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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Unintended consequences

When the ongoing issue of the proposed redefinition of marriage is raised the majority it seems, appear to be hung up on (a) the 'equality' issue and (b) the opting-out of religious celebrants who do not wish involved, on deeply held and conscientious views,  in the 'marriage' of two persons of the same gender. Regularly, I read that these issues are being dealt with by both the U.K. and Scottish governments.

However, the civil partnership provides all of the legal rights that are enjoyed by heterosexual married couples - one of the reasons (if not the main reason!) why the governments in both Holyrood and Westminster are unwilling to grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples (as Sharon James highlighted in the previous post's video clip). It is also the case that fairly recent cases have shown that so-called legal safeguards are not, when taken to the ECHR, worth the paper on which they are written.

Only occasionally do I read of other potential, and actual, consequences if the Bills currently proceeding through both seats of government eventually reach the statute books. What of chaplains, of whichever religious persuasion, in the public - and even private - sector? What about teachers? What about ordinary couples who offer themselves as foster parents, or as adoptive parents? What about the time it will take - to say nothing of the cost of such an exercise, in a time of austerity - to make the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of changes in the nomenclature used in legal documents that are still in force, but go back for centuries?

This is not a full, or definitive list. We should be very careful before introducing such a change simply to fulfil the desires of a minority within a minority! There is too much, in this issue, of the tail (and a docked tail at that!) wagging the dog!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Austerity! What austerity?

One of the things about governments that has fascinated me for years is the fact that, regardless of how much the rest of us are encouraged to "tighten our belts", they can always find the cash - usually large amounts of it - to do what they want to do, regardless of the opinions of those who furnish them with that income, the taxpayers.  In the latest "Marriage Minutes", Dr Sharon James explains that the latest twist in the attempt to redefine marriage would result in billions of pounds sterling being spent.  That's billions of pounds sterling taken from taxpayers - the majority of whom did not want this attempt to overturn millennia of social norm.

As always, it's well worth a minute and a half of your time to watch, and listen.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Trouble Tree

Apologies for the lack of posting over the past few days.  Sometimes, life gets just a little more hectic than usual!  However, as I cleared up a massive back-log of e-mails, I came across this delightful story.  I am never sure how true some of these tales are but,if nothing else, it is a useful allegory.  
 
"A woman hired a carpenter to help her restore an old farmhouse, and he had just finished a rough first day on the job: a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric drill quit, and his ancient one ton truck refused to start. While she drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, he invited her in to meet his family. As they walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

When opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles, and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterwards, he walked back to the car. They passed the tree, and her curiosity got the better of her. She asked him about what she had seen him do earlier. "Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied. "I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure; those troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So, I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home and ask God to take care of them. Then in the morning, I pick them up again. Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there aren't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."
"


Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30); while Peter encourages us to "Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you." (I Peter 5:7)
 
What do you and I do with the troubles of the day?!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Protection - what protection?

Christian Concern (http://www.christianconcern.com/) had booked the Law Society's HQ in London for a conference on marriage in May last year, but were told, just days before the event, that the conference breached "equality and diversity" policies as the Law Society supports same sex marriage. They were, therefore, banned from holding the conference there.

The conference speakers held mainstream views on marriage as between a man and a woman. They included academics, the head of a political think tank and a writer for the Telegraph newspaper.

What is so concerning is that this kind of 'censorship' is happening before any change in the law on marriage. What happened with the Law Society is an indication of what may be expected if the Bill becomes law. Individuals and organisations with a traditional view of marriage will find themselves excluded from expressing their views in public, or even private, fora.

The fact that Christian Concern were barred from that venue before any change in law, and that a number of individuals have already fallen foul of "E&D policies", suggests that proposed amendments to the Bill will not be enough to safeguard important freedoms concerning views on marriage.


Dr Sharon James says more on this latest "Marriage Minutes" video clip.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Seeing is believing - or is it?!

The Sunday morning BBC Radio 4 programme, BH (Broadcasting House), made a very basic error yesterday.  Listeners were informed that, at the G8 Summit meeting in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who are responsible for the security of the allegedly 'important' people who are attending, would be assisted by officers from England and Wales.  I have news for the BBC - there are Scottish officers there, as well!

fake shops
Butcher's shop in Belcoo.
However, the item of news that really caught my attention was that, throughout the county, empty shops and restaurants in towns and villages throughout the county have also had photographic images attached to their windows to make them look like thriving businesses.  These buildings are, in fact, derelict.  In spite of the outward appearance, they are empty and unused.  Anyone attempting to walk into one of them would receive a shock (and, perhaps, a sore nose!)



