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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Death - and resurrection!

Listening, this morning, to the Radio 4 programme Saturday Live, I heard 70-year-old Chrissie de Rivaz who hopes to cheat death by having her dead body stored in liquid nitrogen (cryonic suspension) in anticipation of “a medical resurrection”. I won’t go into the practical processes that she was happy to share, but the costs are apparently in the region of $28,000 in the USA (where, not surprisingly, this procedure takes place), plus an additional £8,000 for transportation of the dead body from the UK!!

It was very interesting to listen to this lady’s thinking on the subject! The analogies that she used were either technological – avoiding the simple fact that human beings are not mere machines; or very personal – there is so much that she won’t be able to do in this one life; and, of course, she might meet her great, great, (etc.) grandchild!

The presenter – himself a Christian clergyman – did seem to be starting a useful dialogue when he was asked by Mrs de Rivaz if he didn’t come across many people who couldn’t bear to be “planted in the ground to rot” or who would hate “to go up the chimney” and, in response, made a valid point by asking how we could possibly “understand the one thing that lies immediately beyond our powers of understanding.” I suspect that he would have gone further, as he began to make reference to “the general resurrection at the end of all things” that “promises us … that we’ll be revived as something spanking new”. Unfortunately, he informed us, the producer was “waving his hands” as an indication that he wasn’t allowed to go down that route!!

Death is, of course, something that, until the return of the Lord Jesus, not one of us can escape. It is something for which, I would suggest, there is never going to be a medical cure. If the proponents of cryonic suspension really want to cheat death, surely they should have themselves "frozen" before they die, in the more reasonable hope that a cure for the disease/illness from which they were suffering (although Mrs de Rizaz sounded perfectly healthy!) might one day be discovered! Of course, the Word of God makes it quite clear that "…it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment …" (Heb.9:27). However, it also makes clear that, for the true believer in Jesus – those who are His faithful disciples – death is not the end. Paul, writing to the church in Thessalonica, has this to say:

"And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with Him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words."(I Thess.4:13-18).

My assurance of resurrection is not to a future earthly existence in a body that has been maintained in a thermos flask of liquid nitrogen, but is to a resurrected, glorified, body that will be physical, recognisable, yet different because it will be spiritual. Perhaps I will provide my personal theory of the resurrection body in a later post, but it certainly doesn’t depend on cryonic suspension! It is based on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and the assurances that I find in my Bible. I trust that you have the same assurance, through the same Lord!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Moral Values

Each week I receive an e-mail, from the Evangelical Alliance, that provides a thought-provoking message on a topical issue (much as I attempt to do on this blog!!). This evening, the message was on Values, and it cited a BBC poll that "... revealed that the majority of the population support the role of religion in public life. According to the survey, 63% agreed that “Our laws should respect and be influenced by UK religious values.” Similarly, 62% agreed that “Religion has an important role to play in public life.” Unsurprisingly, those who were already religious were especially in favour, but what must be really galling to the secularists is that 51% of those who said they had no religion still believed that religious values should influence our legal system."

Earlier, I had been at the monthly prayer-meeting of The Scottish Christian Party, and the combination of the two reminded me of a letter that I had sent to The (Glasgow) Herald earlier in the week in response to one that had been published. My letter did not grace the pages of the newspaper so, here it is for your own perusal!!

Dear Sir,
Iain D. Mann (Politicians must show their integrity, too; 24th Feb) is absolutely correct in his analysis of the current “working within the rules that we ourselves set up” of so many of our politicians. As he, and many others, point out, the sound of these politicians noising off about obscene bonuses being paid to bankers does smack of pots and kettles, and people living in glass houses.
The problem is that all of the “major” parties appear to be tarred with the same brush – not, one hastens to add, that every member is guilty of this legalised fraud, but that every party has its quota of those who are! This suggests that the time has finally come for the electorate to abandon the attitude of generational loyalty that has so many of those who bother to vote at all doing so on the basis of “It’s the way my father voted”.
Many, it would seem, are turning to the British National Party, but many others cannot bring themselves to support some of that Party’s (perceived?) policies. The Scottish Christian Party, and its counterparts, do offer a further alternative – and an assurance of the honesty and integrity that have become alien concepts in much of our nation’s politics, at every level. Perhaps, during the raft of elections that are coming up over the next year or two, a sufficient number will be so persuaded of the advantages of the traditional Christian values that actually shaped the nation over many centuries, to “put their cross by the Cross”, and elect those who will be trustworthy, and able to resist the temptations that political office seems to bring. Yours faithfully,
C.Brian Ross (Rev)

