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Friday, 27 September 2013

Real treasure.

This morning, my personal devotions were centred on Matt.10:16-41 - a passage that concerns the persecution that the disciple of Jesus will face.  Then, in my mail, I received a communication from Open Doors (see My Favourite Links, below) that contained a drawing by a 13-year-old Syrian girl, which she produced during trauma counselling.  In the drawing, she expresses the dreadful situation in that country with harrowing images of death and violence.  However, she also brings out her trust in the protection, and the promises, of the Lord.  Alongside the drawings of tanks, and of dead bodies and blood, was one item that particularly caught my eye.  It is the drawing of an open treasure chest, filled with gold - and with a copy of the Bible sitting on the top!  This child is obviously well aware that the written Word of God is of more value than all of the gold that this planet Earth contains.

I also received my copy of the bi-monthly International Prayer Bulletin (issue 320 - meaning that it has been faithfully published for more than half-a-century!).  In it, I was advised of the current amazing move of God among Muslims.  For example, over the past seven years, some 6,000 new Christian communities have been established in 18 African countries - among Muslim tribes!  Missions expert Jerry Trousdale, in his book Miraculous Movements (Thomas Nelson, 2012), reckons that upward of 200,000 Muslims have come to a saving faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, in that time.  Hallelujah!

Trousdale also tells the story (one of many!) of a group of Christian leaders who were gathered for a meeting in a mountain retreat.  While they were praying at mid-day, several Muslim leaders suddenly appeared and surrounded them.  The group was justifiably concerned - but kept on praying.  When they had finished, the group surrounding them approached.  They were from a distant region, and they had come with their Imam (a spiritual leader) with a request.  

"Please," they said, we have not come to harm you.  But we have a request.  Please send us the Storytellers!"  These Muslim leaders had observed other communities in their area in which many had become followers of Jesus, and they had noticed a dramatic change in people's lives - broken families now in unity; a sense of love and compassion among the people; an ending to old hostilities and vendettas - and they wanted the same thing in their own community.

Jerry Trousdale says, "It's not about telling them, 'this is the wrong thing' or, 'that is the right thing'.  It's about sharing the Word of God with them, letting them discover God.  And, once they want to obey it, they have no choice.  It is the true freedom of God; it is the whole freedom. ... You just teach people to obey Him, and they will then make their choices."

So, the bottom line seems to be that the people stop doing what they used to do because they want to obey the Lord Jesus; not because they want to be religious people.  It is true Gospel transformation!

Of course, one doesn't have to be an African Muslim in order to experience this life-changing miracle.  It's available to all who will come to Jesus, confessing their sins, and their inability to do anything about them; repenting; accepting the wonderful offer of salvation that He won for us on the cross at Calvary; and living our lives in obedience to Him, Whom to serve is freedom indeed!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Is this the thin end of the wedge?

Rev Josh Williamson, who was arrested in Perth last Wednesday, was arrested again on Saturday (21st Sept.) for "breach of the peace".  What had this minister of the Gospel done?  Was he roaming around the town centre accosting passers-by?  Was he drunk and disorderly (which would actually have been a specific, chargeable, offence)?  Was he emptying the content of rubbish bins all over the street?

The answer to all of the above, and to anything else that might be considered to be even mildly illegal, is a clear, and resounding, "No!"  What Josh Williamson had done was to proclaim the Gospel truth that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! (see I Tim.1:15).

He was to be held in custody until Monday (23rd Sept.) but, thankfully, was released at 9.30pm on Saturday evening after having being held, in the custody cells, for more than five hours.

The whole incident was recorded on camera, and Josh also made an audio recording, on his 'phone, of the trip to the police station in the police car.

You can, here, watch the full recording of his arrest (with subtitles). Police begin talking to Josh at 6mins 52secs.

His MP3 player has been kept as crown evidence and the Procurator Fiscal (the public prosecutor) will review the evidence.

Is this the shape of things to come in the UK?  If it is, then one thing is certain - the church will be weeded out! We may still be a long way away from the persecution experienced by our brothers and sisters in Christ, in Pakistan; in North Korea; in parts of China; in Afghanistan; and in a total of about fifty countries around the world.  However, this type of what is, at the very least, harassment may well be the thin edge of a very thick wedge that is being pushed, with increasing force, into British society.

May those of us who are true followers of the Galilean Carpenter be able to echo the words of the Old Testament leader who shared His Name; "... if you be unwilling to serve YHWH, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15; emphasis added).

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

They're only Christians!

I telephoned the BBC this evening (Monday)!  It's not something that I do with any frequency, but I was - to say the least - very angry!

Watching the 6 o'clock T.V. News, I was provided with further information about the dreadful attack, in Nairobi, Kenya, when members of the militant Somali, al Qaeda-linked, Islamist Group al Shabaab ("the lads"!) launched their indiscriminate attack on shoppers in a mall, that resulted in, the deaths of at least 62 people and the wounding of over 200 others, since the brutal attack began on Saturday.  In common, I would hope,with all right-minded people, my heart goes out to the bereaved and the injured, and I trust that both the Kenyan and Somalian governments deal quickly with one of the most ruthless of all of the Islamist terrorist groups operating in these days.

