Thursday, 24 August 2017

Whose faith follow — Ronnie Watterson

A tribute to Ronnie Watterson (21st November 1935 — 30th May 2016)

In 2008, on furlough (more photos at end of post)

In January of 2017 I was over in N. Ireland with my family for a few weeks, and the brethren from the Assembly that meets at Cambridge Avenue, Ballymena, asked me to speak about some aspects of the life of my father. They separated one of their Saturday night meetings, mainly aimed at young people, for that purpose, and suggested the title: “Whose faith follow ...”

I had mixed feelings about the meeting. It would be lovely to remember him in the presence of believers who loved him (many had been his friends since before he went to Brazil in 1960), and possibly encourage young believers in their Christian pathway. On the other hand, his departure for glory was too recent, and he was still too sorely missed.

In order to get my emotions under check, I decided to write out what I hoped to say, and the article below is the result of those endeavours. It's not a transcript of what I spoke that night, as I didn't take it with me to the meeting (Dad taught me the liberty of preaching without notes). Also, most of the last part (The doctrine he endorsed) had to omitted because time ran out. The meeting was a very emotional experience for me, personally, so the “script” was not followed too rigidly. Still, the article below gives a good idea of Dad's life and service. I found it today here on my hard-drive, by accident, and decided to share it, hoping it might encourage us all in our service for the Lord.

Thanks for reading — any feed-back welcomed.


Whose faith follow …

A tribute to Ronnie Watterson

Cambridge Av, Ballymena, 07/01/2017


Reading: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5).
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7)

I have tonight the great privilege and responsibility of telling you something about the life of my father, Ronnie Watterson. He was born in Portrush in 1935, born again in the same town in 1952 when he was 17 years old, left Portrush for Brazil to serve the Lord in 1960 when he was 24, and was called home to the presence of the Lord on the 30th of May 2016, a few months short of his 81st birthday. His first 24 years were spent in Portrush; the rest of his life (except for furloughs every five or six years) was spent in Brazil, where he is buried.

I will try and bring before you three different aspects of his service in Brazil, based on the three statements made by Paul at the end of his life, which we have just read. Firstly, the difficulties he encountered (“I have fought a good fight”); secondly, the dedication he expressed (“I have finished my course”); and thirdly, the doctrine he endorsed (“I have kept the faith”).

But before I do that, I wish to draw your attention to the words we read in Jeremiah: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not”.

Five or six years ago I was asking him about some decisions he had taken in the past. He told me that the words of the Lord to Baruch, quoted above, had spoken very clearly to him many decades ago, and he had applied them in a very real way to himself. And those who followed his life can testify that he lived out the truth embodied in these words. He was happy to see the work of the Lord prosper, no matter who got the credit. He was always interested in encouraging young believers in their path, always available to help. Quiet and unassuming, he could expound the Word of God like few I have know — yet there was never a question addressed to him, no matter how simple or naïve, that he would not take time to answer carefully and courteously. Believers all over Brazil wrote to him with their questions, or phoned him, and he would answer them all as best he could.

For example, some years ago, in Brazil, he gave a series of ministry meetings on the book of Revelation. Due to the limited number of days available, he agreed to preach eight times per day, over a weekend. When a group of believers in central Brazil was interested in learning more about a local assembly, he spent a whole night in private conversation with the elders of that assembly, from the time the assembly meeting finished around 9 pm right through to 6am, traveling home the next day (a twelve hour journey by bus). And that was repeated a few times over the course of a couple of years.

As we consider his life, I will be mentioning various other situations, which confirm that he lived by these words: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not”. In a day of narcissism, when many people seem to think the world revolves around them, and their personal happiness is their chief aim, may the words of the Lord to Baruch serve also as an example to each of us. When so many are publicizing on social media every detail of their life, may we be led to appreciate the example of a servant who was content to be simply a servant — like that great Man of God of I Kings chapter 13, unknown, unnamed, unappreciated, but desiring to obey God in every detail, notwithstanding his limitations.

1. The difficulties he encountered


Missionary work is often seen as a glamorous vocation, reserved for a few special people. Dad believed, and was always ready to point out, that every single believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a fulltime servant of God, and the only difference between a missionary and other believers, is where their income is derived from. He believed God has a specific service for each of His children, and that each believer “must be about [his] Father’s business” (paraphrasing Luke 2:49).

In the seven and a half years that elapsed between his salvation and his leaving for Brazil, he was active in the Gospel, sharing in series of Gospel meetings while still involved in secular work. Some years ago he wrote about his conversion and call, and mentioned a series of Gospel meetings he had with brother John Hawthorne in Liscolman, when souls were saved (Mr Hawthorne was always a special friend to him).

I have heard of a series of Gospel meetings he had in Killykergan in 1957. Dad would return from his work and pick up a few young men he knew, and take them to the meetings. One dear brother, who got saved some years later, told me this week how remembers the effort Dad put into taking him and others to the meetings. Dad had a bullnose Morris 8, and the road from Coleraine to Killykergan was undergoing repairs at the time — the brother mentioned that he still remembers the bumpy ride to the meetings!

My uncle also tells of cottage meetings held in Ballywillan — at the end of one of those meetings Dad’s car wouldn’t start, and had to be towed home. The problem was later discovered to be a potato that someone had stuffed up the exhaust pipe of the car!

These, and incidents of a similar nature, serve to illustrate the difficulties Dad experienced as he served the Lord while still being a conscientious and efficient employee at Dervock Co. Difficulties that are common to every believer who seeks to serve the Lord, in whatever way the Lord has enabled him or her. Long before the Lord ever called him to Brazil, he was already serving the Lord in his homeland. As someone recently said to me: “He went out to Brazil to continue doing what he did here in the North of Ireland”.

