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Saturday, 1 August 2015

Ivy - and sin (Part 2).

Okay, so on Thursday I realised that the common plant, ivy, is a picture of sin in human beings.  However, this parasitic plant (I couldn't recall that adjective on Thursday!) had more to teach me.

As I hacked, and pulled, at the ivy surrounding the well-head in our front garden in Gardonne, I quickly realised that we did not have the plain concrete structure of our neighbours.  Someone had, at some time, built around that structure a beautiful, white stone, facade.  Suddenly, I knew that I had a magnificent feature just waiting to be discovered.   With almost all of the ivy now removed, I can assure you that it really is "something else"!

You and I were created by a loving God Who desires us to enter into a personal relationship with Him, through the Lord Jesus Christ (the Second Persona of the Trinity).  However, sin embraces us with its tentacles, and quickly begins to cover up what the Creator has created.   We require to have that sin dealt with before the beauty that is the real 'us' can be seen.  Of course, even that beauty is but a reflection of the Lord Jesus.  That was what some of us used to sing:

"Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me;
All His wonderful passion and purity.
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
'Til the beauty of Jesus be seen in me." (Albert Orsborn/Tom M. Jones).

There is a certain, self-styled, pastor who has a great following - particularly among women - and who has claimed that she no longer sins!  (Crazy mad Woman Joyce Meyer Claims She is no Longer a Sinner – Sinless Perfection Heresy).  However, in making such an outrageous claim, Mrs (Millionaire) Meyer is directly contradicting the written Word of God.  Listen to the apostle, John:  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (I John 1:8)Indeed, the 'beloved disciple' goes even further: " If we say we have not sinned, we make Him (i.e. God) a liar, and His word is not in us." (I John 1:10).  You see, Mrs Meyer has made a fundamental mistake (actually, she makes a lot of fundamental mistakes!).  The Bible does not teach that, as a disciple of Jesus, I am righteous and, therefore, sinless.  Yes, I am accounted righteous in the sight of Almighty God, but that is because I have been justified (see the relevant chapter in Great Words of the Faith) by His grace, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus!

This is the wonderful truth: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9).  However, that confession needs to be a daily exercise, because I am a sinner.  Paul who, like John, may be considered to be more trustworthy than a millionaire (actually, multi-millionaire) 'prosperity-gospel' preacher, testifies: "... I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." (Rom 7:18-19).  The ivy of sin does not let go easily, and we need to come, on a daily basis (at least!) and seek the help of God the Holy Spirit that we may be sanctified (chap. available in Great Words!) - made more like Jesus!

When I get the study in our new home up and running, a little printed notice will be going back up on a wall.  I believe it to be a Brian Ross "original".  It reads, simply, "In this life, I will never be sinless but, by the grace of God, I may sin less"!  As I do, more and more of the beauty of Jesus will be seen in me.

There was one more lesson from my dealings with ivy on Thursday, but that's all for now, folks.  Just be sure that you deal with the ivy that is hiding what Father God wants you to be, seeking His help, day by day.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Ivy - and sin!

Today, I spent almost five hours in the front garden of our new home in Gardonne.  I knew that there was a well there - as in the front gardens of the next-door-neighbours on either side - and assumed that, like theirs, the top would be plain concrete.  I couldn't immediately tell, as it was covered with ivy - that virulent, pervasive climber that can choke the life out of a tree.  I recalled a little song that my late mother would sing when I was a child:

Dozy dotes, and maresy dotes, and little lamsy tivy.
A kidilee tivytoo, wouldn't you?

It was many years before I worked out that the strange language was really very simple:

Does eat oats, and mares eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.
A kid'll eat ivy, too; wouldn't you?

I would have been delighted if some little lambs, and some kids (as in young goats!) had appeared, today.

However, as I gradually cleared the ivy from around the well-head, I realised that there were a number if similarities between ivy, and sin!  The first one that caught my attention was the way in which the ivy clings to its host - whatever that may be.  As I tugged, and pulled, I found it extremely difficult to get the stems away from the well-head.  I was reminded of the words of the inspired writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb.12:1-2; emphasis added).

That's one of the problems with sin.  The ivy around the well-head didn't all appear overnight.  It will have started as a small plant but, left unchecked, it grew stronger and stronger until it needed such great effort to remove it.  Few, if any, commit serious sins without having first committed sins that didn't really seem to matter.  I wonder if anyone has ever researched, e.g., a bank robber - and discovered that, years before, that person had stolen money from his mother's purse; that he had obtained employment, but had regularly purloined company funds; that he had mugged many a person, and stolen their wallet/purse!

Such criminal activity is, of course, a sin against the other person involved - the victim.  However, Judaeo/Christian teaching is that all sin is primarily against God.  David, the shepherd-king of Israel knew this.  Having entered into an illicit sexual relationship with Bathsheba; and having tried to cover his wrongdoing by having her husband killed in battle; he was confronted by the prophet, Nathan (see II Samuel 12).  He wrote a song to display his repentance and, in it, are these words: "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified in Thy sentence and blameless in Thy judgment.   Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Ps.51:3-5; emphasis added).

David now realised that he had sinned - and done so grievously - but he also knew that while both Bathsheba and Uriah had suffered, it was God's own character that had been besmirched!

You and I are both sinners - every bit as much as David.  We may not have committed adultery, or plotted the murder of another person, but we have broken God's law, and we deserve His just punishment.  That punishment is an eternity separated from Him.  That may not seem important to some, right now.  However, when they stand before His Judgement Throne, and are cast out of His presence, they will wish that they had listened to people like me!

