Important Information.

STOP PRESS: My second book - Foundations of the Faith - is now available as a Kindle e-book at http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00XTAE98C?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Paperback NOW available at:

The first volume - Great Words of the Faith - is still available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009EG6TJW
Paperback NOW available at:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-

If you haven't got a Kindle, there is a FREE app at
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd?docId=1000423913

30% of the profits go to support the persecuted church.

I may be contacted, personally, at author@minister.com




Thursday, 30 September 2010

So where was God?!

It's unusual, I am glad to be able to say, but this afternoon I attended my second funeral service of the week!  This time, it was for a former colleague who had finally succumbed to cancer at only 41 years of age.

The minister who conducted the service spoke from John 11 - the record of the raising of Lazarus.  He emphasised the words of Lazarus' sister Martha: "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." (v.21).

It's a not unfamiliar response to any number of situations that leave us numbed, and in despair.  It's the sort of question that comes, even to the 'non-religious' (if such people truly exist!).  Where was God when that terrible thing happened?  Where was God when that deranged person went through a college, shooting everyone in sight?  Where was God when that infant whose birth had been so lovingly anticipated for so many months, breathed its last only days, or even hours, after it was born?  Where was God when that young student nurse was being violently raped by a doctor in the very hospital in which they both worked - and simply because he thought that, as she was a Christian, he would get away with it?  Where was God when villagers were being driven from there homes - simply for cofessing Christ as Lord?  Just like Fiona's death at such a young age, it's all so unfair!

So, where is God in such situations?  Has He, as the minister this afternoon asked, gone for a coffee-break?  Perhaps He's on annual leave?  Perhaps He just doesn't really care?

The only answer I can ever give to these questions is that He is there, right in the midst, sharing the suffering and pain; longing that those who are experiencing distress, and grief, and confusion, would turn to Him for strength, and peace, and perseverance.  If I have learned nothing else over the years, I have learned this - that being a disciple of Jesus doesn't guard me from the storms and difficulties of life, but it does assure me of His strong presence in them.  As I mentioned in the previous post, David, the psalmist-king of Israel, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, wrote these familiar words: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me." (Ps 23:4; RSV).  The writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus assures us that "... He has said, 'I will never fail you nor forsake you.'  Hence we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?'" (Heb 13:5-6; RSV).


Where is God when the going gets tough?  He's there, with all of the resources that any of us can need.  But, as someone once remarked - "If God seems to be far away, guess who has moved!"  Don't wait until the difficulties arise.  Start walking with Him now - and be assured of His Presence always.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Death - the real 'final frontier'!

I was a bit of a fan of the original Star Trek series - with Jim, and Mr. Spock; Dr. McCoy and Scottie; Lts. Sulu and Uhura - as the Starship Enterprise travelled to where no man had gone before; crossing the 'final frontier' of space.

I thought of that today as I attended the funeral service for a lady whom I had known for only a short time, but for whom I had developed a genuine affection.  Margaret was a member of Calderhead-Erskine Parish Church, where I was privileged to minister for some six months leading up to the induction of a new minister.  She was a musician, who occasionally assisted at the worship services - and played regularly elsewhere; but my memory of her will be of a pleasant, friendly, person who always looked to be very happy.

Margaret's death was sudden, and totally unexpected.  But that's often the way with death, is it not?  In Margaret's case it was a late diagnosis of cancer that gave her but a week to live.  In other cases, it might be a fatal road traffic accident; or a stabbing; or a heart attack.  And that's why we should all make our preparation while we may. 

As my friend Rev.Iain Murdoch, who conducted the services both in the church building, and at the local crematorium, pointed out, what was in the coffin was not the Margaret who had been a faithful wife for 42 years, and a loving mother for some 40 of them.  It was only a shell - the mortal vehicle that she had used during her earthly sojourn.

The real Margaret has crossed the real final frontier - not of space and time, but into a dimension that is above and beyond both.  It's a frontier that each of us is required to cross - at least until the Biblical Rapture, and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus!  But that's where there is a real difference.  Because we are not going where no man has gone before.  He has already made that journey!   And He has promised that, for all who have placed their trust, not in their own efforts, but in His sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary, He has prepared a place! (John 14:2-3).  More than that, He has promised that He will, indeed, come again for His own.  He has conquered that final frontier, and it no longer holds any fear for those who belong to Him.

About 1,000 years before the birth, as a human child, of God the Son, David, the psalmist- king of Israel had penned these words: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me." (Ps 23:4; RSV).  That is still true for all who are His disciples - if we walk with Him in this life, we will dwell with Him in the next.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Is every 'Christian' a disciple of Jesus?

In spite of the regular claims that we in the U.K. live in an increasingly secular society, we just can't seem to get away from the 'God thing'!   Mind you, some recent figures suggest that the real 'problem' is the vociferousness of a minority that gives them a prominence and a level of publicity that is well above what they, numerically, deserve!  For example, the number of people returning to the Anglican Church, alone, on "Back to church" Sunday (Sept.27th) last year, could have filled the O2 Arena in London twice over - and still left a queue of some 7,000 people (the highest-quoted membership of the National Secular Society!) outside, without a seat!

It was on this morning's 'Sunday' programme on BBC Radio 4, and in the context of a Christian Socialist Movement church service that, reportedly, always precedes the annual Labour Party Conference, that the statement was made that: "Labour's new leader, Ed Milliband, is not a religious believer himself; but the last three leaders of the Party - John Smith, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown, were all committed Christians."

It begs the question - "What did the reporter understand by the term 'Christian'?"  Sadly, John Smith died before he had the opportunity to become the 'figure in the limelight' that his two successors were, so it is perhaps difficult for anyone outwith his circle of personal friends to make any comment on his personal faith in the Lord Jesus - the depth, or the lack, of it.  However, when it comes to Messrs Blair and Brown, there is adequate evidence to suggest that neither of them was, or is, a true disciple of Jesus.  Yet that is what a Christian ought to be!  And that discipleship ought to be visible to others.

