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Sunday, 31 May 2009

I Like Hugs

It’s wondrous what a hug can do,
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue.
A hug can say, “I love you so” …
Or, “I hate to see you go.”
A hug is “Welcome back, again”
And, “Great to see you!”
Or, “Where’ve you been?”
A hug can soothe a small child’s pain,
And bring the rainbow after rain.
The Hug! There’s just no doubt about it,
We scarcely could survive without it!
A hug delights and warms and charms –
It must be why God gave us arms!
Hugs are great for fathers and mothers
Sweet for sisters, even for brothers.
And, chances are, some favourite aunts
Love them more than potted plants!
Kittens crave them. Puppies love them.
Heads of State are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier,
And make the dullest day seem merrier.
No need to fret about the store of them
The more you give, the more there are of them.
So stretch those arms without delay
And give someone a hug today.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Who is God??

I was surprised, this evening, to see on a television news programme, a young lady supporter at a football (soccer!) match, waving above her head a large placard that proclaimed to one and all that “Coyle is God”!!! The gentleman to whom such divine reference was being made is currently, as far as I can make out, the manager of Burnley Football Club – and has apparently been very successful in his job. This, I gather, has made him one of the front runners to take over from Gordon Strachan who resigned as manager of Glasgow Celtic Football Club after their failure to capture the Scottish Premier League Cup on Sunday.

Now those who know me personally will find it difficult to believe that I wrote all of that myself. My interest in that particular sport is similar to my interest in testing a guillotine – at the sharp end!! But that placard …!!!

My mind went back many years to the early days of the use of computers in schools. I was at an in-service event with a number of other teachers of Religious Education – including a fellow-minister. These were the days of the DOS operating system, and we had to physically type in the commands for the computer to follow. It had been explained that we could provide the computer with a number of words/statements, and it would be able to put them together in a sentence. I watched with something akin to horror as my colleague typed in three words – “Ainslie”, “is”, and “God”. He then pressed the appropriate button on the keyboard that should have provided the (to me, blasphemous) sentence he sought. And nothing happened!!

My colleague kept trying, but the computer refused to obey his command. “That computer, Ainslie,” I remember saying, “has more theological acumen than you have!” Later on, as I learned a bit more about computers, I worked out what Ainslie had been doing wrong (!) – but I hope that he learned an important lesson.

Owen Cole may well be a humble, God-fearing, man; and he cannot be held responsible for the claims that a team supporter makes about him. But he is certainly not God. He is, like the rest of us, a sinner who needs to be saved, by the grace of the only true God – the Creator and Sustainer of all that is; the One Who is holiness, power, wisdom, love, and much else besides.

Writing to the followers of the Lord Jesus in 1st century Ephesus, Paul has this to say: “We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.” (4:5-7)

May all who visit this blog, likewise, be followers/disciples of that same Lord Jesus – God the Son Who, alone, is the Way to the Father, and Who has revealed the Father to us. (see Jn.14:8ff)

Sunday, 24 May 2009

More about choices!

So, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – the highest court in the denomination – has spoken. Last night, the fathers and brethren decided, by 326 votes to 267 votes, to confirm the call to the parish and congregation of Aberdeen: Queen’s Cross, of a homosexual minister who is living, openly, with his male partner.

To many, me included, this flies in the face of clear Scriptural teaching that homosexual activity is totally wrong. Much has been made of the fact that the same Old Testament book that prohibits homosexual activity also enjoins the stoning of adulterers and other such punishments. However, when we turn to the fuller revelation of Almighty God, in the pages of the New Testament, we discover that while these penalties are no longer required, homosexual activity still comes under condemnation.

The minister at the centre of this unhappy controversy, Mr Scott Rennie, has also stated, in a T.V. programme, that no-one makes the choice to be heterosexual – implying that he ought not to be held responsible for his own life-style. However, my understanding is that the “homosexual gene” is as fictitious as the evolutionists’ “missing link”. Life, as far as I can make out, is full of choices. I reckon that I am capable of committing murder – but, so far, I have managed to choose not to do so. I have also chosen not to be a bank robber; a mugger; a rapist. And, of course, if I were to commit any such action, I doubt that pleading a “murderous gene”, or whatever, would be considered to be an acceptable defence!

Mr Rennie is also reported as having said that he is “unrepentant”, and this is the crux of the matter for many. The church, as I was preaching earlier today to a local parish congregation, is inclusive in the sense that the doors of the building are open to all. However, it is also exclusive, in the sense that only those who have made a conscious decision to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, and who have come, in repentance and faith to Him for their eternal salvation, are truly members of the church as the body and bride of Christ.

