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Monday, 30 May 2011

Abortion - the only way?

One interesting item of news in this morning's press was that abortion is moving back towards the centre of political debate!  It has been announced that the Coalition government has appointed pro-abstinence charity Life to a key sexual health forum, while omitting the pro-abortion British Pregnancy Advisory Service; and, at the same time, MPs Nadine Dorries and Frank Field are spearheading a new drive in parliament to tighten the rules on terminations as part of the health and social care bill.

Prayer vigils are taking place outside a number of abortion clinics, and those who attend are being gently reminded that this is a human life, that is precious to God, that is being terminated.  It is hoped that some may think again, and take advantage of the various supportive services that are available to those who are prepared to give their unborn child the opportunity to fulfil its potential. 

Let's not forget the mother who was a peasant with a family history of deafness, and who had already given birth to one mentally incapacitated child. She became pregnant by a mam who was an alcoholic and was afflicted with syphilis. If she had had an abortion, then there would have been no Ludwig von Beethoven; and the world would never have experienced some of the most moving, and magnificent music ever composed.

I recall a video that I used to show to my senior classes when we discussed the topic of abortion.  It was fronted by Pat Boone, and was simply called A Better Way.  Boone interviews people who found a 'better way' than abortion.  Interviewed are:
- A young girl who was helped in every way by her parents during her crisis;
- A young woman, peaceful and contented has her story told by her mother. The older woman tells of caring for her daughter whom she had conceived as a result of rape;
- A mature woman who conceived late in life and had been encouraged by doctors to abort. She introduces her son who was born healthy and intelligent in spite of her age at the time of conception.
He also interviews a very important couple who could not have babies but decided to adopt a family of children with special needs - children who might well have been aborted!

I also learned, recently, that Jane Russell, the film star who died  at the beginning of March, had an abortion when she was a teenager.  The experience left her unable to become pregnant again, and led her to be passionately pro-life.  "People should never, ever have an abortion," she declared.  "Don't talk to me about it being a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body.  The choice is between life and death."

Apparently, the young Jane "felt horrible" about the moral evil committed in the abortion - that was so badly botched that she, herself, nearly died.  However, in 1955 (12 years before David Steel's Abortion Bill became law in the UK), she founded the World Adoption International Fund, that helped find a place for more than 40,000 children!  She also adopted three children of her own - and left six grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren when she died.

Abortion need never be the answer.  There is always a better way! 

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Money, money, money!!

Three of today's news items would seem to stand in stark juxtaposition.  Each of them concerns the compensation culture that has become so much a part of the British way of life. 

The first concerns Sharon Shoesmith, the former Director of Social Services for the London Borough of Haringey who was in post at the time of the death of 17-month old Peter Connelly ('Baby P').  After an investigation into the running of the Department, she was sacked by the then Education Secretary, Ed Balls.  However, the Court of Appeal has ruled that she was the victim of "unfair procedure" in the manner in which the sacking took place.  This, it has been widely reported, leaves her open to claim her full salary and pension rights from the day of her dismissal in Dec. 2008 - a sum that could amount to almost £1 million!!!

The second has to do with an Austrian aristocrat, and multi-millionaire, Count Alfons Mensdorf-Pouilly, who was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over allegations of bribery and corruption at BAE, the British aerospace company.  The Count, who lives in a spacious hunting lodge in the remote Austrian town of Luising, also has a home in Vienna. His Scottish residence, Dalnaglar Castle in Glenshee, Perthshire, was commissioned by Lord Clyde, Queen Victoria’s banker, from what was a 16th century hunting lodge.  He was reportedly awarded the sum of £372,000 after the SFO discontinued its enquiries.  It would appear that he was detained in prison for six days - and deprived of a clean comb and "decent" underwear.  His comment when he learned of the size of this payout was "I would have stayed four weeks if I had known that"!

Alongside these two cases is that of Paratrooper Ben Parkinson.  At 26 years of age, he was seriously injured, in Afghanistan, when his Land Rover was hit by a Taliban bomb.  He lost both legs; his back was broken; he suffered brain damage that severely affected his speech; he had a further 34 injuries; he spent 4 months in a coma; and needed 18 months treatment.  Although a high-profile campaign eventually increased the amount, his initial compensation payment, under the terms of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, was £152,000!

It seems to me that our society has reached a particular low when the suffering experienced by a brave soldier pales into insignificance beside the inconvenience to which a foreign aristocrat is put, and the failure to accept responsibility by a highly-paid Council employee.  I can't help wondering if the way in which some people spell 'compensation' is
G, R, E, E, D!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Change the Word?

