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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Story of the Barber

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.

As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. They talked about so many things and various subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: "I don't believe that God exists."

"Why do you say that?" asked the customer.

"Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."

The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument.

The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt.

The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: "You know what? Barbers do not exist."

"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber. "I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!"

"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside."

"Ah, but barbers DO exist!", answered the barber. "What happens, is, people do not come to me."

"Exactly!" - affirmed the customer. "That's the point! God, too, DOES exist! What happens, is, people don't go to Him and do not look for Him. That's why there's so much pain and suffering in the world."

Saturday, 25 August 2012

For the want of a nail ...!

There's an old proverb-rhyme that goes like this:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.For want of a shoe the horse was lost.For want of a horse the rider was lost.For want of a rider the message was lost.For want of a message the battle was lost.For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

It came to mind more than a week ago when I discovered that the lights on a trailer that I was towing weren't operating - and then that the fault was in my own car!  Being in the Gironde area of France, and having a caravan to tow back to magnificent Motherwell, this was a problem.  The trailer was small enough for the car lights to be seen by the driver behind - with the caravan in tow, the car disappears for the following driver!  To travel without proper lights is totally illegal in both France and the UK (and probably in just about every other country, as well), so the problem had to be resolved.

Thankfully, a friend of the site owner was spending a few days in a static - and he just happened to be an auto-electrician by profession!  He eventually tracked the problem down to a relay that passes the current from the car's electrical system to that of the caraven.  Just a little box about 2½" long, but I was stuck without it!  "For the want of a nail ...!!

This morning, the replacement eventually arrived from the UK - 2-3 days later than expected (therein lies a different story!).  I set myself to what was a simple and straightforward task of transferring each connection from the old box to the new.  I then connected the caravan electrics to the car - and nothing was working!  

Waiting for the replacement part to arrive had already resulted in a delayed departure; the cancellation of bookings in the UK; and the cancellation of a get-together with friends of very long standing.  I knew that if I didn't manage to get the lights working, I wouldn't even be able to get to a garage until Monday - and had no guarantee that my car would be attended to before the end of next week!  Well, I don't carry the fullest of toolboxes with me when I'm away on holiday - but I always have my most important tool with me: I can pray!  And pray I did - while still trying various connection combinations.  Then, I had an inspired thought.  I checked the 12v power to the component.  Nothing.  I attached it to an alternative 12v supply.  Suddenly, I was in business.  The problem with the relay was that it wasn't receiving the power.

As regular readers are aware, I always look for spiritual lessons in these situations.  I think that there are two, related, ones here.  First of all, it doesn't take much to stop our light shining for Jesus.  I just need to commit a "small" sin in order to break the connection that I have with my Saviour.  That's why I have to come to Him, on a daily basis, to seek afresh His forgiveness - claiming His blood and righteousness for myself.   The second is simply that, if there is no power in my life, then I am going nowhere.  All of the other connections may be fine - attendance at worship services; daily Bible reading; tithing; praying; witnessing - but if the power of God the Holy Spirit isn't flowing through me, nothing happens.  Jesus said: "... you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8).  Some of us think that, in our Christian lives, we can power on when something inside needs fixing – there is a problem, something is broken. Sooner or later we will come to a halt, powerless.

If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, be sure to keep the power connected and flowing, by allowing God the Holy Spirit to flow through you.  You will then find that He also deals with those things that get in the way of a full relationship with the Son - and you light will shine again, brighter than ever before!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Language!

Languages can be fascinating - especially the translations from one language into another.  This, I have found, is very true with regard to Christian songs, many of which are translated from the English language into others.

My first experience of the difference this can make was many years ago, in Germany.  I was attending a Christian Conference in Weinstadt, near to Stuttgart.  One of the songs that was in vogue at the time was "In the Name of Jesus".  In the English language version, the final two lines are "In the mighty Name of Jesus, we have the victory."  However, a direct translation of the last line would have been "haben wir Seig" - which was two syllables short for the music!  Someone was inspired to add one word - "haben wir ganzer Seig" - which now transpates as "we have the complete/total victory."!

I was reminded of Paul's words in  Romans 8:37: "In all these things we are more than conquerors—through Him who loved us!"  To be more than conquerors is to be triumphant conquerors, not merely getting through the battle or the trouble—but coming out of it with rejoicing, with song and gladness. The Greman language certainly adds something worthwhile to the concept of victorious Christian living!   We have a victory, in Christ Jesus, that leaves nothing out!

Just over a week ago, my wife and I attended a wedding here in France. It was the religious service for a lovely Christian couple (the civil ceremony, as is the norm in many countries, was a separate affair, held on the previous day).  One of the songs that was sung was Brian Doerksen's "Arms of Love".  In the middle, are these words: "My heart is glad That you've called me Your own" - very meaningful to any disciple of Jesus.  However, in order to fit the melody, the French language version reads: "Tu m'as donné Ton Nom" - which translates as "You have given me Your Name".

