September 2021


I have given away or lent many books over the years but generally I like to keep them and occasionally I scan the loaded bookshelves to find something I would like to re-read.

I have just pulled off the shelf a book I read some 55 years ago, “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand, which got me thinking about its substance and author. Some of her ideas of self interest with the possible resulting hurt of others is obviously flawed from a Christian viewpoint and I do not intend to expand on her philosophy “Objectivism”. However one aspect stresses the importance of the individual struggling against the corrupting evil of political and even religious authoritarianism. This argues that we must be true to ourselves, free from pretence.

We should not worry about what others think of us and never be ashamed of our convictions. (Luke 9:26 “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the son of man will be ashamed of him.”)

Pretence is compromising our true selves. It comes down to the fact that we are not only being dishonest with others but we are also being dishonest with ourselves and our God. ( Luke 9:25 “What will a man gain by winning (let alone impressing) the whole world, at the cost of losing HIS TRUE SELF”.)

What is our true self? We are what we believe to be true. Clothes do not make the man. It is beliefs and convictions that make the man and it is essential that we live honestly in accord with self. We might learn to compromise in order to share and be fair but we should never compromise our beliefs. We should at all times be true to ourselves.

The Pharisee was the sort of man that Jesus warned would receive the severest sentence. The hypocrite who deceives himself. He thinks he serves God, he believes he is the disciple, and yet he lacks something essential. It is not just that he is not sufficiently humble and repentant, it is that he lacks integrity, he is dishonest to himself. While thinking he serves God he is concerned for his own image, he is worried about what others think of him and is anxious to conform. He may be concerned for others, for that is Gods will, yet he cannot stop looking after his own welfare.

We need desperately to be completely honest with our God and that means being completely honest with ourselves. We must be honest in our very essence, as individuals. Self is defined as that individual essence, – to be completely honest we must examine ourselves and strip away any pretence. God knows who we are and what we could be and it is up to us to live honestly.
I have always thought it unfortunate that we tend to look on self as something bad, something to deny and overcome.

If we see SELF as wrong, we endanger the credibility of the individuals that God made us.

World establishment belittles the common man, rejects individuality and elevates conformity. The worldly dictat is that we must sedate our will, our own being and sacrifice self, ostensibly for the good of all. The church is in real danger if it takes this doctrine and applies it to itself.

Let us consider the often quoted words of Jesus. “Not my will but thine.” Was he in fact saying that we should have no self will? I think not because Jesus accepted that HIS self was to be shaped and formed by the will of His Father and not by the desires of humanity. It was Christ’s will to embrace God’s goodness. That was who Jesus was. That was Jesus’ true self to which he had to remain completely honest. For the Christian, it is essential to ensure that our SELF is a Christ-like self. Then it is important that we ensure that what others see is what we are.

We must live our religion honestly, true to ourselves. We will not need to give or to receive praise or reward from others. We will do things because our self conviction tells us it is right, not because it is convenient, easy, lucrative, or what will make us feel good. God gave us self-will, he did not wish for spineless clones. He created us with individual spirit, he wants self minded not mindless children. Children true to ourselves free from hypocrisy and pretence.

Jesus showed deference to no man. His life was lived with little regard for the opinions and standards of others. He was totally his own man and despised pretension and hypocrisy. He could have been idolised, popular and adored. He could have been the greatest of the A grade celebrities, the centre of attention. He could have impressed everyone and become the most popular and important man in the world.

However, Jesus was too honest for this world and was despised, rejected and finally killed by respectable society who were scared by his honesty and could not understand his priorities. The ironic thing is that in shunning all those things that the world believes is important, Jesus has still become one of the most influential, important and famous people ever to live.

The last shall be first.

We thank God that Jesus made his whole SELF subservient not to worldly approval but to reflecting the nature of His father. His rejection by the world made possible our acceptance by God.

Jesus foretells his rejection by the so called “important” people of the day. He predicts his suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus was Jesus, a truly honest man, true to himself and his father, even if what he had to do was hard and painful.

We remember just WHY his suffering was necessary, WHY God allowed his only beloved son to be sacrificed for a wicked, false and weak-willed world. If our desire is to be more like Jesus then let us examine ourselves candidly and vow to be strong willed and to live our lives honest to ourselves and our God, totally free from pretence.


Jehoiachin or Jehoiakim?

Jehoiachin or Jehoiakim? Elijah or Elisha? I’m not confident that I can tell them apart. If ever I have cause to refer to either of them, I always check which one it was. It’s a long time since Jehoiachin (or was it Jehoiakim?) featured in my thinking, though I can recall a bit about the history in which they were major players.
Perhaps my days in Sunday School were deficient, but I suspect not. I have vague memories of studying Judah’s history, but the minute details have long been forgotten.

The same applies to much of what we learn at school. The further we are away from “the best years of our life”, the less we remember from all those years.
A recent survey, perhaps by the University of the Blindingly Obvious, found that many adults could not recall some of the basics they had learnt at school – such as Pythagoras’ theorem, a single line of any Shakespeare play or how to multiply decimals (without a calculator, of course).

But does it matter? Most of us can live without a detailed knowledge of trigonometry, but when it comes to knowledge of the Bible it might be seen as slightly different. Some people take great pride, in a good sense, in knowing Biblical facts: the order of the kings of Israel, how many Tamars there are in the Bible (not
to mention who the first Tamar’s husbands were), or the three angels mentioned by name. Such details have been described as Trivial Pursuit knowledge. A more up to date description might be knowledge suitable for the BBC television programme ‘Pointless’.

It is only since the invention of printing, by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 in Germany, that Bibles have become widely available. Before then, the possibility of owning a Bible was virtually nil. Even after 1440, many people were unable to read, so they still could not acquire that “Trivial Pursuit” knowledge. Their understanding of the contents of the Bible was acquired by looking at images in church, or watching Mystery Plays which told the important stories from the Bible. For an example of a modern interpretation of a Mystery Play about Adam and Eve, watch this YouTube video:

They were a good way to get the basic messages of the Bible across, but there was no possibility the ordinary illiterate person could acquire the detailed knowledge of the Bible which some of us have, or aspire to have.
But, and this is the important point, lack of that knowledge did not prevent them from being Christians, who in some cases would be willing to die for their faith. And nor should we be too concerned if we can’t remember the difference between Jehoiachin and Jehoiakim. What is really important is what is in a person’s heart, not their head. Knowing Jesus, not knowing about Jesus.


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