I never fail to be amazed at the "coincidences" that God places in my way.  Since the beginning of the year, in my private devotions, I have been using the Military Edition of Our Daily Bread.  As I read the comment for today, I immediately thought of the post that I had added last night.  I share with you these thoughts provided by Dave Branon.
 
"The Bible, God's written Word, changes lives.  Its message of salvation makes the most profound change, of course, but Scripture can also change the way we treat others. It can provide a firm foundation for society with its clear teachings on institutions such as marriage, family, and the church.

But what happens when what the Bible clearly says - as understood for centuries by learned believers and scholars alike - is rejected?  Those who reject its teachings try to change the Word.

Two Greek words can help explain this: eisegesis and exegesis.  Eisegesis is the process of reading into a passage something that is not there - inserting a meaning that flows from a personal agenda.  By contrast, exegesis means drawing from the passage the clearly intended meaning, using context, other scripture passages on the same topic, and legitimate tools of understanding such as Bible commentaries.

Instead of trying to change God's Word to fit our own ideas, let's allow the Word to change us.  As we read His Word and obey it, the Holy Spirit will transform us into the kind of people God wants us to be.

Don't change the Word - let it change you."  [Copyright RBC Ministries 2011]

Would that many within the Church of Scotland, would read those words; reflect upon them; and then, in confession and repentance, seek the Lord's forgiveness for the un-Biblical path they are currently treading

Monday, 23 May 2011

Of marriage, injunctions, commitment, and sexuality.

I suppose that I could always take the time to look back in the archives, and count the number of posts that I have placed on this blog concerning marriage.  I don't propose (no pun intended!) to do such a count, but I know that there have been quite a few.

Two of today's news items have to do with that honourable, and God-given institution.  The first was the news that a Lib-Dem MP had named the 'anonymous' married footballer at the centre of one of the, now discredited, 'super-injunctions'.  Of course, the internet has been filled with his name for many days, and the hard-copy version of yesterday's Sunday Herald also named him.  Personally, until yesterday, I had never even heard of Mr Giggs - but then, I am no fan of overpaid, over-hyped, sports 'personalities'!   However, I find this case to be of some interest.  I have read comments that place the blame for the whole affair (sorry! No pun intended, again!) on the female who was allegedly involved in an extra-marital affair with the soccer player.  I have seen her described as everything from naive, to a devious, money-grabbing, opportunist.

It is not my place to either condemn, or defend, her - but I would make the point that "it takes two to tango"!  Whether she seduced a married man and father, or whether such a man seduced her, or even if the whole situation was mutually planned, the fact remains that if he had been faithful to his own marriage commitment, then there would never have been a story.

One report states that "Mr Justice Eady said when rejecting a second application - the first of Monday's attempts - by Sun publisher News Group Newspapers to discharge the privacy injunction, that the court's duty "remains to try and protect the claimant, and particularly his family, from intrusion and harassment so long as it can"."  Surely such "protection" is, primarily, the duty of the husband and father, not the court?!

The other related news item has been the ongoing debate, within the Church of Scotland, at its General Assembly, regarding the ordination of homosexual and lesbian clergy.  According to a report in the (Glasgow) Evening Times newspaper, "The Church of Scotland has agreed to lift its ban on gay ministers.  Commissioners at the institution's General Assembly voted by 351 to 294 to throw out the ban, which was brought in two years ago."  The report goes on to say that: "The Church has also agreed to set up a new commission which will prepare a report on various theological issues linked to the subject to be brought before the Assembly in 2013. After the publication of this report, the Church will discuss the subject again."

I feel, so very much, for those ministers, elders, and members of the Kirk who take a Biblical view of the practice of homosexuality/lesbianism.  There will, I suspect, be a great deal of 'soul-searching' in the coming weeks and months.  Will this decision lead to an exodus, from the Kirk, of those who are not prepared to bow down to the idol of 'political correctness'?  It's a major decision - and one that I am glad I don't have to make.

Any who do will, almost certainly, be immediately tarred with the fallacious term "homophobic".  The 'liberal' wing simply don't seem to understand the Biblical concept of loving the sinner, while hating the sin.  Yet that is exactly what the Christian Gospel teaches is the attitude of Almighty God.  Whilst it is not a synonymous situation, I think of the woman who was, allegedly, caught in the very act of an adulterous relationship (those 1st-century Pharisees would have had no doubt as to the guilty party in any alleged affair between a former beauty contest winner, and a footballer!), and brought before Jesus in order to trap Him into either agreeing to her being stoned to death, or denying the Mosaic law that demanded that penalty..  When all had disappeared after His statement "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7; RSV), He asked the woman "... where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again"." (John 8:10-11; RSV).  He was able to love the sinner, but did not condone her sinful act.

