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Sunday, 28 December 2008
We were at Preshal, again, this evening. I was speaking there for the last time - at least for this year! I was sharing about how we face different endings - the ending of a good meal; a good book; a relationship; even a job! And, of course, there we were, facing the end of another year.
Some face the end of the year with regret. For them, it's been a good year; they have many happy memories to carry forward - from coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, to an addition to the family, to moving into a new home, and a thousand other things as well.
Others face the end of the year with relief. 2008 has been a year that they wouldn't wish to repeat. It's been a year of bereavement, of illness, of redundancy. They may not have understood the Latin that HM the Queen used a number of years ago, but they certainly understand the concept of an annus horribilis!!
The one thing that is certain is that it is a year that none of us will repeat. We face a new year, with a fresh bundle of challenges and opportunities; of joy and sadness; of good and bad. I was reminded of some words quoted by the Queen's father, George VI, in his Christmas broadcast of 1939:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
That's the way in which to go forward to a new year! It's also the way to face that ending that, until the return of the Lord Jesus, will be faced by each one of us - the end of our human lives. Does that prospect fill you with dismay and dread? Or do you have delight in the assurance that, when it happpens, you will be with Jesus, throughout eternity?
I rejoice that I don't worship an unknown God (see Acts 17:23), but I do worship the One Who is the God in control of my unknowns. I trust that you, also, worship Him. To do so brings glory to Him, and is good for you.
A happy, peaceful, and Holy Spirit-filled 2009 to one and all.
Thursday, 25 December 2008
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
The Christmas story is, of course, a story of HOPE as we see the Creator of all that exists become part of His creation in order that a world that has no hope might be offerd hope through Him. As we face a new year of financial uncertainty; of redundancy; of house repossession; and all of the other negative aspects of the current "credit crunch", let us lift our eyes beyond the temporal and material, and see, in the Christ-child, the Hope of all mankind.
In case you don't have time to log on tomorrow: "Have a happy, peaceful, and blessed Christmas-time."
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
Couples who once made a promise, before Almighty God, that they would be faithful to one another for as long as they both lived, finding that divorce and remarriage is the world's easier answer than the sheer hard work and, often forgiveness, that would save a marriage that is in difficulty. Bosses who willingly had their employees enter into contractual obligations that did have a certain inbuilt reciprocation, cut and run as the "credit crunch" bites ever more deeply - leaving those same workers with bleak prospects for the new year. Politicians, of whatever political hue, who promise the electorate almost anything in order to secure their privileged positions, and the accompanying perks, and who then quietly forget those whom they are supposed to be serving as they feather their own nests.
Perhaps that's the very reason why so many find the concept of a God Who truly is faithful so difficult to accept - along with angels; a virginal conception; miracles of healing, and over nature; resurrection; and everything else that makes up the Gospel message, it's outwith their knowledge and experience. If everyone else lets me down, why should I trust God?!
Of course, as countless numbers down through the millennia can attest, He is faithful but, as Stuart Pascall reminds us in today's video-message, that same God demands my faithfulness in response.
Only three more sleeps ......!!!
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Jesus had something to say on the matter: "Jesus called [the disciples] together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" (Matt.20:25-28)
Service - it's the true way to greatness - even if it means following the way of the cross!
Friday, 19 December 2008
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
It's a "man-thing", I suppose! But, if I think about it a less glibly, then I realise that sometimes, if something is going to be accomplished, then I am the one who has to "get on with it".
Philip Yancey shares a similar thought in today's video-message. Enjoy - and be challenged!
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Friday, 12 December 2008
“£5m bid to bring peace between city gangs”
That aims to “… bring together hundreds of rival gang members …”
This sounds like a great initiative! Of course, some of us know that a similar work is already being accomplished, on a shoestring budget, by The Preshal Trust (“Preshal” is the Gaelic word for "precious") in Govan.
This work, headed up by May Nicholson, and sponsored by former Govan boy, Sir Alex Ferguson, is centred in an old, corrugated-roofed, single-storey building, supplemented by a shipping container, and is predominantly among people who are disadvantaged in many different ways - mental health problems; alcohol, and other drug, addiction; those in prison; people with literacy and numeracy problems; etc. The story of Preshal is too long to share on this blog, but is well worth checking out. (Try http://www2.stv.tv/info/newsWest_Central_Scotland/20080303/Sir_Alex_Ferguson_backing_a_Glasgow_char_2008030 for a taster - sorry, you will have to "copy and paste"!)
A recent move has been to reach out to some local gangs and now, on a Tuesday evening, upwards of 40 youngsters, out of a database of over 100, will be found playing pool, table-tennis and the like, instead of fighting over territorial claims, hanging out in closes or the local park, and generally being a nuisance! If everyone turned up at the same time, there simply wouldn’t be room for them all!
Of course, it's not just "play" as classes are provided in, e.g., healthy eating, computer work, and digital photography.
Wouldn’t it be good if some of the cash now being made available could be channelled towards Preshal as improved facilities are desperately needed for the expansion of this most worthwhile project - currently operated on a voluntary basis?
There has been much written, in the media, about the film shown a couple of nights ago on one of the satellite TV channels showing the final moments of a man who had chosen to end his own life. I didn't watch that programme, and I know nothing else about that man, but I can't help wondering what preparation he had made for that final event of his physical life. I only know of one worthwhile preparation - to come, in this life, into a personal relationship with the Creator God before Whom we must all stand, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we prepare to celebrate His first coming as a helpless, incontinent, needing-to-be-fed infant, we should remember that the Babe in the manger grew up to be the Christ on the cross; that He experienced physical death for our sakes; and that He calls us to respond with the love, gratitude, and obedience of our own hearts.
And now - today's video message, by courtesy of Damaris (http://www.damaris.org)
Thursday, 11 December 2008
One day a man was having a conversation with the Lord and said, “Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”
The Lord led him to two doors. He opened one of them and the man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, that smelled delicious and made the man's mouth water.
However, the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly, and appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and, while each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, the length of the handle meant that they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering as the Lord said, “You have seen Hell.”
They went to the next room and opened the door. The scene was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew that made the man's mouth water. The people around the table were equipped with the same long-handled spoons but, in this room, the people were well nourished and plump; laughing and talking.
The man was confused! “I don't understand.” He said. “It’s simple,” replied the Lord. “It requires but one skill. You see, these people have learned to feed each other. The greedy think only of themselves.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He was thinking of you.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
"But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;" (I Thess 4:9-10)
"For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another," (I John 3:11)
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
The videos are good.
Make sure you listen in each day
For "mind and spirit" food!!
A lengthy chat with both Brian and Stephen at Damaris has identified, and repaired, the "glitch"! The bonus is that I have learned a little bit more about HTML coding!! Thanks, guys!! Now, enjoy all three messages - and that brings us up to date! By the way, start at the top, and work your way down!
What can we look forward to?
