Wednesday, February 25, 2009



In Cross Purposes 147 – The Farmer and his (out of tune) Violin – Fred tells the story of an Australian grazier, living on an isolated property, who needed access to a “standard note” in order to tune his violin. Ingeniously, he wrote to the nearest radio station asking if they would give him the standard note by radio! The radio station was able to assist and, at an agreed time, struck the tuning note by which the farmer was able to tune his violin and so get on with his music.

The point of the story was that we need to take hold of a quiet time – away from the noise of the world – and tune in to the voice of our Lord. It’s in such quiet times that we can best hear and tune in to the “standard note” of the voice of Jesus.

When talking about this story last week I mentioned to Fred that at band practice each Wednesday evening, the first thing the bandmaster does is to tune all the instruments in the band to a “standard” note. He does this by getting, say, the first clarinettist to play and hold the standard note. As the rest of the band plays and holds that same note, the bandmaster is able to pick up, with his acutely trained ear, which instruments are out of pitch and then directs the player to tune the instrument accordingly. Once every instrument is tuned to the standard note the band is ready to play as one.

Think of the bandmaster as Jesus. Think of the “standard note” the bandmaster seeks the whole band to be tuned to as “the way and the truth and the life” to which Jesus calls us. Jesus calls us to be one in body and spirit – with Him and with each other. He tells us, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and then in His prayer for us in the Garden of Gethsemane He prays:

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (the gospel as Jesus taught his disciples and called them to proclaim), that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).

Complete unity in our Lord is only possible when we are tuned into His Word through the power of His Holy Spirit. It requires open, humble and receptive hearts to the message of the Gospel so that we can clearly hear the tuning note and allow the Master to show us where our “pitch” needs adjusting.

Horatio Bonar captures the spirit of this wonderfully in his timeless hymn: ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto me and rest . . .” “Behold I freely give . . .” “I am this dark world’s light . . .”’ When we resonate with these words we are well in tune with the Body of Christ. Until then we are tuned only to “discordant” notes.


René van den Tol
19 February 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009



Rose and I were going through Kalgoorlie some years ago and took the opportunity to watch a demonstration of the refining of gold. That meant it was heated to 1200 degrees, it melted, and when the flux was added in the impurities could be drained off. The purity was made possible by the heat. We understand that. You want to sharpen an axe? Get a file or a grindstone and you can get it to razor thickness. As Solomon once said in a proverb, iron sharpens iron! We do understand that. It’s clear that adversity brings out the best in a person. It sorts out the men from the mice, the heroes from the wimps. As the writer of the book labelled Hebrews says,

“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Hebrews 12:5-7)

In a way we are encouraged to accept trouble and suffering because it draws/forces endurance and perseverance – and that builds hope in us. Poverty isn’t bad either, because necessity is the mother of all invention. And then out of the blue, you find a little passage in scripture which surprises you by being on a different tack.

“ Fire tests the purity of silver and gold,
but a person is tested by being praised.”
(Proverbs 27:21 NLT)

And here it is in NIV

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but man is tested by the praise he receives.”

Different isn’t it. Who you are, in the deep inner-self, is revealed by the way you respond to praise! Everybody is capable, somewhere, someway, of doing that which draws praise. Even Jesus. Perhaps especially Jesus! It’s Jesus who demonstrates, in a godly way, the truth of this saying. He knows that, often, praise and flattery are delivered in order that the one who gives it might get an advantage. After he fed the 5000, the people begun to sing his praises – and here is Jesus’ response.

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:15)

In the wilderness the devil had recognised the real threat Jesus was to his earthly control. He tried flattery, offered him shortcuts, all of which he refused. He resisted any attempt to deflect him from his Father’s work. He declined to entrust himself to human assessments. (John 2:24) Because he properly feared God he was never double-minded or heart-divided. Jesus’ person and example is our teacher:

· The Apostle Paul: “Have this mind among yourselves which you have “IN CHRIST JESUS” Phil 2:5

· And Father God: “This is my Son whom I love. Listen to HIM! (Matt 17:5)

· And Jesus himself: LEARN FROM ME for I am meek and humble at heart. (Matt 11:29).

There it is. Jesus knew his place before the one whose judgement really mattered. Do you?

Bless you guys


Wednesday, February 11, 2009



I’ve grabbed this title from something Selwyn Hughes once wrote. It was about having a daily quiet time in the Lord’s company, a matter which we all know is essential to the nourishment and growth in soul and spirit.

