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Friday, 31 December 2010

A Happy New Year!

Yes, as I commence my typing, there is only an hour and a quarter before the bells ring out at midnight (GMT), and a new year commences.

Many folk will be thankful that the old year is finished.  It's been a difficult one - pain; bereavement; injury; redundancy; whatever.  The new year provides a sense of fresh hope - regardless of what the financial forecasters are predicting!

There may be others who will be sorry that 2010 has become a part of history.  It's been a good year - an addition to the family, whether through birth or marriage; an unexpected promotion; the successful completion of that degree course; finding gainful employment after maybe years of enforced idleness; losing some of that surplus weight; or, again, whatever!  Their hope is that the new year will bring more of the same happiness that they have experienced in the old one.

The only thing of which any of us may be certain is that it will bring change.  The increasing restrictions brought about by the government's austerity measures (at least for those of us in the U.K.); the decreasing mobility as age takes its toll on our bodies; the climatic conditions - whether because of man-made global warming, or because of a natural cycle in our planet's history.

Augustus Toplady knew what he was talking about when, in his well-known hymn Abide with me, he writes "Change and decay in all around I see.  O Thou Who changest not, abide with me."

That's where the disciple of Jesus has a major benefit.  For it is of Him that the writer of the letter to the early Hebrew followers of the Way says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb 13:8).  In a world of change, He is the unchanging One; in a world of flux, He is the sound and stable Rock; in a world that is in decay (Second Law of Thermodynamics), He is the Giver of Life (John 10:10).

It would be my hope that everyone who reads this post goes into (or has gone  into, if you are east of Greenwich!) 2011 in the company of the Changeless One.  If He is your Saviour and Lord, then you have a genuine Constant in your life - He Who said, "I will never fail you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:5).  I commend Him to each and all.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A child was born!

Yes!  On December 25th, 2010, a child was born in California to ---- well, very few people know the identity of the mother, but the 'parents' are the homosexual pop star, Elton John, and his homosexual 'partner'.  Mr John (63) announced today that he and his partner, David Furnish, who is 48, have become 'parents' after using the services of a surrogate mother in the U.S.

It was back in October that I posted on a couple of lesbians in Australia who had gone through a similar process in order to be 'parents'.  All that I said then applies equally now.  In my opinion, this is not, to Mr John, a child as much as an accessory.  It is reported that the child's privacy will be paramount - but then that there could be a legal case before the homosexual partners are even able to bring the infant in to the U.K.  Differences in British law and Californian law, with regard to surrogacy, and any payment that has been made, have all to be resolved and, to further complicate the situation, it would appear that it is perfectly possible that this infant was conceived by the surrogate 'bearing' female, using the sperm of one of the two homosexual males, and an egg from yet another female!

My thoughts go out to the infant.  Three days old - and already the subject of news items.  And, like the child in Australia - for whom, at least, one of the 'parents' really is, and for whom only donor sperm was required - there is the potential for all kinds of psychological problems as he grows; possibly compounded by the fame and fortune of Mr John.

Once again, the very procedures through which Mr John and his 'partner' had to go, confirm that this kind of situation is not only morally repugnant, but also naturally perverse.  Another two persons who have placed their personal selfish desires before the ultimate well-being of a child, and his personal identity.  I hope, for his sake, that the situation works out better than I, for one, expect!

Monday, 27 December 2010

363 shopping days until Christmas 2011!!

Okay, that probably isn't the information for which most folk were looking!  Of course, it's a lot easier to calculate these days, with 24/7 shopping so increasingly prevalent.

I trust that everyone who reads my blog posts had a pleasant Christmas.  I certainly did, and am grateful for it.  However, I started Christmas Day by heading off at about 0830 hrs, to visit three police stations in the Division of Strathclyde Police in which I am a Force Chaplain.  I would have liked to have visited more, but time was of the essence, as I have an annual stint in the kitchen on that day - keeping my catering skills at a workable level!

However, my reason for mentioning this is not that I may be more highly thought of.  It is simply a reminder that, when the majority of us are enjoying a break from the normality of life - including a wee holiday from work - there are those who continue to attend to their jobs and, by doing so, help to keep the rest of us safe and secure, warm and mobile, fed and watered.

I refer, of course, not only to the police officers who were on duty on Christmas Day, but also to medical staff, firemen (and women?), bus drivers, those who kept the gas and electricity flowing so that the Christmas lunch could be cooked, bus drivers, taxi drivers, those who ensured that fresh, clean water continued to flow from our taps on demand.  A veritable army of individuals who gave up their own Christmas day in order that we might enjoy ours!

I was assured that my own visits were much appreciated.  Perhaps, next year, even a 'phone call to your local police station, hospital, fire station, or anywhere else that you are able to contact to say a brief "Thank you" to those who are working there, will be equally appreciated. 

At least you now know how many days you have to prepare!!!!

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Nativity

After almost a week, there is so much about which I would like to post - but not enough time to cover everything!  However, I did watch three of the four episodes of The Nativity - the much-heralded adaptation of the Christmas story by Mr Tony Jordan, to which reference has already been made, below.  Sadly, his adaptation seemed to owe as much, if not more, to his regular work as it did to the Biblical record!

Accepting that there is scope for some intelligent 'padding' (I have done so, myself, for many years) there were parts of the portrayal that I liked.  The dialogue was modern, and this could have been an opportunity for the mini-series to have made a real impact.  Unfortunately, a great deal of the original story line was distorted, omitted, or unnecessarily expanded!

For example, after Mary's initial - and natural (the concept of a virgin becoming pregnant was as far-fetched then as it is to so many today!) - confusion when she was told by the angelic visitor that she was going to bear a Child, this adaptation had her contiunue to argue with the angelic visitor about the possibility of her becoming pregnant when she was still a virgin (yes, even then people were aware that this was not 'normal'!).  However, the Biblical record shows that, far from continuing to argue, she responded, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38; RSV) - a perfect submission from which many of us could learn!

The character of Joseph, in The Nativity, is almost diametrically opposed to that shown in the Gospel record.  Far from shouting, and verbally abusing his betrothed (betrothal was a state that may be thought of, conveniently if not absolutely accurately, as half-way between a modern engagement and marriage), we read that "... being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, [he] resolved to divorce her quietly." (Matt 1:19-20; RSV).  He was also assured that she had not been unfaithful with another man, at that time - not, as Mr Jordan portrayed the situation, on the night before they arrived in Bethlehem for the census!  It should also be noted that, in the New Testament records, there is no hint of him having to be coaxed, by her father, to take Mary with him.  Even when the couple arrived in Bethlehem, Mr Jordan's rendering had them being turned away from every home - including that of a cousin of Joseph - because of Mary's alleged 'whoredom'.  The Biblical narrative states, simply that there was no room.  It is highly unlikely that the stories about Mary's alleged infidelity would have reached Bethlehem from Nazareth, in an age when there were no mobile 'phones, or social networking sites!  Yet everyone in Bethlehem seemed to know about this young girl's pregnancy!