It seems to me that too many are prepared to major on the love and forgiveness of God (both of which are of inestimable importance - indeed, the former is the very essence of His nature), but forget that He is also the holy One, Who cannot even look upon sin.  The proof of that is seen at Calvary where, in the Persona of the Son, He became sin for us (see II Cor.5:21).  It was at Calvary that, as Graham Kendrick puts it in his song Come and see, "wrath and mercy meet."    It was there that He suffered the death that each one of us deserves, that we - heterosexual, homosexual, or lesbian - might receive the life that He gives.  Of course, that involves my acknowledgement that I am a sinful being, and that only He can do anything about it.   I then come, in repentance; receive His forgiveness; and start a life that is so new it's referred to as being "born again" (see John 3:16).

It's a life that's truly worth living - and, indeed, a life for which, almost paradoxically, many in the persecuted church are prepared to die!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Freemasonry - is it compatible with the Gospel?

Many years ago, I gave a series of lectures on "Cults and Heresies".  The best-attended of those evenings was the one on which I dealt with Freemasonry!  I was reminded of that series, and that particular lecture, this morning as I listened to the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Sunday'.

It was reported that, having been elevated to position of  Bishop within the Church of England, the Rev. Jonathan Baker has resigned from "the Craft".  This, it would appear, is actually in line with the stated position of the Anglican Church, that Freemasonry and Christianity are incompatible.

However, it was the affirmation by a retired Anglican clergyman, the Rev. Dr. John Railton, who was interviewed on the programme, that caused my ears to prick up.  Freemasonry, he contended, is a secular organisation, akin to the Rotary Club, Round Table, Probus, etc.  I would wish to take the reverend doctor to task!  To the best of my knowledge, Rotarians and the others do not refer to their meeting place as a 'temple'; they do not 'pray' to any deity; they do not have a 'holy' book centrally displayed at their meetings; they do not appoint a chaplain; they do not claim to have been founded by a character - Hiram Abiff - alleged to have played a part in the building of Solomon's Temple; they do not have signs and rituals that are (very) loosely based on Biblical events and characters.  All of these have a clearly religious element - and all are part and parcel of Masonic ritual, structure, and history!

So is Freemasonry incompatible with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?  The audio recording of my lecture is available below, and will provide those who are interested with a considerable amount of material (there was a set of handouts provided and, as soon as I find the master copy, I will publicise the fact, and make them available to anyone who requests them) but the simple answer is "Yes!"  Here are just three of many reasons to support that contention.

1. Freemasonry speaks of "the great Architect of the Universe".  To many, this may appear to be just an alternative name for the Triune God.  However, the teaching of the Bible is that Almighty God is not the architect of the universe, but its Creator!
 
2. Freemasonry expressly forbids the use of the Name of Jesus.  Yet it is only through the Name of Jesus that His disciples have "... boldness and access ..." (Eph.3:12) to approach the Creator.  It is through Him, and Him alone, that we my obtain salvation.  He, and He alone, is the All-sufficient One.

3. Freemasonry is, in essence, occultic and satanic.  One of the most highly-respected Masons of recent times is the late Albert Pike.  He has written: "The Masonic Religion (sic) should be by all of us initiates of the higher degrees, maintained in the purity of the Luciferian doctrine ... yes, Lucifer is God." (Maconnerie Universalle, p.588); while another Masonic author writes: "When later he (the Mason) is given Light, it means really that he is taught the principles of Occultism." (Arthur H. Ward; Masonic Symbolism and the Mystic Way; p.149-150)

The Church of Scotland is not, nowadays, renowned for its theological conservative evangelicanism.  However, even that 'broad' church, in a booklet produced by the Panel on Doctrine states, for example, concerning the use of 'prayer' in Freemasonry: "... our complaint is not just that the name of Jesus is suppressed in them, our complaint is that He doesn't seem to be required." (The Church and Freemasonry, p.4).  The main section concludes with the statement: "In the light of the foregoing we invite you to reconsider your involvement in Freemasonry." (p.9).

It is an invitation that is worthy of the most serious consideration.


Lecture

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Terraces v. Pews

It's been a day of mixed emotions - and I am not referring to the disillusionment that the devotees of Mr Harold Camping must be experiencing as, at the time of writing, 1800 hrs have come and gone over a major part of the globe, with no indication that it was the Father's time for the Rapture; or to the relief that some might have experienced that yet another prediction has been shown to be false!

