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Friday, 31 May 2013

Building on a good foundation.

After this afternoon's Thanksgiving Service for an elderly member of Wishaw Baptist Church who died last week, and whose mortal remains had earlier been cremated, one of the other ladies of more mature years commented to her companion: "It's always good to have the old hymns".  At least I hope that that was what she meant!  However, as she was looking at me at the time, I did wonder if she was referring to some old "hims"!!

This evening, I received a 'quiz' from the pastor - groups of letters that were the first letters of the words of the first line of the songs (aka hymns) that we expect to be singing on Sunday morning, at the worship service.  JE; BSFTPOTLTHOIH; to give the shortest and the longest!

So, I've been thinking hymns.  Augustus Toplady was saved when he attended a small evangelistic meeting in a barn in a rural district of Ireland.  The preacher was an illiterate layman, with neither training nor eloquence (cf. I Cor.2:1), but he pointed the young man to the Rock on Whom he could stand securely, and in Whom he could find peace and forgiveness - that spiritual Rock Who is Jesus, the Christ (I Cor.10:4).

Having his feet established on this solid foundation, the young Toplady studied for full-time ministry, seeking to attain to "... be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ." (Eph 4:13; NLT).  Sadly, his zeal and effort put too much strain on a body that was already frail, and he contracted tuberculosis (or 'consumption' as it was then known) - a veritable death sentence in the 18th century.  His faith, however, never faltered, and it was during his illness that he wrote the words of the hymn for which he was to become famous - "Rock of Ages".  Toplady died when he was only 38 years of age, but the words he wrote live on, and continue to bring comfort to many (as do a lot of the 'old' hymns!).

God's Word has many references to the Rock, and to the need for each of us to build upon that solid foundation.  What we are to build is not a pyramid of the acts of the sinful nature (Gal.5:19-21), but a temple of the Fruit if the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23).  We are also to be constantly watchful that the 'building blocks' do not get mixed up; that our faith, and our walk, are constantly brought under the searching gaze of God the Holy Spirit; that we repent of those natural inclinations that would cause us to stumble, and fall.

Then we may have confidence that, on that Day that will bring all things to light, what we have built will survive, we will receive our reward, and Jesus will be glorified (see I Cor.3:10-15).

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me; let me hide myself in Thee.
 Let the water and the blood, from Thy wounded side which flowed
 Be, of sin, the double cure - cleanse me from its guilt and power."

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Marry in haste ...!!!

Many will be familiar with the old adage: "Marry in haste; repent at leisure!"  Time, and time again, we have seen that the same truth holds in the political sphere.  In that case, it would be worded: "Legislate in haste; repent at leisure!"

In this Marriage Minutes, Dr Sharon James explains the undue haste with which the Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill has been pushed through the House of Commons.  The Bill has now gone to the House of Lords where, according to even its supporters, the vote is "too close to call"!   Let those of us who value marriage as God ordained it, continue faithful in prayer, and in keeping up the pressure on our elected representatives.  Let us also give thanks for those Members who had the courage to vote against the Bill, and to support the positive amendments that were introduced - even although they were defeated.

"The battle is not yours, but God's" (II Chron.20:15) - but you and I have a part to play!

Not even thirty pieces of silver!

Several years ago, a preacher from another state accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas, USoA . Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the down-town area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter (25c) too much change.  As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, 'You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.' Then he thought, 'Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a 'gift from God' and keep quiet.'

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, 'Here, you gave me too much change ..'

The driver, with a smile, replied, 'Aren't you the new preacher in town?'
'Yes' he replied.

'Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday.'

When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, 'Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.'

Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test! Always be on guard - and remember: You carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself 'Christian.'

Watch your thoughts ; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits..
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Being a Christian is a whole lot like being on Candid Camera (if you remember it!). When you least expect it - expect it!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Living "on the edge".

On Friday, I was travelling up from the Borders' General Hospital, outside the lovely town of Melrose.  As anyone who knows the area will confirm, I was not travelling on motorway, or even dual carriageway!  Indeed, the road, whilst very scenic, is a single carriageway that twists and turns, and goes uphill and down, for mile after mile after mile!  On more than one occasion I found myself behind a slow-moving vehicle, and there was nothing I could do but travel at the same speed. 

