Important Information.

STOP PRESS: My second book - Foundations of the Faith - is now available as a Kindle e-book at http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00XTAE98C?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
My apologies! I have just discovered that, in fact, this book is NOT yet available as a paperback! I will have it ready for sale as quickly as possible!


The first volume - Great Words of the Faith - is still available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009EG6TJW
Paperback to come!

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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Conformity.

Today, as many will know, is St Andrew's Day. St Andrew is the patron saint of a number of countries, one of which is Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland called for this St Andrew's Day to be a national day of Prayer - for the nation of Scotland, but also for the world in general. I know that I was not alone in spending some of today in prayer for Scotland, the rest of the UK and, of course, France.

The denomination kindly provided some specific prayer points that I certainly found to be very helpful.  However, one "bullet point" jumped out at me.  It stated: "Confess sins of conformity to the world and failing to prioritise Jesus Christ over all the world."

I have no doubt that a well-known verse from the Scriptures of the New Testament were in the mind of the person(s) who decided to provide that particular point. Paul, writing to the early disciples of Jesus in the 1st century city of Rome, encouraged them to "... not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2). How often I allow myself to conform in this way, and it is right and proper that I should confess to that, and receive the forgiveness of Father God that has already been gained for me through the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as He paid the penalty for my sins.

However, I remembered that Paul had already written about "conforming", in that same letter. A little earlier he had explained to his fellow-believers that "... those whom He [Father God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He [the Son; the Lord Jesus] might be the first-born among many brethren." (Rom 8:29; emphasis added).

So, it would appear that it is not "conforming" that is the problem - but to Whom, or to what, we conform!

Last evening, we had a number of friends join with us for dinner.  The gathered company included a little boy who is about 18 months old. He and I had great fun - if I did something, he would copy me. One might say that he was "conforming" to what he saw me do. It's a perfectly normal reaction in a child - copying what an adult does. It's how we learn in the early days of our human lives.

What a difference it would make in, and to, my life if I was to be as faithful in copying Jesus as that little boy was in copying me last evening! Yet Paul says that this is what I have been predestined to do! Now, I can accept that - and despair. I can look at myself, and easily recognise how poor a copy of Jesus I am! However, I can also accept that, if Father God has said that I shall be like the Son - then I shall be! The transformation will not be completed until I reach Glory - but the process is already in operation! As a friend from 'way back used to put it - "I'm still a work in progress"! (For more on this - what theologians refer to as "Sanctification" - read my book "Great Words of the Faith"; details above!).

So, to Whom, or to what, do you conform - or, at least, seek to conform? It's a question that only you can answer - but it's a question, the answer to which has eternal consequences!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Apartheid Israel!

It was a Facebook post by a friend of one of my former pupils, who had been on my own "Friends" list for a number of years.  It was, basically, a 'tongue-in-cheek' comment on the late Fidel Castro, using a reported quote from this former President of Cuba.

However, some of the following comments that appeared to be praising this "great humanitarian" led me to give some of "the other side" of the story!  This, in turn, led to the former pupil informing me that I am a "pro-Zionist" who supports the bombing of innocent civilians, including children, by apartheid Israel!

That probably wasn't a wise move on his part!  My response was as follows - in case any of my blog readers think as he does!  I typed:

If that is directed at me (I was absolutely certain that it had been - but one must be careful!), you need to do some serious research on the State of Israel - and not be hoodwinked by the pro-'palestinian' propaganda that is spouted by the MSM (main stream media, in case you are unfamiliar with the abbreviation).

Just to get you started - If Palestinians were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down its arms, there would be no Israel.  It would be so very helpful if the 'Palestinians' were to stop firing rockets at israel; stop digging tunnels that are intended to enable their 'soldiers' to infiltrate Israel; and stop teaching their children to "kill the Jews" (that, of course, is not confined to 'Palestinian' authorities).