I would like to mention, briefly, some difficulties he faced which were a direct consequence of obeying the Lord’s call to serve Him in Brazil.

Leaving


Travelling today is very easy, and many young people have already visited foreign lands. The whole world in quickly becoming a familiar place, where customs, food, etc., change little from place to place. In 1960, however, things were very different. Dad knew that, if he obeyed the Lord’s call to serve Him in Brazil, he would be separated from his family and the assembly in Portrush he so much loved. He was going to a land with different customs, different language, and different climate. The journey out took six weeks on a cargo boat. Letters would take weeks to arrive. Phone calls were not an option.

As a young man of 24 years, he left behind his family, local assembly, and career, all because the Lord had called him. It cost him a lot. Many years later, he wrote that when the conviction that he should serve the Lord in Brazil began to grow within him, he initially fought against it, because he didn’t want to leave Portrush. He loved the town, his family lived there, and he especially loved the Lord’s assembly in that town. Till his last days, the mention of Portrush would always make his eyes brighten up! But the Lord had called, so he left all else behind him and obeyed the Lord.

And up to end of his life, he would always insist that every single believer should be willing to do the same. Not necessarily to go to a foreign country, or to leave his/her job — but each brother and sister is a fulltime servant of the Lord, and should be willing to obey the Lord’s plan for his life, no matter what it is we have to give up for that. No matter where you are — a student at school, a stay-at-home mother, an employee or employer — serve the Lord faithfully where He has put you, and never allow anything (or anyone) to be so dear to your heart that it would hinder you from obeying the Lord.

Learning


It took a few years in Brazil to get to know the language, and to discover where, in that vast land, the Lord wanted Dad to serve Him. In 1964, four years after arriving in Brazil, he married my mother, the daughter of Scottish missionaries. He had met her about fourteen months earlier, and after their marriage they sought guidance from the Lord about where they should live. By closing doors in some areas, and opening doors in others, He guided them eventually to the area where they both laboured for almost fifty years.

When they finally decided that it was in the valley of the river Mogi Guaçu (“Great River of the Snakes”), in the centre of the state of São Paulo, that the Lord wanted them to serve Him, seven years had passed since Dad had arrived in Brazil. Much of what happened during those seven years will forever remain know only to them. The Lord certainly guides His people, but it is often through deep and dark valleys, through experiences which are precious to the memory of the saint, but which are kept in the hidden recesses of the heart (Jacob set up four pillars to remind him of important events in his history, but his most intimate encounter with God, at Peniel, did not need a pillar!). Dad’s health suffered a lot during this period, but it was with much confidence in the Lord that the young couple, with their new born baby daughter, finally settled down in the region where they would see the Lord’s blessing through so many years.

Dear young brothers and sisters, are you happy that you are where the Lord wants you to be? The place you live in, the work you are involved in, the assembly you are a part of — who brought you where you are? Did you ask the Lord to guide you, and submit to His guidance, or did you consult only your own heart (or pocket)? How precious to know that the Lord has been guiding!

Living


And the next forty nine years could also be described as “fighting a good fight”, for even though the Lord blessed them abundantly, there was much to discourage.

About a couple of years after they moved to Descalvado (the town where Dad is buried), a little assembly was established. To anyone who has tried taking the Gospel into a new region, that is a very clear sign of the Lord’s guidance and help. But some believers were not impressed. I remember hearing of a preacher from another region of Brazil who passed by Descalvado. Dad was very happy to see some unbelievers in to hear the Gospel that night, but the visiting preacher’s reaction was quite different. He said: “Ronnie, you’re wasting your time here with this handful of people! Come to our region, where there are established assemblies, and preach among us!” How discouraging that must have been! But he kept at it, day in, day out, year in, year out, always preaching the same message of the Gospel, and slowly seeing the Lord establish assemblies.

From 1969 to 1979 Dad and Mum had the company of Harry and Jean Reid, from Bangor, before they moved on to the North of Brazil. The assembly in Descalvado started soon after, with nine believers in fellowship. They initially met in a wooden hall in our backyard, but at the start of 1970 they moved to a brand new brick hall that Dad and uncle Harry built (although they had no previous knowledge of bricklaying, the hall is still in use to this day). Four years later an assembly was established in Pirassununga, 25 miles due south from Descalvado, and two years later, on the 12th September 1976, the believers in Ibaté, 37 miles west from Descalvado, began breaking bread.

To see those assemblies being planted by God’s grace must have been a big encouragement — but in other places the progress was slower. Meetings began in Porto Ferreira (a town in between Descalvado and Pirassununga) in January of 1970, 47 years ago. A hall was built, and through all those years the Gospel has been preached every single week in that town — but there is no assembly in Porto Ferreira. Souls were saved, fruit was seen, but it was hard to establish the saints. About ten years ago, there were three believers going to the meetings in Porto Ferreira: a couple who had been saved many years ago, and a young sister, whose husband had abandoned her. The couple had difficulty coming to meetings on Sundays, due to family commitments, and often on a Sunday night the only people present at the meeting would be Vanessa and her two small children (plus Dad and Mum, or some other brother from a neighbouring assembly who came to preach). Many of us younger brethren thought it was time to stop, and move on. The town had heard the Gospel for decades, and still no assembly! But Dad would always point out that there were three believers there, and we couldn’t simply abandon them. So the weekly Gospel meetings continued, twice a week (Tuesday and Sunday night), always with outside help. Dad and Mum were there every Tuesday, and often on Sundays. Then, slowly, things began to pick up, and today we are glad to see twelve believers saved and baptised in that town. The believers there are praying for guidance about beginning to meet as an assembly, breaking bread every Lord’s day. It was hard to continue when there was hardly any interest — but if we had stopped the meetings, we wouldn’t have seen the development of the Lord’s work there. It is important to carry on, and keep on carrying on!