I was reminded that, towards the end of last year, one local bus company was advertising the fact that a new livery was going to be provided for Lanarkshire buses.  The new livery has gradually appeared and, in my opinion, it's very nice.  However, when I board a bus with the nice new livery, I see the same discarded copies of Metro (a free newspaper) lying on seats and on the floor; empty soft-drink cans rolling around; fast-food boxes, left there by who ever had consumed a 'burger or whatever.  The outward appearance doesn't reflect what is inside.

People, of course, can be the same!  As I frequently point out, not all who call themselves Christian are, in fact, disciples of Jesus.  Many look good on the outside - but on the inside there is no change!  They are able to go through the motions; they have their names on a membership roll; they are looked upon as 'pillars of society'.  However, they are seldom, if ever, seen at the midweek Fellowship and Prayer Meeting; they rarely, if ever, join with others at the Sunday evening Worship Service; their Bibles gather dust on a shelf in their homes, because they are only occasionally, if at all, lifted down to be read.  These are people who look good on the outside - but on the inside, are like a butcher's shop in Belcoo, or a newly-painted bus.

Jesus had some harsh words to say to all such.  Speaking specifically to the scribes and Pharisees of His day, he said: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matt 23:27-28).

Let us constantly seek His grace - that we may be, inwardly, what we express outwardly!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Transcript

Here is the transcript of the video that I posted yesterday.  I hope that it may help some!



"This is to the Bride of Christ. I wanted to say thanks 'cause Lord knows my family needed you.
I remember at 11 years old being told my father diagnosed with cancer. Man, we prayed and prayed hoping there would be an answer but the answer never came. I remember standing in the rain, watching as they lowered the casket, thinking, "Only God is to blame for this pain!"
Feeling frustrated and hurt I wanted to walk away from the Church, until the Lord pointed at me and said I was the one who needed to heal. And it was the Church that brought my family pre-cooked meals. And it was the church that showed up and shingled my mother's roof. It was the Church that helped me be a man. Even in my teens, as hormones started to mess with my dreams, it was the Church that helped me find grace in Elohim.
So, it seems, to the Bride of Christ, I owe a thanks...
Even when I wanted to walk away, when your answers didn't match my questions and your truths didn't justify my living. See I was happier sinning. But like a spinning top when the spinning stopped...my world would drop.
Broken and alone, I would find myself at your doors and like the prodigal son you would embrace me in your arms. And now at a time when it's easier to put blame on your name, "Church," the problem with God, "Church," the problem with Jesus, "Church."
We even have people saying, "Yeah, I believe in Jesus but not the Church," like saying I believe in breathing but not oxygen. See, we were never created to be single celled organisms. We were designed to need one another, to encourage, to build up, to sharpen. So your problem isn't with the Church, your problem is with your concept of church, where we put traditions over theology, rules over relationship, music over worship. We're more concerned about treating church like a social club than seeking after the Father's love.
The last time I checked we were called to bear with one another in love, that in Christ we are one. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father who is over all and through all and in all.
Yes, to the Bride of Christ I owe a thanks for being there. For being the hands and feet, for being the guidance in my defeat. See it's easier to judge a book by the cover, the Church from the outside, but when we open the pages and discover the Church is made up of people, flawed and broken and sometimes a little too outspoken, judgemental and hypocritical and I'm not trying to excuse these things but when the final trumpet sings the King is coming back for His Bride and I would rather stand with her than speak against her.
So, to the Bride of Christ, I owe a thanks for loving the least of these. For looking after the orphans and widows, for every cup of water offered in the name of Jesus. For loving mercy, walking humbly, acting justly. To every pastor proclaiming the gospel. To every parent training their children in the Word. To every man and woman who are laying down their lives for Christ, choosing life over death. Rebellion against what culture tells us to be. You are the Church. You are the Bride of Christ. To you, I say thanks."

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Thank you - to the Church (the Bride of Christ).

One of the sites to which I subscribe sends me regular video clips.  As with all such matters, some are worth watching, others are less so!  This one, however, I felt was not only worth watching, but also worth sharing.  I trust that many of those who visit this blog will be, likewise, touched in their own spirits.  A transcript should be posted tomorrow!



Friday, 14 June 2013

Jewish & Arab Patients Save Each Other’s Lives

All too regularly, I read in a newspaper, or hear on a news programme, that the real problem in the Middle East is not the civil war in Syria; or the belligerence of Iran; or the tragic lack of human rights in Saudi-Arabia - but Israel!  Rarely do I come across a western-media report that does anything but cast Israel as the villain in the piece.  I do wish that the mainstream media would pick up on stories like this one!

