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Friday, 29 June 2012

Convert from Islam to Christianity beheaded

Video footage of a convert from Islam to Christianity being murdered by Muslims has been shown on Egyptian TV. The graphic incident, which is reported to have taken place in Tunisia, was aired on a programme called Egypt Today. The footage shows a young man being held down by masked men with a knife to his throat. One man chants a number of Muslim prayers in Arabic, mostly condemning Christianity. The man holding the knife to the Christian convert’s throat begins to cut, slowly severing the head amid cries of “Allahu Akbar” (“god is great”).  This is, in fact, worse than what we normally think of as "beheading" as it is not done, sharply and quickly, with an axe or a sword.

The Egypt Today presenter was visibly distressed by the scenes. Then, referring to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, who together hold the majority of seats in the country’s parliament, he asked, “How are such people supposed to govern?”

The footage of this brutal beheading is the latest alarming indication of the violent threat to religious freedom in the post-Arab Spring order.

We give thanks to God for our Tunisian brother’s life, and for a faith that would not waver, even unto death; and pray that his witness will touch the hearts of even his murderers, as well as those who have seen the footage of his death - that they will turn to Christ.

To learn more about how true disciples of Jesus suffer in 2012 A.D., check out the links at the bottom of this page.  This particular report is from the Barnabas Fund, at

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Mule's Wisdom

The story is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. One day, the mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' - or whatever mules do when they fall into wells - and, after carefully assessing the situation, he decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth saving. Instead, he called his neighbours together and told them what had happened and asked them to help carry soil to the well, to bury the old mule and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But, as the farmer and his neighbours continued shovelling and the soil hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovelful of soil landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! So this is what he did, shovelful after shovelful; blow after blow.

"Shake it off and step up... shake it off and step up... shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!

You guessed it! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What had seemed as if it would bury him, actually end up blessing him.  All because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

Of course, in addition to "shaking it off and step up," disciples of Jesus have a wonderful heavenly Father to help get us through tough times. When the going gets tough, keep looking up, and trusting Him.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Déviation (Detour).

In just two weeks (D.V.), my wife and I will be in France! :-)  As usual, we expect to cover quite a few (thousand!) miles, and see many sights, but one sight we are almost guaranteed to see is the sign that announces a Déviation.

It's a common sign, I suspect, in every country; and we don't like to see it.  Perhaps we've been making good time towards our next stop.  We're looking forward to getting the 'van set up early, and enjoying a pleasant and relaxing evening.  Déviation!  Suddenly, whether we like it, or not, we must leave our planned route, and take an alternative one - that looks less than inviting!

However, sometimes we discover that the alternative route is very enjoyable.  It may take us through areas that are more beautiful than if we had continued on the main road and, of course, if we follow the signs, we will eventually return to the original route.

Life can be like that as well!  Certainly, those of us who are disciples of Jesus know that we must sometimes take a seemingly unpleasant detour - even when engaged in the Lord's work!  All appeared to be going reasonably well in the early church, when the Lord permitted Stephen to be martyred (Acts 7:54-60), and an outbreak of persecution followed (Acts 8:1).  It would seem likely that many of the believers couldn't understand why!  However, we know that the déviation that the Lord made them take at that time aided the spread of the Gospel!  The scattering of the disciples carried the Good News to new areas.

So, the next time you read/hear of an apparent tragedy in a missionary situation, or in a church, or wherever, remember that such a déviation may, through the Lord's providence, be used to eventually bring great blessing to others.

On an even more personal basis, the Lord may permit an illness, or a handicap, or a redundancy, or a bereavement, to enter our lives.  We may not like the particular turn of events but, if we trust Him, the detour may bring great blessing, and spiritual enrichment.

Don't treat God's Déviation signs with moans, or expressions of distrust, but with hope and expectation!  He is still "working His purpose out, as year succeedeth year".

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Church - or the Christ?

A few days ago, I received an unexpected e-mail from the son of a couple with whom my wife and I had been very friendly, but with whom we had lost contact.  He was making some specific enquiries, but he also informed me that he had gone through a divorce, and "ended up back at church!".  Now, to be fair, he went on to state that he has "radically recommitted my life to Christ", but his initial comment reminded me of my days as a parish minister, and my attendance at meetings of the Synod.  For those without a Presbyterian background, the Synod (now defunct!) was the ecclesiastical court between the Presbytery and the General Assembly.

