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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Holidays!!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when my wife and I head off for what some of our friends now refer to as our “annual pilgrimage” to France! It’s something to which we do look forward and, in spite of having preached three times today, I’ve managed to wash the car, move the caravan round to the driveway, and get myself reasonably organised to leave sometime before noon tomorrow.

At Preshal, this evening, I was greatly encouraged. First of all, I had a ‘strong’ word that I believed the Lord would have me share with the folk there, and this was received very graciously. However, when we were asked about our holiday, and the length of time for which we would be away, I confessed to a little embarrassment when I informed them that we would be away for just over five weeks! It was very encouraging to be assured that we worked hard, and therefore deserved a decent break. I’m not absolutely convinced about the ‘deserved’ bit – but I suppose that that means that our holiday may be viewed as a further manifestation of the grace of God in our lives.

Of course, there was a time when the only ‘holiday’ that the average person in this part of the world enjoyed, was a ‘holy day’ – one of the special feasts of the Christian church. Indeed, our modern word ‘holiday’ is simply a contraction (some would say, corruption!) of ‘holy day’. And holidays are good. We all need to have an opportunity to relax; to recharge both our physical and our spiritual batteries; to be restored and reinvigorated for whatever lies ahead. That’s why I like the word ‘recreation’. It speaks of the process of being ‘created anew’; of being refreshed – made fresh again.

And this is something that comes from the Creator Himself. Right at the beginning, He ordained that mankind should work six days, and rest on the seventh day. And it’s interesting to realise that the seven-day week is the only time period that has no astronomical explanation! A day is the period of time that it takes for the earth to rotate once on its axis; a year is the time it takes for the earth to travel a complete orbit around the sun; a month is the approximate time for the moon to orbit the earth. But the week has no such natural explanation. It was simply God’s idea – and, I would suggest, we in the UK have suffered because we have, by and large, thrown out that seventh day of rest and recreation, so that Sunday has become just another shopping and work day. I find it sadly amusing (if that isn’t an oxymoron!) that Sunday trading was ‘sold’ to the population about fifteen years ago partly on the basis that it would bring us in line with mainland Europe. It would be a ‘continental Sunday’. I can’t speak for the whole of Europe, but I know that the areas of France and Germany that we tend to visit have very little open on a Sunday, and even the large supermarkets that do open, do so for only a few hours in the morning!

So, there are unlikely to be any posts until the middle of August – unless we find a camp-site with free wi-fi access. I had hoped to add some live taped messages to my other blog at revcbross.blogspot.com but the connection between the tape-deck and the computer isn’t functioning properly – a wee job for when I return.

I do hope that, wherever you may be reading this post you, too, will have some opportunity to enjoy a break, and be refreshed yourself. Please keep me in your ‘Favourites’, or set up a direct feed to your e-mail inbox. I look forward to being back in about six weeks’ time. :-)

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Neda, Farrah, Michael, et al!

The media frenzy over the death of the pop idol, Michael Jackson, overshadowed the reports of other deaths during the past week. Last Saturday, Neda Soltan – a young woman whose name would probably never have been known outwith her own circle of family, friends, and workmates – was gunned down on the streets of Teheran. Her death made the headlines all around the world. On Thursday, the actress – and former ‘Charlie’s Angel – Farrah Fawcett also died: a victim of the rare anal cancer. And, of course, hundreds of others, whose name most of us will never know, died in a wide variety of circumstances, and from a wide variety of causes.

Of course, death is ‘the great leveller’. Rich or poor; famous or unknown; old or young; not one of us is able to avoid death. We may fiddle our expenses; we may get our way by the use of bullying tactics; we may abuse our fellow-man. But the moment comes when death lays its cold hand upon us, and not all of the wealth, fame, or power that this world could ever offer, is of any use when that happens.

This, as I have shared in an earlier post, is where the disciple of Jesus has a wonderful assurance. Paul, writing to the early followers of the Christ, in the city of Thessalonica, had this to say: “And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died, so that 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.” (I Thess.4:13-17)

I have watched scenes of great grief on my television screen over these past days. And it is perfectly natural that we should grieve over those whom we have loved, and who we will never see again in this life. But if they, and we, are one with the Lord Jesus, then we have the joy of knowing that He has already conquered death – and that “…overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Rom.8:37)

May you have that deep assurance for yourself.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Fathers’ Day

It’s Fathers’ Day! I often think that these ‘special’ days are driven more by commercial interests than by a genuine desire to mark the special contribution that the particular relative makes/has made in one’s life! But, perhaps, I’m just being cynical. However, my cynicism is based on knowing too many who make a fuss about Father’s Day, or Mothers’ Day – and ignore the parent(s) for most of the rest of the year; or perhaps treat the parent(s) in a disrespectful manner.

