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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

It's a matter of time.

If I am a musician in an orchestra and have a 100-bar phrase to play, the conductor will not be pleased if I stop at the end of the 99th bar. If I take out a 10-year loan agreement and, at the end of the ninth year, inform the lender that I have completed my payments, then I may well end up in a Civil Court. If I allow someone ten minutes to complete a particularly difficult task, and then stop the clock at the beginning of that tenth minute I will be considered as having acted most unfairly. I was not able to draw my State Pension at the beginning of my 65th year of life, but only when that year had been completed.

None of this is quantum physics/mechanics; it isn't even calculus. It is, in fact, very simple and basic mathematics. So, on the last stroke of midnight, tomorrow, we will not enter the second decade of the third millennium - we will enter the final year of that decade. The decade will be completed at the end of that year.

Let us not succumb to media hype and, lest I do not have time to post tomorrow, or Friday, I wish each and all a peaceful, prosperous, and very happy new year.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Execution; perscution.

The execution of the death penalty on British subject (as a monarchy, we do not have citizens!) Akmal Shaikh has sparked a diplomatic war of words between the U.K and China. I have very mixed feelings about the situation. On the one hand, I am totally opposed to addictive drugs and believe that those who traffic in them should be punished with all severity. On the other hand, I am unhappy with the taking of a human life - whether in the womb, on the battlefield, or in the execution chamber of a Chinese jail.

However, as I read about the strenuous efforts that appear to have been made, albeit unsuccessfully, on behalf of the late Mr Shaikh - whose guilt has not been disputed - I cannot help but wonder why it is that similar efforts are not made with regard to China's poor human rights record as a whole. I think of people like house church leader Alimjan Yimit, recently sentenced to 15 years in prison - after almost a full year in custody - on the apparently contrived charge of having provided state secrets to foreign organisations!

I think, too, of Gao Zhisheng, a human-rights lawyer who in September 2007 sent an open letter to the Congress of the U.S. of A. alleging a number of abuses in great detail and urging international protests. The Chinese authorities responded by abducting Mr Gao and, in a secret location outside Beijing, torturing him for 13 days - holding burning cigarettes to his eyes and nose; electrocuting, and piercing, his genitals; and using other forms of physical abuse. He 'disappeared' again on February 4th 2009 after having been seized by about a dozen police officers. Mr Gao's wife and children have managed to escape to the relative safety of the U.S. of A., but in spite of repeated inquiries from international organisations, the Chinese government refuses to provide any information as to his wherabouts.

There are many encouraging reports coming out of some parts of China, but these two are mere representatives of thousands - if not tens, or even hundreds, of thousands - who suffer persecution to one degree or another, for the simple reason that they acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour, Lord, and King.

Those of us who value the relative freedom that we enjoy in 'the West' should be at the forefront in remembering these brave people - people who, as a follower of Jesus, I am proud to call my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Aliens, evidence, and truth!

As I have stated before, one of the (many!) things that I enjoy about no longer living a life that is regulated by period bells, is listening to the radio for much longer in the morning. (Okay, this morning I would have been on holiday anyway!!).

Two particularly interesting comments were made today. In the ‘Today’ programme, there was an emphasis on science, and science fiction due, in the main, to the influence of the guest editor –Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal. One of those interviewed was Paul Davies, a member of the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Project, and he commented that he did not believe that “ … there’s been alien visitation here on earth in historical times”. Now I am aware that he was referring to something like the “little green men” of popular science fiction stories but, coming just a few days after the celebration, by many, of the incarnation, I found it to be a strangely naïve comment! The birth of the first child of Mary, the wife of Joseph, carpenter of Nazareth, was not the birth of an ordinary human child. Certainly, He was human, 100% human – but He was also divine: God in human flesh. If we widen the concept of alien (as we do when we sometimes refer to people from another part of the planet), then that, surely, was an alien visitation as the Creator, from that dimension that we refer to as heaven, entered that which He had created.

The second comment was in Andrew Marr’s ‘Start the Week’ programme, immediately following ‘Today’. It came from Richard Dawkins, the ‘high priest’ of atheistic Darwinian evolution (or Darwinian evolutionary atheism!). Speaking of the need for evidence, he stated that “There’s a truth that is out there, you can actually discover”. How I wished that I could introduce him to the One, that very same One Who entered our time-space continuum as an ‘alien’, Who stated “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn.14:6).

Over the holiday period, I watched part of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ on BBC 2 television. A line from that Tragedy springs to mind – one that many of these so-called ‘experts’ could do well to ponder: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Act 1, Sc.5). So, too, do the inspired words of the Psalmist: “…the One who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.” (2:4). As I stated yesterday, there is a great difference between knowledge and wisdom. It’s not a lack of evidence that is the problem; it’s a wise interpretation of the evidence that is all around us. (cf. Rom.1:18ff).

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Knowledge, or Wisdom?

Well, that's Christmas over for another year! By the next time it is celebrated - if the Lord Jesus hasn't returned, and if we haven't died from accident, disease, or old age - we will all be a full year older. But will we be any wiser? "Now there's the rub" - to quote Hamlet in a slightly different context!

There are those, of course, who confuse wisdom with knowledge. Yet these are, in fact, different concepts. Knowledge can be gained simply by soaking up information - by reading, attending classes/lectures, completing courses in either academic or practical subjects. It is perfectly possible, however, to have a lot of knowledge, but very little wisdom! I'm not sure how universally-accepted it would be (but please feel free to leave a comment!) but, some years ago, I came up with the 'definition': "Knowledge is what I know; wisdom is the proper, and useful, application of what I know!"

Wisdom may be gained through experience. I may learn how to apply my knowledge - however little, or much - by applying it! But wisdom is also a gracious gift of Almighty God to those who are His children. The Scriptures are full of such instance:

"God gave Solomon great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge too vast to be measured." (I Kings 4:29);

"Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to those who have lived many years. But true wisdom and power are with God; counsel and understanding are His." (Job 12:12-13);

"For YHWH grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Prov.2:6);

"God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him." (Eccl. 2:26);

"YHWH Adonai has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will." (Is.50:4);

"... the child [Jesus] grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom beyond His years, and God placed His special favour upon Him." (Luke 2:40);

"... don't worry about how to answer the charges against you, for I [Jesus] will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply!" (Luke 21:14-15);

"[God] has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding." (Eph.1:8);

"If you need wisdom - if you want to know what God wants you to do - ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking." (James 1:5);

"... the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere." (James 3:17);

"... remember, the Lord is waiting so that people have time to be saved. This is just as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him ..." (II Peter 3:15);

"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and forever. Amen!" (Rev.7:12).

I reckon that that's enough to provide a good Bible Study as we approach the new year! Doing so may well see us increase in Godly wisdom - and thus be enabled to be better witnesses to Him, and to serve Him better, in 2010. May this be the experience of each and all, to His glory.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Crib, Cross, Crown.

I don’t know who it was in the BBC who was inspired to broadcast as a Christmas movie, the film version of C.S.Lewis’ “The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe” – but it was, surely, inspired! The story may have the arrival of ‘Father Christmas’ as one of the signs that the reign of the evil witch is coming to an end, and he is travelling through Narnia handing out gifts. But it isn’t a traditional Christmas story – Biblical or otherwise! It includes so much else, especially the willing sacrifice of the great Lion, Aslan, in the place of the foolish Edmund. It’s a sequence that still brings a tear to my eye as I see the whole story of the crucifixion (and the glorious resurrection!) of the Lord Jesus – the sinless One, dying in my place.

In about an hour and a quarter, I will be leaving to conduct the Watchnight Service in the church in which I am doing most of my preaching these days. And the brief message that I have prepared is a reminder that Christmas is but the beginning of a wonderful story. At this season, it is true that we concentrate on the crib in which the Babe was laid. But if we stop there; if all we ever see is a helpless infant laid on a bed of straw; then we miss so much. Because we must move on; lift up our gaze; and see the cross to which the Saviour was nailed. It isn’t the pleasantly sentimental picture that we have in the traditional (although Biblically inaccurate!) nativity scene. This is now a grown Man, with blood caked on His head and back, and flowing from the wounds of the nails in wrists and feet. Not as pleasant a scene as the one on even the ‘religious’ Christmas card that may be hanging on a wall in your home. Yet even that is not the end of the story. Because the Word of God assures me that the crucified Jesus rose from the dead – victorious over sin, and hell, and the grave. And I am also assured that He is going to return. So we will be considering the crown with which the King will come. Because, next time, He will not appear as a helpless Babe, but as the One at Whose Name “…every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue … confess that [He] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2:10-11).

When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16ff), He read from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The precise passage was Is.61:1-2 – but, strangely, He stops in mid-sentence! The second verse reads “to proclaim the year of YHWH’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God”. However, Jesus stops after the word ‘favour’. Could this be because He knew that He was truly ushering in the time of God’s grace, and that it would be at His Second Advent that He would come to judge the earth and all of its inhabitants?!

