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Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Here's a man who knows where the real excitement lies - and it isn't in scoring a goal!!
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
The remainder of the article wasn't as interesting as the headline, but it did prompt me to think about my own function within the Force. I enjoy walking around the Force Training Centre and being shown a level of respect that I received from only a few pupils in my latter years in the teaching profession. The Chief Constable is quite a pleasant man with whom to have a conversation. I am on first name terms with more senior officers than I have hot breakfasts in a month (and a bowl of porridge is still my regular morning meal!). I am invited to a variety of functions where I have the opportunity to socialise with some of those who are deemed to be 'important people'! (Gal.2:9 is an interesting verse!).
And, for some of my fellow-chaplains, that does appear to be the extent of their involvement. For me, however, the post (totally voluntary!) is much more than that. It's an 'availability' position. I am not there to be the Christian Evangelist to the Force (although if the Chief would like to consider the establishment of such a post, I would be very interested in applying!). I am there to provide, when necessary and/or requested, a spiritual input to men and women who do often work in very stressful, dangerous, and even life-threatening, circumstances. I look on the post as an opportunity to get to know, not just the senior management, but the 'troops' - the P.Cs. and Sergeants, who are out on patrol covering every hour of the day, and every day of the week. I am endeavouring to meet as many as possible, and my greatest encouragement is when I see an officer in Hamilton, or when I am walking through the Divisional H.Q. - and I receive a smile of recognition, and a cheery greeting.
I have also become an Associate Member of the Christian Police Association, and am finding many opportunities to serve through that organisation - the oldest police support organisation in existence! That has introduced me to COACT - an initiative that encourages Christian congregations and fellowships to actively pray for the police in their area. It is my hope that, in the early autumn, I will be able to encourage a number of groups in South Lanarkshire to provide that specific form of support for the local Force.
At the CPA Branch Meeting last night, I was speaking on Rom.13:1 - "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (RSV). I made the point that, although most people seem to interpret those words as applying solely to the elected government, it also applies to police officers! However, by extending that idea, I find myself turning to I Tim.2:1-2 - "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings, be made for all men; for kings, and all who are in high positions (i.e. positions of authority), that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."
There is the reason why we should be careful to support, not only the government - national and local - but also the police, in prayer. I commend that exercise to all. Oh, and please feel free to pray for the chaplains also!!!
Sunday, 27 June 2010
I may never be within a hundred miles of Kaka - but Jesus is with me (and with Kaka!) always.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
One newspaper report of the match ended with these words: "Supreme will, outrageous spectacle, wonderful story. The best thing of all, though, was that even after everything, Mahut could still leave the court just as he had arrived - smiling." (The Daily Telegraph).
It's a wonderful testimony to the gamesmanship of both men. But my mind went to my brothers and sisters in Christ who persevere in their faithfulness to Him through situations and circumstances that demand a level of commitment that puts even these two tennis-players into the shade.
I thought of the situation in Pakistan from where, in recent days, I have received so many disturbing reports. For example, two Christian families are devastated after their young daughters were raped. In Kotri village, Sindh province, a brutal assault on a six-year-old girl has left her in intensive care. And in Mohalla Raja Sultan, Rawalpindi, a 14-year-old is recovering from being kidnapped, drugged and raped by five men.
The attackers of the 14-year-old threatened to kill her unless her father allowed her to convert to Islam and marry one of her rapists. The child was freed on June 6 – eight days after she was abducted – during a police raid near Islamabad. Her attackers told her father they believed they would have '70 virgins in heaven' if they raped or married a non-Muslim girl. He has since reported the incident to the police.
In the case of the six-year-old child, however, her relatives' initial attempts to persuade police to investigate only prolonged their torment. A reliable source said that police arrested the girl's 'close relatives' instead and tortured them to try to extract a confession from them. They were freed only when local media showed an interest in the case.
The same source says the six-year-old girl is in a stable condition but is 'extremely traumatised'. It has been reported that she is not receiving 'proper medical care'.