No, the emotions to which I refer are those of the respective supporters of Motherwell Football Club (c'mon ye 'Well!!), and Celtic Football Club.  The former will, in spite of their team having apparently played well (no pun intended!) be somewhat despondent that the Scottish Cup was not returned to Motherwell this evening, while the latter will, doubtless, be relieved that they have, at last, picked up some silverware for this season.
I didn't watch the match, but am confident that, in spite of the inclement weather conditions, tens of thousands did so - and who knows how many were glued to their television sets in the comfort of their own homes.  I am also certain that there was a display of passion for the game of soccer that puts most of 'western' Christianity to shame!  Men, women, young people - all with an obvious knowledge of 'the game', and no embarrassment about displaying their emotions!

How different it will be in church buildings up and down the country tomorrow.  So many with sparse congregations - the majority of whom will be in the later stages of life; many of whom will know little/nothing of the basic doctrines of the Faith, or even of much of the Bible; few of whom will do more than 'go through the motions' of worship - "... holding the form of religion but denying the power of it." (II Tim 3:5; RSV).

Interestingly, the copy of a denominational magazine that arrived with my post this morning, was asking about the absence of men in the church.  Perhaps part of that problem is that we men who are "in the church" - especially we who have a personal, saving, knowledge of the Lord Jesus - are failing to display "Cup Final enthusiasm"!  It's just not seen as 'manly/macho' to allow our emotions to be displayed - unless we are on the terraces!

There was nothing un-manly about Jesus.  He showed the full range of human emotion as He walked this earth.  Yet He was, undoubtedly, a "man's man".  A carpenter, 2,000 years ago, had no power tools, but depended on physical strength.  Those hands that were to be nailed to a wooden cross were, already, hardened by years of working with wood.

Many years ago, the then Clerk to the Presbytery of Glasgow (Church of Scotland), the Rev Andrew Herron, published an article that, regretfully, I seem to have lost.  However, I do recall that he also drew this comparison between the attitude of football supporters on the terraces, and 'church members' in the pews.  He bemoaned the "animal passion" of the former - insofar as it was totally lacking in the latter!

When the Rapture does take place, it will be a momentous event.  And the heavenly dimension to which the true children of God will be instantly transported (see I Cor.15:52) will not be a place of sombre traditionalism.  It will be filled with the praises of His people as we worship the Lamb in that endless day that we call eternity.  It will, I suspect, be much more like 'the terraces', than like many of 'the pews' with which I am familiar!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Rapture tomorrow??

If the prediction of 89-year-old Mr Harold Camping is correct, this may well be the final post that I place on this (or any other!) blog.  Mr Camping has predicted, and has been doing so for a couple of months, that the apocalypse will take place at 1800 hours on Saturday May 21st, 2011.  He has not, as far as I know, identified the specific time-zone that is involved - meaning that, if it is 1800 hours Pacific Standard Time, then I have some eight additional hours with which to play (and to get a final, final post out!).

It is, of course, perfectly possible that the Rapture of the saints of God (all who, having recognised and confessed their sinful nature, and their sins, have placed their trust, personally, in the Lord Jesus Christ, for full salvation) will take place at 1800 hrs PST on May 21st, 2011.  It is equally possible that it will not.  Mr Camping, like so many before him (and he already has one false prediction to his 'credit'), appears to have missed out the clear statement of the Lord Jesus, as recorded in Matt.24:36 and Mark 13:32.  No interpretation is necessary.  The statement is as clear as crystal.  Referring to that tumultuous event, the Lord says: "...  no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows." (Matt.24:36; NLT).  One wonders which part of "... no one knows ..." Mr Camping has not yet understood.  His claim that those words do not preclude knowing the month does not hold any theological, or hermeneutical, water.  And, of course, this time, he has given 'an hour'!

Of course, such brash announcements are also doing a disservice to the Lord, causing the unbelievers great merriment.  One such has already posted on a newspaper forum that he will be interested in the 'back-peddling' that Mr Camping will have to do when his second prediction is shown to have been as false as his first.  Mr Camping's problem, there, is that he has also declared that his earlier failure was due to his not having factored in all of the relevant information to his calculations, but that this time "There's no possibility - none, none, none - that it will not happen." (The Philadelphia Enquirer, 17-01-11).  

