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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Special Treat!

In just a few hours, our younger daughter is collecting her mum and dad to drive them into the great metropolis (aka Glasgow).  There we are to board a coach that leaves at 0300 hrs (!!) to take us down to Southampton.  This is in order that we may board a cruise liner to set off on an eighteen-day cruise in the Mediterranean!!  :-)

It's a special treat to each other in celebration of (now slightly more than!) forty years of marriage!  When we return, we may even start saving for our next one - in another forty years!!!

One of the sad facts of our modern 'western' culture is the decreasing numbers of couples who manage to achieve their Ruby wedding anniversary.  Of course, it's all to do with (a) relationships that are based on little more than a physical infatuation (aka 'lust'); (b) a lack of real commitment, that leads to divorce being seen as the easy way out of whet maight well have turned out to be a temporary difficulty; (c) failure to communicate with one another, in any meaningful way [the occasional 'grunt' across the breakfast table - even assuming they sit down to have breakfast together - doesn't count!]; (d) a lack of something truly cohesive in the relationship; (e) rushing into marriage without fully understanding the need for (a) to (d).

This, I would maintain, is the benefit of a truly Christian marriage (which is not the same as a so-called 'church wedding'!).  With Jesus at the centre of the relationship, any cracks are soon mended.  In Mills & Boon and the like, an 'eternal triangle' is a disaster - him, her, and the other (wo)man.  But when the eternal triangle is husband, wife, and the Lord, one has a recipe for genuine success.

I am more grateful than I can ever say, for the wife the Lord gave to me all those years ago - for her love, faithfulness, support, encouragement, and companionship. 

We may be heading towards the realm of "Darby and Joan", but I'll happily spend another forty years with her, if the Rapture is delayed, and we are spared that long.

PS  No further posts until we return - but please feel free to look over some of the past ones; and to listen to some of the audio messages at revcbross.blogspot.com

Sunday, 23 January 2011

What does Jesus mean to me?

The following is copied from the Jan-Jun 2010 issue of READY - the magazine of SASRA (the Soldiers' and Airmen's Scripture Readers Association).  It seemed an appropriate offering on this Lord's Day - especially after my most recent posts!

"What does Jesus mean to me?
Jesus?
My Jesus?
Boring?
Irrelevant?
Just another figure from history?
Or, even, an imaginary figure who has never existed?
Jesus?
Not my Jesus.

My Jesus is the reason I can no longer sing the hymn 'Amazing Grace' without tears tumbling down my cheeks.
My Jesus is the One Who, last year, carried me on His back.
When I was stretched, almost to breaking point, He held me in the palm of His hand.
Jesus?
Boring?
Irrelevant?
Not my Jesus.

My Jesus is alive today - as He was yesterday, as He will be tomorrow.
My Jesus is the central character in the greatest story ever told - and it's not finished yet!
My Jesus is all-knowing, and all-seeing.
My Jesus is perfect, yet forgiving - so forgiving that He loves 'a wretch like me'.  So forgiving.

And that's just as well, as I need an immense amount of forgiveness.
My Jesus is my 'strength and shield'.  Alone I am so weak; with Him, I am invincible.
For the victory has already been won.  My Strength; my Shield; my Saviour
From Him, there is no condemnation - not even of me!
From Him, there is only love.

My Jesus.  My Saviour.
Lord of lords, and King of kings.
Creator of the universe.
Powerful in His majesty.
Yet He wants to know - me!
How wonderful.
My Jesus."                                          (Mark Bunting; 14th June, 2009)

On this Sunday evening, may my Jesus be your Jesus too!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Baroness Warsi should broaden her vision!

 The following is the text of a letter that I have just sent to The (Glasgow) Herald newspaper.  It will, as always, be interesting to see if it is published!

"From what little I have heard and seen of Baroness Warsi, co-chair of the Conservative Party, I have concluded that she is an intelligent and charming person.  How unfortunate, then, that the noble Lady should have come out with the biassed statements, reported in the media, regarding alleged discrimination against the Muslim community in Britain.

