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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Persecution ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Atonement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

An attitude of gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 21 September 2009

The one that got away!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Prayer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Lost Symbol

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 14 September 2009

Discipline – the missing factor!

The article in today’s The Herald newspaper, begins “An erosion of adult authority has created a “spoilt generation” of children who believe grown-ups must earn their respect, a new study has warned.” (see http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/ and scroll down). So, what many of us have believed for many years (even for decades!) has finally received some level of ‘official recognition’!

In my opinion, the rot set in under the influence of the late Dr Benjamin Spock and his teaching on “instant gratification”. Although, as I understand it, this initially applied only to the feeding of infants (and was in opposition to the regimented feeding at set times, that was the contemporary norm), it gradually permeated the whole of childhood. Couple this with an increasing number of unmarried mothers, the fathers of whose offspring have little, or no, positive influence on their child(ren) and, therefore, provide no male role model, and it is not difficult to understand how the present situation has come about. The growing materialism of the second half of the last century, when even the married mother was going out to work in order to be able to purchase more ‘things’, led to children having toys and cash provided as a substitute for real parental love and companionship. Even the change in the style of baby ‘buggies’ meant that children were pushed around with their backs to their mothers, rather than facing them. The introduction of nursery ‘education’ provided a (poor) substitute for family life – parents abrogating a large part of their own responsibility for the upbringing of their children, to strangers.

Of course, as soon as we depart from the instructions in the manufacturer’s handbook for our domestic appliances, etc., we know that we are just asking for trouble. How sad, therefore, that so many, for so long, have believed that they could totally disregard the instructions in the Maker’s handbook – the Bible – and do so with impunity!

Children are viewed as a gift from God (Ps 127:3) – a gift that involves both privilege and responsibility. The chief responsibility is, not unsurprisingly, the teaching and training of children. So the old Book of Proverbs: “Teach your children to choose the right path and, when they are older, they will not depart from it.” (22:6). Paul reminds us, in Eph.6, of the importance of children treating their parents with respect, but also tells fathers not to make their children angry by the way in which they treat them, “Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord” (v.4).

There are those who would mock the teachings of “the good book” – but “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, and our departure, in this country, from Biblical standards seems to have left only a very sour taste in the mouth!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Praying for Muslims

Among the more disturbing news items of the last week are the reports of anti-Islamic violence in Birmingham, and in London, allegedly organised by the English Defence League, and the Stop the Islamification of Europe organisation.

One can understand some of the concerns of those who were involved in these demonstrations. I am certainly not happy at the number of mosques that are being built in the UK; or about the apparent unwillingness of the UK authorities to deal firmly and decisively with those from among the Islamic communities who spout their own form of extremism, and encourage militancy among Muslim youth. It doesn’t help to be informed that a sizeable portion of taxpayers’ money is being claimed, as benefits, by these very people! I am totally against the ‘legalisation’ of Islamic Sharia courts within the UK; I have my own concerns that so many (and not only Muslims) seem to see the UK as a ‘soft touch’ and pass through a number of other countries in order to seek asylum here. Sadly, it seems that, to a certain element within British society, this makes all Muslims some sort of enemy.

Yet, however we might think of the Muslim population of these islands, I am not (and am unlikely ever to be!) convinced that violence is the answer. I think that it was Abraham Lincoln who stated that the best way to defeat an enemy was to make him your friend! Certainly Jesus taught that we should love our enemies (Matt.5:43 ff); and Paul exhorts the believers in 1st century Rome: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” (Rom.12:20).

One example of this ‘alternative method’ may be seen in the town of Luton, England, where some 10% of the population is Muslim. The vast majority live in one particular area that has been identified as one of most needy in England. One local group if Christians work with women and young children, out of a love for those for whom Christ died – and their work (that isn’t mentioned on the national news programmes!) is bearing fruit as Muslims voluntarily turn to Christians for advice and help.

