Important Information.

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Friday, 27 November 2009

Gratitude.

After I don't know how many minutes on the telephone to India, but being assisted by a delightful young lady named Amutra, I think that I have managed to get my Internet connection back! It has gone off again since I last spoke with Amutra, but I managed to rectify the situation - recalling as much as I could of what she had done!

It's been pretty desperate being 'cut off' from the world. As one good friend put it, it's like losing an arm or a leg! Well, okay, not a physical loss such as that - but I knew what he meant. I have taken the 'net for granted for so long; it's been so dependable; a few clicks of a computer mouse and, hey presto (well it is now the pantomime season - oh yes, it is!) I'm in contact with people all over the world; I can check the daily newspapers; I can order consumables; I can check my bank account. The list just goes on and on. However, as my late mum would have said: "You never miss the water, until the well runs dry"!

It made me think of the love, and grace, and mercy of Father God. How often do I take my personal salvaton - paid for with the very life of the Lord Jesus - for granted? God is always there. He is so dependable. And the benefits that I receive from the relationship that I have with Him are beyond recounting - new life; forgiveness of my sins; the assurance that I will spend eternity in His sweet presence. That list is totally unending. "The unfailing love of YHWH never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, 'YHWH is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!' YHWH is wonderfully good to those who wait for Him and seek Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from YHWH. " (Lamentations 3:22-26)

There are many things (and people!) in each of our lives without which (whom) life would not be the same. As we approach the busyness of the mid-winter festival, during which some of us will also celebrate the Incarnation - the entrance of Almighty God, Who dwells "in light inaccesible, hid from our eyes" (W.C.Smith) into our time-space continuum - may we not forget to appreciate all that makes life worthwhile, and He Who is the Giver of all that is good. Let us, over the coming weeks, develop an attitude of gratitude.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity (3)

Having looked at love, and briefly mentioned the Trinity (with link), I want to suggest that the most unique aspect of the Christian Faith is the doctrine of the Atonement. And if the doctrine of the Trinity is a follow-on from the concept that God is love, then it could be argued that the doctrine of the Atonement follows on from both of them.

Basically, the Atonement has to do with the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus, on the cross at Calvary. It is, as Paul states, the most important aspect of the Christian Faith - "I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me - that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said." (I Cor.15:3). Writing to the believers in the city of Rome, he expands on this idea: "For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us." (3:25)

Over the centuries, many theologians have produced many theories as to exactly how all of this works. However, this blog is not the place in which to discuss all of them. Suffice it to say that, because Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, His willing sacrifice of Himself satisfies the demands of the law. When God the Father looks at me, He sees, not my failure to keep His law, but "... the blood of Jesus, His Son, [that] cleanses us from every sin." (I Jn.1:7)

Of course, that sacrificial blood is not effective until I have acknowledged my own sinfulness; confessed it before God; and accepted the offer of full forgiveness and total salvation, that are made available to me. It is in, and through, Him, that I am reconciled to Father God. (cf. Rom.5:10; II Cor. 5:18).

Over my teaching career, I had to study all of the world's major religious belief-systems. But, while there are a number of ideas that are common to some or all of them, the Christian Faith is the only one that teaches that my eternal salvation depends, not on my own works - however good they may be - but on the completed work of the Lord Jesus. When, on the cross, He shouted out the one word "Tetelestai!" , (which may be translated "Completed!"), that was exactly what He meant. The price had been paid; the law had been satisfied; His work was finished.

All of that (and the so-much-more that I have omitted!) is because of His great love for you and for me. In the Persona of the Son, God did for you and me what we could never have done for ourselves. Such love - totally unique.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity (2)

If these were sermon notes, this would be the second in a very short series on why the Christian faith may be considered to be unique. Last night, I suggested that Love (agape) is one unique aspect of the Faith. This evening, I want to suggest that the doctrine (teaching) of the Trinity, is another unique aspect.

There is, in fact, a sense in which the doctrine of the Trinity is a direct follow-on from the concept that "God is love"! This is because love is a relationship. Therefore, it follows that, if God's essential nature (that which makes Him what He is) is love, then God must be in a relationship. Christians believe that the Bible teaches, very clearly, that that relationship is shown in the one Almighty God, revealing Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some time ago (July 4th) I recommended - with some reservation - the novel The Shack. It is a book that makes one think through this trinitarian doctrine - this concept of God being One, yet Three! I also have an audio-message on the subject on my other blog-site (revcbross.blogspot.com) that some might appreciate!

