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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

It's a matter of time.

If I am a musician in an orchestra and have a 100-bar phrase to play, the conductor will not be pleased if I stop at the end of the 99th bar. If I take out a 10-year loan agreement and, at the end of the ninth year, inform the lender that I have completed my payments, then I may well end up in a Civil Court. If I allow someone ten minutes to complete a particularly difficult task, and then stop the clock at the beginning of that tenth minute I will be considered as having acted most unfairly. I was not able to draw my State Pension at the beginning of my 65th year of life, but only when that year had been completed.

None of this is quantum physics/mechanics; it isn't even calculus. It is, in fact, very simple and basic mathematics. So, on the last stroke of midnight, tomorrow, we will not enter the second decade of the third millennium - we will enter the final year of that decade. The decade will be completed at the end of that year.

Let us not succumb to media hype and, lest I do not have time to post tomorrow, or Friday, I wish each and all a peaceful, prosperous, and very happy new year.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Execution; perscution.

The execution of the death penalty on British subject (as a monarchy, we do not have citizens!) Akmal Shaikh has sparked a diplomatic war of words between the U.K and China. I have very mixed feelings about the situation. On the one hand, I am totally opposed to addictive drugs and believe that those who traffic in them should be punished with all severity. On the other hand, I am unhappy with the taking of a human life - whether in the womb, on the battlefield, or in the execution chamber of a Chinese jail.

However, as I read about the strenuous efforts that appear to have been made, albeit unsuccessfully, on behalf of the late Mr Shaikh - whose guilt has not been disputed - I cannot help but wonder why it is that similar efforts are not made with regard to China's poor human rights record as a whole. I think of people like house church leader Alimjan Yimit, recently sentenced to 15 years in prison - after almost a full year in custody - on the apparently contrived charge of having provided state secrets to foreign organisations!

I think, too, of Gao Zhisheng, a human-rights lawyer who in September 2007 sent an open letter to the Congress of the U.S. of A. alleging a number of abuses in great detail and urging international protests. The Chinese authorities responded by abducting Mr Gao and, in a secret location outside Beijing, torturing him for 13 days - holding burning cigarettes to his eyes and nose; electrocuting, and piercing, his genitals; and using other forms of physical abuse. He 'disappeared' again on February 4th 2009 after having been seized by about a dozen police officers. Mr Gao's wife and children have managed to escape to the relative safety of the U.S. of A., but in spite of repeated inquiries from international organisations, the Chinese government refuses to provide any information as to his wherabouts.

There are many encouraging reports coming out of some parts of China, but these two are mere representatives of thousands - if not tens, or even hundreds, of thousands - who suffer persecution to one degree or another, for the simple reason that they acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour, Lord, and King.

Those of us who value the relative freedom that we enjoy in 'the West' should be at the forefront in remembering these brave people - people who, as a follower of Jesus, I am proud to call my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Aliens, evidence, and truth!

As I have stated before, one of the (many!) things that I enjoy about no longer living a life that is regulated by period bells, is listening to the radio for much longer in the morning. (Okay, this morning I would have been on holiday anyway!!).

Two particularly interesting comments were made today. In the ‘Today’ programme, there was an emphasis on science, and science fiction due, in the main, to the influence of the guest editor –Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal. One of those interviewed was Paul Davies, a member of the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Project, and he commented that he did not believe that “ … there’s been alien visitation here on earth in historical times”. Now I am aware that he was referring to something like the “little green men” of popular science fiction stories but, coming just a few days after the celebration, by many, of the incarnation, I found it to be a strangely naïve comment! The birth of the first child of Mary, the wife of Joseph, carpenter of Nazareth, was not the birth of an ordinary human child. Certainly, He was human, 100% human – but He was also divine: God in human flesh. If we widen the concept of alien (as we do when we sometimes refer to people from another part of the planet), then that, surely, was an alien visitation as the Creator, from that dimension that we refer to as heaven, entered that which He had created.

The second comment was in Andrew Marr’s ‘Start the Week’ programme, immediately following ‘Today’. It came from Richard Dawkins, the ‘high priest’ of atheistic Darwinian evolution (or Darwinian evolutionary atheism!). Speaking of the need for evidence, he stated that “There’s a truth that is out there, you can actually discover”. How I wished that I could introduce him to the One, that very same One Who entered our time-space continuum as an ‘alien’, Who stated “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn.14:6).