Such reports could, sadly, be multiplied many times. Yet these dear people hold fast to their faith in the Lord, Jesus the Christ. In the face of extreme persecution, they continue to follow Him. To them, the exhortation of Paul to the believers in Philippi must be filled with a depth of meaning that is denied to those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, but who continue to enjoy the liberty of the 'western' world - "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear omen to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine." (Phil 1:27-30; RSV)
As we applaud those who persevere in the realm of sport, let us be mindful of those who persevere in the realm of the faith - and whose reward is the assurance of eternity in the presence of the risen, and glorified, Lord.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Saturday, 19 June 2010
This, of course, has long been one of the expressed concerns of those of us who are opposed to any attempt to legalise euthanasia. Regardless of how much those who support such a move may give assurances that it would only be in very strictly controlled situations that such an act would take place, the reality is that there would always be those who would take liberties that were never intended. It is interesting that the 2009 Netherlands' euthanasia statistics show a continuing increase in reported cases of euthanasia - some 45% since 2003! As far as I understand the Dutch situation, a doctor decides on whether or not to end a person's life on the objective basis of deciding the subjectivity of 'unbearable pain'!
Over the years, I have spent a fair bit of time, in a pastoral context, with those who were nearing the end of their physical lives. Some were at home; some were in hospital; some were in a hospice. In every case, I was impressed by the palliative care that they received - in not one, did I hear of a request to 'end it all now'!
It is, of course, a subject that will continue to be highly controversial, and that will give rise to emotive words from those on either side of the debate. However since, in the U.K., we consider ourselves to be civilised because we have abolished the death penalty for convicted murderers - even those whose conviction is unquestionably right - we should be careful not to rush into providing death to those who, in a particular moment, request it. As I have often stated before - it is an irreversible decision!
Friday, 18 June 2010
It was good, therefore, to discover on AudioPot - providers of Christian audio material - a number of brief messages from stars of "the beautiful game" who have discovered that there is much more to life than kicking a ball.
They only last for about one minute so, here is the first of a number that I hope to post between now and the Cup Final. Meet Cyril Regis!
Thursday, 17 June 2010
For me, the basis of a solid marriage is not only the relationship that the couple have with each other, but the relationship that they have with God. Certainly, in a Christian marriage, the couple enter in to a covenant relationship. This means that God is at the centre; He is the One Who holds the marriage together, even when there are difficulties.
However, a lasting marriage is also hard work. I used to give a book to couples I had married. It was entitled After the Wedding comes the Marriage - an indication that all the glamour of the wedding day may be exactly that; but that marriage isn't all special clothes, a reception, a cake, and a holiday/honeymoon. There is, more for some couples than for others, a 'getting used to each other' phase (I'm working on the old-fashioned, but Christian, basis that the couple haven't been 'living together' for a period prior to the wedding!). Especially for those who have already left the parental home, there is the adjustment of having to share - everything from the bathroom to the television remote control. We may discover habits, and personality quirks that we hadn't noticed even throughout a lengthy period of engagement.
My late dad used to tell me that the first seven years of a marriage were the difficult ones. After that, he would say, you discover that you've already argued over anything worth arguing about - so you just live in peace! I reckon that there was more than a little truth in that piece of 'homespun philosophy'!
However, for the couple who share a living faith in the Lord Jesus, there is that additional 'glue' that helps to see them through the early problems. There will be a clear understanding of the different roles within a marriage - not that one person is 'better', or 'more important' than the other; but that each has his/her complementary part to play. A Christian couple will be aware of the counsel provided through the writings of Paul: "... submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the Head of the church. He is the Saviour of His body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God's word. He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of His body.
As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (Eph 5:21-33; NLT)
A friend of mine used to say that a husband who treated his wife in the way that Paul exhorts, would find that she is more than willing to submit to his headship! Maybe that's the real secret of a long and happy marriage!