Although placing no confidence in either Mr Camping or his predictions, it is good to be reminded that there will be a rapture, and a judgement.  However, rather than spend precious time trying to discover the undiscoverable, we are better to ensure that we are prepared for that event - whenever it may occur.  We do this by a deliberate and conscious acceptance that we are, by nature, sinners; that we are unable, ourselves, to do anything about our sinful state; that Almighty God, in His great mercy, has provided an escape from the penalty and power of sin through the sacrifice of Himself, in the Persona of the Son (Jesus) on the cross at Calvary; and by accepting that salvation, by handing over control of our lives to Him.

If we've done that, then we enter eternal life and are assured that, at the end of our time on this earth (which may, or may not, be coincidental with the Rapture) we will slip through that fine curtain that separates time from eternity, and dwell in the nearer presence of the Lord for ever.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Wisdom, or knowledge?

In one track by my favourite Gaither Vocal Band (that's the one with David Phelps, Guy Penrod, and Mark Lowry!) Mark Lowry sings the words: "Deep inside me, there's a yearning for true wisdom, not just learning."  Those words came to mind, on Monday, when I read the report about Prof Stephen Hawking's opinion of heaven (and, one may presume, hell!)

According to The Telegraph newspaper, the "... eminent Cambridge scientist and cosmologist has dismissed heaven as a 'fairy story for people afraid of the dark'"  He also "... rejected the idea of life beyond death and emphasised what he described as the need to fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives."

The article continues to inform us that Prof Hawking regards "... the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail." and that "... tiny 'quantum fluctuations' in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars and, ultimately, human life began."  However, in common with all of the humanistic atheists who have become so prominent in our contemporary 'western' culture, the professor fails to go back to the "First Cause".  Something, or Someone, designed the very quantum mechanics to which Prof Hawking appeals.  The bottom line, I would suggest, is that there is either an eternal, uncreated, piece of matter from which all that is has evolved; or an eternal, uncreated, Being - to Whom, in the English language, we give the nomenclature 'God' - Who created all that is by His own power.  I know which of those two possibilities I find more reasonable, and reassuring!

There is, of course, the story that is based on the well-known "Pascal's Wager".  A certain Atheist lecturer was travelling around ridiculing those who were foolish enough to believe in the existence of a supernatural Being, and in the Bible as the Word of God.  On one occasion, as he addressed a group, he hurled a challenge at God.  "If You exist, then strike me dead!"  As he stood there, very much alive, he turned to his audience and exclaimed: "See, there is no God."

A woman rose to her feet, and spoke to the lecturer.  "Sir," she said, "I cannot answer your arguments; your learning is beyond me.  You are an educated man while I am merely a working woman.  With your superior knowledge, will you please answer me one question?"  On receiving the lecturer's assent, she continued, "I have been a believer in Christ for many years.  I have rejoiced in the salvation He has provided for me, and I have enjoyed my Bible.  His presence has been a tremendous joy.  If when I die, there is nothing - no Father God, no Lord Jesus, no salvation, the Bible just a collection of old legends - tell me, sir, what have I lost by believing in Christ during this life?"

The room was very quiet; the audience quickly grasping the logic of the woman's question.  The lecturer answered, in quiet tones: "Madam, you won't stand to lose a thing."  "You have been very kind, and have answered my question." responded the woman.  "Permit me to ask you one more.  If, when the time comes for you to die, you discover that the Bible is true; that there is a God, and that Jesus is the Son; that there is a heaven and a hell - tell me, sir, what have you to lose?"

The Atheist was silent.  He had no answer.

Prof Hawking may have a tremendous IQ; he is certainly a lot more clever, and a lot more knowledgeable than I.  However, I do question his wisdom - or lack thereof.  Pascal's Wager is not an evangelistic tool - but it does spell out the consequences of the basic choice that each of us makes, whether deliberately, or by default.  I trust that you will make the right choice, and discover the joy of eternal life, here and now.  You don't have to be clever to be wise!

Wearing the armour.

Satan and his hosts are occupied with many things, including that of hindering the saints of God.  Paul was not free from such attacks, but declares that Satan stopped him from visiting the Christians in Thessalonica.  The back ground to the whole book of Job is interference by the adversary.  The devil even tried to divert Jesus from His ministry, although on that occasion, he more than met his match!

John Dorsey describes the enemy’s tactics in the following, poetic, words:  “I had a battle fierce, today, within my place of prayer; I went to meet, and talk, with God, but I found Satan there.  He whispered, ‘You can’t really pray, you lost out long ago; you might say words while on your knees, but you can't pray, you know.’ So then, I pulled my helmet down, way down upon my ears, and found it helped to still his voice, and helped allay my fears.  I checked my other armour o'er:  my feet with peace were shod; my loins with truth were girded 'round; my sword, the Word of God.  My righteous breastplate still was on, my heart's love to protect; my shield of faith was all intact - his fiery darts bounced back.  I called on God, in Jesus' Name;  I pled the precious blood; while Satan sneaked away in shame - I met, and talked, with God.”