Two patients at the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa, one Arab and one Jewish, both in need of kidney transplants, received the life saving donations they needed from each others families.  Each patient, one Arab and the other Jewish, managed to save the other's life by having one of their relatives donate their kidney to help the other patient survive! 32-year-old Mohammad Eckert’s wife, Rasha, aged 30, donated her kidney to 57-year-old David Ben-Yair, while David’s son Shmuel, aged 34, gave his kidney to Mohammed. The rare procedure was performed at Rambam Hospital’s Medical Transplantation Unit by Dr. Rawi Ramadan, an Arab physician who is the director of Rambam’s Transplantation Unit. Two men, who didn’t know each other prior to this, are now connected to one another through a bond of gratitude.

The procedure which was performed, known as a crossover transplantation, is not common in Israel and is performed whenever there is no match between a patient and his family members. “We test every patient that has a living donor in order to evaluate if such a transplant can be done within the family,” Dr. Ramadan told the Jewish Press. “But sometimes one of the patients has a blood type or antibodies that don’t match with the other family member. In this particular case, the Jewish father had antibodies in his blood that weren’t an exact match with his son.”  He continued, “With today’s medical technologies, we could have actually performed the transplant within the same family but we would have had to give them a lot of pre-operative medications, which come with both short-term and long-term side effects. Thus, it was better to do the exchange between the Jewish and Arab families, as both patients received the same quality of kidney and we were able to treat them with a minimal amount of anti-rejection medications.” Dr. Ramadan said that when the idea for crossover transplantation was discussed, the four Haifa residents didn’t hesitate: “To them, it didn’t matter who donated to whom. As far as they are concerned, they donated a kidney to a family member, and their donation saved a life.”

STORIES OF JEWS AND ARABS SAVING EACH OTHER
There are many cases of Jewish people and Arab people saving each others lives. An Arab paramedic saved the life of a three-year-old Jewish child who had been injured by a Palestinian rock thrower, while an Israeli couple donated a kidney from their son to save the life of a Palestinian boy. As a matter of policy, Israel has routinely put the conflict aside, in order to save Palestinian lives, as demonstrated by Rambam Hospital saving the life of a two-year-old Palestinian child, and Tel Hashomer Hospital saving the life of a disabled Palestinian child who had been abandoned by his family.

ARAB DOCTORS CONTRIBUTE TO THE ISRAELI MEDICAL PROFESSION
Dr. Rawi Ramadan is also not the only Arab to thrive in the medical profession in Israel. The head of emergency medicine at Hadassah Hospital, Dr. Aziz Darawshe, is also Arab, as is Dr. Rifat Safedi, who is the head of the Liver Unit at Hadassah Hospital and has uncovered the gene linked to liver disease.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Marriage - and children.

One of the "red herrings" that has been regularly thrown up by those who support the redefinition of marriage to include same-gender partnerships is that of children.  Supporters of traditional, God-ordained, marriage point out that same-gender partners are physically, and biologically, unable to bear children.  To this, irrefutable fact, the supporters of same-gender "marriage" come out with something about heterosexual couples who are unable, or unwilling, to have children.  One recent letter even asked if fertility tests should be mandatory! 

What these people fail to realise is that the procreation of children is only one aspect of marriage - albeit a very important one.  Without it, the human race would die out!  Indeed, if God had created Adam and Steve (or Amanda and Eve), then that would have been the end!  There was, and is, a very good reason for marriage being confined to a male/female relationship!

It is also true, in spite of claims to the contrary, that any worthwhile research on the subject has shown that the children of heterosexual parents, who stay together, and who provide both a male and a female role model, have a better life.  In one study, University of Texas associate professor Mark Regnerus used a large, new data set to randomly identify some 3,000 young adults, ages 18 to 39, who grew up in eight family forms, including about 250 persons who grew up with parents who had same-sex relationships. Prof. Regnerus reported that, based on 40 outcomes in the New Family Structures Study, the children who grew up with their married father and mother had “different” - often better - outcomes than children raised in other family forms, including lesbian mothers and homosexual fathers. Thus, he concluded, the “empirical claim” that there are no significant differences between homosexual parents and heterosexual parents “must go”.

Dr Sharon James looks at the situation regarding children, in this latest Marriage Minutes video.  It's worth another minute and a half (or thereabouts!).
 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Losing heart - or keeping faith?

It was at the time when a number of scandals concerning 'celebrities', past and present, were headline news; when the position of Chief Constable of the soon-to-be single Scottish Police Force had not gone to the candidate preferred by many in the Strathclyde Force; when my own Chaplaincy role was coming under threat; that I shared some thoughts both at a meeting of the Christian Police Association and on this blog, regarding dealing with disappointment.

I suppose that the following could be said to speak to those of us who have been disappointed with the manner in which, at both Westminster and Holyrood, the Bills that aim to redefine marriage are progressing.  These thoughts are based on the contents of an e-mail that I received a few days ago - but that I have only just got around to opening!

David, in the 27th Psalm, reflects on his own situation, and encourages others who find themselves in similar straits. "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.  Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!
" (vs.13-14).   

