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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Home at last!

Today, the physical death of Billy Graham was announced. The following words, that he uttered many years ago, have been extensively quoted: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

What a wonderful attitude for anyone who claims to be a child of the living God - adopted into His family; a joint-heir with the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Another quotation from Dr. Graham was:"My home is in Heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."

Of course, there are those who, even at such a time, choose to rake up what they consider to be errors in the evangelist's recorded words. I would only make two comments - the first a question; the second, some words of Jesus.

1. What have you done in the Kingdom of God, in the preaching of the Gospel, and the leading of many to full salvation?

2. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone ..." (John 8:7).

Of course, I am fully aware that not everyone who "went forward" at a Billy Graham Evangelistic Rally was soundly converted. I know some who fell away very shortly afterwards. So what? Did not Jesus, Himself, foretell that such would happen? 

A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt.13:3-9). If not even the Lord expected all who initially responded to remain, why should anyone be surprised that some of those who made a 'confession of faith' under Billy Graham's ministry should do so?

At the end of the day, of course, all final judgement belongs to Father God. In the meantime, we may all remember that although they sorrow, not as those who have no hope (see I Thess.4:13), the family of Billy Graham do sorrow. Let us uphold them in our own prayers that they may know the additional strength that is required for those who must deal with this parting in the public gaze.

I have posted a video on my Facebook that may be worth watching - assuming that anyone can access it!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School

On Wednesday of last week, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Marjory in Parkland, Florida. 17 people were killed and 15 more hospitalised, making it one of the world's deadliest school massacres. Nikolas Cruz, the teenager arrested as the shooter, is in custody of the Broward County Sheriff's Office, charged with seventeen counts of premeditated murder.

Understandably, there has been outrage, and the usual calls for stricter gun control in the United Staes of America have been made. However, much of this is a "knee-jerk" reaction - one reason why I have waited for a few days before making any comment of my own!

The first thing I would wish to point out is that many of those who are making such calls do not even live (and have never lived) in the USA. This means that they have neither experience, nor understanding, of the culture of that country. Cultural differences are very important. I know that since my wife and I moved to France, we have had to make a number of adjustments because of the cultural differences between Scotland and France.

The second thing I would wish to do is to back almost to the beginning of this millennium - to the event that is remembered simply as "9/11". It was on September 11th, 2001, that four commercial aircraft were hijacked by Muslim terrorists. In one case, the hi-jackers were overcome by passengers and, although all on board perished, the intended target was spared. However, thousands died in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, and a couple of hundred died in the Pentagon.

I am unaware of anyone then,. or since, calling for a ban on flights! I can understand that. You see, the aircraft were not "responsible" for those many deaths (and don't forget the members of the emergency services who died even as they endeavoured to save the lives of others!) - it was the hi-jackers who were then flying them. Likewise, it was not an assault rifle that was responsible for the horrendous situation in Parkland - it was the mentally disturbed teenager who had managed to acquire it, and was fulfilling a desire that, apparently, he had expressed beforehand. Again, it was fallible people who failed to follow up on those threats!

Of course, every single day, whether in the USA, in the UK, in France, or anywhere else in the world, tens of thousands of lives are callously taken - without a single protest from the majority of people! I refer, of course, to the practice of abortion! Is it not sadly strange that this murderous procedure has become so common that so many simply accept it as being somehow 'inevitable'? I am not suggesting, for one minute, that the end of abortion would automatically bring about the end of terrorist attacks, or massacres in schools. However, I do find it the difference in attitudes to be of more than passing interest.

One final point. Some have asked - as some will always do in times of tragedy - "Why did God not stop this dreadful thing from happening?" I think that the response of Anne Graham-Lotz, daughter of Dr. Billy Graham, to that question after the 9/11 atrocities is as good as one could find. She said, in an interview on "The Morning Show": "I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we're sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it."

Those words can, surely, be equally applied to many other countries in the world today. Nations that were founded, and built, on solid Christian principles, have turned their backs on the Creator. As a family member posted on Facebook: "The problem is not guns! It's hearts without God; homes without discipline; schools without prayer; and courts without justice."