Perhaps Baroness Warsi could direct me to the Muslim B&B owners who, like the Christian Mr and Mrs Bull - owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel near Penzance - have been targetted by the homosexual lobby; prosecuted; and been found guilty of upholding moral values which the Baroness, as a devout Muslim, would surely have upheld herself!  She might also be willing to direct me to the Muslim counsellor who, like Lesley Pilkington, a Christian counsellor with over 20 years’ experience, is facing a Professional Conduct Panel, after an extraordinary targeting and betrayal by an undercover homosexual activist falsely pretending to be a Christian (or in that case, a Muslim) in need of help.  This particular situation, regarding Ms Pilkington, has apparently been compounded by alleged intimidation of a witness who was to speak on her behalf! 

These are just two instances on which I have posted, this week, on my blog.  I could go on to mention many more over the past year - many of them, by the way, involving the homosexual lobby!  While admittedly outwith the UK, and unlikely to be the topic of conversation around the dinner tables of Surbiton, I would be grateful for the noble Lady's opinion of the Islamist extremists in Somalia who, on January 7th, murdered a mother-of-four, in front of her community, after tapping her 'phone for proof that she had become a Christian. Would the Baroness be happy to be associated with such an atrocity since she has declared that the practice of describing Muslims as either “moderate” or “extremist” fosters prejudice against all Muslims.  Are not those Somali Muslims 'extremists'?  Is not the Baroness a 'moderate'?

Once again, it would seem that it is the indigenous (well, for many centuries!) Christian belief-system that is the only one that may be regularly and consistently attacked with apparent impunity.  Not that we disciples of Jesus should be surprised!  We are only seeing, in our generation, that which has already been foretold - see, e.g., Matt.24:4-14; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19."

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Christian mother-of-four murdered by Islamist extremists.

Islamist extremists in Somalia murdered a mother-of-four, in front of her community, after tapping her phone for proof that she had become a Christian.

Al Shabaab militants arrested Asha Mberwa at her home in Warbhigly village on the outskirts of Mogadishu on January 7 – and cut her throat in front of villagers the following day. One of Asha's relatives, who spoke to Compass Direct news agency on condition of anonymity, said he believed al Shabaab had monitored calls between him and Asha on January 5.  He said he presumed that the militants had been able to confirm she had become a Christian through their conversation. He was trying to make arrangements for her family to leave the area.

Asha, who was 36, had been receiving threatening messages for some time, he said.
Asha's four children – who are aged between four and 12 – are being cared for but are said to be very distressed. Their father, Abdinazir Mohammed Hassan, who was not at home at the time of his wife's murder, has reportedly fled and gone into hiding.

Al Shabaab insurgents control much of southern and central Somalia and are trying to impose strict Sharia (Islamic law) across the country. The transitional Government in Mogadishu has also embraced a version of Sharia which makes apostasy – leaving Islam – a capital offence.

We pray God's perfect peace, healing, comfort and protection over Asha's family; and we continue to pray for the church in Somalia, which has been forced underground by both government policy and extremists' threats, asking God to build Somali Christians' faith, and multiply their number, for His glory.

And it goes on!

Hard on the heels of Monday's news, as posted below, comes intimation that Peter and Hazelmary Bull, owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel near Penzance, have been found guilty of having acted illegally by denying Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a double-bedded room at the hotel.

After the hearing Mrs Bull, 66, whose husband is in hospital undergoing a triple heart bypass operation, said: “The same laws used against us have been used to shut down faith-based adoption agencies.
“Much is said about ‘equality and diversity’ but it seems some people are more equal than ­others.
“We are trying to live and work in accordance with our Christian faith. As a result we have been sued and fined £3,600.
“We don’t expect everyone to agree with our beliefs, but we want them to live in accordance with our values under our own roof.”

While totally opposed to this judgement in principle, I am also angry that while the Bulls had to pay all of their own costs (supported by a Christian organisation that, itself, depends on donations), the homosexuals were supported by a government-funded agency - in other words, as a taxpayer, I was obliged to support their case!

I also seem to recall reports, during the trial, that evidence was introduced that this pair had booked, by telephone, as "Mr & Mrs", and that their true identities were only revealed when they arrived. If this is correct, surely this case should go to appeal as it would appear that there was a clear element of entrapment!

Alan Craig, leader of the Christian Peoples' Alliance, called on MPs to “... come out of the closet and speak up for the Penzance Martyrs”.  He said: “This legal ruling underlines that when there’s a clash of rights, sexual individualism trumps the rights of religious expression." and went on to ask the pertinent question: "Will the gay lobby now try to spin the same trick in a Muslim-owned hotel?"