I was disappointed that there were three Magi!  The only indication in the Biblical record is that there were at least two - but there might have been four, or six, or a dozen!  This was, it seems to me, just a 'sop' to the traditional, medieval, Nativity Play!  I also wonder where Mr Jordan, the script-writer, got the idea that both the shepherds and the Magi were informed of the birth of this Child before He was born!  Was this so that all could come together before Him, as in the traditional 'manger scene'?  The last straw, at that point, was to have one of the Magi quoting the words of John the Baptist - thirty years before he uttered them; and another quoting Jesus Himself with words from what is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount!  It should also be noted that, contrary to what was portrayed in The Nativity, the Magi didn't avoid either Jerusalem or Herod!   The record is absolutely clear: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,  'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.'  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; ... ... Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 'Go and search diligently for the Child, and when you have found Him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.' When they had heard the king they went their way; ... ... And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way." (Matt 2:1-12; RSV).  A couple of verses on is the clear evidence that this was more than a year after the birth of the Child!
 
Like anyone who is already familiar with the Biblical record, I could go on - and on, and on.  However, I trust that this will encourage some of my readers to check out the original script - written, not to gain a television audience, but "... that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name." (John 20:31; RSV).  At one point, in the final episode, the wife of Thomas - one of the shepherds (by the way, we missed out on the host of the armies of heaven!) - made a statement that, like that of the High Priest some 33 years later, was more true than Mr Jordan may have realised.  "One man cannot change the world", she declared.  This Child, Whose birth we celebrate tomorrow, is the one Man Who did change the world; the one Man on Whom time itself pivots; the one Man Who changes the world, by changing individuals, as He brings new life - "life in all its fulness" (John 10;10).


A very Happy CHRISTmas to one and all.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

More inaccuracy!

 An article in today's Independent newspaper was produced by "Our writer on Pagans"!!  It makes quite interesting reading {http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/katy-guest-we-wish-you-a-merry-solstice-or-whatever-2164292.html} but, like so many of these newspaper articles, has its misleading aspects!  At the beginning, the picture that is drawn is, to my mind, of a couple of Mormons, or Jehovah's Witnesses to whose call at the door, the author suggests, the response should be "... invite them in, brew up some hot mead, and explain to them patiently about a time 2,000 years ago when early Christians went in search of an arbitrary date on which to celebrate an event of middling theological importance in their fledgling religion."  Go for it, my pagan friends.  You would be doing the Gospel no dis-service!

However, it was a later comment that led me to write in to the forum thread associated with the article.  Again, I reproduce my comments here:

"... a man was born of a virgin, died and then rose again to teach us all to hate gays;"

Sorry to butt in to all of the 'pro-pagan' complimentary posts, but while accepting much of what the article says, the last part of that particular comment is simply, and demonstrably, untrue! Jesus of Nazareth did not teach us to hate anyone. In fact, He taught nothing but love (the Greek agape, not eros) and forgiveness. Even a cursory reading of the Gospel records should make that abundantly clear. What He did clearly condemn was hypocrisy - and yes, I am fully aware that the visible church has got more than its fair share of that human characteristic - and exploitation. Of course, He did, implicitly if not explicitly, condemn homosexual activity, recognising it as both perverse and unproductive. As it used to be said, He "hated the sin, but loved the sinner". That is why there is always hope for even the homosexual (or lesbian). Paul, in his first Letter to the infant church in Corinth - a contemporary hot-bed of lust and licentiousness - makes it clear that some of the members of that church had once been active homosexuals, but that they had been "... cleansed; ... made holy; ... made right with God by calling on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (I Cor 6:11; NLT)

Of course the church eventually 'took over/converted' an existing pagan festival and used it to celebrate the birth of the Christ (which, according to the internal evidence was much more likely to have taken place in the early Spring, or early Autumn). No apology is made for that - others may continue to celebrate their own non-Christian festivals as they wish. The major difference, I would respectfully suggest, is that the Incarnation (which is what disciples of Jesus are celebrating) led to the Crucifixion - He was the Child born to die. However, the belief of the Biblical church, in whatever age, is that He did, indeed, rise from the dead; return to a dimension that is outwith the four physical dimensions of the time-space continuum that is our human experience; and that He will return - not, next time, as a helpless Babe, but as the One at Whose Name "... every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and [that] every tongue [shall] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:10-11; NLT).

Whether, or not, any individual accepts that is a personal matter - but I am one who is not ashamed to proclaim that I do!

Whatever happened to accuracy?

Tomorrow evening sees the commemncement of a 4-part series on the Nativity, being screened by the BBC.  This mini-series, by Eastenders writer, Tony Jordan, has been widely flagged up as a modern, but accurate, take on the original record.  From what I have heard and read thus far, I beg to differ as to the second of those adjectives!
I have posted the following on an online forum, but add it to this blog in order to give it a wider audience!
Having listened to Mr Jordan being interviewed on the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4, this morning, I have already written to point out that the research that he claimed to have done has been woefully inadequate. An article in today's Sunday Express newspaper merely emphasises why the gentleman writes scripts for Eastenders, and not academic articles!

Permit me to put him (and any readers who may be foolish enough to take his word on matters about which, by his own confession, he knew very little before writing the forthcoming programmes) right on some of his mistakes and misconceptions (no pun intended!).

1. The suggestion that Joseph would have verbally abused the young Mary (more likely to have been 12-13 years old, in accordance with the contemporary culture) is flatly contradicted by the internal evidence of the Gospel record: "This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. 'Joseph, son of David,' the angel said, 'do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the Child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a Son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' ... When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her Son was born. And Joseph named Him Jesus
." (Matt 1:18-25; NLT).

2. “I think it perfectly believable that Joseph should get angry with his betrothed and only agree to take her with him to Bethlehem when she risks being stoned by angry neighbours." Mr Jordan is entitled to 'think' whatever he wishes, but the fact is that Joseph would have been expected to take his wife with him for the census, especially when she was heavily pregnant so that both she and the child that was due to be born could be counted.

3. I did like Mr Jordan's reported protestation that “Personally, I believe in the immaculate conception ..."  Did his extensive research not throw up the fact that the immaculate conception is a doctrine of the Church of Rome that states that, in order for Mary to have been the mother of the Saviour, she herself had to be born sinless? It has nothing to do with the virginal conception of Jesus and, in fact, has no Biblical basis whatsoever!

4. One final point (although I could go on!). Mr Jordan states that "... those who wrote the gospels were doing so from a distance of 200 years." At least, this morning, he only allowed a gap of 100-150 years! However, he might have done a little bit more research and discovered, for example, the existence of the Magdalen Fragments. These are three pieces of papyrus containing parts of Matthew 26, and they are held, as far as I know, in Magdalen College, Oxford. They have been dated as from before 60AD - considerably earlier than Mr Jordan's conclusion! There is, of course, a great deal more evidence for the early writing of the whole of the New Testament.

If this article, and this morning's interview, are the best that Mr Jordan can do, then he has, in my opinion, a great deal to learn about the reality of the CHRISTmas story!

Friday, 17 December 2010

This is police work?

It has been well reported that, yesterday, a Police Constable, and a Police Community Support Officer were stabbed at a London 'bus-stop.  The Constable is, reportedly, in a serious but stable condition after being slashed across the throat, while his colleague's injuries were less severe.

As a Force Chaplain, as well as a member of the public, I am always as supportive of the Police as I possibly can be. As I meet with Officers, and civilian staff, while undertalking my Chaplaincy duties, I am aware of some of the stress and the pressure of the job - not always seen by those who are only 'on the outside'.

