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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Letter to The Rt Hon, the Lord Forsyth of Drumlean

Dear Lord Forsyth,
I am writing to you with regard to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill and, in particular, to Clause 126 which introduces a new offence of inciting hatred on grounds of sexual orientation. My main concern is that, unlike the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, this Bill does not have a “Free Speech” clause similar to Clause 29J of the aforementioned Act.
The clear teaching of the Bible is that the practice of homosexuality is sinful, and it is a simple statement of fact that it is unnatural and unproductive. This proposed law would threaten my liberty, as a minister of the Gospel, to express that belief, with a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment. This is, of course, something I am prepared to suffer for the sake of my personal integrity, and of faithfulness to the Lord Whom I seek (however imperfectly!) to serve.
It could be argued that this law would not apply to Scotland. However, it would have an impact on any Scottish publishing or broadcast material that is made available inEngland and, especially with the wide use of the internet, this would apply to a large percentage of such material. The prospect of English Force police officers travelling over the border to question Scottish Christians on e.g. the content of a personal blog, or a Christian radio station broadcast is, surely, totally unacceptable.
It should, of course, be made clear that Christians are not opposed to this proposition because we “hate” either homosexuals or lesbians. All Biblical Christians (and anything else is a travesty of the truth) are enjoined to love them as they must love all of their neighbours. This rules out any personal hatred or animosity towards these groups within society. However, Christian ethics draws a distinction between the sin and the sinner – condemning the former while loving the latter.
It has already been the case that so-called “gay” activists have sought to use existing law to silence those who oppose their lifestyle. I refer you to e.g. the investigation into the Rt Rev the Bishop of Chester, in 2003; the complaint against the Christian Union of the University of Cambridge following its hosting of a meeting, in 2004, in which the Dean of Sydney Cathedral articulated a traditional Biblical view of the practice of homosexuality; and the case of Mr and Mrs J Roberts, in 2005. Such ‘malicious’ activity would only be encouraged if this law were to enter the statute book without amendment. It is interesting that even prominent homosexuals such as Peter Tatchell and Matthew Parris are also opposed to the introduction of this law – on the ground that it signifies a weakness in their cause that it requires the law to, so overtly, support it.
I am asking you, therefore, to support a “Free Speech” amendment to the ‘gay hatred’ crime in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill when it comes before the House of Lords, and to encourage other Noble Lords to do the same.
Thank you, in anticipation of your assistance and support,
Yours sincerely,

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Stop Press!

Aileen and William are now the proud parents of Callum. Go to their blog (hotlink at the top of my list of Favourite Links) for all of the details, and some pictures.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Preshal

This evening I’ve been – with my dear wife – to the weekly praise and worship meeting of Preshal. For over a year, now, we’ve been going along on a monthly basis: Joyce to assist in leading the praise and worship, and yours truly to bring a message from God’s Word.
Preshal is a work/ministry that was started by an amazing woman named May Nicholson. May was a notorious fighting drunk in the notorious Ferguslie Park, Paisley. However, as every true believer knows, the grace of God can reach to the bottom of the deepest pit, and May was gloriously saved when she was 34. The last 22 years have been spend tirelessly working for the Lord as an outreach worker in Ferguslie Park, Church of Scotland Project Worker in Mid Craigie (a deprived area of Dundee) and now in Govan where she founded the Preshal (Gaelic for precious) Trust.
May's biography (Miracles From Mayhem; available from http://www.eden.co.uk/ or Christian bookshops) reads as though she is telling her story, and is interspersed by accounts and comments from other people. The story is so incredible that it needs other people to verify what she says; one of May's doctors, a minister, some of those who come to the Preshal Trust, and The Duchess of Montrose all help to confirm this utterly compelling story.
We really enjoy our monthly visits. The reality of the folk who attend is always refreshing, and to see those who have also come from horrendous backgrounds, is to be truly appreciative of our own family backgrounds, and of the way in which those dear folk enter in, so fully, to the praise and worship of Father God.
Keep a look out for a link to Preshal's new website when it is up and running!!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Fairground Shooting Ducks!