Over the holiday period, I watched part of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ on BBC 2 television. A line from that Tragedy springs to mind – one that many of these so-called ‘experts’ could do well to ponder: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Act 1, Sc.5). So, too, do the inspired words of the Psalmist: “…the One who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.” (2:4). As I stated yesterday, there is a great difference between knowledge and wisdom. It’s not a lack of evidence that is the problem; it’s a wise interpretation of the evidence that is all around us. (cf. Rom.1:18ff).

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Knowledge, or Wisdom?

Well, that's Christmas over for another year! By the next time it is celebrated - if the Lord Jesus hasn't returned, and if we haven't died from accident, disease, or old age - we will all be a full year older. But will we be any wiser? "Now there's the rub" - to quote Hamlet in a slightly different context!

There are those, of course, who confuse wisdom with knowledge. Yet these are, in fact, different concepts. Knowledge can be gained simply by soaking up information - by reading, attending classes/lectures, completing courses in either academic or practical subjects. It is perfectly possible, however, to have a lot of knowledge, but very little wisdom! I'm not sure how universally-accepted it would be (but please feel free to leave a comment!) but, some years ago, I came up with the 'definition': "Knowledge is what I know; wisdom is the proper, and useful, application of what I know!"

Wisdom may be gained through experience. I may learn how to apply my knowledge - however little, or much - by applying it! But wisdom is also a gracious gift of Almighty God to those who are His children. The Scriptures are full of such instance:

"God gave Solomon great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge too vast to be measured." (I Kings 4:29);

"Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to those who have lived many years. But true wisdom and power are with God; counsel and understanding are His." (Job 12:12-13);

"For YHWH grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Prov.2:6);

"God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him." (Eccl. 2:26);

"YHWH Adonai has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will." (Is.50:4);

"... the child [Jesus] grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom beyond His years, and God placed His special favour upon Him." (Luke 2:40);

"... don't worry about how to answer the charges against you, for I [Jesus] will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply!" (Luke 21:14-15);

"[God] has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding." (Eph.1:8);

"If you need wisdom - if you want to know what God wants you to do - ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking." (James 1:5);

"... the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere." (James 3:17);

"... remember, the Lord is waiting so that people have time to be saved. This is just as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him ..." (II Peter 3:15);

"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and forever. Amen!" (Rev.7:12).

I reckon that that's enough to provide a good Bible Study as we approach the new year! Doing so may well see us increase in Godly wisdom - and thus be enabled to be better witnesses to Him, and to serve Him better, in 2010. May this be the experience of each and all, to His glory.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Crib, Cross, Crown.

I don’t know who it was in the BBC who was inspired to broadcast as a Christmas movie, the film version of C.S.Lewis’ “The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe” – but it was, surely, inspired! The story may have the arrival of ‘Father Christmas’ as one of the signs that the reign of the evil witch is coming to an end, and he is travelling through Narnia handing out gifts. But it isn’t a traditional Christmas story – Biblical or otherwise! It includes so much else, especially the willing sacrifice of the great Lion, Aslan, in the place of the foolish Edmund. It’s a sequence that still brings a tear to my eye as I see the whole story of the crucifixion (and the glorious resurrection!) of the Lord Jesus – the sinless One, dying in my place.

In about an hour and a quarter, I will be leaving to conduct the Watchnight Service in the church in which I am doing most of my preaching these days. And the brief message that I have prepared is a reminder that Christmas is but the beginning of a wonderful story. At this season, it is true that we concentrate on the crib in which the Babe was laid. But if we stop there; if all we ever see is a helpless infant laid on a bed of straw; then we miss so much. Because we must move on; lift up our gaze; and see the cross to which the Saviour was nailed. It isn’t the pleasantly sentimental picture that we have in the traditional (although Biblically inaccurate!) nativity scene. This is now a grown Man, with blood caked on His head and back, and flowing from the wounds of the nails in wrists and feet. Not as pleasant a scene as the one on even the ‘religious’ Christmas card that may be hanging on a wall in your home. Yet even that is not the end of the story. Because the Word of God assures me that the crucified Jesus rose from the dead – victorious over sin, and hell, and the grave. And I am also assured that He is going to return. So we will be considering the crown with which the King will come. Because, next time, He will not appear as a helpless Babe, but as the One at Whose Name “…every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue … confess that [He] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2:10-11).