However, the very next item on the programme concerned the, as yet unfounded, charges made against entertainer, Rolf Harris!  In vain, I waited to be informed of the latest news of an even greater terrorist atrocity.  At least 83 people were murdered in a double suicide bombing at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.  Around 130 people were wounded, some of them critically.  Many of those killed and injured were children.  The Pakistani Taliban (Islamist) claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that: "They [Christians] are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land."

In Kenya, the attack took place in what has been described as a popular upmarket shopping mall. Indeed, Westgate Shopping Centre described itself as Nairobi's premier shopping mall - a "first world interior"… " where local and international shoppers feel at home". Its 80 stores included Adidas, Nike, pizza restaurants and the four floors (350,000 sq feet) centred around a waterfall. It is, according to some news reports, where the affluent of Kenyan society are to be seen - both the indigenous population, and international visitors.

By contrast, All Saints Church served a congregation of fairly ordinary Pakistani believers - indeed, many of them were reportedly receiving a free meal in the grounds of the church building when the cowardly attack took place.

Could it be that the media are simply less concerned about those who were targeted because of their religious beliefs, than with those who were caught up in an attack because they were out buying designer clothing, and purchasing 'western' fast food?

Thank God, that He is concerned with each and every one of us.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Take me to your leader!

Leadership is of great importance within any group, or organisation.  The question often is: "From which position does the leader lead?"!

This occurred to me, last week when, on a TV  News programme, I saw a number of young men in a swimming pool.  On the pool-side, speaking to camera, was a bearded gentleman of obviously Asian extraction (how's my political correctness, so far?!), who looked as if we was in his late forties.  According to the person who was translating, this person was informing us that these young men were having their last swim before fulfilling their destinies as 'suicide bombers'.  My first thought was: "If you, sir, are so keen that these young men detonate a vest, packed with explosive, and worn by them, why don't you show how important such an action is by leading from the front, and setting an example?  Why don't you don one of those vests, and blow up innocent bystanders - and, of course, yourself?!"

Of course, I suspect that I know the answer.  It's a bit like former British Prime Minister, Tony B Liar, sending British troops into Iraq, and Afghanistan - from the peace and comfort of Downing Street, or Chequers, and with a 24/7 protection unit provided by the Metropolitan Police!  In other words, these people - and I could name many more - are content to 'lead from behind' (and there's an oxymoronic phrase for you!).  Yesterday, as I heard the news from Pakistan, I wondered if the two 'suicide bombers', responsible for the worst ever attack on Christians, might even have been in that swimming pool!

I also thought to myself about the Lord Jesus.  Like kings and emperors of old, He leads His people from the front.  "... thanks be to God," writes Paul, "Who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere." (II Cor.2:14).  Jesus likened Himself to a shepherd, and reminded us that a good shepherd "... calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." (John 10:3-4).  Again, He assured His disciples that "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).

In the old children's game Follow the leader, that is exactly what one did - the leader went first, and the others followed the example given.  Perhaps if more of these Islamist terrorists were to set the example, there would be fewer 'suicide bombers' causing destruction and death.  Perhaps if political leaders were still required to lead the troops into battle, as did those kings of old, there would be fewer wars - civil, or otherwise.

Take me to your leader - but assure me that he is a leader, and not a pusher!  Jesus said, and still says, "Follow Me!".  Those who do, discover that He is a Leader beyond any other leader; indeed, He is King of kings, and Lord of lords, and worthy of all that we can offer to Him.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Follow Me!

In John 21:22, we read these words of Jesus to His disciple, Peter: "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow Me!" This was a response to Peter's question about his fellow-disciple, John: "Lord, what about this man?" (v.21).

In effect, Jesus is saying to Peter, "Never mind about My plans for your fellow disciples.  I'll take care of them.  You just tend to your own business."!

Peter's problem was that he was looking backwards at John, instead of straight ahead at Jesus.  The Lord had just predicted Peter's death by crucifixion, and then had instructed - or was it , invited? - him to "Follow Me!" (v.19).  The very next words, however, tell us that Peter turned around, saw John walking behind, and wanted to know about him!  How quickly the big fisherman had forgotten the meaning of those words: "Follow Me!"  Instead of keeping his eyes on Jesus, he was watching John!

Sometimes you, or I, may be disturbed, or discouraged, by something that is done, or said, by others - even fellow-believers! - and we may give expression to our feelings.  At such times, we do well to remember those words: "What is that to you? Follow Me!"   Instead of being upset at the behaviour of others, we should ask "How does my speech and conduct affect them?"!

