Important Information.

STOP PRESS: My first book (the first in a planned series!) is now available in paperback format. :-)
It is being published by AfJ Publications, Glasgow, and sells for £8.99 (for 230 pages). Initially, copies may only be ordered from me (p&p not included - but they may be collected in person!). Please contact me at
author@minister.com
The book is, of course, still available in its Kindle edition.


You'll find it at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009EG6TJW where you may read some sample chapters!

If you haven't got a Kindle (I haven't!), there is a FREE app at
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd?docId=1000423913

I am also considering producing an audio edition. Any feedback as to how welcome this might be would be appreciated, as it would involve a great deal of time and effort!

30% of the profits go to support the persecuted church.




Saturday, 22 November 2014

How to preach the Word of God.

Another bus journey, yesterday - to Coatbridge - meant another opportunity to read a couple of chapters of my current reading material on the life and work of George Müller.  This time, the topic that spoke to, and encouraged, me was that of the proclamation of the Word of God.

In my mind, I went back (too!) many years to my time at the Bible Training Institute, in Glasgow.  It was during the summer between the two academic years that I received a very clear call to pastoral ministry.  This meant that, when students gave their testimonies as to what the Lord had done with them during the long break, I had to say that I would be going to University as I was going to be a minister, here in Scotland!

There were hose who were not impressed!  They were going to leave all of the comforts of home, and go to foreign countries in which they would have to learn a language that was totally alien to them, and where they would not have running water, electricity, television, and a host of other items and utilities that we took for granted in our home countries.  My response to that particular criticism was that they would also be sharing the Gospel message with those who did not know it at all, and who would be more willing to acknowledge their own sinfulness.  I would be preaching before people who thought that having their name on a congregational roll was sufficient to ensure their eternal future in heaven!  I would have to convince them of their sinfulness, and of their actual need of a Saviour!

The second criticism came from, I confess, just one of my fellow students.   Tony was a Welsh Pentecostal.  He could not understand why I needed all of this university education that I was going to undertake.  All I needed, as far as he was concerned, was a Bible, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, I still possess a book that he gave to me in order to help me to 'see the light'! 

My response to Tony was simple.  I explained that, if he was going to be preaching in a Mission Hall somewhere in the Welsh valleys, then that might well be all that he would need.  He might not have, under his ministry, many who were wise according to worldly standards, not many who were powerful, not many who were of noble birth. (see I Cor 1:26).  However, if I ended up in a parish ministry, I would not only have many who were unconverted, but unaware of the fact; I would also be more likely to have the local schoolteacher, the doctor, the solicitor, and others of similar educational background.  "Now," I would continue, "if I preach Christ crucified, 'a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles' (I Cor 1:23), such a person may look, with disdain, at my Diploma of the Bible Training Institute, and think 'If you had had the sort of education that I have had, you would not believe such nonsense'.  However, if that person knows that I am standing there with similar qualifications to those possessed by him/her then, at the very least, that particular argument/excuse is removed."

I still believe that.  I know that the Lord used uneducated fishermen to preach the Gospel.  However, I know that He also used Paul who, as Saul of Tarsus, was educated in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).  Paul's intellectual qualifications were, in his day, beyond reproach!  Of course, I have always sought to remember that not everyone has had the privilege of the education that has been granted to me.  So, I have always endeavoured to use words that do not require a double doctorate in divinity and theology to be understood.  Indeed, that was the thinking behind the series of messages that I shared, in the late 1970s, with the congregation of Bellshill: St.Andrew's, and which became the basis for my first book (details at the head of the blog!). 

All of this came back to me as I read these words concerning George Müller.  "He had yet to learn how the enticing words of man's wisdom make the cross of Christ of none effect, and how the very simplicity that makes preaching intelligible to the illiterate makes sure that the most cultivated will also understand it, whereas the reverse is not true." (op.cit., p.43).

May such a message be taken to heart by all of us who are privileged to minister the Word; and always, to His glory.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Today, my wife and I travelled, by bus, to Livingston.  The journey lasts for about an hour, so she advised me to take a book to read.  The book that I was almost finished reading had only a chapter left, so that wasn't going to be of any use.  I quickly scanned my bookshelves - and spotted a book that I had acquired (I suspect that it was a 'freebie'!) some time back, but that had since been neglected.  It is a book that tells the story of George Müller of Bristol (although he was Prussian by birth and upbringing).

It is also a book that has already grabbed my attention, and already has a number of passages highlighted.  Very early in the narrative, we are provided with a brief synopsis of the subject who was born in 1805, and who departed this earthly life in 1898 - a true 19th century man.  The final part of the synopsis reads: "... the last six years were used of God in mellowing and maturing his Christian character."  So, a man of God, whose name has become almost a by-word for believing prayer, and who was in his 93rd year of mortal life when he was called home, was mellowed and matured in his Christian character in the final six of those years!