However, there was one particular lorry travelling in front of me.  Because of the nature of the road, it was impossible to see far enough ahead to be able to overtake it with any degree of safety.  Yet, at one point, that is exactly what I did!  Was I being impatient, and reckless?  No!  What happened was that the driver of the lorry, from the height of his cab, could see that the road ahead was clear, and he had signalled to me that it was safe to pass him.  Of course, what I was then doing was putting my trust, and my life (and that of the passenger I was carrying) in the signal given by someone I didn't even know!

Of course, as I point out in my book "Great Words of the Christian Faith" (see top of page!), each one of us, whether car-drivers or not, does the same sort of thing day in and day out.  Every time we board a 'bus or a train, get into a taxi, or travel by 'plane or ship, we commit ourselves to individuals who are usually total strangers.  We also take the word of others concerning such matters as health, nutrition, and finance - and act accordingly!  How amazing, then, that so few seem to be willing to totally trust the Lord and His Word.  Yet He is the One of Whom king Solomon could say, "Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave ..." (I Kings 8:56); while John wrote, "We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater [just] because it is the testimony of God ..." (I John 5:9).

Those of us who would start "living on the edge" need to learn how to trust Him more and more.  We need to put our hands, in all of their weakness, into His hand, with all of its strength, trusting Him to keep a firm grip on us.  We need to learn that, just as 'faith' is said to be spelled R I S K, so 'risk' (which is at least part of what "living on the edge" is all about) may be spelled F A I T H or T R U S T.  We need to show, in our lives,that we are convinced that, above everyone else, our faithful, unchangeable, omnipotent God is the One Who can safely be trusted.

"Living on the edge" means "letting go - and letting God"!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Matthew 5:9

Okay!  If the Biblical reference doesn't mean anything to you, permit me to quote that particular verse: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God".  It's from that passage commonly referred to as "The Sermon on the Mount" and, more specifically, "The Beatitudes", and is a direct quote from the lips of the Lord Jesus.

In Wishaw Baptist Church, as I mentioned less than a fortnight ago, we are working our way through a series of messages based on the Sermon.  However, it is not that that brought these words to mind this morning.  Rather, it is this morning's news that reported attacks - of different kinds, and different levels of seriousness - against the Muslim community in the UK, have risen from 4-6 per day, to hundreds, in the wake of the horrific death of Fusilier Lee Rigby, in Woolwich, London, on Wednesday.  Although the two Muslim men who are currently under armed guard in separate hospitals, being treated for gunshot wounds, have been filmed as they carried out their foul deed, are constantly being referred to as "suspects", there can be no doubt at all as to their guilt.  Indeed, they appear also to have willingly accepted responsibility for this cruel murder.

Reactions have been as diverse as they have been swift.  The majority Muslim population has stated that it is horrified, and disowned the two men.  Politicians and the security forces (including the Metropolitan Police) have assured us that as much was done as could be done in monitoring these men - and, no doubt, "lessons will be learned!  Newspapers have condemned the attackers, and the security forces who have been accused of having failed to monitor known Islamist radicals - and even of having tried to recruit one of them as some kind of informer. The Archbishop of Canterbury has sought to highlight the interfaith unity and harmony between the Christian and Muslim faiths. The British National Party, and the English Defence League, are calling for retribution, and for those who are appalled by Lee Rigby's murder to "start the fightback".  The family of the murdered man have paid warm tribute to him; as have his military colleagues.

As I commented in a response on a recent newspaper forum (on a totally different subject), I wish that had all of the answers to all of society's most pressing, and urgent, questions.  Sadly, I don't - at least not in terms that the majority would accept, or even understand.  One thing I do know, is that disciples of Jesus, of whom I count myself one,are called to be peacemakers.  That is an active word.  It means that I am called to actually do something in the pursuit of peace.  I am praying, of course, but I need to do something more.  I hope, therefore, to contact some Muslims friends, and assure them that I understand their own situation (well, I don't easily forget the atrocities perpetrated by the IRA, UVF, etc., and my own late father being shot at when on patrol with the RUC).  Is there any other action I might take?  I don't know - but I shall be thinking about that.