The Herald may have decided against publishing my letter, but that BBC poll suggests that there is, indeed, a desire (not yet a real hunger!) for a return to the "old-fashioned" values that have shaped so much of our society.

I also received an "AllExperts" question, part of the answer to which was a reminder that every follower of the Lord, Jesus Christ, is a witness - be it a good one, or a bad one! Our lives do speak much more loudly than our words - and for some, the only gospel that they will ever read is the life of a friend who professes to be a Christian.

If we are to see a return to those Christian values, is it not required of each one of us to "Walk the walk" as well as "Talk the talk"; and to support Christians in politics - and especially the Christian parties - that they might be "salt and light" in a world that, as our daily news bulletins increasingly show, is very short of both?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Misquotations.

An article in today’s Daily Telegraph newspaper informs us that the top ten misquotes, by British people, are (the correct words in the brackets):
1) A damp squid (a damp squib)
2) On tender hooks (on tenter hooks)
3) Nip it in the butt (nip it in the bud)
4) Champing at the bit (chomping at the bit)
5) A mute point (a moot point)
6) One foul swoop (one fell swoop)
7) All that glitters is not gold (all that glisters is not gold)
8) Adverse to (averse to)
9) Batting down the hatches (batten down the hatches)
10) Find a penny pick it up (find a pin pick it up)

Being somewhat pedantic, I found that very interesting. However, the Bible is also misquoted, or is claimed to be the source of a quotation that doesn’t appear in the Scriptures. Here are a few – please feel free to add any others that you know, as a comment!

List 1 Biblical misquotes:
· Money is the root of all evil! (very topical, but read all of I Tim.6:10)
· All things work out for the best (read Rom.8:28)
· The truth will set you free (not as much a misquote, as a part-quote. See Jn.8:32, and note that Jesus actually ties the definition of truth to obedience to Himself!
· Spare the rod, spoil the child (not quite what it says in Prov.13:24)

List 2 “Biblical” quotes that are not in the Bible!:
· God helps those who help themselves (sometimes referred to as the “Shoplifter’s Charter”, and actually from Aesop’s fable, Hercules and the Waggoner)
· Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise (may well be true – but comes from the writings of Benjamin Franklin)
· Cleanliness is next to godliness (this was said by John Wesley)
· You can be so heavenly-minded that you are of no earthly good (all too true of some – but it isn’t in the Bible!)
· God works in mysterious ways (very true – but penned by William Cowper in a poem “On the loss of the Royal George”)
· It’s better to serve in heaven than to reign in hell (sounds biblical, at least from a “hell-fire and damnation” perspective – but it’s not!)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

One atheist's view of God!

In today's notes from a Prayer Diary that I use - the International Daily Prayer Bulletin, poduced by Revival Prayer Ministry, Eastbourne - is the following: "A recent article in The Times of London shows that not all atheists are anti-God. Matthew Parris, a former conservative member of the British Parliament, recently argued in his column that Africa needs not only aid, but God. "Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts.", writes Parris, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. "These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good." Parris observes that Africans who are conberted to Protestant Christianity are able to break the shackles that tied them to their ancestral dominant hierarchies, so that they are free to be truly themselves, and develop as human beings. He remarks that you can tell a Christian by his demeanour - "he stands up straight."" The full article may be read at:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece?Submitted=true

It is, of course, encouraging to read this secular acknowledgement of the inner change and freedom that the new life in Christ brings. And it's good to know that not every professed atheist is as antagonistic as Richard Dawkins! However, it is also useful to remember that what Matthew Parris has written about his recent experience should not apply only to the African continent. Later in the article he makes this profound statement concerning devout Christians (is there really any other kind??!) whom he met: "It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were." Should not this be true of everyone who bears the name of the Christ?!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Are you ready?