Anyway, I quickly noticed that, when a minster who had just retired into the Synod area was being welcomed, or when intimation of the death of a Synod member was given, the person in question was always described as "a faithful servant of the church"!  This always bothered me!  Of course, I knew that I was in ministry in order to serve my own congregation.  Indeed, I knew that "to minister" means "to serve".  However, I also knew that my prime service is to the Lord.

That was certainly how the early believers saw it.  Listen to Paul: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle," (Rom 1:1; my emphasis).  He writes of others in the same way: "... Ep'aphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf  and has made known to us your love in the Spirit." (Col 1:7-8; my emphases).   Later in that same letter he writes that "Tych'icus will tell you all about my affairs; he is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord." (Col 4:7; my emphasis).  He advised Timothy that "... the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one," (II Tim 2:24; my emphasis)

And it wasn't just Paul!  "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ," (James 1:1; my emphasis).  "Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ," (II Peter 1:1; my emphasis).  "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ," (Jude 1: my emphasis).  Even when reference is made to the service of the church, it is in words like these: "... what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." (II Cor 4:5-6; my emphasis).

It is good to serve God's people in whatever capacity we are able to serve.  But it is important to remember Whose we are, and Whom we really serve; remembering that we serve, "Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:" (Eph 6:6-7; my emphasis).

Monday, 18 June 2012

My Barrister!

After living what I felt was a "decent" life, my time on earth came to the end. The next thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what appeared to be a court house.

The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table.

As I looked around I saw the "prosecutor." He was a villainous looking character who snarled as he stared at me. He was definitely the most evil being I had ever seen.

I sat down and looked to my left and there sat my Barrister, a kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, that I felt I must know Him.

The door flew open and the Judge appeared, in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome Presence and, as He moved across the room, I couldn't take my eyes off of Him.

As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, "Let us begin."

The prosecutor rose and said,

"My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this man belongs in hell."

He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and times in the past when I had cheated others. He told of other horrible sins that were once in my life and, the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't look at anyone, not even my own Barrister, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about.

As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at my Barrister Who sat there silently, not offering any form of defense at all. I knew I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life - couldn't they at least cancel part of the harm I'd done?

Satan finished with a fury and said, "This man belongs in hell.  He is guilty of all that I have said, and there is no-one who can prove otherwise."

When it was His turn, my Barrister first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendour and majesty. I realised why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Saviour.

He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, "Hi, Dad," and then He turned to address the court.

"Satan was correct in saying that this man had sinned. I won't deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wages of sin is death, and this man deserves to be punished."

Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, "However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and he has accepted Me as his Saviour, so he is Mine."

My Lord continued, "His name is written in the book of life and no one can snatch him from Me. Satan still does not understand. This man is not to be given justice, but rather grace and mercy."

As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, "There is nothing else that needs to be done. I've done it all."

The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips..

"This man is free." The penalty for him has already been paid in full. Case dismissed."

As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, "I won't give up, I will win the next one." I asked Jesus as He gave me my instructions where to go next, "Have you ever lost a case?"

Christ lovingly smiled and said, "Everyone that has come to Me and asked Me to represent them has received the same verdict as you, ....... Paid In Full."

It's only a story - but it does have a message. If we want Him to represent us there; we must be willing to represent Him here!   If you've never done so before, confess your sins to Him now; ask for His forgiveness; thank Him for taking your place on the cross; accept Him as Saviour and Lord.  Then live for Him - "life in all its fulness" (Jn.10:10).

Saturday, 16 June 2012

This is my life!!

I am still able to recall the late Eamonn Andrews, with his big red book, informing some unsuspecting person: "This is your life".  Some of the stories were quite amazing.

This morning, I was the invited speaker at a Men's Breakfast in Calderwood Baptist Church, East Kilbride, where I had been asked to share my testimony.  I decided to entitle it "This is MY life"!  Mind you, fitting 27 years (and [quite] a few months) into about 45 mins wasn't easy.  However, I only over-ran by a couple of minutes!