I do enjoy the Home Group of which I am a part! There's something about having the input of other people that gets my own "little grey cells" (with apologies to M. Poirot!!) working so much better. At the end of this evening's get-together, we were thinking about Paul's words to the believers in Rome:
"... shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Should we keep on sinning when we don't have to? For sin's power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through His death the power of your sinful nature was shattered. Your old sin-loving nature was buried with Him by baptism when He died; and when God the Father, with glorious power, brought Him back to life again, you were given His wonderful new life to enjoy.
For you have become a part of Him, and so you died with Him, so to speak, when He died; and now you share His new life and shall rise as He did. Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with Him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body is no longer under sin's control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin; for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you. And since your old sin-loving nature "died" with Christ, we know that you will share His new life."
(6:1-9; TLB)
The trouble with sin, it seems to me, is that as soon as an individual sin is dealt with, another pops up to take its place! As Paul wrote, later in the same letter:
"I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can't. I do what I don't want to - what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. But I can't help myself because I'm no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things.
I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can't make myself do right. I want to but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Now if I am doing what I don't want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God's will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God's willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.
So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?"
(7:15-23; TLB)
It's a bit like that stall at the Fairground, where one shoots at a row of ducks. Every time one hits a duck, and knocks it down, another one pops up!! No wonder Paul seemed to despair. His "ideal situation" in the earlier part of the letter, seems to be contradicted by the reality of his everyday experience. And while I can't speak for anyone else, it's just the same for me!
But Paul was close enough to the Lord to know the final answer.
"Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free." (7:23; TLB)
That's the secret! What I cannot do, He has already done, in Christ Jesus. In HIM, I am freed from the power of sin - but not from its influence. The devil doesn't easily give up on me. He keeps digging away - throwing up sins that are long in the past, and that have been fully dealt with by Father God; using every weakness in my flesh, and in my spirit, to try to pull me back down to his level.
When Jesus hung on the cross, the last recorded words that He spoke were, in the English language translation: "It is finished". In the original Greek language, it was just one word: "Tetelestai!" And this was not the cry of frustration from one who had seen his best plans thwarted. It was not the miserable whimper of one who recognised total defeat. No! It was the triumphant shout of One Who knew that His work was completed; His mission accomplished; His victory assured.
If you know the power of sin in your own life, don't try to fight it in your own strength. Instead, go to the One Who has already conquered; seek His forgiveness for your own sinfulness; and trust Him to set you free, bit by bit, until that "glorious morning" when you shall see Him face-to-face, and be like Him (I John 3:2). Hallalujah!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Prayer

"A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening."
(Søren Kierkegaard: Christian Discourses)

"Be still, and know that I am God."
(Psalm 46:10)

"Prayer is the easiest, and the hardest, of all things; the simplest, and the most sublime; the weakest, and the most powerful. Its results lie outside the range of human possibilities; they are limited only by the omnipotence of God."
(E.M.Bounds)

Saturday, 19 January 2008

What's wrong with having Christians in politics?

