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, 18 October 2014

Rites of Passage.

In my teaching career, one of the units taught to S1 pupils concerned Rites of Passage.  This refers to the four major events in a person's life that are celebrated, in some way, by every culture known to mankind.  These are Birth, Coming of Age, Marriage, and Death.

These are also areas that, in recent decades, in some of the more 'civilised' nations in the world, have become increasingly under attack from a secular, atheistic, humanism that would have us all made in its own image - rather than in the image of the Creator God Who is responsible for our very existence.

Birth.  It was in 1967 that abortion became legal within the UK.  Since then, around 10 million babies have been callously murdered in the very place in which they ought to have been best protected - their mothers' wombs.  And that is in England, Scotland, and Wales alone!  By the way, if you missed my brief series on abortion - "Womb - or tomb?" - you can scroll down to the Blog Archive; click on "August", and then scroll down to Tuesday, 19th for the first article.  Birth, in far too many cases, is not being celebrated - it is being prevented!

Coming of age.  It is the case, as I type, that it is when one reaches the age of 18 years that, in the UK, one is now considered to have 'come of age'.  Of course, as my pupils were quick to point out, the age varies for different activities - from joining the Armed Forces, to purchasing alcohol, to acquiring a mortgage.  However, for at least two - maybe three - generations, we seem to have been encouraging our children to 'grow up' far too quickly.  Beauty Pageants, at least in the USoA, for toddlers - dressed up by their mothers in 'sexy' outfits (must be some sort of paedophile 'heaven'!), to Clubs and bars being frequented by children who have barely left puberty, to 'under-age' sexual activity.  And much of this with the knowledge, and tacit approval, of parents/guardians!

Marriage.  In the UK, with the honourable exception of N.Ireland, marriage has been redefined as being the union of any two persons, regardless of gender.  This has been, effectively, a response by politicians to a sustained lobbying exercise by those representing (according to recent National Office of Statistics) a mere 1.6% of the population.  A massive petition opposing the move, in both Westminster and Holyrood, was ignored.  Of course, it is arguable, given revelations since, that the reason for that is that the percentage of those who practise deviant sexual relations, is much higher in government circles than in the population at large!  Now, I read that an OFSTED inspection in a Jewish school resulted in pupils feeling bullied, and traumatised, by the questions asked - questions such as "Do you know that it is acceptable for two men to be married to one another?"  Marriage, instead of being a relationship in which a man and a woman fulfil God's plan for them, and produce a family (something that no two people of the same gender can ever do, on their own!), has become a declaration of deviance that is sanctioned by the state.

Death.  There was a time when death came to most people before they reached 80 years of age.  Today, in the western world, more and more people are living to be centenarians.  At least, that is what we would like to think.  However, the constant push by some for the legalisation of euthanasia, and assisted dying/suicide, shows that death is becoming a marketable commodity - think Dignitas in Switzerland, or the whole situation in the Netherlands!   The tragedy of such a situation was shown by a newspaper report just a few days ago: 

"An elderly husband and wife have announced their plans to die in the world's first 'couple' euthanasia - despite neither of them being terminally ill.
Instead the pair fear loneliness if the other one dies first from natural causes.
Identified only by their first names, Francis, 89, and Anne, 86, they have the support of their three adult children who say they would be unable to care for either parent if they became widowed.
The children have even gone so far as to find a practitioner willing to carry out the double killings on the grounds that the couple's mental anguish constituted the unbearable suffering needed to legally justify euthanasia.
… The couple's daughter has remarked that her parents are talking about their deaths as eagerly as if they were planning a holiday.
John Paul [their son] said the double euthanasia of his parents was the 'best solution'.  'If one of them should die, who would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us,' he said. 'It would be impossible for us to come here every day, to take care of our father or our mother.'"