One thing is certain: today truly is the time for salvation (II Cor.6:2); tomorrow may be too late!
I wish each and all of my readers a blessed and peaceful Christmas, and trust that as you worship the Babe, you will also worship the Saviour – King of kings, and Lord of lords – and be among those who “… love His appearing” (II Tim.4:8).

Monday, 21 December 2009

Hypocrisy – Copenhagen style!

I should immediately make clear that the heading is not a reflection on the Danish capital city, but rather on the ‘Climate Change Summit’ that was held there, and that has just ended. But why the references to hypocrisy? Simply because I saw so much of it surrounding the conference – in itself, it would appear, somewhat hypocritical as the decisions that were made (such as they were) were allegedly the result of some ‘back-room negotiating’ by just five major countries! It reminded me of my days in education when, from Council level, down to school level, staff were often consulted – and then promptly ignored!


But what really got me more than a little bit annoyed was learning of the cost of this massive ‘jamboree’. I am reliably informed that almost 150 private jets were used to ferry delegates to and from the conference – and I suspect that that that does not include the fuel-guzzling Boeing 747 on which Barack Obama and his entourage arrived. Some 1,200 limousines were hired for leaders (but I would be surprised to discover that others travelled by bus!) – some of them having to be driven hundreds of miles from Sweden and Germany. The cost should be measured, not just in cash (in whatever currency), but in the pollution that was caused by all of that unnecessary travel. Unnecessary for two reasons:


1. There are less polluting forms of transport! Even H.M. the Queen (yes, it really is One!) was seen boarding a train to travel from London to Sandringham for the Christmas break. I am no ardent royalist but, if it’s good enough for H.M., it should have been good enough for the rest – including the current heir to the throne!


2. In an age of technological advances such as the one in which we currently live, there could have been a video link-up with every capital city, or seat of government, in the world. Think how much that would have reduced the carbon footprint of the conference!


As a follower of Jesus, I believe that I have a sacred duty to exercise proper stewardship of this planet on which Father God has set me. Indeed, I believe that the church, as a worldwide entity, missed out in taking the lead in such matters long before the Green political parties made it all so fashionable that every politician, and his granny, jumped on to the ‘green bandwagon’.


“The earth is YHWH’s, and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it.” (Ps.24:1). As a race, I believe that we will have to answer for the ways in which we have abused, and exploited, God’s world. It will take a determined effort on the part of individuals to make any real difference – not the political posturing of those who seem to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think (see Rom.12:3); those who may already “… have received their reward in full.” (Matt.6:5).

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Morals and Contraceptives!

It is reported that, in England and Wales, a pilot scheme is to be introduced next year whereby the Contraceptive Pill will be available from chemists without a prescription. Like doctors, pharmacists will be able to give the Pill to girls under 16 without their parents’ consent if they believe that they are at risk of becoming pregnant.

Surely this is yet another ill-conceived (no pun intended!) idea from this increasingly desperate government! My fear is that many boys will see this as the green light to have ‘unprotected’ penetrative sexual intercourse, safe in the knowledge that no pregnancy will result! What they may not realise is that even the Pill does not have a 100% success rate. However, of even greater concern is the obvious potential for a rapid increase in STDs. Fewer teenage pregnancies may well be a laudable objective – but at the cost of increased numbers of young people (of both genders) suffering from syphilis, chlamydia, AIDS; herpes, and gonorrhoea and all of the others ... ??

Add to this the recent research by Lloyds Pharmacy that informs us that the 'average' person in the U.K. has 7.65 sexual partners in their lifetime (somebody must have 15 just to make up for me!), leading to a potential infection rate of 2,811,024 as disease is spread to each of those people's partners - and to each of theirs, etc.

I would suggest that having the highest teenage birthrate in Western Europe is due more to a lack of Mr Brown’s famous 'moral compass' than it is to lack of contraceptive devices. The erosion of family values (especially under the present government); the lack of parental responsibility; and the high number of children being raised with no adequate male role-model; are all factors that must be taken into consideration.

What is even more disturbing is the statistic that 50% of all teenage pregnancies end in abortion: the deliberate ending of the life of an unborn human being when it is at its most vulnerable.

There is still no successful alternative to the old-fashioned values of chastity before marriage, and fidelity within it. It is a simple, and incontrovertible, fact that if these values were universally practised (even I may dream!), there would be no more STDs and only rarely an ‘unwanted’ pregnancy.

Promiscuity is not all that it is cracked up to be – and may even carry within itself the seeds of its own destruction!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Double Take!

There was a time - not so very long ago - when certain newspapers would publish two juxtaposed photographs, one of a well-known 'celebrity', and the other of an 'ordinary' person whose physical features were remarkably similar and who might, at first glance, be mistaken for the better-known person.

Two of my personal friends fall into that category. Mark is (apart from having a little less hair on top!) a 'dead ringer' of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; while Stuart could esaily be mistaken for politician Ed Milliband, the current U.K. Energy Secretary. Even their voices are not dissimilar as Mark, like the Archbisop is a native of the Principality of Wales, and Stuart is a 'Geordie' (from Newcastle, N.E England), and Ed Milliband, although born in London, seems to have picked up some of the accent from his Doncaster Parliamentary Constituency.

Of course, the opposite is also true - and some day someone is going to think that Dr Rowan Williams is my friend Mark; and that Ed Milliband is my friend Stuart!!

However, what is much more important about both Mark and Stuart is that, as disciples of Jesus, they also exhibit many of His human characteristics. They display kindnes and compassion; they are both full of fun and laughter (yes - Jesus really was like that!); they display great knowledge of the written Word of God; they are very approachable. When I see them, and talk with them, I do see something of the incarnation that we are shortly going to celebrate. I see Jesus in them.

It raises the important question - how much of Jesus do others see in me? It is recorded of former Principal Rainey of New College, Edinburgh, that a child remarked that he must go to heaven every night, because his face shone so during the day. "... we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (Jn.1:14), wrote John of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps the reason why so many reject the Christ of the Cross (while happy to celebrate the birth of the Babe in the manger) is not only that the latter is seen as 'safe', while the former challenges us in our innermost being, but also because He is not sufficiently displayed by those of us who bear His Name!

At this Advent Season, may many do a 'double-take' as they look at us - and wonder if they have just seen Jesus.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Casting stones?

As one of those people who thinks of a game of golf as the ruination of a good walk, I haven’t taken much interest in the ongoing saga of the marital problems that have been suffered by the champion golfer, Tiger Woods.

However, I have been fascinated by the sort of language that he is reported as having used over these past two weeks. It started off, as I recall, with his admission that he had let his family down with his “transgressions”, and not been true to either his “values” or “the behaviour [his] family deserves” with his “personal sins”. He is reported as having said that he wants to say, again, to everyone that he is “profoundly sorry” (reported in many headlines as ‘repentance’), and that he asks for “forgiveness”.

I am obviously unable to comment on the sincerity, or otherwise, of this young man’s words, but they sound more like words from a Christian evangelist’s appeal at the end his message, than those of a ‘superstar’ who has been caught cheating on his wife. Is this the product of an African-American upbringing? Was Tiger Woods raised in a “Black Gospel Church”, where he would certainly have heard the Gospel message preached with power and passion? I don’t know! However, I do know that if he is truly repentant, and can take to heart the injunction of the Lord Jesus to the woman caught in the very act of adultery, and dragged before Him by the contemporary Pharisees and teachers of the Law (haTorah): “Go now, and leave your life of sin” (Jn.8:11), and come in simple faith to the foot of the Cross, then he may claim that forgiveness that is promised to those who confess their sins (I Jn.1:9). I also hope that the use of such language by someone of his public status (however damaged at this time) will make it easier for disciples of Jesus to get the message across that “… all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:20), and that we all need to repent, to lift our eyes beyond the Babe in the manger, to the Christ of the Cross and, like Thomas, fall on our knees and proclaim “My Lord, and my God.”

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Thinking about tomorrow!

So, Mr Darling has given us a preview of the way in which he sees the U.K. finally dragging itself out of the current economic situation over the coming years! I watched some of his delivery of the pre-Budget Report - and was astounded at the glib way in which he spoke of what the (present) government would be doing. I also watched the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, give as good a response as I have heard from him. I was particularly pleased that he was able to pick up some "sleight-of-hand" on the part of Mr Darling when he apparently compared different sets of figures as if they were the same!

I was reminded of the inspired words of James, in his letter to the Church at large. "Look here, you people who say, 'Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.' How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.' Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil." (4:13-16)

All the indications continue to suggest that the Labour Party will lose the General Election - that must take place within the next six months - and what the Chancellor has done is to leave something of a "poisoned chalice" for his successor, whoever that may be. Indeed, as I listened to all of the "difficult choices" that had had to be made, and noticed that they wouldn't take effect until after the election, I had the almost perverse desire that Labour would win another term in office, so that the British people would see the true extent of their mismanagement, and that they might inherit their own 'scorched earth'!

