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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Who should commend the Bible?

I have just unsubscribed from all Bible Society communication - not decision that I took lightly!

It was only recently that I read the back page of the Spring edition of the Prayer Bulletin.  I could not believe my own eyes!  One of the 'selling-points' of the 400th Anniversary edition of the KJV is given as:

"Exclusive foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales"

Perhaps before asking that particular gentleman (I use the term in its widest possible sense), The Bible Society should have asked him about his views on the Ten Commandments - especially the first one (he has stated that, if crowned, he would want to be "Defender of faiths"!!); and the seventh - his adulterous relationship with the woman to whom he is now 'married' (in the eyes of the law of the land), after she had divorced her husband, is common knowledge.  Surely someone whose lifestyle is more in accord with the Word of God could have been asked to provide a foreword to a special copy thereof!

I am extremely disappointed with this decision of the Bible Society, and will not be providing them with any further support.  Thankfully, there are other ways by which I can support the propagation of the Word to those who need it.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The beauty of silence!

The Old Testament book of the prophet Habakkuk is one that holds a couple of real gems.  In 3:17-19, the prophet comes to the end of a prayer, and paints a picture of what would have been, in an agrarian society, total economic devastation: “Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,” (v.17).  But he goes on: “... yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.   God, YHWH, is my strength;  He makes my feet like hinds' feet, He makes me tread upon my high places.” (vs. 18-19).  No matter how uncertain the times, Habakkuk knew where to look for his certainty!  Today, however, I have been repeatedly reminded of the words of Hab.2:20 - "... the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him."

In our western culture, we seem to be constantly surrounded by noise.  If I enter a shop, I am invariably assaulted by a flood of canned 'music'.  As I walk along the pavement, on a day when it is warm, the open windows of many cars are a conduit for the vibration of heavy bass beats.  Even when endeavouring to watch a television programme, I find that the dialogue is often drowned by the 'background' music.  Indeed, at some church services, where there is a modern Praise Band, the drummer can often come across as more demented than delivered!

In contrast to such unnecessary noise, the Psalmist-king of Israel knew something of the benefit of silence.  David exhorts, in Ps.62 - "My soul, wait silently for God alone, ..." (v.5)  It is often in the quiet place, away from the clamour of the world, that we are able to hear the Lord speak to our hearts.  In the stillness of the night; in a peaceful sanctuary; in a quiet room at home; we may meet with Him, and hear His words to us.

Emily May Grimes wrote those lovely words that I have often used as a prayer before preaching - "Speak, Lord, in the stillness while I wait on Thee.  Hushed my heart, to listen in expectancy".  Perhaps more of us need to make those words a personal prayer!

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Naked Rambler

The heading is, of course, the nick-name given, by the press, to Mr Stephen Gough, a former member of the Royal Marines, who has been endeavouring to walk from Land's End to John O' Groats, without any clothing.
It would appear that he managed to traverse the length of England with out any significant problem but, that since he crossed the border into Scotland, he has spent more time on prison than he has "on the road".

Now I am aware that there are those who object to any form of nudity, and claim that it is akin to pornography.  However, one must ask if this is, in fact, true.  Up until the age of Queen Victoria, partial nudity at least, was common.  Women who worked down the mines were naked from the waist up; little boys who were sent up chimneys didn't go there in their best "bib 'n tucker"; families lived in single rooms with no privacy for dressing and undressing.

I recall, at a Spring Harvest event many years ago, being surprised to hear a speaker say that, when John records, in 21:7 of his Gospel record, that "... when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea." (KJV), that Authorised Version translation is more accurate than the more modern ones that have him merely without his outer garment, or stripped for work - which could mean anything.  In fact, that speaker (whose name, unfortunately, I have forgotten), suggested that Jesus and the disciples would often have gone 'skinny-dipping' - as that was perfectly normal in that culture.

There are, in fact, a number of references to nudity/nakedness in the pages of God's Word.  David danced naked before the Lord (II Sam.6:20); Isaiah went about naked for a period of three years (Is.20:2-3); a young man (reckoned, by many, to be Mark) fled from the scene of Jesus' arrest - naked (Mk.14:51-52). 

But Gen.3:7 is the one to which many modern disciples of Jesus would refer. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked ; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (KJV).  This, I suspect, is the basis for any argument against "social nudity".  However, we read in the previous verses that "... they were both naked , the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." (KJV; Gen 2:25).  Then, a little further on, we read "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the YHWH Elohim make coats of skins, and clothed them." (Gen 3:21; KJV).  Thus, the argument goes, this shows that nudity is sinful - because God clothed Adam and Eve.