That’s why I want to make a public declaration of gratitude to four people who have helped me to be the father I’ve been privileged to be for over thirty years.

First of those is, of course, my wife. I certainly wouldn’t have become a father without her assistance!! But it’s more than that. She has been a great mother and, so often, an example to me that has helped me to be a better father than I might otherwise have been.

The second two are my (our!) daughters. It’s difficult to be a father if one has no children! Dear old Abram (Abraham) knew that – God had promised that He would make Abram a great nation, but Abram was childless (see Gen.12:1 ff.). I have been blessed with two great children. Don’t get me wrong. We have been known to “rub each other up the wrong way”. But we love one another – and we are not afraid/embarrassed to vocally express that love. They are both very special to me – as is their mum.

The fourth is my own late father. He was – unlike his eldest son! – a man of few words. But when he did say something, it was worth listening to. And, of course, his actions spoke volumes, and gave me the example of a faithful husband, and a father who often sacrificed his own comfort and pleasure for the sake of his sons.

The Bible has a lot to say about fatherhood. God is described as a Father to the fatherless (Ps.68:5); and as being, like a father, tender and compassionate to those who revere Him (Ps.103:13). The Book of Proverbs (wise sayings) advises children to listen to what their father tells them (1:8, 4:1), and follow his instruction (4:4, 6.20). Paul writes words of advice to fathers in his letters to both the Ephesians, and the Colossians (Eph.6:4 – but, children, check out vs.1-3!; Col.3:21 – and note v.20!).

However, the greatest word that the Bible has to say on the subject of fatherhood is the wonderful picture that Jesus gives us of Almighty God. He is not only the Creator and Sustainer of all that is; He is not only the holy and sinless One; He is not only the righteous Judge; He is, above all, the One Who may be approached, through the all-sufficient sacrifice of the only-begotten Son, as “Abba, Father” – a relationship of love with One Who cares, provides, guides and, when necessary, chastises.

Fatherhood. It’s a great privilege; but it’s also a great responsibility. I thank God for the father to whom He entrusted me; and for all that He has enabled me to be as a father to my own children. On this Fathers’ Day, may all of us who are fathers seek the help of Father God to be the kind of fathers that He wants us to be.

Monday, 15 June 2009

More on responsibility

On my way to work this morning, I listened to a rather harrowing interview with George and Debbie Kinsella, parents of Ben Kinsella – the 16-year-old who was brutally stabbed to death, without any provocation, and whose murderers have been sentenced to nineteen years in prison.

Understandably, their answer to the knife-crime that has blighted so much of our society was to increase the punishment – and I, for one, would find it difficult to persuade a non-Christian that that was not the best approach. Indeed, as an interim measure, it may well be the most effective solution to the problem, although those who commit such crimes are not always in a condition that would allow them to rationally consider the potential consequences!

However, I believe that the real answer lies elsewhere. In school I, and others, have noticed a rapid deterioration in the attitude of an increasing number of the children we endeavour to teach. There are children being extracted from class to attend special ‘anger management’ sessions. Some continue to act in an aggressive ‘in-your-face’ manner. Respect is shown only by ‘softies’ and ‘wimps’; and they readily state that they will do whatever they want, even in school.

Of course, in our post-Christian society, this is only to be expected. The old Book of Proverbs (wise sayings), from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament part of the Christian Bible) states, in a modern translation, advises parents: “Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.” (22:6). This, I would maintain, is where the root of the problem lies. For too long, parents have abrogated the responsibility for their children’s upbringing to strangers. However, it is even worse! Writing to the fellowship of believers in the early Roman church, Paul says: “Give everyone what you owe him: … if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.” (13:7). Respect, however, that used to come so naturally to the vast majority, and that only had to be earned if it had been lost, is a totally foreign concept to many of today’s children. Of course, show perceived disrespect to them, and it’s a different story! That, as far as I can make out, was the problem for Ben Kinsella – someone (not Ben) had ‘dissed’ (shown disrespect to) one of the murderers, and he was determined, with the help of his fellow-thugs, to exact revenge – even if it was from a young lad who had nothing to do with the situation.