For some time, now, I have been in the habit of reading a couple of newspapers online (both environmentally friendly and less expensive!) and have sometimes contributed to one of the discussion forums (threads). Yesterday, one thread (in The Herald) was started on the reports of the conviction of the murderers of Garry Newlove, and his widow's vow to press politicians to make Britain's streets safer.
The first "poster" stated that "The political party that promises to bring back capital punishment, conscription and to erect new prisons in off-shore deserted islands in the north of Scotland will have my vote. Unfortunately, such a party does not exist as yet." and was supported by others. Another poster suggested that the BNP was the party that would meet these requirements, but was of the opinion that the extreme right-wing policies of that party were not the best answer.
I added my own tuppence-worth by pointing out that there was another political party that stood for, among other things, justice for those who could not defend themselves. I was referring, of course, The Scottish Christian Party whose posters during the 2007 Holyrood elections ensured that the written Word of God was publicly displayed all over the country.
But the question is sometimes asked "Should Christians be actively involved in secular politics?" (I say "secular", because I have discovered, over the years, far too many Christian fellowships that are as "political" as anything that the world has produced!)
To answer that, as any such question, we turn to the Bible, and there we find that God is involved in, and often uses, political instruments to bring about His will and purposes. He uses the politics of power to chastise His people in Old Testament times; Moses was not only a great leader, but also a very competent politician; David, too, was a politician of no mean capability.
In the New Testament, Jesus preaches that "The Kingdom of God is among you" - a clearly political statement. He preaches "Good News to the poor" - a clearly political activity. He condemns the political, as well as the religious, leadership of His time (e.g. Luke 13:32).
Christians are called to be both salt and light in the world - but we cannot be that if we keep the salt in the salt-cellar, and the light under a cover. Many Christians feel disenfranchised because they are unable to fully support any of the secular political parties. Perhaps it is indeed the time, in God's plan, for a political party that understands that politics is about service,and that submits, not only to the electorate, but to the direction of Almighty God.
At a hustings in Falkirk, during the 2007 Election Campaign, I stated that an outsider, looking at the nation of Scotland, and the short history of the new Scottish Parliament, might well come to the conclusion that Scotland has forsaken the God of its fathers; the God to Whom the Covenanters gave their first allegiance; the God, in Whose Name people like David Livingston, Mary Slessor, Sir William Alexander Smith, and many others, did the great works that they did. I suggested that it might well be that The Scottish Christian Party has been raised up, "for such a time as this", to proclaim that God has not forsaken Scotland!
I encourage any reader to prayerfully consider offering practical support to The Scottish Christian Party (only in Scotland! There is The Christian Party, and The Welsh Christian Party for the other areas of Great Britain. Outwith GB, please feel free to support the SCP!).

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Irresistible Jesus Christ!

The Irresistible Jesus Christ! Do you know Him?
Jesus Christ, the irresistible, is the King! He’s the King of the Jews! He’s the King of Righteousness! He’s the King of the Ages! He’s the King of Heaven! He’s the King of Glory! He’s the King of Kings! And He’s the Lord of Lords! That’s my King!

The Irresistible Jesus Christ! Do you know Him?
My King is a sovereign king! No means of measure can divide His limitless love! No far-reaching telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supplies! No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessings! Do you know Him?

The Irresistible Christ!
He’s enduringly strong! He’s entirely sincere! He’s eternally steadfast! He’s immortally graceful! He’s imperatively powerful!He’s impartially merciful! Oh, do you know Him? Do you know Him? He’s the greatest phenomenon ever to cross the horizons of the world! He’s God the Son! He’s the sinner’s Saviour! He’s the Centrepiece of Civilization! He stands in the solitude of Himself! He’s august and He’s unique! He’s unparalleled and unprecedented!

He’s the loftiest ideal in literature! He’s the highest personality in philosophy! He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism! He’s the fundamental doctrine of true theology! He’s the necessity of spiritual religion! He’s the miracle of the ages! He’s the superlative of everything good you choose to call Him! And, He’s the only one qualifiedto judge man’s motives!

Oh, I wonder, do you know Him? He’s the key to knowledge! He’s a well spring of wisdom! He’s a door way of deliverance! He’s a pathway of peace! He’s a roadway of righteousness! He’s a highway of holiness! He’s a gateway of glory! He’s the Master of the mighty! He’s the Captain of the conquerors! He’s the Head of the heroes! He’s the Leader of the Legislators! He’s the Overcomer of the overcomers! He’s the Governor of the governors! He’s the Prince of princes! He’s King of kngs and Lord of lords! That’s my King! Oh, I wonder if you know Him? The Irresistible Jesus Christ!

