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Friday, 30 July 2010

The testing of faith.

James writes : "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4; NLT); and someone, somewhere, has suggested that "a faith untested is no faith at all"!

Such thoughts have been very much in my mind since yesterday when, having travelled through to Audincourt - where our Vectra is sitting in the compound of the Opel dealership - I was informed that, due to a combination of uncertainty as to whether or not the warranty will cover the required work, and the forthcoming holiday period when, apparently, the garage closes down, the car won't even be looked at until about Sept.1st! The upshot of all of that is that my dear wife is flying home on August 8th and I am remaining in L'Isle-sur-le-Doubs until the car is ready, and I can bring both it and the caravan home! This will be, by far, the longest single period of time for which we have been seperated in our married life - and means that we won't even be together for our Ruby anniversary on Sept. 4th! :-(

So the 'natural' question, for a believer, is "Why, Lord?" The first answer might well be that it's to teach me a lesson about procrastination! Part of our problem is that I kept putting off renewing the European breakdown cover for the car! Well, it was only 19 months old - what could possibly go wrong?! The words "Once bitten, twice shy" are also much in my mind!

But perhaps it's also to do with those words of James. Perhaps it's to do with something that the Lord wants to teach one, or both, of us. It would, of course, be easy to just decide that because our prayers that the situation would be fully sorted out, quickly and easily, haven't received a positive answer, that there isn't much point in continuing this Christian faith stuff! But why should we assume that our faith is always going to be easy? Why should only those in other parts of the world be persecuted, and imprisoned, and tortured, and even killed for the sake of the Lord Jesus?

On July 15, Pastor Artur Suleimanov was shot to death by a gunman as he was leaving the Hosanna House of Prayer in Makhachkala, Dagestan, according to VOM Canada and Barnabas Fund. Dagestan is a federal republic of Russia in the North Caucasus region. Pastor Suleimanov was known as a dynamic leader of one of the largest Protestant churches in Russia. "Pastor Suleimanov was a wonderful Christian brother, and his shocking death is a devastating loss for the Dagestan church," a co-ordinator with Barnabas Fund said. "He and the Hosanna House of Prayer church were very active in ministry and outreach in particular. We see his murder as an attempt to put further pressure on Christian converts in Dagestan." Pastor Suleimanov is survived by his wife and five children.

We pray for Pastor Suleimanov's family, and congregation, as they grieve over his death. We pray that God will touch the heart of Pastor Suleimanov's murderer. We pray that Christians in Russia will be emboldened to spread the gospel despite opposition.


And we remember those other words of Scripture: "Consider Him Who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? - 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by Him. For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives'." (Heb 12:3-6; RSV).

Yes, our faith may be being tested - but even the test is easy compared to what others experience. May our faith stand up as well to our little test, as does the faith of brothers and sisters in Christ, in so many other parts of the world, in testing that we can't even begin to imagine.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Yesterday's methods don't work as well today!

I've been watching some athletics on the T.V. I was particularly interested in the pole vault. Attention was being given to the special pit into which the vaulter could place the end of the pole. He was using a flexible, probably carbon-fibre, pole with an amazing 'springiness'. He was wearing tight-fitting clothing that would have cut down air resistance. He had a very deep foam base on which to land - presumably providing increased confidence in the knowledge that no bones were likely to be broken.

I thought of some other sports, and the ways in which equipment has improved, dramatically, over recent years. A team of Dutch cyclists had spent the night camped beside us. Their cycles had very narrow tyres, and very light frames. They were each wearing skintight-fitting clothing, and a helmet that would provide greater confidence of limited injury in the case of a fall. I recalled reading that champion cyclists ride machines that have carbon-fibre frames, and spokeless wheels that are so narrow one could almost shave using the edges!