Sunday, 13 June 2010
A few days earlier, a regular e-mail that I receive contained an article in which I was informed that meditation reduces stress, improves memory, and lowers blood pressure. All well and good! However, the only guidance given was to "... sit with your eyes partially closed and focus on breathing slowly and deeply, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Repeating a word (“om” or "one" are easy) helps relax your mind. No secret mantra needed."
So, what's the connection? In a word - language! ( I suppose that there's a sort of pun in there!). To put it another way, it's all to do with what comes out of our mouths!
The Bible has much to say about the tongue, and the power that it wields. In what is probably the oldest book in the Old Testament, we find references to "the scourge of the tongue" (5:21); injustice on my tongue" (6:30); and the ability of the tongue to "utter deceit" (27:4). The enemies of the Psalmist-king David, have tongues "filled with flattery" (Ps.5:9), while "a lying tongue" is hated by YHWH (Prov.6:17).
In the New Testament, James has much to say about the tongue. "If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless." (1:26) . "... the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself." (3:6). "People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!" (3:7-10).
So what we say is important! Jesus made that clear: "... whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you." (Matt 12:34-37)
It is sad that, using the English language - that is so rich in both adjectives and adverbs - so many have to describe almost everything about which they speak with just one word, beginning with the letter 'f'!
As far as meditation is concerned, it is indeed a useful practice. However, since it involves a deliberate focussing of the mind on a specific object, to the exclusion of all else, the object chosen is of paramount importance. I would suggest that anyone who does wish to meditate should do so using the Name that is above every name, the Name of Jesus, as their point of focus. And not just reciting even that Name over and over again but, remembering that the name is an insight to the character, reflecting on His love; His goodness; His grace; His mercy, His sacrifice at Calvary; His redeeming power; His coming again. His is, as the hymnwriter put it, the sweetest name I know. Take an extra couple of minutes to listen to the lovely song written over 200 years ago by John Newton: "How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear." May all who read this post, know that sweetness for themselves.
Friday, 11 June 2010
So, here I am - a non-smoking, teetotal, five-a-day, trim-figured, twice-a-week at the gym for a planned workout, man. One of only 2.5% who, it would appear, can make such a claim!
Of course, I suppose that part of the reason for this is my personal attitude towards my physical body. Paul, writing to the disciples of Jesus in ancient Corinth - a city renowned for its excess in all manner of physical activities - asks the pointed question: "... do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (I Cor 6:19; NKJV) And he continues with a word of exhortation: "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (I Cor 6:20; NKJV).
This, I believe, is a reminder that even my physical body is part of the stewardship that the Lord has entrusted to me. It is not mine to abuse in any way. It is the dwelling-place of God the Holy Spirit - the third Persona of the Trinity. I am not doing anything special when I do my best to look after it - I am only doing the least that I ought to do!
Does this mean that every disciple of Jesus should be the same as me? Heaven forbid - as Paul would also say! However, it may be a timely reminder, to quote Paul again: "... why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,
'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'
Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. " (Rom 14:10-13; NLT)
The important part of that quotation may be, not the reminder that I am not here to judge others, but that each of us will answer to Almighty God for our own lives - and lifestyles!
Saturday, 5 June 2010
It reminds me of an occasion, many years ago, when our daughters were still going on holiday with my wife and me. We were staying with a number of friends in various parts of continental Europe and had arrived in Belgium, where we were to stay overnight, in Brussels, with friends from the Christian organisation Operation Mobilisation [http://www.uk.om.org/]. We had an address, but it was getting dark and, in spite of having used the one Belgian franc that we had to telephone for directions, we were totally lost. Asking directions from a variety of Belgian worthies had proved to be of no use - either they were speaking Flemish; or my French hadn't fully 'kicked in'!