Having a late lunch today, I switched on the TV to the History Channel, and caught the last ten minutes of a programme that seemed to be claiming that there could be, in the next few decades (and certainly, this century) the collapse of a large part of one of the Canary Islands into the sea. This, it was being confidently predicted, would happen when the flank of a volcano was disturbed by volcanic activity. One of the main emphases of the part of the programme that I saw was that it was impossible for us to know exactly when this would happen. However, the result would be a “mega-tsunami” that would sweep across the Atlantic Ocean, and hit the eastern seaboard of the USA with a gigantic (750 metre high?) wave.

Scary stuff but, as I have mentioned in my response to a comment on an earlier post, I have learned – sometimes the hard way! – not to take everything that I receive from the popular media at face value. A quick search brought me to this website http://www.lapalma-tsunami.com/ that may be worth visiting (especially if you live in either the Canary Islands, or the eastern seaboard of the USA!!).

However, the warning about not knowing exactly when such a disaster would take place sent my mind in another direction. The church has known for some 2,000 years that Jesus is coming back. He made it perfectly clear. Listen: “And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt.24:30); “... when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne.” (Mt.25:31); “Then everyone will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds with great power and glory.” (Mk.13:26, Lk21:27); “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am.” (Jn.14:3)

And the apostle Paul adds to the evidence. In that great passage in his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he writes: “And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with Him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.” (4:13-18).

So, we are left in no doubt that Jesus is going to return – and not, this time, as a helpless infant in a mucky, smelly, part of a building that was reserved for the family’s animals; but breaking into time and space as King of kings, and Lord of lords.

However, when the disciples asked Jesus about the date of His return (Matt. 24:3), He told them that only God the Father knows: "… no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself. Only the Father knows." (v.36).

We don't know when Jesus will return; He may come at any time. Dr. Richard De Haan, founder of Radio Bible Class Ministries, kept a two-word motto in his office: "Perhaps Today." The important thing is to be ready. Are you?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Where are we going?!

Reports, to day, that the 13-year-old boy to whom I referred in the post “It’s that prayer thing – again!” (see below) may not, in fact, be the father of the little girl, Maisie, do nothing to make the situation any better. This is because the reason is that two other, slightly older, boys have now claimed that they each had full, penetrative, unprotected, sexual intercourse with the mother – now 15 years of age – and they claim that it was with the consent of her parents!

It was the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, who stated, concerning the people of Samaria, that “They have planted the wind, and will harvest the whirlwind.” ( Hosea: 8:7). It is surely only those who suffer from the well-known “ostrich-syndrome” who are unable to see that the same thing applies to our own society, and culture. The “permissive society” of the 1960s; the breakdown of the traditional family unit – assisted to some degree by successive administrations; the disappearance of old-fashioned respect, for oneself, for one’s peers, and for one’s elders - encouraged by the “expert” writings of Dr Benjamin Spock; and the generational growth of a benefit-dependency culture – based on the simple fact that successive governments have seen fit to use the taxes of the rest to fund and support the lifestyle of the careless and feckless; have all conspired to produce a society that is ripe for meltdown.

Underlying all of the above is the simple fact that, in the United Kingdom at least, we have largely turned our backs on the God of our fathers, preferring to offer our adulation to so-called “celebrities” of one sort and another. Of course, to suggest that the country needs to apply the words of II Chronicles 7:14 – “… if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” is still to invite criticism and ridicule from some. Indeed, those words really apply only to those who are God’s people – and that, certainly from a Christian perspective, involves only those who have made a genuine commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and accepted the salvation that He has provided through His self-sacrifice at Calvary. However, since the brave new world of the proponents of liberal thinking has so obviously failed, and done so to such a high degree, perhaps it is time for all to seek the face of the Living God, and cry out for mercy.