What happens next? Well, that is the big question! Among the 12,000+ who signed the online appeal to the Assembly, “… to support the position of those who stood to defend Christian orthodoxy in Aberdeen Presbytery, and ensure instead that the Church will apply and assert in practice its clear doctrinal position on all matters of marriage and human sexuality, by refusing to condone homosexual practice in general, and among its leaders in particular.” were 272 serving parish ministers (some 28% of all serving ministers) plus about 150 retired ministers , associate ministers, and chaplains. Over 1200 Kirk elders, and 33 whole Kirk Sessions (the ruling body in a local congregation) also supported the appeal. Full details, and a copy of the complete statement/appeal may be seen at http://www.confessingchurch.org.uk/ga09-statement/

In 1843, there was a similar situation in the Church of Scotland, when some 450 ministers, under the leadership of Dr.Thomas Chalmers, and accompanied by the Moderator, Dr. Welsh, walked out of the General Assembly. This led to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland – with Dr Chalmers as Moderator of its first General Assembly – many of whose congregations exist today. I suspect that there are many, this evening, who are deeply in prayer as to what, if any, move they must now make. However, I take comfort in the Sovereignty of Almighty God, and the assurance that “… God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Rom.8:28)

Thursday, 21 May 2009

It's still about choice!

It’s been another bad week for British politicians, as The Telegraph newspaper continues to expose the depth of the sleaze and fraud that appears to have been perpetrated by so many of them.

Yesterday, I had a highly disruptive class of about ten pupils, who were among those denied the opportunity to go on a reward trip for the S1/2 classes.

This morning’s Today radio programme broke the news that a long-delayed investigation into Ireland's Church of Rome-run institutions says that priests and nuns terrorised thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades – and that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

Three separate, and seemingly unconnected, situations. Yet the common denominator that runs through them is that the focus is on the relatively small number of ‘deviants’, while the vast majority of those in the bigger picture – be they politicians, pupils, or priests/nuns – are not involved in the activities that anger, and shock, and lead to punishment of one kind or another.
Jesus said “You will always have the poor among you,” (Mt.26:11), but it is also true that, as a result of mankind’s fallen, sinful, nature, we will always have among us, those who do not even measure up to the standards that civilised society sets – let alone the standards set by Almighty God!

That, I would suggest, is why it is important that those of us who claim to be disciples of that same Jesus be faithful in our own witness – seeking, by His strength, to be the individuals that He wants us to be; and in our praying for those who see our witness – and who judge the Master by what they see of Him in the servants!

The few may certainly taint the many but, for the true follower of Jesus, there is an assurance of His promised presence (Matt.28:20), and that He has already won the victory over all that is evil through His sacrificial death at Calvary. May you know His strength, on a daily basis, that you may resist the devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (I Pet.5:8), and be more than a conqueror, through Him Who loved us, and gave Himself for us (Rom.8:38). At the end of the day, we have been given – as the post below reminds us – the freedom to choose. But the consequences of our choices are eternal!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Choose today whom you will serve.

Yesterday, I spent a very pleasant time in the town of Dumbarton, at the annual Scottish Pipe Band Championship. The first thing to strike me – other than the constant skirl of the Great Highland Bagpipe (A' Phìob Mhòr) – was the number of young people involved in the 113 bands that were on parade. Having been a bandsman (in the dim and distant past!!) I have some idea of the level of dedication that is involved in such an activity. The hours of practice that are involved, even without reaching championship standard, are many, and it was refreshing to see so many of the youthful members of our society commit themselves to achieving such high standards.

Another sight, that caused me to stop, was the use of electronic tuners to ensure that the drones of each set of pipes in each band were all tuned to precisely the same note. I mentioned the use of modern equipment in sport in an earlier post, and wondered how well athletes and sportsmen of an earlier era would have done with such modern aids. Yesterday, I wondered how long it might be before there was no one left who could tune a set of pipes ‘by ear’!!

But what, you might be wondering, has all of that to do with the heading that I’ve given to this post? Well, I suppose that I could argue that those electronic tuners were serving the band by ensuring that the optimum sound emanated from the bagpipes in question. However, the heading has really to do with another sight that I witnessed while driving to Dumbarton. As I left the M74 to make my way on to the M8, I was overtaken by about 20 motor-cyclists. These were no youngsters; each one was dressed in similar – if not identical – leathers; and each tunic had, emblazoned on the back, the legend “Slaves of Satan”.

