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Monday, 19 September 2011

Preaching the Word!

On yesterday morning's Sunday programme (BBC Radio 4) excerpts from a debate on the subject of Faith, between Dr Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, and the well-known 'stand-up' comedian, Frank Skinner, were played.  I don't now who chose the particular excerpts that were broadcast but, in my opinion, they certainly showed Frank Skinner as being the better communicator - and I speak as one who has little time for 'stand-up comedians'!

It made me wonder (not for the first time!) if it is possible to be too academic when sharing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.  We need, surely, to speak in language that 'ordinary' people understand.  That, indeed, is the basic purpose behind the book that I am currently writing, and that is nearing completion. :-)

As some will know, the Greek in which the New Testament was written is different from classical Greek.  It was once believed that this was because N.T. Greek was a special 'divine' Greek used for the preservation of the written Word of God.  However, archaeological discoveries eventually confirmed that, far from being a 'special' form of the Greek language, N.T. Greek was in fact common, everyday, Greek.  It was the Greek used on the street-corner; in the home; while out shopping.  Classical Greek, it turned out, was the 'rarified' version!

Surely there is a message here for the church of the 21st century.  We need to speak in language that doesn't require a post-graduate degree in theology to be understood.  The message never changes - the method of presentation must be contemporary!

By the way, if you want to listen to the whole of that debate (and I recommend it!), then a recording is available at   (please copy and paste!)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Fair Umpire

I receive a number of devotional items on a regular basis.  The following arrived in my Inbox today, and I believe that it is worth sharing.

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (Col.3:15)

The Greek word translated rule in this verse means "to umpire." The apostle Paul says that we should let the peace of Christ be the umpire in our lives. An umpire keeps the peace. He makes sure the game is played in a smooth and orderly fashion. God wants to give us an internal umpire who will keep us at peace even when everything seems chaotic.

Only as we submit to Christ's control and authority can we experience spiritual peace. We may think all we need to do is to get away, but that is not true. We can't run away to get peace. It won't come from divorcing our spouse, giving our children up for adoption, changing jobs, or living as a hermit on the backside of nowhere. Only when we submit our internal world to the Lordship of Christ will we experience peace.

If we really want God's peace, we should ask for it. A psychiatrist was quoted in a newspaper as saying that he could not improve upon the apostle Paul's prescription for human worry. Paul wrote, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). Notice the order: first prayer and then peace. A cause-and-effect relationship exists in this prescription. Prayer is the cause; peace is the effect.

If you and I are not praying, we're likely to be worrying. And worry is such a useless emotion and activity. Worry is the opposite of peace; they cannot coexist. Worry, like a pressure cooker, builds up our internal pressure with negative emotions and concerns. Prayer, on the other hand, functions like a safety valve. When life's stresses become too great and we feel like we are about to explode, prayer releases the stress and frustration. Everyone needs an unconditional listener to unload on, and a fair umpire to call the game. In God we have the perfect embodiment of both roles. We can dump on Him and know that He will not get stressed out by what we tell Him. We can be confident that He will bring order and calm to our daily lives.

Tyndale House Publishers © 2011  (slightly amended).

Saturday, 10 September 2011

"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

On Thursday evening, my wife and I spent some time with a couple who have been friends for some 25 years.  It was, as we had expected, a very enjoyable evening with good food, and good conversation.  However, the lasting memory for me will be when, just as we were about to leave, my friend Jim told us about his Sat-nav.  Apparently, he had used it to direct him to a particular crematorium.  As he drove through the entrance, the voice of the Sat-nav informed him: "You have arrived at your final destination"!!!!

As you might imagine, we laughed - and laughed.  But, of course, it was really a serious comment.  So many, it seems, in our modern culture actually believe that the crematorium, or the cemetery is their "final destination".

Not so the disciple of Jesus!

In John's account of the Gospel, he records these words of the Lord to His disciples: "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also." (14:1-3; RSV).

Those early disciples, steeped in their Jewish culture, would have immediately recognised the allusion.  This was a reference to the marriage custom of their day (see also Matt.25:1-13).  After both families had agreed to the marriage, the bridegroom returned to his parental home and prepared a home for his bride!   To use Jesus' words, he prepared a place.

There are a number of places in the New Testament writings in which the church (i.e. the true Body of Christ) is described a His Bride.   And Jesus has promised that, when one of His disciples dies, physically, He will take him/her to be with Him.  I've posted before about that fine barrier between time and eternity.   It's a wonderful, exciting, thought that my last glimpse of mortal life, as I slip through that curtain, will be my first glimpse of Him!

Of course, as that parable in Matt 25 makes clear, I don't know exactly when the Bridegroom will return for me - or if I will go to Him first.  That's why I need always to be ready.  I spent a major part of my youth and young adulthood in the Boys' Brigade.  But I always liked the motto of the Boy Scouts: "Be prepared".  It's one that, I believe we should all take to heart with regard to that event that we call death.

Tomorrow, many people will be recalling that dreadful atrocity that took place in New York (not forgetting the parallel incidents at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania) when aeroplanes were deliberately flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.  I am fairly certain that those who worked in those buildings, and those who were passengers on those 'planes, didn't get out of bed that morning thinking " I may well die today"! yet thousands of them did - along with some who were trying to help prior to the towers collapsing.