I would suggest that this is not what the sacred text is saying!  Adam and Eve were already clothed - with fig leaves.  This is, not a lesson about the need, or otherwise, of clothes (the fig leaves, after all, only covered the lower parts of their bodies), but about sin and its consequences.  The fig leaves were mankind's attempt to cover up his own sin.  But, right at the beginning, we are being taught that "... without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb 9:22; RSV), as at least one animal had to die in order that coats of skins (note the plural!) could be provided.

So, am I suggesting that we should all strip off, and join Mr Gough when he is next released from prison?  Certainly not!  All that I am saying is, that in a culture that is constantly displaying nudity as an advertising ploy; that has near-naked females on p.3 of certain popular 'newspapers'; that has easy access to, not just suggestive images of the naked human body, but the whole range of pornography, from 'soft' to 'hard', in either 'specialist' magazines, or through the internet; Mr Gough's desire to express his freedom of choice is barely (sorry!!!) worthy of the heavy-handedness of the Scottish Justice System - and the not inconsiderable expense, to the public purse, of his enforced residence in prison.

I choose to wear certain items of clothing - seldom the latest in fashion! - for only two reasons: climate and the prevailing culture.  Given a different climate, and a different culture, I have no problem at all about being totally naked.  After all, in that case, everyone else is going to be the same!

Of course, as someone once said, if God had intended us to be naked, we would have been born that way!!!!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A tale of three lives.

Over the past few days, I have been struck by the stories of three men.  The first is simply known as martin (not his real name).  He is, according to both radio and newspaper reports, 46 years of age but, about three years ago, he suffered a massive brain-stem stroke and now lies on a hospital-style bed in the converted garage of his home.  His wife is reading a bk to him - a book written by a man who suffered the same kind of stroke and, like Martin, used his eyes to communicate (in Martin's case, using a computer).  But Martin has no such ambition.  He only wants to die and, as his wife is unwilling to assist him, is seeking legal assurances that professionals - such as his solicitor and his doctor - will not face either prosecution or disciplinary action if they provide that assistance.

It sounds like a perfect case to support the legalising of assisted suicide (aka euthanasia).  However, there is a second story.  This concerns a young man named Aaron Denham, who was left in a coma after a road accident in March of this year; was on a life-support machine; and showed no sign of independent life.  It was as the family of the 22-year-old stood at his bedside, trying to decide arrangements for his funeral service, that his mother noticed his hand moving.  The rest, as one might say, is history and Aaron appears to be making a complete recovery!  Hospital staff, as well as family members, are referring to that recovery as "miraculous"! And that story is, for me, one of the major arguments against the legalisation of euthanasia - by whatever name it may be called.

Of course, a lot depends on one's own attitude to life and death.  That's where the third story comes in.  It concerns the father of well-known Christian author, Max Lucado.  Max writes: "The last three years of his life were scarred by ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - a form of motor neuron disease). The disease took him from a healthy mechanic to a bed-bound paralytic. He lost his voice and his muscles, but he never lost his faith. Visitors noticed. Not so much in what he said but more in what he didn’t say. Never outwardly angry or bitter, Jack Lucado suffered [with dignity].

His faith led one man to seek a like faith. After the funeral this man sought me out and told me. Because of my dad’s example, he became a Jesus follower.

Did God orchestrate my father’s illness for that very reason? Knowing the value he places on one soul, I wouldn’t be surprised. And imagining the splendour of heaven, I know my father’s not complaining
."

Those of us who have the same faith in a loving, and caring, Father God that Jack Lucado had, are able to trust Him with our lives.  He knows when is the time for us to die - and we ought not to want to die a minute earlier.  He has a work for each of us to do and, as the old hymn put it, it's a work that only you, or I, can do!

So whatever your pain; whatever your problem; take it to Him, and ask Him to help you to use it to bring praise and glory to His Name.  And trust Him!  Another hymn-writer said: "My times are in Thy hand; my God, I wish them there."  They couldn't be in a better place!

Monday, 22 August 2011

It is well with my soul!

In common, I suspect, with many disciples of Jesus, I have a lot of songs - both from many years ago, and from more recent times - that I really love, and that speak very powerfully to me.  However, if I was obliged to choose just one as my very most favourite ever, it would be the one written in the 19th century by Horatio G Spafford - "When peace, like a river". 