It is my contention that the liberal-minded, ‘do-gooders’ of the past thirty years have a great deal for which to answer. Discipline has been thrown out of the window; arrogance and insolence are part of the everyday attitudes of far too many; personal responsibility, and the consequences of unacceptable behaviour, have been discarded. However, there is always a day of reckoning. As Paul wrote to the Galatian believers, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (6:7). Those who sow discord, violence, and disruption, have no valid complaint when the harvest-time arrives!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Personal responsibilty.

This morning, at the Communion Service, a very good friend – whose Christian faith, and academic standing, are both unquestionable – was quoted as having said that, until his/her work is done, the Christian is invincible. Apparently, this was said in the context of riding a motor-bike, and my friend is alleged to have claimed that he didn’t worry about how dangerously he rode, because of this claimed invincibility.

I am fully aware that one should be careful with second-hand reports, but the person who quoted my friend is, himself, a good friend whose faith and intelligence are also of the highest order. I have no doubt, therefore, that the statement was originally made ‘tongue-in-cheek’, and that the quotation of it was made in a similar vein. However, I am concerned that some of those who heard it will have taken the statement quite literally, and may get into all sorts of trouble for having done so. We must be careful what we say, especially when we are teaching the Word, or leading a fellowship of believers in worship. (cf. James 3:1)

Of course, it does raise the whole subject of personal responsibility in the context of the grace of God! I was taught – to continue with the road-using analogy – that when I exceeded the speed limit, my guardian angel got out of the car!! That, I would suggest, is a much safer attitude to take. Just because I am a follower of Jesus does not mean that I am guaranteed safety in circumstances in which I have acted unwisely – if not downright dangerously. Was not that one of the ways by which the devil tried to deflect the Lord Jesus from His mission – “Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, "If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, `He orders His angels to protect You. And they will hold You with their hands to keep You from striking Your foot on a stone.'" Jesus responded, "The Scriptures also say, `Do not test the Lord your God.'" ”? (Matt.4:5-7). Is it not akin to the mistake made by the Jewish leadership against whom the prophet Jeremiah spoke: “Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH.'”? (Jer.7:4).

The grace and mercy of Almighty God are beyond my human understanding. But they are not, I would maintain, to be presumed upon! Indeed, “…let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (I Cor.10:12). Of course, I believe that the Lord has a specific plan and purpose for my life. But I also believe that He will accomplish His own great purposes either with me, or without me! My “putting on Christ” (Rom.13:14), is not the attachment of some ‘magic charm’. It is the adopting of a lifestyle that is rooted in Him, and in the written Word of God. It does not allow me to abandon my personal responsibility. Rather, it requires me to live responsibly for Him, that I may be the means of drawing others to Him. Anything else is foolhardiness, and would not, I suspect, receive that “Well done, good and faithful servant; … enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matt.25:21).

Friday, 12 June 2009

The King and the Abbot

In the previous post, I made reference to the old English ballad of king John and the abbot (or bishop, in some versions). It occurs to me that it might not be known to everyone – especially those of a younger generation so, to satisfy the curiosity of any, here it is (in a modernised, and somewhat abbreviated, form).

I’ll tell you a story, a story anon, Of a noble prince, and his name was King John; For he was a prince, and a prince of great might, He held up great wrongs, he put down great right.

I’ll tell you a story, a story so merry, Concerning the Abbot of Canterbury, And of his house-keeping and high renown, Which made him resort to fair London town.

‘How now, father abbot? ’Tis told unto me That thou keepest a far better house than I; And for [thy] house-keeping and high renown, I fear thou hast treason against my crown.’

‘I hope, my liege, that you owe me no grudge For spending of my true-gotten goods:’
‘If thou dost not answer me questions three, Thy head shall be taken from thy body.

‘When I am set so high on my steed, With my crown of gold upon my head, Amongst all my nobility, with joy and much mirth, Thou must tell me to one penny what I am worth.

‘And the next question you must not flout, How long I shall be riding the world about; And the third question thou must not shrink, But tell to me truly what I do think.’