There is NO apartheid in Israel!  Have you ever been there? Have you seen, for yourself, this apartheid to which you refer? Do you know how many Arabs are Members of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament)? By the way, do you know how many Jews are involved in the political leadership of any Arab state?! (The answer to that question is easy - less than 1!!) Do you know how many Arabs are members of the IDF (the Israeli Defence Force)?  Do you know how many Arabs hold top positions in the Police, the Military, in Institutes of Higher Education (and as teachers in primary and secondary education - teaching Jewish children!), in Medical Institutions and Hospitals?

Do you know how many 'Palestinians' work in Israel - because the wages and conditions are better than anything they can obtain in 'Palestine'?  Do you know how many 'Palestinians' bring their children, and other relatives, to Israeli hospitals for treatment - free of charge? can you provide a figure for these "innocent men, women, and children being bombed and daily harrasses or being evicted out of their homes"? Do you know how many rockets, bombs, sidearms, etc were found in 'Palestinian' hospitals and other public buildings? Are you aware of the 'Palestinian' strategy of firing their rockets, indiscriminately, at Israel - from areas of civilian population?  Do you really understand the definition of "apartheid"?  Indeed, do you know the meaning of "Zionist"?  You really should go beyond the Daily Record (a Scottish tabloid newspaper that caters for the less educated in Scottish society!) for your information about the world!

I then pointed out that, so far, 37 Arab Muslims (at least some of whom, and probably all of whom, are 'Palestinian' Arabs) have been arrested over the arson attacks that have destroyed hectares of forest in Israel.  I suggested, from another perspective, that he check out the Arab countries that do practice apartheid towards Jews!  For example, Jews are not even allowed to permanently reside in Saudi Arabia, Libya, or Jordan - and I suspect that any Jew would be refused entry to Iran!

If there ever was to be a "State of Palestine" (for the first time in the history of the world!), it has already been made clear that it would be "ethnically cleansed" of any Jews!

Well, I could have gone on - and could go on.  However, I do hope that anyone who has bought into this hype about Israel being a modern South Africa will begin to realise that nothing could be further from the truth.  There are no "Jews only" forms of transport. There are no "Jews only" beaches. There are no "Jews only" cafés or restaurants.  There are no "Jews only" washrooms.  Indeed, according to Kenneth Meshoe, a South African politician, any attempt to compare Palestinians’ experience in Israel with the former racist regime is offensive to individuals who suffered under the system of racial separation.  He said that, on a trip to Israel, "I deliberately looked for anything that looked like apartheid. I took a bus to the center of Jerusalem, but blacks, Jews, Arabs and everybody else all sat together. Swimming at the Dead Sea was mixed. I looked for the ‘black only’ beaches, but there were none. Arab school teachers stood in front of Jewish classes! That would never have happened under apartheid."

Apartheid Israel - it simply doesn't exist!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Growing through adversity!

A number of my friends on the social network, Facebook, post many beautiful pictures and video-clips of nature in all of its beauty. However, that same nature wonderfully testifies that adverse conditions are often valuable in the development of some types of trees and other plants.  While fire is one of the greatest enemies of a forest - ask people living in California, and certain parts of Australia, for example - it actually helps certain kinds of seeds to grow. I am reliably informed that the cones of some pine trees do not open until they are touched by the flames.

This can also be true for the disciple of Jesus, whose faith and character are often strengthened by life's trials. Some of the strongest believers of whom I know are in what we refer to as "the persecuted church"; and it was the early church father, Tertullian who, in his book "Apologetics", claimed that "The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the church".  Certainly, persecution quickly rids the church of nominality. No-one who does not have a true saving faith in the Lord Jesus is going to admit to being "a Christian" if his/her physical life is at stake. Alternatively, the true disciple looks "... forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb 11:10). 

The story is told of a distinguished botanist who was exiled from his native land, but who obtained work as a gardener. On one occasion, in the middle of winter, his employer received a valuable plant but was unfamiliar with its nature and needs. He placed it in the hothouse where, under the glare of the sun, it began to wilt. As it appeared to be dying, the new gardener was instructed to examine it. Quickly identifying its origin, he explained to his employer: "This is an arctic plant, which cannot possibly thrive in this tropical heat."  He then took the plant outside and exposed it to the frost, whilst heaping ice around the pot.  Before long, the plant regained its health, and flourished.