It had been interesting, during the week, preparing my notes.  I haven't been asked for a word of personal testimony for many years and, of course, there is now so much more to share.  I reckon that I could have spoken for twice as long - and still have left out so very much!  (No surprise there, then!).

My initial question was "Who is Brian Ross?", and I made the point that the answer to that depended, to a great extent, on who was being asked.  To my late parents, I was their first-born son - the eldest of six boys.  To my teachers in both Primary and Grammar Schools, I was a pupil - seldom top of the class, but always in the top half!  To my colleagues when I left school and entered the real adult world of work, I was a chef; to lecturers at the Bible Training Institute, the University of Glasgow, the Open University, Moray House College of Education, the University of Strathclyde, and the University of Liverpool (with Trinity College), I was a student; to my wife, I am a husband; to my children, a father; to my grandson, a grandfather.  To a number of Christian congregations/fellowships, I am a minister; to a couple of generations of young folk, I was a teacher.  To listeners to both Caleb Radio and Revival Radio (now Revival FM), I was a programme producer and presenter; on a couple of occasions, I was an advocate in an Industrial Tribunal.  To some 1500 personnel in Strathclyde Police, I am a chaplain; having just completed my first (!) book, I am an author; to many, I trust, I am a friend.  It's been - and continues to be - quite a life!

However, the final point that I shared was the one that I have in common with every other man and woman who has ever lived - with only one exception.  I'm a sinner!  I don't even manage to meet my own standards, let alone those of a holy and sinless God.  Even if I managed to get through one 24-hour period without committing a single sin of thought, word, or deed, I would still be a sinner.  "In sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5) is not making comment on the act of physical sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, within the bounds of a loving marital relationship.  It is making the point that, from the instant that single sperm from my father pierced my mother's egg, and mitosis (the division of cells) commenced, I was already a sinner!  That's why I sin! 

However, I was also able to say that I am a sinner - saved by grace: the grace of a God Who loves me so much that, in the Persona (not a typo!) of the Son, He took upon Himself human flesh; lived a life in which He experienced all that I experience, and more, yet without sinning (Heb.4:15); and died on a cross, in my place!  "Bearing shame, and scoffing rude; in my place, condemned He stood.  Sealed my pardon with His blood.  Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!" (P.P.Bliss)

He has travelled with me, now, for more years than I care to admit!  During those years, I have let Him down, time and time again - but He has never let me down.  If you don't have a personal relationship with Him, I commend Him to you; and I commend all who read this to His grace.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Praying through!

In I Samuel 12:20-25, we read these words the Old Testament prophet to the Children of Israel: "And Samuel said to the people, "Fear not; you have done all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and do not turn aside after vain things which cannot profit or save, for they are vain. For the Lord will not cast away his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king." (my emphasis).
In that 23rd verse that I have emboldened, we find God’s verdict on the prayerless life, or the one in which there is a lack of persistence.  Not my verdict; not the verdict of some erudite theologian; not the verdict of any, or all, of the various denominations that make up the church of Jesus Christ; but the verdict of Almighty God, Himself, given in His Word, through His servant.  If we do not pray, we are guilty of sin against Him.
Sometimes folk speak of ‘praying through’ – praying about a situation until it is fully resolved, and we are released by Holy Spirit Himself from having to continue to pray about it.  However, we live in an age of instant action.  I expect to hear of news from the other side of the globe as soon as it happens; I expect my computer to respond instantly to every electronic command that I give it; I’m surrounded by instant this, and instant that – from coffee to microwave meals – things that even a couple of generations ago, were unheard of.  And it seems that, in these days of instant action, some would treat God as a sort of cosmic vending machine – push in the prayer, and out come the goods!  Perhaps we need a reminder that, while instant answers do sometimes come (and that they are not always positive!), there is a process of prayer that requires commitment, dedication, and persistence.
Some of us need to spend more time in prayer – bringing others before God; bringing situations that effect others into the light of His searching gaze; seeking His will and purpose for our own lives – which isn’t necessarily the same as our own desires!   And some of us need to learn that prayer isn’t all one-way – us speaking to God with a shopping list of even laudable requests.  We need to slow down, and learn to wait in His presence, allowing Him to speak to us.  Remember, the Lord didn’t come to Elijah in the wind, or in the earthquake, or in the fire; but in the still, small voice.   It’s often only through such travailing, two-way, prayer – the sort of praying that requires effort, persistence, even pain – that the purposes of God are brought to pass.  
“Unfortunately, many of us are through praying when we need to be praying through” (Trevor Partridge, CWR)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Beautiful? It depends on who is looking!!