Actually, when I gave the matter some further thought, I realised that the idea isn't really so strange!  Although not yet close to the age at which George Müller was promoted to glory, I am certainly past the fresh flush of youth - both physically and spiritually!   However, it is as I have become less young (I refuse to be 'old'!) that I have found myself drawn closer to the Lord, and spending more time in His Word, than I have ever done before.  How mellow and mature I am becoming is something that others are better equipped to judge.

Why should this be?  Well, I speculate!  However, I suspect that it has something to do with the increasing awareness that I am closer to my heavenly reward today than I have ever been before!  Now, I know that that has always been true, but I seem to be becoming increasingly aware of it.  And not simply aware of it, but looking forward to it with increasing anticipation. 

I have a regret.  That regret is that I have waited so long to reach this stage.  By the way, I am not claiming anything even remotely like 'perfection'.  I may joke about that ("I used to be conceited, but now I'm perfect", etc.) but I am fully aware of the reality.  However, as a 'one-liner' that came to me, many years ago, puts it: "In this world, I shall never be sinless but, by the grace of God, I may sin less!"   When I confess my sin during my private devotions, and receive the forgiveness that has already been gained for me at Calvary, I also ask that the Lord would continue His work of sanctification in me.  (That, by the way, is a word that means, basically, being made more like Jesus.  I deal with it more fully in the first book in the "Getting to know you" series - details in the heading to the blog!).

It is unlikely - although not impossible (the Lord has a great sense of humour!) - that I will ever enjoy the spiritual stature of a George Müller.  However, I will be content to walk a little more closely to my Saviour each day.  My advice, and encouragement, to others is not to leave it until you are my age.  Spend more time with Him, now.  Read your Bible (or listen to recordings!) in a systematic way.  Ask yourself questions about the passage that you have read - "What does this passage teach me about the character of God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, all three?"  "What is this passage saying to me as an individual?"  "Is this passage pointing out a specific sin that requires to be dealt with?"   Don't 'say prayers' - pray!   Keep a list of prayer subjects for daily prayer; another one for weekly prayer (and the day of the week on which those people will be prayed for, or situations prayed about!).  Spend a few minutes, at the beginning, moving into His presence.  It all helps to draw you closer to Him - and that can only ever be for your good!

You will be blessed - you can't be otherwise.  I encourage you to do it - you know it makes sense!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Public Morality.

When the morality, and personal behaviour, of public figures is questioned, there are always those who insist that "as long as they can do the job".   However, increasing revelations of historic paedophilia, and other forms of sexual abuse; of the fraudulent claiming of expenses; of the abuse, and misuse, of power and authority; lead me to believe that the public should actually take greater care in checking out the personal morals, and behaviour of those whom they elect and who, in turn, are often in a position to influence the promotion of those in, for example, the judiciary.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics state that the numbers of homosexuals and lesbians etc., in the United Kingdom, is 1.6% of the population.  I have looked, but have been unable to find, figures for the number of parliamentarians who are openly in one of the sexually-deviant groups but, with 650 members in the UK Westminster Parliament, any number over 10 is higher than the national average.  I think that I can safely say that there are more than 10 openly homosexual/lesbian members in the Lower House!  I have often wondered if this was a major factor in the passing of The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, 2013, in spite of the clear majority of the general public were opposed to the measure.  Too many had a vested interest - either for themselves or their friends!

So, perhaps this is why we should, indeed, check out the morals, sexual preferences, ethics, and anything else about those who represent us.  Otherwise, we may continue to place, in positions of influence and authority, those who hold views that are diametrically opposed to the majority.  It is one of the reasons why I am currently supporting The United Kingdom Independence Party.  It's not simply because I am opposed to the European Union.  It's not because I would not still prefer an overtly Christian Party in charge (I doubt, in all honesty, that that will ever happen).  Its because they appear to be the only viable Party that holds to at least some of the policies that I can, in conscience, support.

It's now only about six months to the next U.K. General Election.  Let us be careful how we vote.  Remember, we often get the government for which we have failed to pray!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The end of life.

Quite a number of recent posts have been on the topic of abortion - the deliberate killing of an unborn human being.  This evening, I want to go to the other end of the Journey of Life spectrum, and look at another emotive issue that is currently very topical - assisted dying (aka assisted suicide/euthanasia).

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;" states Shakespeare's heroine figure in his play Romeo and Juliet.   So, whatever name is given, and has been given, over recent decades, the common denominator, in this situation, is the deliberate taking of a fully adult life, for whatever reason.  By the way, I do not propose going into a discussion on etymology, especially with regard to the strict definition of euthanasia (from the Greek!).