He provides three steps:

1. Believe in God’s Present Goodness
"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."  We worship the 'Now' God, Whose covenant name is "I AM".  He knows our situations and circumstances, and He deals with them.

2. Patiently Submit to God’s Calendar
"Wait on the LORD; ... ... wait, I say, on the LORD!"  How often we expect God to work in accordance with our timetable!  We forget that, while we see only a fleeting moment at a time, He sees the whole picture.  He is the One Who knows the end from the beginning; Who dwells outwith the time-space continuum in which we live out our mortal lives.  It isn't wise to try to "second-guess" Him - He really does know best!

3. Courageously Stand Against Fear
"... be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;"   Sometimes, we feel that the "other side" has everything going for them.  They have the cash resources; the media contacts; the apparent power.   So did Goliath!  If we are in a battle (and I am obviously thinking of the current redefinition of marriage situation!) then just because we are "David" is not a problem.  Indeed, it's our strength!  Like him, we come "... in the Name of YHWH Sabaoth (the LORD of Hosts)" (I Sam.17:45).  We have more! "... He who is in [us] is greater than he who is in the world." (I John 4:4).

As I have repeatedly stated regarding the campaign to preserve marriage as God ordained it at the beginning of the humanrace, it's not over yet; there is all to play for - and certainly all to pray for!  Be sure that, if you live in the UK, you are doing all that you can to support the Coalition for Marriage, and Scotland for Marriage.  If not you, who?  If not now, when?  If not where you live, where?

Esther 4:14!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The face of Jesus

Sometimes, one comes across a really interesting piece of video.  This is one such time!   It doesn't work out in quite the way that I expected, but is amazing nonetheless.  What I found to be most interesting is the fact that the most prominent word that is left at the end (this only makes sense when you have watched the whole video!) is the word "Judge".  Surely this is a reminder that, when the Lord Jesus returns, He will do so, not in order to save, but in order to exercise judgement!   He is, after all, as the words still visible below "Judge" proclaim, the great "I AM".  We are also reminded, at the top of the canvas, that He is Lord.


Monday, 10 June 2013

PC(USA) Churches Leaving Denomination Increased Five-Fold in 2012


PCUSA Churches Leaving Denomination Increased Five-Fold in 2012
The number of churches dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) last year increased dramatically compared to 2011, according to a recent report.
 
As reported by The Christian Poststatistics released late last week by the Office of the General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church (USA) showed 110 congregations were permitted to leave the denomination in 2012 in order to join others. In 2011, only 21 did so.

The article suggested that the action of a majority of presbyteries in voting to allow the ordination of openly homosexual clergy, prompted many conservative congregations in PC(USA) to request dismissal from the mainline denomination.

In January 2012, the conservative PC(USA) group, the Fellowship of Presbyterians, organised a conference in Orlando with around 2,100 Presbyterians from 500 different congregations. The result of the conference was the creation of a "new reformed body" known as the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, or ECO.

Jim Miller, of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, wrote "ECO now has 28 member churches, all of which were dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA). There are another 48 churches that are in the process of transitioning to ECO; and over 75 more are discerning a possible dismissal to ECO. A movement has launched."

Could this be what will happen in the Church of Scotland?  Were St George's-Tron, and Gilcomston South, no more than the vanguard of a major movement here?  Only time will tell.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Cracked Pot

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologise to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers on your side of the path but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."


Well, of course, it's only a fable.  To the best of my knowledge, water pots don't speak to their bearers!  However, like many fables, it has a very important message.  I meet so many people who have a very low self-image.  Their nose is too large; their eyes are too close; they don't have a 'perfect' figure (whatever that may be!); or any of a few dozen other attributes - and that's just in the realm of the physical body.  We could go on to mention those who are unhappy with their job; where they live; the neighbours they have; etc., etc.

So what is the answer to those who suffer, perhaps for many years, from this image of themselves that is, in fact, from the evil one?  May I suggest that it is, first of all, to recognise that we are made in the very image of Almighty God?  "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27). This, of course, has no reference to our physical constitution, for "God is Spirit" (John 4:24), not a physical Being (Luke 24:39; cf. Matthew 16:17). That “image” then consists of what has been described as "...spiritual qualities, in man’s mental and moral attributes as a self-conscious, rational, personal agent, capable of self-determination and obedience to moral law."

Then again, not only am I created as a spiritual being (my physical body is no more than the vehicle that my spirit uses in this life - although, for the disciple of Jesus, it is also a Temple of God the Holy Spirit, and ought to be cared for as such!), but I am also considered to be of such value to to God the Father that, in the Persona of the Son (see my book!), He paid the penalty for my every sin, as He hung on the cross at Calvary.  The beloved disciple, John, wrote: "... if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7).  Note, please, two things in those few words - (a) all sin is covered - even the sins that I have not yet, in time, committed; and (b) this is conditional upon my 'walking in the light' - confessing my sin to Him, and receiving His forgiveness and salvation.

