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Missionary Survives Deadly Ebola

by Donald Geddes — last modified Dec 13, 2014 08:51 PM

The deadly Ebola Virus has been contracted by more than 2,400 people with over 1350 victims in Western Africa. There is no drug or vaccine for Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and fatal organ failure and system-wide haemorrhage.

Dr BrantlyHowever, two American missionaries, Doctor Kent Brantly, and Nancy Writebol, who contracted the dangerous Ebola virus while working in Liberia, have overcome the disease and been released from an Atlanta hospital. “God saved my life, a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers,” Dr Brantly testified.

While it has been established that Ebola comes from contact with infected animals and fruit bats, plagues like this always raise the question whether this is a form of divine judgement.

The Bible has plenty of cases where plagues came as a result of sin and rebellion. The plagues on Egypt were caused by Pharaoh refusing to bow to God’s demand through Moses to release the Hebrews from slavery. The Israelites themselves incurred a plague as a result of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16). The people of Ashdod suffered a plague of tumours after capturing the Ark from Israel (1 Sam 5:6)

Individuals also were struck with disease as a result of sin. Gehazi incurred the leprosy of Naaman as a result of his greed (2 Kings 5:27), King Jehoram suffered a bowel disease because of idolatry (2 Chron. 21:18) and there is the graphic case of King Herod who was struck down and eaten by worms when he allowed people to liken him to God. (Acts 12:23)

But does this mean all sickness is caused by sin? In the general sense, this is true. If there was no sin in the world, there would be no sickness.

However, we cannot say that when an individual becomes sick this is a judgement from  God as a result of their sin. There is no doubt that a sinful lifestyle contributes to sickness. But what about the godly, clean-living person who contracts cancer?

In Luke 13:1–5, some people raised the issue with Jesus. They told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus responded,

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (NIV)

Jesus was saying that all tragedies, plagues and sickness are a warning and a call to repent. Because we live in a sinful world we cannot escape these trials but we can call on the Lord to help us through them. This is what Dr. Brantly did when he contracted the Ebola virus while treating patients with Ebola.

Jesus followed his comments with the parable of a man who planted a fig tree but when it failed to produce fruit, went to cut it down. He was persuaded leave it for another year to see if it produced fruit. If God sends sickness (presumably because of our life-style) and we refuse to see this as a warning for us to repent then there is a limit to God’s mercy.

Gone Missing

by Donald Geddes — last modified Dec 13, 2014 08:50 PM
In Australia someone is reported missing every 18 minutes by someone who cares.

by Donald Geddes

Gone MissingEvery year an average of 6,500 people are reported missing in Queensland. Almost all of these are found but 20 completely disappear. Some of these missing persons have been gone for a number of years. What has happened to them?

Many of us have experienced the panic when toddlers have been lost in a crowd or shopping centre, or children have wandered away at the Ekka, or teenagers have cleared out in rebellion, or elderly parents have wandered off. We graphically remember the frantic search that results and the immeasurable relief when the lost has been found.

Perhaps you know of a case where an adult has deliberately disappeared with the intention of escaping domestic or financial problems and starting a new life. If it is a loved one, they leave behind a permanent aching heart and the unanswered question “Are they still alive?”

Many people in this situation think no one cares; no one loves them. But they are wrong! Someone always cares because God cares.

Jesus made this clear in Matt. 18:13-14 when he told the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The shepherd goes searching for the one lost sheep and if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

What about all those who once attended this church and have wandered away and are now lost not attending any church? Did we care? Did we go after them like the owner of the lost sheep? Did we grieve over the fact they were lost in sin? Are we still praying for them?

Do they know that the Lord loves them with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3)? Do they realize He cares for them and grieves over them? Do they understand God cared enough for the lost to send His own Son into the world to die for lost sinners? As Jesus told His disciples in Luke 16:10: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

We would not want to incur the criticism Ezekiel conveyed to the people of his day: My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. Ezek. 34:6.

There is no joy being lost in the wilderness. There is only the fearful prospect of an agonizing death. Being spiritually lost is worse because it brings the terrible prospect of being eternally lost in Hell.

No wonder Jesus had such compassion on those he saw as being lost. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt. 9:36. Just as the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, God longs to see the lost return home. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 16:20) That is the picture of God’s joy when the lost return home.

Fighting for the "Promised Land"

by Donald Geddes — last modified Dec 13, 2014 08:49 PM
Rev Donald Geddes

The bloody conflict between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza does not appear to have the possibility of a final resolution. Since the latest fighting began in July over 2,000 have died and 10,000 have been injured—nearly all the casualties are Palestinians.

A number of cease-fire agreements have been broken by Hamas firing rockets into Israel.

It is hard to see how this conflict can ever be settled as Hamas is committed to drive Israel into the sea and Israel is just as determined to hold on to what they see as their “Promised Land”.

Over the past 70 years every peace proposal has been rejected by the Palestinians who bitterly resent being displaced when the state of Israel was set up after World War 2. Muslims see some of their holy sites occupied by Jews as desecration by infidels.

Orthodox Jews continue the provocative policy of establishing settlements in Palestinian land on the basis that all Palestine is their “Promised Land” given them by God.  So, do the Jews have a Divine Right to the land of Palestine?

God chose Israel to be His special people (Deut. 7:6). Part of the Covenant God made with Abraham was God’s promise to give you this land to take possession of it.” (Gen. 15:7). This is described as an everlasting covenant (Ps. 105:10–11). "All the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever" (Gen. 13:15). Orthodox Jews take these promises as giving them the absolute right to possess the land of Palestine.

However, the irrevocable covenantal promises were also conditional. God’s people had to live in faith and obedience to His commands as Gen. 18:19 makes clear. The continual disobedience of Israel led to judgement and exile in Babylon.

The Prophet Ezekiel was part of those Jews sent in exile to Babylon. The question uppermost in the minds of the exiles was “Would Israel lose the land promised to Abraham?”  In Chapter 33 he records God’s answer. Israel’s possession of the land depended upon keeping the Covenant (verses 23-29). Having violated the Covenant, why should they keep the land? The Land was about to become desolate.

In Chapter 34 Ezekiel lays the blame on the leaders who he describes as “false shepherds” who were more interested in seeking material gains than looking after the flock of Israel. These false shepherds would be removed and God Himself would gather his flock by sending a True Shepherd—the Messiah. This was Jesus as John 10:14 indicates. God would establish a New Covenant which would bring “showers of blessing”.

Today, Israel as a nation is a covenant-breaking people—they are rejecting their Messiah, Jesus. In this condition of unbelief and disobedience, Israel has no "divine right" to the Land of Promise. This does not mean that other nations have the right to molest her. The fact that the Jews are able to exist in Palestine shows they still enjoy a measure of God’s protection—but this is because of God’s common grace rather than their right.

Does this mean God’s promise to Abraham of a Land for his descendants has failed? No! Romans 11 indicates that Gentile believers constitute a new Israel which will include a remnant of Jewish believers. The land the New Israel will inherit will be the new Earth God will create after this sinful earth is destroyed by fire (Isa. 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, Rev. 21:1). All followers of Christ, and only followers of Christ, will inherit the new earth.

In the mean time the dispute over Palestine cannot be resolved unless the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah and the Palestinians hear the Gospel and become Christians.