The Islamic month of Ramadan, when devout (and even not-so-devout) Muslims fast during the hours of daylight, is drawing to a close. One organisation provides a prayer guide for that month, and also shares some testimonies. “The love of God is particularly poignant for Muslims who may have been suppressed by other Muslims. One Shi’a man was attracted by the truth that ‘God loves all people’ and that he was personally loved and protected by God. Similarly, a West African was surprised by God’s love ‘for all people of all races, including enemies.’ His experience in Islam convinced him that Arab Muslims are racist towards Black Africans. Sadly, he described Islam as a ‘tool used by Arabs to oppress non-Arabs’.”

May those of us who claim to be followers/disciples of Jesus be at the forefront in displaying His love to all who need it, that many more may come to a saving knowledge of Him Whom to know is true life.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Money, money, money!

I was interested by a couple of reports in both the paper media, and the television news, today. The so-called ‘Phoenix Four’, are now reported to have paid themselves, perfectly legally, some £42million in salaries and pensions – while watching the Rover/MG company fold “on their watch” with the loss of approximately 6,000 jobs. A female consultant appointed by Phoenix to explore potential business collaborations was, we are now informed, having a personal relationship with one of the four directors. Another director purchased "Evidence Eliminator" software enabling him to wipe the hard drive of his computer of any incriminating material – just before inspectors commenced their investigation. Peter Mandelson’s (sorry, the title ‘lord’ sticks in my craw, when applied to ‘the prince of darkness’!) demand for an apology rings somewhat false when one considers that these men – however morally reprehensible their actions – were, like the same Mr Mandelson and so many of his parliamentary cronies (in both Houses) regarding their 'expenses' claims, etc., merely operating “within the rules”!

Meanwhile, certain BBC Radio and Television ‘personalities’ are reported to have accepted, or to be prepared to accept, salary cuts! The only actual figures that I heard this evening were with regard to one radio DJ who, it was claimed, has accepted a cut of 20%. Very commendable – until it is revealed that what that means, in real terms, is that his annual salary is dropping from £625,000 to a mere half-million (£500,00)!!! I reckon that that is the kind of pay-cut with which the majority of license-fee payers could easily live!

My mind turned, as might be expected, to some words from the written Word of God – the Bible. “Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, Who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” writes Paul to the young Timothy (I Tim.6:17); while Jesus, Himself, stated “How hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God” (Lk.18:24).

My late paternal grandmother – a mine of homespun philosophy – would simply have reminded those who seem to be able to command incomes that are beyond the wildest dreams of ‘the man in the street’ that “There are no pockets in a shroud” (the old name for the garment in which a corpse was wrapped before being placed in the coffin).

One of the many misquotes of Biblical truth also comes from Paul’s First Letter to Timothy: “… money is at the root of all kinds of evil.” This, of course, is totally untrue, and I have been privileged to meet with some who have used the great wealth with which they have been entrusted to the greater glory of God, and the extension of His Kingdom. The accurate quotation is that “… the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (I Tim.6:10).

Money is a useful tool – but the true measure of a man (or a woman!) is is not dependent upon his/her material possessions (see Lk.12:15 ff), but upon the depth of the relationship that is enjoyed with the Lord, Jesus the Christ. May our true riches be found in Him, and in Him alone.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

More trouble in the Kirk.

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!”

These words of Sir Walter Scott were oft-quoted in my childhood as a reminder that, when we depart from the truth, we end up in greater trouble than ever. I suppose that the modern equivalent is “When in a hole, stop digging!”

They were also the words that came to mind when I learned, in yesterday’s newspaper reports, that the Church of Scotland – for which I maintain a great love – is getting into further trouble over the issue of admitting practising homosexuals to the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament. (see my post of Sun. 24th May, 2009).

This time, according to reports (confirmed by a member of the Presbytery) the Presbytery of Hamilton has “… agreed to nominate an openly gay man to begin training as a minister” (The Herald; 08-09-09). It is my understanding that the Presbytery came to this decision after some heated debate, and advice from the (acting) Principal Clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The Herald reports that “…it is understood that a number of them [members of Presbytery] have given notice of their ‘dissent’, which dissociates them from the decision.”