The third thing to remember, if you are a disciple of Jesus who is suffering from a low self-image, is that you are a child of the King!  "When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." (Rom 8:15-17).  As I am "in Christ" (Phil.4:7, inter al), I am a joint-heir with Him; a prince in the Kingdom of God (or princess for the females!).  If knowledge like that doesn't make you walk tall, then I don't know what will!

Of course, it all depends on becoming part of the family of God.  If you are already a part of that wonderful family, then don't let the enemy keep you under a low self-image a moment longer.  If you are not - well, you know the answer!  Come to Him, now, in repentance and faith, and enter a life that will instantly raise your self-image; that will provide a purpose for your living; and that will, at the end, see you enter His presence, for eternity!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Looking up.

It's good to sit down in front of my computer screen!  I have been out, this evening, delivering material from Scotland for Marriage to another one hundred plus homes.  Including the walk to where I started (the point at which I had finished on Tuesday evening, when I delivered to about 180 homes!), and the walk back, that took me a little over an hour - about four miles of walking.  Thus my delight at being able to 'take the weight off my feet'.

As I've been walking around so much, I have been impressed by some of the front gardens that I have seen.  Some are genuine works of art, and are obviously the result of much planning - and not a little effort!  This evening, however, my favourite garden was the one that had a number of flower pots along the side of the path with, in each, a pithy saying.  The one that immediately struck a chord with me was the one that read "When things look down, look up"!

I have no idea whether, or not, the occupant(s) of that home is(are) in any way religious.  But I like that sentiment expressed below the front window.  When things look down - when things aren't going the way I expected, or hoped, or believed; when all I seem to receive is bad news; when there appears to be sign of the end of the tunnel; when things look down, look up!  For the disciple of Jesus, that certainly indicates that activity in which each and all may participate - prayer.  There is another well-known saying: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."   Maybe so.  However, when the going gets tough, the disciple of Jesus gets praying (or ought not that to be  "praying even more"?!).

As I have mentioned in most of the recent posts, the result of the vote in the British House of Lords, on Tuesday evening, on the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill, was a source of great disappointment to those of us who support traditional marriage, as between male and female.  I suspect that many were crestfallen - they were looking down.  The antidote to the depression that such an attitude can, all too easily, engender is to look up - to uphold Lord Dear and the other peers who opposed the Bill on Tuesday as, during the Committee Stage into which it has now passed, they seek to point out its potential pitfalls to those who are not yet ready to oppose it, but who wish to look at it more carefully.

Much of the popular media, as well as organisations such as Stonewall, are giving the impression that all is done and dusted.  Permit me to emphasise (yet again!) - THIS IS NOT THE CASE!  As I was delivering this evening, I was listening to some music on my 'phone (as one does!).  I have it set at "shuffle" and one of the tracks was a Christmas one from Larry Ford, family, and friends.  In one song, entitled "Strange way to save the world" is the repeated line "Now I'm not one to second-guess what angels have to say".  It is equally pointless to try to second-guess what Father God is going to do.  What I do know is that He calls all who claim to be His to be faithful - not successful (that's His responsibility), but faithful.  So let's keep on delivering cards and leaflets; let's keep on encouraging the folk in the Coalition for Marriage, and Scotland for Marriage; and let's keep on looking up - "... looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:2).

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Personal Testimony.

"God is working His purpose out, as year succeeds to year."  So wrote A.C.Ainger, in 1894.  I have no doubt at all that his words were, and are, completely true.  One of the 'bench-marks' of God's plans and purposes is the nation of Israel.  They are still the Chosen People, and the inheritors of the covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (inter al).  Those of us who are under the new covenant of grace need to remember that, as Paul states in his letter to the first believers in the city of Rome, we are but wild shoots grafted on to the branch. (11:17-24).


I find it interesting, indeed more than interesting, that my Inbox is currently receiving an unusually large amount of information about Israel, and the Jewish nation. The latest arrived earlier today.  It's longer than my usual posts as it is the personal testimony of Simon Deng, once a Sudanese slave. He is addressing the Durban III Conference, held in New York, under the auspices of the United Nations. 
This marked the 10th anniversary of Durban I at the same time and place as the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Durban I, the platform for violent, pro-terrorist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric that included such speakers as Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro, ended just three days before 9/11, and produced the infamous Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), which charged Israel with racism but named no other state in the world! Durban II, held in Geneva in April 2009, was headlined by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who saw the occasion as ideal for issuing another denial of the Holocaust and an endorsement of genocide against the Jewish state. Timing Durban III for the annual opening of the General Assembly of the U.N. was meant to guarantee the extensive involvement of presidents and prime ministers, most of whom eluded the  organisers of Durban I and II.