But is this doctrine really unique to Christianity? Most certainly. Judaism and Islam both accept the idea of one almighty God, Who created all that is, and Who is far beyond we mere humans. Hinduism teaches that there are many different 'gods', some of whom reveal themselves in different avatars (I wonder how many people are aware that that word, that seems to be used in some computer games, is of Hindu origin?!). Buddhism has no concept of a divine being of any sort (which is why I have often questioned it being termed a 'religion'!) and Sikhism, while accepting a divine being, concentrates on the Guru Granth Sahib - its holy book. Only Christianity has a Trinitarian (Three-in-One) God - totally unique!

The next post will take this on a little further. Keep checking!!

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity

I still haven't received my replacement modem/router, but discovered an old 'stand-alone' modem, so have regained internet access on one computer!

Yesterday morning, while listening to the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Sunday', I heard a former nun, Karen Armstrong, attribute to the Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism) the statement: "Every single religion teaches the same thing." Then, later, at Calderhead Erkine Parish Church, where have been doing most of my preaching over recent months, the minister who was preaching as Sole Nominee to fill the vacancy there, made reference to the uniqueness of Christianity. It's a vitally important subject and so, over the next few posts, I want to share something of why the Christian faith is, indeed, so different from all other religious belief-systems, that it may be considered to be unique.

This evening, I want to mention Love. Now it is true that most religions have some concept of love - although the emphasis placed on it may vary considerably. However, when we come to the Christian faith, we find that love is absolutely central. Indeed, it is given as the simplest description of Almighty God. Writing in his First Letter, John makes the (repeated) claim that "God is love". (I Jn.4:8).

Two things need to be emphasised. First of all, the love of which John writes is not the erotic, sensual, love of the cheap novel, or the suggestive film, that may be more accurately referred to as 'lust'! Nor is it the soppy, sentimentalised, love of the Mills & Boon type of story. It isn't even the perfectly respectable love of a husband for his wife (and vice/versa), or of parents for their children. John uses a specific word from the Greek language, that is written (in this Roman script) as 'agape'. I well recall my former minister, spiritual mentor, and friend, the late Rev. George B. Duncan, define agape as "the minimum of emotion, and the maximum of evaluation." By this he meant that agape love is more concerned with the value of its object, than with mere 'feelings' - although feelings.emotions are not to be totally discounted. Agape is, indeed, the very love of God Himself.

But it's a love that is to be practised by disciples of Jesus. Indeed, He says to His disciples (now as well as then!) "A new commandment I give to you,, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also may love one another. By this all men will know that that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." (Jn.13:34-35)

The second thing to emphasise is that God is not simply the highest, and best, form of love. It is not as if love is a ladder with us on the bottom rung, and God on the top rung. Rather, John is saying that God is, in this illustration, the ladder. He is, essentially, love. Without Him, love would not exist and, if I may state it with all reverence, without love, He would not exist!

Over the years, I have studied a fair number of belief-systems of one sort and another. But I have not come across any that have that sort of picture of the One Who is the Creator, and Sustainer, of all that is. Love, alone, would be sufficient to show the uniqueness of Christianity. However, there is more - so do return to this site to discover some of its other unique aspects!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Apologies!!

Last night, our modem/router died :-( and so we have, temporarily. lost access to the internet. I am posting this from the local Library but, obviously, this is not a convenient place from which to work as I would at home. The new modem has been ordered, but could take up to 10 business days to arrive!! I am hoping that ours will arrive much more quickly than that but, until it does, I am unlikely to be adding posts.

If you are a fairly new visitor, please take time to look over earlier posts (not all are topical!) or, if you have the time, visit www.revcbross.blogspot.com where you will be able to listen to some studio-recorded messages.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Politics and faith!

During the past week, David Cameron, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition (a strange nomenclature, when it is really her Government that is being opposed!) gave a full and frank interview to a reporter from the London Evening Standard – as reported in The Times newspaper! (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6906219.ece).

During the interview, Mr Cameron spoke about his faith, revealing that he waited until he was 18 in order to be confirmed (the Episcopal equivalent of ‘joining the church’/’coming into full membership of a congregation/ fellowship’) and claimed to be “a questioning Christian”. He has, he claimed, “… a sort of fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments …” and thinks “… that it’s perfectly possible to live a good life without having faith, by which I mean a positive and altruistic life, …” He also thinks that the teachings of Jesus are “… a good guide to help us through.” – although so are “… the teachings of other religions, …”

So, where does this leave Mr Cameron in terms of Biblical Christianity and being a disciple of Jesus? It is certainly good that he is willing to be so open with regard to his personal beliefs – but does what he says tie in with the Biblical picture of what Christian should be? With all respect, I fear not.