I have stated before, and state again, that while many of us have a deep concern for those disciples of Jesus who are beng persecuted - often to death (see post above) - in some 50 countries around the world; and while we are grateful for the measure of freedom that we continue to enjoy in this country; it is an undeniable fact that the Christian faith is being increasingly mocked, macerated, and marginalised even here.

Of course, I would also contend that the Church itself must shoulder a large portion of the responsibiity for this sad state of affairs.  For decades, the leaders of the various denominations (the Church of Rome, I have to admit, has often been the honourable exception!) have stood silently by while the secular humanists, with their strident calls for 'equality', have steadily eroded the very bedrock of the nation - the Biblical principles on which it was founded.

I am grateful, however, that I serve the Creator God Who, from His vantage point of eternity, sees all of time simultaneously.  Nothing ever surprises Him, and He is still in control.  That day is nearer now than it has ever been when "... at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:10-11; RSV).

"'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints." (Rev 22:20-21; RSV).

Monday, 17 January 2011

Christian counsellor targeted by homosexual journalist

Lesley Pilkington, a Christian counsellor with over 20 years’ experience is facing a Professional Conduct Panel on Thursday 20 January after an extraordinary targeting and betrayal by an undercover homosexual activist falsely pretending to be a Christian in need of help.

Lesley is being represented by Standing Counsel to the Christian Legal Centre, Paul Diamond.  She has to defend herself against a formal complaint by Patrick Strudwick, a homosexual writer and activist who met her at a Christian conference. Acting undercover, he told Lesley that he wanted to leave his homosexual lifestyle and wanted help to change. Lesley confirmed that she would be happy to meet with Patrick but only within a Christian counselling context.

Throughout the two subsequent therapy sessions, Patrick repeatedly told Lesley that he wanted to leave his homosexual lifestyle and that he wanted to change.  However, after the sessions (which he secretly recorded), he then lodged a complaint to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy alleging that Lesley had tried to force her beliefs on him.

Those offering counselling for men and women wanting to change their homosexual behaviour have been increasingly targeted by the homosexual lobby, many of whom do not accept that people can change their behaviour. Since writing the article, Patrick has become a campaigner against those offering such treatments and has organised protests at various religious conventions. He has stated in interviews that no-one can change their sexual orientation and attempts to do so are extremely harmful.

However, in 2006, the homosexual rights activist Peter Tatchell wrote in The Guardian: ‘Much as I would love to go along with the fashionable "born gay" consensus (it would be very politically convenient), I can't. The evidence does not support the idea that sexuality is a fixed biological given.’

Mr Strudwick also published an attacking article in The Independent newspaper about Lesley, subsequently receiving the journalist of the year award by the homosexual-rights organisation Stonewall!

Unfortunately, those offering counselling for homosexual orientation have been increasingly targeted by the homosexual lobby.

Lesley is a wonderful, highly professional Christian counsellor, who has practised for many years with an unblemished record.  When a young man asked for help to change his behaviour, she was happy to give it. Rather than breaching his autonomy, Lesley provided exactly what was asked of her. It is shocking that she was targeted, lied to and misrepresented by this homosexual activist; and even worse that her professional body consider her actions worthy of investigation.

I would hope that many would also support Lesley in prayer over the coming days.

What's in a (Christian) name?

Last week, the Pope caused an unexpected stir when he complained about the use of "un-Christian names" being given to Italian children.  According to one newspaper report, he said that "Every baptised child acquires the character of the son of God, beginning with their Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be born anew in the womb of the Church." He added that a name was an "indelible seal" that set children off on a lifelong "journey of religious faith".(The Telegraph; 11-01-11)