The true believer - as opposed to the person who makes a vocal claim - is supposed to be recognisable by his/her actions!    I often used to explain to my pupils that, provided my vocal cords were operating satisfactorily, I could say anything I wanted, and make the most outrageous claims!  But my mere calling myself a multi-millionaire doesn't add one single penny to my bank balance!  And anyone who spent some time with me would quickly come to the conclusion that I am not such a multi-millionaire.  The clothes I wear; the house in which I live; tha car I drive; the food I eat; the holidays I take; all point to the fact that my personal income is considerably less than the return from investments that a multi-millionaire would enjoy.

Jesus put it quite simply! "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'"
(Matt 7:15-23; RSV)


The test, then, is not what I claim, but the way(s) in which I act.  I would suggest that those who deliberately deceive a whole nation; those who extravagently spend other people's money to the extent that those people are left almost bankrupt; those who speak socialism, while owning multiple properties, and having millions in their bank account; those who are unable to control their own emotions, and throw items around the office to the accompaniment of words that are certainly not found within the pages of the Bible; are not living as disciples of Jesus, regardless of any soundbite they might provide.


Perhaps there is enough of 'the divine spark' in the mindset of the British electorate, that it was the blatant hypocrisy of such national leadership that led to the defeat of the Labour Party at the General Election earlier this year.  If that is the case, then it is a salutary lesson to all politicians, regardless of party allegiance, to put honesty and integrity at the top of their personal agendas!


But, of course, that doesn't apply only to politicians, and others in the public eye.  It applies to everyone who takes the name of Christian.  Let our actions speak much more loudly than our words; let others see Jesus in us before they hear us speak about Him; let us be, not just those who call themselves Christian, but true disciples of Jesus, serving others in His Name - and bringing glory to Him.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Home, at last!

Yes, late last night I finally arrived home!  Louez le Seigneur (PTL).  It's been a long break - especially the last (almost) seven weeks without my wife!

A goodly number of folks sent e-mails, and Facebook messages, commenting on how glad they were that I was 'en route', and these have been very much appreciated, as have those from folk who have discovered - by one means or another - that I am now home.

The last couple of days were very busy.  After having received, on Tuesday, an e-mail from the garage, informing me that the car was ready, I had to be taken to Audincourt to collect it.  Then I discovered that, although Opel (Vauxhall) had  eventually accepted responsibility, and that the main repairs had been attended to under warranty, I was expected to pay for 'incidentals' such as oil, hydraulic fluid, and anti-freeze!   I was not happy about that but, as even my improved French wasn't (isn't!) good enough for a dispute on such matters, I had no choice but to pay up!

The journey to Dunkerque commenced on Wednesday morning, with a stop-over in Thionville that night.  I arrived at Dunkerque on Thursday evening and, although my amended ferry booking was for 6.00 p.m. yesterday, I manged to persuade the staff at Norfolk Lines to allow me to board for the 8.00 a.m. sailing!  :-)  This meant that, with a fairly straightforward drive home, I was able to sleep in my own bed last night!

One friend has already expressed his interest in learning what I believe the Lord has been saying to me through the experience of these past weeks!  I have had to inform him that I have been asking that same question - but that I have not, as yet received an answer (at least, not one that I have manged to recognise!).  The only thing of which I am certain is that, although my wife and I were 'caught out' in those events, the Lord was not!  I still believe, passionately, in the sovereignty of Almighty God - that He is, ultimately, in control of all things.  I still recognise that my inconveniences were as nothing compared to those Chilean miners, to whom I made reference some time ago.  I am fully aware that they pale into total insignificance beside the suffering experienced by disciples of Jesus in so many countries around the world today.

One other thought!  It's good to be home!  But the real home of the human being is in a living relationship with Father God.  That can only be achieved by placing our trust, unreservedly, in God the Son - the Lord Jesus Christ.  Anyone who wishes to know more need only leave a comment to that effect - with details of a way to make contact - and I'll be very happy to offer whatever assistance I can.  Such a comment, of course, would not be published! 

And for that coming home, we are assured, "... there is joy before the angels of God ..." (Luke 15:7; RSV).

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Taking time out!

It's been a funny (strange!) old day.  Yesterday, I had sent two separate e-mails (in beautiful French, of course) to the garage in which my car had lain for a full two months.  I had expected a reply by, at least, this morning.  However, I had no internet connection when I awoke, and had to wait until about 1.00 p.m. before I was able to be re-connected!  Then, when I checked my e-mails, there was no message from the garage!

I sent off another e-mail and, praise the Lord, it was eventually answered with the wonderful news that the car was now ready for collection!  My friend Emeline drove me to Audincourt - and I was able to drive myself back! :-)  Tomorrow, I leave L'Isle and start the journey home - unfortunately without my navigator of more than 40 years!  It could be an interesting trip!

It was while I was awaiting the internet connection that I realised how totally helpless I was in this situtation.  I was, in a very real sense, completely dependent upon others - and had been for my time here.  Yet the time wasn't entirely wasted.  There is no doubt that the extent of my French vocabulary has improved, as has my spoken French (although I am still a long way away from anything resembling fluency!).  And I, who am usually such an active person, have been obliged to 'take things easy' in a way that would probably not have happened otherwise.

That's not a bad thing.  There is a well-known story about a man who is strolling through the woods when he hears a sawing noise. Investigating, the nature-lover sees another man perspiring profusely as he attempts to cut down a large tree."What are you doing?" the observer asks.   "I'm cutting down this tree, can't you see?" is the response."No, I mean, it looks like you have been working hard. How long have you been doing this?"   "Two hours."  "Why don't you take some time to sharpen the saw? It will make things go much faster and easier." "I don't have time to do that - I've got to cut down this tree"!!!