About a year before his death Dad had the joy of seeing the beginning of the eighth assembly in that region, in the town of Aguaí, 31 miles East from Pirassununga. To go to a conference in that region today and see 250 to 300 believers gathered to hear the ministry of the Word of God is a marvellous tribute to the work that began, so simply, almost half a century ago. One couple were willing to leave their families and careers behind them, and follow the Lord’s leading, not knowing beforehand where He would take them. It wasn’t easy, but with God’s help they fought a good fight, and left us all an example worthy to be followed.

2. The dedication he expressed


It is one thing to start well; it is another to end well. How many people have fallen by the way, and not finished their course! So I would like to draw your attention to a finished course, as an example to motivate us all in our service for the Lord. Fifty six years in a foreign country, almost half a century in one little region of that country, persevering until the end.

When Dad went out to Brazil, he went out to live as a Brazilian. He had never any intention of returning to Northern Ireland to retire, or of sending his children here. He would often say that he intended to be buried in Brazil. Even though my sisters and I have British citizenship, we always considered ourselves Brazilians — that’s the way we were brought up. By the way, this is not a “dig” at missionaries who have followed a different course in their life — Dad firmly believed that each person has his own calling from the Lord, and the specific circumstances of where to live and where to serve the Lord are very personal matters. He did what he considered the Lord wanted him to do, without worrying about what his brethren did. He followed the example set by my maternal grandparents, Willie and Leila Maxwell, who in 1938 left Scotland to serve the Lord in Brazil — they lived there till they died, and they are both buried in Brazil. My father also spent his life in Brazil, and lived to serve the Lord in that little corner of the vineyard that God chose for him.

His work there can be divided into three main categories: preaching the Gospel, teaching believers, and printing Christian literature.

Preaching


Dad had a love for souls and for the Gospel, and would use any opportunity available to present the good news of salvation. Going door-to-door, in the open air, on radio, in houses, in wooden portable halls, in tents, in weekly meetings, in series of Gospel meetings — the important thing was to preach the Gospel.

And he did not shy away from any aspect of the work. He would get his hands dirty in putting up a tent, or even building halls. Although his studies had been in the area of accountancy, not brick-laying, yet he learnt how to build in Brazil, and there are various halls in our region that he helped to build. He was as happy giving out hymnbooks at the door of the tent as being the preacher, and no aspect of the work was too menial for him.

One of the most impressive examples of the fruit of these labours is the salvation of Mr Belmiro. He was a rough and rowdy character, a drunkard and a fighter. With no one in the world he could really call “family”, Belmiro received care from a brother in the assembly in Descalvado, and was saved by God’s grace. The change which the Gospel wrought in him is unbelievable. Today he is in his eighties, and has been saved for around 40 years. Some years ago he moved to the town of Leme to preach the Gospel, and the Lord has established an assembly in that town. Last year he started visiting a neighbouring town, Conchal, and has found some open doors. He has an artificial leg, due to an accident which almost took his life (but led to his salvation), yet he travels to Conchal, and walks around the streets giving out tracts and doing door-to-door work. He in an excellent personal evangelist, and continues faithfully serving the Lord. Some years ago the main political leader in Descalvado stopped Dad in the street one day, and said: “Ronaldo, I don’t know what you did to Belmiro in that little hall of yours, but let me tell you one thing: years ago we were ashamed to say that Belmiro was a citizen of Descalvado; today, we are proud of him!” Only the Gospel can change a man so much, and Dad spent his life in Brazil because he believed in the power of the Gospel.

I should point out that Dad not only preached the Gospel — he also gave us all an example of the importance of preaching. He was always looking around, conscious of the need in neighbouring towns, and always seeing new fields needing sown. Various believers in our region have been influenced by his example, and have been used of God to take the Gospel to other towns. Belmiro, whom I have just mentioned, is one example, and the assembly in Leme is a testimony to his labours. My younger sister and her husband are another example. Some years ago they moved to a neighbouring town, about 6 or 7 miles from Pirassununga. My brother-in-law travelled to work every day, and they started meetings in their home. Then they rented a little hall, and had a series of Gospel meetings, with help from Dad and other believers. Today there is an assembly in that town. A couple from the assembly in Palmeiras had a similar experience. The husband had to move to a town about 60 miles away because of his job, and even though his gift is not preaching, he requested help from his home assembly, and there is a weekly Gospel meeting in his home, in the town of Guaxupé.

That is the way the believers in that little part of Brazil have learnt what it is to preach the Gospel, and it is an example worthy of being followed.

The Parkinson’s disease with which Dad battled for the last twenty years of his life affected his body and his mind, but never took from him that love for the Gospel. In January of this year, just four months before his death, there were three weeks of Gospel meetings in Porto Ferreira, about 13 miles from where Dad and Mum live — they were out at every meeting. Right up to the end, it was his custom to be out at meetings in our region six nights a week (Monday there is no regular meeting). As his powers of concentration had gone, he couldn’t preach — but he still took part in prayer, and even in days when he was weaker, he still made a point of being present. To see him getting out of the car every night with difficulty because of the pains in his back and legs, and sit through the meetings on the hard wooden benches in Porto Ferreira, was more valuable than hundreds of sermons. A good sermon is a wonderful thing — a good example is worth so much more!

Pastoring


Dad also worked hard at building up the assemblies that the Lord planted, and helping young believers mature. A brother who lives almost 400 miles from us, in my age group, travelled to see us when Dad died. He just came to tell Mum and our family how much he owed to Dad’s patient teaching when he was a young believer. He said most men would have given up on him, but he owed his spiritual maturity to the patient teaching of my father. There are some men who frighten you with their knowledge — Dad had the patience to hear what people had to ask, and the humility to not consider their questions as too simple to merit an answer.