On Friday, as I made my regular journey from the gym to ASDA, I noticed a couple walking towards me.  I freely confess to never having had any physical attraction to those of the same gender as myself, but I would have thought that the young man would have been found to be physically attractive to many females.  However, the young woman with whom he was walking, hand in hand, was what I could only describe as "very plain".

I found myself thinking that "it must be love"!  A handsome young man, with such a (to me!) plain-looking girl.  The old adage "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" also came to mind.

Then ( I suspect) God the Holy Spirit took over!  I realised that, in spiritual terms, I am so ugly.  Sin has so marred me, and corrupted me.  Even when I am at my very best (and that isn't all that often!), I am tainted by, and tarnished with, sin.  There is absolutely nothing that Someone as pure, and holy, and sinless, as Almighty God could possibly see as attractive.

Therein is the wonder of the Christian Gospel!  You see, Father God looks on me and, in His eyes, I am beautiful!  Indeed, I am more than just beautiful - I am precious!  So precious that, in the Persona (that's not a typo - listen to the audio message on The Trinity at of the Son - Jesus of Nazareth - He hung on a cross, and died in my place.  That's not natural - but it is supernatural!

I can certainly imagine being willing to die for one of my close family members, or even for a very close friend.  That could be seen as being natural.  But someone whom I found to be totally repulsive!?  That would take a supernatural love - of which, I suspect, I would not be capable.

Beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.  Praise God that, when He looks at me, He doesn't see me for what I am, but He sees what He wants me to be.  As I come before Him, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, He says "... you are precious in My eyes, and honoured, and I love you, ..." (Is.43:4). 

I may (will!!) never win any physical beauty contest.  But in spiritual terms, I am "... beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:" (Jude 1).  Hallelujah!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

What's in a name?

On Christmas Day, and on New Year's Day, I visited the Police Stations in my two Divisions that I knew would be open, and have officers on duty.  As mentioned in a previous post, I arrived bearing gifts in the form of bottles of my homemade Ginger Cordial and loads of mince pies.

Some weeks ago, I was in Glasgow on the day of a major Public Order event.  I knew that some of "my" officers would be on duty so, having completed the business on which I had gone into the big city, I decided to look them out.  The first ones I came across were three Sergeants from 'N' Division.  As we chatted, I asked if they knew the identity of this strange member of the public who was speaking with them (and who knew where they normally worked, etc.!).  They looked at me more intently.  Then one of them brightened up.  "I know who you are." he declared.  "You're the mince pie man!"  Well, it wasn't quite what I had expected - but I've been called a lot worse!!!

Yesterday, my wife asked me to purchase some ingredients for a vegetable lasagne that we are making for a delayed party, this evening, to celebrate my son-in-law having attained forty years of age (amazing, as I am still just 27 - and [quite] a few months!!!).  One of the items was passatta.  For those who don't know, that is sieved tomatoes (presumably from the Italian word for "passed" - as in "passed through a sieve").  However, as I lifted the carton down from the shelf, I wondered: "Why not just call it "tamatta"?  :-)

As I was working out at the gym, yesterday, one of the songs that was coming from my little MP3 player was the Gaither Trio singing the lovely old chorus "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's something about that Name.  Master, Saviour, Jesus; like the fragrance after the rain.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; let all heaven and earth proclaim: kings, and kingdoms, will all pass away; but there's something about that Name."

It is a very special Name.  Almost 2,000 years ago, a wee Jewish lassie who, as was normal in the culture in which she lived, would have been no more than 14 years of age, was informed by a mysterious messenger that she was going to become pregnant, and give birth to a Son.  "You are to name Him Jesus," she was told, "for He will save His people from their sins."