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Damaris now have the videos for the next week on their site - well, they have the coding, but none of them are working!!
Looking on the bright side, you may well be able to enjoy a feast of three - yes, THREE!! - messages tomorrow!!
Keep checking! You know it makes sense!!
Monday, 8 December 2008
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me
even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees.. I
don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas
It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are
slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it It shows that we
are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that
there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If
people want a crïeche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting
pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of
getting pushed around, period. ...
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should
worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess
that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. ...
In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when
Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained
she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not
read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your
neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave
because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr
Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about.
And we said OK.
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience; why they don't know right from wrong; and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great
deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.
Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny
how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start
sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd,
crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of
God is suppressed in the school and workplace. ...
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks
of us. ..."
I know that I have read similar messages before, but I felt that it was worth posting - in case anybody has missed it!
Sunday, 7 December 2008
The two came together, when Pete Greig made reference to one of the better-known events recorded by Daniel – the three young men who were cast into a furnace that had been heated to seven times its normal temperature, because they would not submit to the worship of an image set up by a human king, but only to YHWH the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their words are full of godly defiance: “Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:16-18).
Pete Greig comments: “The paradox of faith is encapsulated in this rousing speech. On one hand, the three young men assert that ‘the God we serve is able to save.’ What’s more, they believe that God is not just able but also willing to intervene miraculously on their behalf, declaring, ‘He will rescue us from your hand.’ But on the other hand, having made these unequivocal statements of faith, they add, ‘but even if He does not … we will not serve your gods.’ In the first part of their speech we see that [they] have faith for a miracle, and this is impressive. But then we see that they also have faith of a deeper kind altogether – faith to endure suffering should the miracle not happen.” (God on Mute, 2007, Kingsway Communications, Eastbourne. p.155)
This is the kind of faith that is exercised, on a daily basis, by those who are termed “the persecuted church”. I don’t pretend to understand it; I trust that, if I am ever in that sort of situation, that I will be given the grace to exhibit it. What about you?
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Friday, 5 December 2008
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Earlier this evening, I received a weekly e-mail from the Evangelical Alliance. It's called FNT (Friday Night Theology) and seeks to give a Christian slant to items of news that might be talked about by non-Christians. That was when I learned of this new "version" of the Bible that is, apparently, to be published in the Spring of 2009.
This "version" - which appears to be a perversion - is, according to an article in the Guardian newspaper
"A gay version of the Bible, in which God says it is better to be gay than straight,..."
This article continues: "New Mexico-based Revision Studios will publish The Princess Diana Bible – so named because of Diana's "many good works", it says – online at princessdianabible.com in spring 2009. A preview of Genesis is already available, in which instead of creating Adam and Eve, God creates Aida and Eve.
'And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Aida, and she slept: and he took one of her ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from woman, made he another woman, and brought her unto the first. And Aida said, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of me. Therefore shall a woman leave her mother, and shall cleave unto her wife: and they shall be one flesh.' And they were both naked, the woman and her wife, and were not ashamed'."
I have already posted on the EA site suggesting that they use Consumer Protection legislation to deal with this issue. After all, if I buy a bar of chocolate that is labelled "Plain", I don't expect it to be full of nuts! Likewise, if I buy a book entitled "The Bible" (Holy or otherwise), I don't expect it to contain that which clearly, and plainly, contradicts the real thing!
Of course, even the most rudimentary knowledge of biology would lead one to the conclusion that, if God had created "Aida and Eve", or even "Adam and Steve", then the human race would have stopped right there! Contrary to the apparent belief of some, no two people of the same gender are capable of producing offspring. Whether they use a surrogate mother, or a surrogate father, the fact remains that both a female egg and male sperm are required for conception. It's the way in which God designed it, and there's no getting away from it.
Let the real Bible - which, in its many translations and versions, always proclaims the same message - have the last word: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Gal 6:7, NKJV).
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Monday, 1 December 2008
Sunday, 30 November 2008
By the way, I published the previous post at 0042 this morning. I'm unsure as to why it is dated as an hour earlier (meaning that it should read: "Tomorrow is St Andrew's Day ..."!!) Apologies!.
Saturday, 29 November 2008
According to John, it was Andrew who first introduced his brother to Jesus, and Jesus gave him that name of Peter (= rock): an indication of what he was to become, but certainly not what he was then. Thank God that He sees you and me, not as we are but as we may, by His grace, become.
Peter became one of great leaders of early Christian community. He wrote two of letters that have been preserved for us in the Bible. But without Andrew, there might not have been a Peter.
Edward Kimball was a faithful Christian who wanted to be used by God. He was not a pastor or a missionary, but he knew that he should go and share the gospel. Kimball felt especially burdened for a young man named Dwight, who worked in a Chicago shoe store. He mustered up the courage to go and tell Dwight about Jesus. Much to Kimball's delight, he responded and gave his life to Christ. Dwight later began a preaching ministry, and became known as D.L.Moody, one of the greatest evangelists in church history.
When Moody was out preaching one day, a man named Frederick Meyer was listening. Meyer was already a Christian, but Moody's preaching motivated him to enter full-time ministry. We know him as F.B. Meyer. Kimball reached Moody, and Moody reached Meyer, but the story doesn't end there.
When Meyer was preaching, a young man named Wilbur Chapman responded and gave his life to Christ. Chapman felt called to be an evangelist. One of the young men he took under his wing was a former professional baseball player who, also wanted to preach the gospel and did so with great success. His name was Billy Sunday.
Sunday held a crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, where many people came to faith. The people there were so thrilled that they wanted to have another crusade. Sunday wasn't available, so a travelling evangelist named Mordecai Hamm was invited to speak. While the campaign wasn't considered as successful as the first one, a young, lanky farm boy walked down the aisle on one of the final nights. We know him as Billy Graham.
Kimball reached Moody, who touched Meyer, who reached Chapman, who helped Sunday, who reached the businessmen in Charlotte who invited Hamm, who then touched Billy Graham. Talk about a legacy! You may not be a Billy Graham, but you might be an Edward Kimball. We all have been entrusted with the gospel. We all have a part to play.
The old Negro spiritual says: “If you can’t preach like Peter, if you can’t pray like Paul; just tell the love of Jesus, and say He died for all.” (There is a balm in Gilead). And it may be that, by the grace of God, it is your neighbour who will then be the Peter, or the Paul, or the Billy Graham.
Tradition says that Andrew was crucified – but on a cross shaped like an X. That’s where we get our national flag, the Saltire. The story is that, before a battle with an English king, Angus mac Fergus, king of the Picts – the people who lived in the lowlands – had a dream in which Andrew appeared and promised him victory. During the battle, a Saltire cross was seen in the sky and this encouraged Angus and his troops. After his victory, Angus ordered that the Saltire be the badge of the Picts.
