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Monday, 31 December 2012

Resolutions!

Only twice in my lifetime have I managed to keep a New Year Resolution for more than a few weeks. On one of those occasions, I managed to keep my garage tidy for a little more than four months.  The second resolution was made many years ago - and I am still keeping it!  I resolved never to make any more New Year Resolutions!

Having said that, there are certain things that, for the disciple of Jesus, should surely be daily resolutions.  These resolutions ought to be easier to keep, because we have the promised help of God the Holy Spirit to assist us.  So what kind of resolutions might be in order?

Perhaps the first would be to spend more time, alone, with the Lord.  It's what we used to call our "Quiet Time", although nowadays, I talk more about my "Private Devotions".  Whatever the name given, it involves taking time to draw aside from the busy-ness of modern life, and spend it in reading God's written Word, the Bible; and in coming before Him in prayer.  How long should one spend?  That is between the believer and the Lord.  However, I know that I spend a lot longer nowadays than I did when I was younger.  Some, of course, would claim that they simply don't have the time to pray.  I would respond with the story of the man who said that he prayed for two hours every morning - unless he knew that he was going to have a particularly busy day.  In that case, he prayed for three hours!  Of course, spiritual exercises are like physical exercises.  If I have never run any appreciable distance before, I don't start by running a marathon!  I run as far as I can - but I keep increasing the distance.

The second resolution would be to develop a passion for holiness.  This is a word (there's a whole chapter on it in my book: Great Words of the Christian Faith - see post on Sept 20th) that basically means "separate".  In other words, as a disciple of Jesus, I am expected to be different!  My over-riding concern will be to please Him.  I'll ask Him about going to certain places; watching certain programmes/films; consuming certain items.  I won't always get it right.  As a sinful human being (albeit one who has been saved by the grace of God) I will fall.  But if I allow Him to, He will keep working in me, and on me, as He makes me more like Himself.  It's a process called sanctification (and there's a full chapter, in the book, on that, as well!).  Not every believer is called to be an evangelist.  However, whether we like it, or not, each of us is a witness!  The only question is - "Am I a good witness; or a bad one?!"

Just one more possible resolution - and that would be to be more faithful in my giving.  If I have handed my life over to the Lord; if I have accepted His Lordship in my life; if I am seeking to live in submission to Him; then that includes my finances.  The Biblical pattern is, as far as I can make out, of a tithe (10%) plus a love-gift (that is between me and the Lord).  As with the time spent in prayer and Bible reading (that will progress to Bible study!) there are those who will claim that this is impossible.  However, I think it was Billy Graham who once made the point that 90% (or less!) with God's blessing goes further than 100% without it.  I can certainly testify to the truth of that from my own experience!

Just three resolutions!  However, if everyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus were to make, and keep, them, what a difference it would make in their own lives - and in the lives of so many others.

A blesséd, peaceful, and God-honouring New Year to each and all.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Why Jesus is Better Than Santa

Like my wife and I, many years ago, many Christian parents do not wish to perpetuate a lie by allowing their small children to grow up thinking that "Santa Claus" really exists.  At the same time, it is difficult to get away from the rotund, bearded, red-suited, "Ho,ho,ho"ing gentleman at this time of year.  So, what does one do?  Well, the following might prove to be helpful.  If you don't need it just now, note the date - and return to it when you do!  It certainly shows that Jesus, the true reason for the season, is much better than even a genuine St Nicholas could ever be, let alone an ordinary person who has been dressed-up!

 
Santa lives at the North Pole...
JESUS is everywhere.

Santa rides in a sleigh...
JESUS rides on the wind and walks on the water.

Santa comes but once a year...
JESUS is an ever present help.

Santa fills your stockings with goodies...
JESUS supplies all of your needs.

Santa comes down your chimney uninvited...
JESUS stands at your door and knocks, and then enters your heart when invited.

You have to wait in line to see Santa...
JESUS is as close as the mention of His name.

Santa lets you sit on his lap...
JESUS lets you rest in His arms.

Santa doesn't know your name, all he can say is "Hi little boy or girl, what's your name?"...
JESUS knew our name before we were born. Not only does He know our name, He knows our address too. He knows our history and future and He even knows how many hairs are on our heads.

Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly...
JESUS has a heart full of love

All Santa can offer is HO HO HO...
JESUS offers health, help and hope.

Santa says "You'd better not cry"...
JESUS says "Cast all your cares on me for I care for you."

Santa's little helpers make toys...
JESUS makes new life, mends wounded hearts, repairs broken homes and builds mansions.

Santa may make you chuckle but...
JESUS gives you joy that is your strength.

While Santa puts gifts under your tree...
JESUS became our gift and died on a tree...the cross.

We need to put Christ back in CHRISTmas.   Jesus is still "the reason for the season".

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life"
(John 3:16).

Monday, 17 December 2012

So, where was God?!

I have deliberately waited a few days before daring to comment on the tragedy that took place in the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday.  Such an event does not call for a "knee-jerk" reaction. 

It's been interesting, however, to notice the way in which the vast majority - if not all - of those in that community have looked to "religion" for solace and strength.  It would appear, yet again, that when "the chips are down" we tend to confirm the words of Augustine: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and we are restless 'til we find our rest in Thee"; or the more contemporary counterpart, "There's a God-shaped blank in every heart that only God can fill."  In times of particular sorrow, most of us do turn, instinctively, to a greater Power!

But that, of course, raises the question: "If there is a God, why would He allow such a terrible thing to happen?"  I was preaching on the Sunday immediately following 9/11, and I had to ask the same question.  In such situations of death, destruction, suffering, and sorrow, "Where is God?"   The only answer that I could offer then, and can offer now, is that He is right there, in the midst of it all.  The approaching Christmas season is a reminder that He was willing to take on our humanity, in order to offer us His eternity.

I have a little clip on my study wall that reads:
"If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; if our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us scientist; if our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; if our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; but our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour."

What kind of Saviour do we need when our hearts are shredded by the kind of brutal loss experienced by the loved ones of those who died, children and adults, in Sandy Hook School?  We need a Saviour Who has tasted the very cup that we are being forced to drink.  We need a Saviour Whom we know understands our grief, and pain, and even our bewilderment.  At the tomb of His friend, Lazarus,we read that "Jesus wept" (John 1135).  He understands!