It made me wonder if the constant breaking of records has, in some sports at least, as much to do with improvements in equipment design and technology as with the actual physical fitness, and prowess, of the athlete involved! And I realised that no modern athlete would continue to compete in, e.g., knee-length flapping shorts, and with a fairly rigid pole for the pole vault. Anyone who did would certainy be unlikely to break any records!

My thoughts turned to the Body of Christ - the Church on earth. I thought of the exploits of people like Paul - travelling around so much of the Mediterranean world of his day, on foot, or by small wooden-hulled ship, in a long flowing robe. I thought of the writing that he accomplished - by hand (or, at least, by the hand of his amanuensis/secretary), on parchment, with home-made ink. I thought of later disciples of Jesus - of Hudson Taylor in China; of Clive of India; of Mary Slessor in Africa; of David Brainard in North America; of countless others who risked life and limb in the most diffcult circumstances - who carried the Good News of the salvation that is available in Jesus, the Christ, to the uttermost parts of the earth.

They achieved much, with limited resources, low technology, poor transport. And what of today?! Even where the church is seeking to continue to fulfil the Great Commission (Matt.28:18-20 - and never leave out v.18!), is it not true that so many do so using last century's technology? "Let's have a mission! We'll invite a well-known (to Christians!) Christian speaker, and we'll hold meetings every night from Monday to Friday, at 7.30p.m. We'll put out 5,000 invitation leaflets in a massive door-to-door exercise, and we'll place an advert in the local newspaper."

Sixty, fifty, even forty, years ago that would probably have been a wonderful way in which to propagate the Gospel. People didn't live in centrally-heated, fully-insulated, homes with 24/7 television displayed on 54" plasma screens; broadband internet connections; DVD players; electronic games - and with a car outside to transport them to visit friends, or just down to the local pub, in relative comfort, even in the foulest of weather conditions.

Today, that's the sort of competition that the church faces! Not in every case. I know. There are many families in which the picture that I have just painted is only a dream. But for a vast number, the thought of going to a church building, to listen to even the most gifted of speakers talk for forty minutes in between the singing of songs that are meaningless to them - yes, even the majority of the best of modern songs that I love to sing! - among people who, if my experience of visiting some congregations/fellowships is any guide, totally ignore them anyway, is about attractive as the thought of using the clothing, equipment, and technology of the 1950s would be to a modern athlete.

That is one reason why I maintain this blog site. I actually reach more people in an average week here, than do many clergymen in a church setting! And, of course, although I have my regular, and faithful, visitors (for whom I am very grateful); and although a fair number of people have set up an RSS feed so that each post goes directly to their e-mail Inbox (and they, also, are very much appreciated), I also have a considerable number of visitors who simply find the blog through a search-engine when they are seeking information on a particular topic that I have placed as a key-word for a post. And some of them become regular, and valued, visitors - and even 'followers'!

I find it interesting to speculate on what the top athletes of a former age might have achieved if they had had access to today's sporting technology. I find it even more interesting to speculate as to what Paul, or any of the other great missionaries and church leaders of the past, might have achieved if they had had access to today's communications technology!

May the church as a whole - and not just the few honourable exceptions - use the technology that the Lord has provided, to effectively spread the Gospel message in a technological age, that many might hear, and believe; and that the Day of His return might be hastened. When the Lord Jesus told His disciples that they would be "fishers of men", I'm certain that He expected them to use appropriate bait!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Accuracy should trump tradition!

As some are aware, I am a fairly regular contributer to the Letters page of The (Glasgow) Herald newspaper. Unfortunately, not every letter that I submit is considered, by the Letters editor, to be worthy of publication. Often, this is no big deal; but I am a wee bit peeved when I am not allowed to publicly answer public criticism of myself! This is exactly what happened, last week. There had been some correspondence on the forthcoming Papal visit to the U.K., and it's not inconsiderable cost. A Mr Bill Heaney had provided very enthusiastic support for the expense - including that met by the already overburdened British taxpayer (a fair proportion is, allegedly, being raised by special collections in the appropriate churches). In a response to that letter I had referred to 'the Church of Rome'. Mr Heaney was permitted a reply in which he accused me of 'disrespect'! The following is the relevant section of a slightly longer letter that the editor failed to publish!