Andrew is a saint – but according to the New Testament, so am I, and so are you if you belong to Jesus. A little boy was asked to explain what a saint is. He remembered that, in the church building his family attended, there were stained glass windows with pictures of some of the saints in the Bible, and how beautiful they looked when the sunlight shone through them. So he answered that a saint is somebody that the light shines through!
Jesus said: “I am the Light of the world”. But the only way in which some will see Him is if we allow Him to shine through us!
Friday, 28 November 2008
But the newspaper reports throw up a very interesting fact. According to one of these, one of the terrorists, Shadullah Babar, apparently telephoned a TV station – using a hostage’s mobile ’phone – and stated that: “We demand the release of all Mujahideen put in jails. Then we will release these people. Otherwise we will destroy this place. We, the Muslims who live in India, should not be harassed… We love this country; this is our country … but the issue is this; when our elders, our brothers are killed, didn’t these people see all this?” A second caller, Imran Babar, is reported as having said: “We are tired of facing tortures and injustice; we are forced to do this.”
Injustice is, of course, something that should always be opposed. The Bible is full of commands to act justly – “Do not pervert justice or show partiality.” (Deut 16:19); “YHWH works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” (Ps 103:6); “For I, YHWH, love justice;” (Isa 61:8); “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11:42) – to give just a few references. However, there are ways of doing that that do not result in the death or injury of people who had no part in the injustice itself.
Sometimes, I am asked if Christians and Muslims worship the same God. This sort of major incident certainly suggests that they do not!
I posted a letter today, to a dear Christian brother in China. Chinese officials have yet to declare a new court date for Alimujiang Yimiti, a Christian house church leader and ethnic Uyghur in China’s northwest province of Xinjiang, detained since his arrest on Jan. 12, China Aid Association reported. In mid-October, Chinese state prosecutors returned Yimiti’s case to a Xinjiang court for consideration. Charges against Yimiti include “inciting secessionist sentiment to split the country” and “collecting and selling intelligence for overseas organizations,” CAA reported in June.
Yimiti converted from Islam to Christianity more than 10 years ago and became active in the growing Uyghur church. Media reports state that Yimiti’s friends have said they believe his faith is the real reason for his arrest. Officials have threatened to hand down a sentence ranging from six years in prison to the death penalty.
This dear man, and his family, are being treated in the same way as the Mumbai murderers allege that their friends are being treated. But the Christian answer is not to obtain machine-guns and grenades and cause mayhem. It is to pray for those who persecute them (see Rom.12:14), and to ask for prayer for themselves for strength to persevere in the midst of persecution. And this is true of Christians in some sixty countries in 2008.
Find out more by going to
http://www.salememail.com/specialoffers/VOM_Persecution/VOM_persecution_watch.aspx (please copy and paste)
and to the Release International and Open Doors links that you will find at the bottom of this blog. And, if you are a praying person, please pray for the persecuted church, on a daily basis. It’s the very least we can do, and still the most important.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Child of the King
I’m a child of the King, I’ve been born from above.
I’ve been filled with His grace, I’m embraced by His love.
All my sins are forgiven; I’ve joy in my heart
Since I gave my life to You, my Lord Jesus.
O Jesus, my Saviour, my Friend, and my Lord;
I have trusted in You as it says in Your Word.
I’ve been filled by Your Spirit, I’m kept by Your power;
And I’ll worship none but You, my Lord Jesus
Jesus died there, at Calvary, on man’s cruel tree;
And the death that He died was for you and for me.
But He rose from the grave; is exalted on high;
And He lives for evermore, my Lord Jesus.
O Jesus, my Saviour, my Friend, and my Lord;
I have trusted in You as it says in Your Word.
I’ve been filled by Your Spirit, I’m kept by Your power;
And I’ll worship none but You, my Lord Jesus
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Daniel had three friends who are also named in the book - they were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Of course, most folk only know these young men by the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So, what's the difference? Well, the first set of names are their Hebrew names and they mean, respectively, YHWH has been gracious; salvation is of God; and YHWH has helped. These are wonderful truths about Almighty God, and those young men must have borne their names with pride. However, one of the results of their captivity in Baylon was that they were given pagan names, and it is by those names that they tend to be remembered.
I found that to be a little bit sad. It was an attempt to remove their Jewish identity, and make them integrate with Babylonian society, culture, and religion. It's the sort of thing that can happen within the persecuted church. Those who come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus out of a totally non-Christian background are often pressured into returning to their original culture, and religion, and need the prayerful support of all of God's people.
However, there is another name that is mentioned in God's Word. It is the "... new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it." (Rev 2:17, RSV). This is a personal name reserved only for those who are disciples of Jesus. It's a special name, because it is given by the Lord. And even that is not all! Towards the end of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, given to John, we learn of the new Jerusalem that "... the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall worship Him; they shall see His face, and His Name shall be on their foreheads." (Rev 22:3-4, RSV)
What a wonderful prospect for the true child of God. I trust that you will be in that number, on that Day.
PS Find out more about the persecuted church by using the links for Release International, and Open Doors, that are at the very bottom of the blog.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
So it came about that, on the agreed date, I mounted a bicycle: for the first time in some twenty years! I discovered, right away, that it’s true – one never forgets how to ride a bike – and, after a wobbly start, I was soon bowling along the very level road from Tullibody, through Alloa, and on towards Kincardine. It was as we turned on to the road that would take us to Dunfermline that the trouble started. That pleasant, level, road started to develop a lot of ups and downs. The latter were okay, but the former seemed to get increasingly steep, and long!
It was as we were going up a particularly long, steep section, and yours truly was “feeling the pain”, that the going suddenly became easier. I was travelling like a man half of my age! The reason was very simple. Having seen the difficulty that I was experiencing, my friend Dave had come up behind me and placed his hand in the small of my back – effectively pushing me up the hill. After that, my journey was much easier, and I arrived at our destination on time, and not too much out of breath!
Life, I was sharing a few posts back, is full of crises, whether large or small. And even being a Christian doesn’t protect one from such situations. However, what the Christian does have is the promise of the best possible Friend, in every situation and circumstance. Jesus comes alongside; places his hand (metaphorically) in the small of my back; and helps me through the difficult stages in life’s journey.
Sadly, I’ve lost contact with Dave. Thankfully, Jesus made a promise: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb.13:5). He’s the Friend Who never lets us down, and Who never lets us go.
Saturday, 15 November 2008
As with all such events, it was filled with pomp, colour, and symbolism, and was enjoyed by all who were involved. The Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Jill Bourne, called out each name, and there was a round of applause from a packed Francis Tombs Hall. As I was “capped” by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Principal Professor Andrew Hamnett, he congratulated me on my achievement – and did so with a big smile on his face (as he did for everyone else, of course!). I then walked a little further across the stage in order to have my academic hood placed in position by the bedellus – an officer of the university who carries the mace on such ceremonial occasions, and who attends to other duties such as the administration of examination venues. I had been appropriately rewarded for my academic endeavours.