However. while extending every sympathy, and good wish, to the two Officers involved in this incident, I do have one concern.  It would appear that the duty in which they were engaged was - checking 'bus tickets!!

Now it may be that I have missed something in all of this but, it was my understanding that the non-payment of a fare was a civil offence, not a criminal one.  It was also my understanding that the 'bus companies had their own Inspectors, among whose duties is the checking of tickets.  I certainly don't believe that it is necessary to deploy Police Officers to attend to such a task!

With all of the cut-backs planned, and already implemented, for the various Police Forces, I am certain that 'the Met.' could put its available resources to much better use!

Human Rights - for whom?

"Tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime!"  That, if memory serves me well, was one of the meaningless mantras spouted by former-PM, Mr Tony Bliar (still not a typo!).

I would like to think that, as a disciple of Jesus, I would uphold the basic human rights of anyone - although it would appear that many folk consider their 'human rights' to be synonymous with 'whatever they want'!  However, the Human Rights legislation introduced by the Bliar government (did no-one at the time notice that Mrs Cherry Bliar - who, in my opinion, is just as obnoxiously greedy as her husband - was/is a QC who was an advocate of that legislation, and who has made a fortune in legal fees out of it?) is something with which this country could do without.

A failed asylum-seeker (i.e. his case for seeking asylum in this country was regarded as ineffective) mows down a 12-year-old girl, while he was banned from driving (and was uninsured), and flees the scene of his crime. A man who, it is reported, had run up a series of motoring offences and was convicted a second time for driving while banned three years after killing this young girl. A man who also had a string of criminal convictions including drugs possession, property damage, harassment and burglary.

He later turns himself in - the only positive aspect of the situation - and is jailed for four months!   And now, two senior immigration judges declare that he may remain in this country because, in the intervening period, he has fathered a couple of children, and to deport him would infringe his human rights!

I would like those two judges to visit the father of the young girl, for whose death this man was totally responsible - even 'though it was he who, apparently, had to make the excruciatingly difficult decision to turn off her life-support system - and explain to him the extent of his human rights, and those of his dead daughter.  Along with many others, I often wonder how these judges, whose lives are spent in a world that is obviously different from that of the vast majority of the British public, can bear to even look at themselves in the mirror each morning.  As Dickens' Mr Bumble would point out: " "If the law supposes that ... the law is a [sic] ass—a [sic] idiot." (Oliver Twist).

Perhaps Mr David Cameron would also like to visit the father!  In a pre-election pledge, the current P.M. wrote to him, promising reforms that would ensure “that rights are better balanced against responsibilities”. He said the Human Rights Act would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights.  However, like the promise of a referendum on the EU, this appears to have become a casualty of actual government - or perhaps it was sacrificed to appease the pre-EU, lefty Liberal Democrats?!

But if the human rights of a 12-year-old are not considered worthy of consideration by the British legal system, then the human rights of those as yet unborn is considered as unimportant by European law.  A woman who had to travel from the Republic of Ireland - and she isn't even Irish; she is Lithuanian! - is considered to have had her human rights violated because she was unable to have an abortion in the Republic.  The European Court of Human Rights, sitting in Strasbourg, has criticised the Irish government for failing to implement legislation that would have permitted the abortion to take place because the mother's own life was at risk.  It may astonish some to know that, given a straightforward choice between the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child, I would be prepared to sanction the abortion.  However - and it is a big 'however' - such situations are, thankfully, rare in the extreme.  In fact, according to the newspaper reports to which I have access, this woman's life was not in danger!  She was concerned - even afraid - that her pregnancy would bring about a relapse of cancer; and that there might be a risk to the unborn child if she went to full term.  That, I would contend, is a long way from her life being at risk!  I would also want to ask her why, if she had such fears, she had not taken adequate contraceptive precautions to ensure that she didn't become pregnant?

It used to be said that, in civilisations such as the Roman Empire, or the Aztecs of South America, human life was cheap.  It would appear that we have not really moved very far forward - at least as far as the human rights of some are concrened!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

An Englishman's home is his castle?

Well, that's what I recall being taught when I was a child!  However, it would appear that this is no longer the case!

It is reported, today, that a Christian couple being sued for refusing to allow two homosexuals to share a room at their bed and breakfast Guest House .  The couple - Peter and Hazelmary Bull - refused to allow two homosexuals to share a double room in their Cornish Guesthouse because to have done so would have violated their Christian consciences.  They stated, before Bristol County Court, that they only allowed married, heterosexual, couples to share a room, and pointed out that their website says "... we have few rules, but please note that, as Christians, we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others). Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples – Thank you." {http://www.chymorvah.co.uk/bookingform.html}

It would appear that one of the men involved made a telephone booking - but made no mention of another person being included.  Later, it is claimed, a second telephone call was made for a person using the same surname, but with the title 'Mrs', leading the manager of the Guesthouse to believe - understandably - that a married couple would be arriving.

When two males arrived on the following day, they were informed of the policy of the Guest House, and told that they would not be permitted to share a room.  The two males then stated that such an action was illegal, and reported the situation to the police - ensuring that the current prosecution would follow.

This sort of situation is, of course, the very kind of thing that many of us foresaw - and flagged up - before the current law was placed on the statute book.  As the Guest House manager has pointed out, it is perfectly possible - although impossible to prove - that the whole incident was a 'set-up', with the specific aim of placing a Christian couple (great-grandparents!) in this kind of situation. 

I note, too, that although the Bulls are being represented, and supported, by The Christian Institute - an organisation that depends, for its financial support, on donations from people like me; the homosexuals'
legal fees are being paid by the Government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission - in other words, by the taxpayer (including me!).  
 
Compared with what disciples of Jesus suffer in many other parts of the world, today, the Bulls' experience barely rates a mention.  However, it is yet another instance of the way in which persecution of genuine Christians is becoming common-place in the U.K.  As some of us pray for the Bulls, let us also pray for strength to withstand whatever comes against us in the increasingly hostile environment of our own land.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Confidentiality - or Hypocrisy?

I seem, currently, to be asking a lot of questions in my headings!  This one is because of the Question Time programme on BBC 1, on Thursday night.  I should have posted then, but I had been out for most of the evening at the Christmas Carols by Candlelight service in St George's-Tron Parish Church in Gasgow, which was under the auspices of the Christian Police Association (I'm a member by virtue of my Force Chaplaincy).
It was near to the end of the programme - the final question, if I recall correctly - when the panel was asked if Julian Assange (of WikiLeaks) was a hero or a terrorist.  During the discussion that followed, Dr Liam Fox, the U.K. Defence Secretary, commented to the effect that politicians and diplomats had to be able to be sure that their 'off-stage' (or 'off-mike') comments were kept confidential as this was how they built up trust among one another.  He used, as an illustration, a normal MP's 'surgery' in which, he rightly said, a constituent should be able to have the assurance that the matter discussed would not be made public.