Mr Bill Heaney takes me to task on a number of issues (Letters, July 19). However, the one that causes me concern is his contention that my reference to 'the Church of Rome' is disrespectful. May I, with all due respect, point out to Mr Heaney that the word 'catholic' means 'universal'. That being the case I, even as a member of the Reformed Church, do not have the difficulty that some of the more sectarian-minded folk in the West of Scotland seem to have, with the statement in The Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church". However, as soon as one places an adjective before the word 'Catholic', one creates an oxymoron. The Church cannot, simultaneously, be both Roman and Catholic!

Furthermore, I believe that I am correct in stating that the prime position of the Pontiff is 'the Bishop of Rome'. Centred in Rome, and with authority flowing from Rome - Mr Heaney may not like my declining to use the poular and traditional term, but my accurate nomenclature cannot be rightly used to accuse me of disrespect! To call a spade a spade is not disrespectful; and to call it a manually operated automatic digging implement is just plain wrong!

Of course, it is not only advocates of the Church of Rome who tend to place "the tradition of the elders" (see e.g., Mark 7:8) over accuracy, and even the plain teaching of the Word of God. Sadly, this is only to be expected. Writing to his young friend, Timothy, Paul informed him that "... a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths." (II Tim 4:3-4; NLT).

The 'upside' of this is that it would appear to be one of the many signs that the end of time is rapidly approaching, when
"... the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel , and with the trumpet call of God." (1 Thess 4:16; NLT); when
"... at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:10-11)

"Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20)

Friday, 23 July 2010

Whatever happened to just saying 'No'?!

Of course, the heading is a bit one-sided - but I didn't want it to be too long. The other half of the equation, as it were, is: "and to not asking in the first place?!"

The reference, not surprisingly, is to sex, and is in the light of news today that a survey of teenage girls in (I suspect, only) England and Wales, shows that one in eight has been pregnant by the time they have reached 18 years of age, with 3% claiming to have been pregnant at least three times.

The figures may relate, directly, only to England and Wales, but it is an apparent statistical fact that the U.K. as a whole has the highest teenage pregnancy rates in western Europe - even if they seem to have fallen to their lowest level for two decades.

The inevitable response from some is "... to maintain investment in young people's contraceptive and sexual health services." (Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group); and to "... continue doing what we know works to improve teenage pregnancy: improving access to sexual health services, good quality sex and relationships education in all schools, and supporting parents to talk to theor children." ('sexual health' charity, Brook).

Sadly, after many decades of following these policies, we still have the situation reported above. To give credit to some of the young girls involved, almost half of them went to full term with their pregnancies - but more than a third had abortions: little human lives snuffed out because a girl couldn't (or wouldn't!) say 'No' to a boy who was, in most cases, merely wanting to satisfy his own hormone-induced urges.

It all comes back to two old-fashioned ideas: purity and respect. Some girls don't seem to realise that they can only lose their virginity once; some boys have no respect for the girl whom they are dating, and see her simply as an object to be (ab)used. The end result is not only the statistics released by this Dept. of Ed. study, but also an ever-increasing incidence of sexually-transmitted diseases that have a longer-term effect on the recipients than most young people seem to realise; many girls who have abortions being less able to conceive in later adulthood; and, of coure, even in the cases of the girls who do have their children, another generation of youngsters with no wholesome male role model in their lives.

There is a lot to be said for the old-fashioned maxim of "Chastity before marriage; fidelity within it". Paul puts it like this: "Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body." (I Cor 6:18-19; NLT).

I have a cutting at home that contains some frightening statistics. I can't recall the exact figures, but the article shows how many sexual partners the average 'liberated' person really has. Not just the girl I was with last night - but every boy with whom she had previously had sex; and every girl with whom they had previously had sex; and so on, and so on! And it's not just the physical act that is involved. It's that passing on of chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, and I don't know what else, that spreads such infections like wildfire.