Listen my friends! He supplies strength for the weak! He’s available for the tempted and tried! He sympathizes and He saves! He guards and He guides! He heals the sick! He cleansed the lepers! He forgave sinners! He discharged debtors! He delivers the captive! He defends the feeble! He blesses the young! He serves the unfortunate! He regards the aged! He rewards the diligent! And, He beautifies the meek! Oh, do you know Him?

Do you know Him?
Well, His office in manifold! His promise is sure! His life is matchless! His goodness is limitless! His mercy is everlasting! His love never changes! His Word is enough! His grace sufficient! His reign is righteous! His yoke is easy! And, His burden is light! He’s the Irresistible Christ!

I wish I could describe Him to you ... I really do! But listen! He’s indescribable! He’s incomprehensible! He’s invincible! The heaven of heavens can’t contain Him, let alone a man try to explain Him! You can’t get Him out of your mind and You can’t get Him off your hands! You can’t outlive Him and You can’t live without Him! That’s my King!

The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found that they couldn’t stop Him! Pilate couldn’t find any fault with Him! Herod couldn’t kill Him! Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him! That’s my King - The irresistible Christ!

Listen! He always has been and He always will be! He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor! There was nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him! You can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign! Praise God, that’s my King!
(Author: Unknown)

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Worth remembering!

"No matter how dark the day,God always gives His people the bright light of His promises." (Warren Wiersbe)
"... we don't have to explain the will of God before we can obey it." (Warren Wiersbe)
"Always remember - God's clock is neither fast nor slow!" (Rev. Andrew Macbeath, former Principal of The Bible Training Institute, Glasgow).

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Prayer

I haven't long returned from our monthly Prayer Meeting in Liberty Community Church, and I'd been talking to my good friend Mark as we had a wee cuppa afterwards. This musing is based on some of what we shared together.
When we pray, we are not seeking to change God's will and purpose. That is already set - not in the fatalistic manner that is taught in, e.g. Islam, but because, from His "vantage point" of eternity (which is outwith our time dimension) He sees the end from the beginning. He knows the choices that I will make long before I make them, but my choices never thwart His will. If I am disobedient (or just plain stupid!) and fail to act in accordance with His will, then someone else will do so - but I will have lost the blessing that would have been mine. But He is sovereign, and the fulfilment of His purposes is assured.
So what that means is that prayer is actually about changing me!! It's making me conform to His will so that I will be His faithful servant.
The difficulty is praying. Oh, I can intercede for my family and friends, and for the persecuted church. I can go through the various Prayer Guides that I use. But is that all that there is to prayer? Is it no more than a sort of spiritual shopping-list? The praying that I want to experience is the praying that is the result of an ever-deepening relationship with my Father God. And I'm happy to accept any genuine, and useful, advice!!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Epiphany