Not everyone has the academic interest to work towards a university degree; but the offer of full salvation is made to all. We don’t have to earn it, work for it, study for it, or buy it. When Jesus shouted out the word “Tetelesthai” (Jn.19:30; = Finished), He meant exactly that. He has accomplished all that is required. Our part is to accept that; to allow Him to turn our lives around; and to follow Him, wherever He may lead.
You may never be congratulated for having earned a degree; but, by the grace of God, you may hear that same “Well done, good and faithful servant”!
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Political correctness has wound itself, like a creeping vine, around nearly every aspect of our society in some benign and some not-so-benign ways. "Servers" have moved into our restaurants to replace all the waitresses. "Flight attendants" have booted out the stewards. "Happy Holidays" pervades the Christmas Season and "pro-choice" people encourage women to "terminate their pregnancies" because "killing their babies" just doesn't sound nice.
Salisbury Council has told employees to stop using religiously-oriented idioms because atheists might be offended! "Singing from the same hymn sheet" is now verboten because atheists don't sing from hymn sheets. Never mind that the expression is very old and doesn't have to actually do with singing hymns. Even Keith Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, thinks the Council "has gone too far." He said, "The phrase has been around for a very long time and is very common. I use it myself. Of course we should all avoid phrases which can cause unnecessary offence, but this isn't one of them."
Caerphilly Council in Wales urged employees to avoid idioms that use the word "black" in a negative sense, like "black list" or "black ball."
Watford Council has banned the term West Indian because "it's inappropriate and never used in the Caribbean". Yet the Caribbean cricket team is known as the West Indies and dozens of British organisations are proud to advertise their West Indian credentials in their names.
Andrew Roberts, the broadcaster and historian said: "The British West Indian regiment won 19 military crosses during World War One. It is a slur on their memory that the title 'West Indian' should be singled out by some know-nothing, politically-correct bureaucrat."
Broadland Council in Norfolk has replaced all the "housewives" with "homemakers" and all "husbands" and "wives" with "partners." Even marriage, instituted by God, is no longer politically correct!
Salisbury Council has told staff to avoid "gender-specific roles" such as 'cleaning lady' and 'ten man team'. It prefers the descriptions 'cleaner' and 'ten strong team'. Amber Valley Council (Derbyshire) has banned such terms as 'man made', 'man in the street', 'manning' and 'one man show', replacing them with 'synthetic', 'people in general', 'staffing' and 'one person show'.
Author and broadcaster Kathy Lette said of the PC infestation: "Political correction is a vowel cancer eating away at the English language. The PC police are not just washing our mouths out with soap, they're dipping our mother tongue in disinfectant - and the taste is terrible."
If only mankind (and womankind!!) cared as much about offending God as they care about human sensitivities!
Friday, 7 November 2008
In the U.S.ofA., the great expectations of Senator Barack Obama were fulfilled as over half of the high turnout of voters supported his bid to be the 44th President of the United States. I have my personal concerns about some of his more liberal policies, but there is something about the man that does come across as genuine and decent.
Here, in Scotland, the great expectations of the Scottish National Party – that they would take the Westminster Parliamentary seat of Glenrothes from Labour – were dashed, as Labour held on, albeit with a greatly reduced majority.
Last night, at the LCC Prayer Meeting, we were reminded by Nat Rodgers, a visiting missionary who works in southern Norway, that God is in control; that He is never surprised; that He is never disappointed. This is why the Christian has great expectations! As a follower of Jesus, I am assured that He is my Guide, my Encourager, my Strength. He is the One Who knows the end from the beginning. He doesn’t experience our time dimension as past, present, and future. To Him, it is all “Now”. That’s why, when Moses, on having been instructed to go to lead the Children of Israel out of their enslavement in Egypt, asks what name he should give when the people asked him who had sent him, he is told “Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” (Ex.3:14). In that dimension that we call ‘eternity’, there is neither past nor future. It is always present – not endless time, but timelessness.
If our trust is placed in the God Who is I AM, the Triune God Who has revealed himself fully in the Persona of the Son, and Who dwells within His people in the Persona of the Spirit, then we may have truly great expectations. It’s a bit of a cliché, but no less true for that: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Him Who holds the future”! May that be your experience, today.
Sunday, 2 November 2008
Of course, crisis is part and parcel of the life of each one of us. And the Bible doesn't try to hide that fact. A read of the stories of people like Moses, and Ruth, and David; of Peter, and Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself, will quickly make that clear.
One man who recognised a crisis, when he saw one, was the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk. Reading the first few verses of his prophecy is like reading tomorrow morning's newspaper! He sees violence, injustice, social unrest, the perpetrators of crime being treated better than the victims. And then, to make matters worse, YHWH (the LORD) informs him that He is going to send judgment upon the people of Judah in the form of the Babylonian (read Iraqi) army - well known at that time (about 2,600 years ago) as ruthless and merciless.
So how did Habakkuk deal with this situation? First of all, he wasn't afraid to vent his feelings to God! But then, he listened to God! Finally, he acknowledged God's sovereignty and justice. The closing words of his prayer of faith (Chap.3) are amazing. "Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, Aand there be no herd in the stalls - Yet I will rejoice in YHWH, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The YHWH Eloah is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet,And He will make me walk on my high hills." (Hab 3:17-19, NKJV)
This wasn't a change of circumstances. It was a change of the man in the circumstances! And that is, so often, the way in which God works. Jesus certainly made it clear that following Him would not make life into a bed of roses - and the experience of persecuted believers in North Korea, China, Vietnam, parts of India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and more than fifty countries around the world, today, would certainly bear that out. Yet, still, people in these countries are accepting the Gospel of Jesus in increasing numbers. As one of the early church fathers is reported as having said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed-bed of the church."
As we in "the West" face up to our financial crisis; as we face our personal crises on a daily basis; may we be found, like Habakkuk, rejoicing in the Lord, knowing that, for those who have placed their trust in Him, all things really do work together for good. (see Rom.8:28)
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Beijing pastor ‘Bike’ Zhang Mingxuan’s brief respite from harassment has ended abruptly: he has been arrested, his house church has been shut down and his son brutally attacked.
After months of systematic persecution around the Beijing Olympics, Pastor Bike was allowed to return to Beijing in late-September, after an ‘enforced vacation’ in Hebei province, and worship with his house church in peace.
But this respite was short-lived. On October 16, Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials raided Pastor Bike’s home and beat his oldest son, Zhang Jian, with iron bars for 25 minutes. Officers then threw the family – and all their furniture – out of their rented flat.
When Zhang Jian’s mother Xie Fenglan called an ambulance, the receptionist told her she was not allowed to dispatch an ambulance for Zhang Jian because he was a relative of Pastor Bike. Zhang Jian, whose right eye may have been blinded in the attack, has discharged himself from hospital, despite needing surgery, because he fears for his safety. On October 22, Pastor Bike rang his son to say he had been detained – but was not allowed to say where. His wife and sister are now being held at a PSB-run hotel in Beijing.
