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Monday, 28 February 2011

The "disease" of Christian morality!

In a landmark decision, the British High Court has ruled that a Christian couple are unfit to be foster parents, in spite of an apparently un blemished record in raising four children of their own, and another fourteen foster children - many of whom are reported as keeping in touch with the couple they still refer to as 'Mum' and 'Dad'.
The stated reason behind this judgement is the simple fact that the couple involved are opposed to the practice of homosexuality, and stated that they would not teach any child in their care that such a lifestyle is perfectly acceptable!  Indeed, one newspaper report states that the couple were told, by the EHCR (Equalities and Human Rights Commission - the taxpayer funded Quango that provides the financial support for so many - if not all - of these pre-homosexuality, anti-Christian, legal cases), that their moral views might "infect" a child.  Since when did morality - of any flavour - become an infection?!  

In the same newspaper report, we read that Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the homosexual/lesbian/bisexual lobby group, Stonewall (is it so named, I wonder, because these perverse, unnatural, unions are incapable of producing life - it is, in effect, 'stonewalled'?) said: "We're delighted that the High Court's landmark decision has favoured 21st century decency above 19th century prejudice."   "21st century decency"!!!!!  Since when did such sexual activity as that indulged in by these sorry people - who continually bleat about tolerance for themselves, while constantly, and consistently, denying it to others - become worthy of the description "decent"?

Mr, Summerskill goes on to claim that the views of the couple in question "... aren't just out of step with the majority of people in modern Britain (I must have missed that particular referendum!), but those of many Christians, too.  If you wish to be involved in the delivery of a public service, you should be prepared to provide it fairly to anyone."   I wonder how Mr Summerskill defines the term "Christian"!  He certainly appears to have no idea as to its Biblical definition - a committed disciple of Jesus.  I would also like to see his documented evidence for that claim as well!  I know that neither I, nor any of my  Biblical Christian friends, have ever been canvassed for our opinion!  As for 'public service' - as a former foster-parent myself, I can assure Mr Summerkill that the fostering of children (many of whom have come from situations, and circumstances, that have left them extremely vulnerable) is much, much, more than a 'public service'!

So, once again, it would seem that an evil abomination has triumphed.  However, many of my readers will be aware of the book by American sociologist, Tony Campolo: "It's Friday - but Sunday's coming".  It's a reminder that, on the first Good Friday, everything looked black for the disciples of Jesus.  Their Master had been arrested, and crucified; and His body had been laid in a tomb.  Who was going to be next?  Then came Sunday - the first Easter Day; the Day of Resurrection!  What a difference that made to those cowed men and women.  Filled now with a fresh hope; shortly to be filled with the power of God the Holy Spirit; they went out to be those who "... turned the world upside-down." (Acts 17:6).

The days may be dark for the people of God.  The next move may well be to have the natural children of Christian parents removed from their care lest they, too, be 'infected with Christian moral values'!  Let the state look after them, and inculcate them with secular values - that have proved to be so beneficial to society at large (NOT!).  But we continue to take heart, because "... He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (I John 4:4; RSV) and, as the old chorus reminded us: "God is still on the throne".

One final thought - when will the first case of prospective Muslim foster-parents being denied the opportunity to provide a loving caring home because they, too, would not be prepared to teach any child in their care that a homosexual/lesbian/bisexual lifestyle is perfectly acceptable, come to court?  I await that case with interest!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Empty words.

The headline reads: "Nicolas Sarkozy calls for Col Gaddafi to step down", and the article below contains the interesting information that, "Mr Gaddafi must leave," Sarkozy told a news conference with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Ankara. However, he indicated that he would not back direct action to force the president out."

In the same article, it is reported that David Cameron "... called for UN sanctions on the regime and probes into potential war crimes."The violence we have seen is appalling and unacceptable," Mr Cameron told broadcasters. He warned Libya: "The world is watching you and the world will hold you to account."

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

True freedom.

As I type, further reports are coming in of the atrocities that are being experienced in Libya, as the president of more than 40 years, Muammar Gadaffi, appears to be adpting a 'scorched earth' policy in the country.  The basic aim of such a policy seems to be "I know that I'm on my way out, but if I can't continue to control the country as a dictator, I'm going to leave as little as possible for anyone else to lead."!

But what are the Libyan people seeking?  The one word that crops up, time and time again, is the word "Freedom".  What, then, is freedom?  I suppose that it could be defined as "release from tyranny" - and that would certainly seem to be the desire of vast numbers of Libyans, many of whom have already paid with their own lives.

However, the greatest tyranny known to mankind is the tyranny of sin.  Sadly, no amount of protesting - peaceful or otherwise - is able to deal with that!  Indeed, the only answer is the shedding of blood  - not the blood of human beings who, however sincere, are themselves sinners.  The Gospel message is so simple - "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).  What makes it difficult for some is that, like Naaman of old (see II Kings 5), they want to have to do something for which they might take the credit.