I am not alone in being happy to call myself a child of the living God.  This may well be a time for all of us to show it!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Children, pornography, and sex!

So it takes a study by the Office of the Children's Commissioner to inform us that children who watch porn are more likely to engage in 'risky' sex acts!

Do these civil servants not understand the basics of advertising? We tend to want what we see - and manufacturers, and their marketing departments, take full advantage of that. It is no different with children and even sex.

Of course, the answer lies in the accepting, by parents, of responsibility for the safe upbringing of their own children.  Therein lies what I believe to be a major part of the problem.  For at least a couple of generations, and certainly since the teaching of the 'expert', the late Dr Benjamin Spock, we have encouraged our children to be small-sized adults.  "Don't call me Mr Ross - it's Brian!"; "Ask Brian if he will get that for you." (from a parent); "You and I will be best pals!" or "Okay, mate!" (adult to child).  Sorry, folks, but while I would always wish to be friendly towards any child, I am not their "mate", or "pal".  I am an adult - now old enough to be the grandparent of any child who is still at school.

It was this attitude, in my opinion, that led to the lack of respect displayed by so many children towards those deemed to be "in authority" - police officers, teachers, etc.  The number of what are still referred to, euphemistically, as "single-parent" families, has not helped.  That is not to say that no single parent has ever raised a well-mannered family.  There are exceptions to every rule.  Sadly, however, they are the exceptions.

Another problem is the way in which some parents constantly give in to the demands of their children - back to the power of advertising!  Seriously, does a primary school child really need a mobile 'phone - let alone one by which the internet may be accessed without any parental, or any other adult, supervision?

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." writes the inspired author of the book of Proverbs (Prov 22:6) and, again, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die." (Prov 23:13).  Oh, and please note that that latter quotation is most definitely not an excuse for any form of child abuse.  That is a different matter altogether.

Turning to the New Testament, we find Paul writing to the Ephesian believers, "Children , obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  "Honour your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth." (Eph. 6:1-3).  However, he also provided the other side of the coin: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:4).

If I fail to follow the instructions for the use and service of my car, I cannot complain to the manufacturer if it breaks down.  As a society, too many have failed to even read the Maker's Handbook (aka the Bible).  We have no right to complain that society has broken down!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

"It's not over until it's over"

As I type this post, I am on a MegaBus coach travelling from London to Glasgow - after a few days in Amsterdam to celebrate a Silver Wedding Anniversary, and a Graduation in the Randag family in Bloemendaal.

Of course, in my absence, much has happened in the UK.  The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voted to allow the ordination and induction of practising homosexuals.  This is a move that is designed, I understand, to please all sections of the Kirk - the "revisionists" and the "traditionalists"!  As in most such cases, it may end up pleasing no-one.  The question for many will now be, "For how long can I remain a part of what is rapidly becoming (some would claim, 'has already become') an apostate church?"  For what it's worth, they have my deepest sympathy.  I recall my own situation over the slightly less contentious matter of infant baptism.  I am one of those who may truly claim that "I know what you are going through"!

At the same time, the House of Commons has been debating in the Report Stage of the Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill.  A number of amendments were tabled but, as far as I can make out, all were defeated - even if the Prime Minister had to depend on the support of her Majesty's Opposition.  Even there, a number of Labour members (my own MP included) voted in support of at least one of the amendments, in principled defiance of the Party Whip.

Of course, the newspapers have been providing their usual headline, and article, commentaries.  I have read, on-line, "Gay marriage step closer as bill clears major hurdle" (The Independent); "... gay marriage, which is expected to clear a final Commons vote tonight, remains on track, and same-sex couples should be able to tie the knot as early as next summer." (The Metro);"... the marriage (same-sex couples) bill will now experience a safer journey through parliament." (The Observer).

