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Saturday, 31 October 2009

Responsibility?

One of the news items this week concerned the case of Dr Stuart McNee. Dr McNee would probably have gone through life without being known to anyone outwith his family circle, friends and colleagues. However, he was the doctor responsible for the nineteen overdoses of radiation received by sixteen-year-old Lisa Norris, and from which she subsequently died just over three years ago. Dr McNee, after an enquiry by a panel from the Health Professions Council, was found to have shown a lack of competence in Lisa’s treatment – but was allowed to keep his job!

Of course, responsibility and accountability are words, and concepts, that appear to be rapidly disappearing from our culture. Too many Members of Parliament – in both Westminster and Brussels – have been acting in ways that, for most of the rest of us, would be considered fraudulent, and would result in criminal charges being brought against us but, because it is claimed that what was done was “within the [made by us, for us] rules”, no such action is taken. Bankers, who appear to have been responsible for the current recession, are already talking of paying themselves bonuses at a level of which ordinary mortals could do no more than dream – even ’though it was the taxes of such ordinary mortals that allowed their banks to continue, and secured their highly-paid jobs! And don’t get me started on parents! Not all parents, of course. However, there are far too many children getting away with everything from nuisance behaviour, to criminal activity, to promiscuity – with either the tacit approval of their parent(s), or their complete ignorance. Such parents seem to have abrogated all parental responsibility.

Of course, the Bible shows that personal responsibility has been evaded since the very beginning. When the Lord God questioned our first parents with regard to their having disobeyed His clear instruction, Adam blamed both Eve, and God Himself (“… the woman You gave me …”), and Eve blamed the serpent! (Gen.3:12 ff). Many centuries later, king David tried to get out of his situation with Bathsheba and her pregnancy by having her husband, Uriah, brought back from the battle-field in the hope that Uriah would sleep with his wife and then accept that the child was his own. And, in one of the greatest abrogations of personal responsibility in the whole of Scripture, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate “washed his hands” and claimed that it was the mob who were now responsible for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. (Matt.27:22-26).

Each of us will, eventually, have to accept responsibility for our own lives. Those who have not accepted the salvation that the Christ gained for us, at the cost of His own blood, will stand before the “great white throne” (Rev.20:11 ff) and, having no excuse, will be consigned to eternal separation from the Lord. Even those of us who have claimed His righteousness as our own, will stand before the judgement seat of Christ, there to accept responsibility for our actions as professed believers (Rom.14:10 ff; I Cor.3:10 ff).

May all who read these words accept responsibility for their own lives now, that they may enjoy eternity in the Lord’s presence.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Worth thinking about!

The proof of spiritual maturity is not how "pure" you are but your awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to God's grace. - Philip Yancey

Bible study is not merely to inform us- it's meant to transform us. – Anon

God without man is still God; man without God is lost – Anon

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy. – Karl Reiland

Happiness is a direction, not a place. – Anon

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday – and all is well! – Anon

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. – Walter Winchell

I count him braver who conquers his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self. – Aristotle

If you want to feel rich, just count all of the things you have that money can't buy. – Anon

Many of the above are from that well-known 'person': A.N.Onymous. However, if you happen to know the real person to whom any such quotations should be attributed, please advise me (via a comment - click on 'Comments' at the foot of the post, and a new screen will appear, with a box for your comment. If you do not wish to have it published, please just say so!), and I will happily rectify the situation.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Freedom of speech!

One of the more commented-upon news items of the past week was the decision of the BBC to invite Mr Nick Griffin of the British National Party to be a panellist on this week’s edition of Question Time. The programme was underway by the time I switched on but, from the part that I did view, I suspect that it did Mr Griffin and the BNP no harm at all! My reason for arriving at this conclusion – unwelcome as it will be to many (myself included) – is that the programme appeared to be a ‘have-a-go-at-Griffin’ opportunity for both the other panellists, and a large section of the audience.

A long time ago, a very gracious man quoted to me the words attributed (wrongly, I believe) to the French revolutionist, Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This, it seems, is an idea that was foreign to most of the audience, and conveniently forgotten by some of the panellists – in spite of their occasional protestations to the contrary!

My concern is that the very way in which most of the programme came across as a concerted attack on one member of the panel will have provided him with something of a ‘martyr’ persona. This, in turn, may have a certain appeal to the traditional British attitude of supporting the underdog!