The story behind the writing of the song is very poignant.  Mr Spafford, a lawyer by profession, lived in Chicago with his wife and four daughters.  One day, in 1873, he stood on the quayside and bade farewell to his family as they set sail for Europe in order to visit relatives.  Some days later, as their ship was bound for the French port of Le Havre, it collided with another steamship in mid-Atlantic, and sank almost immediately.  Before it did so, however, Mrs Spafford was able to pray with her children and commit them to the Lord whom they all loved, and sought to serve.  The mother was eventually rescued - but the four children perished.  When she reached the U.K., she sent a telegram to her husband with just two words - "Saved alone".

It was three years later that Horatio Spafford wrote that great hymn.  The initial reference  to "sorrows like sea billows" takes on a whole new meaning when we are aware of the story behind them; but the basic message is that in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves, the same God who sustained Horatio Spafford and his wife is ready, willing, and able to sustain us as well.

However, it's the third and last verses that touch my heart most.  v.3 reads: "My sin - Oh the bliss of this glorious thought!  My sin, not in part, but the whole is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more.  Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul"  Jesus didn't just take my worst sins; or the sins that I was unaware I'd committed; or a certain percentage of my sins.  He took them all - even those that, in this time-space dimension in which I am living out my mortal life, I have yet to commit!  Because of Him, I am free!

The last verse reads: "But Lord, it's for You - for Your coming we wait.  The sky, not the grave, is our goal.  O trump of the angel, O voice of the Lord!  Blessed hope; blessed rest of my soul."  That's why the true disciple of Jesus does not fear death.  We know that we will immediately pass through the fine barrier that separates time from eternity - and that we will be "forever with the Lord" (I Thess.4:17).

I trust that each and all who read this post have that same assurance, and can sing "It is well, it is well with my soul."

Sunday, 21 August 2011

When the going gets tough!

"It's not fair!"  "Why is this happening to me?"  "This is all wrong!"

I suspect that all of us have uttered such words - or others that are very similar - when we find ourselves in a particular situation, or set of circumstances.  It's a perfectly natural reaction to what we perceive as some form of injustice or other.

For the disciple of Jesus there is sometimes the added burden of thinking that this is God punishing me for my sinfulness.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  We do not worship a vindictive God, but One Who has revealed Himself, in the Son, as Love (I Jn.4:8,12).  And, of course, Jesus Himself has already taken the
punishment for our sins.  "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God;" (I Peter 3:18; my emphasis). 

The blood that He shed at Calvary covers all of my sins, and Father God looks at me through Him.  Of course, I must never try to cover up my sin.  That was the 'mistake' that Adam and Eve made way back in the Garden of Eden!  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." (I John 1:9-10)

The Christian life, if lived out Biblically, is not for the faint-hearted!  There is no promise, of which I am aware, that following Jesus will turn our lives into beds of roses.  Rather, He said, "In the world you have tribulation;" - but He went on: "... but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

The difference for the disciple of Jesus is not that troubles all evaporate, but that He is in there with them. "... I am with you  always ..." (Matt 28:20) means exactly that!  This is what sustains those in at least fifty nations around the world who suffer privation and persecution some of which I would hesitate to share  as it would offend the sensibilities of too many!

So, if life seems tough just now, that may be because it is!  But if you are following the Saviour - however imperfectly! - follow also the advice of the old chorus:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

Remember: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28; my emphasis)

Friday, 19 August 2011

How do you identify?

Not everyone may be aware that even a uniformed police officer, if requested, is obliged to identify him/herself by displaying his/her Warrant Card.  The uniform, itself, is insufficient.  This is quite understandable.  After all, I can go to any major Fancy Dress Outfitter and hire a 'uniform' that will deceive all but the sharpest-eyed member of the general public.  Indeed, there was a case in (I think!) Aberdeen not so very long ago in which a male dancer who wore just such a uniform was arrested for the serious offence of impersonating a police officer.  He was, eventually, acquitted, but it was because his 'uniform' was so close to the real thing that he was charged with the offence in the first place.

Of course masquerading as someone else is not confined to people wearing a particular uniform - be it a police officer, a nurse, or whatever.  There are, sadly, all too many who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ who might be said to be in a similar boat!  They regularly attend a worship service.  They have a Bible prominently displayed in their homes.  They use all of the appropriate jargon when speaking with others who make the same claim.  But it's all a false uniform; a charade; blatant hypocrisy.