In spite of the continuing advances in medical science death, at least until the Rapture of the Church, is assured for each one of us.  The 17th century cleric and author, John Donne as he lay dying from the effects of the plague that was killing people in London by the thousand, was able to hear the church bells tolling their announcement of death after death.  He wrote in his devotional diary: "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for thee!"  How true!  The writer of the New Testament Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus states that "... it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgement." (9:27; RSV).

Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth: "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
"Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is thy victory?  O death, where is thy sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor 15:54-57; RSV).  He, that is Jesus, is the only hope that we have; He alone enables us to face death with a steady eye.

May all who read this post have the assurance of that victory.  It makes a big difference when we face death!

Friday, 9 September 2011

An EU Referendum for the U.K.?

Mr Cameron, the U.K. Prime Minister stated, only a few days ago, that the vast majority of the British public don't want to leave the E.U., merely to have it reformed!!

I do wish that he would explain to us the basis on which he arrived at that conclusion. Polls, we are constantly informed, use a representative cross-section of our society. I am unaware of a single such poll that has shown anything other than a majority (sometimes a substantial majority) taking an alternative position to that of the PM.

Indeed, today's newspapers report that a petition signed by 100,000 subjects of H.M. the Queen, and demanding a referendum on the U.K's. continuing membership of what must be one of the most discredited organisations in recent history, was delivered to 10 Downing Street, yesterday.

What we need is a mass demonstration marching on Downing Street - when the PM is there, of course. Whilst not advocating a repeat in the U.K. of some of what we have seen on our television screens across North Africa and in the Middle east, these people have shown that even dictators of long standing can be deposed.

If we are to get out of the corrupt, and insatiable, E.U. we may have to first of all get out on to the streets!

Sunday, 4 September 2011


Today, my dear wife and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary!  Quite an achievement (for her, at any rate!).  Sadly, there appears to a large number of couples who, whether having entered into a formal marital relationship, or not, don't even manage to spend 10 years together, let alone four times that period.

However, even if a marriage lasts only a relatively short time, it is still the cultural norm in any society, past or present, of which I am aware, that it will be between a man and a woman.  Within a Biblical context, it is a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, for life.  And that, it has been shown over and over again, is the best environment for the raising of children.  I don't have any statistics (and don't know if they even exist) as to the number of the rioters and robbers in the recent disturbances in London, and some other English cities, who are the product of so-called "single parents", but it would not surprise me to discover that many of them were.  Indeed, there could well have been a significant number who are second-generation "one-parent" children!  I am not, of course, referring to those who, through the death of their spouse, have been left to raise a family on their own.  In such cases, my experience is that they are excellent parents, and do all that they can to make up for the missing one.

People may scoff at "the good book" (aka The Bible) with its ideas, and precepts, that they consider to be old-fashioned, and not appropriate for modern 'western' society.  But that Book, given by the Creator, is the best possible guide to life and living.  Indeed, it is the only book that deals, not just with living out our mortal existences, but with how we may be assured of our eternal destiny. 

We disregard it at our peril - and the peril of society as a whole!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Thank you! We're proud of you. You're fired!!

Well, I don't suppose that those were the exact words in the redundancy notices issued to almost 2,000 members of the U.K's armed forces today - with many more to come.  However, it doesn't seem to be too far from the reality of the message!

As I listened to this information being given out on the early-evening news bulletin, I couldn't help but think of the scenes in the town of Wooton Bassett that will be, I suspect, engraved on the memories of many of us for the rest of our lives.  I thought of the hundreds of young men and women whose dead bodies had been repatriated in recent years.  I thought of the profligacy of a government department that appears to have wasted millions, and millions, of taxpayer pounds, resulting in the financial 'black hole' which has led to these redundancies.  I thought of the hundreds of thousands of pounds that were fiddled by members of the last parliament, and wondered how many redundancies that money might have saved.  I thought of so-called 'celebrities, and the obscene salaries paid out to so many of them - Jonathan Ross (no relation!) even informing us, today, that the £6 million from the BBC was less than he was worth, and that he (so magnanimously!) had turned down even higher salary offers. 

I thought of the football transfer window that closed last night, and of the equally obscene amounts paid to premier league footballers, together with the associated transfer fees.  And I wondered how many soldiers, and sailors, and aircrew could have been retained if those non-producers were to be content with a living wage.  I thought, too, of bankers who appear, still, to be demanding (and receiving) bonuses that are greater than many of us earn in a full working life.

Of course, it's the "little people" who will suffer.  I would be more than a little surprised to discover that a number of Generals, and Admirals, and Air Chief Marshals had received their redundancy notices today! 

The problem, it seems to me, is not one of lack of resources, but of their distribution.  One senior Air Force officer gave an assurance that counselling would be available to those who were being transferred from military, to civilian, life.  Perhaps a longer-term view of the situation, and a super-tax on the inflated salaries of those who produce nothing but entertainment, and on the gross bonuses paid out to not only senior bankers, but also to many of the 'captains of industry', would have encouraged the Coalition Government to deal differently with our armed forces - and done away with any need for such counselling!