‘O these are hard questions for my shallow wit, For I cannot answer your grace as yet; But if you will give me but three days space, I’ll do my endeavour to answer your grace.’

‘O three days space I will thee give, For that is the longest day thou hast to live. And if thou dost not answer these questions right, Thy head shall be taken from thy body quite.’

And as the shepherd was going to his fold, He spy’d the old abbot come riding along: ‘How now, master abbot? You’re welcome home; What news have you brought from good King John?’

‘Sad news, sad news I have thee to give, For I have but three days space for to live; If I do not answer him questions three, My head will be taken from my body.

‘When he is set so high on his steed, With his crown of gold upon his head, Amongst all his nobility, with joy and much mirth, I must tell him to one penny what he is worth. ‘And the next question I must not flout, How long he shall be riding the world about; And the third question I must not shrink, But tell him truly what he does think.’

‘O master, did you never hear it yet, That a fool may learn a wiseman wit? Lend me but your horse and your apparel, I’ll ride to fair London and answer the quarrel.’

‘Now I am set so high on my steed, With my crown of gold upon my head, Amongst all my nobility, with joy and much mirth, Now tell me to one penny what I am worth.’

‘For thirty pence our Saviour was sold, Amongst the Jews, as you have been told, And nine and twenty’s the worth of thee, For I think thou art one penny worser than he.’

‘And the next question thou mayst not flout; How long I shall be riding the world about.’

‘You must rise with the sun, and ride with the same, Until the next morning he rises again, And then I am sure you will make no doubt But in twenty-four hours you’l ride it about.’

‘And the third question you must not shrink, But tell me truly what I do think.’

‘All that I can do, and ’twill make you merry; For you think I’m the Abbot of Canterbury, But I’m his poor shepherd, as you may see, And am come to beg pardon for he and for me.’

The king he turned him about and did smile, Saying, Thou shalt be the abbot the other while: ‘O no, my grace, there is no such need, For I can neither write nor read.’

‘Then four pounds a week will I give unto thee For this merry jest thou hast told unto me; And tell the old abbot, when thou comest home, Thou hast brought him a pardon from good King John.’

By the way, I have a device that lets me know exactly how many people are accessing this blog on a daily/hourly basis, and how many pages they have viewed. However, I have been discovering that a number of folk have actually set up a ‘feed’ that enables posts to be directed to their e-mail inbox, and saves them from logging on to the blog. As yet, I have not been able to discover a device that will let me know how exactly have taken advantage of this facility. I would be grateful if anyone who has set up a feed (even if accidentally!) would let me know, via a comment ( that will not be displayed!). Many thanks.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The worth of a man!

As I commented a few posts ago, I am not the world’s greatest fan of the so-called “beautiful game” – football (soccer as opposed to rugby or American). However, there are times when it provides some useful illustrations, and some thought-provoking stories.

I heard, this morning, on the radio, that Kaká – the highly successful Brazilian player – has been transferred from the Italian Club AC Milan to the Spain’s Real Madrid for a fee of around £59 million sterling!!

That is a great deal of money in anyone’s terms, and begs the question “What is a man worth?” The old ballad of The king and the abbot, in which an abbot (or, in some versions, bishop!) is required, on pain of death, to answer three questions put to him by the king, offers one medieval solution. One of those questions is “How much am I worth?” The abbot is perplexed by all three questions and asks for three days grace. This is granted, and as the abbot journeys, he meets a shepherd (or his younger brother) who enquires as to the reason for his downcast look. On being thus informed, he offers to take the place of the abbot and returns to the king, to whom he answers that question with the words “Judas sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver. You are worth almost as much as Christ. You are worth twenty-nine pieces of silver.”

£59 million; 29 pieces of silver. Quite a difference! So what is a man worth? The shepherd was, at least, on the right lines for, according to the teaching of Christianity, each one of us is worth the very life of the Lord Jesus. It was for each one of us that He allowed His blood to be shed. That not only places all of us at the same level, but also shows that we are of infinite worth to a loving, and caring, God.

But back to Kaká! I understand that this is a young man who knows that his real worth is not measured by the size of a football club transfer fee. This is a young man who is totally open about his personal faith in the Lord Jesus. He is a member of the organisation ‘Athletes of Christ’; he celebrates the scoring of a goal by pointing to the sky as a gesture of thanks to God; his favourite book is the Bible; his favourite music is Gospel; and he is a United Nations ‘Ambassador against hunger’ for the UN World Food Programme.