I was a little bit confused!  He seemed to be saying that because a private matter between him and a constituent should, quite properly, be kept private, that it is acceptable for poiticians and diplomats to say one thing to their foreign counterparts in public, while saying something totally different in private!  I would disagree.  This is like comparing apples and oranges.  For me, as a minister of the Gospel and, therefore, with a required level of confidentiality, to share private matters with all and sundry would be absolutely wrong. and a breach of that confidentiality upon which I set a high value.  However, for me to tell my wife that the hat she has just purchased (that isn't going to happen, by the way!) is beautiful, and then to send an e-mail to a friend telling him how hideous I think it is, is nothing more, or less, than hypocrisy!

Perhaps Dr Fox - and a lot of others - need to check out the meanings of words, and use the correct terminology.  A manually-operated agricultural digging implement is a spade!

Equality?

One of today's (Sunday's!) news items concerns the planned visit by Pastor Terry Jones - the Pentecostal pastor who gained a certain notoriety when he threatened to burn copies of the Qur'an on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  It would appear that he has been invited by the EDL (English Defence League) - described in Wikipedia (their own web-site is, apparently, 'under construction') as "... a far-right group formed in 2009." whose "... stated aim is to oppose the spread of Islamism Sharia law and Islamic extremism in England. The description of "far-right" has been disputed by the Head of the UK Police Domestic Extremism Unit, who claims the EDL are "neither far-right, nor extremists".  Pastor Jones, it is reported, has been invited to speak about "the evils of Islam".

British Home Secretary, Theresa May, is considering banning this gentleman from the U.K. and, with the reputation for 'firebrand' preaching that he has acquired - particularly with respect to Islam - one can understand why she would wish to pre-empt any potential trouble.

However, if Pastor Jones is refused admission to this country on the basis that he would be likely to initiate a certain level of trouble, one is obliged to ask why it is that so many extremist Muslim preachers appear to not only be allowed to enter this country and spout their own venomous teaching, but to be permitted to claim various social benefits while they do so!  A certain Abu Hamza, the hook-handed former imam at Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, currently in jail for incitement to murder and stirring up racial hatred, and fighting extradition to the U.S.of A. (at taxpayers' expense?!), comes to mind!

By all means, let us endeavour to keep potential trouble-makers out of the country - but let's make sure that all groups are treated in the same way!   

PS  Thanks, Rick.  You're a star! :-)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Funny???!!

Obviously, I would not boast about it (!!), but I was often informed by my pupils that I would make a good 'stand-up comedian'.  I usually pointed out that I would need to have some of them to provide the appropriate  foil for my witty comments!  Of course, neither the opportunity, nor any real desire, ever arose to make such a career a possibility.

Part of the reason why I would not have wanted to follow that particular line of work was the low standard of what I occasionally heard on television, with so-called comedians (and comediennes) coming out with the most unfunny comments, liberally peppered with obscenities, blasphemies, and seemingly endless innuendo!  Mind you, I did think, on those rare occasions, that perhaps my pupils were correct.
 
I thought of all of that when I read, in today's newspapers, of Mr Frankie Boyle - one of these great stand-up comics who are not particularly funny at all.  It has been reported in a number of publications that, on a Channel Four programme, last night, he made comments (presumably he thought that they were 'funny') about the eight-year-old blind and autistic son of model Katie Price - suggesting that the child might sexually assault his mother; and also that his parents were fighting over custody of their son, with the loser being the one who was successful.

It is, surely, a sad reflection of the culture and society that has grown in much of the 'western' world during the past three or four decades.  This was, as others have stated, a vile and despicable attack on a defenceless child, and Mr Boyle should, in my opinion, be banned from every television studio, theatre, club, bar, or wherever, and told to go and find a proper job that would involve some manual effort on his part!
How different the attitude of the Lord Jesus!  His words about children were "Allow them to come to me; don't place any stumbling-block in the way; use their simple trust as your model. (cf. Mt.18:6,10 ; Mk.10:13; Lk.18:16).

As we move towards the season when some of us will celebrate His birth, rather than a mid-winter-fest, I can't help wondering how much better the world would be with more of Him, and less of people like Frankie Boyle!

PS  Don't forget to watch the Damaris video-message!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Another brutal killing.

For some months, now, many of us have been praying for a young Somali girl named Nurta who, having accepted the Lord Jesus as her Saviour, was being ill-treated by her own family.  just a few minutes ago, I learned that, in spite of having managed to escape from the treatment that was being meted out to her by her family, she has been murdered.  Here is the report:

" A 17-year-old girl in Somalia who converted to Christianity from Islam was shot to death last week in an apparent “honour killing,” area sources said.

Nurta Mohamed Farah, who had fled her village of Bardher, Gedo Region to Galgadud Region to live with relatives after her parents tortured her for leaving Islam, died on Nov. 25. Area sources said they strongly suspected that the two unidentified men in Galgadud Region who shot her in the chest and head with a pistol were relatives or acting on their behest.

“Reports reached the relatives in Galgadud that Nurta Farah had converted to Christianity,” one source said. “The suspicion that the family is responsible is a solid one. The sister was killed in Abudwaq, a district in Galgadud Region, and the place where the incident took place is about 200 meters from where the sister was staying with relatives.”

Relatives buried Farah, sources said. Her parents had severely beaten her for leaving Islam and regularly shackled her to a tree at their home, Christian sources said. She had been confined to her home in Gedo region in southern Somalia since May 10, when her family found out that she had embraced Christianity, said a Christian leader who visited the area.

Her parents also took her to a doctor who prescribed medication for a “mental illness,” he said. Alarmed by her determination to keep her faith, her father, Hassan Kafi Ilmi, and mother, Hawo Godane Haf, decided she had gone crazy and forced her to take the prescribed medication, but it had no effect in swaying her from her faith, the source said.

Traditionally, he added, many Somalis believe the Quran cures the sick, especially the mentally ill, so the Islamic scripture was recited to her twice a week.

She had declined her family’s offer of forgiveness in exchange for renouncing Christianity, the source said. The confinement began after the medication and punishments failed.

Area Christians had reported that Farah was shackled to a tree by day and put in a small, dark room at night.

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government generally did not enforce protection of religious freedom found in the Transitional Federal Charter, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report.

“Non-Muslims who practiced their religion openly faced occasional societal harassment,” the report stated. “Conversion from Islam to another religion was considered socially unacceptable. Those suspected of conversion faced harassment or even death from members of their community.”


We thank God for Nurta's faithful witness; we thank Him that she is now 'Safe in the arms of Jesus'; we pray that her death will be seen to have been not in vain, as others are led to question what it is about this Jesus that would cause a teenager to die for His Name's sake.

What is a man?

Okay!  I can guess at some of the answers to that question that might be given by certain of my female readers!!  However, it's a serious question - and gender-specific, although the principles apply to the females of the species as well!

The question arose in my mind when earlier today, I read the following news report about French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  "Pint-sized French president Nicolas Sarkozy asked for 'short' security men to protect him during yesterday's state visit to India, it was claimed.  The 1.6m (5ft 5in) leader is believed to have demanded bodyguards of 'small stature' to disguise his own diminutive height.  'This presents a problem because, by their very nature, most security men are tall and well-built.' the country's Daily News and Analysis newspaper claimed.  The demand follows similar claims that workers over 1.7m (5ft 6in) were banned from attending a factory walkabout in France, earlier this year, over fears that they would tower over Mr Sarkozy." (Metro UK).