One commentator has responded like this:  "I wonder why no one considers the fact that the reason some elderly parents may experience “mental anguish” is that they have come to the sickening realization that their grown children would rather find an executioner to dispatch them, than take on the responsibility of caring for their parents. Imagine the thoughts of a mother realising that the child she fed and rocked to sleep, played with and sang to, would rather have her killed than care for her; that their relationship really does have a price."
When I consider all of that, I confess to being glad that I am now out of the RME classroom.  My fear is that those who are in may be pushing the kind of agenda that is mirrored above!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Minor changes!

Two changes to the blog have occurred over the past couple of weeks.  The first was the realisation that the visit counter had disappeared.  That is something that probably isn't of any interest to anyone other than me!

However, in my endeavour to reinstate it, I also managed to delete the Disqus gadget that had taken over the Comments facility.  Regretfully, this has meant that all previous comments appear to have disappeared!  I don't know the source of the Disqus embedded file, so I am unable to restore it - and to see if the comments are restored at the same time!  If anyone does know how this might be achieved, I am always open to good advice!

I have also been having difficulty inserting a fresh counter.  I have been unable to find the code that I was using - which could mean that its provider has closed down, and that that is the reason for the sudden disappearance of the counter!    I did note the last figure, and have another means of checking the visits to an individual post, so I can make a fairly accurate guess at the current number.  If anyone can direct me to a straightforward counter, that allows a start number to be inserted, I would be grateful for that also.  I have tried one - but it hasn't appeared, and an e-mail to the provider has elicited a zero response!

At least I am able to keep posting, so do keep looking - and encourage others to do the same!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Perhaps today!

Blood Moons; Tetrads; the unexpected return of Halley's Comet.  Talk about 'signs in the heavens'!  Many people appear to be predicting some kind of cataclysmic event that will herald the end of the world.  "We're doomed, Mr Mainwaring!  Doomed, ah tell ye!" (with apologies to Pte. Fraser!).
So what, exactly, is happening?  Well, I make no claim to be an astronomer, so am unwilling to make any specific pronouncements concerning the above phenomena.  However, I do know a wee bit about the Bible, and about the Christian faith - and it certainly speaks of an event that will eclipse any of those mentioned above.
The church has known for some 2,000 years that Jesus is coming back. He made it perfectly clear.And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt.24:30); “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne.” (Mt.25:31); “Then everyone will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds with great power and glory.” (Mk.13:26, Lk21:27); “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (Jn.14:3)
And the apostle Paul adds to the evidence.  In that great passage in his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he writes: “And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.  I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet Him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with Him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.” (4:13-18)
So, left in no doubt that Jesus is going to return – not, this time, as a helpless infant in a mucky, smelly, part of a building that was reserved for the family’s animals; but breaking into all that we know, as King of kings, and Lord of lords.
When the disciples asked Jesus about the date of His return (Matt. 24:3), He told them that only God the Father knows: "However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself.  Only the Father knows." (v.36).
He went on to explain that people will be going about their ordinary business; He pointed out that His coming again will be a time of separation between people who are even working together; He reminds us that if we knew that something was going to happen, we would be prepared. Then He urged His followers - now, as well as then - to be prepared so that they would not be taken by surprise. "You also must be ready all the time. For the Son of Man will come when least expected." (v.44).
The true story is told that, while he was president of the USA, Dwight Eisenhower was on holiday in Denver, Colorado.  He was told about a 6-year-old boy, Paul Haley who was dying of an incurable cancer, and that the little boy had expressed the wish that he might meet the president.  Eisenhower immediately decided to grant the boy’s wish and, one Sunday afternoon, a big black limousine arrived in the street where Paul lived. Out stepped the president with his bodyguards and knocked on the door. Paul's father answered, wearing old jeans, a grubby shirt and a full day's growth on his beard. "Can I help ya?" he asked. Eisenhower responded, "Is Paul here? Tell him the President of the United States would like to meet with him." Absolutely thrilled, little Paul Haley walked around his father's legs and stood looking up into the face he admired most. The president kneeled down, hugged him and took him out to sit in the presidential limo. Before they said good-bye, they shook hands, then just as suddenly as Eisenhower had appeared - he left.
The neighbours still talk about that day. But one man was not entirely happy about it - and that was Paul's dad, Donald Haley, who said: "I'll never forget standing there in those old jeans, a dirty shirt and a grubby beard to meet the president. If only I'd known he was coming."
We do know, and we await the coming of One Who is much more important than even the president of the USA.  Listen: "He (Jesus) will appear a second time… to those who are waiting for Him" (Hebrews 9:28 NIV). If you want to go - you've got to be ready!
We don't know when Jesus will return; He may come at any time. Dr. Richard De Haan, founder of Radio Bible Class Ministries, kept a two-word motto in his office: "Perhaps Today."
My wife and I were making some plans for our retirement a long time before we actually retired..  However, we constantly made it clear that they were our plans – that Lord might have something totally different in mind.  By the way - He did!  Of course, we also recognised that we might never have the opportunity to put those plans into action – because Jesus might have returned first! 
When you make your daily plans, are you aware that the Christ may return? Are you ready; prepared to meet Him?  Many are already making preparation for the celebration of His first coming; but give no thought to His second!
I have a strong background in the Boys' Brigade.  I was never involved with the Scouting movement.  But I love the Scout motto: Be prepared!! 
If you’re not ready when the president, or any other 'dignitary' visits your home, you might regret it for the rest of your life.  If you’re not ready when Jesus returns, then you will definitely regret it – for all of eternity!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Thorns and brambles.