Now, even although I have learned a lot about it, in recent months, I make no claim to be an expert in Parliamentary procedure.  However, even I know that, while it is likely that the Bill will be passed this evening, at its Third reading, it could well be with a reduced majority.  I know, too, that it then has to be laid before the House of Lords.  I am fully aware that all of the indications are that the Bill will face a much more difficult passage in the Upper House, and that it is by no means guaranteed to be passed there.  It is also my understanding that, because it was in neither the manifestos of the parties who are now so apparently keen to support it, nor in any Queen's Speech, the Parliament Act cannot be invoked.  This, for those who do not know, is a legislative procedure that ensures that the Lords are unable to totally defy the will of the Commons.  Certain newspaper opinion may yet prove to be wrong!  As the heading to this post states, "It's not over until it's over" - and it certainly isn't over yet!

One additional point.  Writing to his young friend, and son in the faith, Timothy, the apostle Paul warns that "... the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths." (II Tim 4:3-4).

"For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned." explains the author of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus. (6:4-8).

Could it be that the things that we see around us are the very signs that Jesus assured us would be visible for those with eyes to see - signs that Father God is about to wind up this dimension that we inhabit?

Certainly, as someone once said, if God does not come in judgement upon the world today, He would need to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah!

"Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen." (Rev 22:20-21).

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Truth will out!

There are few days in which some reference is not made, in the British media, to the situation in the Middle East.  This does not simply mean reports from the ongoing civil war in Syria; or to the continuing unrest in Egypt; or to the latest visit to one of the Middle eastern countries by some 'high-flying' diplomat/politician.  It invariably means that those nasty Israelis are, yet again, bullying the poor Palestinians.  At least that is what much of the media would have us believe! 

At the centre of the situation is the city of Jerusalem.  It is claimed to be holy (i.e. separated from, and different to, anything else) by both Judaism and Islam.  However, the way in which it is treated by both gives the lie to one of those claims!  Here's a clue - the "Holy City" of Islam is Makkah (Mecca) in Saudi Arabia!

This video gives some interesting information - as does the "Show More" button, just under the screen if you go to the YouTube page to view.   The sound doesn't commence until about 1m20s into the video - so don't adjust your volume!

sh’alu shalom yerushalayim.   (Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.)  Ps.122:6

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Death in Ethiopia.

Yesterday's reference to the famine in Ethiopia, in the mid-80s, in which many people died, leads me to share about a death that occurred, in that country, much more recently.  When I returned from our latest trip to France, the mail that awaited me included a regular update from Open Doors - one of the organisations that we support in its work amongst those disciples of Jesus who suffer great persecution because of their faith in Him.  This is just one such situation:

Lalisa Lergesa had only been married for six months when her husband was killed. A 30-year-old teacher, church planter, and pastor, Debela Mergesa was hacked to death by three Muslim extremists.

The church he had planted had grown into a strong, independent congregation.  Many villagers in the region had come to Christ. However, Debela's 'success' soon attracted opposition, and numerous death threats.

On 1 October 2012, Debela was going to the village.  Before he left his wife he told her, "We need to remain faithful in the face of threats against our faith."  A few hours later, he was dead - a martyr to his faith.

The suspects have been arrested but, for Lalisa, the pain and the grief are still obvious, and her psychological wounds are still raw.  "She is mourning, day and night." said her father-in-law. "I lost my son, but I am scared that I am also going to lose my daughter-in-law as a result of this grief.  Please pray for her."

Lalisa and her late husband were from a small town in Oromia, a region in western Ethiopia.  There was a time when this region had the second largest Christian population in the country, but a former regional state president resettled the area with thousands of Islamic families from eastern Ethiopia, resulting in the region becoming a Muslim-majority area.  It was the arrival of majority Islam that started the opposition that is experienced by Christian churches - especially those that are involved in outreach and evangelism.

These are the realities for so many disciples of Jesus in the world today.  If you would like to know more, and find out how you may best offer support, please use the links to some of the relevant organisations, that may be accessed by scrolling down this page, and clicking on one of the names in the right-hand-side column. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Spiritual hunger.

In Wishaw Baptist Church, this year, the pastor is preaching through "The Sermon on the Mount" - apart from 'special' Sundays such as Resurrection [aka Easter] Day - and has now moved on from the Beatitudes, which are found at the beginning of that sermon (Matt.5:3ff).

