosing. Whether true prophets, or false, these four hundred individuals were charged by Ahab to predict the outcome of an attack on Ramoth Gilead.

It was Ahab’s intent to invade, yet he sought the alliance of Jehoshaphat king of Judah.  It was only because of Jehoshaphat’s insistence that such an endevour be with God’s blessing that the prophets were summoned. Their response was unanimous – “Israel will win!”

It is telling in verse 7 that ” . . . Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” He seems discontent with the verdict of the 400.  Look carefully at the wording on verses 6 and 7.

“So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain (verse 6)?”

“Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of (verse 7)?”

Jehoshaphat differentiated the status of the four hundred from one “of the Lord.” When the man of God, Micaiah is called, he is warned to stick to the party line.

“All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably (vs 12 -13).”

Micaiah’s response is telling,

“As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”

He is then pressed by the king for his verdict.  He answers as did the 400.  This, allowing for his previous record of pronouncing against Ahab, seems to trouble the king. He presses harder in verse 16,

“The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”

Now comes the full disclosure the king didn’t want to hear. And there is an indication of the difference between the prophecy of the four hundred, and that of the “prophet of the Lord.” He begins by noting a defeat, not victory for Ahab, then

“Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him. “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it. “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you (vs 19-23).”

God had already cut Ahab and his line off. His own lust for power was still evident in his desire to annex Ramoth Gilead. It is his own folly (as it was in the previous chapter) that was the cause of his own downfall. Here is a man not fit to lead God’s people. Micaiah sees this, and God allows him a greater revelation than the four hundred.

The prophets of Ahab were given their message by a deceiving spirit. They were led astray, by their own man pleasing, and the spirit of falsehood. Micaiah is shown the bigger picture.  He sees why the message is given. And he reveals this to the king. Rather than trusting his word, Ahab imprisoned him.  For what? For telling the truth.

There has been much comment of the exchange in heaven, recorded above. Let’s look at it briefly. God cannot and does not lie (Numbers 23:19). So we must conclude the “plotting” in heaven is not God’s falsehood.

  • God cannot lie.
  • God knows all things.
  • God allows free will.
  • God allows, but does not dictate sin (see Job 1)

Since God doesn’t lie,  He is not the author of the lie in chapter 22. Since He knows all things, He did not ask the questions in 22 in order to be informed. There had to be a different purpose for His inquiry. God allows free will so allowed the 400 to follow their own conceits, and Ahab in turn to follow his own destiny brought about by his corruption. God allows the one (a spirit of falsehood) to spread his lies.

Let’s return to the purpose of the questions. Who was privy to the conversation? The multitudes of heaven, God, and Micaiah! The entire exchange informed the “prophet of the Lord” of the deceit of the false spirit, and how it would become manifested. This gave him revelation of truth in the face of falsehood.

God had, as already noted, cut off Ahab (as He had Saul and others).  He also had in chapter 21 given Ahab a brief reprieve from destruction, because he had humbled himself, before God.  But now he was back to his old ways.  His destruction was foreknown of God, as the wages of his sin. Satan, the deceiver, is true to his nature.  He is the father of lies, and as such easily manipulates the false four hundred into allowing Ahab to destroy himself. God allows it, He does not cause it.

If Ahab (and his wife) didn’t have greedy spirits, they would not have fallen foul of God. If Ahab had not surrounded himself with “prophets” that tickled his ears, he would not have been led astray. It the four hundred had sought the words of God in a spirit of truth, they would have not been flatterers. If Satan were not a liar, he would not have the desire to cause evil. If Ahab when he heard the actual words of truth from Micaiah had repented of his lust for power, he wouldn’t have entered into a losing battle.

Look at the power of a lie. Yet, revelation, the revealing of truth by God is empowering. Empowering if it is listened too. Jehoshaphat valued words of truth.  He wanted to know the will and mind of God.

Are we Ahabs or Jehoshaphats? Do we listen to and readily spread lies like the four hundred? Or do we seek clarity in the truth like Micaiah? Do we seek lies or revelation?

 

Padre

 

 

 

Dill Potato Salad

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Here is an alternative to the Basic Potato Salad recipe. It is creamier than the standard recipe, and has the rich flavour of dill.

Ingredients:

  • New Potatoes 400g/ 14 oz
  • Spring Onions 2 or Small Red Onion 1
  • Mayonnaise 2 Tbs
  • Sour Cream 2 tsp
  • Dried Dill 1 1/2 tsp
  • Lemon Juice splash
  • Ground Black Pepper large pinch
  • Salt
  • Water to cover

Method:

Bring enough water to cover the potatoes to the boil in a medium pan.  Lightly salt and add the potatoes. Book for about 8 minutes, drain and allow to cool. When the potatoes are sufficiently cooled (room temp or lower). Halve each potato into a large bowl.  Dice the onions and add to the bowl.  Then stir in the mayo and sour cream.   Add the dill, pepper, and juice; and stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Potatoes can be peeled or skin on, and if in a hurry canned new potatoes can be used (500 -530 g tin drained). The Dijon of the basic recipe can still be used, but to keep it from becoming “too” creamy reduce the mayo to  1 1/2 Tbs.

As an additional variation try adding

  • Feta Cheese 50 g crumbled.

While the feta is rather salty, the potato compensates for it.  My wife likes the feta addition, but I prefer it without.

Padre

A Stay at Pickmere Country House

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Pickmere Country House

We stayed at the Country House while attending a conference in Manchester. This was a great venue, it is close enough to the city to make an easy commute, and is in the picturesque countryside. It is indeed the best of both worlds.

On our arrival we were given a warm welcome, and quickly shown to our room. The room in the annex was comfortable, clean, and easy to access. The shower had plenty of hot water, and the bed while firm, was still very comfortable.

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Garden Annex

There is a well tended garden, and there are tables and a patio area from which to enjoy it.

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Garden View

The breakfast was first rate. The food was fresh, and local eggs and sausages were on the menu. The honey on offer was from a local bee-keeper and was raw and very good indeed. There was a wide range of cereals and fresh and dried fruits as well.

the hotel also offers evening meals, and has a fully licenced bar.  There is also a nearby pub, and several restaurants are available in adjoining villages.

The staff were wonderful, and really seemed they wanted to please. They went out of their way to provide for our needs, and even at breakfast weren’t prepared for us to leave the table wanting for anything.

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Annex Room

This was a great country retreat, even while visiting a big city. It is really a first choice destination.

Padre