Sometimes, we simply have to take 'time out'.  Even the Almighty took time to rest after the wonder of Creation (Gen.2:2).   He gave the original command to have one day in seven as a day of rest and recuperation (Ex.20:8) - and not as a restriction, because later Jesus declared that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark.2:27).

Jesus demonstrated this need to take time to 'sharpen the saw' as He often went off to a solitary place, there to spend time in prayer, and in a close communion with the Father - and that in spite of the many demands that were being made upon Him!   So, I guess that if He needed to take time to rest, we ought to do the same - being careful not to go to the other extreme of doing nothing at all!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Solitude v. Loneliness

An intermittent connection has meant that I have been unable to post for a couple of days.  However, the connection is steady at the moment, and so I am 'making the most of the time'. (see Eph.5:16; RSV).

It is, of course, Sunday and, normally, I would be at a worship sevice somewhere - either as a part of the gathered congregation in LCC, or leading the service elsewhere.  It was earlier this morning that I received a message from a dear Christian friend who is a GLO missionary here in France - unforunately, in physical terms, almost as far away from me as it is possible to be while still in this country!  She mentioned that she had been thinking about me, and had realised that she had never asked me what I have been doing on a Sunday.  She probably realised that there is no evangelical witness here in L'Isle - nor, as far as I can find out, in the immediately surrounding area.  I am, to all intents and purposes, in 'Christian solitude'!   

But I am not alone!  As I thought about my friend's loving concern, I recalled an incident from my days in the British Merchant Navy.  Although still a very young, and immature, disciple of Jesus, I wanted to provide some sort of witness.  Part of that was my attendance at the weekly 'Divine Service' on board the ship - open to both passengers and crew-members.  However, when we were in port on a Sunday, that activity didn't take place, and I took the opportunity to attend a local service of worship.  On some occasions, I was able to pick and choose from a number of possibilities but, on others, the constraints of time meant that I had to go to the closest place of worship to where the ship was berthed.  

One of the latter occasions was in Melbourne, Australia, and the church in question was of the Episcopal persuasion.  The building, as I recall, was a magnificent red sandstone edifice in Gothic style, with high, arching ceiling, and beautiful stained glass windows.  It was much larger than the building in which I worshipped at home, and could probably have seated some seven to eight hundred worshippers.  My attendance was certainly noticed - all by myself, that Sunday morning, I managed to increase the size of the total numbers present by 50%!  Yes, apart from me, there was the vicar, and the vicar's wife!

In those far-off days, I knew nothing about Episcopal liturgy, and Collects (set, daily, prayers) - although I have since made use of some of them in leading congregations in worship.  We came to the communion, and it was then that I had a moment of revelation, as that dear man uttered words with which he and his wife were presumably so familiar, but that came as a ray of light and understanding to their young visitor.  "Therefore, with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious Name; evermore praising Thee, and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory: Glory be to Thee, O Lord most High"

I realised, at that moment, that even although there were only three human bodies in that vast sanctuary, we were not alone.  Because we were surrounded by, and one with, an unseen host who, in a dimension that we were (and are) incapable of comprehending, were worshipping the same Triune God - and doing so with a purity of heart and purpose to which we could do no more than aspire!

So, as I sit here in L'Isle-sur-le-Doubs this Sunday morning, I am in solitude - but I am not alone.  As I read God's Word, and as I pray; as I listen to "the songs of Zion", and join in with those whose voices have been recorded; I am joined by angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, in praising and magnifying His glorious Name.  And, of course, I have the constancy of His own presence Who has promised: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." (Heb.13:5).

Solitude - it's not so bad, if one is not alone!


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Communist Rebels Decapitate Indian Pastor in front of Wife

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on September 4, communist rebels decapitated a pastor and cut up his body after murdering him in Valam Guve Village, India. They also badly assaulted his wife.

Pastor Pangi Papa Rao and his wife, Chittamma, were returning from a prayer meeting at 3:30 PM when the masked communists stopped them. The pastor told them his name and explained that he and his wife were returning home from a prayer meeting. As soon as they heard the pastor’s name, they murdered him in front of his wife and severely beat her.

The communists (Maoists) gave a statement to the local newspaper that they were responsible for the pastor’s death. They said they had killed him because the pastor was an informant for the government of India. They warned others that they also would receive the same kind of punishment.

ICC sources say the pastor was a dedicated Christian and never worked as an informant of the government. He is survived by his wife and 19-year-old daughter. Pastor Rao’s church had close to 40 members; the congregation now attends a nearby church.

Communist (Maoist) rebels have been fighting the government of India for several years. They have strong support among landless farmers and tribal groups.

ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, Jonathan Racho, said “We are deeply saddened by the murder of Pastor Rao. We strongly condemn the brutal murder of the pastor and the assault of his wife. We urge Indian officials to protect its citizens from such heinous crime.”

Such events are seldom, if ever, reported by the secular media.  Please pass this information on to as many as possible.

Battle of Britain Day

Today, as any student of modern history - and indeed, anyone who keeps abreast of the news - knows, is the day set aside to mark the Battle of Britain.  It was on  June 18th, 1940, that Winston Churchill gave a speech to the British people, announcing: "The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin."  That battle was, primarily, for supremacy of the skies over the English Channel and south-eastern Britain and, within a short time, it had started in earnest.  However, by the end of October, 1940, the R.A.F. had demonstrated its overalll superiority.