Friday, 16 February 2018

Marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

In the past, I have published a number of posts on the general topic of marriage. However, one aspect has constantly been "placed on the back burner". I confess, that I have held off making any comment thereon for the simple reason that I know that there are some who will be offended by what I say. That is never my intention - but I have discovered, over the years, that when one shares the Word of God, there will always be those who take offense. 

In a recent post of his own, David Robertson writes: "It's easy to be 'prophetic' about the low hanging fruit of the obvious wrongs that everyone in our circle goes along with. But what about the really prophetic voice – speaking truth to a power which may not like it? Such speech may have consequences and we do need to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, but I suspect that our prophetic voices are largely like the world's – we pick on the easy targets and don't really speak up for the difficult cases, especially when such speaking out may cost us. I would be more inclined to call that pathetic rather than prophetic." (emphasis added) Those words, especially the ones that have highlighted, challenged me. Not that I am claiming to be a prophet, or even a prophetic voice, but because the one thing that is common to all of the prophets is that they "spoke the Word of the Lord."

Sadly, divorce is all too common in our contemporary world - even among those who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, the Christ. There are, of course, many reasons for couples divorcing from one another - and some may appear to be justifiable. Of course, it is also true that if some couples were to be in less of a hurry to marry, and actually get to know one another better, there might well be fewer divorces! "Marry in haste; repent at leisure" may be an old adage - but it is no less true for being that! Not that I am, for one single minute, advocating that a couple live together, as if married, just to see "how things might work out". If living together, they have already made a certain level of commitment. The difference is that, if the relationship sours, there is no need for a formal legal procedure to be followed. I also accept that some 'unmarried' couples have proved to be more faithful to each other than have some 'married' people to their spouses!

Biblically, divorce is permitted - but only in specific circumstances! Indeed, although permitted, we read in the book of the prophet Malachi: "You cover YHWH’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favour at your hand. You ask, 'Why does He not?' Because YHWH was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does He desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. 'For I hate divorce', says YHWH, the God of Israel, 'and covering one’s garment with violence', says YHWH Sabaoth. 'So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless'." (2:13-16). Note that divorce is considered to be as bad as violence!

What, then, does the New Testament teach on this subject? Again, it was accepted that divorces will take place - although I doubt that anyone then would have envisaged the rate of divorce in our own time! Jesus, Himself, made the matter clear: "Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.”" (Matt.19:4-9). See also Matt.5:32; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18; I Cor.7:10ff.

It would be my contention, based on Biblical teaching, that anyone who is divorced, and 'remarried' (in the eyes of the law) is, as one friend puts it, "living in perpetual adultery"! I Cor.6:9-10 is worth reading - but then continue into v.11. In Jesus, the Christ, there is always forgiveness for the truly repentant.

This is a subject that is really too big for a blog post. If you wish to hear some solid Biblical teaching on the subject, then I recommend the David Pawson 'lecture' at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgJVt5IUSWo 

It is an hour and three-quarters - but well worth the time given.

There is one further matter that I wish to address, in due course - remarried divorcees in church leadership. That could (conceivably) cause even more offence to some!!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

St Valentin

First point - the spelling is correct! "Valentine" (with an 'e') is the feminine form of the name!

However, it was earlier, on Facebook, that a friend had posted a picture - a likeness (one presumes) of Valentin with, above it, the familiar words: "Roses are red; violets are blue;" Then underneath were the words: "I was beaten with clubs; beheaded; buried under cover of darkness; and disinterred by my followers. And you commemorate my martyrdom by sending each other chocolates!" (slightly amended!).