The Bible may be old-fashioned to many, today. But its healthy attitude to sex (which was, after all, invented by God!) - that it be between one man and one woman, within the bond of a committed relationship - would, if followed, see a marked reduction in some of those horrifying statistics that we seem to now take for granted.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

God is good - all the time

It's almost 9.00 p.m., and delightfully balmy here in L'Isle-sur-le-Doubs, in north-eastern France. The temperature, this afternoon, was about 40 degrees Celsius, but the river was very refreshing as we splashed around, and swam. This morning, there wasn't a single cloud to be seen in the sky. The site at which we are camped is quiet; well-appointed; and the owner and her daughter (neither of whom speak a word of English!) couldn't be more helpful.

That's the good news! The not-so-good news is that there is no car parked beside the caravan - or anywhere else on-site. Yesterday, as we headed south towards Lyon, I was aware that there was something not quite right with the car. However, I had had some work done on it before we left, and I just made a mental note to get it to my mechanic as soon as we returned home, for a more thorough inspection. We were on the motorway, having just passed an exit, when I noticed that the oil-pressure warning light had come on! Those of a technical mind will now be 'way ahead of me! We came off the motorway at the next exit - unfortunately, some 16 miles later - but, as it was an automatic paying system, my dear wife was taking a little longer than would have been the case if the exit had been manned. For the sake of the engine, I decided to stop it for a few moments. BIG mistake (I think!). When I tried to restart it, it just didn't want to know. :-(

The upshot of all of that was that we had to send for the breakdown truck - that had to come from beyond the previous exit. The driver was superb. He poured in some oil, but we quickly noticed that it was pouring out from the bottom of the engine! That was when he pronounced the engine 'kaput'! - and it is only 20 months old, and has only got about 13,000 miles (21,000 km) on the clock!

He took it to his garage, here in L'Isle-sur-le-Doubs but, as a Peugeot garage, he was unable to do anything with a Vauxhall (Opel). He had to contact the nearest Opel dealership to come to L'Isle to collect the car - but he arrived in a truck that couldn't tow the 'van! Thankfully, this site is only a couple of miles away, and the local garage man arranged for one of his vans to tow us here. We have been advised that the problem may require the replacement of the engine - and that it could take two weeks!!!!!!!

Yet we can still say, with absolute conviction, that God is good. We did not have an accident; He provided some very helpful people to assist us (including our younger daughter who is attending to the 'paperwork', back home!); the sky is blue; the sun is shining (okay, the forecast is for rain on Friday!); the river is free for swimming; we have wi-fi internet access; the local Lidl store is within walking distance; etc., etc.

When I read, in today's e-mails, of further atrocities against the Christian community in Pakistan, where two brothers who had been accused under the infamous Section 295C of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, were cold-blooodedly murdered, I was reminded of how richly blessed we are. Pastors Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel had reportedly just left the courtroom in Faisalabad District and Sessions Court, Punjab, when five masked gunmen opened fire on them. Zafar Hussein, a (Muslim?) police officer who was escorting the brothers, was also shot as he tried to protect them, and is reported to be in a critical condition in hospital.

Rashid and Sajid were arrested, earlier this month, and charged with blasphemy after they were accused of distributing a pamphlet that local Muslims regarded as blasphemous against Muhammad. Handwriting experts have since told the police that the brothers' writing did not match that on the offending leaflet.

This is but one in an increasing number of incidents of overt persecution in Pakistan (go to http://mail.google.com/mail/#search/release%2C+petition/128ac3979672f673 for further information, and access to an online petition). So, as we give thanks that our 'problems' are so few, and that they don't effect our personal safety, we do not forget those who, on a daily basis, are suffering for the sake of the Lord Jesus - many, like Rashid and Sajid, to the point of death.