At times like this, I take refuge in the Sovereignty of Almighty God. I believe, firmly, that He is in ultimate control. It's the belief that sustains members of the persecuted church - to whom what we in the U.K. endure would be a pleasant picnic on a beautiful summer's day, in comparison with their suffering. May I suggest that you follow the link

http://www.freegao.com/index.html?refnum=

watch the re-enactment (top right of page), and discover something of what has happened to just one Chinese lawyer? It makes me very grateful that I have not, as yet, been called upon to pay that sort of price. Let those of us who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ be faithful in our support of our brothers and sisters who, so constantly, bear in their bodies, the marks of the Jesus.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Martyrdom - then and now!

I have just received an e-mail from my friend Mark, directing me to the following website that shows an act of reconciliation between the inhabitants of a South Sea island, and the descendants of a Christian missionary who was murdered, and eaten, by the islanders' ancestors. Named "Martyrs' Island" by Presbytarian Missionaries at the beginning of the 19th Century, Erromango (second island from the bottom!) never quite lost its reputation as a dangerous destination. Please click on the link!


Sadly, the murder of disciples of Jesus continues to this day. On Nov. 14, according to Compass Direct News, the body of a 23-year-old Christian convert, Mumin Abdikarim Yusuf, was discovered in the Yaqshid district of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. On Oct. 28, members of al-Shabaab, an Islamic extremist group, detained Yusuf and searched his home for Christian materials. A 15-year-old Muslim boy had accused Yusuf of trying to convert him to Christianity.

In an attempt to gain evidence against Yusuf and to gain information about other Somali Christians, the extremists knocked out all of Yusuf's front teeth and broke several of his fingers. They then shot him twice in the head and dumped his body on an empty residential street. Since it is unknown whether Yusuf revealed information about other Christians during his torture, the 'underground' Christians who knew him have relocated for their safety. Yusuf's Muslim family members are also in danger, as extremists have accused them of failing to report his conversion to Christianity.

Of course, this is just one more instance of people being murdered for no other reason than their confessing that Jesus is their Lord. I am always challenged at the price that these dear people pay for their faith - a price that I am unlikely ever to have to even consider. May it be that, one day soon, their descendants will contact the descendants of these modern martyrs, and seek reconciliation in the Name of that same Jesus, Whose advent we are remembering at this time.
P.S. Don't forget to check out today's Advent Video!

Letter to the Editor

The following is a letter that was published (with some editing!) in The Herald newspaper on Saturday.

Dear Sir,

So the Board of RSB is threatening to resign if they are not allowed to dish out some £1.5 billion in bonuses! Now, there’s a surprise! However, I would wish to add my voice to that of Mr Vince Cable (apparently the only current politician with a modicum of common-sense, and a grasp of finance that goes beyond the ability of a basic pocket calculator!), and encourage the government to call their bluff. It would be interesting to see exactly how many would be willing to put ‘principle’ above their 7-digit salaries, and the gold-plated pension packages that go along with them.

As a tax-payer – who therefore owns, jointly with my fellow tax-payers, a whopping 70% of the bank (soon, apparently, to rise to over 80%) – I was particularly incensed by the reported comment of one of the Board members, that not too much notice should be taken of “only one shareholder” i.e. the government. If this person does not have the financial nous to understand that ‘the government’ doesn’t have a penny-piece of its own, but (all too) freely disburses the hard-earned taxes of a fair proportion of the British public, then he should not even be in the banking industry! Indeed, I will happily this person's place – and do so for a lower salary – as I truly believe that anyone who has lived in the real world, and who has successfully managed his personal finances could not do any worse a job than these people have done; and might even manage to do a slightly better one!

I am informed that at least 5,000 bankers will earn more than £1million this year, meaning that they will be earning more in one year than the average tax-payer earns in a lifetime. The old adage reminds us that “He who pays the piper, calls the tune”. Let Mr Brown, and Mr Darling, as those who represent the piper, insist that these Board members be told exactly where to get off, and offered a brief guide to claiming unemployment benefit!

Yours faithfully,

C.Brian Ross (Rev)


Yesterday, in Calderhead-Erskine Parish Church (both Shotts and Allanton), I made reference to the happiness of the true disciple of Jesus. For so many in our contemporary society, 'happiness' is dependant upon material possessions - how much money is in the bank account(s); how big a car is being driven; how expensive, and fashionable, the clothing and furniture are; how large a bonus is received. But these things may be lost, or stolen - and they will, eventually, disappear! The happiness of the disciple of Jesus comes from the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit, and that happiness is totally independant of external circumstances. This is the testimony of those on the persecuted church, who bear in their own bodies "the marks of Jesus." (see Gal.6:17).

Perhaps more of us should try that happiness that is real joy - a joy that is deep in the heart.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Catch-up video!!

Once again, the Christian organisation Damaris has kindly provided a series of brief videos for Advent. They started on Monday - while I was still offline - so we start with No.4. Be blessed.

I have now realised that Damaris (clever folk that they are!) are automatically changing the video clip each day. I will try to keep this post at the top - but I am not as clever as they are!! Do log in every day throughout the Advent season to watch and listen. You know that it beats the average Advent calendar (and it is completely free of calories!!!)

Okay! Final message on this post! I have now managed to place the Advent videos (reduced in size, but you should be able to access a button at the bottom right, that will give you a full-screen view!) to the side-bar at the left - right above the Ross Clan Badge. The average length is only a minute, so do make use of them.

Parental responsibility.

Well, here we go again! A couple of hours after having regained my internet connection last week, I lost it again. We are ‘up and running’ again and, hopefully, will have no further problems!

Two items of news have caught my eye over the past day or two. The first concerned the ‘guilty’ verdict returned on 18-year-old Stewart Blackburn for the horrific murder of his girlfriend, 17-year-old Jessica McCagh, by deliberately setting fire to her.

The other news item concerned a serious sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl as she walked home in Edinburgh. It is alleged that two youths approached her, on BMX bicycles, and took her into a nearby street where they committed the offence – sometime between 10.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m. last Friday.

Without in any way wishing to detract from the seriousness of both crimes, and acknowledging that the McCagh family have suffered a great loss, I found myself asking a very simple question (or, if you wish, two questions!). What on earth were Jessica’s family thinking when they allowed her to move in, at seventeen, with a boy who appears to have already given some indication of a violent character; and what was a thirteen-year-old doing, walking alone on the streets of a major city, at that time on a Friday night? What was her family thinking that she was allowed to do so? (I guess that that is now three questions!).

The Psalmist reminds us that our “Children are a gift from YHWH; they are a reward from Him.” (Ps.127:1); while Paul tells us that we should raise our children “… with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord.” (Eph.6:4)

Perhaps if more parents were to recognise their children as gifts, rather than as, at best, mini-extensions of themselves and, at worst, encumbrances with whom they are stuck, then the sort of news items to which I have referred would be much rarer that they currently seem to be. I trust that the next British government will do something to restore the concept of family, based on genuinely Christian principles, lest another generation be largely lost through lack of parental responsibility!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Gratitude.

After I don't know how many minutes on the telephone to India, but being assisted by a delightful young lady named Amutra, I think that I have managed to get my Internet connection back! It has gone off again since I last spoke with Amutra, but I managed to rectify the situation - recalling as much as I could of what she had done!

It's been pretty desperate being 'cut off' from the world. As one good friend put it, it's like losing an arm or a leg! Well, okay, not a physical loss such as that - but I knew what he meant. I have taken the 'net for granted for so long; it's been so dependable; a few clicks of a computer mouse and, hey presto (well it is now the pantomime season - oh yes, it is!) I'm in contact with people all over the world; I can check the daily newspapers; I can order consumables; I can check my bank account. The list just goes on and on. However, as my late mum would have said: "You never miss the water, until the well runs dry"!

It made me think of the love, and grace, and mercy of Father God. How often do I take my personal salvaton - paid for with the very life of the Lord Jesus - for granted? God is always there. He is so dependable. And the benefits that I receive from the relationship that I have with Him are beyond recounting - new life; forgiveness of my sins; the assurance that I will spend eternity in His sweet presence. That list is totally unending. "The unfailing love of YHWH never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, 'YHWH is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!' YHWH is wonderfully good to those who wait for Him and seek Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from YHWH. " (Lamentations 3:22-26)

There are many things (and people!) in each of our lives without which (whom) life would not be the same. As we approach the busyness of the mid-winter festival, during which some of us will also celebrate the Incarnation - the entrance of Almighty God, Who dwells "in light inaccesible, hid from our eyes" (W.C.Smith) into our time-space continuum - may we not forget to appreciate all that makes life worthwhile, and He Who is the Giver of all that is good. Let us, over the coming weeks, develop an attitude of gratitude.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity (3)

Having looked at love, and briefly mentioned the Trinity (with link), I want to suggest that the most unique aspect of the Christian Faith is the doctrine of the Atonement. And if the doctrine of the Trinity is a follow-on from the concept that God is love, then it could be argued that the doctrine of the Atonement follows on from both of them.