The report made me think of Goliath!  There was a man who seems to have believed that a man's importance was determined by his physical size.  That was why he was so dismissive of the young man, David, when he came against the giant in battle. (I Sam.17:4ff).  Of course, as the record shows, Goliath was wrong!  Size is not everything!

The real measure of a man is, surely, his character.  I am not in a position to comment on the French president in that area, as I am only able to go by the reports of others and, when it comes to character, that is not always the wisest thing to do.  However if given the opportunity, I would point this out to him.  Saul of Tarsus was, as far as tradition goes, also a man of small stature (the Latin word 'paulus' may be translated as 'short').  But he was head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries when it came to faithfulness, diligence, wisdom, courage, love.  And that little man was used to provide a large percentage of the writings of the New Testament.  And, as I mentioned above, the principle applies to those of either gender. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was small in stature.  Yet few in the 20th century were as well-known for their dedication, humility, compassion, love.  And, of course, there are so many of whom we might think, who fall into the same category - those who were, and are, much 'bigger' than their physical size.

So, the challenge to all of us is this - are we 'big men and women' because of our height; or because we are servants of the living God?  It is He, and He alone, Who ultimately decides the true measure of a man (or of a woman).  May none of us who claim to be His disciples, be found wanting in His sight.

PS.  Don't forget to listen to today's Advent message from Damaris (www.damaris.org)!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

When you least expect it!

Yesterday, I discovered that my main e-mail account had been compromised, and that a load of spam had been sent to almost everyone on my list of contacts.  I don't have the IT expertise to understand how the account was accessed, or why some people were not 'got at' (unless, in their cases, they have exceptionally good anti-spam software installed on their own computers!).  However, I do know enough to have been able to determine that the perpetrator of this cyber-offence is based in China, and that (s)he committed the offence while I was safely tucked up in my bed - not even dreaming about e-mails, let alone sending them!

The consequence of this unexpected cyber-attack is that I have had to change my e-mail account password (it's now more than twice as long!) and, just for my own peace of mind, I have added additional security to my PayPal account by changing the credit card details, and setting up the requirement for a code to be sent to my mobile (cell) 'phone before any transaction is confirmed.

Of course, the old adage about "Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted" comes to mind.  If I had known what was going to happen while I slumbered, I would have taken extra precautions before going to bed.

In Matthew 24, we have words of the Lord Jesus concerning His Second Advent.  He gives some indicative signs and then, in vv 42-44, we read His words: "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (RSV)

The warning is clear.  When He appears, it will be too late.  Nothing that I could have done would have recalled all of those spam e-mails.  Likewise, those who have not made their peace with God before the Rapture and the Second Advent will be lost in their sin, and spend a Christless eternity.

"As God's partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God's kindness and then ignore it. For God says, 'At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation , I helped you.'  Indeed, the 'right time' is now. Today is the day of salvation." (II Cor 6:1-2; NLT; my emphasis).

Friday, 3 December 2010

Priorities??

I'm gutted; devastated; despairing; and despondent.  I don't know how I am going to survive the next seven-and-a-half years (or even, of course, if I will!!).  Yes, you've probably all heard the news - England will not be hosting the 2018 World Cup (soccer!).

Those who know me will realise that the two opening sentences were typed with my tongue very firmly in my cheek!  I can't stand that particular form of football.  I'd much rather watch a man's game - rugby football - than a bunch of over-paid prima donnas prancing around a field and displaying their 'manly' chests if they happen to kick the ball into the net - well, as long as it's their opponents' net!  Actually, for those who might be interested, England are already confirmed as the hosts of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Sept/Oct of that year - and without a fraction of the over-priced hype that has gone into the defeated bid for the soccer equivalent.

Yes - £15 million worth of hype, at a time when the country is only beginning to drag itself out of recession.  I'm no economist, so am unable to provide accurate figures, but I wonder how many nurses, police officers, teachers, etc could have been retained in post with that amount of money!

And, it would appear, there is no gracious acceptance of the decision.  Oh no!  It must have been a stitch-up; the Russian mafia must have been involved; it's the fault of the BBC for airing a controversial edition of Panorama.  One gentleman, on this evening's Six o'clock News on the BBC even made a comment to the effect that England shouldn't apply again, until they could be certain that they would win!!

Of course, if we make idols of people or events, we are guaranteed to be let down.  There is only One Who can be depended upon; Who will never let us down; Who is faithful to the end.  That One is Jesus. The life that He gives is already paid for, by Him, on the cross at Calvary.  He demands your life, and mine, in return - but that's a trade well worth making.  As we approach the time when we celebrate His Incarnation, may we remember that a Christmas without Christ really is meaningless!  Give Him the priority on your life - you'll never regret it!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

'...that Satan might not outwit us...' (II Cor. 2:11)

The following was the reading for today in "The Word for Today, published by UCB, and available online at http://www.ucb.co.uk/ or by post, free of charge, by contacting UCB (see the website).  I have emphasised one particular point - not because it is any more important than the rest, but because it ties in with what an increasing number of people seem to be saying in thse 'last days'.

"Addressing a worldwide convention of demons, satan told them: 'As long as Christians stay close to God we've no power over them, so: 1) Keep them busy with non-essentials. 2) Tempt them to overspend and go into debt. 3) Make them work long hours to maintain empty lifestyles. 4) Discourage them from spending family time, for when homes disintegrate there's no refuge from work. 5) Overstimulate their minds with television and computers so that they can't hear God speaking to them. 6) Fill their coffee tables and nightstands with newspapers and magazines so they've no time for Bible reading. 7) Flood their letter boxes with sweepstakes, promotions and get-rich-quick schemes; keep them chasing material things. 8) Put glamorous models on TV and on magazine covers to keep them focused on outward appearances; that way they'll be dissatisfied with themselves and their mates. 9) Make sure couples are too exhausted for physical intimacy; that way they'll be tempted to look elsewhere. 10) Emphasise Santa and the Easter Bunny; that way you'll divert them from the real meaning of the holidays. 11) Involve them in 'good' causes so they won't have any time for 'eternal' ones. 12) Make them self-sufficient. Keep them so busy working in their own strength that they'll never know the joy of God's power working through them. Do these twelve things faithfully. I promise-it'll work!' Have you figured out the difference between being busy and being successful in what God's called you to do? Sometimes being B-U-S-Y just means Being Under Satan's Yoke!"

By the way, as you check out each day's Advent Video, take time to check out the additional tag - The Real Jesus.  It's well worth viewing! 

Advent Message - slight change!

Having posted the second of the Damaris clips, I realised that the one for yesterday had also changed!  I have contacted them, and discovered that they are using a single code which changes the clip on a daily basis.
Accordingly, I have now posted the clip on the right-hand sidebar, where it will remain until Christmas, with a different brief message each day.  I hope that many will continue to log on and listen!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Nothing secret!

I have mixed feelings about the latest WikiLeaks!  On the one hand, it is my understanding that the lives of certain individuals may be at risk because of these disclosures, and this would certainly not be something for which I would wish.  It is also claimed that the reports of China 'cooling off' towards North Korea - a situation that might be of benefit to the persecuted disciples of Jesus in that country - might have a negative effect, and encourage the Chinese government to continue its support of the 'hermit nation'.  This, too, I would find to be very unfortunate.