And so, Mr Deng's speech (I urge you to persevere to the end):

"I want to thank the organizers of this conference, The Perils of Global Intolerance. It is a great honour for me and it is a privilege really to be among today's distinguished speakers.

I came here as a friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I came to protest this Durban conference which is based on a set of lies. It is organized by nations who are themselves are guilty of the worst kind of oppression.

It will not help the victims of racism. It will only isolate and target the Jewish state. It is a tool of the enemies of Israel .

The UN has itself become a tool against Israel . For over 50 years, 82 percent of the UN General Assembly emergency meetings have been about condemning one state - Israel . Hitler couldn't have been made happier!

The Durban Conference is an outrage. All decent people will know that.

But friends, I come here today with a radical idea. I come to tell you that there are peoples who suffer from the UN's anti-Israelism even more than the Israelis. I belong to one of those people.

Please hear me out. By exaggerating Palestinian suffering, and by blaming the Jews for it, the UN has muffled the cries of those who suffer on a far larger scale.

 For over fifty years the indigenous black population of Sudan -- Christians and Muslims alike --- have been the victims of the brutal, racist Arab Muslim regimes in Khartoum .

In South Sudan , my homeland, about 4 million innocent men, women and children were slaughtered from 1955 to 2005.  Seven million were ethnically cleansed and they became the largest refugee group since World War II.

The UN is concerned about the so-called Palestinian refugees. They dedicated a separate agency for them, and they are treated with a special privilege.

Meanwhile, my people, ethnically cleansed, murdered and enslaved, are relatively ignored. The UN refuses to tell the world the truth about the real causes of Sudan's conflicts. Who knows really what is happening in Darfur? It is not a "tribal conflict."

It is a conflict rooted in Arab colonialism well known in north Africa. In Darfur, a region in the Western Sudan , everybody is Muslim. Everybody is Muslim because the Arabs invaded the North of Africa and converted the indigenous people to Islam. In the eyes of the Islamists in Khartoum, the Darfuris are not Muslim enough. And the Darfuris do not want to be Arabised.

They love their own African languages and dress and customs. The Arab response is genocide! But nobody at the UN tells the truth about Darfur .

In the Nuba Mountains, another region of Sudan, genocide is taking place as I speak. The Islamist regime in Khartoum is targeting the black Africans - Muslims and Christians. Nobody at the UN has told the truth about the Nuba Mountains .

Do you hear the UN condemn Arab racism against blacks?

What you find on the pages of the New York Times, or in the record of the UN condemnations is about Israeli crimes and Palestinian suffering.

My people have been driven off the front pages because of the exaggerations about Palestinian suffering. What Israel does is portrayed as a Western sin. But the truth is that the real sin happens when the West abandons us: the victims of Arab/Islamic apartheid.

Chattel slavery was practised for centuries in Sudan . It was revived as a tool of war in the early 90s.

Khartoum declared jihad against my people and this legitimised taking slaves as war booty. Arab militias were sent to destroy Southern villages and were encouraged to take African women and children as slaves. We believe that up to 200,000 were kidnapped, brought to the North and sold into slavery. I am a living proof of this crime against humanity!

I don't like talking about my experience as a slave, but I do it because it is important for the world to know that slavery exists even today.

I was only nine years old when an Arab neighbour named Abdullahi tricked me into following him to a boat. The boat wound up in Northern Sudan where he gave me as a gift to his family. For three and a half years I was their slave going through something that no child should ever go through: brutal beatings and humiliations; working around the clock; sleeping on the ground with animals; eating the family's left-overs. During those three years I was unable to say the word "no". All I could say was “yes,” “yes,” “yes.”

The United Nations knew about the enslavement of South Sudanese by the Arabs. Their own staff reported it. It took UNICEF – under pressure from the Jewish-led American Anti-Slavery Group -- sixteen years to acknowledge what was happening. I want to publicly thank my friend Dr. Charles Jacobs for leading the anti-slavery fight.

But the Sudanese government and the Arab League pressured UNICEF, and UNICEF backtracked, and started to criticize those who worked to liberate Sudanese slaves. In 1998, Dr. Gaspar Biro, the courageous UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan who reported on slavery, resigned in protest of the UN's actions.

My friends, today, tens of thousands of black South Sudanese still serve their masters in the North and the UN is silent about that. It would offend the OIC and the Arab League. As a former slave and a victim of the worst sort of racism, allow me to explain why I think calling Israel a racist state is absolutely absurd and immoral.