Basically, the Atonement has to do with the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus, on the cross at Calvary. It is, as Paul states, the most important aspect of the Christian Faith - "I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me - that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said." (I Cor.15:3). Writing to the believers in the city of Rome, he expands on this idea: "For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us." (3:25)

Over the centuries, many theologians have produced many theories as to exactly how all of this works. However, this blog is not the place in which to discuss all of them. Suffice it to say that, because Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, His willing sacrifice of Himself satisfies the demands of the law. When God the Father looks at me, He sees, not my failure to keep His law, but "... the blood of Jesus, His Son, [that] cleanses us from every sin." (I Jn.1:7)

Of course, that sacrificial blood is not effective until I have acknowledged my own sinfulness; confessed it before God; and accepted the offer of full forgiveness and total salvation, that are made available to me. It is in, and through, Him, that I am reconciled to Father God. (cf. Rom.5:10; II Cor. 5:18).

Over my teaching career, I had to study all of the world's major religious belief-systems. But, while there are a number of ideas that are common to some or all of them, the Christian Faith is the only one that teaches that my eternal salvation depends, not on my own works - however good they may be - but on the completed work of the Lord Jesus. When, on the cross, He shouted out the one word "Tetelestai!" , (which may be translated "Completed!"), that was exactly what He meant. The price had been paid; the law had been satisfied; His work was finished.

All of that (and the so-much-more that I have omitted!) is because of His great love for you and for me. In the Persona of the Son, God did for you and me what we could never have done for ourselves. Such love - totally unique.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity (2)

If these were sermon notes, this would be the second in a very short series on why the Christian faith may be considered to be unique. Last night, I suggested that Love (agape) is one unique aspect of the Faith. This evening, I want to suggest that the doctrine (teaching) of the Trinity, is another unique aspect.

There is, in fact, a sense in which the doctrine of the Trinity is a direct follow-on from the concept that "God is love"! This is because love is a relationship. Therefore, it follows that, if God's essential nature (that which makes Him what He is) is love, then God must be in a relationship. Christians believe that the Bible teaches, very clearly, that that relationship is shown in the one Almighty God, revealing Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some time ago (July 4th) I recommended - with some reservation - the novel The Shack. It is a book that makes one think through this trinitarian doctrine - this concept of God being One, yet Three! I also have an audio-message on the subject on my other blog-site (revcbross.blogspot.com) that some might appreciate!

But is this doctrine really unique to Christianity? Most certainly. Judaism and Islam both accept the idea of one almighty God, Who created all that is, and Who is far beyond we mere humans. Hinduism teaches that there are many different 'gods', some of whom reveal themselves in different avatars (I wonder how many people are aware that that word, that seems to be used in some computer games, is of Hindu origin?!). Buddhism has no concept of a divine being of any sort (which is why I have often questioned it being termed a 'religion'!) and Sikhism, while accepting a divine being, concentrates on the Guru Granth Sahib - its holy book. Only Christianity has a Trinitarian (Three-in-One) God - totally unique!

The next post will take this on a little further. Keep checking!!

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity

I still haven't received my replacement modem/router, but discovered an old 'stand-alone' modem, so have regained internet access on one computer!

Yesterday morning, while listening to the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Sunday', I heard a former nun, Karen Armstrong, attribute to the Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism) the statement: "Every single religion teaches the same thing." Then, later, at Calderhead Erkine Parish Church, where have been doing most of my preaching over recent months, the minister who was preaching as Sole Nominee to fill the vacancy there, made reference to the uniqueness of Christianity. It's a vitally important subject and so, over the next few posts, I want to share something of why the Christian faith is, indeed, so different from all other religious belief-systems, that it may be considered to be unique.

This evening, I want to mention Love. Now it is true that most religions have some concept of love - although the emphasis placed on it may vary considerably. However, when we come to the Christian faith, we find that love is absolutely central. Indeed, it is given as the simplest description of Almighty God. Writing in his First Letter, John makes the (repeated) claim that "God is love". (I Jn.4:8).

Two things need to be emphasised. First of all, the love of which John writes is not the erotic, sensual, love of the cheap novel, or the suggestive film, that may be more accurately referred to as 'lust'! Nor is it the soppy, sentimentalised, love of the Mills & Boon type of story. It isn't even the perfectly respectable love of a husband for his wife (and vice/versa), or of parents for their children. John uses a specific word from the Greek language, that is written (in this Roman script) as 'agape'. I well recall my former minister, spiritual mentor, and friend, the late Rev. George B. Duncan, define agape as "the minimum of emotion, and the maximum of evaluation." By this he meant that agape love is more concerned with the value of its object, than with mere 'feelings' - although feelings.emotions are not to be totally discounted. Agape is, indeed, the very love of God Himself.

But it's a love that is to be practised by disciples of Jesus. Indeed, He says to His disciples (now as well as then!) "A new commandment I give to you,, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also may love one another. By this all men will know that that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." (Jn.13:34-35)

The second thing to emphasise is that God is not simply the highest, and best, form of love. It is not as if love is a ladder with us on the bottom rung, and God on the top rung. Rather, John is saying that God is, in this illustration, the ladder. He is, essentially, love. Without Him, love would not exist and, if I may state it with all reverence, without love, He would not exist!

Over the years, I have studied a fair number of belief-systems of one sort and another. But I have not come across any that have that sort of picture of the One Who is the Creator, and Sustainer, of all that is. Love, alone, would be sufficient to show the uniqueness of Christianity. However, there is more - so do return to this site to discover some of its other unique aspects!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Apologies!!

Last night, our modem/router died :-( and so we have, temporarily. lost access to the internet. I am posting this from the local Library but, obviously, this is not a convenient place from which to work as I would at home. The new modem has been ordered, but could take up to 10 business days to arrive!! I am hoping that ours will arrive much more quickly than that but, until it does, I am unlikely to be adding posts.

If you are a fairly new visitor, please take time to look over earlier posts (not all are topical!) or, if you have the time, visit www.revcbross.blogspot.com where you will be able to listen to some studio-recorded messages.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Politics and faith!

During the past week, David Cameron, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition (a strange nomenclature, when it is really her Government that is being opposed!) gave a full and frank interview to a reporter from the London Evening Standard – as reported in The Times newspaper! (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6906219.ece).

During the interview, Mr Cameron spoke about his faith, revealing that he waited until he was 18 in order to be confirmed (the Episcopal equivalent of ‘joining the church’/’coming into full membership of a congregation/ fellowship’) and claimed to be “a questioning Christian”. He has, he claimed, “… a sort of fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments …” and thinks “… that it’s perfectly possible to live a good life without having faith, by which I mean a positive and altruistic life, …” He also thinks that the teachings of Jesus are “… a good guide to help us through.” – although so are “… the teachings of other religions, …”

So, where does this leave Mr Cameron in terms of Biblical Christianity and being a disciple of Jesus? It is certainly good that he is willing to be so open with regard to his personal beliefs – but does what he says tie in with the Biblical picture of what Christian should be? With all respect, I fear not.

A Christian – i.e. a disciple of Jesus – is described in a number of passages in the New Testament, one of which is Philippians 4:4-13. In that brief section, Paul makes three simple points about what a Christian is. First of all, he says, a Christian is someone who enjoys a presence – even the Presence of the Lord Jesus. It makes such a difference who we have around. “Show me your company, and I’ll tell you your character” was one of the many bits of homespun philosophy that my paternal grandmother used to share. And it’s true. The Presence of Jesus is like no other. Different, and constant. He promises to be with His disciples, not just some of the time; not even just most of the time; but all of the time! (Matt.28:20)

But a Christian is also one who forms a practice. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!”, writes Paul. (Phil.4:4) And considering the circumstances in which he was writing – from a prison-cell in Rome – these may be viewed as strange words indeed. But Paul shows us how we may overcome our circumstances. He encourages us to pray, and to praise (v.6). The disciple of Jesus may pray about anything, and rejoice in every situation. Members of the persecuted church in over 50 countries around the world testify to this – and theirs are circumstances that no-one would desire!

The disciple of Jesus is one who also trusts a promise. Such a person is aware of the adequacy that Christ brings to a life. We know peace when we have adequate resources and, in v.13, Paul cries out “I can do everything that is required of me, with the help of Christ, Who gives me adequate resources” (my translation!). And the true believer discovers that Jesus not only brings adequacy, but that He also stills anxiety, as He provides that “… peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.” (v.7).

No other religious belief-system of which I am aware, offers what Jesus offers. But there are conditions. I must confess my own sinfulness (my inability to meet the standard of God's moral law); I must accept that He, and only He, is able to pay the price for that sinfulness; and I must commit myself to Him, making Him #1 in my life. Now, if Mr Cameron, and every other Member of Parliament, were to be in that sort of relationship with the Lord then, here in the U.K., we would have a Parliament of which we could justly be proud, and one in which His Name would be honoured, and His Word obeyed.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Letter published!

After sending the following, last night, my letter (see below) was published in today's Herald newspaper.