Only a Warrant Card can assure me that the person in uniform who may be asking me where I am going; what I am doing; or for personal details; is the genuine article.  So what is the "Warrant Card" for the genuine disciple of Jesus? 

May I suggest that Peter sums it up nicely in his first letter to the early church?  In what we now refer to as ch.1 and vs.15-16, he writes "... as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'"(RSV).  And 'holy' does not refer to being "unusually good", but to being different.

Words, you see, are cheap.  My vocal cords work well; I have a good command of the English language; and so I am able to say anything, make any claim.  But merely saying that I am a film star doesn't make me one.  A very short time watching me would soon convince anyone that such a claim was false!

So, if I claim to be a follower of Jesus, don't just take my word for it - that's like accepting a uniform at face value!  Watch me; listen to me; see if there is anything different about me that marks me out as His.  That's my spiritual Warrant Card - and the only real proof that my claim is valid; that I'm the genuine article!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Political Opportunism?

It has been reported that, in the apparently escalating row between senior Police Officers in England, and Westminster politicians, the Home Secretary has insisted that it is her job to tell Police Forces "what the public want them to do", and that this is that "the public wanted them to get tough".  This, I suspect, is just the kind of political oppotunism that has, sadly, become the norm with modern (career) politicians.

However, as a Police Force Chaplain, a taxpayer, and a concerned subject of HM the Queen, I am willing to accept the Home Secretary's description of her responsibility.  What I would wish to suggest to her is that the allegedly timid response of the police at the outbreak of the violence in London was a direct result of the 'politically correct' culture that has invaded every aspect of public (and, indeed, private) life throughout the UK.  My late father served with the RUC, and he would be horrified at the way in which the hands of his successors have been so effectively tied (or should that, in context, be 'cuffed'?!) so that an officer is as likely to be charged with assault as is the person who is being restrained/detained.

One of the assurances that I seem to recall the PM giving during the campaigning that led up to the last General Election was that the Human Rights legislation would be, if not scrapped, at least amended in order to ensure that criminals would be dealt with firmly. Perhaps officers, at every level, needed the 'assurance' that they had some backing from the government before providing the response that the public did (and do) indeed want.  It might help defuse the current row if the Government were to bring forward, as a matter of urgency, legislation leading to the early repeal of the Human Rights Act, and assure the Police that they have the authority to get as 'tough' as the public want them to be.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Worth thinking about!

The following observations were written by an unknown author. Although I cannot give proper credit where it is due, nevertheless these timeless insights are worthy of our consideration. May I suggest that you read each thought and then, like a cow chewing its cud over and over, meditate on it and apply the idea to your personal circumstances:                                        
  • "You cannot control the length of your life, but you can control your life’s width and depth.
  • You cannot control the weather, but you can control the moral atmosphere that surrounds you.
  • You cannot control the contour of your countenance, but you can control its expressions and what it communicates to others.
  • You cannot control the other person’s opportunities, but you can make certain to take hold of the opportunities that come your way.
  • You cannot control the larger incomes that some of your friends receive, but you can manage wisely your own modest earnings.
  • You cannot control another individual’s annoying faults or habits, but you can see to it that you yourself do not develop or harbour tendencies that would become annoyances to others.
  • You cannot control difficult times or rainy days, but you can put resources aside now that can carry you through times of adversity and need.
  • You cannot control the distance that your head can rise above the ground, but you can control the height of the contents contained within your head.
So why worry about things you cannot control? Get busy controlling the things that depend upon you! Don't worry about circumstances you cannot change. Concentrate on attitudes you can!" (A.N.Onymous)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Recreation.

Well, here I am – safely back from my long holiday!  It was definitely a time of rest, relaxation, and recreation, greatly enjoyed by both my wife and myself.  We had some lovely weather conditions (although we also had our fair share of rain!); we saw some new sights; we made some new friends.  I trust that many of you have also had the opportunity to enjoy some holiday time over these past weeks.

That word ‘recreation’ is an interesting one.  Maybe I’m just naturally slow, but I was well on in years before I caught on that it is actually ‘re-creation’.  Now, if I re-create something, I am making it all over again; making it like new; restoring it to its original state and condition.  And that is what real recreation should surely do for each one of us – it should leave us refreshed, restored, and ready to face the coming winter months (I am, of course, thinking in terms of the northern hemisphere - I know that my antipodean friends are just coming out of their winter season!).