Police have also sealed the door of Pastor Bike’s church and blocked it with two truckloads of rubbish. Its electricity supply has also been cut – and all this despite assurances from the PSB last month that he was free to worship. Pastor Bike is president of the Chinese House Church Alliance.
(Source: China Aid)
• Ask God to heal Zhang Jian physically – and fill him with His peace.
• Pray that influential members of the Public Security Bureau will again look favourably on Pastor Bike and his family – and leave them to worship in peace.
Sunday, 26 October 2008
There was also a speaker, and a presentation, and I learned that just one unit of my blood could save the life of a number of prematurely-born babies and, of course, help to save the life of a child or adult going through an operation – emergency or otherwise; or someone whose blood doesn’t have the same “shelf-life” as most of us; or an older person whose only desire is to see the birth of a first grandchild, or the wedding of one of their own children; or extend the life expectancy of a child who is suffering from a terminal condition, but wants to enjoy a particular experience while still able.
This morning, at Liberty Community Church, we gathered around the Lord’s Table – as we do every week. There we ate a little bread that reminded us of the broken Body of the Lord Jesus, and that was followed by some grape juice that reminded us of the Blood that He shed, for us,, on the Cross at Calvary.
And that is this evening’s thought. I give a unit of my blood, roughly every three months, and I may help to save the physical life of one individual. I do this voluntarily, and receive no more than a cup of juice and a biscuit at the end. But all I can ever do is be part of the saving of a single human life. Even with my (now) 80 donations, only a relatively small number of people can be helped. And, of course, not everyone who received my blood is going to survive whatever it is they are going through.
The apostle John assures us that “… the blood of Jesus … cleanses us from all sin” (I Jn.1:7). Jesus’ blood can bring forgiveness, and eternal life – that begins the moment we accept His offer of salvation. And His Blood is effective for every man, woman, and child who looks to Him for help.
Of course, when my name was called out, I had to make the move to collect my award. It wasn’t brought to me. And although the blood of Jesus is so powerful in its effect, it is only so for those who make the move and accept it. He will never force it on us.
There’s only one way in which you and I may approach a Holy God Who cannot look on sin – and that’s if we come to Him, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus: washed in His blood.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
A prayer by Max Lucado - October 2008
Our friends lost their house;
The co-worker lost her job;
The couple next door lost their retirement;
It seems that everyone is losing their footing.
This scares us. This bailout with billions.
These rumblings of depression.
These headlines: ominous, thunderous -
"Going Broke!" "Going Down!" "Going Under!" "What's Next?"
What is next?
We’re listening. And we’re admitting: You were right.
You told us this would happen.
You shot straight about loving stuff, and worshipping money.
"Greed will break your heart", You warned.
"Money will love you and leave you. Don’t put your hope in riches that are so uncertain."
You were right. Money is a fickle lover and we just got dumped.
We were wrong to spend what we didn’t have.
Wrong to neglect prayer and ignore the poor.
Wrong to think we ever earned a dime. We didn’t. You gave it.
And now, tell us Father, are You taking it?
We’re listening. And we’re praying.
Could you make something good out of this mess?
Of course You can. You always have.
You led slaves out of slavery,
Built temples out of ruins,
Turned stormy waves into a glassy pond and water into sweet wine.
This disorder awaits your order. So do we.
"God will always give what is right to His people who cry to Him night and day, and He will not be slow to answer them." (Luke 18:7)
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Death, it has been said, is the great leveller. It comes to each and every one of us. The peasant in his hovel, and the king in his palace, are both subject to it. There is no escape; no place to hide from “the grim reaper”. Perhaps that is why it is feared by so many – we recognise its inevitability, and its mystery. I suspect that that is also why, when we are obliged to speak of it, we prefer to use euphemisms such as the person having “passed away”; been “lost”; even having “kicked the bucket”!
The Bible makes no such attempt to avoid the “D” word. Speaking to Joshua, YHWH states clearly: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel.” (Josh 1:2). Old Eli, who trained the great prophet, Samuel, was told, bluntly: “… your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead;” (I Sam 4:17). The Lord Jesus didn’t mince His words either. Speaking to the disciples, we read that He “… said to them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead'.” (John 11:14).
One of the smaller booklets on my study shelves has the intriguing title “Death with a steady eye”. Its basic message is that, for the Christian, physical death is nothing to be feared. We can meet it, and face it, with our eyes open. The reason for this is, of course, that Jesus has already conquered death and, if we are truly His, then we share in His victory.
Until the Lord’s return – whenever that may be – each one of us will have to face up to the fact of our mortality. The important thing is to be certain that we can face it “with a steady eye” – by having placed our trust, unreservedly, in Jesus. If I can be of any help, please leave a comment (that will not be made public!) and I’ll be happy to do what I can.
Friday, 10 October 2008
“God isn’t as interested in my ability as in my availability” (Anon.)
“No matter how many smiles I give away, I always have one more “ (Me!!)
“Church is not something we go to; rather it’s something we belong to.” (Rick Warren)
“Either we trust God, or we play God” (Word for Today)
“We know that, in everything, God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose” (Paul; Rom 8:28)
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Three more believers were martyred and twelve others were severely wounded in a fresh wave of violence in Orissa, India, on September 30. The latest attacks occurred in villages near Kandhamal, which has been the epicentre of violence against Christians since August 22.
The violence in Orissa came as attacks in two other Indian states targeted a Christian pastor and a Bridge of Hope centre.
An estimated 30 Christians have been killed and thousands of others have lost their homes since Hindu extremists went on a rampage after their leader, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati was murdered. His followers are seeking revenge for his death, for which Christians have been blamed. However, Maoists have claimed responsibility for the murder.
A Gospel for Asia correspondent in Orissa said Tuesday's attacks came at 4:30 a.m. when mobs of as many as 5,000 Hindu extremists attacked three separate villages. The extremists burned down about 150 homes and three churches. The Indian media reports that police opened fire in an attempt to disperse the violent forces.
The mob also reportedly attacked the local police station, demanding that two people arrested in connection with the ongoing riots be released. Media reports from within the country also indicate that the extremists have blocked all roads in and out of the area of the attack with rocks and boulders to prevent police from bringing in additional forces.
Since the violence began August 22, six people who attended GFA-related churches in Orissa have been killed by the Hindu extremists, who have personally attacked more than 2,000 believers from these churches. The extremists have also burned down 630 homes belonging to believers who attend GFA-related churches and destroyed 22 churches where GFA missionaries serve as pastors.
Many Christians are still hiding out in the dense jungles surrounding their villages. They are suffering from the effects of starvation, disease and monsoon flooding that wrecked the state in September.
With the continued violence and the roads blocked, it is impossible for GFA Compassion Services teams to get into Orissa to distribute aid.