His text was from the Psalms.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)

When he was asked how and why he maintained his daily quiet time, Selwyn Hughes talked about an Australian grazier, living on an isolated property, whose violin was out of tune. To tune it he needed “a standard note” which he didn’t have at home. What to do? He had an idea – a brainwave. He wrote to the nearest radio station asking if they would give him the standard note by radio!

He asked. It did. Stopped its program at an agreed time and struck his note. He tuned his violin and was able to get on with his music.

Selwyn Hughes’ point? It’s in that quiet time, best in the morning before we hear the world’s ever present, demanding, discordant, clamouring voices – its noise – that we can tune in to the voice of our Lord. It’s the best time to hear and tune into the standard note.

“That is what a quiet time in the early part of the day does for you. Before the mists of worldly happenings blot out your view of God, you take a time exposure of Him which is indelibly imprinted on your mind. Then, after the mists close in, the vision is there – within. You live in two worlds at once – drawing physical strength from the world around you, and spiritual sustenance from the world above you. Pascal, the great French philosopher and Christian, once said: “Nearly all the ills of life spring from this simple source: that we are not able to sit still in a room.” But what if, in the stillness, we meet with God – how healing that would be? We would arise with what Stevenson calls “happy morning faces”. We become children of the dawn.”

Selwyn Hughes
One Year Devotional
Water for the Soul 2002.

So there! Tune in to the one radio station which can give you the ‘one note needful’.

O, and by the way, a little ‘violin’ insight, courtesy of the The Lutheran, which arrived on February 9. A W Tozer is right on the money – or should that be ‘note’:

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity conscious’ and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

Bless and be blessed.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO? - Cross Purposes 146


MX News is a free commuter newspaper for afternoon travellers in Sydney. On January 14 2008 it carried a story about two men from different parts of the USA who each found a rare pearl in an oyster they were eating. Nothing particularly special about that but I’ve another story.

The Hobart Mercury reported on January 3 2008 about young Kristy Brittain who was tossed off her kneeboard (on January 28 2007) while being towed behind a boat in water off the Tasman Peninsula. In the fall she lost a nose stud from a piercing she had done a week before Christmas. Gone forever? Three days later her fiancéé was fishing in the same area, caught a nice flathead, and lo and behold, there was the nose stud!

Reminds me of a story in the New Testament where some Temple tax collectors front Peter about Jesus and his tax obligations. It’s worth a read.

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"
"Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."
Matthew 17:24-27

I’ve often wondered: One, how did Jesus know about the tax conversation Peter had just had? Two, how did he know about the fish and the coin?

“It ain’t necessarily so”?
Normie Rowe’s song by that name had a line in it that said (of Jonah and the whale) “The things that you’re liable, to read in the Bible, ain’t necessarily so”. But a visit to the Eden Whale Museum on the far south coast of NSW might open your eyes.

There’s a story there about a 19 year old English crewman on a whaler in the 19th century. Up near the Arctic, they spotted a whale and drew up close to harpoon it. The harpoon lodged as it was intended to. The whale dived … then resurfaced under the boat and tipped its occupants into the ocean.

All were rescued except our 19 year old. Accepting his death as fate they returned to the mother ship. 14 hours later they were out again, sighted a whale, harpooned it. The same whale. When they began the process of cutting it up they heard strange noises. Soon a hand popped out, then a whole young man.

Apparently every hair on his body was bleached a deathly white, but he was alive, although he couldn’t talk for the next month. He died at 32. His tombstone has an inscription: “A modern Jonah”. It ain’t necessarily so? The skeptics are always there to question. However faith knows instinctively that God is able to do what is claimed in the incarnation, the Calvary cross and through the resurrection.

An Aside – Imagine how ‘white’ Jonah must have looked after 3 days in the whale. And imagine what a sight he must have been criss-crossing Nineveh calling out Repent! Repent!

Bless you people


Hey, here's an anonymous extra that came to me in the last week or so. 15/2/2009

"Look at Jonah in the fish belly - surrounded by gastric juices & sucked-in seaweed. For three days God has left him there. For three days Jonah has pondered his choices. And for three days he has come to the same conclusion: He hasn't got any choices. From where he sits (or floats) there are two exits - and neither is very appealing. But then again, Jonah isn't either. He blew it as a prophet. He was a flop as a fugitive. At best he's a coward, at worst a traitor. And what he's lacked all along he now has in abundance - guts."