The further report that the position of the Kirk’s Ministries’ Council, that “It is important to emphasise that acceptance into the training process of the Church is never a guarantee of employment.” seems, to me, to be a fudge worthy of the spin of our present UK government!

My own opinion is that, at the General Assembly in May, the Kirk departed from the truth of the written Word of God, and that the crack that appeared then is already beginning to widen. To use another analogy, the hole in the dyke may already be too large for any boy’s finger to keep out the flood!

In May, I recalled the Disruption of 1843. My heart goes out to many personal friends who have increasing cause to agonise over their personal position within a denomination that appears to be moving further away from the Word, and closer to apostasy. My prayers are with them, as they seek personal guidance as to their immediate future.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Religion, spirituality, and faith.

One of the chapters in the Master's dissertation that I completed last year, is headed "Spirituality or Religion?" and, indeed, there is a difference between the two concepts.

Spirituality is that which, within the created order, marks out mankind from everything else. It is the sense of the transcendent; the awareness of “otherness”; the consciousness of that which is beyond the natural world of the physical senses. Often, when we use the word ‘spiritual’ we have something good in mind, something positive and attractive. In this sense it’s easier to think of Mother Teresa as spiritual than an Adolf Hitler. That which is ‘spiritual’ is that which is of the spirit. The latter is non-physical, yet not abstract. It is much more than “the unique search for human identity”. It is, indeed, something supernatural, that could not have “evolved”.

Spirituality has been termed “the fifth dimension”. In our natural, physical, world we experience three spatial dimensions – length, breadth, height/depth – and one, linear, time dimension. However, eminent physicists such as Stephen Hawking, postulate that there are as many as ten dimensions in the known universe, including two time dimensions - one of which he refers to as "imaginary time".

This second “imaginary” time has no beginning and no end – effectively what theologians refer to as “eternity”! The whole concept of the spiritual may easily be thought of as that dimension that links the material, physical universe with the supernatural – that which is above, beyond, and superior to, the time-space continuum that is our natural experience.

Religion tends to take that which is spiritual, and then organise it! Such organisation leads to a hierarchy (a priesthood), and an organising of the rituals to provide an element of uniformity (a liturgy). This leads to a formulation, and unifying, of the central beliefs of the group (creed and doctrine), and a religion is born. It is this order and tangibility that makes religion easier to share with others than spirituality. The latter is, as a former ministerial colleague was, colloquially, wont to say, “Better felt than telt”!

Christianity has an undoubted spiritual aspect. However, in spite of the endeavours of people since its earliest days to make it so (and how well they have succeeded, in popular terms!), Chistianity is not a religion! It is a relationship - a relationship with Almighty God, the Creator of all that is; through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; confirmed by the indwelling of God, the Holy Spirit. It is a matter of placing our trust, solely and completely, on the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary; accepting that there is no other way by which we may be saved from the righteous judgement of God. And, in the Greek language, the same word (pistos) may be transated "faithful" or "trustworthy". Chistianity is a matter of faith!

We are, whether we admit it, or not, spiritual beings - we have the very breath of God breathed into us (Gen.2:7); many are religious, some very much so! But it is a living faith in the Lord Jesus that, alone, brings the guarantee of eternal life. I commend Him to you.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Legacies.

On Friday of last week (this being the first day of the week – so why do we consider it to be part of the ‘weekend’??), the death was announced of Keith Waterhouse, a well-known British journalist and writer. Many tributes have been paid to the late Mr Waterhouse with regard to what one newspaper referred to as “… wonderful novels, sparklingly witty dramas, a cast some of the most splendid characters in modern fiction, and joyously wry observations on day to day life.” (Daily Mail, editorial).

The final comment in that editorial article was “Fleet Street may have lost a genius and a legend – but what magnificent gifts he left behind.”