While not agreeing with all of the pope's Roman paedobaptist perceptions, it must be admitted that some of the names that modern parents inflict upon their newborn children are somewhat ridiculous!  Glamour model, Katie Price, named her daughter Princess Tiaamii; while Sir Bob Geldof has daughters named Pixie and Peaches; and Victoria and David Beckham called their first son Brooklyn, after the district of New York where, allegedly, he was conceived!  I reckon that, when he is older, he will at least be glad that his parents weren't holidaying in Thailand at the time - especially if they had decided to spend the night in
Krungthepmahanakornamornratanakosinmahintarayutthayamahadilokphopnopparatrajathaniburiromudomrajaniwesmahasatharnamornphimarnavatarnsathitsakkattiyavisanukamprasit (yes, that really is the one name of a real place - but please don't ask me to pronounce it!)!
So what is a Christian name?  Well, my understanding has always been that it was the new name that, in the early days of the church, a believer took on at baptism as a further sign of the new life on which (s)he had now embarked.  Of course, this was 'believers' baptism'.  In other words, the new name signified the new life - it wasn't that a name was given in order to 'ensure' that new life by being "... an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be born anew in the womb of the [Roman] Church."
This is why I have, for longer than I care to admit, been opposed to the use of the term "Christian name" on various forms, and am pleased to see the increasing use of 'Forename' or even 'Personal name' - each of which is much more accurate, I would submit, in an increasingly secular society.  My 'given name' is what my parents chose, and what was added to my birth certificate.  When I became a disciple of Jesus, some 15 years later, I didn't change my name, or take on a 'Christian name'!  If I were to do so now, I suspect that I would plump for Peter - not because of his 'sainthood' (in New Testament terms, every follower of Jesus is a 'saint'!), but because, like him, I so often deny my Saviour and Lord by my words, and deeds and, particularly, my thoughts!  Ever wondered why Paul writes so often about the need to have one's mind renewed, and to think on those things that are good and honourable? (see, for example, Rom.12:2 and Phil.4:8).
Of course, the important thing is not as much to have a specifically Christian name, as to live the life that seeks to please the Lord in all that we do.   Jesus' words, as recorded for us in Matt.7:15-23, may be seen to be relevant here!
One note of concern is the report that, according to official statistics, the most popular name for newborns in Britain is Mohammed, after the Islamic prophet. A total of 7,549 newborns were apparently given variations of the name last year.  On the not unreasonable assumption that that name is not going to be given to many non-Muslim children, then it is an indication of what may be seen as the continuing Islamification of the country.  If I am correct, then those of us who seek to be faithful (if not always very successful!) followers of the Lord Jesus, may well be obliged to adopt a truly Christian name - and be prepared for the kind of persecution that may be seen in so many countries around the world today.
Our hope is in the assurance that He will never leave us, nor forsake us; and that He is never surprised by events on planet Earth!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Acts of God?

These past days have seen much reporting of natural disasters - what are still sometimes referred to as 'acts of God' (which is really a bit unfair, as He tends not to receive the congratulations when good things happen!).

The major events have been the severe flooding in the state of Queensland, Australia - and now, also, in Victoria State, and parts of New South Wales; and in both Brazil and Sri Lanka.  Because these tragic events, that have resulted in both death and devastation, have been caused by particular weather conditions associated with La Niña (the little girl!) - the extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocea!  It is, however, easy to blame 'Mother Nature' ( if one does not accept the existence of any divine being, or even force), or Father God (if one does)!  Some have, apparently, even seen these disasters as some form of punishment by God, much as the AIDS epidemic was once heralded as a punishment on homosexual activity.

Yet a reasoned look at these situations can come up with a somewhat different story!  Those homes that have been so badly effected in Australia are, reportedly, built in areas known as 'flood plains' - in other words, areas that are prone to flooding.  In Brazil, much of the damage, and the higher number of deaths, are apparently due to the fact that unstable homes had been built on hillsides that are prone to mudslides - mudslides, I suspect, that are due, in no small measure, to deforestation with the resultant lack of tree roots to bind the soil and keep it in place.  In Sri Lanka, there is the added complication of landmines that may have been unearthed by the flood waters as they recede - landmines left over from the civil war that ravaged that island nation until so recently.

In other words, much of the devastation is not a 'punishment from God', but the consequences of mankind's own actions.  It was the same with the AIDS epidemic - it wasn't a punishment, it was (and is) a consequence of unnatural behaviour.  Most people appear not to have worked out that that may be why certain behaviour is prohibited, and condemned, in the Bible!

