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Monday, 26 August 2013

God's provision

I'm sitting here, at Le Chêne du Lac, on the last full day of our summer holiday here.  The owners' two goats are just a few yards away, eating at a hedge.  However, they have escaped from their own enclosure - intended to provide a safe environment - and are trying to eat the leaves through a chain-link fence.  This major obstacle means that, although they are managing to acquire some food, they are not getting a fraction of what is available for them if they were on the other side of the fence - where they should be!

I'm thinking that that is a picture of so many people.  Almighty God has set certain boundaries, in His written Word (the Bible).   These, while intended to provide us with a safe environment, are seen by many as restrictive.  Accordingly, they escape - throwing off the 'shackles' of morality, and ethics, and Godly principles.  They seek to provide for themselves.  They want to be "self-made" men and women.

The reality is that, like the goats, they are just making life difficult for themselves, while losing out on so much that their Creator has available for them.  They are trying to find satisfaction through a chain-link fence, when full provision has already been made for them within the sanctuary of God's enclosure.

So, where are you, today?  In a Godly environment that provides all of your needs (although not necessarily all of your wants!); or 'outside', in a 'freedom' of your own making - but losing out on what Father God has for you?   The choice is always yours!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Truth and propoganda.

In 1918 US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson is purported to have said: "The first casualty when war comes is truth."  However, this was not recorded and, in fact, the sentiment was expressed a long time before, when Greek tragic dramatist Aeschylus (525 BC - 456 BC), stated that: "In war, truth is the first casualty." 

The current situation in Egypt - in which more than 60 churches throughout the country have been destroyed along with other Christian institutions, including 11 schools, an orphanage, a hospital and two Bible Society bookshops, as well as countless homes and businesses - may not classify as war, but it would seem that truth has already fallen.

Christians have, astonishingly, been blamed by the Muslim Brotherhood for the fall of President Mohammed Morsi, and the Islamists are thus waging a retaliatory war against them. It is, however, an utterly absurd notion that Christians, who comprise only around ten per cent of the Egyptian population, could have the clout to bring down a regime. Not only are they numerically weak, but they have also been marginalised and disadvantaged for decades, leaving them without the social influence necessary to inspire the popular movement that resulted in Morsi’s overthrow by the military. 

More than 22 million Egyptians signed the petition, organised by the opposition Tamarod ("Rebel") movement, calling for Morsi to go . There are only around eight million Christians in Egypt so, even if every single one, including children, had put their name to it, they would still have been significantly outnumbered by Muslim signatures.

So why are the Brotherhood blaming the Christians, and why are its rank and file members falling for such a blatant untruth?  

Firstly, it enables the Brotherhood to avoid having to admit that many Egyptian Muslims were opposed to its autocratic, Islamist rule. Secondly, it allows them to portray the military as pro-Christian and anti-Islamic, thus attracting more support among the Muslim majority for their cause.  Thirdly, it taps into the pre-existing contempt in which its supporters hold Christians, similarly to the Nazis’ channelling hostility towards the Jews in 1930s Germany. And fourthly, Christians, as a vulnerable minority, are an easy target, allowing the Brotherhood to wreak unbridled havoc and thereby destabilise the military-backed regime.

Unfortunately, the Western media seems largely to have swallowed the Brotherhood’s narrative (aka 'propaganda') on Morsi’s removal. The Islamists have argued that he was elected democratically and, therefore, should not have been removed by the military in a “coup”; and they have claimed to be staging “peaceful” protests against his removal, which have been brutally and illegitimately broken up by the military. What has not been emphasised is that, although elected democratically, but he did not rule democratically; but used the democratic process to stage a series of power grabs in which he seized control of key institutions that should be independent, appointed his allies as regional governors, pushed through a contentious constitution, and ruthlessly crushed dissent. What has not been reported is that the sit-ins that were broken up by the military last week were characterised by calls for violence against the army, police and other state institutions. Nor has there been much mention, in the media, of the weapons the Brotherhood had in the sit-in camps and which they used against the army and police. Video evidence shows Islamists using guns and grenades against the authorities, and killing officers. There have also been reports of gross abuses being committed inside the camps, including incidents of rape and torture, and the murder of more than 80 people who were accused of being police informants or were trying to escape.