There are few Christians who have not experienced such interference in their lives.  If we, however, follow John Dorsey’s example and “put on the whole armour of God” (Eph.6:11), we will find it much easier to stand when we are being buffeted by the enemy of our souls.  Let us find encouragement in I Thess.2:18, remembering that, if the devil is seeking to hinder us, it might just be because, like Paul, we are actually doing something right for God!

....and a thought:
    “Remember, the devil may be able to wall you around;
            but he cannot roof you in!”

Monday, 16 May 2011

Finding the Way!

Well, I've finally joined the club!  After many years of total dependence, when travelling, on my "wife-nav" (i.e. my wife with a good old-fashioned road map on her lap), I have purchased a proper SatNav!  It was the experience of driving home last year, without aforementioned wife, from the eastern side of France, that finally convinced me that I should "take the plunge".  Having said that, we have already decided that we will have the old-fashioned back-up with us as well.  We've heard too many tales of people ending up in narrow country roads, unable to make a turn - not the sort of situation in which we want to find ourselves, in the middle of France, with twenty-seven feet of caravan hitched to the tow-bar!

So far, however, I am quite pleased with "Charmaine" (it's a female voice, and the make is Garmin, which rhymes with "charmin'", leading to the now designated name!!!).  We do, we have discovered, have to keep an eye on her.  She seems to be programmed to avoid motorways - and in the UK we use them a lot!  We are assuming that, when we download the manual, and read it through, we will be able to make the necessary changes!

The first thing that I am asked, when I have switched the power on is my destination. That seems, to me, to be an eminently sensible request.  A SatNav, or a map, is useless unless you first know where you are, and then, where you're going.  Okay, so the SatNav is a wee bit cleverer, and quickly informs me as to my current location!  

Life is often likened to a journey.  Sadly, it would appear, many people don't know where they are, or where they're going!  They're just drifting through life on the river of routine; wasting their lives on that which is, ultimately, worthless; existing, rather than enjoying a life that is positively full.  However, there is one thing that is certain, and that is  that we are, each o us, going to go somewhere in the end - even if we just casually canter along life's pathway.  It begs the questions: "Where are you going; and how will you get there?"

The message of the Christian Gospel (the Good News) is, of course, that Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, has a plan for each one of us.  His desire is that every individual spend eternity (and that is not endless time, but timelessness!) in His presence in that dimension that we usually refer to as 'heaven'.  However, He loves us so much that He has given us the freedom to choose our own destiny - to be with Him, or to be without Him.  That's a choice that we must make in this life - it's too late to make it after that experience that we call physical death.

Wherever you are on life's journey, I would encourage you to consider Jesus (God the Son) and the life He offers you - life "... in all its fulness" (John 10:10; NEB).  If you come to Him, confessing your own sinfulness, He has promised that He will forgive you, and take loving control of your life - giving you a brand new start along life's road.

You will then be on a journey that has a purpose, and that will last for eternity.  Now that's Good News!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Duty

This morning, in my capacity as a Force Chaplain, I had the privilege of attending the Annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for Officers and civilian Staff of Strathclyde Police Force, who had died in service during the previous twelve months.  It was, as usual, a time to reflect on all of those who serve within the Police Forces, and other Emergency Services - not only within Strathclyde Region, but throughout the country.  As a general public, we owe much more to dedicated officers, and others, who faithfully do their duty day in and day out, than we sometimes realise.  As I remarked to one Inspector with whom I was chatting afterwards, I sometimes hear of so-called 'rogue' police officers, but I have yet to meet one!

Duty, of course, is a very strong source of motivation - even if the concept appears to have all but disappeared in the culture in which I live.  This past week has seen HM Queen Elizabeth, the British and Commonwealth Head of State, pass an important milestone in becoming the second-longest reigning monarch in recorded history.  One of the things that makes her the recipient of a great measure of respect - even from those of us who are not particularly monarchist in our leanings - is her generally recognised sense of duty.  At her coronation, she made solemn vows, and accepted great responsibility and, while so much around her has changed, and while she must have shed many a tear, in private, as she watched the shenanigans of many in her family, she has steadfastly remained true to her calling - basically from a sense of duty.