A Christian – i.e. a disciple of Jesus – is described in a number of passages in the New Testament, one of which is Philippians 4:4-13. In that brief section, Paul makes three simple points about what a Christian is. First of all, he says, a Christian is someone who enjoys a presence – even the Presence of the Lord Jesus. It makes such a difference who we have around. “Show me your company, and I’ll tell you your character” was one of the many bits of homespun philosophy that my paternal grandmother used to share. And it’s true. The Presence of Jesus is like no other. Different, and constant. He promises to be with His disciples, not just some of the time; not even just most of the time; but all of the time! (Matt.28:20)

But a Christian is also one who forms a practice. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!”, writes Paul. (Phil.4:4) And considering the circumstances in which he was writing – from a prison-cell in Rome – these may be viewed as strange words indeed. But Paul shows us how we may overcome our circumstances. He encourages us to pray, and to praise (v.6). The disciple of Jesus may pray about anything, and rejoice in every situation. Members of the persecuted church in over 50 countries around the world testify to this – and theirs are circumstances that no-one would desire!

The disciple of Jesus is one who also trusts a promise. Such a person is aware of the adequacy that Christ brings to a life. We know peace when we have adequate resources and, in v.13, Paul cries out “I can do everything that is required of me, with the help of Christ, Who gives me adequate resources” (my translation!). And the true believer discovers that Jesus not only brings adequacy, but that He also stills anxiety, as He provides that “… peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.” (v.7).

No other religious belief-system of which I am aware, offers what Jesus offers. But there are conditions. I must confess my own sinfulness (my inability to meet the standard of God's moral law); I must accept that He, and only He, is able to pay the price for that sinfulness; and I must commit myself to Him, making Him #1 in my life. Now, if Mr Cameron, and every other Member of Parliament, were to be in that sort of relationship with the Lord then, here in the U.K., we would have a Parliament of which we could justly be proud, and one in which His Name would be honoured, and His Word obeyed.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Letter published!

After sending the following, last night, my letter (see below) was published in today's Herald newspaper.

Dear Sir,

It was with some dismay - and disappointment - that I read in today's Herald, a letter from Janet Cunningham of Stirling supporting, from a claimed "'veteran' Christian" perspective (although the very term 'Christian' has been sadly devalued over the past decades, so that one is not always certain what an individual means by it!) the production currently available at Glasgow's Tron Theatre, and claiming thatJesus would have approved of it. Is there some form of bias in The Herald that it publishes such a letter, whilst not having published my own of Wednesday - or any other taking the opposite point of view? In the interest of common fairness, I would urge you to now publish my own letter (with a suitable explanation for its tardy appearance) or, at least another one that makes the same points - and that doesn't make the sweeping statement (on a basis that seems to depend more on Ms Cunningham's perceived "new theology" than on any Biblical position that I can recognise) that the Lord Jesus would not have objected to being portrayed as a transexual, and that doesn't believe that the producer should be congratulated.

For your benefit, I append a copy of my earlier letter.

Yours faithfully,

I have acknowledged same, and expressed my thanks. Another letter objecting to the production was also published, together with one rather 'neutral' one.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

More anti-Christ(ian) blasphemy.

The following is the text of a letter that I have just sent to The Herald newspaper. It will be interesting to see whether, or not, it is published and, even if it is, how much editing it will have suffered!

Today’s Herald newspaper contains a report of a demonstration that was held, last night, in the centre of Glasgow. More than 300 people protested outside the Tron Theatre in which a publicly-funded play, that portrays the Lord Jesus as a transsexual woman, was being performed, as part of “… the Glasgay! arts festival, Scotland’s annual celebration of homosexual culture, which receives funding from Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Arts council”. (The Herald, in loc).

This is yet another example of the way in which the Christian faith, and the Christ Whom it reveres, are being mocked, marginalised, and macerated. It’s becoming something of a cliché, but I wonder if the producers, and performers, would be as ready to put on a similar event that would portray Muhammad in the same way?! Somehow, I think that I already know the answer to that particular question!
The one positive outcome of this situation is that it has brought together members of a wide spectrum of people – from members of the Church of Rome to members of Glasgow’s Zion Baptist Church, probably best-known for its former pastor, the late Rev Jack Glass.

As a taxpayer, I object, strongly, to my taxes being used to fund such blasphemous events as this, and the recent ‘exhibition’ that encouraged members of the public to graffiti a copy of the Bible. However, as a disciple of Jesus, I also remember two specific quotations from the Bible. From the Old Testament: “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.” (Deut.32:35; cf Rom.12:9) and, from the New Testament: “Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!” (Gal.6:7).

In more than fifty countries in the world, Christians are being actively persecuted for their faith – harassed; arrested (often without charge); imprisoned (in horrendous conditions) and mistreated; even murdered (seven men recently crucified in Sudan; others, including women and a child, burned alive in Pakistan). Could it be that even this country will eventually see such persecution become common-place? Sadly, there is no guarantee that this will not happen.