The story is told of a man who died and (because it is a story!) arrived at the 'pearly gates'.  Peter was standing there, with a clipboard. (I 've said that it is just a story!).  He approached the man.  "Welcome", he said.  "Now, before I allow you through the gates, you'll have to get 100 points."  "100 points!", exclaimed the man.  "I wasn't warned about this!  How do I get them?"  "It's not too difficult." responded Peter.  "You just have to explain to me why you should be allowed to enter."

The man thought for a moment.  "Okay," he said, "I was a good husband and father."  "Well done," said Peter, "that gets you 3 points."   "Then," said the man, "I never cheated on my tax returns."  "Good," said Peter, "that gets you another 2 points."  The man's brow furrowed.  "Oh, of course," he went on, "I was a church elder, and went to church regularly."  "Amazing," responded Peter, "and another 2 points."

The man was becoming perplexed.  "How many points is that?" he asked.  "You've got 8 so far," came the reply.  "Oh dear", said the man.  "At this rate, nothing but the grace of God is going to get me in."  "100 points," said Peter, throwing the gates wide open.

It's only a story - and some of its 'theology' is less than perfect.  But the central point is true.  Nothing but the grace of God can assure us of eternity in His presence.  As the hymnwriter put it: "Not the labours of my hands can fulfil Thy law's demands."  It is grace, grace, God's grace - and grace alone.  And it not only brings the assurance of eternal life, here and now, but it also brings true freedom.

Friday, 18 February 2011

We're all in this together! (aren't we??)

The heading is the mantra of the British Prime Minister - and it has been for some time now, as he has pushed his concept of 'The Big Society' (i.e. more being left to the voluntary sector - much of which, in the UK, is of a specifically Christian nature!), and assured us that every sector of British society will feel the same economic pain as the country is dragged up from the mire in which the Blair/Brown governments left it.

However, although the wording sounds fine - hints of Churchill during the Second World War - the reality would appear to be rather different.  Bankers have had their bonuses reduced slightly - but have had massive salary increases in order to compensate!  The equally discredited European Union has ensured that it's officials have received inflation-busting salary hikes, and that the multitude of perks (at the ordinary person's expense) has been maintained - with no hint of real protest from the UK government.  Local councils are paying off front-line staff, who are on less (in some cases, much less) than £30,000 per year, so that the top executives can retain their healthy 'six-figure' salaries.  Even our Members of the Westminster Parliament appear to still be carping on about the paucity of their 'expenses'!

They could all learn from the Old Testament prophet, Nehemiah.  In the book that is known by his name, we read: "But now I said to them, 'You know very well what trouble we are in.  Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.  Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and end this disgrace'."  (Neh.2:17)

Notice the words we and us!  In order to motivate the Jewish people to rebuild the city wall, Nehemiah identified with their problem; with their need; and with their future.  It wasn't simply their problem.  It was his problem as well.  He recognised it as our problem!  And the people responded - gladly, positively, and energetically.

Can you imagine the response that Nehemiah would probably have received if he had said, "You folk are in a right mess - and it's one of your own making.  So, do you know what you need to do?  You need to rebuild that wall.  If you happen to need me, I'll be in my office.  Feel free to give me a shout.  But remember, I wasn't part of the problem.  You will just need to get on and do the work yoyurselves.  Oh, and do let me know how you get on!"

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of the Chrysler Motor Company at the height of the auto giant’s problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler’s union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler’s best interests at heart.

Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The gambit worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain. He identified with the workers. He was saying, 'We are in this together. And, together we can make it through.' He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when everybody is going through the trial together. If the followers know that the leader’s in with them, together they can move a mountain.

Perhaps those "at the top" in our current political-economic circumstances could take note - and even follow Mr
Iacocca's example!  (Is that a herd of pigs I hear flying overhead????)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

"I am the LORD"

Tunisia; Egypt; Yemen; Bahrain; Libya.  It sounds a wee bit like the battle honours of a British Regiment of Foot Soldiers.  What it is, of course, is a list of the Arab countries that have been affected by varying degrees of popular political unrest and demonstrations in just the past few weeks.

In October 1989, there would have been few who would have anticipated the fall of the 'Berlin Wall', and the beginning of the end of the U.S.S.R.  Yet on November 9th, 1989, that is exactly what happened!  Likewise, in December 2010, there were no forecasts of which I am aware, that two Arab dictators, of long standing, would soon be forced to flee their respective countries - and even have substantial parts of the personal fortunes that they had amassed during their years in power, frozen by the governments of some of the countries in which they had deposited.  How many more dictators will have fled before the end of this year?