It is highly unlikely that I will ever play on a football pitch beside Kaká. But, praise God, I will be beside him in glory as together, and with countless others, we glorify the Lamb who was slain. Will you be there with us?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Shakespeare - or Jesus?

Well, the European election results are now known, and they certainly don’t make for happy reading for Gordon Brown and the UK government. However, in all of the furore and the controversy over the elections, other things tend to be pushed to the side.

Yesterday morning, I caught an excerpt from the Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House in which Frank Dobson, MP made the following statements: “He addressed all the great issues that have effected mankind.” and “He has the greatest insights to humankind …”

This morning, The Daily Telegraph newspaper published the results of a survey in which it was discovered that “Jesus Christ is the dead person most Britons would love to meet with Diana, Princess of Wales, second, …”

I found two points of interest in those, seemingly unrelated, items. The first is, of course, that I do not think of the Lord Jesus as a “dead person”! As we celebrate every Sunday – and indeed, as often as we wish – He is the risen Saviour Who has conquered death, and hell, and the grave. The old chorus reminded us:
“He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today.
He walks with me, and He talks with me, along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives! salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.”


The other point is that, in spite of what a disciple of the Lord Jesus might think, Frank Dobson was not speaking about the Master. He was, in fact, referring to William Shakespeare! Now, it is true that the English Bard did deal with a number of socio-political, and even religious, themes in his many plays and other writings. And a close study of his collected works does suggest that he had some amazing insights into the heart and mind of mankind. But only the Maker knows the product through and through; and only Jesus deals with the greatest of all issues that effects mankind – sin!

Many years ago, I read a commentary on some of the works of Shakespeare that had, in the preface, the reminder that “The book’s the thing; not the commentary thereon.” Is it pushing things too much to suggest changing that to "The Creator's the thing, not that which He has created"?

Shakespeare may well have provided some insights to the fallen nature of mankind - but only the Saviour can do anything about it! May all who read this post be found in the company of those who have responded positively, with repentant hearts, to His great offer of salvation.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

European Election Results

If I have followed the instructions correctly (!!!) then a scroll down to the bottom of the blog will lead you to a chart of the results of the 2004 Euro-elections - that will be updated for 2009 as the results from the various countries are announced. Don't you just love the wonders of modern technology??!!

By the way, have managed to work out:

EPP-ED = European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats
PES = Party of European Socialists
ALDE = Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
IND/DEM = Independence/Democracy Group in the European Parliament
GREENS/EFA = The Greens – European Free Alliance in the European Parliament
GUE/NGL = Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left
UEN = Union for Europe of the Nations
NI = No Group (Independent)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

True sacrifice

Today, as has been well publicised, is the 65th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy landings that signalled the beginning of the end of the Second World War – at least in Europe. During the week, in the lead-up to the commemorative activities, a number of commentators spoke of the thousands of young men who willingly gave their lives for king and country. However, I would suggest that this was not really the case. The vast majority of those men were there, on the Normandy beaches, because they were conscripts. It was a commendable submission to a sense of duty that appears to be sadly lacking today; but it was not, for most, a willing sacrifice.

War does, of course, provide other examples of such sacrifice as one comrade willingly places himself in a dangerous situation for the sake of another – and pays the supreme price of his own life. However, even in such cases, it is not always a voluntary, calculated, sacrifice. Often, one hears of those who have performed such acts -without it having cost their own life - stating that they didn't even give any thought to their action: it was just a rush of adrenalin that saw them through!

The greatest war of all is the ‘War of the Worlds’ – not that portrayed in the novel by H.G.Wells, but that which takes place in the spiritual realm, between the forces of good and the forces of evil. It was in the context of that conflict that the greatest sacrifice of all time was made when, in the Persona of the Son (please listen to my audio-message on The Trinity at www.revcbross.blogspot.com), Almighty God hung on a cross, on a hill called Calvary – willingly, and lovingly, sacrificing Himself for a fallen, sinful, mankind, in order that we might have the opportunity of eternal life. Of course if, on the battle-field I am injured but, when my comrade-in-arms risks his own life in order to help me, I tell him to go away as I’ll manage on my own, then I am likely to perish. Similarly, anyone who receives the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and rejects it, is condemning themselves to an eternity excluded from His Presence.