It's been a long week - with a lot of it spent in travelling, as we (my wife and I) made our way back to our static caravan in the Gironde area of France.  We are, once again, so very grateful to friends who provide us with hospitality on out journeys - on this occasion, specifically the Loudons in Maidstone, and the Rouffets in Seclin.

This afternoon, we took a wee walk around the lake at the camp-site in order to gather some brambles (blackberries in the UK furth of Scotland, and mûres in France!).  A lot are not quite ripe, so there will be much more harvesting over the next week or two!

As we gathered, I recalled what was probably the first time that we had done so in our married life together.  We were on our way back from a wee camping trip to the northernmost part of Scotland, having stayed at a site with the delightful name "Grannie's Hielan' Hame", and driven up to John o' Groats, Dunnet Head, Wick, and Thurso.  Of course, in those far-off days,  the site didn't have the heated indoor pool, and the other attractions that are advertised on its website today!  It was on our way back home, travelling along the northern shore of Loch Ness (and keeping an eye out for Nessie, of course!), that we spied a veritable plethora of those delicious black berries near to Fort Augustus.

We quickly realised that berry-picking is not as straightforward as it might be thought to be!  In spite of the abundance of that delicious fruit, it took us some time to fill every available container.  The problem was the thorns!   They tore at our hands; they caught on our clothes; they made collecting those berries a difficult task.  However, we persevered.  Why?  Because we knew that there would be a great reward - a freezer filled with bramble and apple pies that, with some custard, would provide pudding for many, many meals - and for a few months!

The life of the disciple of Jesus can be a bit like picking brambles!   There are those who claim that, if we yield our lives to His control, then everything in the garden will be, forever, rosy; that all of our problems will disappear; that life will be one big party.  That, I have to make clear, is a lie.  It is, indeed, a lie that comes from the very pit of hell.  Strong words, you might be thinking, but they are true.

In spite of the pronouncements of certain well-known preachers, Jesus never promised a life of ease, prosperity, material wealth, and freedom from disease.  Rather, throughout the Gospel records (contact me for a list of references!), He makes it clear that being His disciple will bring hardship, persecution, imprisonment, and even death.  He assures His followers that they will be despised, and reviled.  He speaks about counting the cost.   In terms of our bramble picking, He clearly points out the thorns!