Of course, the weather conditions do have a part to play.  Yet even that is, ultimately, the responsibility of a fallen mankind.  God's written Word makes clear that, when God had completed His creation, He "...  looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good!" (Gen 1:31; NLT).  Sadly mankind, in the persons of the first couple permitted, by their disobediance, the entrance of evil into the world.  And, because of that, we read, God said that "... the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, ..." (Gen 3:17-18; NLT).  Paul expands this, when writing to the Roman disciples of Jesus: "For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Rom 8:22; NLT).  We live in a fallen world and, contrary to the theories put forward by the secular humanistic evolutionists, it is not getting better - it is, quite demonstrably, getting worse!

It's not a pleasant prospect!  But, praise God, it isn't the whole story either.  For that same Word assures us that, just as individual lives are renewed when we confess our sinfulness, and look to the Lord Jesus for full and free salvation; even so, there will be a new earth (and a new heaven - but that's too big a subject for a blog post!) in which, as it was in the beginning, "God's home [will be] among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." (Rev 21:3-4; NLT).

It's a wonderful prospect for those who are His.  Be sure that you are among that number!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sacrifice v. selfishness.

Having been 'laid low' for the past week, with my lower back muscles in spasm, I confess to having neglected this blog.  However, I have still managed to listen to various news programmes on the radio, and have been struck by the contrast shown in two items.

When floods hit the town of Toowomba near Brisbane on Monday, Jordan Rice, 13, became trapped with his mother and younger brother in their car. When a truck driver arrived to pull the family to safety, Jordan told him to save his 10-year-old brother Blake first. The younger brother survived, but rescuers were unable to return for Jordan and his mother, both of  whom died. His father said: "I can only imagine what was going on inside to give up his life to save his brother, even though he was petrified of water. He is our little hero."

Meanwhile, at the Parliamentary Select Committee hearing this week, Mr. Bob Diamond, the new boss of Barclay's Bank (and who earned a reported £11 million last year) suggested that it was time for bankers to “stop apologising” for themselves.  The subject of 'Bankers' bonuses' was the dominant theme at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday, following the additional news that Eric Daniels of Lloyds Banking Group is apparently to receive payments to the tune of £2m;  while Stephen Hester of RBS, has allegedly awarded himself £2.3 million in bonuses.  Mind you, beside Mr Diamond's reported income, these two gentlemen mus feel quite hard done by!

When my children were young, I sought to point them in the direction of good role-models.  Whilst never seeking to glamourise poverty, I know which of the above I would be pointing them towards, today.
Jesus said: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13; RSV).  He also said (although Mr Diamond appeared not to know this!) that "... it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt 19:23-24; RSV).  And forget the idea that is sometimes spouted about 'the eye of a needle' referring to a low gateway.  It referred to 'the eye of a needle'!  

Jesus' further words, as recorded in Luke 16, also remind us of the problem that will, ultimately, face all of those who have placed their trust in money.  The rich man, after his physical death, and after he had passsed through that thin veil that separates time from eternity, recognised his mistake!  Sadly, he also discovered that it was too late to do anything about it - even for his own brothers.

Perhaps Mr Diamond, and his ilk, should do what finacial advisers often advise, and 'plan for the future'.  We will all have the timelessness of eternity to consider the choices we make now!


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

From Time to Eternity - a spiritual journey!

The final chapter in the book on which I am currently working, is to be on the subject of eternity.  Now I have to agree that 'etenity' is not a word that is specific to the Christian faith (as are most of the words with which I am dealing), but it is certainly a word that applies to it.  I also have to confess that I have neither an academically scientific background, nor any relevant qualifications.  However, I have taken an interest in astronomy since a very early age and, over recent years, have taken an increasing interest in the world of quantum physics.

One to the concepts that fascinates me is the relationship between time and eternity.  This is something on which physicists have been working for years, but I have been looking at it from a Biblical perspective as well!
It is accepted by modern physicists that time, as we know it, has a beginning and an end.  It is, indeed, one of the four physical dimensions that make up the 'time-space continuum' in which we exist, and that is our common experience (the other three are, of course, length, breadth, and height/depth).

What I find to be fascinating is the contention of modern physicists that there are between ten and twelve dimensions in the known universe (and, as I have often pointed out, that adjective is of the utmost importance!), including another time dimension.  That other time dimension, according to Stephen Hawking, may be visualised as being at right angles to the linear time of our experience (past, present, and future), and touches it at all points!  When I first read that, I immediately thought to myself that, in theological terms, he was referring to eternity!