I still remember, as a young boy of 12 or 13, going to his office one Sunday afternoon and asking him about the first verses of Romans 10. The simplest solution would have been to give me the answer (which was quite straightforward) — but instead he asked me: “What do you think?” I told him, and instead of simply saying: “You’re wrong, here’s the right answer”, he pointed out a contradiction in my argument, and told me to think it through again. I went away and returned some minutes later — and I was still wrong. Around about the third or fourth time, I finally got it right. His patience encouraged me (and hundreds more) to come to him with our questions.

He also travelled extensively to help other assemblies. For as long as I can remember, his cars would clock up around 45 thousand miles a year (over 3,700 miles per month) — some years more, some years less, but always around that mark. In the region where we live there are today eight assemblies whose distance to Descalvado varies from 13 to 50 miles. Every night of the week he would be at would of these localities, visiting some sick believer, helping in a Bible Reading, giving ministry, or just being present to encourage the believers. He would also visit assemblies farther afield, a few hundred miles away from Descalvado. It was his custom to drive home at night after the last meeting (often spending all night on the road). I remember an old Volkswagen we had, which Mum had fitted out with curtains in all the back windows — Dad and Mum would lay a small mattress in the back of the car, and my sisters and I would sleep all night on those long journeys.

He was always glad to be able to help others, especially younger believers, grow in the knowledge of the Lord and of the Scriptures.

Printing


Because of his desire to help others understand the Scriptures more clearly, Dad was interested in literature right from the beginning. He frequently pointed out how the specific circumstances of the Lord’s work in Brazil made literature especially attractive:

  • Size: Brazil is slightly over 5.3 million square miles — that’s almost the size of Europe (including European Russia).
  • Language: in all that enormous area, one language is spoken!
  • Isolation: there are many, many assemblies and individuals very much isolated (hundreds, sometimes over a thousand miles from any other assembly).

Given these circumstances, literature could be very useful in Brazil. One edition of a publication can benefit any part of this enormous country, with over 200 million inhabitants. Assemblies and individuals who would rarely have contact with other like-minded believers can benefit from literature posted to them. And literature produced for Brazil can also profitably be used in Portugal, Angola, and other Portuguese-speaking countries.

Dad and Mum were involved in that right from the beginning. As a small child, I remember watching fascinated as they used an old paint mimeograph (or stencil machine) to print copies of typewritten notes, used in children’s work, or for believers. Gospel tracts and Bible courses were also printed. Then they upgraded to an alcohol-based mimeograph, which produced pink letters. As the years went by, Dad paid printers to publish several small booklets he wrote, and a commentary on the book of Revelation which is still circulating today.

In the 1990’s, Dad and Mum began a very ambitious project: the translation of the Ritchie New Testament Commentaries. The work began with typewriters. The first volume to be printed, I & II Thessalonians, was sent to the printers, who managed to lose the manuscript! Everything was typed out again, and in early 1993 that first volume was finally ready. Then we progressed to computers and floppy drives, then more modern computers and hard-drives. Finally, fifteen years later in December 2008, they had the joy of seeing the last volume printed, completing the whole NT: aprox. 5,700 pages translated, carefully corrected, and lovingly produced. A labour of love which cost them much, but which still brings forth much fruit!

Eternity alone will reveal how much time, energy and resources Dad dedicated to the preparation and distribution of sound literature in Portuguese. You live in a land where good books are available by the thousands, and are often not appreciated. But the situation in Brazil is very different, and good, dependable books are few. May you all appreciate the blessed context in which you live, and continue to pray for the Lord’s blessing on the literature produced in Brazil.

3. The doctrine he endorsed


Paul not only fought a good fight and finished his course; he also “kept the faith”. In the Greek text, all three objects in the phrase come before the verbs. A literal translation would read: “The good fight I fought, the course I finished, the faith I kept”. Paul is not speaking about his attitude of faithfulness (“I remained faithful”), but he speaks of faith objectively: “I preserved those things in which I believe”. He not only kept going until the end, but he did so defending the things in which he believed.

I would like to close mentioning briefly two aspects of his “faith” — things which were precious to him, and which he sought to pass on to others.

He loved the Lord


First and foremost, of course, was his love for God, manifested in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. That was his motivation to preach the Gospel — that Christ might be honoured in the salvation of souls. He considered himself a debtor to the Lord who died for him, and no sacrifice was too great for One who had given His life for Dad’s salvation.

In his last days, when his mental alertness was failing, he invariably got up to pray on a Lord’s Day morning. And his praise and thanksgiving was always intelligent, sweet and fervent. At Buckna conference a few weeks ago we were reminded that we don’t need clever men — we need spiritual men — men who honour the Father, love the Son and are guided by the Holy Spirit. May all young believers seek to learn to love the Lord more and more, and live for His glory.

He loved the local assembly


Because of his love for the Lord, Dad loved the local assembly. Many dear brethren in denominations can’t see any special value in the local assembly, because they look at the people who make up an assembly, or the behaviour of these people. And let’s be honest — there is much in our midst to cause us shame. But once a believer understands that a local assembly is unique not because of the people who gather there, or because of the doctrines they seek to uphold, or because of the collective testimony of assemblies, but simply because of the name to which they gather — the name of the Lord Jesus Christ — once that truth is appreciated, he’ll never gather anywhere else.

Dad preached, and practised, the truth of separation unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But I want to draw your attention, especially, to the way in which he practised it. He believed that, as a Christian gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, he could not take part in any denominational work. Although he was invited to preach in denominations, he never accepted. And denominational believers who visited Descalvado were welcome to sit at the back and observe all that was going on, but they were not received into the fellowship of the assembly unless they were willing to leave their denomination and gather to the name of the Lord Jesus alone.