As the great apostle, Paul, wrote to some of his Christian friends “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). Now that’s a lesson that an awful lot of people still need to learn!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Freedom of expression

One of the other headline news items of this past week has been the decision of the British Home Secretary (she of the purest character – some £116,000 worth!) to ban from the country, the Dutch politician Geert Wilders. This banning order was made on the basis of his (amateur) film “Fitna” (the Arabic word for “strife”) which, according to Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, M.P., and Keith Vaz, MP, Labour Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, promotes “racial hatred and violence” (see http://www.ccfon.org/mediacentre.php?avid=161&avap=1 )
Like Mr Vaz, I haven’t seen the whole film (actually, I have found part of it on YouTube; while Mr Vaz had to admit that he had not seen any of it!), but what I have seen was certainly not an incitement to any form of violence at all. Rather, it suggests that certain parts of the Qu’ran – the holiest book in Islam – have been, and are, used by extremist Islamists to justify their terrorist and criminal activity.

My own problem – shared by many – is that while the current British government is prepared to ban entry to this country by a man who holds views that are unacceptable to some of the Islamic community (not all, as the above video link will show), that same government allows extremist Islamic Imams, and other preachers, to live in the UK (even, in some cases, drawing state benefits) and propagate their own message of hatred and violence against all that is not of Islam! That same government welcomes, with open arms – and Gordon Brown even apologises for the snow that had fallen on the south of England and, particularly, Downing Street! – the Chinese Prime Minister, a man who represents a country with one of the worst, but best-documented, records of human rights violation to be found world-wide. It is difficult not to think that the current government is still fixated on the whole topic of trade and finance, above everything else.

It is also interesting to note that this decision was made after complaints by Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed, who claims that that Geert Wilders did not want to give him freedom of worship – something that was not obvious in what I have watched. Of course the same Lord Ahmed, in a Radio 4 interview, also claimed that Wilders was in cahoots with UKIP and the BNP – further, as far as I know, totally unsubstantiated claims.

So, it does seem, at least on the surface, that while Christianity may be the legitimate target of anyone and everyone, nothing must be said or done to upset the Islamic community. Perhaps Jennie Cain (see previous post) should have asked her friends to recite salat-l-istikhara (the Islamic prayer for guidance) instead of asking them to pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus!

It’s that prayer thing – again!

The situation in the United Kingdom would seem to be going from bad to worse. No, I’m not making reference to the ever-worsening financial situation that has even the Prime Minister use the dreaded “D” word (depression!). I’m referring to the attitude of officialdom to the Christian concept of prayer.

At the beginning of this month, I published a post on this blog about Mrs Caroline Petrie – the nurse who had been suspended for offering to pray with a patient (thankfully, she has now been re-instated). However, it is now reported that Mrs Jennie Cain is facing disciplinary procedures, and even dismissal, because she asked some friends to pray about a situation involving her own daughter and the school which she attends – and at where Mrs Cain is employed. It would appear that a copy of that e-mail came to the attention of the headmaster of the school in Crediton, Devon (is there something going on in the S.W. of England – Caroline Petrie works in North Somerset!?), and Mrs Cain is now being “investigated” for “professional misconduct”!!

Perhaps if more parents were praying for (and with) their children, and seeking prayer support for them and the situations in which they find themselves, we might not have as many children committing crime – ranging from petty theft, through vandalism, to murder – or becoming a father at 13 years of age (with the mother being only two years older!)!

I always find it interesting that there is no record of the disciples of Jesus asking Him for “master-classes in the miraculous”, or “ten points in the preparation of the perfect sermon”. What is recorded is their request “Lord, teach us to pray, …” (Lk.11:1). Personally, and like many others, I would find it very difficult to get through each day without prayer – and I believe that my praying on behalf of others, does have an effect (see James 5:16 – where the righteousness is that of those who have accepted the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on their behalf).
I am glad that such high-profile figures as the Archbishop of York have publicly taken up Mrs Cain’s cause (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/4604205/Archbishop-speaks-in-support-of-primary-school-receptionist-facing-sack.html), and I believe that a Member of Parliament has raised the issue in the House of Commons. However, as Dr Sentamu has stated, it is up to all of us who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus, to not only uphold Mrs Cain in prayer, but to stand up and be counted.