I once had a dog.  I called it my own.  It belonged to me, and I was responsible for its general welfare.  It expressed its gratitude to me in many different ways, and I was very fond of that animal.  Its name was Zara.  

I have a wife.  She's my wife - to the exclusion of all others.  I call her "my wee wife".   She 'belongs' to me and, as her husband, I am responsible for her general welfare- for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health - as I promised almost forty-two years ago.  She expresses her love for me in many different ways, and I love her dearly.   I also gave her my name.  My doing so, and her accepting it were, and are, a special sign of our union with one another, until God shall separate us by death.

Do you understand the difference?  I am so glad that the Lord Jesus is willing to call me His own.  I am so happy to belong to Him; to experience His care and provision; to know that He loves me.  But the French-language version of that song has reminded me that He has done even more - He has given me His Name.  I am not just a favoured pet; I'm an integral part of the Bride of Christ, His Church.

What about you?  Do you belong to Him?  Have you taken His Name?  I trust that your answers are in the affirmative!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Water - we can't live without it!

When I was a boy, there were many who believed that certain markings that had been discovered on the planet Mars were canals.  This was exciting, as canals implied water and, where there was water, there would be life - perhaps even as we know it!   Of course, unmanned explorations of the Red Planet have shown that the markings are not canals and, to the best of our knowledge, there is no water on the planet - certainly not near to the surface.

However, the search goes on, as man seeks to prove that humanity, and the Blue Planet, are not as unique as was once thought.  Personally, I believe that they are - but then I'm a Creationist, not an Evolutionist!

One of the first things we have realised with our new static caravan in France, is the value of water!  For the first time in our lives, our useage of this life-sustaining substance is metered.  We don't simply - as in the UK - pay a set amount, and then use (or waste!) as much water as we wish.  Okay, we're normally in Scotland, rather than the SW of England (with hose-pipe bans), but you get the picture!   Metering means that we are much more careful about how we use - and, if possible, re-use - the precious commodity.

Jesus once spoke with a Samaritan woman, at the well outside the town of Sychar (John 4:1-26).  That He would speak with a woman whom He did not know would have been considered a shocking thing; but the fact that she was also a Samaritan, made the situation doubly so!

He asked her for a drink and, when she expressed surprise that he would do so, He answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."(v.10).   What is "living water"?  Well, it's water that is moving and, therefore, isn't stagnant.  It's water that is fresh, not stale.  It's water that gives life, rather than harbouring disease.

Water was scarce in Jesus' day, yet water was as much a necessity for life then as it is today. Just as the physical body needs water to continue living so does the spirit. Jesus is the water needed by the spiritual part of man. Without Him the spirit will eventually die. The spirit is thirsty and we try to quench that thirst with many things that satisfy for a time but, eventually, we get thirsty again. The only thing that can truly quench the thirst of the spirit is the living water, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the water that brings life to the spirit. By drinking the Living Water one can live and never thirst again. Jesus is that Living Water.  Accept His offer to drink of Him - and know life in all its fulness (John 10:10).

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Seeking the Light

We had left, early, in order to drive to the beach - and it was getting late when we returned.  My private devotions, therefore, were conducted when it was dark outside.  As I sat there, I became aware of a lot of movement on the window beside where I sat.  It was moths, and various other members of the insect world, trying to make their way through the glass!  Why would they be so intent on doing so?  Simply because they were attracted by the light that was shining in the room as I read.  If I had opened the window, they would have swarmed in - not to me, but to the light.

Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world".(John 8:12).  He is the One Who brings illumination to life.  He is the One Who guides us through life.  He is the One Who warns us of the dangers that we face in life.  Darkness cannot co-exist with light. Light pierces the darkness and destroys its hold on life. The flame of one small candle pierces the darkness. The light from many candles can overcome the darkness.

That same Jesus said "I'll never turn away the one who comes to me." (Jn.6:37).  He welcomes ALL who come to Him in simple faith - trusting in His sacrificial death for their own salvation.  How sad, then - indeed, how tragic - that so many not only ignore, but even avoid, the Light.

"Verily", saith the preacher, "it is a strange thing that a humble moth shows greater intelligence than a human being"!!!

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Sneeze

They walked in tandem, each of the ninety-two students filing into the already crowded auditorium. With their rich maroon gowns flowing ... and the traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt.

Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, and Moms freely brushed away tears.

This class would NOT pray during the commencements - not by choice, but because of a recent court ruling prohibiting it.

The principal and several students were careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the ruling. They gave inspirational and challenging speeches, but no one mentioned divine guidance and no one asked for blessings on the graduates or their families.

The speeches were nice, but they were routine ... until the final speech received a standing ovation.

A solitary student walked proudly to the microphone. He stood still and silent for just a moment, and then, it happened.

All 92 students, every single one of them, suddenly SNEEZED!!!!