A long time ago, a Roman Official named Pontius Pilate asked the question, "What is truth?" of One Who was, with Pilate's permission, about to be crucified.  It's a question that still cries out to be answered - in Egypt as well as in many other parts of the modern world.

Of course, that crucified One is also the One Who could state, quite categorically: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man comes to the Father except by Me." (John 14:6).   Only in Him will true peace be found.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Losing a battle doesn't lose a war!

In the latest Marriage Minutes clip, Dr Sharon James explains the way in which the Coalition for Marriage proposes to keep the pressure on Westminster politicians, and peers, with regard to the redefinition of marriage which has come about, in England and Wales, due to the enactment of the relevant legislation earlier this year.  Please take the minute and a half required to listen and watch - and do what you can to support C4M, both prayerfully and financially.


Friday, 16 August 2013

One Day I Woke Up

The following came with a regular e-mailing.  I didn't write it - but it has certainly made me think.  I hope that it makes you think, as well!


One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise.

Ah the beauty of God's creation is beyond description.

As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work.

As I sat there, I felt the Lord's presence with me.

He asked me, "Do you love me?"

I answered, "Of course, God! You are my Lord and Saviour!"

Then He asked, "If you were physically handicapped, would you still love me?"

I was perplexed. I looked down upon my arms, legs and the rest of my body and wondered how many things I wouldn't be able to do, the things that I took for granted. And I answered, "It would be tough Lord, but I would still love You."

Then the Lord said, "If you were blind, would you still love my creation?"

How could I love something without being able to see it? Then I thought of all the blind people in the world and how many of them still loved God and His creation.
So I answered, "Its hard to think of it, but I would still love you."

The Lord then asked me, "If you were deaf, would you still listen to my word?"

How could I listen to anything being deaf? Then I understood. Listening to God's Word is not merely using our ears, but our hearts. I answered, "It would be tough, but I would still listen to Your word."

The Lord then asked, "If you were mute, would you still praise My Name?"

How could I praise without a voice? Then it occurred to me: God wants us to sing from our very heart and soul. It never matters what we sound like. And praising God is not always with a song, but when we are persecuted, we give God praise with our words of thanks. So I answered, "Though I could not physically sing, I would still praise Your Name.

And the Lord asked, "Do you really love Me?"

With courage and a strong conviction, I answered boldly, "Yes Lord! I love You because You are the one and true God!"

I thought I had answered well, but...

God asked, "THEN WHY DO YOU SIN?"

I answered, "Because I am only human. I am not perfect."

"THEN WHY IN TIMES OF PEACE DO YOU STRAY THE FURTHEST? WHY ONLY IN TIMES OF TROUBLE DO YOU PRAY MOST EARNESTLY?"

No answers. Only tears.

The Lord continued: "Why only sing at fellowships and retreats? Why seek Me only in times of worship? Why ask things so selfishly? Why ask things so unfaithfully?"

The tears continued to roll down my cheeks.

"Why are you ashamed of Me? Why are you not spreading the Good News? Why, in times of persecution, do you cry to others when I offer My shoulder to cry on? Why make excuses when I give you opportunities to serve in My Name?"

I tried to answer, but there was no answer to give.

"You are blessed with life. I made you not to throw this gift away. I have blessed you with talents to serve Me, but you continue to turn away. I have revealed My Word to you, but you do not gain in knowledge. I have spoken to you, but your ears were closed. I have shown My blessings to you, but your eyes were turned away. I have sent you servants, but you sat idly by as they were pushed away. I have heard your prayers, and I have answered them all."

"DO YOU TRULY LOVE ME ?"

I could not answer. How could I? I was embarrassed beyond belief. I had no excuse. What could I say to this? When I my heart had cried out and the tears had flowed, I said, " Please forgive me Lord. I am unworthy to be Your child."

The Lord answered, "That is My Grace, My child."

I asked, "Then why do you continue to forgive me? Why do You love me so?"

The Lord answered, "Because you are My creation. You are my child. I will never abandon you."

"When you cry, I will have compassion and cry with you.
When you shout with joy, I will laugh with you.
When you are down, I will encourage you.
When you fall, I will raise you up.
When you are tired, I will carry you.
I will be with you 'til the end of days, and I will love you forever."