One of the best-known of Mr Churchill's many memorable sayings refers to the bravery, and skill, of those R.A.F. pilots - over 500 of whom died during those momentous weeks alone - is " Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few."  And it is true that, without the heroic efforts of 'the few', Hitler and his Nazi party might have achieved the domination of Europe that they craved.  Of course, there are those - myself included - who believe that he used entirely the wrong strategy.  The E.U. has done a much better job of removing one cherished freedom after another, and we no longer have politicians of the calibre of Winston Churchill (although he had many flaws that are often overlooked!) to lead us, and to stand up to tyranny, however well it might seek to cloak itself in political respectability!

However, my mind has been going back to an event that, with all due respect to the memory of Mr Churchill, far outweighs even the achievements of 'the few'.  I think of a hill called Calvary, outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem, as it was some 2,000 years ago.  I think of a cross, and of the Man Who hung there - with two other men, one on each side.  But it is the One in the middle Who is the focus of attention.  For this Man - Jesus, from Nazareth - had made some astounding claims in the previous three years.  He had, in effect, claimed that He was God; and it was for that blasphemy that the Jewish hierarchy had insisted that the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, have Him sentenced to death (John 19:7).

But what a death!  The Jewish prophet, Isaiah, had been allowed, centuries before, to have a glimpse into future time.  And he recorded what he saw: "He was despised and rejected - a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.  We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way.  He was despised, and we did not care.  Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins!  But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed.  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God's paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.  He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. Unjustly condemned, He was led away." (53:3-8; NLT - my emphases).

 And the result of that death?  His glorious victory over sin, and hell, and the grave!  It is through Him, and Him alone, that men and women, boys and girls, may know full salvation - forgiveness of sin, and the assurance of eternal life.  The conflict was, and is, spiritual, rather than physical.  So Paul reminds the early church in the Ephesus: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12, NIV).  That salvation is available to all, and attainable by all.  It 'only' requires confession of my sinfulness, and my inability to do anything about it; acceptance that His death has paid the penalty for my sin; submission of my whole life to Him, as both Saviour and Lord; and sharing about Him with others whom I know and meet.

John records: "... I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, 'Salvation comes from our God Who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!'" (Rev 7:9-10; NLT).


One cannot get fewer people than one!  So, without detracting from the actions, and successes, of those Battle of Britain fighter pilots, of Him, it may be much more truly said that "Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to One Man."   Glory to His Name..

Monday, 13 September 2010

Priorities!!

I was both shocked and angered when I read a comment by someone who is not one of my own list of Facebook friends (but is on the list of a mutual friend) that she had been to the petshop to buy puppy shampoo, puppy deoderant and, wait for it, puppy toothpaste and a puppy toothbrush!!!  This pampered puppy pooch was then, apparently, taken into the shower!

Now I am as big an animal lover as anyone, and would never knowingly cause harm or distress to any domestic animal.  But toothbrush and toothpaste; deoderant; shower!!!!   Do these people, who consider themselves to be Christians, live with their heads in the clouds - "too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly use"??

Last week, as it happens, was World Water Week, when world leaders gathered together in Stockholm to wrestle with the problems arising from the shortage of water in some of the world's poorest nations.  But let's give the puppy a shower!   Across the world, almost 900 million people live without clean water.  But let's give the puppy a shower!  More than 2.5 billion people have no access to safe sanitation.  But let's give the puppy a shower!  Unclean water is the second biggest cause of children's deaths.  But let's give the puppy a shower - and don't forget to spray on the deoderant, and brush its teeth!!

I find myself asking if the owners of this cosseted canine are aware of the floods in Pakistan - and the serious concerns about outbreaks of watery diarrhoea and dysentery, and even cholera and similar water-borne diseases ; famine in Niger; persecution of Christians - often to the point of death - in more countries than some would like to believe; a despearate need for Bibles in many countries; an appeal for wind-up radios to enable isolated believers to receive sound teaching, and others to be able to hear the Gospel message; and those who seek to work in such areas always short of funds.

Now I know that I am answerable for only my own actions - and that includes my giving.  And I realise that my using less water in the UK (or here in France) doesn't provide an extra drop in Pakistan, or drought-stricken areas of Ethiopia.  But, surely, it's a matter of attitude and priorities.  I don't know the cost of puppy toothbrushes and the rest.  I do know that that money would be far better spent on providing such a basic necessity for a child in Liberia or some other such poverty-stricken country.

Jesus said: "... just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." (Matt 7:20; NLT).   It is not my place to judge anyone else - but I do find myself wondering what the actions of this family, with regard to a dog, says about their priorities!  They probably don't even know that this blog exists!  But if this post speaks to just one person, that in itself might save the life of just one child.  That would make it very worthwhile.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

God, Dawking, and all that is!!

I've recently been involved in some discussion threads in the online editions of a couple ofthe 'quality' newspapers.  A lot of the discussion has come about from the alleged statement, by Prof Stephen Hawking, to the effect that God is no longer necessary!!

Obviously, the materialistic humanists are rubbing their hands with glee.  An eminenet astrophysicist has spoken - it must be so!!  Many of them won't even be aware that Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century German philosopher and author, made the claim a long time ago!  They certainly won't know that he was merely claiming that human beings are no longer able to believe in any such cosmic order since they themselves no longer recognise it!  They probably wouldn't want to know that, in the relevant book, Nietzsche has the words "God is dead" uttered by a madman!!!

Personally, I perceive a simple logic. The Creator, by definition, must be 'uncreated'. I used to inform pupils who asked me the question: "If God created everything, who/what created God?", that it was a giant cricket-bat. That led to the obvious question as to who/what created the giant cricket-bat. After a couple more, equally silly, suggestions, I came back to "God" - it's something of a circular argument!