Please join us in our remembrance, and in our prayerful support.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Importance!

We are spending a couple of days with our dear friends, the Trabers, in the Stuttgart area. They have moved to a new home since our last visit, and it has a wonderful view. One of the major features is a railway bridge that crosses the valley, very close to where they are.

I have enjoyed watching the trains cross over the bridge. There have been different types of traffic. The majority of trains have been goods trains, hauled by electric or diesel locomotives. As far as I can make out, they are hauling goods waggons between two marshalling yards. They are, therefore important in the general transport of goods and materials.

There have also been a number of local passenger trains - ferrying people around the Stuttgart area. Occasionally, I have seen a train from the national rail network - sleek, aero-dynamic, silver and blue - taking people much longer distances. Once in a while, there has been a lone locomotive - doing nothing other than moving itself from one place to another.

As I've watched, I've realised that I have been watching a picture of some different kinds of Christian. There are always going to be the few loners - doing nothing for anyone else; looking after themselves; intent only on ensuring that they get themselves to their desired destination. Thankfully, like the solo locomotives, they are not in any great number!

Then there are those who hold positions of national leadership. These are the well-known personalities who have many followers. They may travel vast distances; they are often very-well dressed, sophisticated, and sleek. Nothing wrong with any of that - as long as they, themselves, are walking close to Jesus!

Yet others are like the local train. They may be likened to pastors of local fellowships. Nothing too flash, but helping many people on their journey through life - and faith!

Thankfully, the majority of disciples of Jesus are like the goods trains, shunting backwards and forwards. The journey may sometimes seem repetitive - even humdrum! But these are the people who are of great importance as they carry the message of the Gospel to ordinary people - in their workplaces; where they enjoy their leisure; among their families and neighbours. Nothing particularly exciting about some of that - but it's where the work of the church is really done!

Some seem to think that a pastor/minister is there to do all of the work. However, referring to "pastors and teachers", Paul writes that "Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ." (Eph 4:11-13). In other words, it is the church - each and every member - that is responsible for the proclamation of the Gospel.

The question is - "Where in the network are you; where am I?" We should be happy to be the goods trains; doing the basic work of the Lord in our own day.

Friday, 9 July 2010

The final "Football Short"!

So, it's down to Spain and the Netherlands! Since I would be less likely to support the Spanish team (I have a lot more friends in The Netherlands!), I can at least let a Spanish player be the last of my 'Football Shorts'! This is Marcos Senna - a young man who has discovered that money isn't the answer to every situation. He would recommend Jesus - and so would I!

Holidays!

Well, it's that time of the year again, when my dear wife and I head off on what is referred to, by some of our friends, as our "annual pilgrimage to France"!

The caravan is hitched to the car, and we are just about ready to head off early (!!) tomorrow morning. Of course, we have no regular internet access, so posts may be few and far between over the next six weeks!

Holidays are actually very important. The human body is very finely tuned, and it needs periods of rest and recuperation if it is going to function to its best ability. Mind you, not everyone is blessed with the length of holiday that we get, and we are truly grateful for the opportunity that we have.

Some of the time will be spent (DV) in visiting friends of long standing, but whom we are only able to see occasionally. That's another important aspect of human life. "No man is an island ..." wrote John Donne, and he was absolutely correct. We are, by nature, social creatures who need other people. It is sad that, in an age when many - at least in 'the West' - have more time, money, travel opportunities, private transport, and the like, that so many depend on social websites such as Facebook and Bebo for their friendships! There are some I have seen with hundreds of "friends" - but it seems that many of those "friends" are people whom they have never actually met, and with whom they have no relationship outwith the social networking site.

Of course, the Bible tells us the human beings are created in the image of God - not in any physical way ("God is Spirit" - Jn.4:24) - and we discover that God is relational. He is, in Christian, Biblical theology, Three-in-One, and One-in Three. {For a fuller treatment of the Doctrine of the Trinity, I suggest a visit to my blog at www.revcbross.blogspot.com}. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in perfect relationship; pefect harmony; perfect unity.