Tomorrow, Sunday, is Epiphany in the Christian church calendar. This is the day on which the coming of the Magi (the Wise Men of Matthew 2) to the infant Jesus is celebrated and it is, traditionally, the twelfth day of the Christmas season. The word "epiphany" comes from a Greek root that may be translated "the appearing", and thus refers to the appearance of the Saviour ot the Gentiles (non-Jews). All of this, of course, explains why the Magi are not a genuine part of the traditional nativity play stable scene; nor a proper subject for the traditional Christmas card!! It might also be noticed that there is no mention of three Magi - indeed, the only clue that we have as to the number is that it was more than one!
But the story is recorded, not merely that folk might have scholarly discussions on the meaning of the word, but that we might learn from it. In this wee musing (more of a message!), may I suggest that we may learn from the gifts that Matthew records as having been brought by the Magi - the three gifts that have led generations of readers and hearers to assume that there were three men!
The first gift that was brought was gold - and in giving that particular substance, the Magi were acknowledging Jesus as Master. Gold has been, throughout most of recorded history, the symbol of kingship and authority and, as such, was most fitting for the King of kings - even if a strange gift to bring to an apparently illegitimate Jewish baby! But it is, indeed, the offering that He deserves. It is the very best that man can offer. And it reminds us of the obedience that He demands. This is not merely an infant, but the One born to be King - and not by force, but by love; not from a throne, but from a cross; not over a clearly defined territory, but over the hearts and minds of those who are prepared to, like the Magi, acknowledge His Kingship. This, of course, is no mere lip-service, but total and unequivocal commitment to Him. Little wonder that so relatively few are prepared to accept Him on His terms!
The second gift was frankincense, and this was the gift for a priest. As such, it reminds us that the Magi were acknowledging Jesus as Mediator. This is the great function of a priest - to mediate (be the "go-between") between God and man (using the term generically!!). In other words, the ministry of a priest is one of reconciliation. So the apostle Paul is able to write to the fellowship of Christian believers in Corinth that "... God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people's sins against them." It wasn't God Who fouled things up at the beginning - it was mankind. But only God could bridge the gap, and He did it in the Person of the Son (look out for a future post in which I'll try to explain the Christian doctine of the Trinity!! Definitely worth coming back for!). Of course, a priest doesn't just represent man before God; he is also used, by God, to convey the means of grace to man through the Word and the Sacrament. Jesus, of course, is the "Word made flesh"; His was the broken Body, the shed Blood. All the resources of God are found in Him, and in Him alone. He is the "... one Mediator Who can reconcile God and humanity." (I Tim.2:5).
Master; Mediator, and Man of Sorrows. That was the significance of the myrhh. It was used in the embalming of the dead - and this Infant came to die; despised and rejected by the very people Whom He came to save. We might consider the price paid for us. Not of wealth, or possessions, but the very Life of God the Son, nailed to a cross. We might also consider the promise made to us. In fact, there are many promises made to the true child of God, but I'm thinking of one in particular. As He left our dimensions of time and space, and returned to that "light inaccessible, hid from our eyes" that is beyond our experience and understanding, angelic beings assured the watching disciples that "... some day He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go." (Acts 1:11). That is the great hope and expectation of the believer - not that He revealed Himself some 2,000 years ago, but that He will reveal Himself again, in majesty and power. May each one of us be prepared for His return, and welcome Him with joyful hearts.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Jeremiah speaks today!!

For my private devotions (what older Christians used to refer to as their "Quiet Time"), I've been reading for some time now, in the Old Testament book of the prophet Jeremiah. Over and over again, I've been struck by the relevance of that record for the UK - and many other countries - today. However, this morning, I was particularly struck by a comment by Warren Wiersbe. Writing on Chap. 38, he has this to say: "Sometimes God judges a sinful nation by sending them weak leaders who are hesitant and vacillating and whose leadership (or lack of it) plunges the nation only deeper into trouble. 'I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them' (Isaiah 3:4). The late John F. Kennedy put it this way: 'We, the people, are the boss, and we get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we deserve'."
As I look at the current administration in Westminster, and the way in which the current Prime Minister has acted over recent months, I cannot help but sense that this may, indeed, be part of the judgement of Almighty God on this nation that has, by its unchallenging acceptance of the policies that have been enacted by Mr Blair's administration, with the tacit support of Mr Brown, flown directly in the face of God's Word.
However, the message of Jeremiah is that there is always hope for those who repent, and turn again to the Living God. 2008 has been designated the Year of HOPE by a number of major Christian agencies and organisations. As you have the opportunity to be involved in any of the HOPE 2008 initiatives (www.hope08.com), please do so - and take to heart the words of II Chron. 7:14 "... if my people, who are called by my Name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and restore their land."

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

"I said the man at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown'. He said, 'Put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light,and safer that a known way.'"
"Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future: faith is having the courage to dance to it today." (Peter Kusmic; Christian evangelist).
"Courage is not the absence of fear; it's the conquest of it!" (Bob Gass; Christian publisher)