The bottom line, surely, is that even as eminent an academic as Prof Hawking needs to accept that we have a simple choice - either an uncreated 'piece of matter/gravitational force/laws of physics/whatever' or an uncreated, intelligent, personal Being to Whom, in the English language, we normally apply the nomenclature "God". I make my choice; Prof Hawking makes his choice; and everyone else does the same.
I would have thought that it is really quite elementary!

One reader was kind enough to say that, when I wrote in the above terms, I had provided a good post!  However, (s)he did object to my statement that " The Creator, by definition, must be 'uncreated'."  Yet surely that which is 'created' is 'created' by a 'creator' - and this is true of any of the material objects with which we are familiar. It's not an original thought, but I can't imagine anyone thinking that even something as common (and relatively lacking in complexity) as the internal combustion engine having come together 'by chance'. It was 'created' by someone. We don't even fully understand the concept of time, let alone the greater concept of infinity/eternity. This, I would suggest, is because we are incapable of understanding anything that is not fully material. Yet even Prof Hawking postulates a ten-dimensional universe. What do we even begin to understand about those other dimensions?

When I look at the known (a very important adjective, in this case!) universe, with all of its, so-far, discovered laws, I am over-awed by its complexity, order, and predictability. For me, it is much more difficult, and would take a much greater 'leap of faith' to accept that it is merely the result of random coincidences (I know that I am being simplistc, but I am merely trying to make a point!).

The difficulty with the concept of a Creator God, it seems to me, is that of authority! So many want to follow Frank Sinatra and say "I did it my way". They refuse to be subject to a higher power. So, the easiest thing to do is to deny the existence of that power!

I would suggest that one of Prof Hawking's additional dimensions is the spiritual dimension. It's a wee bit more difficult to grasp than the time-space continuum with which all of us are familiar. But that is not sufficient cause to deny its existence!

Shakespeare may have been much closer to the 'truth' when he had his character Hamlet state that "There are stranger things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are thought of in your philosophies"! And, as mentioned in my last post, Einstein said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Thoughtful one-liners!

I've been gathering up so many useful quotations, recently, that I thought it was time that I shared a few more.  They are not given in any particular order of either preference or importance, although one or two do seem particularly applicable to my own ongoing situation in France!

"Not everything that can be counted, counts; and not everything that counts, can be counted".  (Albert Einstein)

"The most important things in life aren't things."  (from Rick de Koster: one of my Dutch friends)

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness."  (Martin Luther)

"Christianity has not been tried and found to be wanting; it has been found to be difficult, and not tried!"  (G.K.Chesterton)

"To be almost saved is to be totally lost"  ('Wayside pulpit'; New Paris, Ohio)

"When things don't go your way, God has plans of His own.  Better plans!"  (Word for Today, UCB)

"Motivation gets you through the day, but inspiration lasts a lifetime."  (Nick Vujicic - born without hands,
arms, or legs: just one 'chicken drumstick'! Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc4HGQHgeFE   if you dare!)

"Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done"  (Louis Brandeis)

"If you don't like the way you were born ... try being born again!"  ('Wayside pulpit'; Mobile, Alabama)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

SOMALIA – Militants murder Christian and snatch children for military training

The following has just arrived in my mail-box and, since Somalia seems to only be in the secular news when there is piracy on the high seas, or when a westerner has been taken hostage, I want to highlight the activities of those who deal in death, violence, and abduction against Christians.

Al Shabaab insurgents in Somalia are reported to have murdered a Christian and abducted his four children for military training.  Extremists shot dead Osman Abdullah Fataho in front of his wife and children at their home in Afgoi near Mogadishu – before kidnapping the woman and her family on July 21.  They later released Osman's wife – but kept her children, who are aged five, seven, ten and 15, according to Compass Direct news agency. Compass sources suggest the children will be forcibly converted to Islam and turned into child soldiers.

Osman, who was 'deeply involved' in the activities of his secret Christian community, is reported to have been raised as a Muslim – making him an obvious target for Al Shabaab.The insurgents are determined to extend Sharia or strict Islamic law across Somalia – and are actively targeting Christians, murdering at least 15 of them last year alone. Al Shabaab recently outlawed bell-ringing at the end of school classes – because it evoked the sound of church bells.  Compass Direct reports that this and other instances of anti-Christian violence have forced several leaders of Somalia's underground Christian movement to flee their homes and go into hiding.

Those of us who are disciples of Jesus would want to ask God to comfort and strengthen Osman's grieving and traumatised family, and to pray that his children will be rescued and reunited with their mother.  We would also want to pray that God will protect and multiply His church in Somalia so that they will 'shine like stars' in this troubled land (Philippians 2:15).

Post-teaching pleasure!!!

It's heading for 35 years since I was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament within the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian).  Shortly afterwards, I became a parish minister in Bellshill, and looked forward to many years of preaching the Gospel message within that congregation, and to any other to which the Lord might call me.

As those who have known me for most of those years are aware, this was not to be.  A disagreement with the Kirk over who are the proper subjects for water baptism (I came to the conclusion that, Biblically, only those who were able to make their own profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, should be baptised) led me into the teaching profession as a teacher of Religious (and, late, Moral) Education, and History; and with one break, that was my life right up until I walked out of the classroom - and the school - for the last time, over a year ago.

What I did not expect, at that time, was that I would end up with so many of my former pupils requesting me to accept them as 'friends' on what was then my fairly new Facebook page.  I haven't counted the exact number, but it must be reaching close to 50, and they are all so kind in their comments - some of those who are still pupils even asking me to return! :-)

I mention the fact to demonstrate this wonderful truth that one never knows exactly what the Lord has in store in any given situation.  Most of the former pupils with whom I am in contact want little more than a wee online blether - and I am happy to provide that (it helps to keep me young!!).   However, some have been asking serious questions; one has commented that it is great to be able to talk with me without the 'disturbance' of a class of noisy teenagers; a number, unknown to me, have been following my blog; one has even become a 'follower'!  All of this means that there is the possibility that, for some of them at least, I may continue to be a positive influence on their lives, and for this, I give thanks.  I don't want to 'polish my own halo' too much (!!), but it would seem that being an approachable teacher is paying off!