You might say: “Well, so what? Many a Pharisee shows the same exclusiveness in his associations”. And I agree; but the point I want to emphasize is not simply that Dad preached and practised separation, but that he did it with a meek spirit. It brought him no pride to say: “I’m sorry, brother, but I can’t gather with you” — rather, it broke his heart! He would have loved to gather with all believers, but he loved the Lord more than anyone else, and understood that to follow ecumenism would mean abandoning the uniqueness of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Conclusion


I have sought to present to you some details of the life of a man who considered himself a normal Christian, and to whom God was everything. He never sought greatness for himself. He fought the good fight, willingly facing opposition and criticism because of the Lord he loved; he finished his course, remaining faithful right to the end; and he kept the faith, always uncompromisingly (but humbly) upholding the truths which were precious to him. He never accepted any human glory — he was happy to bring glory and honour to the Lord, not to himself.

As I said at the beginning of this meeting, we live in days when everybody thinks first about themselves. May we be encouraged, by Dad’s example, to follow the words of the little chorus he loved so much, that defines “joy” as meaning “Jesus first, yourself last, and others in-between”.



Wooden Hall in our back-yard (1969— Mum was expecting my youngest sister)



With H. Reid — building the Hall in Descalvado (1969)





Believers in Descalvado, in the 70's



Dad and Mum, with a good old VW Kombi :-)



At Twinburn on furlough in the 80's


With three children and their respective spouses (in the 90's)



On their 50th Wedding Anniversary, with children and grandchildren.



© W. J. Watterson

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Wedding — Lorena and Renan

On the 11th of July, Elen and I gave away our eldest daughter Lorena in marriage to Renan. Both are believers in fellowship in the assembly here in Pirassununga, and we pray that they may live for the glory of God. Some photos of the wedding:

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Differences between Ezra's and Nehemiah's lists

The table at the end of this post presents, side by side, two lists of the Jews who returned form the Captivity in Babylon during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, but many discrepancies between the two lists have been pointed out in the past. I have no illusions about explaining authoritatively the reason for these discrepancies, but I intend to:

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Simplified Time-line of the Old Testament

The historical narrative of the Old Testament is not uniform — sometimes the narrative flies over centuries in a few verses, sometimes it slows down and takes up a whole book to tell us about a period of thirty days. We will reap great benefits in our study of the OT if we understand this fact, and try and perceive the speed of the narrative.

The graphic below presents a global vision of the historical books of the OT (Genesis to Esther) plotted along a time-line that stretches from the Creation of the world to the birth of Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Some key events (the Flood, the Exodus, etc.) are marked in the time-line, but the main purpose of the graphic is to show the period of time occupied by each book, and the chronological relation between the books.

Monday, 5 January 2015

What is God's testimony of me?

If we examine the occurrences of the Greek word martureo (“testify”; Strong’s nº 3140), we will notice that the Holy Spirit presents to us a very interesting picture of God testimony of His servants. The word is used 79 times in the Bible describing men testifying of other men, God testifying of His Son, etc. But only three times is it used in relation to God testifying of a human being. And these three occurrences present to us God’s servants in relation to the past, the present and the future.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Faith’s “Hall of Fame”


Most readers of this blog will be familiar with the list of men and women of faith in Hebrews 11. But many fail to notice that the list is not simply a haphazard collection of names, but a perfectly balanced, symmetrical exposition of acts of faith.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Man of war and man of rest

David and his son Solomon and described in very different manners. Someone said of David: “A mighty valiant man, and a man of war” (I Sm 16:18), while the Lord Himself said of Solomon: “Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about” (I Ch 22:9). In these two men we have an illustration of our Lord Jesus Christ in two different periods: at the end of the Tribulation (David) and in the Millennium (Solomon).

David, the man of war who freed Israel from all her enemies, reminds us of the Lord Jesus as the one who on the cross, “having spoilt principalities and powers … made a show of them openly, triumphing over them” (Col 2:15), and the one who, at the end of the Tribulation, will be manifested as one who “in righteousness doth judge and make war … And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations” (Rev 19:11-16).

Solomon, the man of rest who received a kingdom without enemies, where peace and justice reigned, reminds us of the Lord Jesus and the kingdom of peace and rest that He will establish on Earth during the Millennium, when “the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isa 32:17-18).

Having received deliverance from our enemies by the greatest Man of war, we await a kingdom of peace and rest under the authority of the greatest Man of rest. To Him be all glory!

© W. J. Watterson

Monday, 5 May 2014

Correction re Neo-Babylonian chronology

Dear readers,

My family's moto, since the 13th century, has been “Veritas vincit omnia” (“Truth conquers all”). What really matters, at the end of the day, is not what I think or what I prefer, but what is right.

In this post I would like to acknowledge that I was wrong in relation to the chronology of the Neo-Babylonian period (626 to 539 B.C.). What I have presented in written and spoken ministry (mostly in Portuguese) was wrong, and even though it is a detail which will only interest a small portion of the small readership of this blog, it is a detail that, to those who mind, really matters.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A Still, Small Voice

Based on I Kings 19:11-18

The wind swooped down on aching wings,
Spreading forth its ageless fears,
Grasping rocks as one who clings
To hopeless dreams of bygone years;
    Anguished, screaming wind…
    But God was not in the wind.

And then an angry, swelling roar;
The Earth was trembling, raging
Like a stallion who no more
Can call the winds and take them racing;
    I felt my strength begin to shake,
    But God was not in the earthquake.

