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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Concert carnage.

It is rare for me to comment in the immediate aftermath of an incident, but I am making this post one of those exceptions.

The latest reports that I have read have stated that 22 people - including children - died as a result of the "suicide bombing" at the end of a concert in Manchester. Accounts of the injuries sustained by many more would suggest that that number may well rise in the next few days.

How does one react to such an atrocity - apparently planned over a number of weeks? One can bring pious platitudes - but they seldom have any positive effect. One may rant and rave - but anger seldom has any positive effect either. One may turn away, simply relieved that one was not personally involved - but that, to me, would be a display of callousness.

It would appear, from reports, that the first problem was inadequate security precautions at the venue. many have complained - sadly, too late - that they were not properly searched; that bags were not even checked. This is, most assuredly, a major factor in such a situation. These large venues need to ensure that their patrons are as safe as is humanly possible - especially when groups such as Daesh (aka ISIS) have made no secret of their intention to inflict mayhem in "western" countries.

Of course, the situation is made easier for the terrorists when we permit a claimed 3,900 who were involved in the conflict in Syria, to return to the UK with no more than "a watchful eye" being kept on them! With numbers like that, it is no surprise that many "slip through the net"!

Another problem is that of the so-called "moderate Muslim". It is reported that "The Muslim Council of Britain said the Manchester attack was “horrific” and “criminal”. Secretary general Harun Khan said: “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next." However, what many decide to ignore is that the terrorists are the true Muslims! Since its founding by the false, paedophile "prophet", Muhammad, the aim of Islam has been the world-wide Caliphate - the whole world under the control of Islam, and under the restrictions of shariah (Islamic Law), by military force where that is deemed to be necessary. So how do the so-called "moderate" Muslims fit in with this, in the light of their pious-sounding comments? They are simply following the example of their founder. It is called "taqiyya" and is the deliberate deception of the infidels (that's all of us who do not profess to be Muslims) in order to further the expansion of Islam and the attainment of that final goal - that world-wide Caliphate.

How then should we infidels - and especially Jews and Biblical Christians - react? We should certainly not shun any Muslims we know. Rather, we should seek to win them over from what is, I firmly believe, a satanic cult. That is not easy - yet there are reports, from many parts of the world, of hundreds, even thousands, of Muslims turning to the Lord Jesus for salvation. We who believe in the power of prayer must engage in that particular activity, faithfully and fervently. However, we must also remember the words of Jesus that His followers be "wise as serpents [whilst being ] harmless as doves." (Mt.10:16). The first is every bit as important as the second.

The government, also, has a major part to play. One of the first responsibilities of any government is the safety and welfare of the people it governs. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the police have extensive powers. Using these powers, people can be detained for up to nine hours, with DNA samples and fingerprints taken, without the need for any reasonable suspicion. If it is considered to be necessary, police may also detain and search an individual, with the aim of determining whether, or not, that person appears to be someone who is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

However, the latest quarterly Home Office report on the use of police powers under the Terrorism Act, which was released in March, shows that there has been a decrease in the use of these powers. This, it has been claimed, is due to pressure from groups like Stop Watch, which argues that they infringe the human rights of Muslims and other communities.

It is my personal opinion, that enough has been done to pander to the alleged "rights" of, particularly, the Muslim community. Those 22 young people and children who were so callously murdered last night, surely had some right to life! However, that right was over-ridden by one man's desire to kill and maim in the name of Islam!

I pray for those who have been bereaved; I pray for those who have been injured; I pray for those who have been traumatised; I pray for the members of the Emergency Services who responded so quickly and so competently. I pray, too, for the perpetrators of all such deeds, in the UK, in France, in other parts of the world; that they may yet be saved by the only blood that was ever shed that has a lasting, and positive, affect - the blood of Jesus the Christ, on the cross at Calvary. In Him, and in Him alone, is found salvation, and the forgiveness of sin. And one doesn't have to be an Islamic terrorist to need all of that!

Friday, 19 May 2017

The emptiness of a Godless life.

There is an old limerick that goes: 

"A cheerful old bear in the zoo
could always find something to do.
When it bored him, you know,
to walk to and fro,
he reversed it, and walked fro and to!"

Perhaps the composer of that bit of doggerel believed that people could learn from the bear. Certainly, bears appear to be content as long as they have sufficient food to eat, and some other bears for company. A lot of we humans could, indeed, learn a valuable lesson from such an example!

The prophet Haggai, whose prophetic book is found in the Tanakh (the Old Testament in the Bible), lived at the time when the Children of Israel had returned from the Babylonian exile, and he discovered that man cannot find happiness when he lives at the level of even the highest animal. His contemporaries ignored the fact that the Temple had not been rebuilt (Note to the so-called Palestinians, and the members of UNESCO - this was a long time before the false 'prophet', Muhammad had even been born!), although they had provided, for themselves, finely constructed houses, and occupied themselves with worldly affairs.