Christian character is developed in many ways. Some believers, when they are placed in the comfortable and sheltered atmosphere of earthly warmth, pleasure, and luxury, begin to lose their spiritual vitality. On the other hand, if they are faced with the icy winds of life, and chilling temptations, they soon revive and renew their strength.  Others find, in the heat of trials, the pressures need to awaken them to a true sense of values. Paul wrote: "... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Rom 5:3-5). 

It all depends on the root system.  Whether it be a plant, or a believer, it is the life that is in the roots that makes the difference.  So Paul prayed for his brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, in Ephesus: "... that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God." (Eph 3:17-19; emphasis added); while his exhortation to the Colossians was: "As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Col 2:6-7; emphasis added). 

So, if you are a disciple of Jesus reading this, don't shrink from the hardships and difficulties of life. By the grace of God, you may gain spiritual stature, even through adversity - and all to the glory of His Name. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Marriage!

On Saturday, my wife and I were privileged to be present at the wedding of two lovely young disciples of Jesus, to one another.  It was, of course, a French wedding - the third that we have attended during this calendar year.  With more than 46 years of marriage behind my wife and me, I have a more than passing interest in the institution of marriage, and want to share some thoughts on the subject, here.

Marriage, as I shared in the Christian Marriage Service that I conducted in my days as a parish minister, "... is a state of life provided and instituted by God. It has been blessed by the presence of Jesus Himself at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. In Holy Scripture it is commended as honourable in all, and the marriage union is seen as a symbol of the union of loyalty and love that exists between Christ and His people.

"It is, therefore, not to be undertaken lightly or unadvisedly, but thoughtfully and reverently, and as before God, and with due consideration of the reasons for which it was given to us.  It was given for the sake of the life-long companionship, help, and comfort that husband and wife ought to have of each other.  It was given that family life may continue, and that children, who are a gift from God, may be brought up in the love and security of a stable and happy home.  It was given for the welfare of human society, which can only be strong and happy where the marriage commitment is kept and honoured."

It is, to me, a matter of great sadness when couples who have entered into such a union decide, for whatever reason, to break it.  Especially in a Christian marriage, the union is a covenant relationship that includes Father God - and only He can break such a union (which He does by the death of one of the couple).  This is why, the immediate words following the exchanging of vows, and rings, are: "What God has joined together, man must not separate."

An illustration that I have used for years was, not too long ago, expanded by a friend.  It concerns what I refer to as "the eternal triangle".  That is, in secular terms, a reference to "husband, wife, and the other man/woman".  However, I think of it as the husband, the wife, and Father God.  Imagine the triangle standing on its base. The couple are at opposite ends of that base-line.  Father God is at the apex, and the other two sides of the triangle connect Him with the husband and wife.  If, at any time, there should be a crack in the base-line, then as long as the other two sides remain intact - in other words, as long as each spouse maintains their relationship with God - the triangle will stand upright, allowing time for the crack in the base-line to repair.  It is only when one of the sides is broken that the whole edifice comes crashing down!

That was as far as I used to go.  However, a friend who was in a group with which I was sharing that, added to it. She pointed out that, if the couple each move up "their" side then, as they draw closer to God, they also draw closer to one another!  I love that extra dimension to the picture.  It is, I believe, the secret of a truly happy marriage.

My young friends who were married to one another on Saturday, both love the Lord, and each loves the other.  It is my prayer for them that, as they live their lives for Him, so they will indeed be drawn ever closer to Him, and to one another, and be a shining example to all who know them, of what a truly Christian marriage can be like.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Trumped!

So - the fat lady has sung; the votes have been counted; the people have spoken. Contrary to what the pollsters had predicted; contrary to what the MSM had pushed; contrary to what the establishment had expected; Donald Trump has trumped Hillary Clinton, and is now the President-elect of the USoA.  In January, all other things being equal, he will be sworn-in as the 45th man to enter the Oval Office, and take his place as President. Whatever else may be said, it is clear that "the establishment" has, once again, suffered a bloodied nose.