On the other hand, in a culture in which various governments, including the U.S.of A. and the U.K. appear to wish to know everything that I say and do, why should I not know something of their 'private' thinking?

I was reminded of some words of Jesus: "The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.  Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!" (Luke 12:2-3; NLT).  Perhaps some of our senior politicians and diplomats - and even a member of the royal family! - ought to heed the advice of the King of kings!

I have also been reflecting on the relationship between time and eternity!!  My current conclusion (if that isn't an oxymoron!) is that while time is separate from eternity, it is encompassed by it; that eternity 'touches' time at every point.  It's a bit like a submarine, stationed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, half-way between the ocean bed, and its surface.  The submarine represents time - the bow being the beginning of time, and the stern, the end of time.  We can imagine the different points along the length of the submarine as being various points in time - past, present, and future (by the way, I believe that, using this illustration, we are very close to the stern of the vessel!).  The ocean, of course, represents eternity.  It is all around the the submarine, but is also touching it at every point.

So, what does that suggest?  It helps me to realise how close the Lord is to me - so close that I should almost be able to reach out and touch.  He is not a God Who is far off, but the very One in Whom "... we live, and move, and have our being." (see Acts 17:27-28).  It helps me to better understand those words in Heb.10:20 "By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place." (NLT).  The writer may be speaking of more than a symbolism of the Temple Veil, by emphasising the 'thin-ness' of the barrier between here and there!  I wonder is this why there are so many reports of saints of God who, at the moment of their physical death, can say with Stephen "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honour at God's right hand!" (Acts 7:56).  It confirms my thinking of many years that, when we read in Genesis 5:24 that, "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.", it was as if, one morning, that dear Old Testament saint awoke, asked the Lord "Where are we going today?", and was told "You're coming to My place, Enoch.  Walk on through".  And Enoch simply stepped through that invisible barrier into glory.

It also reminds me that there is One Who knows, not only my every word and deed, but also my every thought!  Is this why Paul has so much to say about that aspect of my being?  "... letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace." (Rom 8:6); "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2); "... whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil 4:8).


It's something worth keeping in mind!

An alternative Christmas!

It's beginning to look as if I am not alone in the desire to reclaim the Christmas Season for the One Who should be its central Character - the Lord Jesus!  The following has just arrived from GFA (Gospel for Asia - http://www.gfa.org/ )

Soon we'll hear the greatest story of all time! If you look hard you may find the main character, Jesus Christ. He's resting quietly, hidden among the inflatable snow globes, the singing Christmas trees, and the wood-carved nutcrackers. 

Have we forgotten what Christmas is all about? Have the snowmen, presents and colourful lights obscured the true reason for celebration?

Watch the video, become inspired and find practical ways to impact a life this Christmas.




And now - some of the ways in which you may act - remembering that while I-pods, and Wiis, and X-boxes wear out, a goat, or a pig, or a cow reproduces, and provides a long-term income for a whole family!  (And you save on wrapping paper, as well!! :-) )

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The beginning of Advent

Having made some reference to the subject just a few days ago, I was interested to receive the following 'take' on the original poem by Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863).  Please feel free to copy and paste - and send to your own friends!  Many (if not all!) of the retail/personal references are to North American (USA/Canada) stores/people - but the message is, I think, clear enough!  I have made some slight amendments to enhance the scanning!!!

'Twas the month before Christmas
When all through the land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.  
For the 'PC Police' had taken away
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told, by their schools, not to sing
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
"It might hurt people's feelings", the teachers would say,
"December 25th is just a 'Holiday'".
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, cheques and credit
Pushing folks to the floor in their rush just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X-BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd! 
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken and Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was not to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, now Darden, now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Barack, on Kerry, on Clinton !
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter  
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they slaughtered our faith,
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace.
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The Reason for the season, didn't even get started.
So celebrate 'Winter Break', 'neath your 'Dream Tree',
Whilst sipping your Starbucks - but listen to me.
Choose your words caref'ly, be clear what you say;
Shout "HAPPY CHRISTMAS" , 
Not Happy Holiday !
 
Please, all Christians join together and wish everyone you meet during the Holidays a "HAPPY CHRISTMAS".

Christ is the Reason for the Christ-mas Season!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The secret 'Halal' meat scandal.

This is a longer video clip than I would normally post, but it just arrived in my mail-box and is, I believe, worth viewing. 

 

If you wish to register your own protest about this situation, please go to

https://barnabasfund.org/halal-petition/?m=10%2523245%2523445%2523522  (copy and paste!)

and sign the online petition sponsored by the Barnabas Fund.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Is this the beginning of the end for the EU?

So, at long last, there is a focal point for those of us who long for the U.K. to get out of the discredited (and you may take that in any way you wish!) E.U.  The Daily Express newspaper has commenced a 'crusade' to "... liberate Britian from the stranglehold of Brussels."  Mind you, I trust that those who run this campaign remember that "Britain" or, more accurately, "Great Britain" (as in Grande Bretagne - size rather than importance!) consists of only England, Scotland, and Wales, even if the adjective 'British' is applied to all of the peoples of the U.K.!  If N.Ireland (which is still separate from the Republic of Ireland) is included - as it should be - then one should refer to "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and N.Ireland" - see your passport for confirmation!  The two islands, and their associated smaller ones, are The British Isles!

However, I digress!

Let me state, for the record, that I love Europe, and have very good friends in each of a number of European countries.  Even after our experience of the summer that has now passed, my wife and I plan to return to France in 2011.  Indeed, we are seriously considering a wee holiday home in the Dordogne, or the Vendeé, or Charente, or Charente-Maritime!  However, when I voted, almost 40 years ago, against joining the European Economic Community, I was at least voting about a trading partnership.  Only in his latter years did the late and, in my opinion, treasonous, Edward Heath confess that he had hidden from the British public the truth that a political union, with its associated, and manifestly corrupt, bureaucracy, had always been the ultimate vision!

The current Coalition Government (for whom I still pray, on a daily basis!) has done no better.  'Students' may continue to riot over what they claim is Mr Clegg's broken promise with regard to the proposed increases in their fees in spite of his repeated explanation that the Lib Dems did not win the last General Election, and that he has had to make compromises - especially when the scandalous state of the nation's finances, after the abysmal performance of the previous administration, is taken into consideration!   However, many have pointed out that the 'stiff' (well, it's hardly 'hard'!) line of the Conservative leader on Europe has had to be watered down because of the Lib Dem love affair with the E.U.!

I welcome the move by The Daily Express, and trust that there will now be such a groundswell of public opinion that not even the Government will be able to ignore it.  I do not claim to have the gift of predictive prophecy, but I am fairly certain that, if a referendum were to be called on the matter, there would be an overwhelming majority who would wish to say "Cheerio" to the E.U. and the Brussels' bureaucrats.  I certainly know which side would be getting my vote!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Advent message - Part 1

After my little 'rant' in the second part of the previous post, I was glad to receive this audio-message from deovox, via Damaris.  Damaris are also providing their usual Advent series of very brief messages which I hope to start posting on December 1st.  So, forget the secularism of Santa; the tinsel and the turkey; the crackers and the cake; and chill out for a few minutes as Richard Collins shares the first of these reflections on the Advent season.