When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16ff), He read from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The precise passage was Is.61:1-2 – but, strangely, He stops in mid-sentence! The second verse reads “to proclaim the year of YHWH’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God”. However, Jesus stops after the word ‘favour’. Could this be because He knew that He was truly ushering in the time of God’s grace, and that it would be at His Second Advent that He would come to judge the earth and all of its inhabitants?!

One thing is certain: today truly is the time for salvation (II Cor.6:2); tomorrow may be too late!
I wish each and all of my readers a blessed and peaceful Christmas, and trust that as you worship the Babe, you will also worship the Saviour – King of kings, and Lord of lords – and be among those who “… love His appearing” (II Tim.4:8).

Monday, 21 December 2009

Hypocrisy – Copenhagen style!

I should immediately make clear that the heading is not a reflection on the Danish capital city, but rather on the ‘Climate Change Summit’ that was held there, and that has just ended. But why the references to hypocrisy? Simply because I saw so much of it surrounding the conference – in itself, it would appear, somewhat hypocritical as the decisions that were made (such as they were) were allegedly the result of some ‘back-room negotiating’ by just five major countries! It reminded me of my days in education when, from Council level, down to school level, staff were often consulted – and then promptly ignored!


But what really got me more than a little bit annoyed was learning of the cost of this massive ‘jamboree’. I am reliably informed that almost 150 private jets were used to ferry delegates to and from the conference – and I suspect that that that does not include the fuel-guzzling Boeing 747 on which Barack Obama and his entourage arrived. Some 1,200 limousines were hired for leaders (but I would be surprised to discover that others travelled by bus!) – some of them having to be driven hundreds of miles from Sweden and Germany. The cost should be measured, not just in cash (in whatever currency), but in the pollution that was caused by all of that unnecessary travel. Unnecessary for two reasons:


1. There are less polluting forms of transport! Even H.M. the Queen (yes, it really is One!) was seen boarding a train to travel from London to Sandringham for the Christmas break. I am no ardent royalist but, if it’s good enough for H.M., it should have been good enough for the rest – including the current heir to the throne!


2. In an age of technological advances such as the one in which we currently live, there could have been a video link-up with every capital city, or seat of government, in the world. Think how much that would have reduced the carbon footprint of the conference!


As a follower of Jesus, I believe that I have a sacred duty to exercise proper stewardship of this planet on which Father God has set me. Indeed, I believe that the church, as a worldwide entity, missed out in taking the lead in such matters long before the Green political parties made it all so fashionable that every politician, and his granny, jumped on to the ‘green bandwagon’.


“The earth is YHWH’s, and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it.” (Ps.24:1). As a race, I believe that we will have to answer for the ways in which we have abused, and exploited, God’s world. It will take a determined effort on the part of individuals to make any real difference – not the political posturing of those who seem to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think (see Rom.12:3); those who may already “… have received their reward in full.” (Matt.6:5).

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Morals and Contraceptives!

It is reported that, in England and Wales, a pilot scheme is to be introduced next year whereby the Contraceptive Pill will be available from chemists without a prescription. Like doctors, pharmacists will be able to give the Pill to girls under 16 without their parents’ consent if they believe that they are at risk of becoming pregnant.

Surely this is yet another ill-conceived (no pun intended!) idea from this increasingly desperate government! My fear is that many boys will see this as the green light to have ‘unprotected’ penetrative sexual intercourse, safe in the knowledge that no pregnancy will result! What they may not realise is that even the Pill does not have a 100% success rate. However, of even greater concern is the obvious potential for a rapid increase in STDs. Fewer teenage pregnancies may well be a laudable objective – but at the cost of increased numbers of young people (of both genders) suffering from syphilis, chlamydia, AIDS; herpes, and gonorrhoea and all of the others ... ??