However, their harvests were poor; their clothing was inadequate; and their wages failed to keep up with the rising costs that resulted from inflation! The prophet uttered the word of YHWH: "You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes." (1:6). The prophet told them to re-examine their priorities, as they were reaping a harvest of unhappiness by putting selfish pleasures first.

Whenever people forget the Lord, and concern themselves with the pursuit of material and sensual things, they are - at least in the long run - poorly rewarded. The rich find little true satisfaction in their abundance, and the remaining multitudes, who are not even particularly rich, end up discontented, disillusioned, and bored with life. The reason for this is that God made us in His own image, and for His glory, and we can never find true joy until we obey the instruction of the Lord Jesus to: "... seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, ..." (Matt.6:33). Only then will we sow and reap abundantly, and eat and be truly filled. Augustine said: "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You." A modern version of that says "There's a God-shaped blank in every heart that only God can fill."

If you are aware of an emptiness in your life, that the so-called pleasures of life are failing to satisfy, then I commend the Lord Jesus to you. He came, He assured us, that you "... may have life, and have it abundantly." (Jn.10:10). That life - eternal life - is available to you, today.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Die spending it!

Although I read the Bible on a daily basis, and although I read plenty of "theological" books, I also enjoy reading a good mystery story, or a thriller. In the story I started to read during "gouter" this afternoon, one of the characters provides the line: "I made my money, and it's all mine. I'll spend it all before I die!"

I am unable to recall the precise wording on a tee-shirt I saw someone wearing, a long time ago. However, it was along the same lines (and those of the heading to this post). It is, undoubtedly, a very natural idea. If I have worked hard to amass a fortune (I haven't, by the way - amassed a fortune, that is!), then it seems only fair that I should enjoy the fruits of my labour, and spend that fortune on myself - doesn't it?!

There is, of course, one major flaw in that attitude - not one of us knows, for certain, when we are going to die! If I had £1million in my bank account, and I want to spend it before I die, then I had better be quick about it. I may die in my sleep tonight; I may be hit by a speeding car, tomorrow; a meteor might, even as I type, be hurtling through the earth's atmosphere, heading directly towards my home, and I have only another 75 secs to live. I suspect that it would be difficult to spend even £10, never mind £1million, on oneself, in 75 secs!

Space, we were told in the early series of Star Trek, was the final frontier for mankind. Not quite true. From a purely human perspective, we know a great deal more about space than we do about death. It is, in our contemporary society, the "taboo" subject. Many refuse to use the word at all! Their loved one has not "died", but "passed away", or "passed over", or simply "passed"; or they have "kicked the bucket", or are (if the funeral, and a burial, have taken place) "kicking up the daisies"!

At least a part of the reason for this is the fear we tend to have, of the unknown. What happens when we die? Is it a case that, as the humanist atheist would have us believe, that we simply cease to exist, and return to the basic elements of which we are composed? Or, perhaps, as those who believe in the concept of reincarnation would claim, that we return in a different body - that may, or may not, be human - depending on how well we have lived this current life?

The Bible says, quite simply that "... it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment," (Heb.9:27). This life is not a rehearsal - it's the real thing. However, that same Bible also makes clear that there need be no fear. Why? Because death, and hell, and the grave have been defeated! At Calvary, just outside the ancient city of Jerusalem, almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son, was crucified for your sins, and for mine. That, in itself, is an amazing truth. He paid the penalty that was, and is, deservedly mine! However, that wasn't the end. For, on the third day, the tomb in which His dead body was laid was found to be empty! He had been raised from the dead, and ;lives forevermore.

This is why the genuine disciple of Jesus has no fear of death. There may be concern about the process of dying, that can often be a long, drawn-out, painful experience. But death itself? Paul wrote: "'O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor.15:55-57). That whole chapter is actually well worth reading!

There is another common saying that "There are no pockets in a shroud", i.e. when I die I will leave behind as much as Bill Gates - everything! (Okay - so his 'everything' will be somewhat more than mine! But you get my point?!). Jesus said: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt.6:19-21). All that I can "take with me" is what I have sent on ahead - my life given over to His control, as I accepted, by faith, the salvation so graciously provided by Him. (see Eph.2:8).

Does the thought of death cause you dismay? Then come to the One Who has conquered death, and let Him lead you through the remainder of your mortal life. You'll never regret it, if you do.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Lessons on the road!

This morning, my wife and I set off to the home of friends, who are dairy farmers. We had been before, but I had failed to "mark the spot" in the sat-nav, so we were following written directions. All did not go as planned!

En route, we were held up by two different sets of roadworks, and then by what looked to be a quite serious RTA (road traffic accident) although, at least, only the one vehicle appeared to be involved. I thought of life and the way in which, however well we plan, there are unexpected obstacles that hold us back.

I remembered Joseph, whose story is recounted in the Old Testament book of Genesis. He certainly had his life all mapped out. Listen: "Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they only hated him the more. He said to them, “Hear this dream which I have dreamed: behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him yet more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind." (Gen.37:5-11).