Dear Sir,

It was with some dismay - and disappointment - that I read in today's Herald, a letter from Janet Cunningham of Stirling supporting, from a claimed "'veteran' Christian" perspective (although the very term 'Christian' has been sadly devalued over the past decades, so that one is not always certain what an individual means by it!) the production currently available at Glasgow's Tron Theatre, and claiming thatJesus would have approved of it. Is there some form of bias in The Herald that it publishes such a letter, whilst not having published my own of Wednesday - or any other taking the opposite point of view? In the interest of common fairness, I would urge you to now publish my own letter (with a suitable explanation for its tardy appearance) or, at least another one that makes the same points - and that doesn't make the sweeping statement (on a basis that seems to depend more on Ms Cunningham's perceived "new theology" than on any Biblical position that I can recognise) that the Lord Jesus would not have objected to being portrayed as a transexual, and that doesn't believe that the producer should be congratulated.

For your benefit, I append a copy of my earlier letter.

Yours faithfully,

I have acknowledged same, and expressed my thanks. Another letter objecting to the production was also published, together with one rather 'neutral' one.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

More anti-Christ(ian) blasphemy.

The following is the text of a letter that I have just sent to The Herald newspaper. It will be interesting to see whether, or not, it is published and, even if it is, how much editing it will have suffered!

Today’s Herald newspaper contains a report of a demonstration that was held, last night, in the centre of Glasgow. More than 300 people protested outside the Tron Theatre in which a publicly-funded play, that portrays the Lord Jesus as a transsexual woman, was being performed, as part of “… the Glasgay! arts festival, Scotland’s annual celebration of homosexual culture, which receives funding from Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Arts council”. (The Herald, in loc).

This is yet another example of the way in which the Christian faith, and the Christ Whom it reveres, are being mocked, marginalised, and macerated. It’s becoming something of a cliché, but I wonder if the producers, and performers, would be as ready to put on a similar event that would portray Muhammad in the same way?! Somehow, I think that I already know the answer to that particular question!
The one positive outcome of this situation is that it has brought together members of a wide spectrum of people – from members of the Church of Rome to members of Glasgow’s Zion Baptist Church, probably best-known for its former pastor, the late Rev Jack Glass.

As a taxpayer, I object, strongly, to my taxes being used to fund such blasphemous events as this, and the recent ‘exhibition’ that encouraged members of the public to graffiti a copy of the Bible. However, as a disciple of Jesus, I also remember two specific quotations from the Bible. From the Old Testament: “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.” (Deut.32:35; cf Rom.12:9) and, from the New Testament: “Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!” (Gal.6:7).

In more than fifty countries in the world, Christians are being actively persecuted for their faith – harassed; arrested (often without charge); imprisoned (in horrendous conditions) and mistreated; even murdered (seven men recently crucified in Sudan; others, including women and a child, burned alive in Pakistan). Could it be that even this country will eventually see such persecution become common-place? Sadly, there is no guarantee that this will not happen.

The Lisbon Treaty

So, the ‘Lisbon Treaty’ has now been ratified by each of the European Union’s member states. Well, if we are going to be accurate, in almost every case, it has been ratified by the political elite of the member states. Only the Irish had the luxury of being asked in a national referendum – and when the unelected, unaccountable, EU ‘powers-that-be’ didn’t like the answer that was received, the Irish were instructed to vote again. As far as I could see, there was so much spin exuded during the campaigning for the second referendum, that it is little wonder that the Irish reversed their earlier decision.

I have been opposed to the EU since its inception. Even when Edward Heath – a man who, in my opinion, was a greater traitor to his country than Lord Haw-haw – led us into the EEC (European Economic Community), I had voted against. I could not see how the breaking cherished ties with other Commonwealth countries was going to be of any particular benefit to the United Kingdom.

Of course, as anyone who knows me will understand, I am not some xenophobic anti-European! I have very dear friends in a number of European countries and, while I am only truly fluent in the English language, I can get by very well in French, have a smattering of German, a little bit of Dutch, and a little bit of Italian. And, of course, for many years, our main summer holiday has been spent in the countries of Western Europe. I am just one of what I suspect is a rapidly growing number of people who are totally opposed to a European Super-state, in which I, as an ordinary tax-payer, am expected to accept every diktat, even as I fund the blatant corruption of the Brussels-Strasbourg gravy-train.

However, I have recently been wondering about the advice given by the Jewish rabbi, Gamaliel. “…my advice is, leave these men alone. If they are teaching and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God." (Acts 5:38-39)

I am having to ask myself: “Is this ever-expanding, ever-devouring, man-made entity a part of the plan and purpose of God? Is the EU a clear sign that we are in the end-times, when time and history, as we experience them, will be no more?” What is certain is that, climate change, space exploration, or whatever, history does have an end. And was it not Albert Einstein who worked out that time has a beginning, and an end, as well?

So, in opposing the EU, might I be opposing the plan and purpose of God? For me, it’s a big question. For anyone, it’s a question worth considering. My only assurance is that, as an adopted son of the Living God, my future is secure. As one of my cousins states at the close of every e-mail “I don’t do worry, I know the ending!” History, I was often told, is ‘His story’. That story hasn’t ended, but the day is coming, sooner or later, when the heavens will open, the Lord Jesus will return, and Paul’s amazing prophecy will be fulfilled as “…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2:10-11)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Forgive – and forget?

As a ‘night-bird’, one of the little luxuries of my de facto ‘retirement’ is that I don’t have to rise in the morning as soon as the alarm goes off. In fact, it is only on rare occasions that I set the alarm! What I enjoy is being able to lie there, snug as the proverbial bug, and listen to the radio – and there are many very good programmes available, not least first thing in the morning.

Yesterday morning, the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was followed by Start the Week, presented by Andrew Marr (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00njkl6/Start_the_Week_02_11_2009/ if you are interested!). One of the topics was forgetfulness. Now, I don’t want any comments from Cannuckbard re my ever-advancing years. After all, it is only an accident of birth (or, two accidents of birth!) that has me as the eldest in the family, and Cannuckbard the youngest! No, this was quite a serious discussion, the gist of which was that the way in which the Internet holds all information forever, with ever-decreasing storage costs, and simpler retrieval (I can purchase a 2Gb memory stick – the equivalent of 1475 HD floppy discs - for less than what I used to pay for a box of 20 floppies, and retrieval is almost instant!), it is easier to record than to forget.

The problems that can arise were illustrated by examples such as the personal information that is displayed – and stored – on ‘social websites’ (Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). One specific that was cited was that of a Canadian professor who, in an academic article, had confessed to having once taken the drug LSD in the 1960s – over forty years earlier – and who, when a border guard ‘Googled’ him and discovered this, was banned from entering the U.S. of A. for life!

The speaker then suggested that for all of human history, forgetting was easy because it is “… built into us …” biologically! I would beg to differ. Indeed, for decades I explained to pupils that our minds are so wondrously designed that they retain everything that we read, see, hear, smell, and experience. The trick is in triggering a particular memory at the time we need to recall something. And how often do certain situations cause us to instantly recall an event from many years ago?!

We often hear of people being encouraged to forgive and forget, and explaining that, while they may manage the first, they will not be able to manage the second. This is the wonder of the forgiveness of Almighty God. When we come to Him, in the Name of the Lord, Jesus Christ; confessing our own sinfulness, and our total inability to consistently meet even our own standards, let alone His; He not only forgives (I John 1:9), but also casts them away (Micah 7:19). It isn’t even a case of ‘God can forget’, as much as ‘God is the only One Who is able to not remember’.

The internet may well remember all of the information that is keyed into it. But, praise God, His forgiveness makes my sin, in His eyes, disappear forever (see Isaiah 1:18). Of course, that true forgiving and forgetting does depend on genuine confession and repentance. Have you confessed your sin?

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Responsibility?

One of the news items this week concerned the case of Dr Stuart McNee. Dr McNee would probably have gone through life without being known to anyone outwith his family circle, friends and colleagues. However, he was the doctor responsible for the nineteen overdoses of radiation received by sixteen-year-old Lisa Norris, and from which she subsequently died just over three years ago. Dr McNee, after an enquiry by a panel from the Health Professions Council, was found to have shown a lack of competence in Lisa’s treatment – but was allowed to keep his job!

Of course, responsibility and accountability are words, and concepts, that appear to be rapidly disappearing from our culture. Too many Members of Parliament – in both Westminster and Brussels – have been acting in ways that, for most of the rest of us, would be considered fraudulent, and would result in criminal charges being brought against us but, because it is claimed that what was done was “within the [made by us, for us] rules”, no such action is taken. Bankers, who appear to have been responsible for the current recession, are already talking of paying themselves bonuses at a level of which ordinary mortals could do no more than dream – even ’though it was the taxes of such ordinary mortals that allowed their banks to continue, and secured their highly-paid jobs! And don’t get me started on parents! Not all parents, of course. However, there are far too many children getting away with everything from nuisance behaviour, to criminal activity, to promiscuity – with either the tacit approval of their parent(s), or their complete ignorance. Such parents seem to have abrogated all parental responsibility.