They were, I supposed, a group of what we used to refer to as “Hell’s angels”, and it may well be that they were the gentlest bunch of men that one could hope to meet. However, my mind went off at a tangent. Many of the writers of the New Testament letters refer to themselves as “servant of Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom.1:1; James 1:1; II Pet, 1:1; Jude 1:1); but the Greek word that is often translated ‘servant’ – the word doulos – is more correctly translated ‘slave’. A slave, of course, has no rights at all. His master has the literal power of life and death over him. He belongs to his master to be dealt with in any way that the latter chooses. I wondered if those motor-cyclists fully understood the concept!

In the Old Testament book of Joshua, that great leader of the early Jewish people challenged his contemporaries as to their personal allegiance. “…honour YHWH and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve YHWH alone. But if you are unwilling to serve YHWH, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve YHWH.” (24:14-15).

The challenge is the same today. If you are not the slave of the Lord Jesus then, like it or not, you are a slave of the devil! (cf. Lk.9:50). The choice, of course, is always yours – the Saviour, or the satan? May you make the wise choice, and serve Him in Whose service is perfect freedom.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Farrah Fawcett - seeking a miracle.

Terminal cancer is never a pleasant subject about which to write – or even think. However, yesterday evening’s news told me of Farrah Fawcett, one of the stars of the 1970s series Charlie’s Angels, who is reportedly in the final stages of the condition. She has made a video diary that was intended to be something to look at after she had recovered. However, according to her sometime partner, the actor Ryan O’Neal, she is now reconciled to the fact that such a recovery is unlikely. It was just one sentence in the report that made me think – words spoken by the actress when she said that she needed a miracle, and “told” God that this was seriously the time to work one!

In yesterday morning’s thought in the UCB publication Word for Today (available free of charge – go through the link at the bottom of the blogsite) we were reminded to “Stop treating God like a caretaker you call when you’ve made a mess, and need someone to clean it up; or as your ‘go-for’ person, when you need something you can’t otherwise get. Don’t go to God for a miracle, go for a relationship; and you can walk in His miraculous provision every day.”

That’s a reminder that God is not there to be called upon in times of need – and ignored the rest of the time. It is those who have entered into a living relationship with Him, through the Son, who are in a position to seek His help. Those who do not have that relationship, do not have access to the Father Who, according to the Lord Jesus, may only be approached through Him (Jn.14:6).

I trust that Farrah Fawcett knows someone who is close enough to both the Lord, and her, to be able to bring these truths before her, that she might experience the greatest miracle of all – salvation from the consequences of her sinfulness, and a new life that goes beyond physical death, and that is founded on a living relationship with the Lord Jesus.

May that also be the experience of every individual who reads this blog.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Satan's Deadliest Strategy

The following is a slightly edited version of an e-mail that I received, today, from my wee cousin, Heather. It has a great deal of what J.B.Phillips would have called 'the ring of truth'. It also brings a considerable challenge to those of us who claim to be disciples of the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons.In his opening address he said,“We can't keep Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can't even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their Saviour. Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners BUT – steal their time, so they don't have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do,” he continued, “Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!”

“How shall we do this?” his demons shouted.“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds," he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. Soon, as their families fragment, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work! Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small, voice. Entice them to play the radio or CD player whenever they drive; to keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their homes; and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world constantly plays non-biblical music. This will jam their minds, and break that union with Christ.

Fill their coffee-tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news, 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their letterboxes with junk mail, mail-order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotion offering free products and services, and false hopes. Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so the husbands will believe that outward beauty is what's important, and they'll become dissatisfied with their wives. Keep the wives too tired to love their husbands at night. Give them headaches too! If they don't give their husbands the love they need, the husbands will begin to look elsewhere. That will fragment their families quickly!

Give them Santa Claus to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas. Give them an Easter bunny so they won't talk about his resurrection and power over sin and death. Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted. Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God's creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead.

Keep them busy, busy, BUSY! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences. Crowd their lives with so many good causes that they have no time to seek power from Jesus. Soon they will be working in their own strength; sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.

It will work! It will work!"

It was quite a plan!

The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there. They had little time for God or for their families. They had no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change lives.

Does "BUSY" mean: B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-oke?

I guess the question is: Has the devil been successful in his schemes in your life?

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Politics, and the purposes of God

The news over recent days seesm to have been dominated by politics - whether it is the attitude of the present (British) government to ex-members of the Ghurka; the continuing revelations with regard to the way in which a large number of members of the British parliament appear to have abused the system of allowances and expenses (while always working "within the rules"!!); or the predicted melt-down of the Labour party at the local elections, in England and Wales, to be held at the same time as the European elections on June 4th.