However, this is the same Jesus Who has promised that He will be with His true followers to the end of the age; that He will never leave them, nor forsake them; that He has gone to prepare a place for them, and that where He is, they will be also.  That, we might say, is the brambles!

So, what I am trying to share here is simply this - that if you are a true disciple of Jesus, you may expect that life will not be smooth and trouble-free.  Indeed, it will be the very opposite as the devil prowls around, like a raging lion, seeking whom he may devour.  However, you may also be assured of His company through even the most difficult of times.  If you wish concrete proof of that, get involved with the persecuted believers in some 50 countries worldwide!

We enjoyed an apple and bramble crumble this evening.  It made the thorns worthwhile.  When we reach that eternal dimension that we refer to as 'heaven', then we will see that all of the difficulties were worthwhile, as we then spend that great eternal day in His wonderful presence - seeing Him, face-to-face, and knowing even as we are known.  Hallelujah!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Grace!

This morning we had a particular visitor at Wishaw Baptist Church - a young lady named Grace, the younger sister of our current Youth Worker, and one of the loveliest young people I know.  When I composed yesterday's post, I had no idea that I would see Grace today, but it is very appropriate that I did!

Yesterday, having commented on the fact that, in that realm/dimension that we call heaven, there will be no denominations, but that what will be important will be our discipleship of Jesus, I ended by saying that there is more.  Permit me to illustrate by a story!

A man died, and arrived (as in the popular picture) at the Pearly Gates.  There he was met by St Peter - carrying a clip-board and a pen (perhaps that should now be updated to a Tablet, or some similar electronic device!).  Peter explained to the man that, in order to go through the Pearly Gates, he had to acquire 100 points.  The man was rather shocked (I hope that you are, too!).

"100 points!", he said.  "Nobody warned me about that.  How do I get them?"

"Well," said Peter, why do you think that you should be allowed to enter heaven?"

The man thought!  Then he said, "You know, I was a faithful husband for 47 years; caring for my wife; never cheating on her."

"That's very good," said Peter, "Three points.  Anything else?"

The man was aghast!  "Well,", he said, "my wife and I had four children, and I was a good father to them, and provided for all their needs."

"Excellent!" responded the saint.  "That's worth another three points."

The man thought.  Then: "I was a good, and honest employee with the same company, for 52 years - never took extra time at breaks; first in every morning; last to leave in the evening; never stole as much as a paper-clip."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Peter, "You've just gained another two points."

"Wait a minute!" said the man.  "Of course!  I attended my church fellowship regularly; tithed my income; made a freewill offering on top of that; served as an elder for 26 years; and often preached the Word at church meetings."

"I wondered when you would get around to that." said Peter.  "Now you're getting somewhere.  That's a full ten points.!

"Ten!" exclaimed the man.  "Only ten!  How many have I got, now?"

Peter totted up the points.  "That looks like eighteen." he replied.

"And I need 100?" the man asked.

"That's the goal", said Peter.

"At this rate," responded the man. "only the grace of God will get me in!"

"100 points." said Peter.  "Welcome!"

It's only a humorous story, but it does make a very important point.  Not only does my denominational background make no difference with regard to heaven; nor do my good works - however commendable they may be (and, of course, I am only too aware of my own failures and shortcomings - what the Bible refers to, simply, as my sins!).  The only way by which I may gain eternal life is the grace of God.  My book Great Words of the Faith (see the heading) has a chapter on the word, but suffice it to say, just now, that it is receiving, from God, what I don't deserve.  By the way, mercy, which is often linked to grace, is not receiving from God, what I do deserve!

Are you trying to 'work' your way to heaven?  Are you hoping that, when you die physically, you will have done enough good to over-ride the bad you know you've done?  Are you depending on a kind of 'balance sheet' salvation?

If you are, please give it up - right now!  You have failed, even before you start.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8-9).

Grace - it's the only way!