Never had I cried so hard before. How could I have been so cold? How could I have hurt God as I had done? I asked God, "How much do You love me?"

The Lord stretched out His arms, and I saw His nail-pierced hands. I bowed down at the feet of Christ, my Saviour. And for the first time, I truly prayed."

 
I recall, a long time ago, being told that sin is not as much breaking God's law (although, of course, it is that!), as it is a breaking of His heart!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Wolves in sheep's clothing.

A couple of evenings ago, my wife and I were at a 70th birthday anniversary celebration.  It was a multi-national gathering for the patron of our favourite camp-site, and we were with many friends made over years of spending time there.

At one point, one of our German friends offered me a drink.  I looked at the label on the bottle.  Fruit and vitamins, it read.   I was, therefore, happy to accept (I am totally teetotal, for those who are not aware of the fact!).  It was then that I discovered that I was about to become the victim of a practical joke.  What was actually in the bottle was red wine - taken from a carton, for easier transportation!

I did not take the drink!  However, I did take away with me the thought that the contents of the bottle were not what the label proclaimed!

This is often also true about people. As many know, I use the term "Christian" as little as possible.  This is simply because it has been so devalued that it now refers to anyone who is considered to be helpful, generous, kind, loving, or whatever.  Such a person is regularly described as "a good Christian" when, in fact, there may be absolutely no personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ; no experience of personal salvation; no obvious discipleship of Jesus!

One such person would appear to be the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron.  He has been regularly reported as claiming to be "a 'committed' but only 'vaguely practising' Christian" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16224394) - whatever that may be, yet has been responsible for a number of policies that go directly against the teaching of the written Word of God.  The redefinition of 'marriage' is but the best-known of these.  He has also held a party for homosexual activists in Downing Street (at taxpayers' (my!) expense??) and said he wants to export same-sex marriage all over the world.  He has, with the support of Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne, espoused policies that have ensured that the wealthy get wealthier, and the poor (not just the 'scroungers') get poorer.  When challenged, by a reporter, about his attitude to wealth, and as to whether or not he would be willing to follow the advice of Jesus to the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22), he merely sidestepped by saying that it was a difficult question. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23618181).

Of course, there is not one of us who can claim to follow Jesus perfectly.  However, while many of us at least have that high aim in view, Mr Cameron is one who, in my opinion, is only a wolf in sheep's clothing (see Matt.7:15) who, in reality, and regardless of countless 'sound-bites', cares nothing for the British people, but only for his elitist friends and those whom he considers to be 'cool'. 

Of course, it is not to me that he is, ultimately, answerable!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Adversity can make us strong.

A man found the cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.  Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had got as far as it could, and it could go no further.  

The man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.  The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings.  The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.  Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings. It was never able to fly.  

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.  

Sometimes, God will have us struggle in life. That's because He has a plan for us. He knows what's best and He knows what He is doing. We just need to trust Him.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Time, and Eternity (3)


This is the third, and final, part of the last point in a message on Biblical Veils that I brought to the Café Church, Bergerac, France (http://www.christiansindordogne.com/cafechurch.html) in April of this year.   It should, therefore, be read in conjunction with the two previous posts. 
Sa'id Musa, a Christian employee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, was arrested in late May, 2010 after footage of Afghan Christians being baptised was shown on national television.  Musa, a father of six, and an amputee with a prosthetic leg, was beaten, forcefully deprived of sleep, and sexually abused.  Thankfully, he was released in Feb., 2011 and granted asylum in a European country.
But on Dec 11th 2010 he wrote, from his prison cell, that he rejoices in the Lord amidst his suffering.  “I saw a vision, during my sleep one night, of the heaven opened, and a Person – His clothes like snow, His face in dazzling light – came to me, and put His hand on my shoulder, and said to me ‘Please be happy.  I am always with you in this jail.  I chose you, and you should announce my Good News to the people of Afghanistan and all over the world.’  At that moment, I was shaking and trembling with fear.  I fell down and could not stand.  He took my hands, and I woke up.”
So what had this dear brother experienced?  Was it all just the result of indigestion?  Was he beginning to lose his mind?  Or did that veil – that fine, fine, curtain that separates time from eternity – did it part slightly to give him that glimpse of the exalted Saviour, strengthening him in his suffering, his torment, his anguish?   I know what I believe!
It’s a veil through which each of us must ultimately pass.   The only question concerns what we find on the other side.  For it's only for those who, having recognised their sinfulness, have come to the Saviour in repentance and faith, and accepted the salvation that He won on the cross of Calvary, that the veil leads to the heavenly places.  For all others, it leads to a lost eternity, without hope, because it is without Jesus.
May each one of us hear what God would say to us, as individuals, that others may see something of His nature in us; that we may see more of His glory in the face of the Lord Jesus; that we may spend much time within the veil, in His presence, seeking His will, receiving His blessing, that we might fulfil His purpose; that when our time comes, we might take that final step, through the veil, into His nearer Presence, to hear those wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Lord.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Time, and Eternity (2)