Add to this the recent research by Lloyds Pharmacy that informs us that the 'average' person in the U.K. has 7.65 sexual partners in their lifetime (somebody must have 15 just to make up for me!), leading to a potential infection rate of 2,811,024 as disease is spread to each of those people's partners - and to each of theirs, etc.

I would suggest that having the highest teenage birthrate in Western Europe is due more to a lack of Mr Brown’s famous 'moral compass' than it is to lack of contraceptive devices. The erosion of family values (especially under the present government); the lack of parental responsibility; and the high number of children being raised with no adequate male role-model; are all factors that must be taken into consideration.

What is even more disturbing is the statistic that 50% of all teenage pregnancies end in abortion: the deliberate ending of the life of an unborn human being when it is at its most vulnerable.

There is still no successful alternative to the old-fashioned values of chastity before marriage, and fidelity within it. It is a simple, and incontrovertible, fact that if these values were universally practised (even I may dream!), there would be no more STDs and only rarely an ‘unwanted’ pregnancy.

Promiscuity is not all that it is cracked up to be – and may even carry within itself the seeds of its own destruction!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Double Take!

There was a time - not so very long ago - when certain newspapers would publish two juxtaposed photographs, one of a well-known 'celebrity', and the other of an 'ordinary' person whose physical features were remarkably similar and who might, at first glance, be mistaken for the better-known person.

Two of my personal friends fall into that category. Mark is (apart from having a little less hair on top!) a 'dead ringer' of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; while Stuart could esaily be mistaken for politician Ed Milliband, the current U.K. Energy Secretary. Even their voices are not dissimilar as Mark, like the Archbisop is a native of the Principality of Wales, and Stuart is a 'Geordie' (from Newcastle, N.E England), and Ed Milliband, although born in London, seems to have picked up some of the accent from his Doncaster Parliamentary Constituency.

Of course, the opposite is also true - and some day someone is going to think that Dr Rowan Williams is my friend Mark; and that Ed Milliband is my friend Stuart!!

However, what is much more important about both Mark and Stuart is that, as disciples of Jesus, they also exhibit many of His human characteristics. They display kindnes and compassion; they are both full of fun and laughter (yes - Jesus really was like that!); they display great knowledge of the written Word of God; they are very approachable. When I see them, and talk with them, I do see something of the incarnation that we are shortly going to celebrate. I see Jesus in them.

It raises the important question - how much of Jesus do others see in me? It is recorded of former Principal Rainey of New College, Edinburgh, that a child remarked that he must go to heaven every night, because his face shone so during the day. "... we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (Jn.1:14), wrote John of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps the reason why so many reject the Christ of the Cross (while happy to celebrate the birth of the Babe in the manger) is not only that the latter is seen as 'safe', while the former challenges us in our innermost being, but also because He is not sufficiently displayed by those of us who bear His Name!

At this Advent Season, may many do a 'double-take' as they look at us - and wonder if they have just seen Jesus.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Casting stones?

As one of those people who thinks of a game of golf as the ruination of a good walk, I haven’t taken much interest in the ongoing saga of the marital problems that have been suffered by the champion golfer, Tiger Woods.

However, I have been fascinated by the sort of language that he is reported as having used over these past two weeks. It started off, as I recall, with his admission that he had let his family down with his “transgressions”, and not been true to either his “values” or “the behaviour [his] family deserves” with his “personal sins”. He is reported as having said that he wants to say, again, to everyone that he is “profoundly sorry” (reported in many headlines as ‘repentance’), and that he asks for “forgiveness”.

I am obviously unable to comment on the sincerity, or otherwise, of this young man’s words, but they sound more like words from a Christian evangelist’s appeal at the end his message, than those of a ‘superstar’ who has been caught cheating on his wife. Is this the product of an African-American upbringing? Was Tiger Woods raised in a “Black Gospel Church”, where he would certainly have heard the Gospel message preached with power and passion? I don’t know! However, I do know that if he is truly repentant, and can take to heart the injunction of the Lord Jesus to the woman caught in the very act of adultery, and dragged before Him by the contemporary Pharisees and teachers of the Law (haTorah): “Go now, and leave your life of sin” (Jn.8:11), and come in simple faith to the foot of the Cross, then he may claim that forgiveness that is promised to those who confess their sins (I Jn.1:9). I also hope that the use of such language by someone of his public status (however damaged at this time) will make it easier for disciples of Jesus to get the message across that “… all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:20), and that we all need to repent, to lift our eyes beyond the Babe in the manger, to the Christ of the Cross and, like Thomas, fall on our knees and proclaim “My Lord, and my God.”