I touched on this a few posts ago (actually, Nov.30th!), with my analogy of a submarine in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  And it's the closeness of the two dimensions that excites me.  It assures me that the One Who inhabits eternity is, indeed, able to touch my life in time; it encourages me that He hears every prayer (and every other word!) that I utter, and sees every action that I take; it reminds me that, as Paul informed the Athenians, "... He is not far from each one of us," (Acts 17:27; RSV).

Nowadays, as I sit at my personal devotions, I am increasingly conscious that I can reach out my hand, and almost 'touch' that which is, indeed, eternal; I am encouraged that, at the moment of my physical death (if the Rapture is delayed long enough!) it will be, quite literally, a case of "... absent from the body, and ... present with the Lord." (II Cor 5:8; KJV); I rejoice that, in the 'timelessnss' of eternity, I will 'arrive' simultaneously with the saints of every age!

These are mind-blowing thoughts - but I am convinced that, while there is much I do not, and may never, know, I am on the right track.  As I prepare for that chapter in the book, I may well return to the subject in the blog!  (and, don't forget, that the latest day's post(s) are now also on my trial website at http://thepreacherspage.moonfruit.com/).  Anyone who is more knowledgeable is welcome to correct me, or add to my own knowledge, via the comment facility!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

New website!!

I have been very happy keeping up with my blog site(s) for just over three years!  However, for a long time, it has been my desire to have a proper website.  Having discovered a means of having such a site free of charge (my Dutch friends will be impressed!!), I have made a start at

http://thepreacherspage.moonfruit.com/

If this is successful, than I may well progress even further to a paid-for site that will allow me much more scope.  This blog will continue, for the foreseeable future, and is replicated in the site (but only on a daily basis - archiving will still be here!).

Please visit the new site - which like me, as a disciple of Jesus, is still "a work in progress"! - and let me know what you think.  There is a Guestbook page, and it would be good to see some (positive!!) comments left thereon!

Shalom!

Heroes????

The headline merely stated what I have heard on news programmes over the last couple of days: "Barmy Ashes party for fans and cricket heroes".  Yes, in case there was anyone who was unaware of the fact, the English cricket team managed an apparently four-times-a-century victory over Australia, to win the Ashes trophy.

Actually, I have been confused about the whole series!  Five matches in total but, after having drawn one, lost one, and won two (i.e. a total of four) we were being informed that the Ashes had been retained!  What would have happened if Australia had won the fifth test?  My simple maths would have made that a draw!  Explanations, please, as comments!

But what is this silly business of referring to a bunch of cricket-bat-wielding sportsmen as 'heroes'?  How nonsensical can reporters and journalists be?  What is heroic about winning a sporting competition?  Commendable, perhaps; even inspiring (especially in events such as the Paralympics); but heroic?!!!

All that the use of such a word, in this context, does is to devalue it when it is applied to those who truly deserve it.  I think of those members of the Royal Logistic Corps who regularly risk - and, sadly, sometimes lose - their lives defusing Improvised Explosive Devices in Afghanistan; I think of firefighters, going into blazing buildings to rescue a fellow human being; I think of the volunteer members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, heading out to sea, in atrocious conditions, to save the lives of those in peril.

Those, and many others like them, are worthy of the description 'heroes' - not a bunch of cricketers who will doubtless now be the focus of advertising companies who will pay them handsomely to front the ad for some item of sportswear.

I think, too, of a hill called Calvary where, almost 2,000 years ago, on a Roman cross, a man voluntarily gave His life - not just for one or two, or even for a whole squad, but for all of mankind.  And He did so, not just to save their physical lives, but to give them the opportunity of eternal life - the very life of God, here and now.  He was, of course, Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son, the promised Messiah, Whose incarnation many of us celebrated just a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, just as I have the right to walk ahead of the bomb disposal expert (and get myself blown up); or to insist that I remain in the burning room when the firefighter arrives to rescue me; or go down with my boat in a raging storm when the lifeboat is alongside; so I have the right to reject the salvation that is offered through Jesus, the greatest Hero of them all.

Except that the latter is infinitely more foolish than the rest!

Burn, pillage, rape!