Christians in the UK are not yet experiencing the level, and form, of persecution that is the daily lot of those in almost 60 countries around the world. However, these, and similar, cases may well be the thin end of a wedge. Let us pray that it might not be so – but that if it is, that we will show the same strength, and faithfulness, as our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Language, and privacy.

One of the “big” news stories this morning was the release of the transcript of a telephone conversation allegedly between Boris Johnson, the elected Mayor of London, and KeithVaz, M.P. The newsworthiness of this item rested entirely on the number of times that the “f-word” was used by Mr Johnson!!

On the Radio 4 “Today” programme, excuses were made for London’s mayor, and it was suggested that, even if the transcript was accurate (this, not surprisingly, is being disputed) it merely showed what a “normal” man Mr Johnson is. The point was also made that this had been a private conversation, not intended for public consumption.

Two things strike me abut this incident. The first has to do with language. I was always taught that those who reverted to such expletives did so because they didn’t have an adequate command of the English language which is, in fact, extremely rich in adjectives. Routine use of foul language is the resort of the uneducated and inarticulate. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of London’s current mayor. He was educated at the European School in Brussels, Ashdown House and then at Eton College. He later read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford as a Brackenbury scholar. During his time at Oxford University he became president of the prestigious Oxford Union. He worked as a journalist, and he has published several books, and a novel. He has also produced a television series on Roman History from his book of the same name, The Dream of Rome.

So what has happened? Is it now acceptable – indeed, is it now expected – that the holders of high office in the land should sound like uneducated louts? Is this a sign that society is sinking to the level of the lowest common denominator? What sort of example is it for the child who has been told by a parent or teacher that such language is unacceptable?

I wish that I had simple answers to such questions. The only thing that I know is that the Word of God tells me “Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph.4:29-32).

The other point that comes out of the story is the current fashion of what may be termed “invading people’s privacy”. Surely that which is spoken privately should be kept private, and not immediately “leaked” to the media! The Bible has something to say on that score as well. “A gossip tells secrets, so don't hang around with someone who talks too much.” (Prov.20:19), and Paul writes about those whose “…lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behaviour, and gossip.” (Rom.1:29).

Could it be that even a change in the sort of language that we use, and the reporting (or otherwise!) of it, would be followed by an increased level of mutual respect, understanding, trust, and politeness?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The death of Common Sense

The following arrived in my Inbox today - sent by Christians Together (http://www.christianstogether.net/Groups/46918/Christians_Together_in.aspx) - and originally published in The London Times. It makes sad reading - basically because it is so very true!

"Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, 'Common Sense'. Though he has been with us for many years, no one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; life isn't always fair; and maybe, just maybe, it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place which led to: reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouth wash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student. These situations worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust; and his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility and his son, Reason. He is survived by four other close relations; I Know My Rights; I Want It Now; Someone Else Is To Blame; and I'm A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone. But if you still remember him, please pass this on; as the majority who have been silenced by the thought police called "PC" will do nothing."

Monday, 9 February 2009

Politics - and morality!

Am I missing something? For the past couple of days, I have heard a lot, from UK government ministers and spokespeople, about their dismay at the proposals that "large" (a somewhat relative word!) bonuses are to be paid to many in the banking industry - including in those banks that have been all but nationalised. It is, we are informed, perfectly legal for these bonuses to be paid. Indeed, in some cases, it would appear to be a "contractual obligation"! However, our political masters, in my opinion quite rightly, make the point that in the current financial situation to accept such bonuses would be unethical, if not downright immoral! After all, these people - be they directors or counter staff, already have the bonus that has been denied to so many - continuing employment.

What confuses my simple mind is that when the Home Secretary claims some £116,000 by claiming that a room in her sister's London home is her own main home (while happily keeping her £300,000 West Midlands home), this is excused, or deemed acceptable, because it is considered to be perfectly legal - regardless of the dubious morality of the situation. Further reports suggest that the same person is costing me (and my fellow-UK-tax-payers) a further £200,000 annually for police protection by choosing to live with her sister. Of course, if she lived in one of the vacant ministerial properties, which already have police protection, she would not be allowed to claim the second home expenses! It would appear that Ms Smith (why do so many of these married women seem to be ashamed of their married name??) has been taking lessons from Mr Ed Balls and his wife, the same Ms Cooper (somewhere, surely, known as Mrs Balls!) whom I heard on this morning's Today programme (Radio 4) lecturing the banks with regard to their immoral attitude. I wonder did they, like Ms Smith, vote against the capping of expenses, and greater transparency?

