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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Putting the cart before the horse!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sovereign Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The surgeon left. 

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

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

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

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

The surgeon wept. 

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

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

"Yes," said the surgeon. 

"What did you find?" asked the boy. 

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

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What a gap!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 5 November 2012

Dealing with disappointment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 1 November 2012

They Won't Let Me In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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