I'm uncertain as to how historically accurate that heading is when it comes to the Viking invasions of the British Isles in the 9th to 11th centuries A.D.  However, the 'rape' aspect was much in the news yesterday with reports of  two Asian men who were jailed for subjecting a series of vulnerable girls to rapes and sexual assaults.  The men were the ring leaders of a gang that befriended girls aged from 12 to 18 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.

Former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, claimed that while Pakistanis are not the only people who commit sexual offences, "... there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men ... who target vulnerable young white girls."  "... they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care ... who they think are easy meat.  And because they're vulnerable they ply them with gifts, they give them drugs, and then of course they're trapped."   I am not one of Mr Straw's natural defenders/supporters but, in this case, I am with him all the way.


That is more than can be said for his Labour Party colleague Mr Keith Vaz.  He, not unexpectedly, has stated that he does not believe there was a "cultural problem" and has called for a high-level investigation of such grooming across the UK.  Certainly, it is wrong to place the blame at just one national background/heritage; but even Mr Martin Narey, chief executive of the childrens' charity, Barnardos, stated that in the area of sexual abuse, "... there is an over-representation of people from minority ethnic groups – Afghans, people from Arabic nations."

None of this comes as a surprise to those of us who keep a watch on the situation of the persecuted church in some fifty countries around the world - many of them Arabic/Muslim countries.  We know that Christian girls, and young women, are systematically physically and sexually abused, and raped, by Muslim males from teenagers to grandfathers.  In many of these countries (Pakistan being one of them) such attacks are made with apparent impunity - as long as the female is from a Christian family, she is of no value!

In July, 2010, a third-year Christian student nurse was unconscious for 56 hours after a Muslim doctor and his accomplices allegedly beat, tortured and raped her at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi, over several hours – then tried to silence her. The doctor was reported as having a history of abusing Christian nurses with impunity at the teaching hospital – an example of Christian women being treated as an under-class in Pakistan. The nurse's family reported that they had received threats from the doctor.

Two months earlier, a 14 year‐old girl was drugged and then raped by two Muslim boys after they had abducted her from her school in Kamboh colony, Lahore.  The girl was waiting for her younger sister after school when the two 17-year-olds overpowered her, took her away by motorbike, and forced her to consume a soft drink containing tranquilisers. Shortly after being raped by each boy she lost consciousness. She was found on the road near the school gate by a neighbour after her mother raised the alarm.

As one who has often stated that rape is a more heinous crime than even murder, I have every sympathy with the girls from the Derby area, and trust that they will each receive a measure of counselling that will enable them to recover from the crimes committed against them - psychologically and emotionally, as well as physically.  I also trust that their ordeal will have heightened public awareness of what is all too common-place in those countries where it is the Christian minority who are seen as "easy meat"!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Death of a Muslim Governor

For some reason, it appears not to have been mentioned on the early evening TV news programme that I watched, so I am grateful for the radio programme to which I listened on my way home from the gym. 
The news items was that the Governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, had been gunned down by one of his own bodyguards as he stepped from his car in Islamabad's Kohsar market, a favoured haunt of westerners and wealthy Pakistanis.

Reports claim that the reason for the assassination was Governor Taseed's support for the repeal (or, at least, amendment) of Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws - laws which, as regular readers of this blog will be aware, are (ab)used indiscriminately to settle old scores and grudges against any of the minority groups in that country (and even against fellow-Muslims!).

The assassination raises some interesting questions.  The Governor had a detail of bodyguards, yet it would appear that the murderer was able to shoot his victim at least nine times, and then quietly drop his weapon and surrender.  One is obliged to ask why the other bodyguards did not intervene, and possibly save the Governor's life?  Was the murderer just one of a larger group, any of whom might have been chosen for this dastardly deed?

The question of the vetting of bodyguards also arises.  How could it be that this man's extremist views could have gone un-noticed?  Was no-one aware that he was so opposed to the stand taken by the Governor - who had even publicly visited Asia Bibi, the Christian woman currently under sentence of death for alleged blasphemy against the Islamic prophet, Muhammad?  Mind you, since a Muslim would be the first to insist that Muhammad neither was, nor is, divine; and since blasphemy is a vocal insult against God; one wonders how Islamic nations manage to square that particular circle!!