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Thinking about tomorrow!

So, Mr Darling has given us a preview of the way in which he sees the U.K. finally dragging itself out of the current economic situation over the coming years! I watched some of his delivery of the pre-Budget Report - and was astounded at the glib way in which he spoke of what the (present) government would be doing. I also watched the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, give as good a response as I have heard from him. I was particularly pleased that he was able to pick up some "sleight-of-hand" on the part of Mr Darling when he apparently compared different sets of figures as if they were the same!

I was reminded of the inspired words of James, in his letter to the Church at large. "Look here, you people who say, 'Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.' How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.' Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil." (4:13-16)

All the indications continue to suggest that the Labour Party will lose the General Election - that must take place within the next six months - and what the Chancellor has done is to leave something of a "poisoned chalice" for his successor, whoever that may be. Indeed, as I listened to all of the "difficult choices" that had had to be made, and noticed that they wouldn't take effect until after the election, I had the almost perverse desire that Labour would win another term in office, so that the British people would see the true extent of their mismanagement, and that they might inherit their own 'scorched earth'!

At times like this, I take refuge in the Sovereignty of Almighty God. I believe, firmly, that He is in ultimate control. It's the belief that sustains members of the persecuted church - to whom what we in the U.K. endure would be a pleasant picnic on a beautiful summer's day, in comparison with their suffering. May I suggest that you follow the link

http://www.freegao.com/index.html?refnum=

watch the re-enactment (top right of page), and discover something of what has happened to just one Chinese lawyer? It makes me very grateful that I have not, as yet, been called upon to pay that sort of price. Let those of us who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ be faithful in our support of our brothers and sisters who, so constantly, bear in their bodies, the marks of the Jesus.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Martyrdom - then and now!

I have just received an e-mail from my friend Mark, directing me to the following website that shows an act of reconciliation between the inhabitants of a South Sea island, and the descendants of a Christian missionary who was murdered, and eaten, by the islanders' ancestors. Named "Martyrs' Island" by Presbytarian Missionaries at the beginning of the 19th Century, Erromango (second island from the bottom!) never quite lost its reputation as a dangerous destination. Please click on the link!


Sadly, the murder of disciples of Jesus continues to this day. On Nov. 14, according to Compass Direct News, the body of a 23-year-old Christian convert, Mumin Abdikarim Yusuf, was discovered in the Yaqshid district of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. On Oct. 28, members of al-Shabaab, an Islamic extremist group, detained Yusuf and searched his home for Christian materials. A 15-year-old Muslim boy had accused Yusuf of trying to convert him to Christianity.

In an attempt to gain evidence against Yusuf and to gain information about other Somali Christians, the extremists knocked out all of Yusuf's front teeth and broke several of his fingers. They then shot him twice in the head and dumped his body on an empty residential street. Since it is unknown whether Yusuf revealed information about other Christians during his torture, the 'underground' Christians who knew him have relocated for their safety. Yusuf's Muslim family members are also in danger, as extremists have accused them of failing to report his conversion to Christianity.

Of course, this is just one more instance of people being murdered for no other reason than their confessing that Jesus is their Lord. I am always challenged at the price that these dear people pay for their faith - a price that I am unlikely ever to have to even consider. May it be that, one day soon, their descendants will contact the descendants of these modern martyrs, and seek reconciliation in the Name of that same Jesus, Whose advent we are remembering at this time.
P.S. Don't forget to check out today's Advent Video!

Letter to the Editor

The following is a letter that was published (with some editing!) in The Herald newspaper on Saturday.

Dear Sir,

So the Board of RSB is threatening to resign if they are not allowed to dish out some £1.5 billion in bonuses! Now, there’s a surprise! However, I would wish to add my voice to that of Mr Vince Cable (apparently the only current politician with a modicum of common-sense, and a grasp of finance that goes beyond the ability of a basic pocket calculator!), and encourage the government to call their bluff. It would be interesting to see exactly how many would be willing to put ‘principle’ above their 7-digit salaries, and the gold-plated pension packages that go along with them.

