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Friday, 31 December 2010

A Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A child was born!

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

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

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

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

Monday, 27 December 2010

363 shopping days until Christmas 2011!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Nativity

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

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

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

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

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


A very Happy CHRISTmas to one and all.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

More inaccuracy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever happened to accuracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 December 2010

This is police work?

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

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

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

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

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

Human Rights - for whom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

An Englishman's home is his castle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 December 2010

Confidentiality - or Hypocrisy?

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

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

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

Equality?

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

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

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

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

PS  Thanks, Rick.  You're a star! :-)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Funny???!!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Another brutal killing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What is a man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 5 December 2010

When you least expect it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 3 December 2010

Priorities??

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 2 December 2010

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

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

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

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

Advent Message - slight change!

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