It's also a helpful reminder that, at some time in the future, I may be so glad that I have had these weeks in L'Isle.  Who, other than the Lord, can say what will result from this experience - in a year's time; or two years; or five years; or whenever?  Meanwhile, I'll enjoy this new type of relationship with so many young people, and pray for them on a regular basis.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Personal Update!

A telephone-call today, made by an English speaking friend here in L'Isle, has helped to clarify the situation with regard to the repair of my car!  It would appear that the authorisation that I was told had been received was for no more than to examine the car!!!  They have now done so, and were awaiting someone from Opel to come to inspect it.  The person failed to arrive!  They have now sent photographs of the 'damage' and are awaiting a reply.

I have instructed them to start the work regardless (as I told them ages ago!), but they want a signed declaration that, if Opel say that the work is not covered by the Warranty, then I will pay.   They are faxing something to my friend this afternoon.  They also want a deposit - refundable if Opel meet the charges - as, understandably, they wouldn't even have a car to sell if I walked away from the situation! (Not a great demand for RHD cars in this neck of the woods!).  I don't think that they fully realise how much I am not going to walk away.  I only want to drive away - and then drive home!

They have also told us that it will be at least a full week's work, so the earliest I will be home is now Sat.18th.!!

My younger daughter finds the situation almost unbelievable - and I can fully understand (as can her mum and elder sister!).  She wanted to know how I am managing to cope.  I suppose that the answer to that is on different levels.  There are, quite naturally, times when I shed a wee tear.  If I didn't, I would have to question the reality of the love that I constantly express for each of them.  At that level, the answer is sometimes: "With difficulty"!

However, I am also keeping myself fairly busy, mostly with work on my book project on Getting to know you - Great Words of the Christian Faith - an obvious contender for the Booker Prize next year!!!!  It's amazing how much research one can do, in our modern technological society, even without access to a Library (or at least a Library with the material for which I would be looking!).

The deepest level, of course, is best described by the Psalmist: "YHWH is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song." (Ps 28:7; NIV) 

I am also helped by remembering that I am here in relative comfort.  The caravan is a modern one, with all of the required conveniences; I have clothing; I have sufficient funds to ensure that I won't go hungry; I have some new friends who are proving to be so in very practical ways; having access to the internet, means that I am able to speak with my loved ones via Skype; I have CDs, and MP3 files to allow me to sing; I have health and strength; I have the freedom to continue to read God's Word, and to pray.  Comparing this with the lot of so many - particularly those who, in N.Korea, parts of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, northern Nigeria, parts of India, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and so many other countries, suffer great privation, false imprisonment, torture, and even death for the sake of the Lord Jesus - I am sooooo well off.  That is why I can still praise Him.  I also remember that, from His vantage point in eternity, He saw all of this before I was even born, in time. He is the One Who knows the end from the beginning, and He knows exactly how all of this will pan out! 

So, I take comfort.  As the old saying has it: "I don't know what the future holds; but I know the One Who holds the future."  With that sort of hope in my heart, I reckon that I'll manage to cope!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What is a Christian?

Sometimes I despair!  So many who claim to be followers of the Christ, yet whose every action seems to indicate that they are a million miles away from His character, His example, and His teaching.  George W. Bush and Tony Blair both claimed to be "Christian".  Yet they 'led' their respective countries into two major invasions that, between them, have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands - mostly civilian!  By the way, I placed the word 'led' in single quotation marks because, of course, they didn't actually lead.  One might have had some measure of, albeit grudging, respect for them had they donned uniform, and been found in the front line.  I suspect that neither man would have had the courage to do so.  It's much easier to send others - some still in their teens - to do one's fighting for one, and to die in the process!

However, now it's even a group who claim to be 'evangelical' Christians!  Today's Telegraph newspaper had an article about them.  "The Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, has launched 'International Burn a Koran Day' to coincide with this weekend's anniversary of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in protest at what it calls "the evil of Islam".  'We will burn the Koran in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil,' said the Christian group."

Now I am certainly not here to defend Islam at any level, least of all the extremism that led to '9/11', and to other atrocities both before and since.   However, I have to ask, as does Gen.Petraeus, the U.S.of A. military commander in Afghanistan, what this group hopes to gain from this display.  Jesus said to His disciples: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matt 10:16; RSV).  I see little wisdom in the proposed action of this group.  It will only make even moderate Muslims - who hold the physical Qur'an in much higher regard than many 'Christians' hold the Bible! - become more extreme, and politicised, in their views (and actions?!).

It is to be hoped that these misguided people will think again, and cancel their proposed action; rather than simply provide propoganda fuel for those whom they oppose.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Ability to Wait Well

In the light of what I have already written, and my ongoing situation here in L'Isle-sur-le-Doubs, today's reading from The Word for Today seems to be particularly appropriate. I reproduce it, here, in its entirety.

'My soul, wait silently for God...' Psalm 62:5
Daniel Coleman calls the ability to wait well 'the master attitude'. Having it requires three qualities. First, humility. '...as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters...So our eyes look to the Lord...' (Psalm 123:2 NKJV). The story's told about a man who waited so long to see his doctor that he ended up sending the doctor a bill for his time! Seriously, in life there's a correlation between status and waiting. Lower status people generally wait for higher status ones, and the wise learn to wait with grace. Waiting reminds us that we're not in charge; it humbles us in ways we need to be humbled Second, trust. 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding' (Proverbs 3:5 NKJV). Among trapeze artists, a special relationship exists between the flyer and the catcher. Once the flyer lets go, he must trust the catcher to grab him. Likewise, we must do what God tells us, then wait for Him, even when we don't clearly see His hand at work. Those are the seasons that deepen and develop our faith. Finally, expectation. 'My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.'(Psalm 62:5 NKJV) Eugene Peterson writes, 'In prayer, we are aware that God is in action, and that when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place, and when our hearts are prepared, He will call us into action. Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.' So the word for you today is, 'Learn to wait well, it's the master attitude!'