One of the Beatitudes (or, as we were reminded, "beautiful attitudes") states: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matt 5:6).  During my private devotions, this morning, I found myself thinking of those words.  I then recalled the famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s, and the work of the singer, Bob Geldof, in establishing "Live Aid" (I believe that it was footage of a BBC news report, in 1984, in which Red Cross nurse Claire Bertschinger was featured, that was the catalyst that moved him to begin his fund-raising).

I recalled television pictures of children with distended stomachs - the result of eating grass in an attempt to satisfy their extreme hunger.  I recalled scenes of even adults fighting over individual grains of rice that fell from sacks being unloaded from aid lorries.  These were people who had a gnawing hunger, and they were seeking to satisfy it even with that which provided no nutrition, or was totally inadequate.

I realised that there are so many in the world, today, who recognise a deep spiritual hunger.  They are seeking to satisfy that yearning that is in the very depths of their beings.  However, so many turn to that which is unable to provide true spiritual nutrition.  They find, as the Rolling Stones' song put it, that they "can't get no satisfaction"!

Last evening, the pastor directed us to, among other passages, Isaiah 55:1-2: "Ho, every one who thirsts,
come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?  Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness.

We might say that the prophet was looking forward to the Gospel, and to the One Who could say, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." (John 6:35).

Of course, we need to have, spiritually, the same hunger and thirst that was experience by those Ethiopians almost thirty years ago.  But, if we do, and we come to Him, we will certainly find both spiritual nourishment, and satisfaction!

Time to be totally reactive?

As we travelled north, on Saturday, my wife and I listened to the Radio 4 programme Any Questions.  There were a number of topics covered, but one that particularly caught my attention had to do with the new rules that are being introduced to the child-minding sector regarding the number of children an individual minder may look after.  If my memory serves me well, this was a maximum of two up to one year of age, with the number increasing as the age group was raised.  The main concern seemed to be that, rather than such a move making nursery care less expensive, it would only serve to increase profits.

The panellists all had there opinions (or party dogmas), but no-one seemed to consider the obvious!  Why not close all nursery establishments, and allow mothers to do the natural thing and look after their own children, in their own homes, kept by a working husband and father?!  It certainly worked with  my own parents and their six surviving children - and my dad was not in a highly-paid job.  I would also claim that my own childhood was much happier than that of many children today - who do not have both of their biological parents at home, and who often appear to have no restrictions placed upon them, and no sense of personal responsibility instilled into them.

Of course, I already know the objections.  People, today, cannot get by on just one income.  Yes they can, if they adopt the old-fashioned virtue of living within one's means - of not having to have the latest wide-screen TV; the latest iPhone; a new car every three years; a couple of holidays every year; expensive carry-out meals; etc.   Perhaps it would be claimed that many do not even have one income.  Could it not be that, if mothers were at home, then there would be more jobs available for men?  What about equality?  Well that, it seems to me, is the root of the problem.  It was so-called 'equality', quickly combined with consumerism, that took mum out of the house and gave us the first generation of what were called "latch-key kids".

The problem with 'equality' is that it is a pipe-dream!  It has also come to mean 'equivalence'.  They are not the same!  My wife and I are equal as human beings.  I am not a more important person than she; and she is not a more important person than I.  However, we have different functions; abilities; talents; and so on.  When, as a young married couple, we decided that it was time to start a family, we didn't debate as to who would bear our children!  In spite of films like "Junior", the male of the human species is incapable of conceiving and bearing a child.  My wife and I are most certainly not 'equivalent'!

Another popular film was entitled "Back to the future".  Could it be that to have a future, we need to go back?  Back to the family unit as designed by a loving heavenly Father.  Back to the provider-father, and the carer-mother.  I am convinced that, if some political party were to "take the bull by the horns" and adopt policies that would lead to a return to what used to be called "old-fashioned values", we would actually see a positive difference in the society, and culture, in which we live.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Helping one another.

