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Saturday, 31 January 2009

Belief

It’s been a very busy week – including two evenings at the annual GLO (Gospel Literature Outreach) Mini Bible School, run in conjunction with the associated Tilsley College, and a prayer meeting at the Scottish Christian Party office this evening. I was also in the GLO Bookshop today and was struck by a poster that proclaimed that “Darwin Day will come and go – but Christ will live for ever.”

Those who know me well will be aware that the whole, wide, subject of the Creation/Evolution debate is one in which I have some considerable interest. After many years of reading and study, I have no doubt that all that we experience in the time-space continuum that is our sphere of existence – the three spatial dimensions of length breadth and height/depth together with time – was, and is, created by an intelligent Being Who is outwith those dimensions, and to Whom I would normally give the name “God”. He is eternal and infinite – concepts that are actually beyond our human comprehension; He is all-knowing and all-powerful; He is righteousness, and He is love.

A posting on a blog is not the place to write a long, carefully-argued thesis on the evidence for a created universe (and beyond!). However, I would want to make a fairly simple point. At the end of the day, these things will always come down to what we want to believe – they can never be proved in scientific terms. This is because scientific proof requires both observation and repetition. By its very nature, the beginning of all that is cannot possible meet these criteria! However, belief is something for which I may not be able to provide “concrete” evidence, but on which I am prepared to build my life – and, indeed, in the case of many in the persecuted church, lay down my life!

So, while I liked the poster, I would want to change it. “Darwin Day”, as a date on the calendar, will certainly come and go. However, while I believe, firmly, that Jesus the Christ is alive today, and will indeed live forever, it is not something that I can prove to the satisfaction of a sceptical unbeliever.

In school, in S1, I ask my pupils to state whether certain statements are belief statements or factual (provable) statements. Some get a little confused with the two statements; “God exists” and “God does not exist”. Both, of course are belief statements. However, what one believes in this matter effects (I believe!) not only how one lives in this life, but also where one will live in the next! I trust that you are certain of what you believe.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Uncomfortable Definition of an Infidel

This is a copy of an e-mail that I have received. I have not rushed to publish it on this blog, but have eventually decided to do so on the grounds that, even if it is, in fact, apocryphal, it is also, in my opinion, a statement of truth.

"The Muslim religion is, by far, the fastest growing religion in the UK. Last month I attended my annual training session that's required for maintaining my prison security clearance. During the training session there was a presentation by three speakers representing the Church of Rome, the Reformed faiths, and Islam, each of whom explained their beliefs. I was particularly interested in what the Islamic Imam had to say. The Imam gave a great presentation of the basics of Islam, complete with a video. After the presentations, time was provided for questions and answers.
When it was my turn, I directed my question to the Imam and asked: 'Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that most Imams and clerics of Islam have declared a holy jihad
[holy war] against the infidels of the world and, that by killing an infidel, which is a command to all Muslims, they are assured of a place in heaven. If that's the case, can you give me the definition of an infidel?'
There was no disagreement with my statements and, without hesitation, he replied, 'Non-believers!'
I responded, 'So, let me make sure I have this straight. All followers of Islam have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of your religion so they can have a place in heaven. Is that correct?'
The expression on his face changed from one of authority and command to that of 'a little boy who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.'
Sheepishly, he replied, 'Yes.'
I then stated, 'Well, I have a real problem trying to imagine PopeBenedict commanding all Catholics to kill those of your faith or Dr.Stanley [a well-known evangelical Bible teacher] ordering all Protestants to do the same in order to guarantee them a place in heaven!'
The Imam was speechless!
I continued, 'I also have a problem with being your 'friend' when you and your brother clerics are telling your followers to kill me! Let me ask you a question. Would you rather have your Allah [the Arabic word for "one god"], who tells you to kill me in order for you to go to heaven, or my Jesus who tells me to love you because I am going to heaven and He wants you to be there with me?'
You could have heard a pin drop as the Imam remained speechless. Needless to say, the organizers and promoters of the 'Diversification' training seminar were not happy with this way of dealing with the Islamic Imam, and exposing the truth about the Muslims' beliefs.
Within twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.K. to elect a government of their choice, complete with sharia law. I think everyone in the U.K. should be required to read this, but with the liberal justice system, liberal media and the political correctness/madness, there is no way this will be widely publicised.
Please pass this on to all your e-mail contacts.
John Harrison MBE. MIDSc"

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Eritrea


Eritrea is a relatively small African country that is situated at the southwestern coast of the Red Sea. It's a place that doesn't often appear in our news programmes in any of the media. However, it is one of almost sixty countries in which Christians are persecuted for no other reason than their steadfast allegiance to the Lord Jesus. This is a report that arrived in my mailbox today:

"Sources have confirmed that eight Christians have died while imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea in the last few years. In addition, church leaders estimate that a further 2,907 Christians, including over 100 women, are being imprisoned because of their faith.
The government campaign against Christians continued into 2009 with the arrest on 11 January of 15 male members of the Kale-Hiwot Church in Keren. Five of them are preachers. All those arrested were taken from their homes.
In early January, Mogos Hagos Kiflom (37) died at Mitire Military Confinement, as a result of the continued physical torture he endured for his refusal to recant his faith. Kiflom, who was a member of the Rhema Church, leaves behind a wife, one child and his mother.
On 16 January, Mehari Gebreneguse Asgedom (42) also died in Mitire while under solitary confinement. Sources say he died as a result of ongoing physical torture and complications from his diabetes. Asgedom was a member of the Church of the Living God in Mendefera. He leaves behind a widowed mother.
The Mitire Military Confinement was built in the north east of the country apparently for the express purpose of punishing Christians who persist in their religious activities despite the government's ban on them in 2002. Incarcerated Christians from all over the country have been moved to Mitire where they suffer physical torture and forced labour."

If you are a believer, please pray:
1. Pray for the Lord’s comfort and solace for the families and friends of Mehari Gebreneguse Asgedom and Mogos Hagos Kiflom. Ask God to provide for their needs.
2. Pray for all Christians who find themselves in Mitire Military Confinement and other Eritrean prisons. Pray that God's Spirit will keep them from despondency and through grace help them to remain full of hope and peace.
3. Pray for wisdom for all church members who have had to step into leadership positions due to the widespread arrest of pastors.

Thank you

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

How long has it been?

I’ve been at the gym today!! However, it was my first visit for some time, and I have to admit that it wasn’t as easy as it is when I am in the habit of much more regular visits. Of course, I didn’t go in and immediately start a full work-out. I was careful to “pace” myself, although I intend to gradually build up to my maximum again, over the next few weeks!

As I did my 20 mins. on the treadmill, I found myself thinking of the Christian life. No, not because I think of the latter as anything like a treadmill – it’s much too exciting, interesting, and even dangerous, for that. Rather, I thought of how easy it is to get out of the habit of praying frequently, of reading one’s Bible every day, of meeting with other believers for regular times of fellowship.

The difficulty arises when our consciences remind us of what we should be doing, but the longer we leave it, the more difficult it is to get back into those good, and upbuilding, practices. If that’s where you find yourself, may I suggest that you do for your spiritual benefit what I was doing, today, for my physical benefit? Don’t try to read the whole of the Gospel according to Matthew at your first sitting, or try to pray for a full hour, or even try to fit in three different worship services this Sunday! Perhaps ten minutes in prayer; reading a chapter of a Bible book; attending one worship service; would be a good start. Then, as the weeks pass, you can gradually build up until you are enjoying significant times with the Lord, and with His people

Of course, all of that assumes that you have been “backsliding”, but that you do have a living relationship with Father God, through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, on your behalf. If you haven’t, then your starting point is to confess your sinfulness, and invite Jesus to be King and Lord in your life. When I go to the gym, I wear appropriate clothing for my time of exercise. So, when we come into the presence of Almighty God, we must “… put on the Lord Jesus …” (Rom.13:14) and be covered with His righteousness.

The apostle Paul wrote these words to his young protégé, Timothy: “Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come.” (I Tim.4:7-8). That still holds true today!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Change, and Hope!

Well, it's all over bar the shouting, and Barack H. Obama is now the President of the U.S.of A. in office. I didn't sit glued to the TV all day, watching the inauguration, but I did watch the highlights on the evening news programme.

The new President certainly seems to have galvanised a large percentage of the citizens of the USA - although a radio interview to which I listened in the car, this evening, clearly indicated that, in the Southern states, there remains a considerable number who have no time for this "black" leader of their nation. (Actually, he is not black, but "mixed-race". Given a good summer holiday in France, my skin is almost as dark as his!)

The two words that seem to sum up the new presidency are "change" and "hope". The campaign slogan, as I recall, was "It's time for change"; and the majority of the people seem to be of the opinion that this President brings with him new hope - not only for the USA, but even for the whole world! Time alone will tell whether, or not, Mr Obama is truly "fit for purpose"; the proof of the pudding will be in the eating thereof!

Apart from it would seem, some Islamist extremists, most of those who express any interest in such political goings-on wish the new President well. The task ahead is not going to be easy - but it seems that he is well aware of that!