Of course, someone has said that a country gets the politicians it deserves. Perhaps the U.K. has so increasingly turned its collective back on its Judaeo-Christian heritage that it is merely reaping what it has sowed (see Gal.6:7).

“…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” (II Chron.7:14). Let us pray!

Marriage

Well, here I am – back for less than forty-eight hours! We had a wonderful time in both Italy and Suffolk and are grateful to the friends who provided such lavish hospitality. Tomorrow, we head off with our caravan, to Beith in Ayrshire and plan to be away until Tuesday. It’s a tough old life this de facto retirement – but somebody has to live it!! :-)

One of the more unusual items of news that I saw on my return to England was a report of a so-called ‘dog marriage’, in which two dogs (well, I suppose it would have been more accurate to refer to either two canines, or a dog and a bitch!) were taken through a ‘marriage ceremony’ in which terms such as ‘take this bone’ and ‘I now pronounce you dog and wife’ were used! Apart from the obvious ridiculousness of the ‘event’, it suggested to me that marriage is again under attack – not, this time, by the homosexual community with its ‘civil partnerships’, but by the mockery of this animal ‘relationship’ that would appear to be more for the perverse gratification of certain dog owners, than for any perceivable benefit of their pets!

“Marriage”, I stated on many occasions, “is a state of life provided and instituted by God. It has been blessed by the presence of Jesus Himself at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. In Holy Scripture it is commended as honourable in all ways, and the marriage union is seen as a symbol of the union of loyalty and love that exists between Christ and His people. It is, therefore, not to be undertaken lightly or unadvisedly, but thoughtfully and reverently, and as before God; and with due consideration of the reasons which it was given to us. It was given for the sake of the life-long companionship, help, and comfort that husband and wife ought to have of each other. It was given so that family life may continue, and that children, who are a gift from God, maybe brought up in the love and security of a stable and happy home. It was given for the welfare of human society, which can be strong and happy only where the marriage commitment is kept and honoured.”

Sadly, it seems (and official statistics would appear to confirm), too many in our contemporary culture and society have no understanding of such concepts as ‘honourable’, ‘reverence’, ‘life-long companionship’, commitment’ and, of course, ‘husband and wife’. Faithful marriage was the backbone of our society for many centuries. It is a matter of regret – and a cause for repentance – that it has been so devalued in recent decades. As a follower of Jesus, I pray that the coming General Election in the U.K. will see an increasing number of Members of Parliament who will be willing to stand up for Biblical values in our society. Let us be faithful in prayer that this might be the case.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

What a difference a letter can make!

It was, you may remember, during the Labour Party Conference – in fact, carefully timed (it seemed ) to take any shine off Mr Brown’s closing speech – that a particular British tabloid declared that it was changing its allegiance from the Labour Party to the Conservatives! Other media were quick to broadcast the news, and to remind readers/viewers/listeners of the headline when the aforementioned tabloid claimed to have been instrumental in ensuring a Conservative victory in 1992 – “It’s the Sun wot won it”! (No comment on the abuse of the English language!)

As I sat at the Communion service at Liberty Community Church this morning, I thought of that headline. All of the pundits seem to be insisting that newspapers do not have the influence on the voting public that they like to think they have. So, whether or not the Sun was instrumental in deciding the outcome of any election is a moot point. And, even if it was, it is a transitory (no ‘pun’ intended!!) situation, the effects of which quickly fade away.

However, in front of me, on the table, were the Communion elements – the bread that speaks of the Body of the Lord Jesus, and the cup that symbolises His blood. Together, they are a constant reminder of His great sacrifice at Calvary when, perfectly sinless, He paid the penalty for my sin. The victory on that day – confirmed when He rose from the dead – has an eternal effect upon all of those who, unreservedly, place their trust in Him, and in Him alone, for salvation. When it comes to that most important event - more important than any election, in any country - we may proclaim, with great joy and thanksgiving – “It’s the Son wot won it”.

Joyce and I head off tomorrow morning to spend a day or so with friends in England, en route for a few days with a GLO missionary couple in Italy, so I may not be able to add any new posts for the next ten days. However, if you haven’t yet done so, may I encourage you to listen to some of the audio messages that you will find at www.revcbross.blogspot.com and, if you are fairly new to this blog, to browse over some of the earlier posts. Not all of them are tied to a particular event/situation!