Missionary Beaten in Uttar Pradesh
Gospel for Asia missionaries are also dealing with persecution in Uttar Pradesh, where Hindu extremists have attacked a pastor and have set their sights on a Bridge of Hope centre.
On October 1, the extremists attacked a Bridge of Hope centre and a church in Magapatti, Uttar Pradesh. The pastor of the church, who is a GFA missionary, was badly beaten in the attacks.
Hindu extremists continue their campaign to obliterate Christians in Orissa, India. On Tuesday, they destroyed another 150 homes like this one, along with three churches.
The extremists have been systematically threatening the parents of the children in the Bridge of Hope centre for the past few weeks. The centre was closed as a precaution and no children were on site when the extremists attacked the missionary.
Christian Aid Workers Forced Out of Bihar
Another gang of anti-Christian extremists forced out Christian aid workers attempting to help survivors of flooding in Bihar. The incident occurred on September 25 in the state's Purnia district where aid workers were assessing needs and handing out cards for people to exchange for supplies. The group was planning to help at least 2,500 families.
The extremists accused the group of taking advantage of the situation to lure the people into Christianity by offering relief materials.
The aid workers, who have been in Bihar since September 1, were able to move their base to another area and continue operations.
GFA missionaries in the affected areas shared the following prayer requests:
Please pray for the families of those killed in Orissa, that they would be comforted by the Word of God and that they would remain strong in the midst of intense persecution.
Pray for those wounded in Tuesday's attacks. Several of them have life-threatening injuries and are not expected to live. Pray for their healing and that it would be a testimony of God's glory.
Pray for the people hiding in the jungles and those living in relief camps. Pray especially that God would provide a way for Compassion Services teams to reach them.
Pray for healing for the missionary in Uttar Pradesh.
Pray that the Bridge of Hope center in that community would be able to reopen and that the children could go to school without fear.
Pray for the many Christian organizations attempting to distribute relief supplies in Bihar.
Pray for the extremist and militant groups who are opposing the Gospel to come to know Jesus as their Saviour.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
It’s quite a concept. And it’s one that is basic to the life of the Biblical Christian (not that there is really any other!!). Indeed, it is Jesus Himself Who provides what we might term a “contract for commitment” – you’ll find it in Dr Luke’s account of the Gospel, at what we refer to as Chapter 14, verses 25-35.
If you read that section of the New Testament, you’ll notice that it concerns the terms He asks. There are certain conditions that must be met if we are to be considered true disciples of Jesus. The first of these is that we must have absolute loyalty to His Person. No matter how strong and deep our love for those closest to us in our human relationships, our love for Him must make that love appear to be like hatred by comparison! Our relationship with Him must take priority. And, linked to that is identity with His purpose. That purpose, in its essence, was to bring new resources into mankind’s situation through His great sacrifice at Calvary. So where do we fit in? Well, Liberty Community Church is currently going through a series of lessons on “40 Days of Community”. Part of the teaching is that we look out for one another – and that includes the “others” whom we know who do not know Jesus, the Christ, as personal Saviour, Friend, and Lord. If our line is that we “can’t be bothered” about others, then we are not committed to Jesus – we are not His disciples.
But this contract for commitment also has to do with the tasks to which He calls. There are two basic tasks, the first of which is building. It’s the story of a man who wanted to build a tower. But, before doing so, he carefully made up a list of all of the materials that he would require, worked out the cost, and checked his bank balance in order to confirm that he had sufficient funds. The one who is committed to Jesus undertakes to build a tower – of love and compassion; of service and sacrifice. And such a one must consider the cost – a life of self-denial and watchfulness. But not only are the committed disciples faced with the task of building. We are also faced with battle. The Christian life is always a conflict – and Jesus promised nothing less. If we take a truly Christian stand, then we may be assured that we will make enemies. We need to be good-quality soldiers, committed to our Commander-in-Chief Who is Jesus and Who, by His own death and resurrection, has already gained the victory for those who are committed to Him.
The last thing we may note in those verses from Luke 14 concerns the truths of which He warns. Jesus states two particular truths, the first of which has to do with the quality discipleship requires. "Salt”, He says, “is useful only while it retains its saltiness.” But if salt loses this essential quality, how is it going to be restored? So, in discipleship. This commitment is an essential quality – Jesus Himself says so! And He speaks, too, of the disaster uselessness invites. We may “sign the contract”, as we go through the waters of baptism; or as we come into membership of a particular fellowship of God’s people – and then quietly opt out of any form of service, or even involvement. And, as soon as we do, we become useless – as useless as a handful of tasteless crystals would be to season a pot of soup!
Christian commitment – it’s not for the faint-hearted. But for those who do commit themselves, body, mind, and spirit, to the Living Lord, there is the assurance of His Presence throughout the whole of this life – and throughout eternity itself; power, through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit; and the wonder of the parenthood of Almighty God. It’s not easy – but it’s well worth it!
Sunday, 28 September 2008
In a world that’s full of sorrow; so much trouble everywhere.
Many fearful for the future; other folk who just don’t care.
It’s a story that depresses; causes sorrow, hurt, and pain.
But the story isn’t ended, for the Lord will come again.
Once He walked this earth so humbly; clothed in flesh, as mortal Man.
Teaching of the Father’s mercy, and His great eternal plan.
For His love is overwhelming; full salvation’s ours to gain.
And the story isn’t ended, for the Lord will come again.
’Though they led Him up to Calvary; crucified Him on the tree;
’Though He gave His life so freely; suffered death for you and me;
’Though His death is all-sufficient, cleansing us from sin and shame;
Yet the story isn’t ended, for the Lord will come again.
’Though His friends so gently laid Him in a tomb ne’er used before;
’Though they rolled a stone to seal it; placed it like a mighty door;
Not e’en death could hold Him captive; in the tomb He’d not remain;
And the story isn’t ended, for the Lord will come again.
Yes, He rose, o’er death triumphant; ascended to the Father’s side;
Sent the Spirit to be with us, that in us He might abide.
And the trumpet soon shall echo; and His folk with Him shall reign.
Still the story won’t be ended – for the Lord has come again!
Friday, 26 September 2008
One of the things that I will miss now that I no longer have to travel regularly to Jordanhill to work on my dissertation, is passing Balshagray Parish Church’s building. They regularly have the most interesting posters outside. The one that was displayed this morning as I went to collect the copies of the dissertation (that has been accepted!!) was a play on that advertisement. It read “This is not just hope; it’s Christian Hope!”
So what is special about Christian Hope? Well, I would suggest that it’s a hope that liberates – that sets free; it’s a door. Through the mouth of the prophet Hosea, YHWH said, concerning His people Israel: “I will … make the valley of Achor a door of hope.” (2:15). The Valley of Achor was the place where Achan took some of the wealth of the destroyed city of Jericho, against the Divine command. He, and his family, and his property were destroyed in that valley. Yet, this very place, that was the scene of Achan’s sin and shame, and of Israel’s defeat, was the very place that YHWH gave to His people as a door of hope.