As I stated in a post when his election was confirmed, there is much that is attractive about the man, although I do have reservations about some of his policy positions. However, my bigger concern is the recent use of the term "saviour" for this man. As a committed Christian I have to proclaim that there is only one Saviour of mankind - the "... one Mediator Who can reconcile God and humanity: the Man Christ Jesus." (I Tim.2:5). It is at His Name, and His Name alone, that "... every knee should 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.210-11).

It is this same Jesus Who guarantees real change in the lives of those who truly commit themselves to Him; and Who gives real hope, not just for time, but even for eternity.

Finished!

Today (Monday!), I requested the final piece of work that I have to complete in order to receive my M.Div. degree. This means that, within a couple of weeks, I should have completed the programme even ‘though I expect it to be some time later before I receive the diploma that will proclaim my achievement to all (well, to all who climb the stairway up to my study and studio!). I will endeavour to resist the temptation to run outside shouting about my success.

Of course, there are other situations when a person’s success is easily seen, and is observed by many. By this time tomorrow, millions will have watched the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America; when an athlete competes, or a football team plays, supporters not only watch, but cheer encouragement to the object(s) of their support; film, and “pop”, stars are the recipients of much adulation by their adoring fans.

Almost 2,000 years ago, a Man completed the work that He had set out to accomplish. His success was very public, but was seen as defeat. There were crowds – but most of them were there to mock, or merely to watch the spectacle of yet another crucifixion. I wonder how many really understood His great shout (and it was a cry of triumph, not of submission to the inevitable) – “Tetelestai” (“Finished”). Yes, that Man was Jesus. In spite of the attacks, and the temptations, of the evil one, He had completed the work for which He had entered our human situation: taking upon His divine nature, our human flesh; leaving that dimension that we refer to as “heaven”, and entering the time/space continuum that is our experience; subjecting Himself to every temptation that we experience, yet without sinning.

When an athlete finishes the race, there may be a prize – but usually it is only for the first few to cross the finishing line; a team may end the season at the top of their particular league/group, and be rewarded accordingly. However, Jesus’ success was different. Because He accomplished His work, you and I may receive the reward! And it’s a reward that lasts, not just for a season, or even for a lifetime. It’s a reward that lasts through eternity – a personal relationship with the Creator God. Our part is to confess our own sinfulness, and accept His wonderful gift of salvation.

Success can be a strange thing – but I’m so glad that Jesus succeeded, in order that I might “… receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling …” me. (Phi.3:14). Have you received His gift? Have you?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

"Songs of Praise"

I don’t watch the BBC programme “Songs of Praise” every Sunday! However, I do watch from time to time. This evening, the programme came from the Northumberland coast, and was presented by Aled Jones.

In one little harbour that he visited during the programme, I noticed a small fishing boat with the unusual name – Glad Tidings. I was waiting for some appropriate comment from Aled but, unless I missed it, there was no such comment forthcoming. What a missed opportunity!

The words “glad tidings” are words that were read all over the world just a few weeks ago (Yes, I know that it seems ages ago!). They are part of the message that the angel brought to the shepherds as he informed them of the birth of the Christ-child. “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” (Lk.2:10) And that, of course, is the heart of the Gospel – the Good News. The glad tidings are that although you and I stand guilty before the great Judge of all the earth, He has become one of us in order to pay the penalty for your sin and mine.

As we were reminded at Liberty Community Church, this morning, “… He was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet YHWH laid on Him the guilt and sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. From prison and trial they led Him away to His death. But who among the people realized that He was dying for their sins – that He was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and He never deceived anyone. But He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man's grave.” (Is.53:5-9a)

Psychologists tell us that one of the major causes of mental problems is a lack of forgiveness! The glad tidings – the Good News – about Jesus, the Christ, is that forgiveness is available for all who are genuinely sorry for their sins, and who are willing, with His help, to live their lives in accordance with His will.

It was also interesting that the name was on a fishing boat. Because this is another aspect of the Gospel – that we are to be “fishers of people”. (Matt.4:19). This doesn’t mean trying to get a large hook into people’s mouths but, by living our own lives for Jesus, making Him so attractive to them that they want to follow Him themselves. That’s a real challenge for me – and perhaps for you as well?!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

"On the buses"

Have you read about the so-called "atheist bus" campaign, currently running (no pun intended!) in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other major cities in Great Britain? The campaign is the brainchild of writer Ariane Sherine who was offended when she checked out the website that was highlighted in a Christian advert that she saw on a bus. There she discovered the amazing fact that the Bible teaches that those who reject God in this life are condemend (or, condemn themselves!) to eternity in hell.