Bits and bobs!!

It would appear that, even for a Bishop of the Church of England, free speech is no longer an option in our multi-cultural society!  Perhaps Pete Broadbent - whom I have had the pleasure of meeting on a couple of occasions - should have joined the group of Muslims who burned a wooden poppy, and shouted out abusive slogans during the 'Silence' on Nov.11th.  They appear to be a protected species - he is banned from public ministry!!

Of course, it may have to do with the seriousness of the 'crime'.  After all, he actually said (or typed!) what, I suspect, many of the British people think  I was certainly hoping that 'the' wedding would take place while I was away on holiday.  Now I shall have to arrange an extra wee break just to be able to ignore all of the hype of the day!  Okay - the prediction that the marriage would only last seven years may have been a bit silly - but is he not entitled to express a personal opinion?  It's interesting that the superior (in status!) bishop who has taken the step of 'suspending' him, is reported as being a friend of the current immediate heir to the throne!

Thinking of hype, you may have noticed that the Christmas season is upon us.  That time of the year when we celebrate the Incarnation - the coming of the Creator God into this world that He had created, in the Persona of the Son, as a helpless Infant.  Well, that's what I believe it should be.  That's why I wrote to a newspaper, some years ago, commending a particular city for having decided to do away with 'Christmas' and replace it with a totally secular 'Winterfest'.  I suggested that the 'world' could have its commercial, materialistic, consumerist mid-winter break with its central figure of 'Santa Claus' - and let those of us who endeavour, however imperfectly, to follow the Child of Bethlehem get on with celebrating His human birth (which, of course, did not take place on Dec.25th!!!).

He has been mentioned a lot in recent days - Santa, that is, not Jesus!  So far, every Christmas-related comment that I have heard, or read, has contained a reference to the bearded gentleman.  Yet his popularity is not, as some try to suggest, based on the historical Nikolaos of Myra; but on a figure from a fictional poem written in the early years of the 19th century, and then made popular by its use in advertisements for Coca-Cola in the 1930s - more than 100 years later.

Thank goodness for the Church, the Body of Christ, for keeping the Biblical Christmas untainted by human input!  Not!  I have yet to be connected with a congregation/fellowship, however strong it might claim to be on Biblical truth and doctrine, that has not perpetrated the centrality of Santa Claus by having 'him' (i.e. someone dressed in the appropriate clothing, and with a false beard) arriving at the children's party (and, sometimes, even a party for adults!) with his bag of gifts and goodies. And so we perpetrate a lie!  I find it sad that, even for many (most?!) children brought up within Christian families, and with a strong church background, Christmas centres as much, if not more, around Santa as around the Christ-child.

Perhaps, in the same way that some in the church are wakening up to the idea of having an alternative celebration - usually of light - at Hallowe'en, the time will soon come when, at the children's Christmas Party in the church, the singing will be of carols that praise the Lord Jesus; that gifts, if they be required, will be provided by an angelic figure - or, at least, by the Magi; that the real story will not be compromised with Bethlehem being, in effect, replaced by the North Pole!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Democratic abortion???

Having been away for a few days, I am only now catching up with some of the news items that I missed; and I have come across one that, in all honesty, I would rather not have known about.

It is reported that a married couple, from Minneapolis, in the U.S.of A. have set up a website on which they ask people to vote on whether, or not, the wife should have an abortion!  This, it would appear, is because the two IT workers aren't sure that they would be able to juggle parenthood with their full-time careers!  I have to wonder if this was a case of a failed contraceptive (not an unknown phenomena - as many a young girl has found out to her cost!), or failure to consider the potential consequence of unprotected sex!

The couple even upload images of pre-natal scans, showing a healthy male child, currently at the 17th week of gestation.  Their basic argument seems to be that, as they vote for their president, and for 'American Idol' (which, I think, is something akin to the British 'X-Factor' - a programme that I have never viewed!), then it should be prefectly acceptable to vote on whether, or not, a pregnancy should continue!

This situation must surely take the whole pro-abortion argument to a new low.  Do these people not realise that voting for a president, or for a 'talent'-show participant causes no physical harm to the person(s) involved?   Are they so obtuse as to be unaware that this is a living human being in the wife's womb - growing steadily until the day it is ready to leave that womb and continue the journey to adulthood.  Have they considered that the deliberate taking of a human life, at whatever stage of development it may be, is murder?

There are only two possible outcomes to this situation.  Depending on the 'vote' this child may be killed - a life destroyed before he has drawn breath; the potential to do much good for humanity, snuffed out like a candle.  Alternatively, and hopefully, this little life may be spared.  But how will that child feel when, having arrived at years of understanding, he discovers that he is only alive because of a vote by total strangers?  I somehow doubt that he will be thrilled to know that his existence was so democratically decided!  What will that knowledge do to any relationship that has been built up between parents and child?

Without any of the medical knowledge that we take for granted; with neither ultrasound scans nor heartbeat monitors; but inspired by God the Holy Spirit; the Psalmist-king of Israel wrote these words:

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed" (Ps 139:13-16; NLT).

In an age in which it used to be thought that 'life was cheap', David realised that the unborn child is a miracle of pro-creation. To treat it as despicably as this couple are doing with their unborn son is, I am convinced, to fly in the face of Almighty God.  That, we always do to our own peril!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Another wedding!

We (my wife and I) will shortly be heading north, with the caravan, to Banchory.  Tomorrow, I am to participate in the wedding, in Aberdeen, of one of the daughters of dear friends who are currently serving the Lord in Nepal - well, they have taken a break ('furlough' is the official term!) in order to be at the wedding!  We plan to return home on Sunday, and I would hope to add a fresh post then!

It won't be as grand an affair as the wedding that is being planned for next year.  The television cameras will not be there.  It won't even get a mention on the various news programmes - although the local newspaper might show a single photograph.  But Hayley and Carl have something that I suspect is not the case with William and Kate.  They are entering marriage with the Lord.  He won't be just a convenient backdrop for a lavish ceremony, but an integral part of their life together.  We pray His abundant blessing upon them.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A wedding is announced!

I am not a full-blown Republican.  I have too much admiration for HM The Queen.  However, I am not a full-blown monarchist, either; having little time for most of the rest of the Royal Family.

So, while I am as happy for young William and Kate as I would be for any couple who announced their engagement to be married, I am already fed up with the OTT response of the popular media.  Some twenty minutes of the less-than-half-an-hour of the BBC early evening news given over to that one event - even to the extent of showing me how it was announced on television in the United States of America (why not, at least, a country that is a member of the British Commonwealth??).  Then, as we went on to Reporting Scotland, the circus started all over again!

Would that the media gave as much publicity to the plight of disciples of Jesus who are being constantly persecuted for their allegiance to Him!  It has been encouraging to see the situation regarding Asia Bibi, in Pakistan (see Monday, Nov.8th), receiving some coverage in some of the national newspapers in the U.K.  Unfortunately, that is the exception, rather than the rule.  I would love to see much more of that kind of reporting on our television screens, as well.  Perhaps someone would publish, nationally, the details of the case of Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani in Iran.  This dear brother is also under sentence of death - for the heinous crime of requesting that his son not be taught the Qur'an in school!!!!