Surely it is long past time for honesty, and integrity, to return to British politics - at every level. This might be achieved by supporting some of the smaller (and, I would say, Christian - but I am biassed!!) parties. It might also help if the current "government" had the decency to go to the country sooner, rather than later!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Death - and life.

I haven't watched Star Trek for many years but, if my memory serves me well, the opening sequence contained a spoken reference to space as "the final frontier". The starship Enterprise was, of course, exploring this final frontier.

During this past week, however, I have been reminded afresh of what is truly the final frontier for mankind - that experience that we refer to as death. On Tuesday, I attended the funeral service for a former friend whose wife had gone to bed, leaving him watching a television programme. When she awoke, a few hours later to find the bed beside her still empty, she went downstairs. She saw her husband, still seated in front of the television set - but he was dead. Just 62 years of age, Jim had suffered a fatal heart attack.

On Thursday, I was speaking by telephone with friends who live if France, working as missionaries in the city of Nantes. They told me of a young girl who had been involved with them in a summer mission literature team. She had been involved in a car accident a week ago, today, and was in a coma. Yesterday, I received an e-mail informing me that she had died. Laura was just 20 years of age.

These are two of the problems with death. It doesn't always make an appointment in advance; and it is no respecter of age. However, what makes both of these deaths bearable is the Christian commitment shared by both Jim and Laura. You see, for the genuine believer in the Lord, Jesus Christ death, whenever it might come, is not the end. As I was praying for both families this morning, I came up with the thought that the dark door of physical death leads into the everlasting light of God's nearer presence. But, of course, that is only true, in my experience, for the committed Christian - the one who has yielded his/her life to the Christ, and sought to follow Him for as long as they have breath.

There is one more major problem with death! After it has claimed us, there is nothing that we can do to change our status. In the Letter to the Hebrew Christians, the anonymous writer states that "... it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment," (9:27). Luke, in ch.16 of his account of the Gospel, records Jesus' parable (some would say story!) about the beggar named Lazarus, and the rich man who is traditionally named Dives (from the Latin word for "rich"). At the GLO Mini Bible School, last week, we were reminded, from that story, that the way in which we live our lives here affects where we spend eternity.

As far as I am concerned, there is only one way in which to live a life that will ensure that we might face physical death with a steady eye. That's to live as Jim and Laura did - in the service of the Lord Jesus, seeking to do all things in a way that brings glory to Him.

The big question is, "Where will you spend eternity?" or, in other words, "Where will you be when you have crossed that final frontier?" I trust that you will be with Jim, and Laura, and countless others (see Rev.7:9ff) in the Presence of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, throughout the timelessness that is eternity.

Friday, 6 February 2009

The intimidation of the House of Lords.

In my post of 25th Jan., I shared an e-mail that I had received, that showed the religion of Islam for what I believe it truly to be. I received one negative comment - to which I replied.

However, in Tuesday's edition of The Spectator newspaper, the following article by Melanie Phillips was published. It would seem to confirm what was written in that e-mail!

"I have been travelling during the past few days and so have built up a bit of a backlog of events upon which I have not yet commented. One of these is the apparently gross abuse of Parliament by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, which remarkably has not been covered at all in the mainstream British media. Another member of the House of Lords invited the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is currently facing prosecution in the Netherlands for his outspoken analysis of the Islamist war on civilisation, to screen his controversial film ‘Fitna’ in the Lords on January 29 and discuss his views.

But various representatives of the British Muslim community protested; and Lord Ahmed issued a threat that he would personally mobilise 10,000 Muslims to prevent Wilders from entering the Upper House and would take the peer organising the event to court. In the face of such threats, the meeting was cancelled.