I have been to Israel five times visiting the Sudanese refugees. Let me tell you how they ended up there. These are Sudanese who fled Arab racism, hoping to find shelter in Egypt . They were wrong. When Egyptian security forces slaughtered twenty six black refugees in Cairo who were protesting Egyptian racism, the Sudanese realized that the Arab racism is the same in Khartoum or Cairo . They needed shelter and they found it in Israel. Dodging the bullets of the Egyptian border patrols and walking for very long distances, the refugees' only hope was to reach Israel's side of the fence, where they knew they would be safe.

Black Muslims from Darfur chose Israel above all the other Arab-Muslim states of the area. Do you know what this means!!!?? And the Arabs say Israel is racist!!!?

In Israel, black Sudanese, Christian and Muslim were welcomed and treated like human beings. Just go and ask them, like I have done. They told me that compared to the situation in Egypt, Israel is "heaven."

Is Israel a racist state? To my people - the people who know racism - the answer is absolutely not. Israel is a state of people who are the colours of the rainbow. Jews themselves come in all colours, even black. I met with Ethiopian Jews in Israel . Beautiful black Jews.

So, yes … I came here today to tell you that the people who suffer most from the UN anti-Israel policy are not the Israelis but all those people who the UN ignores in order to tell its big lie against Israel: we, the victims of Arab/Muslim abuse; women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, homosexuals, in the Arab/Muslim world. These are the biggest victims of UN Israel hatred.

Look at the situation of the Copts in Egypt, the Christians in Iraq, and Nigeria, and Iran, the Hindus and Bahais who suffer from Islamic oppression. The Sikhs. We -- a rainbow coalition of victims and targets of Jihadis -- all suffer. We are ignored, we are abandoned; so that the big lie against the Jews can go forward.

In 2005, I visited one of the refugee camps in South Sudan. I met a twelve year old girl who told me about her dream. In a dream she wanted to go to school to become a doctor. And then, she wanted to visit Israel. I was shocked. How could this refugee girl who spent most of her life in the North know about Israel ? When I asked why she wanted to visit Israel she said: "This is our people."  I was never able to find an answer to my question.

On January 9 of 2011 South Sudan became an independent state. For South Sudanese, that means continuation of oppression, brutalization, demonisation, Islamisation, Arabisation and enslavement.

In a similar manner, the Arabs continue denying Jews their right for sovereignty in their homeland and the Durban III conference continues denying Israel's legitimacy.

As a friend of Israel, I bring you the news that my President, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir -- publicly stated that the South Sudan Embassy in Israel will be built--- not in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. I also want to assure you that my own new nation, and all of its peoples, will oppose racist forums like the Durban III. We will oppose it by simply continuing to tell the truth! Our truth!

My Jewish friends taught me something that I now want to say with you.

AM YISROEL CHAI !

The people of Israel lives!
Thank you."

"God is working His purpose out, and the time is drawing near."

Please feel free to share this on social media sites, or to your own e-mail contacts.
sh’alu shalom yerushalayim.   (Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

It's still not over!

The result of the vote in the House of Lords was a source of disappointment to many of us.  However, as one peer who responded to the letters I sent (426 - one to every member of the Upper House!) said: "Should we lose the vote at 2nd Reading, I believe there will be further opportunities to scupper this legislation at later stages, so please do not despair just yet."

The following is the wording of an e-mail from the Christian Institute.  If you believe that marriage is only between male and female, please keep praying, writing, and supporting both the Coalition for Marriage, and Scotland for Marriage, in any way you can.

"The House of Lords tonight decided to allow the same-sex marriage Bill to progress to the next stage, but many Peers said they were doing so because they wanted to take a closer look at the Bill before deciding whether to vote against it at a later stage. The Bill must overcome other votes in the Lords, so it’s not over yet. 

We believed we could have won a vote if it was held last night (Monday) as originally planned, but at the last minute the Government rescheduled the vote for this evening (Tuesday). It was an underhand procedural tactic, and they were able to get 390 votes after switching the dates. Without the switch, the Government and the Labour leadership were genuinely worried they would have lost. 

Tonight, 148 Peers voted with Lord Dear against the Bill. That number is likely grow for key amendments at later stages, and may grow by the time the Bill reaches Third Reading in the Lords. That’s why we won’t give up defending the real meaning of marriage. It’s not over yet."

Monday, 3 June 2013

Hi-tech!

Whilst seeking to "pray at all times, in the Spirit" (Eph.6:18) as the House of Lords debate the Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill, I have been attending to that rare chore - tidying up my study!  As usual in doing so, I have come across items about which I had forgotten.

Among them are a number of OHTs (that's OverHead Transparencies, for those of more tender years!).  It doesn't seem so very long ago that they were considered to be quite "hi-tech".  Whether in classroom, or in church building, they were the overwhelming evidence that one was 'moving with the times'!  The problem, of course, is that the times move increasingly quickly!  As I looked at those old transparencies - most of them hand-written; some with drawings (often line drawings from the Good News version of the Bible!); a few of them in colour - I realised how primitive they would look beside a modern PowerPoint presentation, in full technicolour; with words appearing in any of a multitude of ways; with moving graphics.