Until the second half of next week!!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Disciple of Jesus

I came across the following a good number of years ago. I cannot recall the whole background to it, but it was found, handwritten, tacked on the wall of a young African pastor’s home. It certainly makes challenging reading to anyone who believes themselves to be a follower of the Lord, Jesus the Christ. I have made a few very minor amendments.

My Commitment as a Christian

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.

I’m a disciple of His.

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed; my present makes sense; my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognised, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labour by power.

I’m a disciple of Jesus.

My face is set; my gait is fast; my goal is heaven; my road is narrow; my way rough; my companions few, my Guide reliable; my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice; hesitate in the presence of the adversary; negotiate at the table of the enemy; ponder at the pool of popularity; or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up; until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, and preached up, for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.

I must go ’til He comes; give ’til I drop; preach ’til all know, and work ’til He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem in recognising me – my banner will be clear!

I am a disciple of JESUS.

Jesus said, “Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to Me as `Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey My Father in heaven. On judgement day many will tell Me, `Lord, Lord, we prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.' But I will reply, `I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’” (Matt.7:21-23)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Spiritual health

On Tuesday of this week, I had two specific appointments – seemingly unrelated! In the afternoon, I paid one of my regular visits to the gym that I use, and spent a little over an hour going through my usual work-out. I try to do this two or three times each week, as I am aware that keeping my physical body in reasonable shape is a lot easier that getting it into shape after ‘letting things go’!

That evening, I met with a small group of folk from the congregation for whom I am currently doing most of my preaching. We met in order to discuss the practical details of starting up a Bible Study and Prayer Group within the congregation, and I was thrilled at the level of wise discussion that took place on that evening. It certainly looks as if we will have a group commence meeting sometime next month.

Seemingly unrelated – and yet, I believe that there is a very important lesson from those two events. Both have to do with health. My visits to the gym not only keep me in reasonable physical shape, but also ensure that my cardiovascular system (the heart and blood vessels, by which blood is pumped and circulated through the body) is kept in good condition; and that my main muscle groups are toned. In other words, my physical exercise keeps me fit and relatively healthy (there is no ultimate antidote against old age!). And, of course, I believe that it is right that I should keep that which is the temple of God the Holy Spirit in as good condition as possible (further implications re. diet and life-style!)

For the disciple of Jesus, there is the even more important matter of spiritual health. That, of course, is the importance of regular reading of the written Word of God, and of regular communion with Father God in prayer. This doesn’t mean one hour per week, on a Sunday; it doesn’t even mean Sunday worship plus a Bible Study and Prayer Group. It means a daily setting aside of time for Him. It is in the quiet place that we will often hear Him speak to us, and reveal His will for our lives.

Paul put it all much more succinctly when, writing to his young ‘son in the faith’ Timothy, he said “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” (I Tim.4:8)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Friendship

I was the new teacher in the school, and it was a first-year class. Her personal name was Jacqueline – I can’t remember her surname! I had been trying to illustrate some point or other, and had started a comment with the words, “I used to have a friend …” At that point I stopped, put on a sort of ‘hang-dog’ look, and continued “… it was nice while it lasted. Maybe, some day, I’ll find another friend!”

Most of the class seemed to see the amusing side of the statement but, at the end of the period, Jacqueline hung behind as the class was dismissed. “Yes, Jacqueline,” I asked, “What can I do for you?” “Please, sir,” she replied, “I’m sorry you haven’t got any friends. I’ll be your friend”

Well, as you may imagine, it was only my professionalism that stopped me from taking that sweet child in my arms, and giving her the biggest hug that I possibly could. However, I will never forget Jacqueline and her unsolicited offer of friendship, that was genuine and sincere.

I wonder, are you in need of a friend? In the midst of all of the turmoil that is the frequent experience of many of us; even when, sometimes, we think that all we want is to be left alone; Jesus extends His nail-scarred hand, offers to be your Friend, and invites you to be His friend. He says to those who become His disciples, “I have called you friends, for the things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (Jn.15:15). We have a choice – to keep to ourselves, or to open our hearts to a friendship of unlimited love and guidance.