Of course, although many in the politico-media world have been caught by surprise in all of this, there is One Who most certainly has not!  He is the One Who "... builds up nations, and He destroys them.  He expands nations, and He abandons them.  He strips kings of understanding and leaves them wandering in a pathless wasteland.  They grope in the darkness without a light.  He makes them stagger like drunkards." (Job 12:23-25; NLT).

Is such tumult and disorder - especially if it does continue to spread through the Arab world - a further sign that we are living in the end-times?  I certainly believe this to be the case.  While on our recent cruise, I was asked by one Welsh Christian brother if I believed that the end was close.  I responded in the affirmative.  "How close?", he enquired.  My answer was to use an illustration that I had used in a post shortly before we had left for our special treat.  I said that if time was to be illustrated by a submarine (the original reference was to the connection between time and eternity: see Nov.30th, 2010) with the bow (that's the front part!!) being the beginning of time, and the stern (the back end, where the propulsion is found!) representing the end of time, then we could probably reach out and touch the propellor!

Of course, the humanist-atheist-materialist will scoff at such an idea, unaware that his very scoffing is foretold in the written Word of God!  "Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, "What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created." (II Peter 3:3-4; NLT).  And Peter continues: "They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, and He brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then He used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.
But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.  The Lord isn't really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment
." (II Peter 3:5-10; NLT).

The current events have caught everyone by surprise; the coming Event will do likewise! Let us be sure that we are prepared for it, by placing our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for full salvation - confessing our sins; and seeking His forgiveness, and the indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Whatever would Valentine think??

Well, here I am, safely returned from a wonderful cruise with my dear wife. Apart from the early start - leaving Glasgow at 0300 hrs, just to drive past Motherwell some 25 mins later (but thanks to younger daughter for ferrying us to the Glasgow 'bus terminus), and an early disembarkation that required us to rise at 0545 yesterday (and thanks to elder daughter for collecting us in Glasgow, after we had passed Motherwell some 25 mins earlier!) - we had a wonderful time.  The ship was amazing; the crew were as friendly and helpful as they could possibly be; the food was superb; we visited some places that I had visited when I was in the Merchant Navy some (!!) years ago, some that we had visited before together, and some that we were both visiting for the first time; we met many lovely people (some of whom have already become friends) both on board and ashore; and I even had the opportunity to do some preaching, and some pastoral work!  My dear wife took part in the ship's equivalent of "The Weakest Link" (and aquitted herself well); and in the final evening Talent Show - as both a tap dancer and a solo singer.  I got involved in two debates: on Creation v. Evolution, and on the Death Penalty. We are both so grateful that we were able to celebrate, however belatedly, the forty years of marriage that the Lord has enabled us to enjoy together.

On our return, I had literally hundreds of e-mails in my Inbox - and this is spite of a very good 'spam' system with my provider.  It included almost 90 (including a few 'late ones') greetings as I celebrated another annual milestone, yesterday.  Each of those has now received a personal 'thank you' and, with only 163 messages still awaiting perusal, I decided that it was time to get blogging again!

One of the news items that was waiting for me was that the current UK government is planning to bring forward legislation that will, if passed by Parliament, change the whole meaning of marriage - certainly in any Christian context.  The current situation is that marriage is accepted as being the union of a man and a woman (it's an idea that's been around for quite a while!).  The 'civil partnership' of two homosexual men, or lesbian women (both states being perverse, unnatural and, most significantly, unproductive!) cannot, under current legislation, contain any religious element.  However, in a political "win" for Nick Clegg and his Lib-Dem party, the Coalition government wants to change the law so that such ceremonies should, for the first time, be allowed to have religious elements, such as hymn-singing and readings from the Bible. They could also, it is understood, be carried out in the future out by priests or other religious figures.

Sadly, there are those who claim to be followers of Jesus who are already welcoming such a change in the law.  As far as I am concerned, this is a clear case of nominality.  Of course, it is only to be expected in a nation in which the majority have so blatantly turned their backs on the God of their fathers, and prefer to follow the 'gods' of secular humanism, materialism, consumerism, and neo-Darwinian evolution.  Jesus' own words come to mind, as recorded in Matthew 7:15-23!

Recent legal action by the homosexual lobby (as referred to in previous posts) indicate that, if clergymen across the land, who are genuinely committed to upholding Biblical principles, refuse to carry out a marriage ceremony between homosexual partners, we would see cases of affronted 'couples' taking the matter to court in order to seek substantial damages.

What, on this his 'feast day', would Valentine think about it all?  I can't really say!  However, I do know that the God of the Bible - the Creator and Sustainer of all that is - condemns perverse sexual activity just as surely as He condemns murder, theft, heterosexual adultery, and everything else that is dishonouring to His Person, and contrary to His Word. 

"Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." (Matt 7:20; NLT).