This morning and afternoon, I conducted the service of Holy Communion/the Lord’s Supper in Calderhead-Erskine Parish Church – in nearby Shotts and Allanton. In doing so, we remembered One Who died almost 2,000 years ago. During the message (sermon!) I recalled an incident from an old, fictional, television series about a Royal Navy frigate, in which the vessel came upon a lone yachtsman who turned out to be a retired Vice-Admiral of the Fleet. This man had had a great reputation but, as the storyline unfolded, we learned that it was based on a lie, and he had set out to sea, in his yacht, to commit suicide.

When the Commander of the frigate realised this, he tried to persuade the Admiral to return with him, in the ship. But the Admiral’s reply was, “I have a debt to pay.” “But must you pay it with your life, sir?” asked the Commander. The answer came, full of sadness and regret: “Yes, Commander. It’s that sort of debt.”

“It’s that sort of debt.” It can only be paid with my life!

I wonder if you can envision the picture that comes to my mind every time I think of that story. I see Almighty God, looking down on a sinful humanity. And I see Him arranging to send the Son, the only-begotten Son, to die a horrible and agonising death on the cross at Calvary. And, in my vision, an angel asks “Why?” The Lord replies “The debt must be paid.” “But, Lord”, enquires the angel, “Must it be paid with His life?” “Yes,” says the Father, “It’s that sort of debt.”

And so, freely, in love, He gave the Son to die; not to repay a debt of His own, but to repay the debt of your sin, and of mine.

Keith Waterhouse may well have left a legacy of excellent literary work. However, it does nothing to bring me forgiveness and salvation from the wrath of God that I deserve. The ‘legacy’ of the Lord Jesus is salvation, full and free. Now that’s what I call a magnificent gift to leave behind! And that isn’t even the end of the story – but that’s for another post!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Rites of Passage

Today has been a day marked by two specific events. In the early afternoon, Joyce and I attended the funeral service for a lady whom Joyce had been visiting regularly, and taking out, for some years. Mrs Baxter died, unexpectedly, as the result of a heart attack. However, while there were tears shed at the service, the whole event was a celebration of Mrs B’s 79 years of mortal life, and her having come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, a number of years ago. What was in the coffin, we were reminded, was only the mortal remains – the body that Mrs B had used. The real person had already gone to be “with the Lord” (cf II Cor.5:8). So, we were able to grieve, as those who have hope – hope that is based on the death and resurrection of the Lord. (cf.I Thess.4:13).

The other event was our own celebration of thirty-nine years of marriage! It was on Friday, 4th September, 1970, that we stood before Rev George B. Duncan, in St.George’s-Tron Parish Church in Glasgow, and exchanged our marriage vows. I would like to be able to say that those years have never witnessed a disagreement or a harsh word. Unfortunately, we are both human, so that has not been the case! However, our common love for the Lord, and His overwhelming love for us, has kept us together through good times, and less good times. For this, we are both grateful.

Of course, as many would know, Joyce has had to put up with a lot more because of me, than vice/versa!! I am daily thankful that I was given such a faithful, encouraging, supportive, diligent, wife. Every time I read the words of Proverbs 31:10ff, I think of my own wee wife, and express my gratitude for her. It is, in my opinion, one of the saddest marks of contemporary ‘western’ society, that there is such a lack of commitment between couples, leading to separation and divorce on an ever-increasing scale – with all of the problems that come hard on the heels of such family breakdown, especially when children are involved. One of the things that I told couples I was marrying is that after the wedding comes the marriage – and that requires hard work, even sacrifice, if it is going to be successful. As we anticipate, by God’s grace, another year together and a Ruby Wedding Anniversary, I wonder how many of the young couples of today will ever reach that significant milestone?!

Death, and marriage – two of the Rites of Passage about which I have taught children for many years. We may not all become married but, prior to the return of the Lord Jesus, each of us will die. May those who remain after we have gone be able, as we were able today, to “… not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope.” And may marriage – that God-given institution – be again honoured in our society, and encouraged by all who have influence over others.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Climate change.