A fire next, burning hot,
Strong and proud as one who claims
To know each person’s hope and lot,
Spitting out its stubborn flames,
    Reaching up, higher and higher…
    But God was not in the fire.

And then a still, small voice;
“What doest thou here?” “I, Lord…”
“No, Elijah” (still a gentle voice!)
“I; I have kept my faithful word,
    Not by might, nor by power,
    But by My Spirit
. That is power!

Oh, Lord! How often do we scream,
And strain, and burn with human power;
Our lives, at times, would scarcely seem
To be depending on Thy power.
    Teach us, Lord, to cease our noise,
    And hear thy still and gentle voice.


© W. J. Watterson — 08/94

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Grandma

A little poem written when Grandma Maxwell died, over twenty four years ago.


Oh Lord, how happy Thou must be
To have her now so close to Thee;
To see her bow before Thy throne
And give Thee fruits of all she’s sown.

Oh Lord, how happy she must be
To know Thee in Thy majesty,
To praise Thy name with rapturous song,
A special voice amidst that throng.

Oh Lord, how happy we should be
To see her leave, but not to flee;
We know she’s waiting for that day
When Thou shalt bring us home to stay.

Oh Lord, how happy then we’ll be,
United with herself and Thee;
We long to praise Thy name so blest,
And join her in her blissful rest.

(19/12/88)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The only wise God

Three times in the Bible God is called "the only wise God", forming a little chiasmus:

A. Rom 16:25-27: Glory to the only wise God, who is powerful to stablish (confirm) us;

     B. I Tim 1:17: Glory to the only wise God;

A. Jude vs. 24-25: Glory to the only wise God, who is powerful to keep us.

There is definite progression in these three references:

i) To God is ascribed "glory" in Romans, "honour and glory" in I Timothy, "glory and majesty, dominion and power" in Jude;

ii) This praise to God is, literally, "unto the ages" in Romans, unto "the ages of the ages" in I Timothy, and "now, and unto all the ages" in Jude.

May we render praise, glory and honour, majesty, dominion and power to the only wise God, now, and unto all the ages. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Which side is your heart?

Right, left, or centre?

I don’t care what the anatomists will say about the position of my heart; all I ask of the Lord is that my heart might be at my right hand, for “a wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left” (Ec 10:2).

May I realize the importance of my heart, and keep it with all diligence (Pr 4:23), giving it the place of honour, power and exaltation. Even if I lose health, wealth, friends and life, may I be found with my heart at my right hand.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Loved, and gave Himself

To wrap up this little trilogy on the love of our Lord (see posts one and two), consider the only three times in the NT that we read of His love linked to the phrase “and gave Himself”:

  • In Ephesians 5:25 we read that He “loved the Church, and gave Himself for it”. His Bride and Body, bought with His life.
  • But His love was not just toward a collective entity; He also loved the individual believers that make up that Church. In v. 2 of the same chapter we read: “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us”.
  • Ah, but read this: “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)! Can you get closer to the heart of God than that? Can you find a more amazing truth in the whole Universe?

It is glorious to think of His sacrificial love for His Bride, and precious to think that that love reached out to each individual in that Church. But my heart thrills with these precious, powerful, and personal words: He (the Son of God) loved me (poor, worthless me), and gave Himself for me!

The old hymn captures the sentiment beautifully:

Was it for me, for me alone,
The Saviour left His glorious throne,
The dazzling splendours of the sky?
Was it for me He came to die?

It was for me, yes, all for me,
O love of God, so great, so free,
O wondrous love, I'll shout and sing,
He died for me, my Lord and King!

Was it for me, sweet angel strains
Came floating o'er Judea's plains
That starlit night so long ago?
Was it for me God planned it so?

Was it for me the Saviour said:
"Pillow thy weary, aching head
Trustingly on thy Saviour's breast"?
Was it for me? Can I thus rest?

Was it for me He wept and prayed,
My load of sin before Him laid,
That night within Gethsemane?
Was it for me, that agony?

Was it for me He bowed His head
Upon the cross and freely shed
His precious blood, that crimson tide?
Was it for me the Saviour died?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The love of Christ

Having considered the love of our Lord Jesus, look with me now at the three times the NT uses the expression “the love of Christ”. All three are in the epistles, and the use of the name “Christ” emphasizes His deity:

  • Our security in Christ. In Romans 8:35 we learn that a Christian can be eternally sure that nothing, and no one, can ever separate him from the love of Christ. How can I think of losing my salvation if the Saviour loves me? A Christian is eternally sure of his salvation because he rests in the eternal love of Christ.
  • Our service for Christ. In II Corinthians 5:14 the emphasis is on our responsibility to proclaim the “ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18), because “the love of Christ constraineth us”. How can I not live for Him, if He died for me (v. 15)? How can I not talk about such love? The Christian is compelled to preach the ministry of reconciliation, because the love of Christ constrains him.
  • Our satisfaction in Christ. In Ephesians 3:19 the apostle speaks about the need to know the love of Christ in a personal, practical way. If we be strengthened with might by His Spirit (v. 16), and if by faith Christ dwell in our hearts (v. 17), we will know the love of Christ, which passeth all understanding. The Christian should desire, down here, to know the love of Christ.

The love of Christ is what gives me present and eternal security, stimulates me to dedicated and constant service, and satisfies the deepest aspirations of my heart.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Jesus loved …

Consider with me, briefly, the three different contexts in the New Testament where we read of the love of our Lord for individuals, in all of which He is called by the name “Jesus”.

