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Friday, 27 April 2012

Emergency Bible Numbers

Most folk will be aware that, in an emergency, one should dial 999 (911/112 in other countries) to gain immediate access to the various Emergency Services - Fire Brigade, Police, Ambulance, Coastguard.  These should, of course, be REAL emergencies when, for example, a life is at stake.  It is an abuse of the Emergency Services to dial 999 because one has lost an ear-ring, or has missed the last bus!

However there are often emergency situation in which these services would be of little, if any, use.  This is when the Bible comes to the fore.  It really does have the answer to so many of life's problems.  Why not check out this list and, if you recognise a situation in which you are involved, "make a call"!

When in sorrow, call John 14.
When men fail you, call Psalm 27.
If you want to be fruitful, call John 15.
When you have sinned, call Psalm 51.
When you worry, call Matt.6:19-34.
When you are in danger, call Psalm 91.
When God seems far away, call Psalm 139.
When your faith needs stirring, call Hebrews 11.
When you are lonely and fearful, call Psalm 23.
When you grow bitter and critical, call I Cor.13.
For Paul's secret to happiness, call Col.3:12-17.
For idea of Christianity, call II Cor.5:15-19.
When you feel down and out, call Romans 8:31.
When you want peace and rest, call Matt.11:25-30.
When the world seems bigger than God, call Psalm 90.
When you leave home for labor or travel, call Psalm 121.
Your prayers growth narrow and selfish, call Psalm 67.
For a great invention/opportunity, call Isaiah 55.
When you want courage for a task, call Joshua 1.
How to get along with fellow men, call Romans 12.
When you think of investments/returns, call Mark 10.
If you are depressed, call Psalm 27.
If your pocketbook is empty, call Psalm 37.
If you're losing confidence in people, call I Cor.13.
If people seem unkind, call John 15.
If discouraged about your work, call Psalm 126.
If you find the world growing small and yourself great, call Psalm 19.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A true hero of the Titanic disaster.

I know that I am not alone in never having watched any of the films made about the Titanic disaster - the centenary of which is being remembered today.  I have two basic reasons for my decision to avoid that particular movie - 1. I already know how it ends!; 2. I disagree with Holywood making money out of such a tragic situation.

However, I could add yet another reason - that much of what the film versions are  reported as showing, is far from the truth ("poetic licence" is, doubtless, invoked!); while stories of true heroism are simply ignored.  One such, as I was reminded by a very dear friend, last Sunday, concerns a Rev. Mr. John Harper.

John Harper was born in Houston, Renfrewshire, to Christian parents, on May 29th, 1872. It was on the last Sunday of March 1886, when he was thirteen years old, that he received Jesus as the Lord of his life. He began to preach about four years later, at the ripe old age (!) of 17, by going down to the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in earnest entreaty for men to be reconciled to God.
 
As John Harper's life unfolded, one thing was apparent - he was consumed by the word of God. When asked by various ministers what his doctrine consisted of, he was known to reply, simply, "The Word of God"! After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in a mill during the day, he was taken in by Rev. E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, England. This set John free to devote his whole time of energy to the preaching of the Gospel in the Govan area of Glasgow.  Before long, he founded a church (now known as Harper Memorial Baptist Church), in Glasgow.  By the time he left, 13 years later, the fellowship had grown, numerically, from an initial membership of just 25 members, to more than 500. During this time he had married but, sadly, his wife died giving birth to their only child, Nina (Nana).

It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the ship's launch, it was the world's largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship's starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea-water poured in.

Among the passengers were John Harper; his much-loved daughter, now six years of age; and his niece, Jessie Leitch, who acted as nanny to his daughter. John was now pastor of Walworth Road Baptist Church in London, and was travelling to Chicago to preach in the well-known Moody Church.  According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, John immediately took his daughter, and her nanny, to a lifeboat. It is reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could, himself have easily got on board this boat to safety.  However, such a thought never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent down and kissed his precious little girl and, looking into her eyes, he told her that she would see him again someday. The flares going off in the dark sky above reflected the tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate humanity on the sinking ocean liner.

As the rear of the huge ship began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen making his way up the deck yelling, "Women, children, and unsaved, into the lifeboats!" It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion although, in fact, the ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people.

That night 1528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before hypothermia became fatal. Swimming up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris, Rev. Harper asked him, between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not.

Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reject the offer of salvation. John took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said, "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and, this time, succeeded in leading him to the Saviour. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was the young man on the debris.

Four years later, at a survivors' meeting, this young man stood up and, in tears, recounted that after having led had led him to Christ, Mr. Harper had tried to swim back to help other people yet, because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the icy ocean, were: "Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."  I'm not sure why the film-makers appear to have ignored this man.  However, this servant of God did what he had to do.  He gave up his life so that others could be saved.

Jesus, said: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends..."  John Harper was truly a hero of the Titanic!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The blood of Christ.

I spent most of today with a power-washer, dealing with the slabs and monoblocks that cover our fairly long driveway, and the slabs the form the patio in front of the summer house, at the back of the garden, as well as the slabs beside it.

It's not the most enjoyable of tasks, as the muck and moss sprays up all over the place - including over one's jeans (wellie-boots only protect so much!).  I do have an attachment that is supposed to confine the aforementioned muck - but it doesn't seem to do as good a job with cleaning the slabs/blocks!

It was as I watched the total transformation of the slabs/blocks from grubby, same-coloured dirty, surrounded by all of that moss and other gunge; to clean, distinguishable (colour-wise), bright slabs/blocks that I found myself thinking how good it would be if I could purchase a power-wash that would deal with my sins in the same way!  How wonderful it would be if all that I had to do was stand under such an amazing power-wash, and be transformed from the grubby, sinful, person that I am into a clean, fresh, person!

Then I remembered that, of course, I do have access to such a power-wash!  It's called the blood of Jesus and, according to the apostle John, "... the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7)

Of course, those slabs and blocks will not, now, remain clean forever!  I have to attend to that job on a fairly regular basis.  And, similarly, I have to seek God's cleansing every single day.  But I know that, because I have made that eternal-life-giving commitment to the Christ, that the cleansing is always available to me.

The hymnwriter put it like this: "There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.  There is is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb."   And that cleansing power is available to all who come to Him, in repentance and faith.

With an offer like that, who would want to be a dirty paving slab?!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Complex v Simple!

This evening, as a candidate in the forthcoming Local Council elections, I attended a meeting in Motherwell Civic Centre at which, among other things, the method of calculating the results of the election, using the STV (Single Transferable Vote) system was explained!

I had not realised just how complex it is!  First of all, a "quota" must be established by calculating the number of valid votes (plus 1) and dividing that number by the number of seats available (plus 1).  Any candidate with a higher number of votes than the quota is automatically elected.  Then the fun really begins!  The "transfer value of surplus votes" is calculated by dividing the number of votes, more than the quota (plus 1) by the number of votes given to the candidate already elected as first choice.  This number is then used to calculate the additional votes given to the remaining candidates.  And so it continues until the appropriate number of candidates have been elected.  And that is the system somewhat simplified!!  It would appear that a First Class Honours degree in Mathematics is almost a prerequisite for Returning Officers!

As I listened, I couldn't help thinking that if the Gospel message of salvation, by the grace of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus, was as complex, then very few would be saved!  How wonderful, then, that although the Christian Gospel is capable of keeping the finest minds that mankind can produce busy in its profundity; it is also, in its essence, so simple that even a little child may understand.

How simple is it?  As simple as ABC!  I need to Admit that I am a sinner, totally incapable of keeping God's law - indeed, totally incapable of maintaining even the standards that I set for myself!  I then need to Believe that God, in Christ, has already paid the penalty for my sin.  As the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, was inspired to write: "... He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed." (Isa 53:5; RSV, my emphases). 

Admit; Believe; and then I need to Confess.  I confess my sin, and my sinfulness, before Him; and I repent (i.e. turn away from it).  I also confess Him before others - telling them of the salvation that I have experienced through Him.

The results of the Council elections will, I have been assured, be expertly counted (mostly by machines!).  I'm glad about that!  But I am thrilled to to be able to sing:
"The old, old, story it is ever new; the old, old, story, praise the Lord, 'tis true;
that Jesus died for me as well as you.  I love the old, old, story"

And I don't need any degree at all to understand that!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The day of Resurrection!

"... very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn't find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, "Why are you looking among the dead for someone Who is alive? He isn't here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what He told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day."

Then they remembered that He had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell His eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn't believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened." (Luke 24:1-12; NLT).

"The Lord is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Hallelujah!"

"I serve a risen Saviour; He's in the world today. 
I know that He is living, whatever men may say! 
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him, He's always near.

"He lives; He lives; Christ Jesus lives today. 
He walks with me, and talks with me, along life's narrow way. 
He lives; He lives; salvation to impart. 
You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart."
  (A.H.Ackley)

Friday, 6 April 2012

Political promises!!

It was the great apostle, Paul, who wrote  "I have become all things to all men,..." (I Cor 9:22).  I thought of those words as I read the reports of an Easter reception for Christian leaders, in Downing Street on Wednesday , at which the Prime Minister reportedly affirmed his belief that the nation needed Christian values.  He claimed that: “The greatest need we have in our country is to have strong values and to teach our children and to bring people up with strong values. The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need – values of compassion, of respect, of responsibility, of tolerance.”

This sounds to me - cynic that I am when it comes to the majority of contemporary politicians - a bit like Paul.  Mr Cameron seems to want to be "all things to all men".  Of course, Paul went on to say: "... that I might by all means save some."  His concern was the salvation of men, and women, and young people, and children, for whom Jesus the Christ hung and died on a cross.  Mr Cameron's concern would sometimes appear to be the survival of David Cameron and, possibly, of the Conservative Party!

You see this is the same David Cameron who is currently backing the U.K. Government consultation - not on whether or not marriage should be redefined, but simply on how the Government might go about achieving such a redefinition!  This is the same David Cameron who refused to back disciples of Jesus who are currently having their appeals heard by the European Court of Human Rights with regard to, for example, wearing a cross at work.  This is the same David Cameron who promised special income tax breaks to married couples, as a means of supporting and encouraging marriage, but who has (to date) totally reneged on that promise.  This is the same David Cameron who had backed the relaxation of Sunday trading laws for the duration of the 2012 Olympiad - with the distinct possibility that such relaxation could become permanent.

So I remain somewhat cynical!  Perhaps someone close to him will point him to those places in the New Testament in which it is made clear that it is our actions that count, not merely our words. It would be good if the Prime Minister were to match his fine words with political action.

I, for one, am not holding my breath!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Promises!

Promises! They’re not always easy to keep. I suspect that each of us has been let down by someone who made a promise to us. Perhaps we have even let down others to whom we have made a promise!

The Bible portrays a God Who always keeps His promises. In the Old Testament (the Jewish Scriptures), we read that He promised a man named Abraham that, although old and childless, he would be the father of a great nation. That promise was kept – through Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel.

A young man named Solomon became king. In a dream, God asked him to name whatever he wanted. He asked for understanding and wisdom to rule Israel well. God was pleased with that response (I wonder how pleased He would be with the answers that you and I might give?!). He gave Solomon wisdom – and promised that He would give the young king all the things that he might have been expected to ask for, as well. And God kept His promise. The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s wisdom, and wealth, and travelled a long distance to visit him. Her verdict is recorded for us: “... she said to the king, "The report was true which I heard in my own land of your affairs and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it; and, behold, the half was not told me; your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report which I heard.” (I Kings 10:6-7).

By Sunday, millions of people around the world will have celebrated Easter – arguably the most important festival in the Christian calendar. They will have remembered Good Friday (“good” because, according to the Christian Gospel, Jesus of Nazareth, known to His followers as the Christ, was paying the price for all of our breaking of God’s commandments) and Easter Day.

And on that very first Easter Day, some women went to the tomb to complete the task of embalming the body with spices. To their utter astonishment, there was no body to be found! What they did discover was an angelic being who told them: “He is not here; for He has risen, as He said.” (Matt 28:6). “He has risen – as He promised”! Once again, God had kept His promise.

It is my conviction that God still keeps His promises. Many will be aware of that best-known of New Testament verses – John 3:16. But John continues: “Whoever trusts in Him is not condemned; whoever does not trust is condemned already, because they have not trusted in the Name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18). And I believe that God keeps both of those promises!

Easter is not just an excuse for hot-cross-buns, and chocolate eggs. It’s the anniversary of what Christians believe was the greatest victory in all of history – when God, in Jesus, broke the devil’s claim on you and me, enabling us to be at one with Him, and to have His life within us – a heart transplant, with no fear of rejection!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Personal Testimony

Slogging away at the gym, this afternoon (boast, boast!!), I was listening to some tracks on my little MP3 player.  As I listened to one of my favourite singers, Amy Roberts, singing about the change that Jesus makes in the lives of those who come to Him in repentance and faith, accepting His wondrous gift of full and free salvation, I was reminded that personal experience is something against which it is difficult - if not impossible - to argue.

This is the problem for the secular humanists who appear to be so aggresively attacking the Christian church in our day.  I've listened to Richard Dawkins - the "foremost atheist" according to much of the media.  Of course, he isn't even an atheist!  The man is an agnostic (remember the "bus campaign" with its slogan about not worrying because God "probably" doesn't exist?!).  However, whatever description he chooses to apply to himself (or others choose to apply to him), I have never heard either him, or any of his "disciples", point to lives that have been changed for the better through acceptance of their beliefs.

However, in the name of Jesus, people are still being healed emotionally and physically and spiritually by the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  Sinners are being freed from the burden and pain and shame of sin – sometimes immediately; sometimes after long years of steady work by God the Holy Spirit in their lives.  Hearts are being mended and lives are being turned around.   Praise God, there are millions in the world - even in 2012 AD - who can say, "He saved me, and I am not the person I used to be" just as the apostles testified 2000 years ago.  Indeed, many of them are prepared to be incarcerated, physically and mentally abused, even to die, under oppressive régimes, rather than deny the One Whom they love and serve, as Saviour and as Lord.

It's difficult to argue against that kind of testimony!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The "Lord's Prayer"

Over the past two Sundays (four messages!) I shared with the fellowship in Coatbridge Baptist Church on those words that are commonly referred to as "The Lord's Prayer", and that are recited, every Sunday, by many groups within the Christian Church.  Of course, it is, more accurately, "the disciples' prayer" as the words could not be prayed by the Lord Jesus (Who, as the sinless One, does not need to ask for forgiveness; as the self-sufficient One; does not need to ask for daily bread; and as the the One to Whom all glory is due, does not ascribe it to any other).

The news, towards the end of the week, was that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has expressed concern at the results of a survy that indicated that only 55% of 6-12 year olds know those words as recorded by Matthew and Luke.  They should, he is reported as having said, be taught it in school.

I have two things to say to His Grace!  First of all, Jesus Himself makes quite clear that the thoughtless repitition of words is of no benefit.  Just before providing this "prayer template", or " model prayer", He said that we should "... not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do;" (Matt.6:7).  To have another generation who are merely able to recite those words, with no real understanding of their meaning and significance, is not doing any good service to the cause of Christ and His Church.

The second point that I would wish to make to Dr Rowan is that it is not, primarily, the job of schools to teach children about the Christian faith.  Now, I know that some (who know me personally) will immediately ask why, if that is the case, I spent as many years as I did, in the classroom, teaching Religious (and. later, Moral) Education!  The answer is simple - the subject was part of the core curriculum and, if it had to be taught, I wanted it to be taught by someone to whom it had a personal relevance! 

However, the task of teaching children the truths of the Christian message is the responsibility of parents!  The New Testament is rooted in the Old Testamant - "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed" (Augustine).  In Judaism, the family is central - and that includes the teaching and training of children in faith matters.  So the Children of Israel are instructed to remember all that YHWH has done for them, and to "... make them known to your children, and your children's children." (Deut.4:9).  At the Seder meal, prior to Passover (which takes place at the end of this week), the youngest child asks "Why do we do this?"  This opens the way for a recounting of the story of the Exodus - and the child(ren) learn about the religious history of their people.

So the challenge to those of us who are disciples of Jesus, and also parents is to ensure that our children are able, not to recite a form of words, but to pray.  They will learn this if they hear us pray; and this will also teach them that such an activty is meaningful to us.

I have no doubt that the Archbishop's expressed sentiments were well meant.  But let Christian parents accept the responsibility to raise their own children according to Biblical teaching, and then that teaching might permeate throughout a society and culture that so desperately needs it!