The Bible also teaches us that, having created all that is, God rested (Gen.2:2); and Jesus - God the Son, in human flesh - often drew aside from the crowds to pray, and rest.

I am aware of those who have claimed that "It is better to burn out, than to rust", and would agree that there is an element of truth in that saying. However, I also believe that we need to live balanced lives - providing that we are doing all things to the glory of God.

So, as we head off, I trust that all of my readers will have the opportunity for some rest over the coming weeks - whether at home, or further afield. It's an opportunity to 'recharge the batteries' for the coming winter's work. May each of us be refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated - and all to His glory.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Nicola Legrottaglie

I love the little "Godincidences' that I spot from time to time! I had never even heard of Nicola Legrottaglie before I started to look for an audio clip for today. Indeed, I picked his name as much because I'd never heard of him, as for any other reason (I thought!). However, as I previewed (or should that be 'pre-listened to'?) the clip, I realised how well it connects with what I posted yesterday. Here is a young man who has already discovered what it means to "have the mind of Christ".


Monday, 5 July 2010

STOP PRESS! - Scotland win World Cup!!!!!!!

Well, who would believe it? But it's true. Of course, it isn't that World Cup (even I know that Scotland didn't even qualify!). However, it was an item on this evening's Reporting Scotland - and would anyone dare to doubt the word of Jackie Bird?!!

The World Cup that was won was, I am sorry to have to say, only the "Impersonating Elvis" one - won by a gentleman from Clackmannanshire. We didn't see his full act but, for my own money, the one who appears in the Friends series - before/after the advertising break - is actually much better!

But it did make me think. A prize for impersonating Elvis - the 'king' of pop(ular music of the time!). Paul, that prominent missionary/evangelist in the early Christian Church, mentions the idea of imitating on a number of occasions and, while the two words aren't fully synonymous, there is sufficient similarity to make a valid point.

Writing to the Corinthian believers, Paul says, "I urge you, then, be imitators of me." (I Cor.4:16). I could go for that! Being responsible for the planting of so many fellowships of believers; writing such letters as become books of the Bible - the very Word of the Living God, breathed through me; working miracles; testifying before kings and governors! Imitate Paul - that's something worth doing!

However, a little later in the same letter, he modifies this charge, and does so quite significantly! "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.(11:1). So the challenge, now, is not merely to imitate Paul who, as a mere man was, like me, still a sinner - albeit 'saved by grace'. Now the challenge is to imitate him, only insofar as he is imitating the Lord Jesus! "Who", we may well ask - as he does himself in his other preserved letter to the young Corinthian church - "is sufficient for these things?" (2:16)! To live a sinless life; to always be in the centre of the Father's will; to control the very elements; to give my life, as a willing sacrifice, for others.

Then, writing to the Ephesian church, he urges, "... be imitators of God, as beloved children." (5:1). Have you ever watched a child grow up? Adults have to be careful what they say, and do, in front of them - they are such imitators! We're seeing this, on a regular basis, with our grandson - and it's all part of the learning process! But to imitate Father God in this way! To imitate all of His perfection; to have the very mind of Jesus; to love with an everlasting love!

Paul makes other, equally challenging, references, to imitating - but that will do for now. It should be the goal of everyone who has entered into a living, and loving, and saving, relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus, to be imitators of the saving God. We may not win a 'World Cup'. But, as Paul reminded the Philippian disciples of Jesus, there is a prize! It's "... the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil.3:14). It's the prize for imitating the King of kings! And that's a prize that lasts - not just for time, but for eternity. Let's go for it!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Hugs!

On yesterday's edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today, was an interesting item on the benefit to children's education of the teacher's attitude of caring love. My ears pricked up when it was trailed as "Pupils need hugs from teachers" - or words to that effect. I certainly had no problems with an appropriate hug for a pupil of either gender, and those who meet me even now, often expect a hug!