This is Part 2 of the final point of the message that I shared at Café Church in Bergerac, France, earlier this year.
Or what about Elijah?  Remember those words from the Second book of Kings: “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were travelling from Gilgal.  And Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Bethel." ... “As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2:1-2, 11)

May I suggest that, once again, that veil had been parted, and this mighty servant of YHWH, was taken through to receive his reward?

Returning to the N.T., we go back to the Mount of Transfiguration.  Matthew, as we've already read, records: “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus' appearance was transformed so that His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light.  Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.” (17:1-3)

What had happened?  I believe, firmly, that this veil between time and eternity had been parted; and that Moses and Elijah simply stepped through that temporary gateway between here and there.

The writers of the TV series "Stargate", if you're familiar with it, may have been much closer to reality than they would ever have believed to be really possible!

And how often have we read, or heard of a true saint of God who, on their deathbed, with face suddenly glowing, seems to be aware of those who have gone before, even of the Saviour Who awaits their homecoming?  The veil has been parted just a little for them, and they are being permitted that early vision of the glorious place to which they about to be taken.  It’s not a long journey – just a step through the veil.
(final part to follow!)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Time, and Eternity (1)

One of the online groups to which I belong is for those with a theological interest!  Now that I am once again able to be online more regularly, I have been ploughing through hundreds of e-mails, including one from that group regarding God's knowledge of all of history.

I have already suggested that a major part of the answer lies in the relationship between time and eternity.  Earlier this year, I preached a message on "Biblical veils", that ended up with some references to that relationship.  I plan to share that final point over the next few days, in a series of posts.  Be sure to return for the rest of them!


That final point concerned the veil that will be reached when we come to the end of our mortal lives.   I have given much thought to this over recent years.  Not that I am becoming particularly morbid!  It’s just that the Lord seems to be giving me little insights.
I recently learned of a material called graphene which, I am assured, is only one atom in thickness.  That means that, by comparison, the finest gossamer is like extra-heavy brocade!  I believe, firmly, that what separates time from eternity is finer again even than graphene, yet of a strength that even if every nuclear device possessed by mankind was to be detonated simultaneously, there would not be even the slightest dent in, or the faintest scratch on, that particular veil.
So what happens at the moment of physical death?  Well, for the disciple of Jesus, the answer is simple.   Paul tells us, in II Cor 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  Jesus, Himself assured the penitent thief on the cross that “... today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43).  So it doesn’t seem to be the case that, when I die – and this is all, of course, only applicable for as long as the rapture of the saints of God is delayed – it doesn’t seem to be the case that I travel millions of light years to reach my celestial abode!  No, it’s as instantaneous as it will be at the rapture when, Paul tells us, “It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown.” (I Cor 15:52).
We find further hints of this when we look in the O.T.  Remember the great old patriarch, Enoch.  I love those words recorded of him in Gen 5: “Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.” Or, as the older translations put it, “... he was not; for God took him.” (vs 23-24)
So what happened to Enoch?  Well, what I am now going to share is, I freely confess, somewhat speculative.  But I share it with you because I am convinced, not only of its possibility, but of its probability!  I believe that those words are telling us that, every morning, when Enoch awoke, his first words were “Well, Lord, where are we going today; what will we be doing?  And that's a good way for any of us to start the day!  And the Lord told him.  Then, one day, he awoke and, having asked the same question, was told by God, “Today, Enoch, dear friend, you are coming to my bit.  Let’s go!  And Enoch simply walked through that veil that separates time from eternity.
(to be continued!).