In Luke's account of the Gospel record, we find these words concerning the Lord Jesus: "Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, ..." (Luke 9:51; NKJV).  The crucifixion of Jesus, that was especially remembered just a few weeks ago, was not an accident; it was not a victory for evil; it was the result of One Who knew that it was His duty to fulfil the eternal purposes of the Father, and Who advanced to meet the enemy at Calvary.  Of course, we know that Good Friday led to Easter Day or, as Tony Campolo memorably put it "It's Friday - but Sunday's coming!"  What is sometimes forgotten is that, in His Humanity, Jesus suffered the same physical pain and agony as any other victim of crucifixion; that He knew exactly what He was being called upon to experience - hence His anguished cry in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will , but Thine, be done." (Luke 22:42; RSV); that the spiritual suffering that He experienced ("My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me ?" [Matt 27:46]) was over and above the physical torture.

And even that is not the whole story.  Because it was not only duty that took Jesus to the cross; it was love - love for you, and love for me.  That's why I find it difficult to understand the ingratitude of so many.  If a police officer, doing no more than his/her duty, were to die in the act of saving my physical life, I would be more grateful than I could ever express in words.  Jesus died, not just out of a sense of duty, but because of an eternal love, in order that might have spiritual life.  My debt of gratitude to this One - Who is King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who is "... the same yesterday , today, and forever." (Heb 13:8)  - must, surely, be overwhelming.  I trust that yours is, too!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Heaven - or Hell?

I had an interesting conversation at Liberty Community Church this morning, prior to the Communion Service.  One of the members had been asked to conduct a funeral service during the week, and I had inquired as to how he had coped.  He explained that, with the exception of one lady in the group of mourners who had gathered at the local crematorium, he was unaware of anyone who has a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, he was able to use the opportunity to present the Gospel message - not just that Christ died for our sins in order that we might have the opportunity to gain eternal life; but that to reject the salvation that was won for us at Calvary, is to assure us of an eternity separated from God, aware of our mistake, and unable to do anything about it!

It is true that the church, at least in the so-called developed world (in which we have developed increasingly sophisticated methods of destroying our fellow-man; in which rights are considered to be of more importance than responsibilities; in which materialism and consumerism appear to be the religions of the majority; etc) seems, in the main, to have forgotten about that particular side of the coin.  It is also true that Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven!

The Gospel message is not being presented in all of its fullness if we fail to warn people of the consequences of their rejection, or even neglect, of the salvation that was purchased at the cost of the very blood of the Lord Jesus.  Some weeks ago, I was preaching before one particular fellowship on the question that even the Omniscient (all-knowing) God is unable to answer.  It's found in Hebrews 2:3 and it asks, simply, "... how shall we escape, if we neglect such a great salvation?"  The answer is that there is, in fact, no escape!  By the way, a recording of that whole message may be found at www.revcbross.blogspot.com under the heading The Unanswerable Question.

Many years ago, there was an open-air preacher who kept telling people to "Turn, or burn" - a reference to the choice of turning one's life over to the control of Jesus; or burning in hell.  It's a message that, today, would probably be considered not to be 'politically correct'.  However, it's the Gospel message that we ignore at our peril!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Election Results!

Well, the votes have been cast - and counted (apart from those in N.Ireland)- and there are a number of significant changes in the political landscape of the UK, especially that of Scotland!  The Scottish National Party have achieved a result that even they, in their wildest dreams, would not have considered possible.  It's a result, indeed, that the current voting procedure was specifically introduced, by the then governing Labour Party, to ensure that it would never come about.  So much for Labour's "forward planning"!

I didn't give the SNP my personal vote on either the Constituency, or the List, ballot forms. However, it would be churlish of anyone not to congratulate Alex Salmond and the Party on their overwhelming success.

Having said that, there are other things that need to be said.  First of all, although Mr Salmond is unlikely to read this blog, I hope that someone close to him counsels him with regard to the old adage "Pride comes before a fall"!  It would be sad, indeed, if the SNP were to, in any way, abuse their newly obtained position of political power.  To be fair, the words that I have, so far, heard Mr Salmond speak would indicate that he plans to continue, as far as possible, with 'consensus politics'.  That, I believe, will be for the good of Scotland.

Another thing that needs to be said is that, according to the inspired words of the apostle, Paul, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.  For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.  The authorities are God's servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God's servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.  So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.  Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honour to those who are in authority." (Rom 13:1-7; NLT).

What this means is that for the disciple of Jesus, at least, not having voted for the SNP is no ground for not accepting the temporal (civil) authority that they now have.  Further, we are to pray for those who have this temporal authority over us.  "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.  This is good and pleases God our Saviour, Who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth." (I Tim 2:1-4; NLT).

The next five years (if the Rapture is delayed) may be more than a little interesting within Scotland! 