In spite of having been scanned from a newspaper (hence the 'shadows' from the other side of the page!), the picture is quite striking! Tears appear to be gushing from a face, carved into the Arctic ice-cap by melting water. The accompanying article states that “The image has been likened to the Earth goddess Gaia’s reaction to the deteriorating condition of her world”.

I am as aware as anyone, of the negative effects of the forecast climate change (a more accurate form of terminology as, looking out at the rain falling steadily on Motherwell, and with a thermometer showing only 12C, it can hardly be recognised as ‘global warming’!). However, while endeavouring to do my own little bit to limit CO2 emissions, and shocked at the headline in the same newspaper that informs me that “Throwaway food costs £1bn a year”, and refers to the vast amount of perfectly good food (some not even having been unwrapped, and well within its ‘use by’ limit) that is dumped, each year, in Scotland alone, I am a wee bit concerned that, as a society, we are worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (see Rom.1:25).

It is undoubtedly true that the average schoolchild knows much more about the negative effects of climate change, than about the sinfulness of mankind, and the Gospel that offers salvation! It is obviously acceptable to publish the claimed reaction of “the Earth goddess Gaia … to the deteriorating condition of her world”. Yet some of the letters that I send to The Herald (not the newspaper from which the photograph was taken!) that would emphasise a Biblical lifestyle/perspective, never see the light of day (the one reproduced below was not used!).

By all means, let us all practice Biblical stewardship, that recognises that “The earth is YHWH's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.” (Ps.24:1). But let us not make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse, and making a ‘god’ out of that which was created “In the beginning …” (Gen.1:1), and that is in the sorry state in which it is now found because of the sinful selfishness and greed of mankind.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Second Coming

My favourite column in The Herald newspaper is The Diary, written by Ken Smith. It always brings a smile to my face, and I have even been able to provide the occasional contribution! Today’s column included this interesting item:

Away in a manager
READER Bill Arnott was cheered up in his local shopping centre yesterday by the sheer daftness of a message on a T-shirt a shopper was wearing.

It read: "Jesus is coming", and below, it added: "Everybody look busy.”


The heading is the giveaway to what was being said, but it did make me stop and think. Two points were being made (even if neither the contributor, nor the author, realised it!). First of all, Jesus is coming! This is one of the clearest predictions of the New Testament. Jesus, Himself, spoke simply and distinctly (would that some current politicians would do the same!!): “The Son of Man will soon come in the glory of His Father and with His angels to reward all people for what they have done.” (Mt.16:27); “When He finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with Him, the Son of Man will take His place on His glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before Him and He will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left” (Mt.25:31-32); “There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together.” (Jn.14:2-3).

Others also testify to this fact: in Acts 1:10-11, the angelic beings assure the watching disciples that “Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw Him go, He will return!” Likewise, the writer of the letter to Hebrew believers: “So Christ died only once to take away the sins of many people. But when He comes again, it will not be to take away sin. He will come to save everyone who is waiting for Him.” (9:28). James, too, makes such a reference: “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return.” (5:7); and John, in both his first letter, and in the great book of the Revelation of Jesus, the Christ, makes this Second Coming clear: “And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when He returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.” (I Jn2:28); “Look, Jesus is coming with the clouds, and everyone will see him, even those who stabbed him. And all peoples of the earth will cry loudly because of him. Yes, this will happen! Amen” (Rev.1:7).

The other thought that I had concerned the activity of the believer. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not suggest that being a disciple of Jesus means sitting back and lazily awaiting the Lord’s return. Indeed, the New Testament writings make abundantly clear that, while our salvation can never be obtained by our works, however good, that same salvation should be recognisable by our good works! So Paul exhorts: “My dear friends, stand firm and don't be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for Him is worthwhile.” (I Cor.15:58); “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” (Gal.6:4); “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” (I Thess.4:11).

So maybe the message on the tee-shirt wasn’t as daft as it might at first have appeared! Jesus is coming; and those who eagerly await that glorious event will want to be found, not just looking, but being busy in His service, and bringing glory to His name.