The student on stage simply looked at the audience and said, "GOD BLESS YOU, each and every one of you!" And he walked off stage ...

The audience exploded into applause. This graduating class had found a unique way to invoke God's blessing on their future with or without the court's approval.

This is a true story; it happened at the University of Maryland.


I happen to believe that the traditional "God bless you" when someone sneezes has more to do with superstition than faith.  However, when I received this story, I was delighted that it was used in such an inspired way. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Searching.

Yesterday, my wife and I went to the beach - not the lake beach at the site on which we now have a static caravan, but one of the many beaches on the Atlantic coast of France.

We parked our car; gathered together all of the items that we wished to take with us; and set off for an afternoon of sea and sun.  Unfortunately, the pathway to the beach was unmarked and, with dune after dune, one had to be almost there before any blue was seen!   My wife was obviously tired with the walking in the high temperature that we were experiencing, so I suggested that I leave her under a shady tree, with all of our baggage, and go ahead to ascertain how far we still had to travel.  I walked, and walked - but, eventually, there was an amazingly calm Atlantic Ocean stretching in front of me.  I went down to the beach, and checked that this was the area for which we had been heading; then I returned to the dunes and the forest.

It didn't take me too long to discover that, while I had found the beach, I had lost my wife!  Every tree looked the same as every other tree.  Paths had been trodden all over the place.  Every little landmark that I recalled seemed to be duplicated over and over again.  I walked for hours (well, two hours), shouting out her name, praying, praying, shouting out her name.  I managed to get back to the end of the parking area, and followed the route that we had originally taken.  I found the spot at which I had left her, with a sign that it was the correct place - but she, and all of our belongings, had disappeared!!  The shouting, and the praying, became increasingly intense.  I was getting tired; I didn't have any water; I didn't have the keys to the car to get some (I knew that my wife had an adequate supply!).  I went back to the beach, just in case some friendly folk had assisted her to get there.  There was no sign of her.

Feeling quite exhausted, I made my way, again, back to the parking area.  As I trudged up the roadway to where I had parked our car, I saw my wife walking towards me!  She had given up waiting for me, and felt vulnerable as a woman alone in such a deserted place, so had left me her sign, and somehow managed to get back to the car with all of the stuff that I had been carrying.  My relief was beyond description.

Later, as I lay on the beach (with my wife beside me!), I began to think of my experience.  Someone whom I love so much was missing, and I was determined to find her.  I wasn't counting the cost; I ignored my thirst; I forced my weary legs to keep on moving.

Father God has a similar attitude to you and to me.  We are the ones, in this case, who have deliberately wandered away.  Yet He searches for each one of us.  In the Persona (no typo - listen to my message on The Trinity, at revcbross.blogspot.com) of the Son, He suffered in ways that neither you nor I can ever begin to even imagine.  And He did it for no other reason than His eternal love for each one of us.

It is many years since I responded to that love, and made my way towards Him.  If you have never done so, I encourage you to listen to His voice, calling out your name; and to respond with the love and commitment of your own heart.

Jesus said, "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Matthew 18:12-14)

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Commitment - and (more!) privilege.

We arrived at a campsite in Mirepoix, yesterday evening.  As I towed our caravan forward of the pitch that we had been allocated, the young man standing on the adjacent pitch (behind a low hedge) mouthed "Bonjour".  I was about to respond in kind, when I noticed the British registration of his modest 'converted van'.  At the same time, he noticed that I was on the right-hand-side of my car.  We both laughed, and said "Hello".  He was a charming young man.

Nothing unusual, or significant, in all of that.  However, I later walked past his van, and saw a young woman changing the clothes of a wee girl of about three years of age.  The mother was 'sitting' on the grass - but in what I found to be an unusual position!   Then, as I returned, she was drinking a cup of tea - and there was a motorised wheelchair beside the van.  I commented that she must be English - "Everything is sorted with a cup of tea".  Later, I was to regret those seemingly innocuous words.

It was the young mother who had the physical disability that required her to use the wheelchair.  She also had a motorised tricycle in order to accompany her husband when he went cycling (with the little one safely strapped to a seat behind him).   But a more cheery young woman one would be hard-pressed to find.  There was no obvious hint of the "life's been tough on me" syndrome; no expression of having been "hard-done-by"; no suggestion that she should be given any particular sympathy.  Just a lovely smile, backed up by a cheerful disposition - in spite of a condition that wouldn't be "... sorted with a cup of tea"!

The young husband worked, tirelessly, to look after his wife and child.  We saw him hang out the washing; he seemed to be attending to the cooking.  Indeed, in many ways, he was playing a dual-role in the family.  His obvious commitment to those who depended on him was beautiful to behold.

Regular visitors to this blog will not be surprised to learn that I found myself measuring this young man's level of commitment to his family against the commitment I sometimes display towards the Lord.  I came a sorry second!  I also found myself - not for the first time in recent days - realising what a privileged person I am.

Perhaps more of us need to think along the same lines!