Of course, the Bible shows that personal responsibility has been evaded since the very beginning. When the Lord God questioned our first parents with regard to their having disobeyed His clear instruction, Adam blamed both Eve, and God Himself (“… the woman You gave me …”), and Eve blamed the serpent! (Gen.3:12 ff). Many centuries later, king David tried to get out of his situation with Bathsheba and her pregnancy by having her husband, Uriah, brought back from the battle-field in the hope that Uriah would sleep with his wife and then accept that the child was his own. And, in one of the greatest abrogations of personal responsibility in the whole of Scripture, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate “washed his hands” and claimed that it was the mob who were now responsible for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. (Matt.27:22-26).

Each of us will, eventually, have to accept responsibility for our own lives. Those who have not accepted the salvation that the Christ gained for us, at the cost of His own blood, will stand before the “great white throne” (Rev.20:11 ff) and, having no excuse, will be consigned to eternal separation from the Lord. Even those of us who have claimed His righteousness as our own, will stand before the judgement seat of Christ, there to accept responsibility for our actions as professed believers (Rom.14:10 ff; I Cor.3:10 ff).

May all who read these words accept responsibility for their own lives now, that they may enjoy eternity in the Lord’s presence.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Worth thinking about!

The proof of spiritual maturity is not how "pure" you are but your awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to God's grace. - Philip Yancey

Bible study is not merely to inform us- it's meant to transform us. – Anon

God without man is still God; man without God is lost – Anon

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy. – Karl Reiland

Happiness is a direction, not a place. – Anon

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday – and all is well! – Anon

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. – Walter Winchell

I count him braver who conquers his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self. – Aristotle

If you want to feel rich, just count all of the things you have that money can't buy. – Anon

Many of the above are from that well-known 'person': A.N.Onymous. However, if you happen to know the real person to whom any such quotations should be attributed, please advise me (via a comment - click on 'Comments' at the foot of the post, and a new screen will appear, with a box for your comment. If you do not wish to have it published, please just say so!), and I will happily rectify the situation.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Freedom of speech!

One of the more commented-upon news items of the past week was the decision of the BBC to invite Mr Nick Griffin of the British National Party to be a panellist on this week’s edition of Question Time. The programme was underway by the time I switched on but, from the part that I did view, I suspect that it did Mr Griffin and the BNP no harm at all! My reason for arriving at this conclusion – unwelcome as it will be to many (myself included) – is that the programme appeared to be a ‘have-a-go-at-Griffin’ opportunity for both the other panellists, and a large section of the audience.

A long time ago, a very gracious man quoted to me the words attributed (wrongly, I believe) to the French revolutionist, Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This, it seems, is an idea that was foreign to most of the audience, and conveniently forgotten by some of the panellists – in spite of their occasional protestations to the contrary!

My concern is that the very way in which most of the programme came across as a concerted attack on one member of the panel will have provided him with something of a ‘martyr’ persona. This, in turn, may have a certain appeal to the traditional British attitude of supporting the underdog!

Of course, someone has said that a country gets the politicians it deserves. Perhaps the U.K. has so increasingly turned its collective back on its Judaeo-Christian heritage that it is merely reaping what it has sowed (see Gal.6:7).

“…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 heal their land.” (II Chron.7:14). Let us pray!

Marriage

Well, here I am – back for less than forty-eight hours! We had a wonderful time in both Italy and Suffolk and are grateful to the friends who provided such lavish hospitality. Tomorrow, we head off with our caravan, to Beith in Ayrshire and plan to be away until Tuesday. It’s a tough old life this de facto retirement – but somebody has to live it!! :-)

One of the more unusual items of news that I saw on my return to England was a report of a so-called ‘dog marriage’, in which two dogs (well, I suppose it would have been more accurate to refer to either two canines, or a dog and a bitch!) were taken through a ‘marriage ceremony’ in which terms such as ‘take this bone’ and ‘I now pronounce you dog and wife’ were used! Apart from the obvious ridiculousness of the ‘event’, it suggested to me that marriage is again under attack – not, this time, by the homosexual community with its ‘civil partnerships’, but by the mockery of this animal ‘relationship’ that would appear to be more for the perverse gratification of certain dog owners, than for any perceivable benefit of their pets!

“Marriage”, I stated on many occasions, “is a state of life provided and instituted by God. It has been blessed by the presence of Jesus Himself at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. In Holy Scripture it is commended as honourable in all ways, and the marriage union is seen as a symbol of the union of loyalty and love that exists between Christ and His people. It is, therefore, not to be undertaken lightly or unadvisedly, but thoughtfully and reverently, and as before God; and with due consideration of the reasons which it was given to us. It was given for the sake of the life-long companionship, help, and comfort that husband and wife ought to have of each other. It was given so that family life may continue, and that children, who are a gift from God, maybe brought up in the love and security of a stable and happy home. It was given for the welfare of human society, which can be strong and happy only where the marriage commitment is kept and honoured.”

Sadly, it seems (and official statistics would appear to confirm), too many in our contemporary culture and society have no understanding of such concepts as ‘honourable’, ‘reverence’, ‘life-long companionship’, commitment’ and, of course, ‘husband and wife’. Faithful marriage was the backbone of our society for many centuries. It is a matter of regret – and a cause for repentance – that it has been so devalued in recent decades. As a follower of Jesus, I pray that the coming General Election in the U.K. will see an increasing number of Members of Parliament who will be willing to stand up for Biblical values in our society. Let us be faithful in prayer that this might be the case.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

What a difference a letter can make!

It was, you may remember, during the Labour Party Conference – in fact, carefully timed (it seemed ) to take any shine off Mr Brown’s closing speech – that a particular British tabloid declared that it was changing its allegiance from the Labour Party to the Conservatives! Other media were quick to broadcast the news, and to remind readers/viewers/listeners of the headline when the aforementioned tabloid claimed to have been instrumental in ensuring a Conservative victory in 1992 – “It’s the Sun wot won it”! (No comment on the abuse of the English language!)

As I sat at the Communion service at Liberty Community Church this morning, I thought of that headline. All of the pundits seem to be insisting that newspapers do not have the influence on the voting public that they like to think they have. So, whether or not the Sun was instrumental in deciding the outcome of any election is a moot point. And, even if it was, it is a transitory (no ‘pun’ intended!!) situation, the effects of which quickly fade away.

However, in front of me, on the table, were the Communion elements – the bread that speaks of the Body of the Lord Jesus, and the cup that symbolises His blood. Together, they are a constant reminder of His great sacrifice at Calvary when, perfectly sinless, He paid the penalty for my sin. The victory on that day – confirmed when He rose from the dead – has an eternal effect upon all of those who, unreservedly, place their trust in Him, and in Him alone, for salvation. When it comes to that most important event - more important than any election, in any country - we may proclaim, with great joy and thanksgiving – “It’s the Son wot won it”.

Joyce and I head off tomorrow morning to spend a day or so with friends in England, en route for a few days with a GLO missionary couple in Italy, so I may not be able to add any new posts for the next ten days. However, if you haven’t yet done so, may I encourage you to listen to some of the audio messages that you will find at www.revcbross.blogspot.com and, if you are fairly new to this blog, to browse over some of the earlier posts. Not all of them are tied to a particular event/situation!

Until the second half of next week!!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Disciple of Jesus

I came across the following a good number of years ago. I cannot recall the whole background to it, but it was found, handwritten, tacked on the wall of a young African pastor’s home. It certainly makes challenging reading to anyone who believes themselves to be a follower of the Lord, Jesus the Christ. I have made a few very minor amendments.

My Commitment as a Christian

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.

I’m a disciple of His.

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed; my present makes sense; my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognised, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labour by power.

I’m a disciple of Jesus.

My face is set; my gait is fast; my goal is heaven; my road is narrow; my way rough; my companions few, my Guide reliable; my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice; hesitate in the presence of the adversary; negotiate at the table of the enemy; ponder at the pool of popularity; or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up; until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, and preached up, for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.

I must go ’til He comes; give ’til I drop; preach ’til all know, and work ’til He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem in recognising me – my banner will be clear!

I am a disciple of JESUS.

Jesus said, “Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to Me as `Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey My Father in heaven. On judgement day many will tell Me, `Lord, Lord, we prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.' But I will reply, `I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’” (Matt.7:21-23)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Spiritual health

On Tuesday of this week, I had two specific appointments – seemingly unrelated! In the afternoon, I paid one of my regular visits to the gym that I use, and spent a little over an hour going through my usual work-out. I try to do this two or three times each week, as I am aware that keeping my physical body in reasonable shape is a lot easier that getting it into shape after ‘letting things go’!

That evening, I met with a small group of folk from the congregation for whom I am currently doing most of my preaching. We met in order to discuss the practical details of starting up a Bible Study and Prayer Group within the congregation, and I was thrilled at the level of wise discussion that took place on that evening. It certainly looks as if we will have a group commence meeting sometime next month.