These cases are but the tiniest tip of a gigantic iceberg.  Those of us who live in the 'free' west have no real idea as to what persecution is.  We may be ignored (some of our brothers and sisters would consider that to be a major blessing!); we may even be mocked; we may miss out on a promotion; we may be pilloried in the press; we may lose our jobs.  However, if the police call at my door, it will be to collect me for something to do with my Force Chaplaincy - certainly not because I have been reported as owning a copy of the Bible, or of having shared my faith in the Lord Jesus with a non-Christian!

Mind you, I am recalling the question that used to be put to some of us in the seventies and eighties - "If being a true disciple of Jesus was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"  Now there's a thought!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Slave labour!!!

Much has been said, over the past week, about the plans announced by the Coalition Government for reform of the welfare system in the U.K.  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, a lot of it has been negative and sensationalist.  I confess to having become somewhat annoyed at being told, repeatedly, that the unemployed - who are fit and able to do so - being expected to provide voluntary labour for a number of weeks in the year, is slavery.  Those who make these grandiose pronouncements appear to have no idea as to what slavery really is!  The folk who will be expected to work in these ways are being paid, all the year round, for the work that they will be expected to do!  They receive a number of additional benefits due to the fact that they are receiving the Job Seekers' Allowance!  The purpose of the exercise, as I understand it, is to break the cycle of benefit dependency that has become a blight on British society - and, many would claim, a magnet for criminal elements from other countries who set out to deliberately exploit the system!

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams is, reportedly, opposed to the whole idea, claiming, among other things, that "It can make people who start feeling vulnerable feel more vulnerable".  With all due respect to the Archbishop - the same one who, not so very long ago, claimed not only that the acceptance of Sharia (Islamic) Law in the UK is inevitable, but also that it wouldn't be a bad idea; who has consistently failed to provide strong leadership with regard to active homosexuality within the ranks of the Anglican/Episcopal clergy; and who appears, at times, to be esconced in an ivory tower - I would refer him to, for example, the inspired words of the apostle Paul, to the early followers of Jesus in Thessalonika:
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don't follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.  Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: "Those unwilling to work will not get to eat."
Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people's business.  We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living
." (II Thess 3:6-12, NLT)

It seems to me as one who, at the last General Election, voted for neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats, that while it is right and proper to care for those who are genuinely unable to provide for themselves, everyone should be encouraged to support themselves as far as is possible.  If this new system brings about, for many, a new attitude to work, then it will not have dealt with all of the unfairness in our modern society - both real and perceived - but it will have lifted some out of the 'poverty trap', and made them positively-contributing members of the society to which we all belong (whether big or small!).  That can't be a bad thing!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Education, education, education! (ex-PM Tony Bliar) - no typo!

When I was (much) younger, entrance to University was available to all who had the academic ability to successfully cope with a course that would lead to the award of an academic degree.  There was, already, a system of financial grants that ensured that one didn't have to be from the aristocracy in order to be able to attend University.  That academic ability was the main requirement and, I always felt, was necessary merely to matriculate!.

Under successive governments - and especially, it must be stated, those of a Socialist persuasion - University entrance appeared to become increasingly easier, as 'new' courses, complete with professorial chairs, were introduced in areas in which, twenty or thirty years earlier, no-one would have expected, or have been expected, to obtain a degree!  This meant that student numbers started to rise but, of course, this was spun as "equal opportunity" - the pre-eminent socialist mantra (although I have always detected something of the Orwellian thinking that, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."!).

The increase in student numbers resulted in a situation in which the awarding of financial grants could no longer be afforded by the taxpayer, and neither of my own daughters received the financial aid that was afforded to me.  However, low-interest loans were available, and repayment was deferred until one was earning a reasonable amount.

The end result of all of this (admittedly simplified) was demonstrated in the rioting of, so-called, students in London, earlier today.  I can understand that they are unhappy with the propsed increases in fees (although how many will knuckle down to more time in the Library, studying, than in the bar, getting drunk?); I can understand that they are angry with the about-turn of the Lib-Dem members of the Coalition Government (although they should realise that promises are easily made in opposition - especially when there is no realistic possibility of being in government - but that the cold reality of office can make one see a situation somewhat differently!); but what I fail to understand is the indiscriminate damage caused to property, and the injury caused to police officers who, themselves, are subject to the austerity measures that effect most of us.  The word for the behaviour of that minority of 'students' - disowned by the president of the National Union of Students - is 'vandalism'; and those who are capable of academic research could do worse than to check out the etymology!

It was interesting that, in this evening's edition of The (Glasgow) Evening Times there is an article about the behaviour of 'yobs' in Glasgow City Centre!  One might be excused for saying that they had their counterparts in London, today.  The only difference is that the latter, or at least some of them, are presumably better educated!!!!

Monday, 8 November 2010

PAKISTAN – First woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

The following has just arrived, from Release  (see my fav links):

Christian mother-of-two Asia Bibi has been sentenced to death for blasphemy – the first woman ever to receive this sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan.

Release has just learnt that a sessions court judge gave Asia the maximum sentence yesterday at the end of a trial lasting more than 16 months. Asia, a farm labourer in her late-30s from Ittanwali, Punjab, was also fined more than £700 – the equivalent of two-and-a-half years' salary for the average worker.

Release partners at Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP), who have been supporting Asia and her family throughout their ordeal, say that they and the family are shocked by this outcome.

No one sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has ever been executed – but Asia could now spend years in appalling conditions on death row. If she appeals to the High Court, it may take years before her case is heard.

Police first filed a case against Asia in June 2009 after local Muslims accused her of making derogatory comments against Islam's prophet, Mohammed. She had reportedly been discussing matters of faith with fellow labourers in the fields when Asia and her daughters were attacked by local villagers and Muslim clerics. She had reportedly been under pressure from her fellow workers to convert to Islam.

A spokesman for SLMP described Asia as having a strong faith – but said that this decision would be a crushing blow to her and her family. 'She was longing to go back home to her children, but her dreams of release have vanished now,' he said. 'She desperately needs peace in her heart, the peace that comes from God.'  The SLMP team plan to visit Asia in prison as soon as possible.

Release is concerned that Asia's conviction could set a dangerous precedent. Martha Bibi is currently on trial for blasphemy in Lahore. She was charged in 2007, after a dispute with builders who allegedly refused to return equipment belonging to her.

I cannot help but wonder if the 'western' media will give as much coverage to this situation, as they have been giving to the Iranian woman, senenced to death for adultery, and alleged complicity in the death of her husband!

Let those of us who believe in the power of prayer, seek God's perfect peace, that passes all human understanding, over Asia Bibi and her family. Ask Him to intervene to secure her earliest release. Ask Him to grant wisdom and strength to SLMP workers supporting this family.
Pray, too, for the immediate acquittal of Martha Bibi in Lahore.
 

Some may also wish to sign the petition calling for justice for Christians in Pakistan at www.releaseinternational.org/current.

If you live within the U.K., you may even wish to write to the Pakistan High Commissioner in London, expressing polite concern about Asia's conviction. Write to: His Excellency Wajid Shamsul Hasan, High Commission for Pakistan, 35-36 Lowndes Square, London SW1X 9JN. Also, write to your local MP at: www.writetothem.com