Almost a year ago, one of the young sergeants in 'Q' Division of Strathclyde Police collapsed and died while playing off-duty football (soccer) with some of the constables from his shift.  I had the following sent, on my behalf, to every officer and staff member in the Division:
"On Monday, along with many officers and staff, I attended the funeral service for the late Sgt. [name withheld].
Death is never an easy situation to handle but, in circumstances such as [name withheld]’s sudden death, it is even more difficult.  As Chaplain, I want to share some thoughts that will, I trust, help some of you to cope with this particular situation a little more easily.  
In such tragic circumstances, I find myself thinking of the sorrow that death inevitably brings.  This is especially true for the immediate family – for [names withheld].   There is the deep sorrow of loneliness – the empty chair; the vacant place at the table; the void in life itself.  A certain emptiness, or vacuum, has been created in our lives – and sorrow is its close companion.  Into such a situation, the message of the Christian Gospel is of One Who  has said to those who are willing to trust Him: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you(Heb.135); of One Who is willing to “... stand by [us] more closely than a brother.” (Prov.1824)
In these circumstances, it is my experience that there is also a comfort that mankind instinctively seeks.  We quickly become aware of our inability to cope with this new situation alone.  That’s why relatives and friends gather around at such a time.  It’s for the benefit of the bereaved, as much as out of respect for the deceased.  It’s the reason  why so many, who have had no time for God in their lives turn to Him, almost instinctively, when death strikes at their own family, or circle of friends – especially in circumstances such as those surrounding Sgt [name withheld]’s death.  The sad thing to me is that, in so many cases, once the grief is eased, He is again forgotten, rejected, despised.  Yet to those who truly seek Him, the promise stands: “They cried out for Your help, and You gave it; they trusted in You, and You didn’t let them down.” (Ps.225).  There’s a comfort for which we instinctively seek – and the word comfort, of course, really means strength; but strength that is offered with love and compassion.
The third thought concerns the tragedy that God magnificently changes.  I think, as did the young priest at the funeral service, of another seeming tragedy in the history of mankind – Calvary.  Jesus, in the teaching of the Christian Gospel, God the Son, hanging on a cross; His disciples distressed, despairing, disorientated.  Yet, according to the teaching of the New Testament, just a few weeks later, God the Father had worked in that situation, through God the Holy Spirit, changing it to one of glorious triumph.  Those same men and women were now bold, courageous, strong.
So as we gave, and give, thanks for the life of [name withheld], we continue to surround his widow and children with our love and prayers, that they might experience the transforming power of God in their lives."
We can do no more, and no better, than to surround the bereaved of Newtown in the same way.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

"I don't believe it!" (apologies to V.Meldrew).

A virgin conceives a Child.  "Rubbish", retorts the sceptic.  That Child, as a grown Man, heals the sick and the infirm; walks on water; feeds a multitude with just a couple of small fish and a few bread rolls; raises the dead.  "Rubbish", retorts the sceptic.  The Man is eventually crucified but, within three days, has risen from the dead - and appears to many people, including one group of more than 500!  "Rubbish", retorts the sceptic.  " I haven't seen any of these things, therefore I cannot believe in them."

Now, consider some other news that I read yesterday, concerning Quantum Computers.  Present computers use electrical circuits to hold information in the form of "one" or "zero".   Quantum Computers, I am informed, will use atoms, or chunks of light called photons, that can be "one", "zero", or any point in between.  However, what is really clever, is that they can be all of these at the same time!  It's all to do with quantum mechanics.  I mention this discipline in my book (
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009EG6TJW):

"Quantum mechanics has to do with the idea that energy and matter are not continuous but come in small, discrete packets: quanta.  Quotations from two famous physicists sum up its weirdness and complexity – “If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it.” (Niels Bohr); and “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” (Richard Feynman).  Suddenly, the understanding of theology seems like a piece of cake!"

The atom is composed of three 3 basic parts with different charges, the electron (negative particle), the proton (the positive particle), and the neutron (the neutral particle). The neutrons and protons are packed in the nucleus of an atom held together with gluons, the messenger particle of the strong force. A messenger particle is a particle that when passed between two particles means that they interact with each other. At the heart of each particle is an even smaller particle known as a quark. Quarks come in different "colours". They are known as colours but are not actually coloured; the colour code is just used for classification. Each colour decides how the specific quark acts.  Confused?  You are not alone!

The important fact is that no-one, to the very best of my knowledge, has ever seen a quantum; no-one has ever seen a quark; no-one has ever witnessed anything to do with string theory (which is something else again!).

So, in the world of quantum mechanics, it would appear that seeing is not believing, but that believing is "seeing"!  I would suggest that the same thing is true is the spiritual realm.  Peter writes: "Without having seen [Jesus] you love Him; though you do not now see Him you believe in Him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy." (I Peter 1:8).  The result, of course, is of eternal importance: "As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls." (v.9).

Now, that is something worth obtaining!

PS If you haven't got a Kindle, there is a FREE app to enable you to read my book (the first in a planned series!) on a PC.  Go to

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd?docId=1000423913

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Consequences

It is a simple fact of life that all actions have consequences - often unintended.  This is something that two young Radio Presenters in Australia have recently learned, and done so in a very hard way!

I find myself more than a little confused about the account of the prank telephone call that is claimed to have led to the suicide of a senior nurse who, by all accounts, was a true professional.  Like most people, I heard the edited recording - and had to agree that the accents were terrible.  No acting career for those two!  I can understand why the nurse was embarrassed at having been "taken in".  However, we are assured by the hospital authorities, she was not being disciplined, or even reprimanded.  Indeed, the spokesman informed us that the hospital was being very supportive of her.

This makes me wonder if there was anything else playing on Jacintha Saldanha's mind.  Would embarrassment, however real, be sufficient for her to leave behind a husband and two teenage children?  Was the spoof telephone call not the reason for her tragic death, at her own hand, but merely the straw that finally broke the proverbial camel's back?

Today, it has been reported that a suicide note was left for her family.  I would hope that it might be possible for the contents of that note to be revealed or, at least, the gist thereof.  For the sake of Michael Christian and Mel Greig, who are also victims (albeit of their own making), as well as the family, the truth must be allowed to come out.

Of course, other actions, and inactions, have their own consequences - sometimes even more tragic than the untimely death of a dedicated nurse.   As we approach the Christmas season, many seem to be unaware that the first syllable in that word is "Christ"!  He truly is the centre, the focus, and the reason for the season.  However, if we stop at Christmas, and the Babe in the manger, we do ourselves a great dis-service.  For that same Babe became the Christ of the cross, hanging there to pay the penalty for my sin, and for yours. 

Pilate asked the chief priests and the elders of the Jews, "... what shall I do with Jesus Who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let Him be crucified." (Matt 27:22).  What is your answer to that question?  The consequences of your answer are of eternal significance!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

What's in a flag?

Flags are very powerful symbols.  The evidence is overwhelming.  Look at the pride with which an Army Regiment regards its Colours; look at today's television pictures of the flag waving in Gaza at the rally for Khaled Mashaal, leader of the terrorist group, Hamas; look at the pictures that are regularly shown of Islamist extremists burning the flag of the USoA; think of the flags that are flown at international sporting events.

It is then, little wonder that the Loyalist/Unionist population of Northern Ireland are "up in arms" at the decision by Belfast City Council to end the long-standing tradition  of daily flying the Union Flag over Belfast City Hall, and doing so only on a number of specified dates.

It does seem strange that any public building within the UK should be, in any way, prohibited from flying the Union Flag at any time!  However, this is just another result of Blair's so-called "Peace Plan".  Of course, he is now well out of that, and concentrating on his efforts to become the first President of the "new" EU!

Flags are also used to communicate a message.  It may be the use of a variety of flags on a naval vessel, that spell out a clear message to the initiated; it may be the use of semaphore flags achieving the same result; it may be the white flag that communicates the willingness to surrender.

The disciple of Jesus has some important flags to fly!  I can't recall the name of the minister who first used the words as a brief comment.  However, they were taken up and became the chorus that many would have sung forty or fifty years ago:

Love is the flag flying high
on the castle of my heart,
on the castle of my heart,
on the castle of my heart.
Love is the flag flying high
on the castle of my heart,
For the King is in residence there.

Joy is the flag flying high
on the castle of my heart,
on the castle of my heart,
on the castle of my heart.
Joy is the flag flying high
on the castle of my heart,
For the King is in residence there.

Peace is the flag flying high
on the castle of my heart,
on the castle of my heart,
on the castle of my heart.
Peace is the flag flying high
on the castle of my heart,
For the King is in residence there.

If every disciple of Jesus was to have those three flags flying, what a potent symbol that would be - and what a message it would communicate to a strife-torn world!


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Get Your Mind Ready

I really love the "Godincidents" (aka coincidences) of life!  After last night's post, the following arrived in my Inbox.  It seemed appropriate to share it!

"Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (I Peter 1:13)

We have been born again (I Peter 1:3), Peter tells us, to an imperishable inheritance in heaven (v. 4), which is secure (v. 5) even though the intervening time is difficult (vv. 6-7). Such a salvation as we have is both mysterious and hard to understand, pondered by both the saints of old (v. 10) and angels (v. 12). Yet we have it with more complete understanding and fulfilment than even the prophets ever dreamed possible.

Our rightful response to this knowledge and experience is given in today's verse. We are to "gird up [our] minds." Just as the flowing robes worn by the men of New Testament times had to be bundled up and tied at the waist to allow for rapid, unencumbered movement, so the Christian is expected to be ready to be on the move; to discipline his or her mind by the renouncing of all sinful and/or confining habits and attitudes.

To do so we must "be sober," be clear-headed, calm, and in control. We must "hope fully" or, more explicitly, "hope to the utmost degree", in our ultimate glorification at the return of Christ. The construction of "hope" implies a command to "fix our hope" on Him, a sure hope, not a wishful hope. This is the "grace that is coming to [the believer]."

Furthermore, we must renounce "the passions of [our] former ignorance" (v. 14), being "obedient children" of the Father.

It is not even enough simply to eliminate sinful patterns from our lives. "... but as He Who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct;" (v. 15).

A mind that is disciplined and purified is ready for action and victory." JDM

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

He's Saviour - but is He Lord?!

Some of the most chilling words in the whole of the Bible are to be found in Matthew's account of the Gospel, in what is usually referred to as "The Sermon on the Mount", in 7:21-23 - "Not every one who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name, and do many mighty works in Your Name?'  And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you evildoers.'"

They are words, I believe, that speak powerfully to the present generation of "western Christians".  So many have been deceived by a "Come to Jesus and all of your sins will be forgiven; all of your problems will be solved; and you can look forward to eternity in His Presence."

That, I have to say, is what Paul would call "... another gospel ..." (see Gal.1:6-9).  You see, while it is true that Jesus forgives sin - He paid the price for all of my sin, and yours, on the cross at Calvary; while it is true that those who are truly His will spend eternity in His Presence; (it is definitely not true that all problems will be solved - indeed, for many their problems only begin when they become His disciples!) - it is also true that He demands repentance, and obedience!

It wasn't just John, the Baptiser, who preached "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt 3:2); The same words are used by Jesus at the beginning of His own public ministry: "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt 4:17).  Yet I seldom hear a message of repentance being proclaimed from pulpit or platform.  Repentance - the deliberate, conscious, turning my back on the things that make me just like those whose only reference to Jesus is when they use His Name as an expletive, or swear-word - is not easy.  Much more simple to just repeat "the sinner's prayer" - and go on living my life as if nothing had changed!  Oh, I may be baptised; I may fulfil a function in my local fellowship/congregation/assembly; I may even be a preacher, teacher, or evangelist.  But if I have not repented; if I am not making a conscious effort to effect change in my life; then I am not a disciple of Jesus!

Now, some may accuse me of preaching a message of salvation by works!  Absolutely not.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8-9; emphasis added).  Salvation is all of grace (check out my e-book on the subject: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009EG6TJW ).  However, Paul continues: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10).  It's not an 'either-or'; it's a 'both-and'!

That leads me to obedience. Immediately after we read those words of Jesus with which I commenced this post, we read these further words of Jesus: "Every one then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it." (Matt 7:24-27).

Notice that the wise man is the one who "... does ..." the words of Jesus - in other words, the one who is obedient!  "If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.  He who does not love Me will not obey My teaching. These words you hear are not My own; they belong to the Father Who sent Me." (John 14:23-24; NIV).

Of course, all of this is impossible for mortal men and women (and children!).  This is why we need a second birth.  Our natural, physical, birth is not sufficient.  We need a supernatural, spiritual, birth.  So Jesus tells the very religious Nicodemus, who: "... came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do, unless God is with him.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (literally, "from above"), he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" (John 3:2-3).

Have you experienced that new birth?  Have you repented of your sins, and your sinfulness?  Are you obedient to His commands - whatever the cost?  You may acknowledge Him as Saviour - but is He truly Lord?    Oh, you may "stick out like a sore thumb" - but that's what the disciple of Jesus us supposed to do.  We are called to be "holy" - and that means separated to His service.  May each of us be those of whom He will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your Master." (Matt.25:21).

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Putting the cart before the horse!

One of yesterday's news items concerned the case of Emma Hickman and her legal battle with the Ministry of Defence - a battle which she has finally won.  The background was that her fiancé, who was a serving soldier in the 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, died in a Taliban bomb attack, in March of this year.  A tragic incident - exacerbated, three months later, by the birth of a daughter to Ms Hickman.

She claimed, not unsurprisingly, that her fiancé was the father of her child, but the MoD refused to release a sample of Private Wade's DNA to allow his paternity to be beyond doubt, and to enable him to be named on the baby's Birth Certificate.  At last, officials have released a sample, and Private Wade's paternity has been confirmed.  This does have the added benefit of making the child (at least) eligible for compensation - although the young mother has vehemently denied that her case had anything to do with money and, oddly enough, I am inclined to believe her!

However, it does raise the whole issue of the falling moral standards that are so prevalent in our contemporary society.  If this couple had not "put the cart before the horse", and had been married to one another before bedding each other, the situation would not have arisen!  

Many of us, in Scotland and the UK, are deeply concerned about the current attempts by some politicians in both Holyrood and Westminster to redefine marriage.  However, could it be that the concept has already been so devalued that such a move is almost a "natural" progression?

What we need is a return to the "old-fashioned" values of chastity before marriage, and fidelity within it; of children being reared by a father and a mother (except, of course, in such tragic situations as that of Private Wade and Ms Hickman); of proper, and appropriate, discipline being exercised in the home.

Such "reactionary" ideas may not gain much support from the general population, but they could go a long way towards healing a society that is not so much fractured, as broken into little pieces!  This is where the true Church of God, the Body of Christ, has an important part to play.  "... if My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (II Chron.7:14), is a word from Almighty God that has not been revoked.  However, it is "His people" who are to be involved.  Let those of us who claim to be among that number take His word seriously, and call upon His name.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sovereign Love

Today, in Motherwell, the funeral service took place for 6 year-old Caden Beggan, who died as the result of a particularly nasty and virulent disease.  His story has been well aired on Facebook, and in some Scottish newspapers, and may be read by doing a search on his name at  www.everyclick.com

Death is always sad, but it is especially so when it is the death of such a young child.  Only those who have undergone the experience can fully understand the pain experienced by the parents in such a situation.  However, for the disciple of Jesus, there is always hope even in the face of such a tragedy.  Was it, then mere coincidence that the following arrived in my Inbox, yesterday?



"Tomorrow morning," the surgeon began, "I'll open up your heart..." 

"You'll find Jesus there," the boy interrupted.

The surgeon looked up, annoyed. "I'll cut your heart open," he continued, "to see how much damage has been done..." 


"But when you open up my heart, you'll find Jesus in there."

The surgeon looked to the parents, who sat quietly. "When I see how much damage has been done, I'll sew your heart and chest back up and I'll plan what to do next."

"But you'll find Jesus in my heart. The Bible says He lives there. The hymns all say He lives there. You'll find Him in my heart."

The surgeon had had enough. "I'll tell you what I'll find in your heart. I'll find damaged muscle, low blood supply, and weakened vessels. And I'll find out if I can make you well."

"You'll find Jesus there too. He lives there."

The surgeon left. 


After the surgery, he sat in his office, recording his notes: "...damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration. No hope for transplant, no hope for cure. Therapy: painkillers and bed-rest. Prognosis:" Here he paused. "death within one year."  He stopped the recorder, but there was more to be said. "Why?" he asked aloud. "Why did You do this? You've put him here; You've put him in this pain; and You've cursed him to an early death. Why?"

The Lord answered and said, "The boy, My lamb, was not meant for your flock for long, for he is a part of My flock, and will forever be. Here, in My flock, he will feel no pain, and will be comforted as you cannot imagine. His parents will one day join him here, and they will know peace, and My flock will continue to grow."

The surgeon's tears were hot, but his anger was hotter. "You created that boy, and You created that heart. He'll be dead in months. Why?"

The Lord answered, "The boy, My lamb, shall return to My flock, for he has done his duty: I did not put My lamb with your flock to lose him, but to retrieve another lost lamb."

The surgeon wept. 


Later, he sat beside the boy's bed; the boy's parents sat across from him.

The boy awoke and whispered, "Did you cut open my heart?" 


"Yes," said the surgeon. 

"What did you find?" asked the boy. 

"I found Jesus there," said the surgeon."
 
Caden Beggan has died, physically.  But could it be that, in the economy of Almighty God, that young life will prove to have been used to bring about spiritual life for not just one, but many of those who cared for him in hospital, or who followed his story online?  Only eternity will reveal the  answer to that question.  Meanwhile, we commend his grieving family to the God Who understands their pain, and Who shares with them in it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What a gap!

So, here I am!  It's Nov. 21st, and this is my first post since Nov.5th!  That is, by far, the longest gap between posts in the almost five years since I set up this blog.

The difficulties started with PC problems.   My laptop died - or, at least, there was nothing showing on the screen.  The estimate for a repair was so close to the cost of a new machine, that I decided to replace.  A visit to PC World had me coming home with a brand-new laptop.  Unfortunately, when I attempted to load my Office 2007 software, it was not accepted.  I planned to return to PC World, with my Office disk, and ask them to install it for me.  However, before I could do so, I had my first-ever bout of real influenza (not "man-flu".  I've had that many times!!).  I was in bed for almost a week, and had to force myself out, last Tuesday, because I was due to travel to France on the following day, and had accommodation and ferries all booked.  After exhaustive tests, it was decided that I had been given a faulty PC, and I returned home with a(nother) new one.

The rest of that day was spent in loading the car with all of the items I was to take to France (to the static), so the new laptop didn't even get out of its box!   The following morning - and beginning to feel a lot more like my usual self - I headed south to my overnight stop near to Dartford.  The next day, I drove to Dover, and embarked the ferry that took me to Calais.  From there, I drove to near Rheims, for my second overnight.

Everything was going according to plan, as I headed south to Bayas, on Friday.  Then, less than 10 miles from my destination (and having travelled some 1100 miles from home), I somehow managed to drive the car off the road, and into a gulley that is about 14' deep!   Not, I have to admit, the most exciting experience of my life!  Thankfully, I did not have as much as a scratch, and although the angle at which the car had come to a stop meant that I was unable to open the door, I did manage to wind down the window and crawl out (those hours in the gym were really paying off!!).

To cut a long story short, I managed to find help, and arrange for a breakdown truck to attend the scene - only to discover that two trucks would be required to ensure that the car didn't topple over completely as it was being hauled out!  From the garage, I was able to contact the Camp-Site owner, who kindly came to pick me up - along with what I thought would be the necessities!   Of course, I forgot the bedding, and had a couple of uncomfortable nights with packing protecting the pillow and duvet!

It was Monday before we were able to return to the garage, and make contact with my Insurance Company.  Then I had to contact another company, who represent my Insurers, to arrange a rental car for the duration.  That is going to be fun - at least on this side of the Channel - as I have never before driven a left-hand-drive vehicle!  However, I am awaiting a 'phone-call as I type, and my own car is to be repatriated and taken to a dealer in Cumbernauld for repair.

So, what does one learn from all of this?   I guess that the first thing is, in the words of the Scottish Bard, that "the best-laid plans o' meece an' men gang aft aglay."  The second, and more important, thing is that although my plans may often be upset, God is still in control.  His plans are sure and I can say, as the hymn-writer put it: "My times are in Thy hands; my God, I wish them there.  My life, my friends, my soul, I leave entirely to Thy care." 

That's the place of real peace.  I commend it to all who read this post.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Dealing with disappointment

Last week, I again had the privilege of bringing a devotional word to the meeting of the CPA (Christian Police Association) at the Force Training and Recruitment Centre, Jackton, East Kilbride.   As the national news over recent weeks seems to have been dealing with one disappointment after another - in the worlds of sport, entertainment, and politics; as decisions had recently been made that disappointed many (if not all) within the CPA; as I had experienced my own disappointments; and as all of us experience disappointment from time to time; I sensed that it would be useful to consider how the disciple of Jesus deals with disappointment.

We read the familiar story of Cleopas, and his un-named companion (possibly his wife), making their way from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus on the evening of the first Sabbath after the crucifixion of Jesus (Lk.24:13ff).  They were disappointed!  They had believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Messiah - but He had been crucified by the Roman authorities, at the instigation of the Jewish leadership.
Then, Jesus appeared, and walked beside them.  It was near dusk.  They didn't realise Who He was.  He asked about the cause of their dejection - and they told Him!

What did He do?  He went straight to the written Word of God and, beginning with the Torah, and the books of the prophets, He explained the references to Himself.  What a Bible Study - given by the Author!  When we are disappointed, it helps to go back to the Word - and we have the writings of the New Covenant that wasn't available to them.

They arrived at their home and, with typical Eastern hospitality, they invited this Stranger to lodge with them for the night.  He accepted their invitation and, again as would have been customary, was invited to say the prayer of blessing over the food as they sat down to supper.  It was at this point that they recognised Him - and then He vanished!  They reflected on their experience: "Didn't our hearts burn within us as we walked with Him on the road?"  Wasn't it wonderful?  Didn't we have a great experience with Him?

Immediately, they put their outdoor clothing on again, and headed back to Jerusalem to share their news with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Fellowship - with the Lord, and with one another.  That's the second thing I would suggest, as we seek to deal with our disappointments.

The third suggestion is to look forward to the resurrection.  These two disciples were now convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.  This realisation put everything that they had experienced into a new perspective!  If Jesus was alive, then the future was assured.  Their lives weren't over - they were just beginning!  The Christian Faith wasn't defeated - it had just experienced the greatest victory!  Today really is the first day of the rest of your life.

So, whatever happens to you; whatever disappointments may come your way:
look back to the Word;
look around to the fellowship;
look ahead to the resurrection.

Nothing will hurt very long when you are able to do all of that!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

They Won't Let Me In

It would appear that the story in the previous post is not as accurate as I had assumed it to be!  Thank you to the friend who went to the trouble of checking it out on Snopes!  However, if for no other reason than to remind us that "... the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb.4:12); and that it is Jesus, not man, Who will  build (and is building) His Church (Matt.16:18); I have decided to leave it - with this caveat!

This story is unlikely to be factually true, either!  However, what an important truth that many fellowships and congregations need to hear!  I have never been turned away from a church building (although there have been many to which, after I have preached, I have not been invited back!!).  However, I have often visited congregations/fellowships where not a single person spoke to me, other than the usher/steward at the front door!

"It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were filling the church to its full capacity! As they entered, each was given a bulletin filled with announcements; the topic of the day's sermon; what songs they would sing; and the names of those for whom to pray.

At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy and one could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered with whiskers, for he had not shaved for a very long time. When he reached the usher, he removed his tattered old brown hat in respect. His hair was long, dirty, and a tangled mess. He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled black socks to cover the sores upon his feet. The usher looked at him, turning up his nose at the old man, and said, "Uh, I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid we can't let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don't allow anyone to disrupt our service. I'm afraid you'll have to leave."

The old man looked down at himself and, with a puzzled look on his face, placed his old brown hat back upon his head, and left. He was sad, as he loved to hear the choir sing praises to the Lord. He loved to watch the little children get up in front of the church to sing their little songs. He carried in his pocket a small worn out Bible and loved to see if the minister preached a passage from the Bible that he had underlined. But he was respectful, and didn't want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church.

He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the church yard and strained to listen through closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. Oh how he wished he could be inside with all the others.

A few minutes had passed by when all of a sudden a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing? He answered, "I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was to filthy, my clothes to old and worn, and they were afraid I would disrupt their service.  Sorry, I didn't introduce myself. My name is George." 


The two men shook hands, and George couldn't help but notice that this Man had long hair like his. He wore a piece of cloth draped over His body tied with a royal purple sash. He had sandals on His feet - now covered with dust and dirt.

The Stranger touched his shoulder, and said: "George, don't feel bad because they won't let you in. My name is Jesus, and I've been trying to get into this same church for years - they won't let Me in either!"

"Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2"

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Church the Bible Built.

Many years ago the Rev. Robert Burris, now 92 years of age, worked for four and a half years as a missionary in South China. As part of his ministry he journeyed into the mountains carrying copies of the Scriptures, in Chinese, for distribution. In this way, although he could not speak fluent Chinese, the people were given God's Word.

Toward the end of his term Mr. Burris and three companions began a 180- mile journey with 4,000 copies of the Chinese New Testament. In the first ten days about half of these New Testaments had been distributed. Then, in the remote countryside, they were stopped by five armed bandits who took everything - money, clothing, shoes - and the remaining 2,000 copies of the New Testament. Mr. Burris and friends limped home barefooted, in their shirts and trousers, glad to be alive.

Approximately 25 years later when Mr. Burris was the pastor of a church in Ohio, he and his wife attended a lecture with slides presented by a missionary to South China. Among the slides shown was a picture of the very place in which he had been robbed by the bandits."Now," the missionary said,"we come to the most important slide in my collection. I call it The Miracle Church."

The picture on the screen showed a large rough empty building. "This is The Miracle Church," the missionary continued,"because no one knows who started it, or how it is that, every Sunday, 400 people attend, each with a copy of The New Testament in Chinese. No one knows were they got these New Testaments. So far as is known, no missionary or distributor ever went into these mountains, that are infested with bandits and robbers. Yet today, the church is there, and the people have God's Word".

Mr. Burris smiled in gratitude. God's Word, taken from him that day by bandits had been building its own church in China for 25 years.


Through the prophet Isaiah, Almighty God says: "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isa. 55:10-11; RSV).   Jesus said: "... I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18; RSV).


Sunday, 21 October 2012

It's all relative!

At the Worship Service, this morning, we were reminded that Christmas isn't too far away, and that it was time to start thinking about filling decorated shoe-boxes for the Samaritan's Purse annual "Operation Christmas Child" appeal.  As an introduction, we watched a video-clip that showed some of the previous work of this particular ministry (you may watch it at http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk/).

The interesting thing, to me, was that none of the boxes contained iPads, mobile 'phones, radio-controlled space-ships, or Buzz Lightyears!  Rather, the gifts that brought such obvious joy to the recipients were items such as a pair of sun-glasses (and some "crazy" sunglasses!); a scarf; a "Pull 'n Go" car; a pair of mitts; and similar "low-cost" gifts.

Of course, it's all relative!  In spite of the effects of the ongoing recession in the UK, and the "austerity" measures put in place by the Coalition Government, many children will have an inordinate amount spent on them for the mid-winter festival (which, to most of them is all that it will be!  The one thing missing from Christmas will be the Christ!).  The children who receive those shoe-boxes have so little to start with that those simple gifts are received with true gratitude, and an infectious excitement.

In Dr Luke's account of the Gospel he records an occasion on which the Lord Jesus had been invited to the home of a Pharisee.  While He was there, "a woman of the city" brought an alabaster jar of ointment with which she anointed the feet of the Lord, having wet them with her tears of repentance, and wiped them with her hair (which if, as is implied, she was a prostitute, would have been long and hanging loose).  Simon, the Pharisee, was quite shocked - thinking to himself that if Jesus really was a prophet, He would have known what sort of woman was touching Him!

Of course, Jesus knew exactly what the Pharisee was thinking, and told him a story - a parable about two men who owed differing sums of money to the same creditor.  One owed a fairly trifling sum; the other owed a large amount.  When neither could pay, the creditor let both of them off!  Jesus' question to Simon was simple: "Now which of them will love him more?" (Luke 7:42; RSV).  Simon wasn't a stupid man.  He knew the answer: "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." (v.43).  Jesus drew the parallel with the woman and the Pharisee, and told Simon that "... her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much ; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." (v.47).

It's all to do with appreciation.  I hope that many who read this post will get involved in "Operation Christmas Child".  Those who receive your gifts will receive much pleasure from them - because they have so little.  I hope that all who read this post will recognise the debt of gratitude each one of us has to the Saviour Who came to pay the penalty for our sin.  I trust that we will all bow, not only at the crib of the Christ-child, but also before the Christ of the cross.  Nothing that we can ever give to Him can match what He has given to, and done for, us.



Saturday, 20 October 2012

A new song!

"Highland Cathedral" is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and stirring tunes composed in recent years!  I know that at least one other person has written Christian words to be sung to that tune but, yesterday and today, I was given the following.  I trust that it will bless any who use it.

"Once, on a hill outside Jerusalem
hung, on a cross, One Who was God and man.
His Name was Jesus - He is God the Son
and, by His death, a victory He won.

             On that cross, as He hung and bled,
             the price for our sin He gladly paid.
             Gave His life so that we might live;
             He died to make us free.

Then, from the grave, He rose triumphantly;
conqueror of death and hell - for all to see.
Back to the Father's side in heaven above;
wounds in His hands and side - the signs of love.

            Now His church, here on earth, must be
            the bearer of news - wondrous and free!
            Man may be saved; have his sins forgiven;
            and know new life in Him!

So, Lord, we come and we confess our sin;
now let our life anew in You begin.
Fill with Your Spirit every longing heart
that, from Your presence, we may ne'er depart;
that, from Your presence, we may ne'er depart."

Friday, 19 October 2012

“Settlers” Provide Medical Treatment For Palestinian Child

The media, and even some well-known leaders in the Christian community, seem to be convinced that the problems in Israel are caused by the nasty Israeli Defence Force (IDF), and the willingness of the Israeli Government to permit Jewish settlers ot live in ares claimed by the Palestinians (known, Biblically, as the Philistines!).  It is unlikely that a story such as that below, will be aired by the national press and newscasters in the UK!

"A six year old Palestinian was electrocuted and his parents rushed him to the gate of the Neve Tzuf settlement, seeking medical attention for the child. A medic who lives in the West Bank settlement treated the child who suffered from severe injuries. Members of the IDF Medical Corps helped the medic stabilise the boy until an ambulance from the Ofra settlement arrived. The child was then transferred to an Israeli hospital for further treatment.

Neve Tzuf has been at the focal point of West Bank tensions. Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers on a weekly basis in the area.

Baruch Ram, director of security at Neve Tzuf, related that “This was not the first time injured and sick people come here – especially in the winter. The assistance we give them does not help us develop good neighbourly relations. We’ve never gotten a ‘thank you,’ and the truth is that I cannot explain it. We are fulfilling our duty and helping a person in distress.” 

The international community has been convinced that “the settlers” are the reason why there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This story, and many others demonstrate, that this is not the case."

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Watch this space!

As has often been pointed out, one of the wonderful things about the written Word of God - the Bible - is that however often one reads it, there is always something new to notice or discover.  This was, once more, my personal experience during my private devotions this morning.  One of the passages that I was reading was Joshua 1:1-9.  As I read those familiar words - words that I have read countless times before - I was suddenly struck by v.4.  "From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphra'tes, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory." (RSV)

In those words, YHWH is stating the boundaries of the land which He had promised to His chosen people to be their possession for ever!  The southern boundary was to be the Negev; the northern boundary was to be Lebanon; the western boundary was to be the Mediterranean Sea.  So far, so good.  However, it was that eastern boundary that had me reaching for my Bible Atlas.  Then I reached for a modern atlas.  I compared the two.  There could be no doubt about it.  The eastern boundary -  the River Euphrates - was a long way from the border of the modern State of Israel!  Indeed, if one were to draw those Biblical boundaries on to a modern map, then the land promised to the Children of Israel encompasses a large swathe of modern Syria, and a large swathe of modern Iraq!  This is an area that has not been possessed by the Israelites since the time of King Solomon - and I will have to do some further research to discover if, even during his reign, all of it was under Israel's control!

Of course, given the situation in both Syria and Iraq today, it is unthinkable that Israel, under such conditions, should ever control such a vast area!  However, it was unthinkable that the Berlin Wall would be torn down; it was unthinkable that Saddam Hussein would be toppled; it was unthinkable that Hosni Mubarak would be overthrown!

There is an old adage that reminds us that "Man proposes, but God disposes".  What that is saying is that men (and women, of course) may make their plans - but it is God's will that prevails.  As the hymn-writer states; "God is working His purpose out, as year succeedeth year"! (Basil Harwood).

Will Israel again control the whole of the promised land?  Watch this space?!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Fulness of joy.


Dr. Victor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, was imprisoned by the Nazis in World War II because he was a Jew. His wife, his children, and his parents were all killed in the Holocaust. The Gestapo stripped him of his clothes. He stood totally naked before them. As they cut off his wedding band, Viktor said to himself, "You can take away my wife, you can take away my children, you can strip me of my clothes and my freedom, but there is one thing no person can ever take away from me - and that is my freedom to choose how I will react to what happens to me!"  Even under the most difficult of circumstances, joy is a choice which transforms our tragedies into triumph.

Let's face it, not everything goes our way. Things don't always work out as we planned. Some days are disasters. Other days are even worse!

Happiness comes easily when things go our way. Joy is different. It's deeper. Joy is an attitude we select. Happiness is external and subject to what happens. Joy is an inside job in which we determine to rejoice, regardless of the circumstances.

Don't confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is a buoyant emotion that results from the momentary plateaus of well-being. Joy is bedrock stuff. Joy is a confidence that operates irrespective of our moods. Joy is the certainty that all is well, however we feel.

Writing to the early disciples of Jesus in the city of Philippi, the apostle Paul - himself in prison - encourages them to, "Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again, Rejoice!" (4:4; NLT).  

Joy is a divine dimension of living that is not shackled by circumstances simply because we have chosen to respond in a positive manner.  Paul is saying that joy is not something that happens to me but rather something I deliberately and consciously select!  Circumstances seldom generate lasting smiles and laughter.  Joy comes to those who determine to choose it, in spite of their circumstances.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The heavens declare the Glory of God.

One of my German friends, who worked at the time in the family's fine engineering business, showed me the kind of tolerance levels to which the company worked in its machining of metal components.  There was a large circle, drawn on a large sheet of paper.  If my memory serves me well, that circle was about 18" (45cm) in diameter.  In the middle was a dot.  The circle, my friend informed me, represented 1 cm. (0.4").  The dot, to the same scale, represented the tolerance to which the company machined!

I thought back to that event when I was reminded, today, that on July 4th of this year, physicists at the CERN facility in Geneva announced the discovery of a particle that may well be the elusive "Higgs' boson" - referred to, in the popular media, as "the God particle".

One of the staff in the U.S.A. Department of Energy's laboratory in Chicago (which is exclusively dedicated to the study of particle physics), a gentleman who is also a disciple of Jesus, has said this: "Science reveals the nature of God.  ... In the 1980s, we seldom talked about God in scientific circles.  But in the 90s, scientists realised they didn't know anything about the vast majority of the universe.  Now, in the 2000s, scientists discuss the possibiity of a Supreme Being at scientific lectures and colloquia ... Every two to four years, knowledge doubles in the various fields of science ... we are realising that we hardly know anything."  http://ag.org/top/News/index_articledetail.cfm?targetBay=c97d4d5c-a325-4921-9a9e-e9fbddd9cdce&ModID=2&Process=DisplayArticle&RSS_RSSContentID=23358&RSS_OriginatingChannelID=1184&RSS_OriginatingRSSFeedID=3359&RSS_Source

I am reminded that even Albert Einstein stated that: "Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe- a spirit vastly superior to man, and one in the face of which our modest powers must feel humble."   Long before Einstein, Johannes  Kepler described science as: "thinking God's thoughts after Him."

The point is that, to use my engineering friend's illustration, if that circle was to be drawn ten times its size, and this was to represent the sum total of all of the knowledge in the universe, then what mankind actually knows would not even be enough to be represented by that dot (left at the same size!) in the middle.

Of course, there will always be those who will refuse to accept even the possibility of the existence of the Creator. They are those of whom Paul wrote: "The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (II Thess 2:9-12; RSV).

Centuries before Paul, the Psalmist-king of Israel wrote: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork." (Ps 19:1; RSV).  They still declare that glory today - to those who have eyes to see!






Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Building Your Home


A great and wise man once called one of his workmen to him saying, "Go into the far country and build for me a house. The decisions of planning and of actual construction will be yours, but remember, I shall come to accept your work for a very special friend of mine."

And so the workman departed with a light heart for his field of labour. Material of all kinds was plentiful here, but the workman had a mind of his own. "Surely," he thought, "I know my business. I can use a bit of inferior material here, and cheat on my workmanship a little there, and still make the finished work look good. Only I will know that what I have built has weaknesses."

And so, at last the work was completed and the workman reported back to the great and wise man. "Very good," he said. "Now you remember that I wanted you to use only the finest materials and craftsmanship in this house because I wanted to make present of it? My friend, you are the one I had you build it for. It is all yours."

How much like us. We come to earth as strangers. We have free will. We may build our lives as we like. But on "that Day" each of us will receive what (s)he has built for an eternal home and habitation.


Jesus said:"Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it." (Matt 7:24-27; RSV).

For those of us who own the Lord Jesus as our personal Saviour, Paul has this to say: "According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.  For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay , straw - each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are
." (I Cor 3:10-17; RSV).


Be careful how, and what, you build!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Feet of clay!

It was just before I closed my Facebook account, last week, that the stories of the late Jimmy Savile's alleged abuse of children during his long career in radio and television, were breaking.  The comments all suggested that the writers were unable to believe that such allegations could have even a grain of truth in them, and most seemed to be expressing the fervent hope that they would all be shown to be false.

A week later, and the picture has changed - and changed quite dramatically!  The ITV documentary has been screened; a steady stream of fresh allegations have been made by those who claim to have been victims of Mr Savile's unwanted attention; and an increasing number of former colleagues are claiming that his behaviour was, in fact "an open secret" (to quote just one such person) within the BBC.

The major question, for many, is why it is only now that these folk who appeared to have known about the activities of the "Jim'll Fix It" star, are speaking out!  Suggestions have been made that it was because of the way in which the libel laws in the U.K. are formed.  However, that merely begs the question: "If the evidence was so strong, why would anyone worry about the libel laws?"  After all, if what I say is proved to be true, I am not being libellous!

The subject matter of the current complaints concerning the former "showbiz celebrity" aside, there is another aspect that doesn't appear to have been picked up by the media.  We live in a culture and society in which a person's worth is so often measured by their "entertainment value", be it in the field of T.V./radio/theatre/film, sport, or whatever.  Unfortunately, as the current situation may well yet show, those who are raised up on pedestals by an adoring public, are all too often found to be made of clay! 

Of course, there is One Who never lets His followers down.  That One is the Lord Jesus.  He, and He alone in the history of mankind, was able to ask, not His friends, but His enemies, "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8:46; RSV).  Of course, no-one could because, as the writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus could claim: "... we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Heb 4:15; RSV - my emphasis).

If you want a role model worth following; if you want someone to whom you may look up; if you want someone who will never let you down; look  "... to Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:2; RSV).


Saturday, 6 October 2012

Abortion - there's just no getting away from it!

Public pronouncements - albeit expressing personal points of view - by three Cabinet Ministers, have re-ignited the debate on abortion at a Parliamentary level.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who is also the minister for women, has stated that she would like a 20 week limit.  Speaking on this morning's Today programme on BBC4 radio, Home Secretary Theresa May said she, also, believed there was scope to reduce the limit on when a termination can take place, to 20 weeks into a pregnancy.  Earlier in the week the new Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, went even further, saying he believed the limit should be cut to 12 weeks - half the present maximum.

However, the most interesting comment came from Mr Hunt.  According to reports, he favours the 12-week limit as this is his view "... about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start"  and that "... my view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it,".

To the best of my knowledge, the Health Secretary is neither a medical practitioner, nor a biologist (perhaps he should be; but that's another subject altogether!).  I certainly claim no professional expertise in either field.  What I know is that only that which is alive is capable of organic growth.

This leads me to ask what has been happening in the womb during the first 12 weeks of gestation?  The answer, surely, is that a process of growth has been taking place.  Indeed, that process commences as soon as the sperm penetrates the egg, and mitosis takes place.  The only difference between that moment and forty weeks later is development.

Many of us agree with Mr Hunt that abortion ought not to take place once life has begun.  We differ with him, however, in our understanding of when that happens! 

So-called "women's choice" is actually whether, or not, to murder the most indefensible, in the very place in which it should be safest.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Inconsistency - or total hypocrisy?

So 15-year-old Megan Stammers is back on British soil, with her mother and stepfather, and safely away from the fiend of a teacher who abducted her and took her to France!

Wait a minute!  I saw the CCTV images that were shown on the TV News programmes.  She certainly didn't appear to be under any compulsion - walking hand-in-hand with her teacher, who was being portrayed as probably having become somewhat more than a teacher!

Understandably, most thinking adults - certainly those of us who are the parents of daughters - have been up in arms over this affair, and the only complaint of which I am aware is that the British police took as long as they did to organise a European Arrest Warrant for 30-year-old Mr Jeremy Forrest.

But wait another minute!  What if these two people claim that they "love" each other?  This, after all, is the reason that is regularly trotted out in favour of the attempts to redefine marriage.  If two men, or two women, "love" one another, they should be given the right to be married.  And a pupil and teacher?  Why not?!

It's another example of the "can of worms" that would be opened if the legislation to redefine marriage is introduced at either Holyrood or Westminster.  Of course, someone may argue that Megan is under-age.  But if they wait even the three years that would be necessary for a pupil-teacher relationship to be legal, would her family (and his wife!) be happy to give their blessing to the union of the 18-year-old and the 33-year-old?  Possibly - but I suspect not.

So, is the difference in attitude merely inconsistent - or is it totally hypocritical?

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Shoe Man

This evening, at Wishaw Baptist Church, we were considering (among other things) whether the church is treated by us as a Social Club, or as a Community of believers.  In the former, the emphasis is on pleasing the members; in the latter, the emphasis is on pleasing the Lord.  In the discussion group in which I took part, we recognised the importance of being a welcoming people - something that, in my opinion and experience, that fellowship is.  I found it interesting, on my return home, to find this in my Inbox!
 

My alarm went off
It was Sunday again.
I was sleepy and tired
My one day to sleep in.
But the guilt I would feel
The rest of the day
Would have been too much;
So I'd go and I'd pray.

I showered and shaved,
I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat
In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer
As I closed my eyes,
I saw the shoe of the man next to me
Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side
I thought, "Why must our soles touch?"
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine;
But it didn't bother him much.

A prayer began: "Our Father"...

I thought, "This man with the shoes
has no pride.
They're dusty, worn, and scratched
Even worse, there are holes on the side!"

"Thank You for blessings," the prayer went on.

The shoe man said
a quiet, "Amen."
I tried to focus on the prayer
But my thoughts were on his shoes again.
Aren't we supposed to look our best
When walking through that door?
"Well, this certainly isn't it," I thought,
Glancing toward the floor.

Then the prayer was ended
And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud,
Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters,
His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear
The shoe man's voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering
And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached
Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out,,,
What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft "clink"
as when silver hits tin.

The sermon really bored me
To tears, and that's no lie;
It was the same for the shoe man
For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service,
As is the custom here,
We must greet new visitors
And show them all good cheer.

But I felt moved somehow
And wanted to meet the shoe man
So, after the closing prayer,
I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark
And his hair was truly a mess,
But I thanked him for coming,
For being our guest.

He said, "My name's Charlie;
I'm glad to meet you, my friend."
There were tears in his eyes
But he had a large, wide grin
"Let me explain," he said
Wiping tears from his eyes.
"I've been coming here for months
And you're the first to say 'Hi.'"

"I know that my appearance
Is not like all the rest
But I really do try
To always look my best.
I always clean and polish my shoes
Before my very long walk.
But by the time I get here
They're dirty and dusty, like chalk."

My heart filled with pain
and I swallowed to hide my tears,
As he continued to apologize
For daring to sit so near.
He said, "When I get here
I know I must look a sight.
But I thought if I could touch you
Then maybe our souls might unite."

I was silent for a moment
Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison;
I spoke from my heart, not my head.

"Oh, you've touched me," I said,
And taught me, in part;
That the best of any man
Is what is found in his heart."

The rest, I thought,
This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am
That his dirty old shoe touched my soul.


May all of us, who claim to be disciples of Jesus, be warm in our welcome to strangers and visitors.  Remember "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Heb 13:2; RSV).

That person whom you don't recognise, sitting in front of you, next Sunday, may be an angel!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

In His Presence

A visitor to The White House once asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Why, Mr President, do you keep that frail, sickly man, Harry Hopkins, constantly at your elbow?"  Without a moment's hesitation, the President replied, "Sir, through these doors flows an incessant stream of men and women who, almost invariably, want soemthing from me.  Harry Hopkins desires only to serve me.  To do that well, he must keep close by me!"

As disciples of Jesus, we need to live in intimate fellowship with the Lord if our service is to be fully effective.  The written Word of God makes it clear that we must constantly examine ourselves (see, e.g. I Cor.11:28) - not in order that we might go "down the tube" but that, by the grace of God, we might rid ourselves of "... the sin that so easily entangles ..." (Heb.12:1).  Writing to his young "son in the faith", Timothy, the great apostle Paul reminds us that it is only as we are sanctified (made more like Jesus) by the working of God the Holy Spirit in our lives, that we will be "... instrument[s] for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master, and prepared to do any good work." (II Tim.2:21).

Whilst certain qualifications are necessary if we are to be fruitful in the Lord's service, they do not need to include great learning, or outstanding talent and ability.  Indeed, He often chooses "... the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; ... the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (I Cor.1:27).  It is when we no longer put confidence in our own strength, but spend time in intimate fellowship with Jesus, that His power will begin to operate effectively through us.  It is by dwelling with the King, in holy fellowship, that we not only doscover His will, but also receive the strength to be obedient to it.

And a thought:  "Effective service results when I allow Jesus to live His life through me."

I Am a Christian

From my Inbox.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting, "I'm saved"
I'm whispering, "I get lost!"
"That is why I chose this way"

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride
I'm confessing that I stumble,
and need someone to be my guide

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong,
I'm professing that I'm weak,
and pray for strength to carry on

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success,
I'm admitting that I've failed,
and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
my flaws are way too visible
but God believes I'm worth it

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartaches
which is why I seek His Name

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority,
I only know I'm loved!

Monday, 24 September 2012

No excuse!

I have discovered that Kindle books may be read on a PC/Laptop!!

Go to

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd?docId=1000423913

for a FREE App!!

Nobody, now, has any excuse for not purchasing the book - and supporting the persecuted church at the same time!  :-)

Saturday, 22 September 2012

I'm an author!!!

Today, I finally managed to publish my first Kindle book!  It's named "Great Words of the Christian Faith", and is intended to enable those who have not had the benefit of a formal theological education to understand, a little better, such words as "predestination", "propitiation", and "sanctification".  There are 24 words in all, with "Love" the word that is central to the Christian Faith, being given two chapters.

The plan, and hope, is that it will be the first in a series of books, under the general title of "Getting to know you".  I have already commenced the second volume that will, DV deal with "Foundations of the faith".  This, I hope, will cover The Apostles' Creed; The (erroneously-named!) Lord's Prayer; and, possibly, the Ten Commandments and/or The Sermon on the Mount.  I shall wait to see how much I write on the first two sections before deciding on the rest!

I have two websites from which the book may be purchased, and downloaded.  For those in the UK it is:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009EG6TJW

For the USofA, it is:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009EG6TJW
As I discover the URLs for other countries, I will make them known!
Because of my personal interest in the persecuted church, 30% of the Royalties will be going to Release International and Open Doors - two of the organisations that support brothers and sisters in Christ in those countries in which being one of His disciples is to invite discrimination, harrassment, persecution, imprisonment, and even death.
I trust that many will find the book to be both interesting and helpful; will purchase it; and will recommend it to others!




Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Abortion.

This week has had two specific items of news with the common theme of abortion.  One of them received a lot more publicity than the other.  The one that seems to have been largely ignored by the mainstream media concerned Andy Stepehenson and Kathryn Sloane.

Members of the campaign group Abort67, Andy and Kathryn were arrested in June 2011, whilst demonstrating silently in the vicinity of Wiston's Clinic, operated by leading abortion provider BPAS, in Brighton. As part of its public education project, the group, which has held peaceful protests outside the establishment for 5 years, displays images of aborted babies - but does so silently and without harassment.  This was reported in at least The Telegraph and The Daily Mail.

A District Judge, sitting at Brighton Magistrates' Court announced today that all charges were being dismissed against Andy. The case against Kathryn was dismissed on Thursday of last week (13 Sep) during the same trial.  I have not noticed this having been reported in any of the mainstream media outlets!

The other news item concerned Sarah Catt, a married mother who carried out a DIY abortion on her lover’s baby just days before she was due to give birth, and who has been jailed for eight years. The mother-of-two reportedly had an affair with a work colleague for seven years and believed the child to be his but waited until she was full-term before buying, online, a labour-inducing drug from the Indian black-market.

It is thought she concealed the pregnancy from both her lover and her engineer husband Stephen. Yesterday, at Leeds Crown Court, as she was jailed for administering poison with intent to procure a miscarriage, Mr Justice Cooke said it was worse than manslaughter and just “one step short of murder.”  He went on to say that: “What you did was end the life of a child that was capable of being born alive by inducing birth or miscarriage. If he had been born in the next few days and you had then killed him you would be charged with murder.“What you have done is rob an apparently healthy child, vulnerable and defenceless, of the life he was about to commence.”
 
Now, the question must surely be asked: "If Sarah Catt had had her unborn child aborted within the legal time limit, would that have been anything less than "... rob(bing) an apparently healthy child, vulnerable and defenceless, of the life he was about to commence.”?  This is one of the practical problems about abortion.  When is the unborn child not a human being?  The answer, to any sane and logical, person is that there is never a time when it can be anything else!  The more we learn, the more we see the truth of the claim that from the moment of conception, when that successful sperm penetrates the egg, and mitosis (the splitting of a cell) commences, there is an unique human being at the earliest stage of its development.  

This is all that Abort67 is trying to show.  What is removed from the females womb is NOT a mere conglomeration of cells, but an infant with all of the physical characteristics of a fully-grown child.  Murder is the deliberate taking of a human life.  Abortion is the deliberate taking of a human life.  Therefore, according to the rules of logic, abortion is murder - not "one step short"!  Mr Justice Cooke wasn't quite correct in his conclusion - regardless of the stage in the pregnancy at which the abortion takes place.