How often God points us back to our own ‘Valley of Achor’ – to the place where we have already failed and fallen. And He says, “There’s your door of hope. Go back, and try again.” And those who go back, in His strength, are enabled to write a new memory upon the old shame. As someone has said: “Our God is the God of the second chance”!
But Christian hope also protects – it’s a helmet. It’s part of the armour of the Christian (see I Thess.5:8; Eph.6:17), preventing him from being struck down. One of the social reformers of an earlier age, John Howard, said, “There is a hope set before me. In the Lord Jesus Christ I put my trust. In many instances God has disappointed my fears, and exceeded my hopes.” And the hymn-writer, Edward Mote, expressed himself in these words: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
When the shallow hopes of the world – currently demonstrated by the financial, social, and political chaos in which so many of us find ourselves – are all dead, we may hope in God. And the pledge of that is on a hill outside a city wall where, in the Person of the Son, Almighty God died the death that man deserved, and deserves.
And Christian hope holds – it’s an anchor. And that anchor is the unchangeable character of God. As long as we have that hope in our hearts, life cannot destroy us; it may hurt us, but it won’t be able to break us; as long as it holds out, we may weather the roughest storm.
That hope is an anchor, sure and steadfast, and immoveable; it is the attitude of the one who has gazed upon the face of God the Father, as He has revealed Himself in Jesus “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb.13:8).
So what sort of hope do you have? The worldly sort: uncertain, vague, desire with only a slight possibility of fulfilment? Or do you have Christian Hope – that God-given hope inspired by the Father, founded on the Son, sustained by the indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit? You see, it’s only where there’s Christian hope that there’s real life!
Saturday, 20 September 2008
As I see it, “spiritual healing” can be obtained from any powerful enough spiritual force. The problem here is that not every spiritual force is able to be referred to as benign. I remember well making the discovery (many years ago!) that the devil can counterfeit all of the gifts of God the Holy Spirit. However, what he is totally incapable of doing is counterfeiting the fruit of God the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). That is why I am always wary of accepting someone simply on the basis of their apparent spiritual gifting. Even Jesus recommended that course of action (Matt.7;16)! And, of course, just a few sentences further on, the Lord is recorded as having said that there would be those who, on the Judgement day, would say that they had even performed miracles (including, I imagine, miracles of healing) in His Name – who would not be owned by Him. (v.22). Perhaps it is by our fruit that even He will know us??!
Another commonly-used term is “faith healing”. The problem that I see here is that the emphasis is placed on the faith of the recipient. Now, I am well aware that there were occasions on which the Lord Jesus, Himself, seems to have responded to – and even expected – an element of faith. I think of the two blind men whose healing is recorded in Matt.9:27ff. It is, Jesus says, “Because of your faith …” (v29) that the healing was granted. However, I also think of the leper, whose story Matthew records just a little earlier. In Matt.8:1-3 we discover that the man recognised that if Jesus was willing, He could make him whole. Jesus was willing – and the man’s leprosy disappeared! Faith in the Lord is certainly useful, but it is He Who heals – regardless of the level of that faith. I love the honesty of the man who said to Jesus “I do believe (have faith), but help me overcome my unbelief (my lack of faith)” (Mark 9:24). But I love even more, the Lord’s gracious response!!
So, for me, the only acceptable term is “divine healing”. This allows all of the credit, and all of the glory, to go to the Lord Himself. It is a recognition that all healing comes from Him, and Him alone. That, as the old medics used to admit, “We set the bone; the Lord does the healing.”
So why, then, does not everyone for whom healing is requested, in the Name of Jesus, with genuine faith, and with a recognition that all is of Him? Sadly, since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, physical death has been part of our mortality. We simply cannot live forever in these bodies (although, for those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus, there is a glorious resurrection body to take its place). And, of course, if we believe in the Sovereignty of God, then we believe that He knows best, and will always do what is best for us. Paul could say that to be with Christ (after physical death) is “… far better …” (Phil.1:23); and Jesus went to the Cross, even ’though He knew what that experience of human death would be for Him.
Rom.8:28, 38-39, seem appropriate words on which to end a somewhat longer post than usual. May each of us be found, regardless of our state of health, or our circumstances, praising Him, and giving Him all glory and honour.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
It’s only a tiny piece of bread, but it speaks of a God above
Who came, in the Person of the Son, to show how great His love.
It’s only a tiny piece of bread, but it speaks of atoning death
As Jesus completed His earthly work, and breathed His last human breath.
It’s only a tiny piece of bread, but it speaks of new life for me.
It reminds me of all that Jesus did, on that cross, at Calvary.
It’s only a little cup of wine, but it speaks of the Saviour’s blood
Shed on that cross, for all mankind; fulfilling the sacred Word.
It’s only a little cup of wine, but it speaks of the mighty flow
Of the mercy of God, to a sinner like me, and the grace that e’en I might know.
It’s only a little cup of wine, but it speaks of great sacrifice
As it spurted from head, hands, feet, and side; and the soldiers threw their dice.
It’s only a tiny piece of bread, and a little cup of wine;
But, each time I partake, I rejoice once again, in His wonderful love divine.
He had gone to London to a major work-related conference and, at dinner, everyone was asked to make themselves known to five strangers. When the meal was over, Stuart made his way towards a group of men in order to introduce himself. Of course, being at a conference, he already had a name badge on and, as he approached the group, one of the other men spotted him and greeted him with “Hello, Stuart. Good to meet you at last!” Seeing Stuart’s mystified look, he explained “I’m **. We’ve worked together on some contracts.”
Stuart suddenly realised what had happened. He has, he informed us, a colleague in the Edinburgh office of his company, who is also named Stuart Taylor and who even celebrates his birthday just a couple of days away from (my!) Stuart. This was simply a case of mistaken identity!
However, Stuart made a very relevant, and vitally important, point. He pointed out that this man knew his name, but that he didn’t know him! As we had been concentrating, this morning, on the Name of Jesus, he reminded us that it is very easy to know that Name, and to be able to provide a lot of information about Jesus; but not know Him in a personal way.
I trust that, as you read this blog (and not simply this post!), you will learn much about Jesus, and His wonderful offer of salvation to a sinful mankind. But I trust that you will also come to a personal, saving knowledge of Him that will enable you to declare that He is your Saviour, your Lord, and your Friend.
Thursday, 11 September 2008
His eight-year-old son sees the camp from his bedroom window, but thinks that it is a farm. However, he is unable to understand why the workers are all wearing their pyjamas! Eventually, and in spite of having been forbidden to even go into the area behind the house, he finds himself outside the perimeter fence. Opposite him, is another boy – wearing the striped pyjamas that were the “uniform” of the camp’s inmates. This boy is also eight years of age – but he is a Jew!