Actually, the Christian Gospel speaks in those same terms.  There are many, even among those who would not class themselves as ‘Christians’ in even a nominal sense who, if not familiar with, will have a nodding acquaintance with, the words of John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”    Those words come at the end of a conversation that Jesus of Nazareth had with a very religious man named Nicodemus, and in which the Saviour tells him that he must be “born again” or, we might say, re-created!

The basic message of the Christian Gospel is that all who wish may have such a life; one that is so different it’s like being born all over again.  Now, that, I would suggest, is real re-creation!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

What on earth is happening, for heaven's sake?!

In the early part of the year, I was preaching in a Lanarkshire Fellowship.  The turmoil that was to spread across northern Africa, and through parts of the Middle east, was not long underway.  During the course of the message, I asked if, three months earlier, anyone would have predicted such momentous events.  The unspoken answer was that, of course, no-one would. Three months ago, if anyone had asked me if I could foresee similar events taking place in the UK, I would have laughed, and said "No, of course not!"

Even longer ago, I wrote a piece (probably a post on this blog!) in which I suggested that, although I personally am totally opposed to it, the E.U. could be a part of God's judgement on a people who have, largely, turned their backs to Him.  As I sit in the sunshine in Picardie, in Northern France, preparing to return to the U.K. tomorrow, I am wondering if that judgement is now being directed particularly towards the U.K.

A site to which I subscribe has also made that suggestion.  The facts are clear.  The traditional churches are in disarray - torn over issues of sexuality in one form or another; in dispute over the proper content of praise and worship; "holding the form of religion but denying the power of it." (II Tim 3:5; RSV).  There is no prophetic voice to the nation, and the occasional "voice crying in the wilderness" (John 1:23, et al) is drowned out by the clamour of consumerism and the might of materialism.

Since the end of the Great War (1914-18) there has been an increasingly-rapid breakdown of society: sexual perversion and marital infidelity have become increasingly acceptable - even approved; there is a lack of respect for any authority-figure - from parents to police-officers; so-called single mothers are no longer shamed, but provided with state (i.e.taxpayer!) support; people find their relief in drugs - whether legal or illegal; the family unit - that bedrock of society - is marginalised; atheistic humanism is becoming increasingly aggressive.

Paul, writing to his young "son in the faith", close to 2,000 years ago, foresaw such a situation.  Prior to those words that I quoted above, he writes: "But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God," (II Tim 3:1-4; RSV).

Could it be that we are indeed seeing, if not the end at least the beginning of the end?  Of one thing I am absolutely certain - that however unexpected both current and recent events have been to our political and economic 'leaders', they have not caught Almighty God by surprise!  He is the One Who sees the end from the beginning; all of time is spread out before Him, and he sees all of history simultaneously.  He is also, as I shared at the Christian Police Association Annual Conference, the only One who can be our Certainty in such uncertain times. 

As the songwriter put it: "I may not know what lies ahead; the way I may not see.  But One stands near to be my Guide; He'll show the way to me.  I know Who holds the future, and He guides me with His hand. With God, things don't just happen - everything by Him is planned.  So as I face tomorrow with its problems large and small; I'll trust the God of miracles; give to Him my all."  In such a tumultuous time, I commend Him to you - and you to Him.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Growing like one another.

"We've been living together for too long!"  Okay, as I spoke those words to me wee wife, my tongue was firmly in my cheek.  But what had prompted them?  Well, on this occasion it was her assurance that, while she had been experiencing a  disturbing dream in the previous night, my arm had reached across her, and comforted her - even although I was sound asleep, and unaware of having provided such husbandly reassurance!  Of course, similar things happen with amazing regularity.  One of us mentions something - only to discover that the other was thinking exactly the same thing!  It's all part of having spent almost forty-one years as a married couple, and having shared so many of life's experiences.  I recall reading - a long time ago - that, after many years together, some dog-owners and their pets begin to look the same.  For my wife's sake, I hope that that is not also the case with humans - that is, if she were to start to look like me!!

So what's the lesson from this little exercise?  For the disciple of Jesus, it is surely that, if we are truly spending time with Him, then we should be becoming increasingly like Him!  This is the process known to theologians as sanctification and, according to the apostle, John, it reaches fulfilment when we enter His nearer presence in that dimension that we usually refer to as heaven/glory (I John 3:2).  

Of course, it's easier to emulate a fallen human being, than the perfect One - the God-Man.  Maybe that's why Paul told the Corinthian believers to "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (I Cor 11:1;RSV - my emphasis).  The unknown writer of the letter to Jewish followers of Jesus encouraged his readers to be "... imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Heb 6:12;RSV ).