[The Word for Today is published by United Christian Broadcasters, and is available, free of charge to UK residents, from UCB using the online request form, and also online at www.ucb.co.uk ]

The importance of Hope.

According to news reports in recent days, a number of the relatives of the trapped Chilean miners have established a makeshift camp near to the head of the mineshaft. They have named it "Camp Hope".

Most, if not all, of those who are likely to read this post will be familiar with the old adage "Where there's life, there's hope." However, I can recall many instances in which it has also been shown that "Where there's hope, there's life."!

Of course, I'm not referring to hope as the sort of unfounded assertion of Charles Dickens' character, Mr Micawber, that "something will turn up"! I'm thinking of the hope that is described throughout the written Word of God - the Bible. This is a good hope; a God-based hope; a positively expectant outlook on future time - yes, and even beyond!

Hope was the very life of Israel. Jeremiah speaks of YHWH as being "... the hope of Israel" (17:13); and Joel says that YHWH is "... a hope (refuge) to His people" (3:16). The Psalms, too, are full of such references. "And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You." (39:7) Towards the end of the Psalter, another of the psalmists declares "... happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob; whose hope is in YHWH, his God." (146:5). Even in that most mournful of books, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet is able to burst out: "I say to myself, 'YHWH is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in Him'." (3:24)

Then when we move into the the pages of the New Testament, we find the belief that the ancient prophecies have been fulfilled; that the promised Kingdom is at hand; the promised Messiah has come in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. The world into which He was born was, in many ways, a world not unlike our own - an age in which, for many, hope had faded, and faith had benn lost. But the N.T. writers show that, in that same Jesus, hope has been restored and renewed.(see Acts 26:6)

Paul, on trial before the High Council of the Jewish people, cries out: "... I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!" (Acts 23:6) Writing to the infant church in the great metropolis of Rome, he assures them that "... endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (5:4-5; NLT). Towards the end of that same letter, he prays "... that God, the source of hope , will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." (15:13).

The writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus is certain that "... Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God's entire house. And we are God's house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ." (3:6); while Peter, in his first pastoral letter, encourages his readers (now, as well as then!), in a situation of persecution: "... even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it." (3:14-15).

Yes, while there is life, there is hope. But without hope, a situation can become unbearable. Just be sure that your hope is placed in the One Who is the Hope of the world, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Forty years on!

Me, my 'new' wife, and Mr Duncan
Today is a day of somewhat mixed emotions!  It was on Sept 4th, 1970, that I stood in front of the Rev. George B. Duncan, in St.George's-Tron Parish Church in the heart of Glasgow, as a vision in white walked steadily towards me, on her father's arm.  Within a very short time, that beautiful young girl had become my wife, and she has stood by me, faithfully, for these forty years - supporting me, encouraging me, loving me more than I have ever deserved.  She has given me two wonderful daughters, who have been a constant source of joy to us both.  I constantly thank God for bringing, and keeping, us together.

All of that is not to say that there have never been any difficult times in the past forty years.  Since we are, each of us, fallen human creatures, that would be a ridiculous claim to make.  However, I am able to say, with total confidence, that the good has far outweighed the not-so-good (and there hasn't been anything that I could describe as 'bad').

The happy couple.
Sadly, it is also the first of our wedding anniversaries on which I have not been able to take my wee wife in my arms to tell her that I love her. :-(   I continue to wait for the return of my car, in order that I might tow the caravan home.  Unfortunately, I was informed, yesterday, that the work hasn't even been started!  To say that my wife, and family, and I were (are!) unhappy would probably be one of the understatements of the decade (remembering that, as a 'purist', I don't count the first decade of the 21st century as ending until Dec 31st 2010!).  It will now be Monday before I will be able to find out anything more!  At least my command of the French language is improving!  Je suis trés irrité.  La situation est ridicul!

Writing to the disciples of Jesus in first-century Colossae, Paul prayed "... that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father." (Col 1:11-12; NLT).  Perhaps even more pertinently, for me (!), he wrote to Titus: "Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience." (Titus 2:2; NLT).

I have to think, again, of those 33 Chilean miners, whose separation from their loved ones is going to be a lot longer than mine.  And I have to think of so many, in the persecuted church, whose loved ones are taken away - often without any warning - and incarcerated in conditions that can be described, at best, as inhumane.  I have to think of those whose suffering is for no other reason than their steadfast faith in, and allegiance to, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Some of them have waited, patiently, for years before they have been reunited.  Some have never been reunited at all!

We value the concern, and prayerful support, of a number of dear friends at this time.  Let us all remember to support, in every way possible, those whose situations make ours seem pleasant by comparison!

Friday, 3 September 2010

A Brutal Terror Attack in the West Bank

On Tuesday — the eve of U.S.-led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians (the Biblical Philistines) — four Israelis driving in the south Hebron hills near the West Bank town of Kiryat Arba were ambushed by terrorists. Their car was sprayed with bullets at close range and all were killed. One of the victims, it was reported, was pregnant. Among the dead are a married couple, Yitzhak and Tali Ames, who left behind six children, including an 18-month-old baby.