Lord Ahmed then boasted of his victory in the Pakistani media. The Associated Press of Pakistan reported him exulting in "a victory for the Muslim community."

It was of course a major defeat for Parliament’s sovereign right and duty to protect free speech, the right to issue an invitation to a democratically elected member of a European parliament, and the right of British citizens to live without intimidation. It was an appalling development.
Now, however, it is fighting back. Wilders has been re-invited to speak and screen his film in the Lords later this month. Parliament now has a second chance to show that jihadi thuggery will not be allowed to prevail within the cradle of democracy. But if it is really to demonstrate this, it should also surely take action against Lord Ahmed, who abused his position as a peer of the realm to threaten mass intimidation of the House in which he sits. If it fails to do so, it will be another notch on the ratchet of Britain’s slide into submission."

Additional material may be found at http://www.ccfon.org/view.php?id=682

Family Life?

Until a week or so ago, there were very few people who had ever heard of Nadya Suleman. Now, her name is known all around the world. She is, of course, the woman who recently made headline news when she gave birth to octuplets – eight babies – all of whom (and for this we may be thankful) appear to be healthy.

What has turned the event into a controversy is the subsequent revelation that Ms Suleman already had six children; that all fourteen children were conceived through the use of IVF treatment; and that this has all been done to satisfy her personal dream of having a “large” family! There are many who are saying that there is “large” and there is “LARGE”!!

Three things come to mind. The first is that this would appear to be the action of a selfish person, assisted by medical staff who were willing to ignore professional guidelines. According to those guidelines, issued by The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, a woman of Ms Suleman’s age should have a maximum of two embryos implanted. Indeed, it has been reported that The Medical Board of California has begun an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the whole affair, as they are concerned that there may have been a violation of the standard of care that should have been afforded.

However, one must also consider those fourteen children. I am the eldest of six, and my parents – together – managed to provide each one of us with all of the love and the care that we ever needed. But a “single” parent, coping with fourteen – eight of whom are going to be at the same stage in life?! Regardless of how determined she may be, I have serious doubts about Ms Suleman’s ability to give each of those children the individual love, affection, and care that each of them will need. In a televised interview with NBC, she stated that her own childhood left her feeling a lack of “self and identity”. I fear that, at least some of, her fourteen 'fatherless' children are going to have the same problem!

Of course, all of this comes back to man’s constant desire to “be like God” (see Gen.3:5), and to that self-centredness that has been one of the hallmarks of mankind since the fall. One does feel for couples who earnestly desire to have a child, without whom they feel incomplete. However, there are too many ethical, and practical, difficulties with this whole business of artificially creating life outwith the womb. And, of course, it isn’t even necessary! I am unaware of any serious study that may have been undertaken, but I would guess that there are more than enough orphaned children and, certainly, children whose abortion ensured that they never saw the light of day, to satisfy the demand for children by those unable to have one naturally.

God’s original plan for a couple – one male, one female – to commit themselves to one another in marriage, and to provide a safe, secure, loving environment for the raising of their children, has still to be bettered!!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Monday, 2 February 2009

A problem with prayer!

Having for many years been interested in, and supported, the persecuted church, I am increasingly concerned at the way in which some Christians in the UK are being treated – purely because of their Christian faith. The most recent situation concerns Caroline Petrie, a married mother of two, who has been suspended, without pay, from her job as a Community Nurse, simply for offering to pray with an elderly patient. The patient – who is, of course, afforded the privilege of anonymity – was not personally offended, but claims to have been concerned that others might be. My immediate reaction to that is that others should then have been left to make any complaint that they wished to make!

This all took place in mid-December, and Mrs Petrie has been left for all of that time with the uncertainty of whether, or not, she will still have a job in her chosen, and caring, profession after the outcome of an enquiry is made known – possibly this week.

It is surely a sad state of affairs when the offer to pray for someone is treated in such a harsh way. As I commented, last night, to my good friend Bob Dixon, I am old enough to remember when the UK was – at least nominally – a Christian country. I have lived through the so-called “post-Christian” era; and I fear that I am now living in a period that may best be described as specifically anti-Christian!