Joseph Scrivens wrote those well-known words: “What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

Jesus longs to be your Friend. Will you respond, positively, and be His? Will you?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A Poem

I don’t normally go for ‘blank verse’ when I write one of my occasional poems. However, in the midst of some clearing out of old paperwork, I came across the following that I wrote – according to the sheet on which it was written – on Sept 9th, 1990!

Blood, blood, blood,
Seeping from a back, raw from the flogger’s stripes;
Running in rivulets from thorn-pierced brow;
Pouring from the wounded side into which the Roman spear was thrust.
Blood, blood, blood.

Life, life, life.
For this was not just any common blood,
But precious, redeeming blood;
Blood of Him Who was, and is, the spotless Lamb of God.
Life, life, life.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
How can I return the love You showed
When, on that day, You shed Your blood to give me life?
Accept my life, given over to Your control
In Whose service is perfect freedom.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The story of Four!

Last evening's Scottish news contained an interesting (or bizarre??!) item about a young lad (although he must be at least 18 years old!) from Wishaw who has just changed his name, by deed poll, to - wait for it: Motherwell Football Club!! As the saying goes, "You couldn't make it up!" Apparently he has taken Football Club as a surname, and Motherwell as a personal name!

However, the news piece reminded me of the story about four other people with strange-sounding names. They were Everybody, Somebody, Nobody, and Anybody.

When there was an important job to be done, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody, in fact, did it! When Nobody did it, Everybody got angry, because it was Somebody's job. Everybody thought Somebody would do it, but Nobody realised that Nobody would do it. So it ended up with Everybody blaming Somebody, when Nobody did what Anybody could have done in the first place!

This is a story, I would suggest, that needs to be understood within the Christian church as much as anywhere else. The most important task of the Church (as the Body of Christ - not any particular fellowship/congregation, or even denomination) is what is often referred to as The Great Commission: "Jesus came and told His disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt.28:18-20).

So that's it! It's good to invite others to our fellowship - assuming that it is one in which the Gospel is preached, fully and clearly. It's better to bring others along - perhaps even arranging to collect them from their homes. But the best thing is to so display Jesus in our daily living, that others will want to come to Him; will ask us how they might do so in a very personal way; and will then become part of a worshipping community where they may be equipped to share the Gospel with yet others!

It's something that, within the Body, Anybody can do. Sadly, Everybody seems to expect that Somebody (else!) will do it. The end result is that Nobody does it.

I think that it was Francis of Assisi who is credited with the advice: "Preach the Gospel at all times - and, when necessary, use words"! Jesus also said,"... let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." (att.5:16). Let's preach the Word!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Promises, promises, promises!

So, as the highlight of the Labour Party Conference, we had the Prime Minister promise a range of ‘new’ policies and ideas. The English (and Welsh?) are going to have free personal care for the elderly – already provided by the Scottish government; there is a promise of a referendum on a proportional representation form of voting in General Elections – but there are various methods, not all of which are as fair as might at first seem to be the case; there is a promise that where a Member of Parliament is found to be financially corrupt, or guilty of some other wrong-doing, constituents will have the right to “recall” him/her – but, of course, if party leadership, and Parliament as a whole, had even a modicum of courage, they would ensure that such dishonourable members be sacked, and a by-election called immediately.

And so the speech went on. Plenty about what a new Labour government would do if it were to be elected to a further term of office. What was strikingly missing was any reference to “the end of ‘boom and bust’”; to the broken promise of a referendum on the European Constitution/Lisbon Treaty (being voted on today, for a second time, by the Irish – because ‘Europe’ doesn’t like it when anyone says ‘No’!); to the sale of so much of the U.K’s gold reserve – when gold was at its lowest value; to cash for honours; to the doubling of Council Tax (except in Scotland where the Scottish Government have held the rate for two years); etc., etc., etc.

The bottom line, it seems to me, is that Mr Brown is not a man who may be trusted with regard to any promise that he might make – least of all promises made just months before he is obliged to go to the country in a General Election!

How different from Jesus. His promise is that He will be with His people always (Matt.28:20) – and countless numbers have proved Him down through the centuries. He also promised difficulty and trouble – and whether in the relatively safe ‘West’ or in one of more than fifty countries world-wide in which disciples of Jesus are persecuted, imprisoned, and killed, this promise has also been proved to have been kept. That’s why, when I read the promise that He will return – next time, not as a helpless infant, but as the glorious King – I have every confidence that that promise will also be kept.

Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus!