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Monday, 28 May 2012

What happened to democracy?

It was in the Andrew Marr Show, on BBC television, that Mr Nick Clegg made the statement that Liberal Democrat MPs will be forced to vote in favour of allowing homosexual/lesbian marriage when (sic!) the legislation is considered by Parliament.  From the leader of a political Party that has the word "Democrat" in its name, that is hardly a democratic approach!  Indeed, it smacks of the sort of dictatorial attitude found in "single-party" nations, such as North Korea!

I have written to Mr Clegg - and sent similar correspondence to a number of his senior Party members - as follows:

Dear Mr Clegg,

Having heard your statement, made on the Andrew Marr Show, that Liberal Democrat MPs will be forced to vote in favour of allowing homosexual/lesbian marriage when the legislation is considered by the U.K. Parliament, I write to ask you to reconsider this position.

It is surely the case that, on an issue as emotive as this, and where there is indeed a matter of conscience, there will be some LibDem members who are not in favour of this attempt to redefine the universally-accepted concept of marriage as being the voluntary union of a man and a woman (or, in some cultures, more than one woman – but always male and female), for life, and to the exclusion of all others.  Your public statement would suggest that  there is in fact, no place for the supporters of traditional marriage within the Liberal Democrat Party.  This, one must assume, extends beyond the walls of the Palace of Westminster to the "ordinary" supporter around the country.

Even from a purely pragmatic perspective, I would respectfully suggest that this is a mistake.  The recent local council elections indicated that your Party has already lost a great deal of its support throughout the country.  I would suggest that taking such a hard stand on an issue as emotive as that of the "redefinition" of marriage would decimate even the rump that remains!   I certainly know LibDem supporters who are staunchly in favour of the retention of marriage as it has been for millennia!  I am not a Party member ( I am not a member of any political Party), but I have supported LibDem candidates in the past, especially at local level.  This is something that I would never be able to do again!

You also stated that this issue is not one of conscience because the Government would not be forcing clergy to marry homosexual/lesbian pairs.  You seem to have forgotten that such assurances are not worth the breath used to utter them!  Apart from the fact that every Government has gone back on pre-election, and Manifesto, promises, you have absolutely no control over the decisions of some future Government!  When "civil partnerships" were, so recently, introduced it was made clear that there would be no attempt to introduce homosexual/lesbian "marriage".  We already see how firm a comittment that has turned out to be!

In the light of the points that I have (I trust respectfully) made, I would urge you to reconsider both your, and the Party's, position.

Anyone resident in the UK, who wishes to follow my example, may feel free to use any of the points that I have made - although, preferably, in their own words!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Making new.

For the past couple of days, I have (like many others!) taken advantage of the good weather conditions to attend to some much-needed maintenance on the house and garden.  One of the bigger jobs has been re-laying some of the monoblocks in the driveway.

It's not a particularly difficult job to do, although it can be quite back-breaking!  The blocks have to be lifted - not too bad after the first one has been prised out; then the ground underneath has to be cleaned up.  Following this, I had to lay some fresh whin-dust - before carefully setting the blocks back in place; tapping them (reasonably!) level; and brushing kiln-dried sand into all of the spaces in order to ensure that they don't move.

I still have some work to do on the drive on Monday (D.V.), but it is already looking much better.

As I worked, today, I thought to myself that the Lord has to do the same sort of thing with me.  Although I was saved a long time ago (just before my 15th birthday anniversary!), the work of sanctification (being made more like Jesus) is a continuing one.  As a former friend was wont to say, "I'm a work in progress"!  So often the Lord has to lift things away in order to reveal the poor state of what is underneath.  Then He has to clean me up again; level me off - and that may entail a wee "tap" or two!; and brush God the Holy Spirit into all of the cracks in order that I may be constant and true (at least until the next time He has to work on me - sadly, a more regular occurrence than my dealings with my drive-way!).

Next week, I also plan to attend to some of the exterior paintwork.  A coat of paint, as one might say, can cover a multitude of sins!  How thankful I am that, while "... the blood of Jesus ... cleanses [me] from all sin ..." (I John 1:7), He also wants to do a deep work within so that He may "... present [me] before the presence of His glory, with rejoicing ..." (Jude 24).

Have you opened yourself to His working in, and on, your life?  Have you?!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Communication is free!

According to an item in today's newspapers, the film star Brad Pitt - or, at least, the Canadian film distribution company, Alliance - is charging journalists at the Cannes Film Festival £2,000 for a twenty-minute interview about his latest film!  The same price is being asked for interviews with Kristen Stewart, about her latest film.  Interviews with other "stars" may be arranged for a bargain £1,200 - and I must confess that I would far rather pay that sum for twenty minutes with the delightful Nicole Kidman, than 66% more for the same time with Mr Pitt!  Of course, I am a man!!  By the way, if anyone wishes to interview me (!!), I'll be happy with a voluntary donation!

So why would anyone wish to pay for the privilege of providing these "stars" with the very publicity that they seem to crave, and without which most of their effort would go unrewarded?  I suppose that it's partly to do with the "celebrity culture" in which we, in the so-called 'developed' world live.  Yet I've just been viewing some photographs, posted on Facebook by a former pupil who is currently involved in voluntary work in Malawi - bringing contraceptive and other health advice to people who probably don't even know where Cannes is - and may never have heard of Brad Pitt!  I reckon that she is much more worthy of £2,000 for an interview about the work that she is doing!

Of course, as a disciple of Jesus, I speak with Him every day.  Now that's speaking with a Celebrity!  In spite of what some may think, and claim, He is much better known than even Brad Pitt (or Nicole Kidman!).  It was the late John Lennon, of The Beatles, who (in?)famously said, in 1966, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first-rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."  However, while even the name of John Lennon is barely known to those who are currently under 40 years of age, Jesus marches on!

My daily conversation with the Lord has another great benefit.  He doesn't charge me £2,000 (or even £1,200!).  In fact, the heart of the Christian Gospel, or Good News, is that He has already paid the price.  Before He came to this earth, there was a great veil, or curtain, separating the Most Holy Place in the Jewish Tabernacle and, later, Temple from the Holy Place.  This was the barrier that came between sinful mankind, and the Holy God.  But when Jesus, on the cross, gave that mighty shout "Tetelesthai" (Finished), that curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.  It was as if Father God had reached down from the eternal heaven, and ripped it apart.  And the result?  The way was now clear for you, and for me, to enter His presence; "... to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, ..." (Heb 10:19-20; RSV).

A third benefit is that my conversation is not confined to any one subject.  I can bring everything, however important or trivial, to Him.  He is interested in every moment, and every matter, in my life.  He has a perfect plan for me, and longs to share it with me.  And He is always available to me.  He hears my every word.  He knows my every thought.

The great privilege of speaking with the Creator, and Redeemed, of mankind is totally free.  "Eat your heart out, Brad!"



Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Why was Jesus crucified?

Sometimes, my mind wanders all over the place!  Sometimes, it even arrives at a worthy destination!  This afternoon, while working-out on the cross-trainer (was there some sort of psychological word-association?!), I found myself thinking of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, on the cross at Calvary.  The question that arose in my mind was simple: Why did He have to die such a horrible, bloody, death?  Why was He not knocked unconscious, and then suffocated?  Why did He not drown?  Why was He not starved to death?  Why did He not just die in His sleep?  Why did he have to shed blood?

The answer, I knew, is found in the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus: "... under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb 9:22; RSV).

It was so from the very beginning.  When our first human parents sinned, they tried to cover their sin by their own efforts.  "... they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." (Gen 3:7; RSV)This wouldn't do.  So, we read, a little later on in the narrative that "... YHWH Elohim made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them." (Gen 3:21; RSV).  Father God made a covering of skin - and that required, not only the death of an animal, but a bloody death - as anyone who has skinned an animal will know.  "... without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."

For years; for decades; for centuries; for millennia; this was the pattern.  In the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple, the Jewish priests would offer blood-sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Once each year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest went into the innermost sanctuary - the Holy of Holies - taking blood from the sacrifice and sprinkling it on the Mercy Seat that formed the lid for the Ark of the Covenant, "... for himself and for the errors of the people." (Heb 9:7; RSV).  "... without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Heb 9:11-12; RSV).

The hymnwriter put it like this: "Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain, could give the guilty conscience paece, or wash away the stain.  But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away; a sacrifice of nobler Name, and richer blood than they." (Isaac Watts).

He shed His blood, that I (and you!) might be saved; that there might be no further need for animal sacrifice.  As He hung on the cross, and just before He died, He uttered one word: "Tetelesthai" ("Finished"; John 19:30).  But this wasn't the weak whimper of someone who has realised that he has been vanquished; that all of his struggling has been of no avail.  This was the mighty, triumphant, shout of One Who knew that He had completed the work for which He had taken on human flesh.

Mrs Alexander got it right in another of the old (and, often, more theologically accurate!) songs: "He died that we might be forgiven; He died to make us good.  That we might go, at last to heaven, saved by His precious blood."

Paul wrote: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us." (Eph 1:7-8; RSV); while Peter reminds us: "... you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." (I Peter 1:18-20; RSV); and John assures us that "... the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7; RSV).

"Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow!  No other fount I know - nothing but the blood of Jesus." (R.Lowry).

At my first (physical) birth, when I was delivered from my mother's womb, I was covered with blood that would have been, almost immediately, washed off.   When I was born again, it was the blood - the shed blood of Jesus - that cleansed me, and made me whole!

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!  Have you been washed in the blood?  Have you?!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

More to come?!

The news that the blind Chinese legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, and his immediate family have been allowed to emigrate to the U.S.of A., is very encouraging.  Unfortunately, he is but one in a large number of those who, within the People's Republic of China, are incarcerated, or held under "house arrest", for holding and airing views that are deemed to be contary to the position held by the authorities.  "Freedom of speech" appears to be an alien concept within the most populated nation in the world!

As I read of Chen Guangcheng's escape, I thought of so many others whose plight is known to me - and even more of whom I am totally unaware!  I thought of human rights lawyer, and disciple of Jesus, Gao Zhisheng, a 45-year-old attorney who has defended activists and religious minorities, and who is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government.  He was given a suspended sentence of three years in prison on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" in December 2006, with five years of probation.   After the sentence, Mr Gao was placed under house arrest. His wife and two children sought asylum in the United States in early 2009 and are now living in California. Chinese authorities revealed in December 2011 that he was being held in a Xinjiang (western China) prison, after he "seriously violated probation rules".   Earlier this year, Mr Gao's older brother, Gao Zhiyi, told journalists that he had met his brother, but it was "not convenient" for him to elaborate further. 

Christian political dissident Liu Xianbin recently received a ten year prison sentence, after having been tried for treason in The People’s Court of Suining in China’s south-central province of Sichuan.  He had been arrested almost a year ago on charges of “inciting subversion” against “state power”, after he had posted a series of internet articles demanding political reform.

Dr Fan Yafeng, head of the Chinese Christian Human Rights' Lawyers Association, has been under house arrest since October 12th, 2010. He was taken in for questioning on December 9 and was tortured repeatedly over several days, according to China Aid.  Dr Fan, his wife, and their young son - who were also arrested and interrogated - remain under house arrest to this day, with Domestic Security Protection agents standing guard round-the-clock at the door of their apartment.

The Uyghur house church leader Alimujiang, in Xinjiang, has now served four years in prison. In February 2011, his appeal was rejected and his original 15-year sentence was upheld.  The vice-president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Shi Enhao, was sentenced in July 2011 to two years of re-education through labour. Many well-known Christian human rights lawyers were persecuted: Jiang Tianyong and Li Fangping in Beijing, and Guangzhou’s Tang Jingling, were both abducted and tortured by the government. 

Some well-known Christian lawyers and political dissidents have also been punished: Chen Wei from Sichuan province, and Chen Xi from Guizhou province, were sentenced to 9- and 10-year prison terms, respectively; Zhu Yufu from Zhejiang province is still in jail awaiting the result of his trial nearly a year after his arrest. Beijing’s Ni Yulan, and her husband, Dong Jiqin, are in jail awaiting trial and sentencing. A well-known Christian in the film and visual arts, Jiang Yaxi, is also in prison awaiting trial. 

It would be good to think that Chen Guangchen's new-found liberty is the beginning of a move by the Chinese authorities to permit citizens of the Republic to hold, and express, their opinions in a reasonable manner.  Sadly, there is actually little to suggest that this one instance is anything more than a temporary sop to USA-Chinese relationships.  Perhaps Hillary Clinton will take these other cases on board, as well!

(most of the information in this post has been gleaned from China Aid: http://www.chinaaid.org/  )

Friday, 18 May 2012

Scotland For Marriage

I am fully aware that there are those who are in favour of the redefinition of "marriage".  This post is NOT for them!  Please do not start adding comments disagreeing with the aim of this petition.

However, if you are one of those who support the traditional concept of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others, and you have not yet signed the petition - either online, or in paper form - I would encourage you to do so without delay.  Please click on the link below.

Thank you.

Scotland For Marriage

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Spiritual Warfare!

Today is the National Day of Prayer for the Police Services and this morning, along with a few others, I participated in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper (Communion/Eucharist) in the High Kirk of Glasgow - commonly referred to as Glasgow Cathedral.  After the celebration of the Sacrament, some of us went downstairs to one of the small chapels where, as a group with a particular interest in the Police, we spent some time in prayer for our colleagues both within Strathclyde Police, and in other Forces throughout the United Kingdom.

As we chatted together, afterwards, I noticed that the particular chapel in which we had met, was dedicated to Bishop Robert Wishart.   This particular clergyman was a supporter of Robert the Bruce and, indeed, it is said that he supplied the robes - from his own wardrobe - in which the Bruce was crowned King of Scots, at Scone, in 1306.  His active participation in the Wars of Independence (from the English! - nothing changes!!!) by, for example, taking personal charge of the assault on Cupar Castle, in Fife, 'like a man of war', gave rise to the nickname that is displayed in the chapel: "The Battling Bishop"!

How appropriate, I thought to myself, for a place of prayer.  To so many, prayer is little more than a series of vocalised platitudes, and requests, made to a God with Whom they have no vital relationship.  Yet this is not the picture that we find in the pages of God's written Word!  Prayer can be exhausting.  Jesus, we read, when in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed with such passion "... that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood." (Luke 22:44; NLT).  Read the prayer of Daniel, in Daniel 9:4-19 - and imagine (if you can!) that godly man speaking those words to his God in calm, impassionate, tones!  James assures us that the great prophet, Elijah, "... prayed earnestly/fervently/passionately ..." (5:17).

Someone had said that much of our prayer has no power in it because there is no heart in it. If we put so little heart into prayer, then the legitimate question arises: "How can we expect God to put much heart into answering?"

We don't need to go into a physical battle, like Robert Wishart.  We can all be "Battling Bishops" (or, at least, battling disciples!) in prayer - Prayer Warriors, as used to be said.  Rather than offering up some casual, "God save everybody, and bless all the missionaries; Amen" kind of prayer, we need to pray specifically. We need to pray fervently. We need to pray continually (I Thess.5:17).  Pray with energy. Put your heart into it. That is what really matters.

Spiritual warfare, whatever else it involves, certainly involves passionate praying!



Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Commitment (2)

Back to the gym, today, after almost three weeks without a proper workout!  Enjoyed the shower afterwards!!

While in the changing room, getting dressed, I was speaking with one of my officers whom I have got to know particularly well.  He informed me that, having cycled to work yesterday (a distance of almost 10 miles) he had gone on, after his shift, to play in the Divisional Football Championship Final.  He then realised that his bicycle was still at the Police Station so, getting home some other way (that he didn't mention, or that I have forgotten!), he walked in this morning, and was about to cycle home for his tea, before going out to play football (soccer) again!

I was impressed.  His actions displayed a level of commitment to fitness that I found to be highly commendable.  And it made me think!  If I, and many others who dare to call ourselves disciples of Jesus, were to show the same level of commitment to our Saviour as my officer friend does to his fitness, cycling, and football, what a difference it would make in the world!

The early disciples of Jesus gained the reputation of being "... men who have turned the world upside down ..." (Acts 17:6).  They took seriously the last words of Jesus before He ascended to the Father: "...  you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8).

As I receive information from many different parts of the world, I am aware that there are places where the same level of commitment is shown today - and where, as a direct result, the church of Jesus is growing, often in circumstances that are more difficult that most of those who might read this post could even begin to imagine.  The number of Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East, who are coming to realise that the prophet Isa (Jesus) is, indeed, God incarnate, and who are turning to Him for salvation, is growing at an exponential rate.  Many are able to meet, only in secret; some are so isolated that they have no-one but God the Holy Spirit to teach and encourage them.

Of course, that is no bad thing!  Paul, writing to the Galatian Churches, tells them that after his conversion, "... I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia;" (Gal.1:16-17) where, he clearly implies, he was taught by God the Holy Spirit.

Now I know that it isn't easy to share with workmates, or neighbours, or (especially!!) family members, what God has done for us, in Christ.  But let us never forget that, before telling those first disciples - and, by extension, His disciples in every age - that they would be witnesses, Jesus also said "... you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;" Acts 1:8).  That power (Greek: dunamis > dynamite!) is available to all who ask for it - even today!






Sunday, 13 May 2012

Commitment

This morning, my wife and I visited a local Christian Fellowship for the first time.  It's always interesting to meet up with folk, whom one has known for many years but with whom one has lost touch, when one visits in such a way.  We were not disappointed!

I have to confess that, for me, the drummer in the band should have had his sticks removed, and certainly not have been "miked up"!  To say that his contributions were deafening would be an understatement!

However, the really unusual thing was when, half-way through the preaching of the message, a number of folk left their seats, and walked out.  I might have thought that they had taken offence at something the preacher had just said (although the only, to me, inappropriate illustration, was shared after they had gone!), but what was noticeable was the wearing of the colours of our local Motherwell Football Club by those who left.

That was the problem!  It would appear that Motherwell were playing, at home, in what I suspect may have been the final match of the season (not really a 'soccer' fan!).  Just checked - they lost!  There was an early kick-off, so these dear folk had made the decision to leave the worship service, and the message, and head for the terraces!

It is not for me, or any other human being, to make final judgements.  That is the Lord's prerogative.  However, I found myself questioning the commitment of those who had made that decision!  It seems to me that they were, in effect, proclaiming that a game of soccer was more important than worshipping the Lord, and learning how to live their Christian lives better; that the fortunes of MFC take priority over the service of the King of kings.

Jesus said: "If any one comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me, cannot be my disciple. ... ... So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26-27, 33; RSV).

I wonder where He would have placed a soccer match?!

Death - the final frontier

Okay, so I used to be a bit of a "Trekkie" - but only with relation to the original series of Star Trek!

Yesterday, in my capacity as a Force Chaplain, I attended the annual Strathclyde Police Force Service of Remembrance, held for the families of both serving and retired officers and staff members who have died during the previous twelve months.  It was interesting to note that, according to the various references made, each of them had not "died" but had, euphemistically, "passed away"!

On this morning's Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4, the subject of death was also raised.  There was criticism that, in schools, everything and anything about sex is taught, but that pupils are not prepared for death - although death is assured for everyone (at least prior to the Rapture of the saints), while sex is not necessarily so!  I don't know the current situation, but "death" was an integral topic in the "Rites of Passage" course that I taught!

However, it is often the taboo subject; the one about which we don't like to talk; the one that has a plethora of euphemisms.  Why should that be?  I usually suggested to my pupils that it is because it is considered to be "the unknown" and, as such, it is something that we fear!  What would help, of course, is if someone who had genuinely died, and been buried, were to rise from the dead.  Then we would know that it is not unconquerable; and that. alone, would make it less scary!

And that is the central message of the Christian Gospel!  That Jesus of Nazareth - the carpenter turned itinerant preacher - was, in fact, Almighty God in human flesh.  The familiar (to some!) words of the Apostles' Creed state, with beautiful simplicity, that "He was crucified, dead, and buried.  The third day, He rose from the dead."

Read that again, if you have any fear of death!  "The third day He rose from the dead"!  He showed that death is not the end, but the doorway to a fuller and better life - at least for those who have placed their trust in Him for salvation.  So the apostle, Paul, referring to the writings of two of the Old Testament prophets, could write: "Death is swallowed up in victory" "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (I Cor.15:54(b)-55).

The process of dying may, for some, be painful, and even terrifying.  But death itself has no hold on, or terror for, the true child of the living God.  Hallelujah!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Of bread and mince pies!

This afternoon, I visited one of "my" Police Stations - to discover that major refurbishment work has started, and that a lot of the car-park is out of action.  It was obvious that, with one shift about to start work, and another one not due to finish for a couple of hours, there was not going to be a space for me!

I drove around for a few minutes, but was unable to find a place to park legally!  However, next door to the Police Station is the Fire Station!  It just happened that, when delivering mince pies and Ginger Cordial to my on-duty officers on Christmas morning, I noticed two appliances outside the Fire Station, with a number of Fire Officers in attendance.  I decided to stop and, without any ulterior motive, gave them a couple of boxes of mince pies!  They were very grateful and, I have now discovered, informed the police accordingly!

Anyway, I had noticed that there seemed to be adequate parking space behind the Fire Station so, having parked carefully, and set up the little notice that identifies me, and provides my mobile 'phone number, I went to the front office and asked if I could leave my car there for an hour or so!  There was no problem!  Parking situation solved!

In the book of Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament, we read "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." (11:1; RSV).  That may be interpreted as saying that whatever one does comes back to one!  As my late Granny would have put it, "What goes around, comes around!"  Of course, she would also have pointed out that we give, not to get, but simply for the joy of giving.  Giving to get, she would have insisted, is not giving at all - it's bargaining, or investing!

Paul reminded the Ephesian elders of an otherwise unrecorded saying of the Lord Jesus: "In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35;RSV); while Matthew records these words of the Saviour: "Give as freely as you have received! " (Matt 10:8; NLT).  And, of course, in the greatest example of selfless giving, we have the words of John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (RSV).

I suppose that, if I were to paraphrase those words in Ecclesiastes from a personal perspective I might, after today, write "cast your mince pies upon the waters for, after many days, you will receive a parking spot."!  However, the important thing is that we give, freely.  In that way, we may emulate the Father Who is in heaven.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

It's only a smile!

This afternoon, as I returned from walking my grandson to his Nursery School, I saw a lady walking towards me.  She was using a walking-stick, and was moving relatively slowly.  However, what struck me was her "soor face"!  It may have been, of course, that she was in physical pain; she may just have just realised that she had thrown out a purse - full of cash - with yesterday's rubbish; she may have received news of the death of a close friend.  But she had a soor face!

As we drew almost level with one another, I did something that she may not have expected; something that I have to confess to doing regularly; something that cost me absolutely nothing (yet, some experts claim, did me some good!).  Yes, I smiled at her!  And, believe it or not, that soor face broke into a smile back at me!  I would like to think that, if she met anyone else in the following ten minutes, there might have been traces of that smile still apparent!

A smile is such a simple thing.  Even the smallest of infants can manage to produce one - as can the oldest of the old.  Some of my former pupils still recall the last bit of advice I would offer as they left the classroom at the end of the period: "Keep smiling; and be happy!"  It's a matter of the will!   My granny - a woman of little formal education, but with a fund of "homespun philosophy" often told me "You die if you worry; you die if you don't.  So why worry and have wrinkles, when you can smile and have dimples?"

One of the wonderful things about a smile is that, it not only costs us nothing, but we never run out of them!  No matter how many smiles I give, I always have another one available for the next person I meet!

I can't think of any Biblical references to smiling, but there are plenty of associated thoughts.  Solomon assures us that "A cheerful heart is a good medicine," (Prov 17:22; RSV).  After the dedication of the temple, by the same king Solomon, we read that "... he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the goodness that the Lord had shown to David and to Solomon and to Israel, His people." (II Chron 7:10; RSV).  James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus writes "Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise." (James 5:13; RSV).

So, why not make a personal resolution that, each day, you will smile at everyone you meet - even while merely walking in the street!?  The very least that will happen is that you will feel better - and, who knows, you might just bring a smile to another "soor face"!


Sunday, 6 May 2012

God works in a mysterious way!

Not a Councillor - but still very much a "political animal", and keeping an eye on the situation here in the UK.  And there is much to watch!  The Local Council elections gave the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer some serious food for thought (or should that be "some food for serious thought"?!).  I suppose that the Deputy PM has some deep thinking to do as well - but let's not waste time and space on nonentities!

According to today's various news reports, Messrs Cameron and Osborne are taking a great deal of flak from both their back-benchers and their supporters around the country.  The very poor showing of the Conservative Party on Thursday is being blamed on the (Liberal) policies that the Coalition Government is seen as having espoused.  To many, it has been a case of the tail wagging the dog!

The response has been, to say the least, interesting. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, on BBC television, Mr Osborne indicated that  the controversial reforms of the House of Lords, and plans for homosexual/lesbian marriage were being kicked into the long grass. Yet, not so long ago, Mr Cameron was passionately supporting the latter - even at a meeting of senior clergy!