  • An unquestionable love (John 11:3, 5). We read that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus”, and the recipients of that love had no doubt of it. How touching is their message to Him: “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick”. The Lord loved them, and they knew it!
  • An unchanging love (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:17, 20). Five times in his gospel John describes himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved”. Not that John was the only one, nor even the special one — he simply appropriates for himself what was true of them all. But read the five passages, and notice how the circumstances are different one from the other. Whether the Lord is at the Supper or at Calvary, whether He looks on John at the foot of the cross, or away fishing with the others; no matter what the circumstances, no matter where John was, he was always “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. The Lord loved him, and loved him to the end!
  • An unmerited love (Mark 10:21). Here we have a different situation; a young man who loves his riches more than he loves the Lord Jesus. How tragically sad! Yet Mark tells us that “Jesus, beholding him, loved him”. What gracious, merciful, divine love!

He loved us when we had no merit, deserving only eternal condemnation. He loves us today with an eternal, unchanging love. May we rest in that love, secure in the knowledge that nothing can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

Friday, 22 July 2011

Three foreign words

The Bible was mostly written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament) — although there are some exceptions to that rule. When we read from the King James, or a similiar version, these different languages are translated for us into English; except for some stray words (usually place-names) which the translators decided to transliterate (“write using the closest corresponding letters in another language”) rather than translate (“express the sense in another language”).

Consider three examples of foreign words that were not translated in our English Bible. They outline a life lived in fellowship with God.

The past: Ebenezer (“stone of help”, I Sam 7:12). Samuel said: “Hitherto [thus far] hath the Lord helped us”. The name given to the stone was a testimony to the faithfulness of God in helping His people.

The present: Mizpah (“watchtower”, Gen 31:49). Laban and Jacob recognized that the Lord would be continually watching over them and between them (neither of them trusted the other).

The future: Maranatha (“Come, Lord!”, I Cor 16:22). The epistle ends the same way as the Bible ends, with our blessed Lord’s coming as our hope, and His grace as our portion.

As we survey the past we can trace the faithfulness of a caring, loving Father carrying us in the arms of a wonderful Saviour through the power of the Holy Spirit. Granted, it hasn’t always been easy sailing! Many have been the difficulties, deep have been the valleys, frightening have been the storms, lonely have been the deserts; but Ebenezer! Thus far hath the Lord helped us! See Psa 34:19.

As we look around us today, may we never forget that the Lord is watching over us. Think of the grace and the glory involved in this. Consider the security and the solemnity of being under His constant gaze! Let your moderation be known unto all men, but be not bowed down with care for the morrow (Phil 4:5-6). Remember Mizpah — the Lord is watching!

As we try to pierce the darkness that lies ahead, all we see is this glorious hope, shinning in all the fresh beauty that only eternal truths possess: Maranatha! The Lord is coming! “Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).

Ebenezer: He has brought me to this day; Mizpah: He will carry me through; Maranatha: He is coming to take me home!

Note: the examples above are transliterated in versions like the KJV, Darby, ASV, NASB, but translated in modern versions.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

"Woman, …"

Only seven times in the Gospels do we read of the Lord Jesus calling a woman by this title. In various other occasions He uses the word “woman” in a general sense, but only seven times does He directly address a woman in this manner.

In four of these occasions the Lord is speaking to sinners; in the other three, He speaks to saved women. The first group of women present to us a picture of human nature in its relationship to God; the second group gives more emphasis to the virtues of the Lord in His relationship with us.

We in relation to God

a) Great perplexity and confusion (John 4:21), linked to our spirit. The natural man or woman does not know how to worship or serve God.
b) Great bondage and captivity (Luke 13:12), linked to the soul. Satan has humanity in his claws.
c) Great sin and guilt (John 8:10), linked to the body.
d) Great persistence and confidence (Matthew 15:28), resulting in salvation. What a precious example in this woman!

The Lord in relation to us

a) His purpose (John 2:4). His hour was not yet come; He came for the cross.
b) His provision (John 19:26). Even on the cross He had time, strength and interest enough to take car of the woman who had cared for Him during His infancy.
c) His care (John 20:15) in relation to a beloved disciple. Certainly He cares for us today also.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Afflicted in our afflictions

“In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Is 63:9).

In days of affliction and pain, we tend to think that the Lord has forgotten us. When the days turn into weeks, and the weeks become months, and still the pain remains, our flesh becomes bolder. After eight or nine hours of intense, uninterrupted pain, we hear the tempter whisper: “Where is your God now?” (Ps 42:3).

During the last months I have experienced a little of this. So you can imagine my joy at reading these words this morning: “In all their affliction He was afflicted”. I am not alone in my pain. The Lord is near, and knows, because he suffers with me. Only He can truly say: “I know thy tribulation” (Rv 2:9).

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I will guide thee with Mine eye

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” (Ps 32:8-9).

Psaml 32, one of the seven penitential Psalms, portrays the blessing of walking in fellowship with the Lord. We can divide the Psalm in five beatitudes (five, in the Bible, is the number of grace):

a) the blessing of conversion to God (vs. 1-2);
b) the blessing of confession to God (vs. 3-5);
c) the blessing of care from God (vs. 6-7);
d) the blessing of God’s course (vs. 8-9);
e) the blessing of confidence in God (vs. 10-11).

All these things are very precious for the Christian; but I’ll only emphasise the secret to knowing the blessing of the course God has charted for His children. The Psalm shows that God desires to guide us, not like a horse or mule is driven, with bit and bridle — He desires to guide us with His eye! He wants us to be in such a close fellowship with Him, so well instructed and taught by Him, that there will be no need for bit nor bridle, for whip nor rod. He wants us to be able to discern the direction He desires, without needing to force and drive us like animals “which have no understanding”. He doesn’t want us to follow blindly the rein in His hand, but that we may look in His eyes, discerning there His heart and his desire!

What a precious picture! But how can we know this way and this course, unless we look in His eyes? May we learn with the psalmist: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him … Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord” (Ps 25:14-15).