Well, here I am, back on the ferry on the return journey to the UK.  A planned overnight stop with yet more friends of long standing, David and Gwen Staveley, and then it will be "up the road", tomorrow, and back to Scotland, and home.  We are both grateful to them, and to a new friend, Marie-Esther Rouffet, who looked after us so well for a couple of nights, on our way up to Dunkerque.

Regretfully, our Sat-nav is not as dependable as our friends!  It keeps wanting to take us by the "scenic route" when all we want is a straightforward journey to our destination.  We are even taken off the main road, from time to time, on a detour - that brings us back to the same main road a few miles on from where we left it!  I will be sending a strongly-worded letter to the manufacturers when I return home - and those who know me are aware that I am capable of writing a strongly-worded letter!

Still I don't want to fill a post with ranting.  Suffice it to say that, on my experience, I would not be able to recommend a Garmin to anyone!

There are, of course, lessons to be learned from any situation.  As we drove through parts of the French countryside that no-one outside a 20 mile radius even knows exists, we saw many fields with crops at various stages of growth.  One field would have no more than what appeared to be green lines marked on the soil - in reality,, the first little shoots of whatever crop had been planted therein.  Adjacent to that field there might be a field in which the crop was already some 12" to 15" in height.  The next field might have the familiar oil-seed rape apparently flourishing, and at an advanced stage of growth.

I recalled reading, earlier in the week, about the apparent fact that plants "talk" to one another!  Not in a vocal, and audible manner, of course.  However, scientists have discovered that, for example, when  under attack - perhaps from caterpillars - they use a symbiotic fungus, networks of which cover the roots of most plants, to convey a warning to their neighbours.

I thought of the Body of Christ, the Church.  I thought of the number of young people who, for whatever reason, turn their backs on it - and Him!  I thought of the wealth of knowledge that is held by those of more mature years.  And I wondered if we need to learn from the plants!  Do we actually communicate across the age groups?  Do we share what we know?  Are we willing to ask an older person for advice, or information?   Are we who are older prepared to listen to what the young folk have to say?  Do we have activities that are specifically designed to bring all age groups together - or must we continue to have a meeting for children; one for teens; one for young woman; one for older women; one for men?  Not that there is anything inherently wrong with such gatherings - indeed, there is much to be gained when people of the same age-group and/or gender meet with one another.  But is it enough?

Surely if plants are able to communicate across 'barriers' - effectively looking out for one another - we should be able to do the same!  The inspired writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus wrote: "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Heb 13:16).   Did he mean only material goods, or might knowledge, wisdom, and experience also be included?

When it comes to loving one another, the references are overwhelming!  Jesus, Himself, said: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another ; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35).  Paul, too, makes reference to this love: "... love one another with brotherly affection;" (Rom 12:10).  Peter encourages his readers to "... love one another earnestly from the heart." (I Peter 1:22); while John assures us that "... if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us." (I John 4:12).

One of the ways in which my wife, and children, and I express our love for one another is by sharing.  Ought not the Body of Christ do the same - in every way?

I'll not be purchasing another Garmin Sat-nav.  However, I will be endeavouring to share more of what I have, in all areas of life, with others who may even be helped by my input.  Perhaps all of us, old and young alike, should try to do the same!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee

This a story that I have heard a few times before.  However, like all of the best stories, it is always worth repeating.  After all, there may be someone reading this blog who hasn't heard it before!

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family,children, health, friends, and favourite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you", he told them.

“So pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.” 

Monday, 6 May 2013

A second home!

Yesterday (Sunday) was a beautiful day in the south-west of France.  The sun shone; there was a gentle breeze; my wife went swimming in the lake at the site in which we have our static caravan; and I was able to relax!

Of course, all of that was possible simply because we have the static.  Over the past week, I've been working on the sub-structure for the L-shaped verandah (terrasse) and, when that is fully completed - a project that will take some time as it is less expensive to purchase the wood at home, and transport it out here - we will have a very nice second home.