Today, many gave thanks – and it was right and proper that they should do so – for those who, willingly or not, died in order to ensure the physical freedom that so many of us enjoy. May it be that many, tomorrow (and every day!) will give thanks for the One Who gave His sinless life that we might know spiritual freedom now, and the joy of His Presence in eternity.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Presbyterian Brown?

Recent reports on the unenviable situation in which Gordon Brown (currently Prime Minister of the UK government) finds himself, have made barbed comments with regard to his Presbyterianism, and his alleged Christian beliefs.

However, as I frequently point out to pupils, there is a great deal of truth in the old adage that “Words are cheap”? The very Jesus Who is the Centre and Foundation of the Christian faith said, in the context of discerning character, that “You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit. You don't pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles.” (Matt.7:16). The words were originally spoken about false prophets but, surely, they are applicable to others as well?!

Mr Brown’s actions, both as Chancellor of the Exchequer and as Prime Minister, do not, I would suggest, stand up to very much scrutiny. Whether it be the ‘robbing’ of pension funds, or the abolition of the 10p rate of Income Tax; his support for the illegal invasion of Iraq, or his failure to ensure adequate equipment for the forces who have been sent there; his failure to support the Ghurkas, or his apparent support for some of his fellow-members who have blatently fleeced the British taxpayers; his actions have not been easily seen as compatible with the teaching of the Carpenter from Nazareth!

As far as Presbyterianism is concerned, the basic difference between that denomination and some others is, not as much doctrinal as governmental. Presbyterian churches have a structure that has the basic ‘power’ in the pew rather than in the pulpit. The clergyman is referred to as ‘the minister’ because he is there to serve (minister to) the congregation; and the various courts of the church take their power from those below – in spite of what the grandees of the General Assembly sometimes seem to believe!

It is in the Episcopal churches that ‘power’ cascades from ‘the top’. In this sense, Mr Brown’s government has been consistently, and increasingly, episcopal. “Listening to the people”, has been a convenient sound-bite – but the lack of a referendum on the European Constitution/Lisbon Treaty, in spite of a manifesto commitment, shows that the people’s clearly-expressed wishes have been totally ignored.

However, the coming days may well illustrate that Mr Brown has failed to read – or, at least, understand – the injunction of Paul, in his letter to the followers of Jesus, living in 1st century Corinth: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (I Cor.10:12).

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

What is Truth?

The saga over the expense claims of many members of the UK parliament shows no sign of an early conclusion. Indeed, I found myself thinking of the radio programme, "Mrs Dale's Diary" - and if that means nothing to you, be pleased that you are so young!!

One of the many outcomes of this scandalous situation is the apparent evaporation of trust in our elected representatives. A survey, published earlier this week, suggested that some 75% of the British public don't believe that "honourable members" speak the truth or, to put it more bluntly (and, probably, 'politically incorrectly'!) that they are liars. Of course, one ought not to forget that there are many members who have not, selfishly, greedily, and fraudulently, abused the system. Unfortunately, as I frequently explain to pupils, it only takes a few bad apples to get the whole barrel a bad name!

Some 2,000 years ago, a prominent politician asked the profound question, "What is truth?" (Jn.18:38). He asked it of the One Who, alone, could give the fullest and most accurate answer. And Pontius Pilate - for that was his name - asked 'What is truth?'; not 'What is the truth about the accusations being made against You?' In other words, he was seeking, not factual information about a specific situation, but beyond that, to the very concept itself. However, for whatever reason - and speculation is not always helpful - the Lord Jesus makes no answer to this man. Of course, it could be because He has already given the answer to one of His disciples? In Jn.14:6, we find Thomas, in response to the Master's assurance that "There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. ... And you know where I am going and how to get there" (v.2, 4) responding with "No, we don't know, Lord," ... "We haven't any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (v.5) Jesus tells him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

"I am ... the truth". What an amazing claim! It seems to me that Jesus is stating, quite categorically, that He is the very embodiment of truth; that, in Him, and in Him alone, is real truth to be found; that all that is true finds its source and foundation in Him.

Decades later, one of the most prominent of the disciples of Jesus wrote these words to his fellow disciples in the Roman colonial city of Philippi: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil.4:8).

Perhaps if politicians - at every level of government - were to follow Paul's advice, we would live in a more honest, more open, and much better society!