A statement released following the attack by the Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, said that Hamas takes "full responsibility for the heroic operation (just what is 'heroic' about an ambush??) in Hebron." One Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, called the attack "a natural response by the Palestinian resistance to the enemy's crimes." In Hamas-ruled Gaza, the mood was jubilant; photos from the area showed crowds celebrating in the streets, and Hamas supporters handing out sweets to occupants of passing cars.

The reality of such an attack — the thought that there are those who would not only perpetrate it but proudly claim responsibility for it and even celebrate it — is almost too horrible to contemplate. And yet we must face up to that reality — in order to try to bring the perpetrators to justice, to ensure against such a thing ever happening again, and, just as important, to come to a full understanding of the nature of Israel's enemies.

The fact is that the hatred Hamas and other radical Islamist groups feel for Jews and Israel is real. Those consumed by such hatred do not seek peaceful co-existence with Israel. Indeed, there are no possible changes in policy, no territorial concessions, no compromises that Israel could make that would satisfy them. They seek only one thing: the total elimination of the Jewish state.

The terrorists who committed this atrocity undoubtedly were attempting to sabotage peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians currently taking place in Washington. In this, they failed — the talks began as scheduled on Wednesday. Sadly, their attempt cost four innocent Israelis their lives.

The Bible tells us, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18), and promises that God "will keep in perfect peace" those who trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3). May God comfort and give His peace to those who are brokenhearted over the loss of the four men and women murdered in this cowardly attack — and may the peace that only He can give guide the talks in Washington, fill the streets of the Holy Land, and permeate our hearts as we go about His redeeming work in our broken world.

(With acknowledgement to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews - www.ifcj.org)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

He's Coming!

It is neither my desire, nor my intention, to advertise on behalf of a well-known 'fast-food' chain! However, an advert in today's online Metro caught my eye. It is for Burger King, and the main headline reads: "HE'S COMING. 04.09.10" in very large print. At this stage, I could find no indication as to the identity of the 'HE'!

In Matthew 24, the Gospel-writer records a long discourse by the Lord Jesus, in which He speaks in private to the inner band of His disciples about His return. It's a subject for a book, not a blog-post, but just a few thoughts immediately spring to mind.

1. He's coming! The final promise in the New Testament refers to that momentous event in human history - and there are many other references throughout the foregoing pages, including Matt.24:30.

2. Burger King may be able to accurately predict when the 'He' in their advert is coming, but no-one knows when the Lord Jesus will return. "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son Himself. Only the Father knows." (Matt 24:36)

3. It will be sudden! "... as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes." (Luke 17:24; see also Matt.24:50). I have seen many lightning storms in my lifetime - many of them quite spectacular! I've watched, in awe, as a flash streaks across the night sky, suddenly bringing light.

4. Everyone alive on the earth at that moment, will see His return. Luke records the strange saying of Jesus that "... two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left." (Luke 17:34-36). In other words, at a time when most people believed that the world was flat, and the sun and moon travelled around it, Jesus was indicating that, at His return, some will be asleep in their beds, while others (in a different time-zone) will be at their daily work.

5. There will be signs that the time is 'close' (I put that word in single quotation marks because God's 'close' and our 'close' are not necessarily the same! See II Peter 3:8). Matt.24:6ff indicates what some of the signs will be.

6. We must be prepared before the event - it will be too late afterwards! Jesus used the illustration of the universal flood in the days of Noah. "When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah's day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn't realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes." (Matt 24:37-39). He went on to say: "So you, too, must keep watch! For you don't know what day your Lord is coming." (v. 41).

I was never a member of the Scout movement (although I have held almost every available rank in the Boys' Brigade!), but I have always liked their motto: "Be prepared". It applies to each one of us with regard to the return of Jesus - not as a helpless babe, but as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Burger King is not, I would suggest, the place in which to learn about theology, or predictive prophecy! But their current advertisement is a useful reminder: He is coming - and it may be sooner than we think!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel!

Yesterday, my good friend Jean (John!) drove me to Audincourt to check out the situation with regard to my car. If I have understood correctly (and that is always an important 'if'!) then Opel have given the go-ahead to have damage to the crank-case attended to, under warranty. :-) Unfortunately, it would appear that there might be further damage discovered - that will require further clearance from Opel before it may be repaired free of charge! However, it's all a move in the right direction, and I am rejoicing in that!

I can understand the situation. I recall the days when, as a young chef, I would offer to do some cleaning in my mum's kitchen. She loved it! As soon as I had attended to one part, I realised that it made another part look grubby. So I cleaned it as well. Before I knew it, my mum had a kitchen that was gleaming and fresh.

The Christian life is a bit like that as well. When I first recognised my own sinfulness, I came to the Saviour for cleansing. However, no sooner had He cleansed me of the sins that were, even to me, so obvious, than He showed me some others of which I had hardly been aware! Like my mum's kitchen, the clean bit showed up the dirt of the rest; like my car (potentially!), one repair may show up further damage.

Of course, no analogy is, itself, anywhere near to perfect. And there are aspects of the Christian life that don't fit the above analogies at all. I could have that kitchen sparkling; my car will, eventually, be as good as new. Life, sadly, isn't as straightforward as that!

Sanctification is an important concept for the true disciple of Jesus. It's a reminder that, while as soon as I make that conscious decision to follow Him I am justified (i.e. Father God looks upon me, "just-as-if-I'd" never sinned), I will never be perfect while I inhabit this sinful body. Only when I reach my heavenly home - either through physical death, or because the Lord has returned and taken His faithful people to the great marriage-supper of the Lamb - will I be like Him, and see Him, as He truly is. (cf. I John 3:2). Only then at the end of this tunnel of human life, with all of its constraints and restrictions, will I truly see Him Who dwells "in light, inaccesible, hid from our eyes". (Walter C. Smith). Only then will I "... understand fully, even as I have been fully understood." (I Cor 13:12; RSV).

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