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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Camouflage!

We were down at the poolside, earlier today.  My wife noticed something on my chest, and mentioned it to me.  I looked down and saw a leaf that seemed to have blown on to me, and caught itself on my body-hair.  I flicked it off, and it dropped to the ground - and started to walk away!

Yes, the 'leaf' was, in fact, a large insect - identity unknown to me!  What amazed me was the way in which it was so perfectly camouflaged that, even on an 'alien' background (no cheeky comments, thank you!) it 'looked the part'.

I found myself thinking of my Christian life - and that of others.  I wondered just how well I might be camouflaging myself so that others would not recognise me for what I am!  What I am supposed to be, of course, is the very incarnation of the Lord Jesus to those with whom I come in contact.  When others look at me, they should see something of Him!

Annie Johnson Flint put it like this:

Christ has no hands but our hands
To do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongue
To tell men how He died;
He has no help but our help
To bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible
The careless world will read;
We are the sinners gospel,
We are the scoffer's creed;
We are the Lord's last message,
Given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy
With other work than His?
What if our feet are walking
Where sin's allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking
Of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him
And hasten His return?

Unlike that insect, I could do with a lot less camouflage - and I suspect that I am not alone!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Pandora's box.

In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. The chief of the gods, Zeus, ordered the god of craftsmanship, to create her, so he did—using water and earth. The gods then endowed her with many gifts: clothes, beauty, and gave her speech.

When her husband, Prometheus, stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Epimetheus, Prometheus' brother. With her, Pandora was given a beautiful container – with instructions not to open it under any circumstance. Impelled by her curiosity (given to her by the gods), Pandora did open it, and all evil contained therein escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom – the Spirit of Hope. Pandora, deeply saddened by what she had done, feared she would have to face Zeus' wrath, since she had failed her duty.  However, Zeus did not punish Pandora, because he knew this would happen.

The expression "Pandora's Box" (it was actually a jar!) has, therefore, come to refer to the unforeseen consequences - usually negative - of a particular course of action.

Marriage Minutes continue and, in this brief clip, Dr Sharon James shares some of the consequences of the Pandora's Box known now as the Marriage (same-sex couples) Act, 2013.  Sadly, this particular box need not have been opened at all - and many of us have been warning of the unforeseen consequences for a long time.  However, as my late paternal grandmother was often heard to say, "There's nane sae blin' as them as wilnae see" ("There are none so blind as those who, wilfully, refuse to see").  Too many Westminster politicians fell into that category.  We trust, and pray, that Holyrood will have more common-sense!


Friday, 19 July 2013

The ultimate blasphemy.

In Luke12:10 (inter al) we read some of the most chilling words of the Lord Jesus.  He speaks, there, about the "unforgivable/unpardonable sin".  That sin, He states, is "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit".

This is something that has exercised the minds of countless people down through the ages, and many genuine believers have been greatly concerned lest they be guilty of such a sin.  I always recall someone pointing out that, if one is concerned about the possibility of having committed that sin, then that alone is a fairly good pointer to the fact that it hasn't been committed!

So what is this terrible sin?  In my private devotions, this morning, I was reading that passage in Luke.  However, Matthew and Mark also make reference to those words, and do so in the context of an accusation that Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. This was a case of calling 'good' 'evil' ? and to do so is to line up with evil itself. The corollary - calling 'evil' 'good' - is also a lining up of oneself with the evil one.

In the book that I am currently using, and that led me to that passage in Luke, Dr Leon Morris writes: "This attitude is a rejection of the Spirit's leading, a turning away from God's direction of life, and it is this that is the ultimate blasphemy.  When a man sets himself against God in this way, he cuts himself off from the possibility of forgiveness.  No mere words can do this, but the whole attitude of life can." (emphasis added).