I was also speaking of hugs with a dear friend whose paternal grandmother had just died. She agreed that her dad would appreciate a hug - it can often say much more than words!

Many years ago, someone gave me a little poem entitled "I like hugs". I hope that you enjoy it!

It's wondrous what a hug can do; a hug can cheer you when you're blue.
A hug can say, "I love you so!" ... or "I hate to see you go!"
A hug is "Welcome back, again!" and "Great to see you!" or "Where've you been?"
A hug can soothe a small child's pain, and bring a rainbow after rain.

The hug! There's just no doubt about it - we scarcely could survive without it!
A hug delights, and warms, and charms: it must be why God gave us arms!
Hugs are great for fathers and mothers; sweet for sisters (even for brothers!);
And chances are, some favourite aunts love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them; puppies love them; heads of state are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier; and make the dullest day seem merrier.
No need to fret about the store of 'em - the more you give, the more you have of 'em.
So, stretch those arms without delay, and give someone a hug today!

Mike McCurry

If I had realised how far the Netherlands were going to go in the World Cup, I would have held on to the brief testimony from Bert Konterman! However, I didn't and, not having any other Dutch players available, I'll come back home to Scotland. I could also mention that today's "Football Short" is from someone I have actually met!! While I was involved with Revival Radio, Mike McCurry was another presenter's guest, and I met him at the studio! Like all of us, he has found that life isn't always a bed of roses - either on the pitch, or off it. But he's discovered that the answer is in the One Who may not take us out of our difficult situations, but Who is always right there with us. I commend Him to one and all - Mike McCurry would do the same!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Personal responsibility

A long time ago, I prepared a school assembly message based on the character "nae-me". This person is probably a very Scottish person - predominantly, West of Scotland - but is responsible for most of the trouble in any school in the country. I know this because, invariably, when a pupil was asked who was responsible for some unacceptable action, the answer was "It wisnae me"! (Speaking it out, slowly, rather than merely reading it, may help to make the point for those who are unfamiliar with the vernacular!). It's always somebody else's fault; it's always somebody else who should 'do something about it'; it's always somebody else who should have foreseen the inevitable consequences.

Over recent days, I have become more aware than usual of this 'blame culture' through various news reports. Under-age pregnancy; criminal activity; being knocked out of a particular soccer competition. It's never 'my' fault.

It's not a new syndrome! At the very beginning of humanity, we read that the one restriction that Almighty God had placed upon the pinnacle of His creation was that man must not eat of "...
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die." (Gen 2:17). However, within a very short time, and in spite of the consequence having been clearly spelled out, mankind had disobeyed the Lord, and partaken of the forbidden fruit.

However, it is mankind's response when challenged by God, that is interesting - "... YHWH Elohim asked. "Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?" The man replied, "It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it." Then the Lord God asked the woman, "What have you done?" "The serpent deceived me," she replied. "That's why I ate it."" (Gen 3:11-13)

And, of course, man has been making excuses for his behaviour ever since - so much so that it is actually refreshing when someone 'owns up', and accepts the just reward for their action(s).

This whole situation is, of course, the reason why Paul could write, without fear of contradiction, that "... everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." (Rom 3:23). And that's the reason why each of us need a Saviour - One Who, by living a sinless life, can take upon Himself the punishment that I deserve.

That One is Jesus Who, as God, was able to live a sinless life and, as man, was able to represent me, and you. The responsibility for my sin remains with me but, as I am willing to confess that sin - and not seek to blame others; and as I ask forHis life-giving help; then I have His promise that "... the blood of Jesus ... cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7).

Of course, I still have the responsibility of responding, positively, to His sacrifice on my behalf. If I respond negatively - by either rejecting, or ignoring, it - I will bear my own punishment. That punishment is eternity (timelessness) separated from Him - and knowing that it is my fault: that "It wis me!"