Yesterday, the UK House of Lords debated the Bill that has been brought forward by Lord Charlie Falconer.   This Bill seeks to “enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life”.   Of course, there have been a number of attempts to legislate in favour of the right to end one's own life in recent years - at least one previous one also being in the name of Charlie Falconer.   Thankfully, each one has been defeated, but the assisted suicide and/or euthanasia supporters keep coming back with the sort of determination that one often wishes was seen in other areas of politics!

Often, some recent high-profile case, in which there has been a lot of public sympathy for the person who wishes to end his/her own life, is used by the 'suicide lobby' (to use a convenient shorthand expression!).  One that may well have been raised in the House of Lords, yesterday, is that of Brittany Maynard, the young woman from the USoA who travelled from her home state of California, to the state of Oregon, in order to legally kill herself!   However, emotional cases do not lead to good legislation!   Thankfully, for every Brittany, there are hundreds of others who do not take the 'easy' way out!  There were many who shared their stories on social media, but I didn't notice their stories receiving the same publicity in the main-stream media!

However, away from the individual cases.  What about the general picture?  It is interesting that all of the professional medical bodies are opposed to the sort of legislation that Charlie Falconer and, in the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie, wish to see enacted.   However, that is not really surprising! Do assisted suicide supporters really expect doctors and nurses to be able to assist the suicide of one patient, then go on to care for a similar patient who wants to live, without this having an effect on their ethics or their empathy? Do they realise that this reduces the second patient’s will-to-live request to a mere personal whim—perhaps, ultimately, one that society will see as selfish and too costly? How does this serve optimal health care, let alone the integrity of doctors and nurses who have to face, and live with, the fact that they helped other human beings kill themselves?

Indeed, a report in The Telegraph, on Thursday, stated that "One in 10 British people believe elderly people should be offered a “reward” if they opt for assisted suicide, new polling suggests."  Now, apart from the fact that, if the 'reward' is only to be offered posthumously, it is going to be of little satisfaction to the recipient, why should anyone wish to be rewarded in this way?  By the way, the suggested 'reward'  was "a martini and a medal"!  I'm teetotal; and I would prefer to wear a medal on my own chest - while standing up!   The report continued: "Anti-euthanasia campaigners said the finding was “chilling” evidence of deep-seated prejudice towards older people from a small but significant minority of the population."   Chilling, indeed.

What is needed is more, and improved, palliative care.  The Hospice movement does a wonderful job - I know, I have visited enough of their establishments! - but it is limited in its scope because, as a charity, it depends on the donations of supporters.  As I type, I am thinking just how far the latest demand from the EU - £1.7 billion - would go to providing that desired level of care.  However, all that will happen is that it will be wasted on an already corrupt and bloated administration!

The debate, yesterday, went on for longer than was expected, and there was no formal division.  However, it is reported that the majority of those who spoke did so in opposition to the Bill.  For this, at this stage, many of us are truly thankful.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Prayer

As I appear to be unusually busy this week - who said that retirement was a dawdle?! - I am cheating a little this evening by posting some quotations, about prayer, from Charles H Spurgeon, the great 19th century Baptist preacher.

The story is told that, when visitors came to the Metropolitan Tabernacle from the pulpit of which he preached for 38 years, he would mention the modern heating system.  He would then ask if they would like to see the power-house.  The answer was always in the affirmative, as people were intrigued by the thought of a boiler-system that could provide heating for such large premises.  Spurgeon would take them to the basement and, opening a particular door, would proclaim, "This is the power-house of the Metropolitan Tabernacle!"  On looking in, the visitor(s) would see people, on their knees, praying passionately.

Spurgeon was a man of prayer himself. Throughout his entire ministry many hearers remarked that they were moved by his preaching, but yet still more affected by his praying. The famous American evangelist D. L. Moody, upon returning home after his first visit to England, was asked: "Did you hear Mr Spurgeon preach?" Moody replied: "Yes, but better still, I heard him pray."

So, a few prayer-linked quotation from one, often referred to as the prince of preachers, but who said that what the church needs, rather, is princes, and princesses, of prayer.   Some things do not change!

"If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ."

"A prayerful church is a powerful church..."

"I have not preached this morning half as much as I have prayed.  For every word that I have spoken, I have prayed two words silently to God."

"Until the gate of hell is shut upon a man we must not cease to pray for him. And if we see him hugging the very doorposts of damnation, we must go to the mercy seat and beseech the arm of grace to pluck him from his dangerous position. While there is life there is hope, and although the soul is almost smothered with despair, we must not despair for it, but rather arouse ourselves to awaken the Almighty arm."

"My own soul's conviction is that prayer is the grandest power in the entire universe; that it has a more omnipotent force than electricity, attraction, gravitation, or any other of those secret forces which men have called by a name, but which they do not understand."

Let us pray!