To the best of my knowledge, Governor Taseed was a devout (albeit, enlightened) Muslim, but I am thankful for his outspoken criticism of the blasphemy laws - criticism that has now cost him his life.  I pray that his family will find peace; that his country will act justly; that his legacy will be the repeal of those very laws that he realised are so draconian.

I also pray for Shahbaz Bhatti - the government minister for minorities - who is under constant threat of death for his own attempts to have those blaspehemy laws repealed.  And I pray against the extremism, and fanaticism, of those who seem to believe that the only answer to those who disagree with them is destruction, devastation, and death.

I invite you to join with me.

Monday, 3 January 2011

And that's the truth!

It was, undoubtedly, purely coincidental that, having watched a particular film on television this afternoon, I then read that the average adult in Britain, today, tells three lies daily!  (The response of some will almost certainly be, "What!  Only three??!").

The film was "Liar, Liar", and was based on the wish of a child that his lawyer father (divorced from his mother), who never kept the promises that he made to his son, would be unable to tell any untruths for the following 24 hours.  It certainly made for some amusing scenes - and made me wonder what my own life would be like if I was to be as (brutally) honest!

I suspect that most of us are less than absolutely honest in certain situations.  I'm not talking about the dishonesty that gives inaccurate information on an Income Tax Return form; or that lies about one's experience and qualifications when undergoing a job interview; or that doesn't tell the checkout operator, whom one has involved in conversation, that (s)he has just given one change from a £20 note, when one actually handed over a £10 note.  That sort of dishonesty is fraud, and is always wrong. 

Most of us, however, would claim that telling an untruth in order not to offend someone else, is acceptable.  If my wife asks me what I think about her new hair-style, I don't suppose that I will state, bluntly, that "It looks a mess" - even if that is what I think!  And when a small child accomplishes something that is actually very simple, would not most parents tell him/her what a clever child they are?  Even as a teacher, I would often seek to encourage a pupil with what was, in reality, exaggerated praise over some minor accomplishment.

However, I often point out that, in a Court of Law, one swears/affirms that the evidence to be given is, "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."  In other words, if I am called upon to provide such evidence, I must neither detract from it, nor embellish it.  I must tell it - exactly as it is.

For those who are thus inclined (and even for those who are not!) it is an interesting exercise to study the number of times that it is recorded of the Lord Jesus that He spoke "the truth".   Of course, on one well-known occasion, as He stood before the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, the official asked Him "What is truth?" (John18:38).  Jesus had already given the answer to that question when, in answer to another one asked by Thomas, He had said, "I am the Way, the Truth , and the Life.  No one can come to the Father except through Me." (John 14:16).

It is as we become like Him (the process known as sanctification), that we are able to be more truthful; it is as we walk in His Way, that we experience real Life - "life in all its fulness" (John 10:10).

May that be the personal experience of all of us during the coming year.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

24

I have watched some episodes of a couple of the series of the TV programme '24'.  For anyone who doesn't know it (and to the best of my understanding!), each series is the story of 24 hours in the life of a Federal Agent in the U.S.of A. - and, understandably, always involves a very dramatic situation.

As I type, it is (in the UK) almost the end of the first 24 hours of 2011.  It's been quite an interesting start to the year!

A prison riot, after which a number of those allegedly responsible for the burning down prison buildings - including a number of accomodation blocs - have been 'rehoused'.  Of course, it is not they who will pick up the tab for the clearing and reconstruction work.  It will, as usual, be 'the government' (aka the taxpayer!!).  Interestingly, the root cause of the riot, and the resulting conflagration was, apparently, alcohol!

Fuel price rises have also been announced - something that will, of course, hit everyone, because even those who don't own and maintain a car will be paying extra for their groceries etc., as the haulage companies are forced to increase their charges to the shops.

Another report informs me that I would have to work for 24 days just to pay off my portion of the interest on the debts left by the previous government - under the ever-watchful eyes of Mr Bliar (still not a typo!), and 'Prudence' Brown!

And so it goes on!  I am so grateful that there is One on Whom I can depend as I step out into this brave new 2011.  As Marie Louise Haskins (1876-1957) said so well in those words quoted by King George VI, during his Christmas message in 1939:

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: "Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!". And he replied: "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way." So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night...."

May we all seek His guidance during the coming months - and beyond!