It was the Creator, Himself Who, at the very beginning ordained that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  In the light of recent events, there are many Westminster parliamentarians and peers, from David Cameron down, who would do well to ponder those words of Dr Morris - and the words of Jesus on which he is commenting!  It is bad enough that the coalition government should bulldoze through the parliamentary procedures a bill for which it had no mandate; it is worse that it should have placed HM the Queen in the invidious position of having to give the Royal Assent to something that totally denies her Coronation Oath to "maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel".  However it is, according to the words of Jesus, unforgivable that it should so deliberately, and blatantly, oppose His design.  As the writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus reminds us, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb 10:31).


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Losing a battle does not lose the war!

The Westminster Bill that changes the definition of marriage has, regretfully, been 'ramrodded' through the Parliamentary process by a coalition government that had no mandate to do so, and that deliberately ignored the voice of the vast majority of the electorate.  What those responsible may not have realised is that the God Who instituted marriage as between a man and a woman, will not ignore them!

In what may be the last of the Marriage Minutes video-clips for the time being, Dr Sharon James explains that, in the case of the Coalition for Marriage, the battle may have been lost, but the fight continues.  Of course, the situation in Scotland is different, and Scotland for Marriage will be continuing in its efforts to ensure that the Scottish Bill does not reach the Statute Book.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Our "brave new world"!

I have long considered rape to be the worst of all crimes against an individual - worse than even murder, because the victim has to then live with the memory, and the resultant psychological scarring, until she (or, in some cases, he) does die.

The past week saw a report of a group of young boys - 11 and 12 years old - 'gang-raping' an even younger girl.  Earlier in the year there was the horrific report from India of the young student who was targeted on a bus, while her male companion was beaten up.  There have been many reports of rape evn in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the frequent demonstrations held there in recent times.  And the list could go on, and on, and on. 

A Christian teenager in Syria was seized by Islamist rebels, was forcibly married and raped by 15 different men before being killed.
The tragic sufferings of Mariam (15), from al-Qusair, have only just come to light, but happened during the rebel occupation of the town, which was recaptured by the Syrian army at the beginning of June. 
Mariam was seized by militants linked to the al-Nusra Front (aka Jabhat al-Nusra), which has become one of the leading rebel groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad. Her family managed to escape the town.

One of the Islamists “married” and raped the 15-year-old before ' repudiating' her. The following day, she was forced to marry another militant who also raped her and then 'repudiated' her. Mariam was repeatedly subjected to this terrifying ordeal by different men for 15 days, leaving her psychologically disturbed.  The militants eventually and, one might say, almost mercifully, killed the Christian teenager.

The rebels in Syria have been encouraged to rape non-Sunni women as part of their campaign. Earlier this year, sheikh Yasir al-Ajlawni issued a fatwa saying it was “legitimate” for Muslim fighters who are trying to put in place an Islamist government to “capture and have sex with” Alawites, the sect to which President Assad belongs, and other non-Sunni, non-Muslim women. 

It followed a similar edict by Saudi cleric Muhammad al-Arifi in which he told jihadi fighters that they had the right to have sexual intercourse with captured Syrian women.  Girls, and young women, from Christian families are particularly prone to such sexual abuse.  Indeed, thousands of Christians were forced to flee al-Qusair during its takeover by the rebels last year. They started to return after government troops recaptured the town, finding a scene of almost total devastation.

Church leaders have been gathering accounts from Christian families such as Mariam’s about their sufferings at rebel hands.  While it may well be true that the Syrian government is not as pure as light in the civil war that has had such a negative effect on the country, such abuse of the vulnerable has no part in any conflict.  Let those of us who believe in the power of prayer be faithful in upholding Syria - and womankind everywhere - before the throne of grace.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Political Correctness - again!

According to a report in today's Daily Express, a primary school child in Portsmouth was refused permission to have a drink of water in class, on one of the hottest days of the year, because the teacher considered that it would be unfair to Muslim fellow-pupils who are currently keeping the fast of Ramadan - which involves going without either food or water between the hours of sunrise and sunset.  Now, apart from the fact that, when I was at primary school, we were expected to survive between breaks without either bottles of water, or trips to the toilet, this is surely just another example of political correctness gone mad!  