As a tax-payer – who therefore owns, jointly with my fellow tax-payers, a whopping 70% of the bank (soon, apparently, to rise to over 80%) – I was particularly incensed by the reported comment of one of the Board members, that not too much notice should be taken of “only one shareholder” i.e. the government. If this person does not have the financial nous to understand that ‘the government’ doesn’t have a penny-piece of its own, but (all too) freely disburses the hard-earned taxes of a fair proportion of the British public, then he should not even be in the banking industry! Indeed, I will happily this person's place – and do so for a lower salary – as I truly believe that anyone who has lived in the real world, and who has successfully managed his personal finances could not do any worse a job than these people have done; and might even manage to do a slightly better one!

I am informed that at least 5,000 bankers will earn more than £1million this year, meaning that they will be earning more in one year than the average tax-payer earns in a lifetime. The old adage reminds us that “He who pays the piper, calls the tune”. Let Mr Brown, and Mr Darling, as those who represent the piper, insist that these Board members be told exactly where to get off, and offered a brief guide to claiming unemployment benefit!

Yours faithfully,

C.Brian Ross (Rev)


Yesterday, in Calderhead-Erskine Parish Church (both Shotts and Allanton), I made reference to the happiness of the true disciple of Jesus. For so many in our contemporary society, 'happiness' is dependant upon material possessions - how much money is in the bank account(s); how big a car is being driven; how expensive, and fashionable, the clothing and furniture are; how large a bonus is received. But these things may be lost, or stolen - and they will, eventually, disappear! The happiness of the disciple of Jesus comes from the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit, and that happiness is totally independant of external circumstances. This is the testimony of those on the persecuted church, who bear in their own bodies "the marks of Jesus." (see Gal.6:17).

Perhaps more of us should try that happiness that is real joy - a joy that is deep in the heart.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Catch-up video!!

Once again, the Christian organisation Damaris has kindly provided a series of brief videos for Advent. They started on Monday - while I was still offline - so we start with No.4. Be blessed.

I have now realised that Damaris (clever folk that they are!) are automatically changing the video clip each day. I will try to keep this post at the top - but I am not as clever as they are!! Do log in every day throughout the Advent season to watch and listen. You know that it beats the average Advent calendar (and it is completely free of calories!!!)

Okay! Final message on this post! I have now managed to place the Advent videos (reduced in size, but you should be able to access a button at the bottom right, that will give you a full-screen view!) to the side-bar at the left - right above the Ross Clan Badge. The average length is only a minute, so do make use of them.

Parental responsibility.

Well, here we go again! A couple of hours after having regained my internet connection last week, I lost it again. We are ‘up and running’ again and, hopefully, will have no further problems!

Two items of news have caught my eye over the past day or two. The first concerned the ‘guilty’ verdict returned on 18-year-old Stewart Blackburn for the horrific murder of his girlfriend, 17-year-old Jessica McCagh, by deliberately setting fire to her.

The other news item concerned a serious sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl as she walked home in Edinburgh. It is alleged that two youths approached her, on BMX bicycles, and took her into a nearby street where they committed the offence – sometime between 10.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m. last Friday.

Without in any way wishing to detract from the seriousness of both crimes, and acknowledging that the McCagh family have suffered a great loss, I found myself asking a very simple question (or, if you wish, two questions!). What on earth were Jessica’s family thinking when they allowed her to move in, at seventeen, with a boy who appears to have already given some indication of a violent character; and what was a thirteen-year-old doing, walking alone on the streets of a major city, at that time on a Friday night? What was her family thinking that she was allowed to do so? (I guess that that is now three questions!).

The Psalmist reminds us that our “Children are a gift from YHWH; they are a reward from Him.” (Ps.127:1); while Paul tells us that we should raise our children “… with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord.” (Eph.6:4)

Perhaps if more parents were to recognise their children as gifts, rather than as, at best, mini-extensions of themselves and, at worst, encumbrances with whom they are stuck, then the sort of news items to which I have referred would be much rarer that they currently seem to be. I trust that the next British government will do something to restore the concept of family, based on genuinely Christian principles, lest another generation be largely lost through lack of parental responsibility!