It is little wonder that, in the light of such information, the general public seem to have lost what little faith in, and respect for, politicians they had managed to retain over the past decade.

The whole episode concerns me as a British taxpayer; as a constituency member; and as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. It has often been said that we get the kind of government for which we vote - but I find it incredibly difficult to believe that even the most ardent Labour supporter voted for this state of affairs. One is reminded of George Orwell's Animal Farm in which Napoleon the Pig stated that "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" These words were written in 1945 as a criticism of the communist system and the greed that was obvious at the top. It would appear that too many of the current group of members of parliament (and of the European parliament) have taken this as some form of personal position vis-a-vis the general public.

However, I am also reminded that I serve the sovereign God, and that He is working His purposes out on a daily basis. Could it be that the current situation is paving the way for the election of men and women of honesty and integrity to the 'corridors of temporal power'? I certainly would not want to see the British National Party become the beneficiary of the electorate's disillusionment. I would hope, indeed, that the Christian Parties will be seen as having a basis that will satisfy the natural desire for fairness that is shared by so many. One of the arguments against the 'smaller' parties being considered in the past, has been their lack of political experience. However, it could be argued that we want to get away from current political experience, and acquire a freshness that looks to Almighty God for guidance and direction.

The next few weeks will be very interesting to 'politico-watchers'. Praise God that He is still in control; that He still rules the nations; and that, in the Persona of the Lord Jesus (listen to my audio-message on The Trinity, at www.revcbross.blogspot.com), He will soon return to bring true justice and integrity to a renewed earth.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Signs of the times?

I can barely believe that it is almost a fortnight since I posted on this blog! My only excuse is that I have been unusually busy – but I guess that I could have made some time if I had wanted to say anything that I thought to be of some importance. :-)

One of the major items of news this week, concerns Philip Nitschke, an Australian medical doctor, and proponent of assisted suicide (euthanasia) who was interviewed under the Immigration and Asylum Act after arriving from Australia on Saturday. Dr Nitschke held a workshop in Bournemouth, Dorset, today, to talk about his “area of expertise”. The U.K. Home Office had already confirmed he had been interviewed and had been granted permission to enter the UK.

Well, I am totally in favour of people being able to express their personal point of view – provided that it is done politely, and that they will permit those who hold an opposite/alternative viewpoint to express their opinions. So, as far as it goes, I have no particular problem with this gentleman’s ideas, or his desire to share them with those who wish to know. However, I will continue to argue that human life is unique and special, and that only Almighty God has the right to take the life that He created.

However, I am reminded of other decisions of the British Home Office, and the Department of Immigration in particular. I think of those – usually claiming to be devout Muslims – who come to the U.K. with the sole intention of encouraging others to work against this country and its inhabitants, and often doing so whilst claiming as many state benefits as they can! Even when arrested, tried, and convicted, it would appear that it is impossible to deport them as this, it is claimed, would infringe upon their human rights!

I am also reminded that a Christian musician and a team of missionaries from the United States were recently denied entry into the United Kingdom under complex new immigration rules, that were quietly introduced late last year, and that require religious workers to pay a fee to obtain a visa. Well-known Christian singer, Don Francisco, arrived at Heathrow Airport on March 2nd and was detained, fingerprinted and escorted onto a flight back to the U.S.

On the previous day, a team from Arkansas, who would have volunteered in soup kitchens with Assemblies of God churches in Edinburgh, was denied entrance into Scotland, having been told that they had to have a work visa!

Christian leaders inside the U.K. said few ministries are fully aware of the work visa regulations, which were introduced late last year, and under which religious workers must be sponsored by a U.K. government registered organisation. Also, applicants must pay a fee to obtain a work visa. Essentially, one may stay in the U.K. as a tourist for six months, but if one wishes to volunteer some of one’s time working in a soup kitchen, a work visa is required!

Putting it all together, we seem to have arrived at a situation in which it is acceptable to promote the taking of human life, but not to seek to enhance it. I am not sure that the rejection of either Don Francisco, or the team from Arkansas, may be interpreted as specifically anti-Christian. However, it is a strange coincidence that, apparently, the first people to fall foul of the new regulations are those who are disciples of the Lord Jesus! Certainly, even if the legislation isn’t aimed, specifically, at Christians, they are the ones it's going to affect because they're going to be honest. If Don Francisco had said he was a singer, he probably would have been welcomed but, because he said ‘gospel singer,' he was deported.

These are sad days in the U.K. – but, could it be that they are heralding the return of the One Who will act with perfect justice and integrity, even Jesus, King of kings, and Lord of lords?