It made me think about computer memory!  Our first, brand-new, desktop machine had a whopping 1 Gb of storage on the Hard Drive.  I was the envy of most of my colleagues, who were still working with 650 Mb (1 Gb = 1012 Mb!).  Nowadays, I have memory sticks that are less than 2" (5cm) long, but that hold 32Gb of data - and I could have twice that capacity on a memory stick of the same physical dimensions!

Change, change, and more change.  It seems, almost, to be the watchword of our contemporary world - at least in the so-called 'developed' world.  Mobile 'phones; cameras; audio and video equipment (I still have some reel tapes that were such an advance on vinyl records, not so very long ago!).  Sometimes, I wonder if technology doesn't move just a little too quickly.

In such a fast-changing world, it is good to have something (or Someone) to be a fixed point of reference - a rock in a fast-moving stream.  Well, it won't surprise any regular visitor to this blog that I am happy to point everyone to such a Constant.  The inspired writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus wrote that, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (13:8).  He is the unchanging Refuge for all who call upon Him in faith, repenting of sin, and seeking, with His help, to follow Him faithfully throughout their lives.

It was Helen Shapiro (of course I've met her!), best-known to many for her 1963 hit song Walking back to Happiness who, as a Messianic Jew (a Jew who has accepted Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah), recorded a great song entitled I go to the Rock.  Have you gone to that same Rock - Jesus, the Christ?  In an ever-changing, and increasingly turbulent, world, He's the only One worth going to!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Palestinian Newspaper Admits: Israel Helps Palestinians

The following is a copy of a report that arrived in my Inbox.  So often, on an increasing number of occasions, Israel is seen only as the aggressor in the Middle East - take, for example, the recent decision by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  However, as Nazi propaganda minister, Dr Joseph Goebbels stated: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”  This article tells the truth - however unpalatable it may be to various world governments, and to George Galloway, M.P. (or to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland!).

"Despite the Israeli-Arab conflict, a Palestinian newspaper has recognized how Israel’s Hadassah Medical Centre has helped the Palestinian people.
 
According to Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian daily Al Hayat Al Jadida reported, “PA [Palestinian Authority] Minister of Health, Hani Abdeen visited the Israeli Hadassah Hospital. This is the first visit by a Palestinian minister to one of the most important Israeli hospitals, according to the hospital’s announcement. Minister Abdeen who was accompanied by a delegation that included senior officials of the ministry and of the PA, met with the Director of Ein Karem Hadassah Hospital, Yuval Weiss. He [the minister] visited Palestinian patients being treated in the hospital, and he distributed gifts.”

Al Hayat Al Jadida continued, “Hospital director Weiss said: 'We relate to patients without regard to nationality and religion. We treat Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other nationalities without bias, and 30% of the patients who are children are Palestinians.' He went on to say: ‘We’ve begun cooperating with the Palestinians. We now train teams of physicians from the hospital in Beit Jala in the southern West Bank, to treat cancer among children. We have about 60 Palestinian medical interns and specialist physicians who will be returning to the Palestinian Authority areas to carry out their work.”

Hadassah Hospital has done much to help the Palestinian people and Arabs in general. A Muslim-Israeli Arab is presently in charge of emergency medicine at Hadassah Hospital. The liver unit at Hadassah Hospital is also headed by an Israeli Arab, who managed to uncover the gene linked to liver disease. Hadassah Hospital has been a place where Arab doctors have been able to thrive professionally and work towards saving lives, both of Israelis and of Palestinians.

Aside from offering many Arabs jobs, Israel’s medical establishment has always worked to save Palestinian lives with the same vigour that they save Israeli lives. In fact, a 2012 report from the World Health Organisation found that Israel approved 91.5 percent of all Palestinian applications to receive medical care within the State of Israel. Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli organization, has also saved the lives of 3,000 children, of whom half were hailing from the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, an Israeli hospital has reportedly been taking care of a disabled Gazan baby after he was abandoned both by his parents and the Palestinian Authority, who stopped funding his medical treatment.

The fact that the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida has recognized these facts is very refreshing, especially given the routine incitement that occurs against Israel and the Jewish people in this publication, as well as other Palestinian newspapers. For example, in the past, the Al Hayat Al Jadida publication has denied the fact that the Western Wall belongs to the Jewish people; accused Israel of murdering and poisoning Palestinian prisoners; and, according to Palestinian Media Watch, declared that Israel withholds “elementary human rights from Palestinian children.” Indeed, this one article was a rare example where the Al Hayat Al Jadida publication showed Israel in a positive light, as a country that helps rather than hurts Palestinians."  (By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United With Israel)