Elsewhere, the story is less exciting, although it is the Lib-Dems who appear to have suffered most at the hands of the electorate.  I understand that, in a Coalition, there must be a measure of 'give-and-take'.  However, the real lesson may be that not only the Lib-Dems ought to be careful as to what they promise in the campaigning prior to an election.  Perhaps Mr Clegg isn't the only one who should take heed to the words of James "... let your yes be yes, and your no be no ..." (James 5:12).  In other words, be dependable!

Sadly, the majority of those who voted in the referendum listened to, and swallowed, the blatant untruths put about by the 'No' campaign.  This, I suspect, means that there will be no further opportunity to gain a fairer voting system for Westminster elections in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I'm voting "Yes"!

After weeks of campaigning for the various elections being held throughout the UK tomorrow, and months of campaigning for the referendum that will involve the whole adult population, the time to cast votes is almost upon us.

As far as the Scottish Parliament is concerned, I still haven't made up my mind as to who will receive my support.  However, on the referendum, I am in no doubt.  I will be voting 'Yes' to change, and a departure from the "first past the post" system that has long outlived its usefulness.

I added a video to my Facebook page, yesterday, and was asked why, if only three other countries use the Alternative Vote system, I was so obviously in favour of it.  I turned to my catering background in order to provide an analogy!  If I have spent my whole life living on cheap minced beef (and that would still, by the way, make me better fed than the average citizen of North Korea, and of many other parts of the world!), and dreamed of having fillet steak for dinner each evening, I wouldn't refuse a plate of good quality stewed beef!  Of course it wouldn't be exactly what I wanted, but it would be a lot better than what I had.

The AV system is not, nor is it near to, full proportional representation.  However, it is a step in the right direction.  With the FPTP system, in a 'safe' Labour seat, my personal vote is always going to be wasted - as I would never vote for the Labour Party.  With AV, my vote may still be wasted - but only if I have voted for the person who receives the lowest number of votes.  Otherwise, I get, not a second vote (as the 'No' campaigners have erroneously, and mischievously, claimed), but the opportunity for my single vote to be given to the candidate whom I considered to be the second-best on the voting slip.

This means that, in my own constituency, the sitting incumbent will have to take more notice when I write to him about particular matters.  According to past election results, he has never enjoyed the support of 50% of the voters.  But with FPTP that didn't matter.  As long as he received even one vote more than any other candidate, he was home and dry - a job for life in this neck of the woods!  With AV, he will be depending on non-Labour voters placing him as their second choice.  If people are not satisfied with his performance, then they might only place him at No.3, or 4 - and that would probably mean that one of his opponents would reach the 50% threshold before him.  That certainly sounds like an improvement to me.

I'll be at my local Polling Station, tomorrow, encouraging folk to vote "Yes".  I trust that many will do so.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A man has died!

Amazingly, when I listened to the BBC radio news yesterday morning, I was not regaled with further irrelevant minutiae concerning a young couple who had entered the holy state of matrimony on Friday of last week!  Rather, it was the news that Usama bin Laden had been killed by a team of US Navy SEALS, and hastily (although with all due respect, in Islamic tradition, for the body) buried at sea, in order to ensure that there would not be any shrine - any focus for the faithful to venerate.

A couple of thoughts came to mind.  First of all, I realised that a man had died - and millions were rejoicing at the news.  Now I am not for one moment, condoning the atrocities behind which bin Laden is alleged to have been the master-mind.  Nor am I saying that he did not 'deserve to die'.  However, as the mother of a Scotsman who died in the World Trade Centre pointed out, bin Laden's death doesn't bring her son back to her.  Indeed, the manner of his death - without even the show trial that was afforded to Saddam Hussein - does raise important questions that I hope others will ask (and to which, I hope, they will find honest answers!) in the coming months! 

The other thing that caused me to think was the constant reference to 'evil'.  I find it interesting that the world's media, which seldom seems to have any time for spiritual matters, should jump so quickly on to a rolling band-waggon and use a term that is spiritual in its meaning.  But what is evil?  Surely, just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good.  By that measure, which of us can claim to be totally untainted by evil?  Evil is, in Biblical terms, the result of sin.  The Good News is that sin has been dealt with on the cross at Calvary.  There, Paul tells us, Father God "... made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Cor 5:21; RSV).  Through that atoning sacrifice, we may be reconciled to God, and the work of making us more like Jesus may begin.

The sad thing about Usama bin Laden is that it appears that either no-one ever told him about the salvation that is readily available to all who will confess their sinfulness, and place their trust in Him; or that, having been told, he rejected that amazing message.