Of course, there is a remedy!  In the Persona (see Great Words of the Faith; chapter on The Trinity) of the Son, He took the punishment that you and I deserve.  He paid the price, that we might go free.  Have you responded to His amazing offer of salvation?  If not, then why not do so right now?  You will find a couple of helpful links if you scroll down and, of course, if I can be of any assistance at that personal level, please do not hesitate to contact me via the e-mail address above.  Remember, like the ivy, the longer you leave it, the more difficult it is to deal with.

"Working together with Him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.  For He says, 'At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.'  Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor 6:1-2; emphasis added).

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Ode to a Scottish summer!

We arrived back in France (despite all of the current disruption!) on Friday evening.  We left weather conditions that were cold, wet, and windy.  By the time we arrived at the static, we were able to enjoy warmth, sunshine,and calm, fine weather!  My little mind went into poetic overdraft so, with apologies to the poet Robert Browning, and to all who are unable to understand the words, here is my little 
Ode to a Scottish summer!

Oh, wha wid be in Scotland
E'en whan summer's here?
Wi' rain aye stoatin' aff the streets;
Wind whistlin' in yer ear.

It's cauld enou' tae chill yer bones
E'en tho' yer well wrapped-up
Wi coat an' scarf, an wellie boots,
An' somethin' warm tae sup.

But, since it is the Glesga Fair
Ye can't expect aught else
As ye go "Doon the Watter"
Tae buy some fresh-boiled whelks.

Aye, summer's fine in Scotland
If ye dinnae need the sun;
An ken' that, wi' yer bestest friens
Ye'll still hae lots o' fun!

Okay - so Robert Browning isn't spinning in his grave with envy, but I hope it brought a wee smile to someone's face!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A new look at the 23rd Psalm!

As we continue our prolonged move to France, there is a lot of clearing out being done (more, I must confess, by my wife than by me!).  In doing so, earlier today, I came across the following.  I have no idea from whence it came - it is just a printed sheet of A4 paper, with nothing else on it - but I reckoned that it is worth sharing.  I apologise, in advance, for any unintended breach of copyright and, if anyone does know the origin of the piece, and informs me, I will endeavour to obtain permission for publishing it here.  I should add that the original uses the AV/KJV; I am using the RSV!

The Lord is my Shepherd, - that's Relationship!
I shall not want; - that's Supply!
He makes me lie down in green pastures. - that's Rest!
He leads me beside still waters; - that's Refreshment!
He restores my soul. - that's Healing!
He leads me in paths of righteousness - that's Guidance!
for His Name's sake. - that's Purpose!
Even 'though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, - that's Testing!
I fear no evil; - that's Protection! (and Assurance! - added by me!)
for Thou art with me; - that's Faithfulness!
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. - that's Discipline!
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; - that's Hope!
Thou anointest my head with oil, - that's Consecration!
my cup overflows. - that's Abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; - that's Blessing!
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord - that's Security!
for ever. - that's Eternity!

Of course, to experience the benefits, we must know the Shepherd!  If you don't already do so, but would like to know more, there are a couple of useful links further down the page and, of course, you are welcome to contact me at author@minister.com


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Sunday shopping!

One of the items in the recent UK Budget was the proposal, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to relax restrictions in Sunday Trading.  This was in spite of a pre-election commitment made "on behalf of the Prime Minister." when, in April, a representative of the Conservatives wrote to campaign group Keep Sunday Special saying: “I can assure you that we have no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws."

I seem to recall that, when the regulations were relaxed, in 1994, it was on the basis that we should have a "continental Sunday"!  However, having spent a considerable, and increasing, amount of time in France over the past twenty years, and some time in a number of other countries in continental Europe, I see no indication of "Sunday Trading" being the norm!   Indeed, apart from some of the larger supermarkets, one would have great difficulty in finding any shop open on a Sunday in 'my' part of France - and even they usually only open in the morning.

It is interesting, is it not, that medical and physiological experts have 'discovered' that human beings need one day in seven in which to relax, in order to avoid physical and/or mental breakdown.  They probably spent hundreds of thousands of pounds, sterling, on the research that led them to that conclusion.  They only needed to read the written Word of the Creator: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days YHWH made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." (Ex 20:8-11).

Isn't it interesting that all of the other important time markers in human life are clearly based on astronomical and terrestrial constants. The day, for example, is the duration of one rotation of the earth on its axis; the year is the duration of one orbital revolution of the earth about the sun; the month is the approximate interval between new moons; the seasons are marked by the equinoxes and solstices.

But the week has no astronomical basis whatever! Yet we order our lives in a seven-day cycle, doing certain things on Monday, certain other things on Tuesday, and so on through the week. Furthermore, the common pattern is one of six normal working days, then a day of rest or change, then six normal days again, and so on, with the special day regarded as either the last of the seven preceding it, or the first of the seven following it.  This is strong evidence to support both the existence of the Creator - and His creation!

However, I must make one observation.  That concerns the number of people, certainly in the areas in which I have lived in the UK since 1994, who cannot wait for the worship service to end - so that they can get round to their local supermarket to purchase the items that they 'forgot' to buy on Saturday; or that they just couldn't be bothered going out to buy!  That number includes, I regret to have to say, many who would class themselves as true disciples of Jesus!

If those who seek to worship God are so readily caught up in the 'god' of consumerism, then we have little about which to complain if the world not only opens its shop doors on the Lord's Day, but even insists that we (if we are in the retail business) work on that day!

Perhaps if believers were to so organise their lives that they had no need for Sunday Trading, then there would not be sufficient business to make it worthwhile for shops to open!  Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matt 6:24; NIV).   Some need to heed the words of that great leader of the Children of Israel, Joshua: "... choose this day whom you will serve, ..." (Josh 24:15).   On the Day of Judgment, it will not be George Osborne, or David Cameron, to whom we will have to answer, but Almighty God Himself!  

Now that's maybe a thought worth pondering!