Of course, as many who read this will be aware, that is not what happened - at least, not immediately! Young Joseph was sold into slavery by his elder brothers; he was falsely accused of sexual assault, and thrown into jail. I suspect that anyone would agree that those were big obstacles to his dream! Of course, that is not the end of the story (well worth reading it all: Gen 37-50), and Joseph's dreams did, in fact, come true!

We continued our journey but, at a particular roundabout, roadworks obscured a sign and we went off on the wrong road! We had travelled about two miles before accepting that we had made a mistake but, when we did, we fed some information into the sat-nav and that got us back on to the right route.

That's a bit like life as well, is it not? We make a mistake, but carry on regardless - because we may not have realised that a mistake was made! However, when we do work out that there is a problem - and one of our own making - often, if not always, the best thing to do is to turn around and go back to the place at which the mistake was made. The Biblical word for that, in spiritual terms, is repentance. It's an absolutely necessary pre-requisite to salvation. It was the proclamation of John the Baptiser: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt.3:2). It was the core message of the earliest preaching of the Lord Jesus: "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was the message preached by the apostles: " Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, ..." (Acts 3:19). It is the message that is proclaimed by true disciples of Jesus, even today. Have you repented, and turned from your sinful way of life, trusting in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for your salvation, and the empowering presence of God the Holy Spirit to help you live your life for Him?

The third lesson from the morning came to me when a small bird - probably a sparrow - flew right across the pathway of the car, only inches above the ground. I hope that I didn't hit it but, if I did, then I would claim that it was to blame! You see, it didn't have to be flying at that level. It was perfectly capable of flying high in the air, well away from the dangers of road traffic.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, concerning those who trust the LORD: "... they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eaglesthey shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." (40:31; emphasis added). The disciple of Jesus need not linger in the lowest places. We may not be able to, physically, fly unaided. However, spiritually, we may soar above the temptations of the enemy - if we are willing to do so!

It was an interesting journey, this morning, with three clear lessons provided. I trust that one, or all, of them may be of help to you as you travel life's journey, and that you may be doing so in the company of the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the best Companion you will ever have!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Independence Day - in Israel.

Today, in Israel, is known as Yom Ha’atzmaut. It is the anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of
Independence in 1948. It is officially observed on the 5th of Iyar according to the Hebrew calendar, although this date is often adjusted by a day or two in order to ensure that the Yom Ha’atzmaut festivities and the Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) commemorations, that take place the day before, do not interfere with the observance of Shabbat. Today was the 69th anniversary of the establishment of the new State of Israel in fulfilment, many are convinced, of the Biblical prophecies concerning the nation - cf. Amos 9:14-15; Ezekiel 37:10-14; Jeremiah 16:14-15 et al.

However, there is another prophecy that is being fulfilled before our eyes. In Gen.18:17-18 we read these words of YHWH (the covenant name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob): "YHWH said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." (emphasis added; see also 22:18, 26:4).

So, how has this prophetic word been fulfilled? Well let me share just some of the achievements of the nation of Israel, since 1948 - and remember that, during that whole 69 years, she has had to deal with the enmity of most of the surrounding nations - with Iran, in particular, making no secret of its desire to see the nation destroyed, and every one of the Children of Israel dead.
  • .
Did you know, for example, that 
  • Israel designed the airline industry’s most impenetrable flight security system;
  • Israel is the only country in the Middle East that based its principles of government on both democratic liberal values and on the values of the Biblical prophets;
  • Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth;
  • Israel has the world’s second highest per capita rate of published books;
  • Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees;
  • Israel has more museums per capita than any country;
  • Israel developed the cell phone, Windows NT and XP operating systems, Pentium MMX Chip technology, the Pentium-4 microprocessor, the Centrino Processor, voice mail technology, and AOL Instant Messenger ICQ;
  • Israel has the highest per capita rate of home computers in the world;
  • Israel designed and implemented the Iron Dome Defense system;
  • Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees in the world;
  • Israel is second in the world in the number of start-up companies behind only the U.S.of A.;
  • Israel has the world’s largest per capita number of biotech start-ups;
  • Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce;
  • Israel is a world leader in water renewal, recycling, desalination, and solar heating;
  • Israel invented the drip irrigation system used around the world;
  • Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for ;breast cancer
  • Israel’s Given Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill that can view the small intestine from the inside to detect for cancer and digestive disorders?
On top of all of that, there is the almost unbelievable improvement in the natural environment where one can see the fulfilment of yet other prophecies. In Isaiah 35 we read: "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon." (vs.1-2). And when will this amazing transformation take place? When "... the ransomed of YHWH shall return, and come to Zion with singing;" (v.10). In other words, when the redeemed Children of Israel return to Jerusalem, and the land that YHWH promised to their forefathers.

Of course, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) executive committee, in its great wisdom (sarcasm should be noted!) decided today in another politicized, anti-Israel decision regarding Jerusalem, that everything Israel does in Jerusalem is illegal. As in the case of past anti-Israel resolutions, the text was authored by Arab states. No hint of bias there, then (further sarcasm!). Let those of us who love Israel, and the Jewish nation, pray for the nation, and against every anti-Semitic move by those who wish only her demise.

L'Chaim Yisrael!