As we drove along one, obviously residential, street, I noticed a young man heading towards the car in a driveway. On the assumption that someone younger might have a better command of the English language than any of the older folk with whom we had spoken; or that he might be able to understand my poor French; I stopped the car, got out, and went over to make my enquiry. As soon as I mentioned the address to which we were heading, he uttered just two words - "Follow me!" Then, he led the way to the end of the street in which OM had their quarters.
Recently, I had occasion to remind some young friends that Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship. The man-made religions of the world tell us to do this, and do that, in the hope that we might gain the favour of the deity. But the Christian faith states that Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, took upon Himself human flesh and, in the Persona of the Son, paid the penalty for my sin, and for the sin of all who will accept His great sacrifice on their behalf.
And, in Jesus, He doesn't give us a list of rules and regulations to follow. He says "Follow Me!". (Matt.4:19 inter al) He doesn't give us directions. He says "I am the Way, ..." (John 14:6). He doesn't provide a series of tasks that we must complete. He says "I am among you as the One who serves." (Luke 22:27)
I am very grateful to the five folk who have decided to follow my musings. But I am eternally grateful that the Lord has invited me to follow Him! The invitation is to you, as well!
Friday, 4 June 2010
No-one seems to know, and it is unlikely that, in spite of the media speculation that seems to be required in our modern culture, anyone will ever find out, the whole story behind this man - apparently well-thought of within his local community - who set out on what appears to have been a pre-mediated rampage.
Of course, the inevitable questions will be asked with reference to Almighty God - especially by those who claim that He doesn't exist in the first place! "Where was God when this man was causing such carnage?" "If He is a God of love, how could He allow such a terrible thing to happen?"
The best answer to the first of those questions is that given by Ann Graham-Lotz - the daughter of well-known Christian evangelist, Dr Billy Graham - after the tragic incident that is referred to simply as "9/11". Her message was that He was there - in the midst of the suffering; sharing that suffering; and bringing - even in the midst of that suffering - a peace that passes all human understanding, to those who will accept it from His hand.
With regard to the second question, we must recognise the difference between what we might refer to as the prescriptive will of God, and the permissive will of God. The former covers the concept of God "deciding" what will happen (although it isn't as simple as that! I am certainly not referring to the Islamic idea of an incident being inevitable because "it is the will of God [Allah]"). The latter refers to the fact that Almighty God created mankind with an amazing but, one might argue, dangerous facility - freedom of will. He could, of course, remove that free will - but that would mean that we would all be no more than pre-programmed robots, unable to do anything other than that for which we had been programmed!
This would be no more satisfactory to God that it would be to most of us! I mentioned, a few posts ago, the love of my wife and children that is part of the inestimable riches that I have. But if I knew that they could do none other than love me, then that love would immediately lose all of its value! It's the fact that they have chosen to love me, as an act of their individual free wills, that makes that love so infinitely precious. Almighty God could easily have programmed you and me to love Him - but of what value would that kind of love be?
The only problem with free will is that it allows us to do that which is displeasing in the sight of the Holy and Sinless Creator of all that is; that which actually (in anthropomorphic terms) breaks His heart. The Biblical name that covers all of our wrongdoing, and failure to do right, is sin. And there, I would suggest, is the answer to Derrick Bird's killing spree. Like each one of us, he was a sinner. Sadly, it would seem that he never made a positive response to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ Who, as God in human flesh (God Incarnate) has already paid the penalty for your sin, and for mine. However, my free will allows me to reject the offer of salvation that He makes - and He will not force me to accept it.
So, you see, when I think of Derrick Bird, I can say with John Bradford, the 16th century prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral when, while imprisoned in the Tower of London (for his faith), he saw some men being led out to have the death penalty executed upon them: "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford". For, in my sinful state, I am just as capable of committing any of the horrific crimes that are reported on a daily basis, as anyone else - including the actual perpetrators. It is the grace of God, shown in the Lord Jesus, that makes all of the difference. I commend it to one and all.