We've been doing some work inside as well and, on this visit, we prepared a proper base, and built a garden shed thereon.  Well, we needed somewhere to store the loungers and, eventually, the barbecue!
We are fully aware of the tremendous blessing it is to have a second home in such a quiet, and beautiful, part of the world.  We realise that not everyone experiences that blessing and that, indeed, many do not have even one proper home to provide shelter for them and their families.  We are grateful that, for us, "The lines have fallen ... in pleasant places;" (Ps 16:6).

We are also aware that, as the late Jim Reeves often sung, "This world is not [our] home"; that, in the words of the old spiritual "[We've] got a home in glory land,".  It's the home that Jesus has promised to all who are His faithful disciples, regardless of what they experience in this mortal life.  He has already said "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:2-3).

You may not have a second home on earth.  The important question is, "Are you assured of that second home in the Father's house?"  It's available, for all who will confess their sins; repent; and accept the salvation that God the Son gained for us at Calvary.   There isn't even a cost involved - He's already paid the price (although, when you give your life over to His control, He has told us that it may then cost us everything that we have; as brothers and sisters in the persecuted church know only too well!).  And don't worry about the sun, for "... the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (Rev 21:23) and you'll bask in the warmth of His presence throughout eternity!

That beats anything that this world can offer.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Identification - it's so important!

So, the English and Welsh local council elections have come and gone!  The results appear to indicate that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is now a major force with which to be reckoned in British politics.  In my opinion, for what it's worth, this is no bad thing.  The three "major" parties - the Conservatives, the Labour Party, and the Liberal Democrats - have shown, over recent decades, to be increasingly separated from "ordinary" people.  They have been, overwhelmingly, filled with career politicians who seem to have personal conservation as their highest priority, and the serving of those who elected them delegated well down the list.  Now I know that there are honourable exceptions - the problem is that they are exceptions!

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, ..." Moses tells us. (Gen.1:1)  That amazing act of creation culminated in the creation of mankind - the only 'part' of creation made in the image of the Creator (Gen.1:26-27), and into which the Creator breathed His own life (Gen.2:7).  Mankind was created, we understand, to enjoy unbroken communion and fellowship with its Creator.  Regretfully, that same mankind allowed sin to enter the world that God had declared to be "... very good!" (Gen.1:31), and so was cut off from the Creator, and banished from the beautiful Garden in which they had been placed. (Gen.3:23).

That could, quite easily, have been the end of the story.  God had acted with perfect justice, in accordance with Gen.2:17.  However, His written Word assures us that the Almighty, creating God is not only perfect justice, but that He is also perfect Love!  Indeed, love is the very essence of His being (see I John 4:8, 16).  Because of this, he was not prepared to leave a sinful humanity with no escape from its predicament. In what is referred to as the "protoevangelium" ("first Gospel"), He makes clear that a single descendant of the woman will open the way for mankind to, once again, have a deep and personal relationship with its Maker. (see Gen.3:14-15).

In order to do that, this same Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, took upon Himself, in the Persona of the Son (see my book {details at top of blog} - chapter on the Trinity), human flesh and, unlike so many modern politicians, became one of us.  He was not separated from the "common man" but "... understands our weaknesses, for He faced the same testings we do, yet He did not sin." (Heb.4:15).  He lived among us, a man among men; He died for us, bearing "... our sins in His Body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." (I Peter 2:24); He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death, hell, and the grave. (see, e.g., I Cor.15:51ff).

He is also the One Who has promised that He will return (Jn.14:3) and, unlike the average politician, He keeps His promises - to the letter!  As I look about me, I am increasingly convinced that that coming again is not far off.  I am not so foolish as to join the ranks of those who have claimed to have predicted the very day on which the Rapture (chapter on the subject available in my book!!) will take place.  However, I am certain that it will - possibly during my own mortal lifetime!

The Rapture will be a truly earth-shattering event - but it will merely fore-shadow the coming again of the Lord Jesus in judgement.  It will be then that "... the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich and the strong, and every one, slave and free, [will hide] in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him Who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?'" (Rev 6:15-17).

May all who read this post be spared that terrible situation, by turning to Him now, in repentance and faith, and accepting Him as their personal Saviour and Lord - for your own good, and for His glory.  If you think that I may be of any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me, in order that I may respond at a personal level.