Important Information.

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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Anticipation

As well as being, this year, St.Andrew's Day, this is also the first Sunday in Advent. By courtesy of an organisation named Damaris - with whom I was put in touch by my friend of many years, Dave Stavely, I hope to have a daily posting during the period of Advent. Of course, there may be the occasional Ross musing as well!!

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

St. Andrew's Day

Today is St Andrew’s Day – the day set aside to remember the patron saint of Scotland (and of Greece and Russia) – Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter; both of them disciples of the Lord Jesus.

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

The same God??

The dreadful news from Mumbai (Bombay), this week, has surely shocked any decent person. We sympathise, as best we can, with those who have been injured, and with the relatives of those who have been murdered.

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

Not another song!!!

Yes - following the rapturous reception of my previous poetic offerings, here is a song that I wrote (many years ago, now!) at the request of my dear wife. It is sung to the beautifully haunting melody of the song The Dark Island. However since, furth of Scotland, not too many people might be familiar with that melody, I've included a live recording of Joyce singing it. The recording took place at one of the concerts I arranged to support the work of (then) Revival Radio - precursor of Revival FM. Joyce is accompanied by a piano quintet in which our elder daughter plays violin (and it was she who wrote this particular arrangement of the music!).



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

What's in a name?

At present, in Liberty Community Church, we are seeking to learn from the Old Testament book of Daniel. It's not the easiest book in the Bible to understand, but is well worth the effort! One of the things that has struck me is something that I've known for years, but that has never before impacted me in the way that it now has.

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

A Helping Hand

It was a number of years ago. The little fellowship in Tullibody, that we headed up at the time, arranged to go to a well-known park in Dunfermline for a Saturday outing. As transport was being arranged, it became clear that we were going to be short of car seating and so, one of our younger men – Dave – suggested that he would cycle the 17/18 miles, and asked if anyone would care to cycle with him. Another couple of young men agreed to do so, and then I was asked if I would travel by bicycle as well. I responded as those who know me well might expect, by saying that I would love to do so, but that I didn’t own a bicycle! “No problem”, said Dave, “I’ve got a spare one that you can borrow”!!


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

Graduation!!

Yes, today was the day! A fairly early start (well, for a Saturday!) took Joyce, Fiona, and me to the Jordanhill Campus of the University of Strathclyde for the Graduation Ceremony at which I had the degree of M.Sc. formally conferred upon me, and received my parchment (diploma).

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.

video

Then my mind began to wander a little! I looked forward to another great gathering when, in the sight of angels, and archangels, and all the host of heaven, I will step forward to receive, not an academic hood, but a crown of glory (I Pet.5:4). I will receive, not “Congratulations” from a University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, but “Well done, good and faithful servant” from the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He will be resplendent, not in a magnificent gown with golden-threaded embroidery, but will be, as John saw Him, “… dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round His chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Rev 1:13-16, NIV).

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

Politically Correct??

This post is largely taken from an article by Chuck Missler - a well-known Bible teacher and expositor - with additional material from a recent article in The Telegraph newspaper

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

Great Expectations!

Great Expectations is the title of a novel, by Charles Dickens, that deals with the themes of gratitude, social mobility, class distinction, and suffering. It came to mind this week, as two political situations came to a climax.
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

Crisis! What crisis?

Like the words, "Beam me up Scottie", that were never actually spoken in the first Star Trek TV series, those words in the heading were not uttered by Prime Minister James Callaghan. They were used by a tabloid newspaper as a headline - but they did seem to express the attitude of the British government at the time. And we certainly live in critical times ourselves, as the world seems to be heading towards financial meltdown.

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)