Sanctification, as I try to explain in the book that is now nearing completion (any friendly publisher reading this is welcome to contact me!!!), is a process.  It is a process that only ends when we slip through that delicate veil that separates time from eternity.  But it's a process that ought not to cease.  I am not yet perfect - but I (and, more importantly, others) ought to be able to see a positive difference from what I was a year ago to what I am today.  As the little one-liner that I have on my study wall says: "In this life, I will never be sinless but, by the grace of God, I may sin less".

I've been living with Jesus for even longer than I've been living with my wife.  I trust that I am sometimes thinking the same things as He is thinking; that I am becoming more like Him.  It's what He wants, and it's all for my own good!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Change.

Change!  It’s all around us.  As I look in the mirror each morning, I am aware that I have changed from the fresh-faced young man I was forty years ago!  Relationships change – I have friends now whom I didn’t even know a few years ago; there are others with whom, over the years, I have lost contact.  Governments change; jobs change; environments change; the state of our health changes. 
 
The hymn-writer, Henry Francis Lyte, penned these well-known words in 1847, while he lay dying from tuberculosis (he died only three weeks later): “Change, and decay, in all around I see.  O Thou, Who changest not, abide with me.”    What he was saying, as one who was a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, is what followers of the Christ maintain even today - that in a world of change, He is the unchanging One; that He is, as the writer of the letter to Jewish disciples of Jesus puts it, “... the same, yesterday, today, and for ever.” (Heb.13:8) 

In a world of change, I find that to be a great encouragement!

Of course,the Bible speaks about another change.  Writing to the fellowship of believers in the Roman colonial city of Philippi, Paul states that "... our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself." (Phil 3:20-21; RSV).  That's a change that will come to every true servant of Jesus at the moment of death, or rapture - whichever should occur first.  "... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ..." (I Cor 15:52; RSV), the spirit passes through that veil that separates time from eternity - that veil that is finer than gossamer, yet stronger than anything of which the mind of mortal man is capable of conceiving.  It is then that the disciple of Jesus will, I firmly believe, meet with the Saviour, face-to-face; in a body that is free from sin; in that city that "... has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (Rev 21:23; RSV).

That's a change worth anticipating!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Follow Me!

Enfin!  Un autre camping avec le connexion Wi-fi!  Or, to put it another way, a camp-site with a wi-fi connection, at last!  Actually, we are sited out of range of the signal, but at least I cna go back and forward to recharge my laptop battery more easily here than at McDonald's!

We're actually at our final stop before making our way to Dunkerque, and the ferry back to the U.K.  During the past weeks, wev've been continuing to get used to the wonders of our new satellite navigation system with the French voice of Sébastien.  We don't always understand every word that this computerised voice utters, but at least the French pronunciations are a great deal better than those provided by the English-language voices!

Of course, at the end of the day, all of the sat-nav systems (and even wife-nav!), directions, and maps, don't match up to the truly personal touch. It was many years ago, when our children were still coming on holiday with us.  We were in the Belgian city of Brussels, looking for the address of a Christian evangelistic organisation with whose workers we had arranged to spend the night.  In those pre-Euro days, we only had one Belgian coin left over from a previous holiday.  I used it to telephone – but the person who answered didn’t speak any English, and my French was still little better than schoolboy level!

It was now dark; we were in a strange city; the children were tired; my wife was concerned (as was I – but I tried not to show it!); we now had no local currency at all; and everyone from whom I tried to get directions spoke only French, or maybe it was Flemish.  Then, as we drove down a particular residential road, I noticed a younger man about to get into the car in his driveway.  I stopped our car, and went over to him and, in my halting French asked if he could direct us, in English please, to the address that I had written down.  He replied with just two words in the English language: “Follow me!”  Within less than twenty minutes, we were at the correct address.  We had found someone who knew the way, and who could guide us, safely, to our destination.

Everyone, I suspect, wants to follow someone who already knows the way.  That knowledge provides the follower with assurance that, whatever pitfalls or diversions are met, the destination will, indeed, be safely reached.  The early disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were first known as followers of “the Way” – they believed that, in Him, they had found One Who knew what He was doing, and where He was going.  So they followed Him, as millions continue to do today – many of them suffering greatly, but certain that His “Follow Me!” is an invitation that is worth accepting.

Have you heard His voice, and accepted that invitation?