Personally, I am totally in favour of reforming the Upper Chamber in Westminster.  I would immediately throw out every single one of the jumped-up Prescotts, Kinnocks, and other so-called "Life Peers", and all of those who, regardless of their background, have been found guilty of fraud or any other crime.  I would then re-instate the hereditary Lords, on the one condition that no-one would be permitted to be connected to any political party.  In that way, I believe, we would achieve an independent Upper House, with all of the life experience that many of these noble Lords and Ladies are able to bring to debate.  I know that there have been many times, in the long and distant past, when I have been so glad to have an unelected Chamber of hereditary Peers who were able to inject what is, in our political circles, that most rare of commodities - common-sense - into debate, and frustrate the stupidity of the elected representatives (usually representing themselves!) in the House of Commoners!

As far as the proposals anent the redefinition of the God-ordained institution of marriage as between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, for life, is concerned, I hope that the Scottish Government will take the hint as well.  I have already e-mailed Mr Salmond to inform him that the SNP support for this redefinition lost him my First Preference vote on Thursday.  Okay, so I would have given myself that vote in any case - but the SNP didn't even receive my Second Preference!

God does work in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.  Could it be that the results on Thursday were actually His means of having this proposal taken out of play?  It will be interesting to hear the Queen's Speech (actually, the Government's Speech, read by HM!) on Wednesday!   I only know that He is the Sovereign God, Whose plans and purposes shall come to pass - regardless of political parties and/or personalities.  All praise and glory to His Name.

Election result!

Well, I'm not a Councillor! Still, as many are aware, there is a real sense of relief as, if I had been (miraculously!) elected, I would have had to re-think some other plans! It was, of course, always a possibility: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says YHWH. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9).

I believe that His will has been accomplished, and am satisfied with that. I will eventually receive a run-down of all the votes cast for me - even if I was 9th Preference - and will probably share for anyone who might be interested!!! In the meantime, a very sincere "Thank you" to those who did make me their First Preference. I don't know who they are (apart from eligible family members, and a few friends) - but the Lord does, and I am sure that He will reward each of them in His own way.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Dwelling in unity.

Well, it's now almost an hour since the polls closed - no more votes may be cast; the die is set!  By tomorrow afternoon, most of the results of the local Council elections will have been made public.

I suspect that I have been the most laid-back candidate in the country!  Well, I am certainly unaware of anyone else who went off on holiday two weeks before polling day, and only returned on the evening before the elections!  Of course, I have been in the happy position of not having to worry about whether or not I am elected.  As I have stated before, in simple human terms, I have absolutely no chance.  I did no real campaigning other than attend a couple of hustings (a late arrival at the first!); provide a short piece for each of the two local newspapers (as every candidate was invited to do); and pass out some home-printed leaflets to near neighbours and to some carefully selected friends.

For me to be elected would require nothing short of a miracle!  Of course, I do believe in miracles, and in the God of miracles.  If it is His will that I be a North Lanarkshire Councillor for the next four years, I will seek to fulfil my duties to the best of my ability.  But if I am not elected, I will not be shedding any tears!

This afternoon and early evening were spent in visiting each of the Polling Places within the Ward, and spending some time in each - talking with the helpers of other Candidates, and with a couple of the Candidates themselves.  We represented different political Parties - on certain issues, miles apart in policy - but we were able to chat in a friendly fashion, with not even a hint of rancour.

As I drove away from one Polling Place, I found myself thinking how different it sometimes is within the Body of Christ!  How often I have witnessed those who are supposed to share a common faith - belong to the same Party, in political terms - almost at each other's throats!  How quick we sometimes are to accentuate the things about which we differ, while setting to the side the things that we have in common.  How afraid we often seem to be to even appear to be compromising our own particular standpoint.

As I shook the hands of two young, Asian background, SNP supporters; as I chatted with Labour activists; as I listened to the tales of woe of a supporter of one of the Independent Candidates; I didn't, for one moment, compromise my own Christian beliefs and values.  Why is it so difficult to take the same attitude with those who claim to follow, and worship, and serve, the same Christ Who is my own Saviour and Lord?

The Psalmist wrote: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters!) dwell in unity! ... ... For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life for evermore." (Ps.133:1,3).

Could it be that the Church is missing out on blessing simply because we are not dwelling in unity?!