Thursday, 3 June 2010
Earlier in the week, the headlines screamed out, abusively, at the State of Israel as news broke about the 'attack' on 'defenceless' ships that were attempting to break the Israeli blockade, and deliver 'humanitarian' aid to Gaza. Turkey, in particular, was incensed - probably because most of the dead would appear to have been Turkish nationals. Not a lot was mentioned about the reason for the blockade - the mortar, and rocket, attacks on Israel that emanate from Palestinian (Philistine, in Biblical terminology) armed groups within Gaza!
However, knee-jerk reactions were observed from all around the world; the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting; Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel; and Greece, Egypt, Sweden, Spain and Denmark summoned Israel’s ambassadors to explain the incident.
But let's take a look at some of the facts that appear to have been overlooked. First of all there is the difference between bravery and bravado! The protesters were fully aware that they were liable to inspection by Israeli forces. If all that they had on board was the humanitarian aid that has been claimed, I have to ask why they did not allow such an inspection! At least part of the answer may be found in a report in The [Glasgow] Herald newspaper: "In Gaza, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the flotilla signals the end of the blockade. 'If the ships reach Gaza, it's a victory,' Haniyeh told some 400 supporters at Gaza City's small fishing harbour, where several smaller vessels breaking the blockade have docked in the past. 'If they are intercepted and terrorised by the Zionists, it will be a victory for Gaza, too, and they will move again in new ships to break the seige of gazaa'." (30-05-10)
The same report informs me that, early in their voyage, the ships were held up near Cyprus "... as organisers tried to get nearly two dozen high-profile supporters on board." and that "A showdown with the Israeli navy appeared inevitable."
The question must, surely, be raised - "Was this whole affair a deliberate attempt, by a Turkish organisation that would appear to be sympathetic to the Hamas government - and which, according to Danish research some four years ago, has links with terrorist group al-Qaida - to provoke the State of Israel to 'military action'?
Certainly, Turkey itself is not in a position to take any moral high ground! Over two million Ottoman Armenians were slated for destruction in 1915. The Turkish entry into World War I facilitated this process, as no outside powers could intervene on behalf of the victims. Over 2,000 towns and villages were emptied of their Armenian inhabitants who were subsequently destroyed. First the young men and community leaders, then the women, children, and elderly were murdered. Some were killed at the outset of "deportations"; others were killed from disease and malnutrition in concentration camps in the deserts of Zor in Syria; survivors of these camps were murdered outright at the end of 1916. There were no Armenians left to speak of in what became modern Turkey in 1923.
The Turkish government adopted a much more sustained genocidal program against Kurds, aimed at the assimilation of this community as ethnic Turks. Often the engineers of the destruction of Kurds were the same people who destroyed Armenians a few years earlier. The Turkish genocidal policy may be outlined under the following categories:
(1) forced assimilation program—banning of the Kurdish language in Turkey, denying the existence of Kurdish history, the forced resettlement of Kurds in non-Kurdish areas of Turkey for assimilation, the indoctrination of Kurds through the Turkish education system, radio and television channels;
(2) banning of any legitimate opposition to the Turkish government’s programs—e.g., Kurdish cultural organisations, political parties, media outlets, etc.; and
(3) the violent repression of any Kurdish resistance. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds have been murdered by Turkish state authorities over the past eighty years—the Sheykh Said and the Ararat uprisings in the 1920s, the bloody suppression of the Dersim in the 1930s, as well as the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) campaign in recent years. The Turkish state has imprisoned Kurdish members of the Turkish parliament; various human rights activists; and many academics who have advocated Kurdish rights. The Turkish government also stands accused of having arranged the assassination of scores of journalists and intellectuals over the years.
In the light of all of that, Israel's treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza seems almost virtuous!
Propaganda is a powerful weapon - as Naziism's Joseph Goebbels knew so well. However, it does have an unfortunate tendency to get in the way of truth! Let us hope and pray that, in this particular situation, 'truth will out', and that any enquiry will be able to reveal it.