I have always stated that I had no time for Donald Trump the billionaire, who seemed to think that he could ride rough-shod over anyone and anything, simply because of his great personal wealth. However, I have also been constant in my belief that, given the stark choice available (and none of the other candidates actually counted in the final ballot) then I would have been obliged to cast my vote for Trump.

So what may we expect from President Trump after he is officially inaugurated on Jan 20th (D.V.)?  I suspect that there will be some surprises, in that he will begin to fulfil the promises he made!  You see, he is not a professional politician who will, as an Obama advert stated about a certain Mrs Clinton: "say anything and do nothing" (2008 Democratic Primaries)! I also believe that his Vice-President will most certainly hold him to his word!

Dr Jim Denison, CEO of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, has written a paper on the Trump victory. The first point he makes concerns the USoA Supreme Court.  He writes: "Mr. Trump could nominate as many as four justices to the Supreme Court. The late Antonin Scalia's seat will be the first to be filled. If Mr. Trump nominates and the Senate confirms a conservative justice, he or she will join Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas to compose a four-justice conservative bloc. Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer will remain a four-vote liberal bloc, with Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. However, Ginsburg and Breyer are eight-three and seventy-eight years old, respectively. Assuming they retire during his administration, Mr. Trump could then nominate young justices to form a six-vote majority for decades to come. If Anthony Kennedy retires (he is eighty years old), Mr. Trump could create a lasting seven-vote majority. In addition, he will be able to fill nearly one hundred vacancies in the federal district and circuit courts, with more to come during his term."

Such appointments would have a major effect on the whole Justice system of the USoA that would, in my opinion, be for the good.  "As the Supreme Court hears cases regarding abortion, transgender rights, marriage, and a host of other social issues, its ideological composition is of crucial importance ..." (JD; op.cit.).

Of course, there is a sense in which Mr Trump's "trump card" was the outgoing President, Barack Hussein Obama! This man, who campaigned eight years ago with the slogan "It's time for change" failed utterly to fulfil the high hopes that so many had in him. He turned out to be like so many modern preachers - all talk, and no substance!  (What was it he said about Hillary Clinton?!!!).  The cliché at the time, which became more relevant later, was about how he campaigned in poetry but would govern in prose. Some prose can be magnificent: but not his!

Mr Obama is clever, and has a way with words: but his words contain little. He entrances audiences, both in his own party – which is why he beat Hillary Clinton, arrogant and boring then as now, for the 2008 nomination - and then in the wider electorate. His failure to deliver was, surely, part of the reason why voters were ready for a real change - a man who was not a part of the establishment, and who is not in anyone's pocket!

What does the disciple of Jesus, who could not support Donald Trump (and there were many!) do now. May I suggest that they do what those of us who were so anti-Clinton (fraud, sleaze, partial-birth abortion, deceit, lies, dubious (and very large) cash donations, etc.) that we came across as Trump supporters will be doing? Paul exhorts us, in his first letter to Timothy:"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (I Tim 2:1-4; emphasis added).  Yes, let us pray for Donald Trump as he takes on the responsibility that comes with the high office to which he has been elected.

It may well be that, as He said to Ananias concerning that arch-persecutor of the early church - Saul of Tarsus - the Lord is saying of Donald Trump: "... he is a chosen instrument of Mine ..." (Acts 9:15); that Trump is, in fact (and as was prophesied before the election!), God's man for the moment. He has used unbelievers in the past; He can use an unbeliever today. Of course, there have been reports, that appear to be credible, that Donald Trump has been converted. If that is so, then he will need our prayer-support even more as the enemy endeavours to pull him back!

The next four years, should the Lord tarry that long, should be very interesting. However, let us remember that the Sovereign God of the universe is still on the throne - and is working out His own purposes, in His own way, to His own glory!