Andrea Williams, the founder and Director of the Christian Legal Centre, has said: "It is of huge concern that Christian citizens, whose desire is to do their jobs well, are increasingly being silenced and pushed out of the ‘public square’ because of Equality and Diversity Policies. It is extraordinary, that these policies which purport to ensure tolerance are ushering in a new form of censorship and intolerance which should concern us all".

I can only agree with Andrea, and express the hope that common-sense will prevail, and that Mrs Petrie will be fully re-instated (and even given the back pay that she has lost!). Don’t tell the North Somerset Primary Care Trust, who have taken this ridiculous attitude, but I’ll even be praying for Caroline!

Love one another.

This report (see below) continues to be prominent in the UK News Bulletins. This morning, it was stated that another of the major problems for our young people is the sefishness of adults.

Once again, a reading of God's Word would have saved a lot of time and effort (not to mention cash!). John 13:34 records these words of the Lord Jesus: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another". Indeed, he goes on to say that this mutual love will be the way by which others will recognise His disciples (v.35).

Paul, writing to the early Roman church said: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves." (12:10) and, writing to the Galatians, he says "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."

Peter, in his first letter to the early church at large, writes: "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." (3:8)

It seems to me that what this country - and, indeed, the whole world - needs is a good dose of Biblically-based teaching on family life, and other relationships. Of course, the most important relationship is the one that is available, with God the Father, through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus (God the Son), and lived out in the power of God the Holy Spirit. May that be your experience, today.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A wee psalm.

This evening, in Liberty Community Church, we were invited to write a personal Psalm!! We only had about ten minutes, but I want to share my little offering. I know that Cannuckbard will probably want to improve it - and I might even improve it myself if I gave it some time! However, this was what came from my heart at the time, and I am happy to leave it as it is.

You are the Mighty God; Creator of all things.
You are the Living Word; to You, my praise I bring.

I am a sinful man, destined for Your wrath;
Needing a Sacrifice of eternal worth.

Thank You, Lord, You died for me; You hung there in my stead.
You bore my sin; my death, You died; for me, Your blood was shed.

Thank You, Jesus; thank You, Lord;
I worship You.

The ideal family?

The news today, in the UK, is that a comprehensive survey - A Good Childhood - commissioned by the Children’s Society, has discovered that children who are brought up by loving natural parents have the best hope of a happy life. Four main styles of parenting have been identified : disciplined, authoritative, neglectful and permissive. Researchers have studied the effects of each upon the way in which children develop. They agree that the style that is loving and yet firm - now known in the jargon as authoritative - is the most effective. In this approach boundaries are explained, in the context of a warm, loving relationship.

Most children, the Report states, hate loss of contact with their fathers and often experience substantial distress, anger or self-doubt as a result. Yet, in Britain around 28% of all children whose parents have separated have no contact with their fathers three years after the separation. On present trends, it is claimed, this figure will continue to rise.

And so it goes on. To read a fuller report of the Report, go to

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article5626662.ece

You may be surprised, even shocked, and certainly saddened, by some of the other conclusions that are presented.

It probably cost tens of thousands of pounds sterling, and did take two years of research, to arrive at that amazing conclusion. Yet the written Word of God - the Bible - shows us clearly that what the report is suggesting is what God had already ordained! From the very beginning, God set the basic standard of one man and one woman (Gen.2:24). The fact that, even in the pages of the Biblical record, we find instances in which this ideal was not achieved, in no way negates the principle set down. The first of the Ten Words (the Ten Commandments) that deals with human relationships, rather than the relationship between God and humankind, is the Fifth. The core of that commandment is that children should "Honour father and mother".

In the New Testament, the teaching continues. Jesus, Himself, affirms the teaching of Gen.2:24 - see Mt.19:5; Mark 10:7; and Paul gives the same teaching (Eph.3:1). Ephesians 5 and 6 is a whole section on family relationships that, if achieved, would ensure a calm and happy home.

For decades, the liberal humanists and their like have sought, vociferously, to downgrade the whole biblical notion of 'family'. Let us hope that, by God's grace, this Report will signal a change in our society - if it is not already too late!