With the support of the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins, and the British Humanist Association, she set up the campaign to place an "atheist" advert on busses, in an attempt to counter that Christian message. The slogan reads, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

A couple of things need to be said:

1. To state that there is "probably" no God is not an atheist standpoint, but that of an agnostic;

2. As a committed Christian, I don't worry (see Matt.6:25ff, Lk.12:22ff), and I enjoy life to the full. Indeed, Jesus said that He came that I might have life "in all its fulness" (Jn.10:10);

3. This campaign could be a great way of instigating a conversation with a fellow bus passenger. There would be nothing pushy about asking the person beside you "What do you think of the slogan on the bus?" This could, by God's grace, lead to a very interesting conversation and, ultimately, to the salvation of one more person for whom Christ died;

4. There is no such thing as an "atheist bus" any more than a "Christian bus". The adverts may be thus labelled - the buses are totally neutral!

So, if you live in one of the targetted areas, don't be afraid to get on to a bus with a slogan that suggests that God doesn't exist. It may be a great opportunity to witness to the Living God Who is so real to so many of us.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Israel.

It’s been a busy week – and, for some reason, nothing has come to mind that seemed to be worth posting! (Yes, I know. There are probably those who are of the opinion that nothing I have ever posted has been worth posting!!)
One item on which I have wanted to post has been the current Israeli-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip. My problem has been that I am unable to totally condone the activity of either side and, of course, I totally condemn the level of civilian casualties.
So what can anyone, so far away from the conflict, and with no direct involvement in it, say about the situation? From the point of view of the Palestinian (Biblical Philistine) people, it is a traumatic, painful and, for too many, fatal experience. Our hearts go out to those who are suffering terribly from horrific injuries; those who have been bereaved as a result of the Israeli bombardment and incursion. But it must not be forgotten that Hamas militants have been bombarding Israel for years, and that they have an ultimate goal of the total destruction of the Israeli State.
On the other hand, Israel is seen, by some, as having over-reacted. We are told that their action is “disproportionate”. What seems to be forgotten is that war, by its very nature, tends to be disproportionate. I think of the numbers who died in Dresden, or at Hiroshima. Yet few objected to the defeat of Nazism, or of those deemed to be responsible for the atrocities of Japanese POW camps. The nation was classed as one with the individual perpetrators.
It is a sad fact of life that, until the return of the Prince of Peace, there is going to be war, and violence; death and injury. It’s all part of the fallen world in which we live. So what do we do? What practical action can we take? The Psalmist exhorts us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps.122:6), and it is right and proper that we should do so. But let us remember that any interim “peace” to which Hamas, Iran, Syria, and/or Hezbollah might agree would only be a temporary, tactical truce to allow them to re-group, re-arm, and consolidate.
And let us keep our eyes focussed on Jesus “the Author and the Finisher of our faith” (Heb.12:2), looking forward to His Second Advent, when He will usher in His rule of perfect peace.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

STOP PRESS!

As not too many people are yet familiar with my other "open" blog-site, I thought that I should mention that I have just added another audio message to it. The "hot link" (with gratitude to my friend, Bob Dixon, for his assistance in composing the code) is to your left (revcbross.blogspot.com)

Friday, 2 January 2009

Permanency, and dependability.

We're just back from our few days away in the caravan - bringing in the New Year with our farming hosts in the backwaters of rural Dumfries-shire.

While we were away, we paid our final Historic Scotland visits for 2008: to Sweetheart Abbey and Caerlaverock Castle, a couple of exceptionally well-preserved pieces of architecture. However, whilst visiting the town of Dumfries, we looked into a slightly more modern building - the local Woolworth's store. As most of my readers probably know, Woolworth's is closing down and, as I walked around a store with shelves almost empty, I was saddened at the thought of this once permanent feature of most British High Streets being no longer. I recalled my period as head chef in the cafe in the Belfast store - my first taste of "occupational authority"!; I recalled walking around the same store, as a boy, and managing to read a number of the literary classics - that my parents couldn't afford to buy - a chapter at a time.

I also remembered the words of the Lord Jesus: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20)

The other words that came to mind were written by the anonymous writer of the Letter to the early Hebrew Christians: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb 13:8)

In a world in which there is so much flux and change, how good it is to be able to place our trust in the unchanging One, Who is always faithful and true. Henry Lyte knew something about it. In his well-known hymn, Abide with me, is the verse:

"Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me
."

May you know that abiding presence throughout the whole of the coming year.