I don't believe in the existence of Santa Claus, but I'm not going to deny others the right to sing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December (I'm too busy remembering the wonder of the Incarnation!). I don't agree with the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, but I don't go out and hire a lawyer when I hear David Attenborough inform a television audience that such-and-such a creature 'evolved' over many millions/billions of years - without offering a single scrap of evidence to back up his assertion!  

The old adage maintains that, when in Rome, one ought to do as the Romans do.  In other words, one ought to try to fit in with the culture of the country in which one is resident, not have it changed to suit one's own viewpoints/beliefs/practices!

Of course children should be taught to respect the beliefs of others.  However, that respect does not require that they emulate them!  The report did not state the religious belief - if any - of the teacher involved and, apparently, the school (in the person of the Deputy Head) did offer a verbal apology to the child's mother.  However, one does wonder if the teacher was simply afraid of any potential backlash of one of the Muslim pupils had gone home and complained to its parents that another child had been allowed to have a drink.

At a time at which immigration, and the assimilation of immigrants, is a political hot potato, this kind of story does nothing to bring about the kind of peaceful co-existence that the majority surely desire.  It is to be hoped that it will prove to be a totally isolated incident, and not the catalyst for any form of "payback"!


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Male 'wives', female 'husbands'

As the situation currently stands, the language is simple.  I happen to be a man; I am married to a woman.  This means - as it has always meant - that I am a husband, and the woman to whom I am married is a wife.

However, if the attempts to redefine marriage, in both Westminster and Holyrood, were to be successful, then that simplicity would disappear.  In the latest Marriage Minutes, Dr Sharon James tries to explain - it isn't easy!


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Redefinition of marriage, and civil liberties.

In this latest Marriage Minutes, Dr Sharon James explains the way in which the UK government appears to be steadfastly, and wilfully, refusing to include protections, at the level of civil law, for those who do not approve of the "marriage" of two persons of the same gender.  As one who has already - before any such legislation has reached the statute books in either Westminster or Holyrood - fallen foul of such an unfair decision, I heartily recommend the less than two minutes required to view the clip.


Monday, 1 July 2013

The Prime Minister, and the Professor!

At the recent National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, two of the speakers (possibly the only two - I didn't receive an invitation, so was not in attendance!!) were the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and Professor John Lennox of Oxford University.

The PM, it has been widely reported, praised the role of Christianity in British society: “We are in danger of forgetting the contribution of Christianity to the moral foundations of our society.”  This is the same PM who appears to be, if you will pardon the expression, hell-bent on overturning the Biblical, and Christian, perspective of marriage as being the voluntary union of a man and a woman, for life, and to the exclusion of all others. 

The PM went on to say, “We are a country with a Christian heritage and we should not be afraid to say so. There are many challenges ahead and I believe the Christian faith will rise to these challenges, as it has done in the past, and continue to nourish and strengthen our country.”  Some of us, Mr Cameron, are neither afraid, nor ashamed, to nail our colours to the mast, and proclaim ourselves to be disciples of Jesus.   However, may I point out that it is you, and your 'Westminster bubble élitist friends' who are one of the main challenges to the faith which we profess.  Yes, we will rise to meet them, confident in the ultimate victory already assured at the cross of Calvary.  However, if your heart was anywhere close to your mouth, there are challenges that we wouldn't have to face!

Professor Lennox, it would appear - and this is not to be unexpected! - pulled no punches in front of his audience of Members of Parliament and 'prominent' Christians (I'm never quite certain as to what it is that makes one Christian more 'prominent' than another.  Did not John the Baptiser set the standard when he said, concerning the Lord Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)?

The Professor pointed to a “vocal minority of influential minds” which, he claimed, mocks and ridicules the faith.  He made reference to what he described as “the fairy-tale of atheism”.  In what may have been perceived (if Prof. L spoke after the PM) as a direct reference to the latter's claim, he stated that “We are in danger of forgetting the contribution of Christianity to the moral foundations of our society.

One does wonder which of these two men was speaking from the heart; and which was playing to his audience!   I suppose that it could suggested that, while one may take the man out of PR (Public Relations), one cannot take the PR out of the man!