That Child was, of course, almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, having taken upon Himself human flesh.  We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth - the itinerant preacher Who was eventually tried unlawfully, and then crucified, and entombed.  But His death was a vicarious one.  That simply means that it was on behalf of others - you, and me, to be precise.  As He hung on that cross, He actually became sin - in all of its ugliness, and blackness, and repulsiveness; in order that we might be saved from it - its power, its penalty and, ultimately, its very presence!

And He is unique: "... for there is no other Name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).

Today, I received a gift.  Well, I should maybe say that I was offered a gift.  I didn't have to take it.  But I knew that the couple who offered it had gone to some expense to provide it, and it would have been nothing less than churlish to have rejected it!  Yet that is exactly what so many do with the offer of salvation, that cost not cash, but the very lifeblood of God the Son.  I trust that you, who read these words, will not be among that number; but that you will gratefully receive that gift - that "inexpressible gift" (II Cor.9:15) - by confessing your sinfulness; repenting of your sins; and confessing that "Jesus is Lord", to the glory of God the Father.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Creationism v. Evolution (again!).

Professional writers sometimes complain about "writer's block" - when, for some unfathomable reason, thoughts refuse to flow in any coherent manner, and the work of writing simply dries up!  I now understand!  I don't think that I have ever gone for as long without a post, since I started this blog more than four-and-a-half years ago!!

Not that I have not been writing!  However, I have been spending my time responding to online newspaper articles, and to the comments of others in the fora that accompany them.  One such instance was today.  In The (Glasgow) Herald, one columnist, in an artice based on "... the bombshell news that nearly half of Americans believe in creationism."  He goes on to illustrate his point that those who are in that camp are mad: "You might as well say gravity is a theory. In a certain sense, it is, but if you'd like to throw a hammer straight upwards, your head will shortly tell you the truth of the situation."  Reference was also made to the newly-released film Prometheus, and a statement therein by a scientist character who "... claims humans evolved from alien life forms. Asked if she has any basis for such a belief, she replies: "No, but it's what I choose to believe."

My own response follows!

No attempt to hide the bias in this article!! And no reason why it should be hidden! However, to state that: "The thing about evolution is it isn't really a theory you can choose to believe or disbelieve. It is, to the best of our admittedly fallible knowledge, a fact." is the height of nonsense.

Indeed, the following reference to gravity and hammers supports my claim. For any scientific theory to be accepted as "proven", it must fulfil two basic requirements - it must be observable, and it must be repeatable. This is simple and straightforward with regard to gravity and falling hammers. However, with the beginning of everything it is, by definition, simply impossible!

What we do have is evidence. Obviously, that same evidence may be interpreted in different ways. Mr McNeil, and others, may choose to interpret, e.g., the amazing complexity of the eye as the end result of a series of random mutations - although they will be hard-pressed to explain why it 'evolved' in its 'early' stages as, until all of it is in its final form, it is useless ( irreducible complexity). Others may see, behind the complexity, order, and wonder of the eye - and, indeed, the known universe - an intelligent Being to whom they usually ascribe the nomenclature "God". The character in the film is, at least, being honest! The only thing of which we may be certain is that there was a First Cause that was (is!) outwith time and space, as these are both created entities! A little delving into the area of quantum physics will really blow one's mind!

No less a person than Lord Kelvin - a renowned scientist - stated that: "Overwhelming strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie around us ... the atheistic idea is so nonsensical that I cannot put it into words." while modern-day Nancy Darrall (PhD in Botany, Univ of Wales) has stated that: "The evidence points to an intelligent designer of the vast array of life, both living anf extinct, rather than to unguided mindless evolution."

Such statements, from eminent scientists both in the past and the present, could fill at least one full issue of The Herald! 

I am unaware of Mr McNeil's area of scientific expertise, but perhaps his journalistic skills might be brought to bear by attending to some reasonable research before submitting his thoughts to print! He might then be able to make the more accurate statement that: "The thing about evolution is that it is a theory you can choose to believe or disbelieve. It is one way of interpreting the available evidence."!