The Lisbon Treaty

So, the ‘Lisbon Treaty’ has now been ratified by each of the European Union’s member states. Well, if we are going to be accurate, in almost every case, it has been ratified by the political elite of the member states. Only the Irish had the luxury of being asked in a national referendum – and when the unelected, unaccountable, EU ‘powers-that-be’ didn’t like the answer that was received, the Irish were instructed to vote again. As far as I could see, there was so much spin exuded during the campaigning for the second referendum, that it is little wonder that the Irish reversed their earlier decision.

I have been opposed to the EU since its inception. Even when Edward Heath – a man who, in my opinion, was a greater traitor to his country than Lord Haw-haw – led us into the EEC (European Economic Community), I had voted against. I could not see how the breaking cherished ties with other Commonwealth countries was going to be of any particular benefit to the United Kingdom.

Of course, as anyone who knows me will understand, I am not some xenophobic anti-European! I have very dear friends in a number of European countries and, while I am only truly fluent in the English language, I can get by very well in French, have a smattering of German, a little bit of Dutch, and a little bit of Italian. And, of course, for many years, our main summer holiday has been spent in the countries of Western Europe. I am just one of what I suspect is a rapidly growing number of people who are totally opposed to a European Super-state, in which I, as an ordinary tax-payer, am expected to accept every diktat, even as I fund the blatant corruption of the Brussels-Strasbourg gravy-train.

However, I have recently been wondering about the advice given by the Jewish rabbi, Gamaliel. “…my advice is, leave these men alone. If they are teaching and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God." (Acts 5:38-39)

I am having to ask myself: “Is this ever-expanding, ever-devouring, man-made entity a part of the plan and purpose of God? Is the EU a clear sign that we are in the end-times, when time and history, as we experience them, will be no more?” What is certain is that, climate change, space exploration, or whatever, history does have an end. And was it not Albert Einstein who worked out that time has a beginning, and an end, as well?

So, in opposing the EU, might I be opposing the plan and purpose of God? For me, it’s a big question. For anyone, it’s a question worth considering. My only assurance is that, as an adopted son of the Living God, my future is secure. As one of my cousins states at the close of every e-mail “I don’t do worry, I know the ending!” History, I was often told, is ‘His story’. That story hasn’t ended, but the day is coming, sooner or later, when the heavens will open, the Lord Jesus will return, and Paul’s amazing prophecy will be fulfilled as “…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2:10-11)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Forgive – and forget?

As a ‘night-bird’, one of the little luxuries of my de facto ‘retirement’ is that I don’t have to rise in the morning as soon as the alarm goes off. In fact, it is only on rare occasions that I set the alarm! What I enjoy is being able to lie there, snug as the proverbial bug, and listen to the radio – and there are many very good programmes available, not least first thing in the morning.

Yesterday morning, the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was followed by Start the Week, presented by Andrew Marr (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00njkl6/Start_the_Week_02_11_2009/ if you are interested!). One of the topics was forgetfulness. Now, I don’t want any comments from Cannuckbard re my ever-advancing years. After all, it is only an accident of birth (or, two accidents of birth!) that has me as the eldest in the family, and Cannuckbard the youngest! No, this was quite a serious discussion, the gist of which was that the way in which the Internet holds all information forever, with ever-decreasing storage costs, and simpler retrieval (I can purchase a 2Gb memory stick – the equivalent of 1475 HD floppy discs - for less than what I used to pay for a box of 20 floppies, and retrieval is almost instant!), it is easier to record than to forget.

The problems that can arise were illustrated by examples such as the personal information that is displayed – and stored – on ‘social websites’ (Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). One specific that was cited was that of a Canadian professor who, in an academic article, had confessed to having once taken the drug LSD in the 1960s – over forty years earlier – and who, when a border guard ‘Googled’ him and discovered this, was banned from entering the U.S. of A. for life!

The speaker then suggested that for all of human history, forgetting was easy because it is “… built into us …” biologically! I would beg to differ. Indeed, for decades I explained to pupils that our minds are so wondrously designed that they retain everything that we read, see, hear, smell, and experience. The trick is in triggering a particular memory at the time we need to recall something. And how often do certain situations cause us to instantly recall an event from many years ago?!

We often hear of people being encouraged to forgive and forget, and explaining that, while they may manage the first, they will not be able to manage the second. This is the wonder of the forgiveness of Almighty God. When we come to Him, in the Name of the Lord, Jesus Christ; confessing our own sinfulness, and our total inability to consistently meet even our own standards, let alone His; He not only forgives (I John 1:9), but also casts them away (Micah 7:19). It isn’t even a case of ‘God can forget’, as much as ‘God is the only One Who is able to not remember’.

The internet may well remember all of the information that is keyed into it. But, praise God, His forgiveness makes my sin, in His eyes, disappear forever (see Isaiah 1:18). Of course, that true forgiving and forgetting does depend on genuine confession and repentance. Have you confessed your sin?