Seemingly unrelated – and yet, I believe that there is a very important lesson from those two events. Both have to do with health. My visits to the gym not only keep me in reasonable physical shape, but also ensure that my cardiovascular system (the heart and blood vessels, by which blood is pumped and circulated through the body) is kept in good condition; and that my main muscle groups are toned. In other words, my physical exercise keeps me fit and relatively healthy (there is no ultimate antidote against old age!). And, of course, I believe that it is right that I should keep that which is the temple of God the Holy Spirit in as good condition as possible (further implications re. diet and life-style!)

For the disciple of Jesus, there is the even more important matter of spiritual health. That, of course, is the importance of regular reading of the written Word of God, and of regular communion with Father God in prayer. This doesn’t mean one hour per week, on a Sunday; it doesn’t even mean Sunday worship plus a Bible Study and Prayer Group. It means a daily setting aside of time for Him. It is in the quiet place that we will often hear Him speak to us, and reveal His will for our lives.

Paul put it all much more succinctly when, writing to his young ‘son in the faith’ Timothy, he said “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” (I Tim.4:8)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Friendship

I was the new teacher in the school, and it was a first-year class. Her personal name was Jacqueline – I can’t remember her surname! I had been trying to illustrate some point or other, and had started a comment with the words, “I used to have a friend …” At that point I stopped, put on a sort of ‘hang-dog’ look, and continued “… it was nice while it lasted. Maybe, some day, I’ll find another friend!”

Most of the class seemed to see the amusing side of the statement but, at the end of the period, Jacqueline hung behind as the class was dismissed. “Yes, Jacqueline,” I asked, “What can I do for you?” “Please, sir,” she replied, “I’m sorry you haven’t got any friends. I’ll be your friend”

Well, as you may imagine, it was only my professionalism that stopped me from taking that sweet child in my arms, and giving her the biggest hug that I possibly could. However, I will never forget Jacqueline and her unsolicited offer of friendship, that was genuine and sincere.

I wonder, are you in need of a friend? In the midst of all of the turmoil that is the frequent experience of many of us; even when, sometimes, we think that all we want is to be left alone; Jesus extends His nail-scarred hand, offers to be your Friend, and invites you to be His friend. He says to those who become His disciples, “I have called you friends, for the things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (Jn.15:15). We have a choice – to keep to ourselves, or to open our hearts to a friendship of unlimited love and guidance.

Joseph Scrivens wrote those well-known words: “What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

Jesus longs to be your Friend. Will you respond, positively, and be His? Will you?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A Poem

I don’t normally go for ‘blank verse’ when I write one of my occasional poems. However, in the midst of some clearing out of old paperwork, I came across the following that I wrote – according to the sheet on which it was written – on Sept 9th, 1990!

Blood, blood, blood,
Seeping from a back, raw from the flogger’s stripes;
Running in rivulets from thorn-pierced brow;
Pouring from the wounded side into which the Roman spear was thrust.
Blood, blood, blood.

Life, life, life.
For this was not just any common blood,
But precious, redeeming blood;
Blood of Him Who was, and is, the spotless Lamb of God.
Life, life, life.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
How can I return the love You showed
When, on that day, You shed Your blood to give me life?
Accept my life, given over to Your control
In Whose service is perfect freedom.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The story of Four!

Last evening's Scottish news contained an interesting (or bizarre??!) item about a young lad (although he must be at least 18 years old!) from Wishaw who has just changed his name, by deed poll, to - wait for it: Motherwell Football Club!! As the saying goes, "You couldn't make it up!" Apparently he has taken Football Club as a surname, and Motherwell as a personal name!

However, the news piece reminded me of the story about four other people with strange-sounding names. They were Everybody, Somebody, Nobody, and Anybody.

When there was an important job to be done, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody, in fact, did it! When Nobody did it, Everybody got angry, because it was Somebody's job. Everybody thought Somebody would do it, but Nobody realised that Nobody would do it. So it ended up with Everybody blaming Somebody, when Nobody did what Anybody could have done in the first place!

This is a story, I would suggest, that needs to be understood within the Christian church as much as anywhere else. The most important task of the Church (as the Body of Christ - not any particular fellowship/congregation, or even denomination) is what is often referred to as The Great Commission: "Jesus came and told His disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt.28:18-20).

So that's it! It's good to invite others to our fellowship - assuming that it is one in which the Gospel is preached, fully and clearly. It's better to bring others along - perhaps even arranging to collect them from their homes. But the best thing is to so display Jesus in our daily living, that others will want to come to Him; will ask us how they might do so in a very personal way; and will then become part of a worshipping community where they may be equipped to share the Gospel with yet others!

It's something that, within the Body, Anybody can do. Sadly, Everybody seems to expect that Somebody (else!) will do it. The end result is that Nobody does it.

I think that it was Francis of Assisi who is credited with the advice: "Preach the Gospel at all times - and, when necessary, use words"! Jesus also said,"... let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." (att.5:16). Let's preach the Word!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Promises, promises, promises!

So, as the highlight of the Labour Party Conference, we had the Prime Minister promise a range of ‘new’ policies and ideas. The English (and Welsh?) are going to have free personal care for the elderly – already provided by the Scottish government; there is a promise of a referendum on a proportional representation form of voting in General Elections – but there are various methods, not all of which are as fair as might at first seem to be the case; there is a promise that where a Member of Parliament is found to be financially corrupt, or guilty of some other wrong-doing, constituents will have the right to “recall” him/her – but, of course, if party leadership, and Parliament as a whole, had even a modicum of courage, they would ensure that such dishonourable members be sacked, and a by-election called immediately.

And so the speech went on. Plenty about what a new Labour government would do if it were to be elected to a further term of office. What was strikingly missing was any reference to “the end of ‘boom and bust’”; to the broken promise of a referendum on the European Constitution/Lisbon Treaty (being voted on today, for a second time, by the Irish – because ‘Europe’ doesn’t like it when anyone says ‘No’!); to the sale of so much of the U.K’s gold reserve – when gold was at its lowest value; to cash for honours; to the doubling of Council Tax (except in Scotland where the Scottish Government have held the rate for two years); etc., etc., etc.

The bottom line, it seems to me, is that Mr Brown is not a man who may be trusted with regard to any promise that he might make – least of all promises made just months before he is obliged to go to the country in a General Election!

How different from Jesus. His promise is that He will be with His people always (Matt.28:20) – and countless numbers have proved Him down through the centuries. He also promised difficulty and trouble – and whether in the relatively safe ‘West’ or in one of more than fifty countries world-wide in which disciples of Jesus are persecuted, imprisoned, and killed, this promise has also been proved to have been kept. That’s why, when I read the promise that He will return – next time, not as a helpless infant, but as the glorious King – I have every confidence that that promise will also be kept.

Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Persecution ahead?

For many years, Christians and others have complained, in different ways, about Pakistan’s notorious 295C blasphemy laws. These laws have been abused, on a regular basis, in order to gain property; settle old scores; or simply harass non-Muslims. One of the major problems is that the law allows a complaint to be made – and it is up to the accused to prove his/her innocence!

How grateful those of us in the ‘West’ should be that we do not live under such a draconian law! But, if the European Commission (the unelected body that, effectively, runs the European Union) has its way, it would seem that the EU is preparing to adopt a similar set of laws! The EU Directive on Equal Treatment, that is currently making its way through the system creates a frightening threat to free speech and the free exercise of religious conscience. If executed in its current form, the Directive increases inequality for Christians – and members of other religious-belief communities – and places perilous restrictions on believers expressing their faith. If implemented, it is certainly expected to increase censorship of Christian expression and Government-sanctioned persecution of Christians in any of the member-states of the EU!

Rather than attempting to rehearse the situation in writing, I have downloaded a video from CCfON (Christian Concern for our Nation – www.ccfon.org ) in which Prof. William Wagner explains the situation with clarity and passion. It’s less than 15 mins long – and well worth viewing (and listening to, of course!).

For years, disciples of Jesus have been warning that the persecution that is seen in over fifty countries around the world, could reach the so-called ‘Christian West’. This directive, if written into law, could well be the catalyst that would turn that prediction into reality. If ever there was a time for disciples of Jesus to be intercessors for the nation, this must surely be it! Let us "pray without ceasing" (I Thes.5:17) - but let us also be prepared for the revealing of "the man of lawlessness", "the one who brings destruction" (II Thess.2:3).

P.S. I have discovered that I cannot create a direct link to the video. Please go to http://www.ccfon.org/ (copy and paste!) where you will find it under the heading "TV & Radio Media centre"! Apologies!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Atonement.

It’s strange the way in which something, that one has taught in a certain way for decades, suddenly reveals itself with a startlingly fresh clarity and vividness! I had such an experience earlier this morning during my personal devotions.

For as long as I can recall, I have sought to explain, or illustrate, the Christian doctrine of the substitionary sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ by comparing it to a judge who has found the accused person guilty of the crime for which he has stood trial, and then paid the imposed fine out of his own pocket.

This morning, however, I caught a glimpse of what is, I believe, much closer to the reality of the situation – although, of course, no analogy can ever do full justice to the doctrine of the atonement!

I saw myself, guilty of murder, in an earlier age when the death penalty was still in force. The judge placed the black cap on his head and pronounced that I should be “taken from this place to a place of lawful execution, and there be hanged by the neck until ... dead.” I said nothing. I knew that I was guilty, and that I fully deserved the sentence that had now been passed.

Then, to my utter astonishment, the judge took the cap off his head; removed his judge’s wig; slipped out of his judicial robes; and revealed himself as my own dad. He walked over to the dock and took my place – allowing himself to be bound; taken to stand on the trapdoor; have the noose placed around his neck and, as the lever was pulled, to take the ‘long drop’.

I stand amazed. He who had committed no crime has allowed himself to suffer the death penalty that I deserve!

And that is what happened at Calvary. The sinless One didn’t merely pay a fine on my behalf. He allowed Himself to be whipped, and bound to a cross; there to die an agonising death that I should have died, and that I fully deserve! He “…came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk.10:45). “For our sake the Father made the Lord Jesus to be sin, Who knew no sin; so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Cor.5:21).

It’s an unfathomable love, that I am incapable of fully understanding – but I praise Him for it.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

An attitude of gratitude

On Sunday, my younger daughter learned of the death, from cancer, of a lady whom she had come to know quite well, and whom she had visited with some regularity. She was, understandably, upset.

Last night, she ‘phoned me to tell me that, although she is very happy with her flat (apartment), and her job, and her walk with the Lord, and life in general, she couldn’t shake of a sadness! I suggested that the news of Evelyn’s death was only now ‘sinking in’, and we chatted for a while until she assured me that she felt much better! Later, she sent me a text message, thanking me for ‘being there’ for her.

Two little thoughts came to my mind. The first was that, of course I was there for my child. I may not be able, any longer, to bounce her on my knee as I once could; but she is still my child, and I love her (and her sister) more than I could ever express.

That is a picture, albeit an imperfect one, of the relationship that the disciple of Jesus has with Father God. As one who has been adopted into His family, I am His child – and He is always there for me. I have access to Him at all times, through prayer; I can take everything to Him – my problems, and my pleasures; my sorrows, and my joys; my problems, and my successes. He is always available to listen, and then to speak into my situation.

The other thought concerned the text message. This morning, in my private devotions, I read the following in the UCB devotional The Word for Today (see UCB link at the bottom of this page to order your own FREE copy; or visit http://ucbmedia.co.uk/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6&Itemid=7 to read online!): “Author Barbara Glanz tells about a successful businessman who remembered his 8th grade literature teacher. He wrote to her and received this reply: 'You'll never know how much your letter meant. I'm 83 and living alone. My friends and family are all gone. I taught school for fifty years and yours is the first thank-you I've ever received from a student. Sometimes I wonder what I did with my life. I will read, and reread your letter until the day I die.'”

I am so glad that my wife and I have brought up our daughters to say “Thank you” – and that even now, as adults themselves, they still remember to do so. It’s a good thing to develop an attitude of gratitude – to those who help us, sometimes more than they realise and, of course, to Almighty God Himself for all that He provides as He “…gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and … sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.” (Matt.5:45)

Monday, 21 September 2009

The one that got away!

On Friday evening, The Original Christian Web and New Media Awards event took place in London, England. My personal interest was that The CrazyRev Page was one of the five finalists in the Inspiring Leadership category!!!

I would like to have been able to add that I was also one of the prizewinners but, alas, that was not to be! However, when I checked and discovered that the winner was an Anglican bishop, and the runner-up was the site of the President and vice-President of the Methodist Conference, I felt more at ease! I trust that it is not a case of sour grapes (!) but I find it difficult to believe that these three brothers were solely responsible for their respective blog-sites. They also had the advantage, it would seem, of travelling around the world on official business on behalf of their respective denominations - providing a travelogue (and, I suppose, more of what a blog was originally intended to be) of which I can only dream!

However, I am happy that my provision of comment, from a Biblical perspective, on a fairly wide variety of topics, was considered worthy to be in there at the end. I have only ever thought of this blog as a form of Christian ministry, and have no intention of changing anything merely to receive an award! My only regret is that only the addresses of the winners in each category appear to have been published, as I had hoped for an increase in traffic as a result of my 'finalist placing'!

Of course, personal recommendation is still the best way in which to have this blog made better-known. Please feel free to play your part in publicising it to your own friends, family-members, work colleagues, fellowship/congregation, or whoever! I will certainly be very grateful - and, by the grace of God, someone might be blessed!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Prayer!

I’ve been trying to find a podcast of the programme in order to acquire all of the relevant details – but have been unable to source it! However, I was going to collect my wife and, as I switched on the ignition in the car, the radio came on, and a lady was saying something along the lines of “I don’t really believe in God, or prayer, but I said, ‘God, if You’re there, I want to transfer a thought’”!!

It used to be said, in reference to the battle-fields of WWI, that “There are no atheists in a fox-hole”. That may, or may not, be true, but I find it interesting that there are so many ‘unbelievers’ who turn to the God Whose existence they deny, in moments of extremity! It has also been said that the most sincere prayer can be, “God, help me!”.

But is that all that prayer is? Is it nothing more than a red button marked “For Emergency Use Only”; merely the transference of a thought? Or is it something much more meaningful and precious? From a Christian perspective, the answer is that it is the latter! Certainly, it was something that Jesus Himself did often; and I always think it very interesting that the early disciples – even the ‘inner band’ – are nowhere recorded as having asked the Master for some guidelines to sermon preparation, or a master-class in the miraculous. The one recorded request is “Lord, teach us to pray”! (Luke 11:1) – a request that led to the mis-named ‘Lord’s Prayer’, that is, in fact, the disciples’ prayer: and it is a model to follow, not a set of words to be slavishly parroted in every gathering of a congregation or fellowship!

However, even among professed believers in the Lord, Jesus Christ, prayer can be little more than a shopping list of, albeit commendable, requests. But real prayer is much more than that. I find the old acronym to be helpful.

Prayer starts with Adoration. This is when I tell the Lord how wonderful He is; when I acknowledge His holiness and power; when I recognise His many attributes. Now this isn’t because, as some sceptics would pronounce, God ‘needs’ my adulation. He is totally self-sufficient and does not ‘need’ anything that I can bring to Him. However, He does want me to recognise Him for Who He is – and to vocalise that understanding in prayer.

The next stage follows on quite naturally. As I recognise God’s holiness, and His perfection, I am made very aware of my own sinfulness. This means that I have to involve myself in some Confession – again, not as much for His benefit (He already knows me through and through!), as for my own: making me face up to the real me that is often kept well hidden from others!

However, I can also claim the promise that “…if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” (I Jn.1:9), and this causes me to express my sincere Thankfulness.

Finally, I may bring my requests before Him in Supplication.

Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving; Supplication. ACTS – it’s the sort of praying that, when done sincerely, really works (see James 5:16). Let us pray!

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Lost Symbol

Well, it looks as if he has done it again – Dan Brown has published another ‘best-seller’! The Lost Symbol is Brown’s third volume of similar genre, following on from the (in)famous The da Vinci Code. In between, with very little publicity of which I am aware, was a sequel to The da Vinci CodeAngels and Demons.

I confess that I have not taken the opportunity to further enhance the substantial bank balance of Mr Brown by rushing out to purchase his latest literary offering. However, I did read The da Vinci Code, from beginning to end and, recalling some of the hype that surrounded that publication, I was surprised to see a review of the newest volume under the heading “Non-fiction of the week”. Is it indeed, I wondered, as the earlier volume, also,was continually advertised, “non-fiction”?

I could produce a full article on the inaccuracies, fallacies, and downright untruths that cover the pages of The da Vinci Code (and did, in fact, preach a fairly comprehensive rebuttal of the book's central inaccuracies) but, suffice it to say that, in the pages that most people ignore at the very beginning of any published book, is one that contains details of the publication such as the publisher, the date of publication, the ISBN and, very importantly, the cataloguing of the book in question in the Congressional Library (I may not have recalled that name absolutely accurately, but it is the USA equivalent of The British Library) as “a work of fiction”.

In order to satisfy my own curiosity I went, today, into a local bookshop and checked that one page in the latest Brown book. There it was, in black and white, as clear as the nose on my face, that the book is, like its predecessor, “a work of fiction”.

I have no truck for the Freemasons who are, apparently, the focus of The Lost Symbol, in a similar way to that in which the Church of Rome – and the Christian faith, in general – was the target in The da Vinci Code. However, truth is truth, and the product of the obviously inventive mind of Mr Brown should not be mistaken for it!

“Jesus said. ‘… I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.’ ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked”. (Jn.18:37-38) It’s a question that each one of us needs to ask – certainly when we read books that purport to be the truth when, at least in the case of the one that I have read, there is very little resemblance to the truth at all!