It's an interesting point, is it not?! Those familiar words at the top usually continue: "sugar is sweet; and so are you!". They are intended to be an expression of love - but it's a love that is more "Mills & Boon" than anything else! Valentin, however, had discovered a deeper love that led to his martyrdom. It's the love of which the Paul writes to the disciples of Jesus in Corinth - a city that was known, contemporaneously, as the centre of immorality. The late Prof. William Barclay writes: "She had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a byword for evil living. The very word korinthiazesthai - to live like a Corinthian - had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery. ... Aelien, the late Greek writer, tells us that if ever a Corinthian was shown on the stage in a Greek play, he was shown drunk. The very name Corinth was synonymous with debauchery and there was one source of evil that was known all over the civilised world. Above the isthmus towered the hill of the Acropolis and, on it, stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. To that temple there were attached one thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes and, in the evenings, they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth until it became a Greek proverb, 'It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.' In addition to these cruder sins, there flourished far more recondite vices, which had come in with the traders and sailors from the ends of the earth until Corinth became not only a synonym for wealth and luxury, drunkenness and debauchery, but also for filth."

It was to people living in that kind of environment that Paul wrote: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (I Cor.13).

This is the love that is based on the love of the God Who is love (I John 4:8,16). This is the love that is so great, that as we shall shortly be remembering in a special way, it paid the penalty for your sin, and for mine, on a cross outside Jerusalem. 

Sadly, much of what modern society terms love is little (if any!) more than lust. Real love is commitment! It was his commitment to the Lord Jesus that led Valentin to his death. It is that same commitment to that same Jesus that enables so many, even today, to die rather than deny Him. I don't need to remind you of those Coptic Christians who were so callously murdered and beheaded on a Libyan beach, by thugs who were serving the moon-god cult of Islam; of those who were burned alive in cages, for the same reason; of women and girls gang-raped to satisfy the lust of the Muslim men who had captured them.

So, as we come to the end of Valentin's Day 2018, please consider the kind of love that you show to others - and remember the love that Father God shows to you, and to which you may respond while you have time. As always, if I can be of any further help at a personal level, please contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the page. I don't check that Inbox every day - but I shall get back to you as quickly as possible.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The storm is past.

Although the Dordogne area in France is one of the country's most beautiful, it does have its share of inclement weather conditions - especially from December to February. This includes some fairly violent storm conditions. When we returned from the UK last month, it was to find that the TV aerial had been blown down - taking with it the capping on the chimney, to which it had been attached! Thankfully, the period of the worst storms is now over!

I was reminded of the story of a man who was standing at the rail of a small ship, far out to sea. He was filled with anxiety as he watched a mass of billowing clouds, illumined by flashes of forked lightning. As he watched, the captain happened to pass by. Noticing the troubled expression on the face of his passenger, and the black sky in the distance, he quickly offered some words of assurance. "I hope that you aren't concerned about that storm." he said. "If you are, then you can relax and forget your worries. You see, that storm is already past, and cannot do us any harm."

That may lead us to think of yet another "storm" that is past. I refer to the time when the wrath of Almighty God was poured out in all of its fury, at Calvary. What an awesome, and terrifying, sight that must have been! The Lord Jesus, although Himself perfect and sinless, assumed our guilt and shame, and bore the dreadful penalty that you and I deserved. As He hung on a wooden cross - between earth and sky - the sun was darkened, and rocks were rent asunder. The tempest of God's judgement had broken out upon the beloved Son! Even now, as the old negro spiritual reminds us, contemplation of that dreadful hour causes us to tremble. Yet, as frightening as that spectacle must have been, we may be at peace - because that "storm" is past! In fact, it has provided a way of deliverance from eternal condemnation, and damnation, for all who, in repentance and faith, receive the Son as Saviour, and Lord, and King. For all such, there is the blessing of the grace of God, shown in Jesus, the Christ. I owed a debt I could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe. 

However, the sinner who has not yet received the Lord Jesus as his personal Saviour still has reason to fear! You see, a day is coming - and it may be sooner than many would wish to believe - when the ominous clouds of God's judgement will finally burst upon an unbelieving world. Only those who have taken refuge in Him are secure. For us, the storm is past! Hallelujah!

May all who read this post find their salvation in Him - "... the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith." (Heb.12:2).