May we look ever to Him, so that we may know the blessing of the course He has charted.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Watch and pray

“Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night” (Ne 4:9).

Some Christians think that to properly trust in God we need to sit back and expect Him to do everything. But it is important to remember the words of our Lord to His disciples: “Watch and pray” (Mat 26:41). Not “pray and rest”, but “watch and pray”!

We should understand that God deals with us as He dealt with Israel in the case of Balaam; if we trust in Him, He will preserve us from those things that are beyond our power (as He did not allow Balaam to curse Israel, Deut 23:5), but He expects us to be on our guard against those things which are within our power (as He did allow Balaam to cause Israel to stumble through sensual immorality, Num 31:16).

May we follow the example of Nehemiah, praying to God to preserve and protect us, but also watching carefully, lest we fall prey to the enemy.

Pray always; never stop watching.

Monday, 5 April 2010

No other way but through

I have just come across a lovely poem by Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932), entitle “A Red Sea Place”; a place where “there is no way out, there is no way back, there is no other way but through”. It’s beautiful, and refreshingly encouraging.

See for yourself:

A Red Sea Place

Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind, He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul "Go on."

And His hand will lead you through - clear through –
Ere the watery walls roll down,
No foe can reach you, no wave can touch,
No mightiest sea can drown;
The tossing billows may rear their crests,
Their foam at your feet may break,
But over their bed you shall walk dryshod
In the path that your Lord will make.

In the morning watch, ‘neath the lifted cloud,
You shall see but the Lord alone,
When He leads you on from the place of the sea,
To a land that you have not known;
And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed,
You shall no more be afraid;
You shall sing His praise in a better place,
A place that His hand has made.

Annie Johnson Flint

Monday, 29 March 2010

Powerful, Gentle Shepherd

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11).

Sometimes (like here) the Bible surprises us. The Holy Spirit inserts an unexpected word or phrase, which doesn’t seem to have any link to the context. But the contrast makes the beauty of God’s Word shine even brighter.

Notice the context of this verse. Chapter 40 of Isaiah presents the awesome and amazing power of God. Note the richness of the poetical language, the beauty of the comparisons which portray the power of a God to whom the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance, a very little thing. All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. He calleth all the stars by their names and, sitting upon the circle of the Earth, He fainteth not, neither is weary.

There are not many portions of the Bible that describe in such richness of detail the power of God. But how does the section begin? With the thunder of His awesome power? No; with the gentleness of a Shepherd who gathers the lambs in His arms, and gently leads those that are with young! The same arms that manifest the great power of God, carry the little lambs gently.

How precious to rest in the arms of this Gentle, Powerful Shepherd and God!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Much more than this ...

“And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents …? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this” (II Chronicles 25:5-13).

King Amaziah had to chose: obey the clear order of the Lord and lose one hundred talents of silver, or keep what he had purchased and disobey God. Amaziah made the right decision, even though it brought him short-term loss: he lost the silver, lost the friendship of his brethren from Ephraim (v. 10), lost various cities, three thousand lives, and “much spoil” (v. 13). What a loss! There is no doubt, however, that God was pleased with his obedience. His infidelity in latter years doesn’t annul the promise of God through the prophet: “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this”.

What would I have done in a similar situation? Would I move to another town to be useful to God, even if it meant a lower wage at the end of the month? Would I do something the Lord told me to do in His word, knowing that my obedience would cost me the friendship of some of my brethren? Would I obey God, whatever the cost?

May God help us to understand that the Lord is able to give us much more than anything we lose for Him. If we suffer loss to do His will, we will be amply rewarded. Maybe not today, maybe not in this life; but through all eternity we will rejoice over the “loss” we suffered here on Earth, remembering how much, much more the Lord gave us!

Monday, 15 March 2010

There were good things

When Rehoboam, son of Solomon, forsake the Lord, God brought upon him the Egyptians. But the sacred text tells us: “And when he humbled himself, the anger of Jehovah turned away from him, that he would not destroy him altogether; and also in Judah there were good things” (II Ch 12:12, Darby’s translation).

Judah wasn’t totally destroyed on that occasion not only because Rehoboam humbled himself, but also because there were “good things” in Judah. What were these good things? Who were they? How many? We don’t know; but we do know that anonymous servants, serving God faithfully, preserved Judah in that day.

Brother or sister, remember that “if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one member be glorified, all the members rejoice with it” (I Co 12:26). Note that this is not an exhortation (“if one member suffer, all the members should suffer with it”), but a declaration: what happens with one member of the body will affect the whole, for better or for worse.

What a solemn truth! With what care should I walk, so as not to bring loss to the assembly where God has put me!

What a glorious truth! If I, by the grace of God, can be a “good thing” before Him, I can influence the whole assembly!

Even if no one sees what I do, and I be one of God’s many anonymous servants, may He be pleased by my walk in this world. Thus I will be bringing glory to His name and, maybe, helping to preserve other of my brethren! Amen!

Friday, 30 October 2009

A small demonstration of God’s great power (Mt 26:1-5)

In my daily reading this morning I came across this passage, which I’ve appreciated for years. Two days before the Passover, the Lord tells His disciples that He would be crucified on the day of the feast. In the next verse we are told how the authorities in Jerusalem (“the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas”) arrived at an opposite conclusion: “Not on the feast day”!

The human authorities make their decision, without knowing that God has already decided the exact opposite. Time is short: only two days to prepare the capture and death of the Messiah — only two days for the authorities to change their mind, and act. Is it possible? Whose will shall prevail? Who will be victorious?

We hardly need to be reminded that the decision of the authorities was abandoned, and the word spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ was fulfilled. After all, He had said short time before: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Mt 24:35).