As the film unfolds, the Nazi officer’s son comes to realise that, in his native country, Jew and German are not supposed to be friends. However, the somewhat harrowing conclusion of the story has the two boys holding hands, totally unaware of the fate that awaits them both.
For us, the story was a wee bit slow at times, but the ending was quite emotional, and the whole film was a reminder of the horror of the Holocaust – the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish race. There is an insight, through the glimpses of the lessons provided by the German boy’s tutor (who also tutors his twelve-year-old sister) to the kind of propaganda that was delivered in German schools of the period; and the changes in the sister show how well such propaganda was able to do its work. The use of propaganda film is also included and, having seen some of it, the German boy is fooled, and even looks for the pleasant scenes from the camp when he eventually manages to enter it himself!
This is a film that would be better viewed more than once. It is only as I have reflected on it over a couple of days that I have begun to realise how many strands have been followed in it. I would have liked it to have brought in some element of the concept of sacrifice; of the cost, to a father, of his only son; of forgiveness; of restitution; of reconciliation; and other specifically Christian messages. However, part of the benefit of the film as it is, is that it may well allow Christians to interact with non-Christian friends, and to raise some of those issues in their own way.
I would commend the film to anyone who has the opportunity to see it, and am grateful to have had that opportunity myself.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
The Church, in New Testament terms, is people – people who have made a conscious and deliberate decision to commit their lives to following, and serving, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the saints who do not require any form of canonisation by any particular denomination, but who are made holy by the cleansing blood of the Lamb, shed at Calvary.
Just as we may find a number of descriptions of the Christian within the pages of God’s written Word, so there are a number of descriptions of the Church. One of these is a Body. Indeed, we are told, quite clearly, that the Church is the very Body of the Lord, Jesus Christ. (Rom.12:5; I Cor.12:27)
Of course, apart (possibly!!) from an amoeba, or some other such creature, a body is made up of a number of parts. My human body has a head; a torso; legs; arms; feet; hands; internal organs; etc., etc. And the Church is no different! “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body . We are many parts of one body, …” (Rom 12:4-5; see also I Cor.12:12ff).
The Church is a body that, similarly to the human body has many parts, each with its own function. The nose is a very useful organ if I want to check whether, or not, food is fresh; or if there is an unlit gas tap turned on; or even if the person beside me on the bus has been perspiring! However, it isn’t of much use if I want to consume a bowl of soup – my hands are much better at holding a spoon! And there are many parts. Can you imagine a six-foot tall nose making its way down your street? The nose isn’t going to get anywhere without the rest of the body. And while it might make the next majot news-bulletin, such an unattached appendage isn't going to be capable of very much!
So it is with the Church. Each of us is given different giftings and talents; but each of us also depends on the others in order to fulfil the task(s) to which God has called us. Unity in diversity; diversity in unity. Not everyone is called to be a preacher; an evangelist; a teacher; even a Christian blogger! But I think of one dear lady in Liberty CommUNITY Church. She’s unlikely to ever lead from the front; or bring the message at the Family Service (although we must never seek to limit what God can do in, and with, any one of us!). But she has an amazing memory for dates, and does a superb job in sending cards to church members, on behalf of the Fellowship, on their birthday anniversaries; and she’s always involved in serving the refreshments in the interval between the two morning services. Not the highest-profile ministry – but we would miss her greatly if she wasn’t there, faithfully serving the rest of the Body,
as the Lord has enabled her.
So, if you’re a disciple of Jesus, please ensure that you are an active part of the Body – and that means being part of a local expression of that Body, where your specific contribution can enhance the whole, and where the whole can make your specific contribution more effective.
May you know the Presence, and the power, of the Master, in all that you do.
Sunday, 31 August 2008
The theme of the first service was that very faithfulness of God, and Ian Smith reminded us of many of the areas of life in which we may experience it. (He also, by the way, pointed out the need for us to be faithful in all of our activities, relationships, service etc.)
However, my mind was working overtime. I recalled my days at the B.T.I. and the fact that I received no financial support from the government – either national or local. I was solely responsible for the payment of all College fees, for the purchase of necessary books, and for any personal needs (does any student get through a course without copious amounts of coffee – even if it is as weak as I drink mine?!). Yet I left the College, after two wonderful years, owing them not a single penny. “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
I also thought of my Christian brothers and sisters in the Persecuted Church. Men and women, boys and girls, who suffer the most horrendous privations – harassment, persecution, imprisonment, even death – for the sake of the Lord Jesus. People like Meena: a beautiful young woman with a smile that would light up any room, who lives in Pakistan. In November, 2005, her husband, Younis, was talking to a Christian friend about worship. The conversation was overheard by a Muslim who was participating in a Muslim festival next door. He started to beat Younis, and a mob quickly gathered. The police were called and the end result was that Younis was convicted of blasphemy against the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and sentenced to death!
Meena now lives in a single room, with her four young children. She earns the equivalent of about 70p (sterling) per day, and depends on some assistance from Release International and its partners (see the website – it’s in “My favourite Links – for the full story). Yet, her testimony is simple “… we know that Jesus is with us.” “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
This is the assurance for the true child of God – that, whatever the circumstances or the situation, He is indeed faithful. And He is faithful to forgive the sins of all who come to Him in repentance and faith (see I John 1:8-10).
That song that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, has its roots in the words of the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah – a man who, himself, knew much suffering for his willingness to go against the popular tide, and speak out the word of YHWH. In Lamentations 3:22-23, we read: “Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (NKJV).
May each one of us continue to experience that Divine faithfulness in our own lives, and respond with faithful living for Him.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
So, what is a Christian? This morning, I suggested that Paul gave some very clear indications in his letter to the church in
The apostle gives three pointers in those words. He shows that the real Christian is someone who enjoys a Presence. And that Presence is the Presence of Jesus Himself. Other translations use words like “at hand” or “very near” instead of “coming soon”. And Paul may be referring to the Rapture – the coming again of the Lord Jesus. But he may well be referring to His closeness to the believer. Have you noticed how your behaviour and speech can change according to your company? Who we spend our time with makes a real difference to our character. What better company than the One Who is King of kings, and Lord of lords!?
But a Christian is also someone who forms a practice. Paul is writing from prison – not a pleasant experience in first-century
Finally, he says that the true Christian is one who trusts a promise. He speaks of the adequacy that Christ brings. We know that, in our finances, we need to have more coming in that we spend – or we have a problem. And this is no less so in the realm of the spirit. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” Paul shouts out a few sentences later. We might paraphrase that as “... through Christ Who gives me adequate resources”. We can meet anything that life throws at us if we are “in Christ”. And, of course, He stills the anxieties that effect each one of us, bringing a peace that the world cannot understand – indeed, that none of us can understand.
It’s wonderful, being a Christian in the Biblical sense of the word. If you aren’t one, then please feel free to contact me (through the ‘comments’ facility) for some additional help. If you are, then share it with those with whom you come into contact, day by day. And we’ll be careful to give Father God all the honour and the glory.