There is an important lesson that we need to learn if we are to live the victorious Christian life - what Chinese disciple of Jesus, Watchman Nee (who died in a Communist prison because of his faith in, and faithfulness to, the Lord Jesus) called "The Normal Christian Life"! - and that is that we must get our eyes off men, and keep them on the Lord.  The very best of God's saints on earth are still imperfect and, sooner or later, may be a disappointment.  There is only One Who never lets us down - Follow Him!

Today, and every day, keep your eyes upon Jesus.  Your faithfulness to Him is the important thing, and that's your responsibility! 

And a thought:
A man at peace with the Lord, is a man at peace with himself;
and a man at peace with himself, is a man at peace with the world.
So, to be at peace with the world, just be at peace with the Lord!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Christians Forced to Pay Muslim Brotherhood for Safety

Christians in the city of Dalga, in Egypt, have been forced to pay a tax, called jizya, to the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent attacks by the group. The nearly 20,000 Christians in Dalga lived in peace with their Muslim neighbors until President Morsi was removed from office on July 3. Since then, Christians have had to pay the Muslim Brotherhood anywhere from 200 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds (£18 - £90; $US30 to $US150) per day to prevent attacks by the group’s Islamist members.

Christians report that neither police nor government officials nor the Egyptian army will protect Christians in the area. More than 150 Christian families have fled Dalga because they could not pay the jizya tax, which is now being required of non-Muslims in other areas as well. On Sept. 12, Emad Lotfy Demian, a 50-year-old husband and father of five, and his cousin Medhat Demian, a 37-year-old husband and father of three, were murdered by members of the Muslim Brotherhood after refusing to pay a jizya of 10,000 pounds (£900; $US1,500).

As those of us who are also disciples of Jesus remember our brothers and sisters in Christ, in Egypt, let us pray for an end to this despicable situation in a land in which unskilled workers (which would account for the majority of those who would claim to be Christians) earn as little as £10; $US16 per day!  Let us also be much in prayer for the families of those murdered by extreme Islamists, for whatever reason; and for the current interim government, that a peaceful solution will be found.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Inside Holyrood!

As the Holyrood politicians consider the forthcoming vote on the redefinition of marriage, in Scotland, many of us continue to pray that they will not follow their Westminster counterparts, but will throw the Bill out and maintain marriage as it has been historically understood - the union of a man and a woman!

This video clip shows Dr Gordon MacDonald, representing Scotland for Marriage, giving evidence before the Committee of Members that is currently scrutinising the Bill.  May his wise words have struck the hearts of those on the Committee who continue to push this minority-led agenda.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

You may play your part!

It was the German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

It's a potent thought as we learn of Rawan, aged 8, who was sold by her parents, and forced into a marriage with a man five times her age. The injuries her young body sustained from her “wedding night” resulted in her death, and her story has sent shock-waves throughout the world.  It also reminds me of Deborah, a Christian woman in Nigeria, who was forced to watch her husband and sons being murdered by Islamist extremists, and her two daughters (both under ten) being abducted - to a similar fate as that of Rawan?!

The most shocking thing about Rawan’s story is the fact that to many, her story is not shocking at all! Forced Child Marriage is a form of modern slavery and, in the Republic of Yemen, there is no law which makes it illegal. The Yemeni Government, however, has the power to bring an end to Forced Marriage forever.  The first step is to ban the marriage of anyone under the age of 18, protecting children from a life of domestic and sexual slavery.

We know that ending Forced Marriage everywhere poses big obstacles and yet, in the aftermath of Rawan’s death, and with the eyes of the world on Yemen, this may be one of few fleeting moments when we can create change. We’re not going to let down the millions of girls, vulnerable to this form of modern slavery.

Forced Child Marriage is modern slavery and can be stopped.
Follow this link to call on the government of Yemen to ban Forced Child Marriage.

Thank you for joining me in taking action. 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

It's here!

Front Cover
Back Cover
Further to the notice at the top of the page (which not everyone will read!), I wish to announce the publication of the paperback version of Great Words of the Faith - the first in a planned series of books, under the general title Getting to know you.

Somewhere in the middle!
The book, including the introductory pages, is 230 pages long - a substantial wee volume! - and sells for the modest sum of £8.99 (plus postage & package, if required).  If convenient, copies may be collected in person.  I am hoping to add a free, surprise, gift to posted copies, to help make up for the extra cost!  As well intimated, 30% of the net profit on both paperback, and Kindle, goes to support the persecuted church in some 50 countries around the world.  Copies my be ordered by leaving a message, in the form of a comment to the latest post, providing contact details.  The comment will NOT be published, but I will then be able to contact you to make the necessary arrangements. :-)

If the book sells at all well, I do envisage being able to persuade a couple of Christian Bookshops to stock it - but that is still in the (hopefully near!) future.  One friend, who already has the Kindle version, believes that it is an excellent volume for a new disciple of Jesus.  Christmas isn't all that far away!

If you wish to have a wee preview of the beginning of the book - including the whole of chapter 1 - then follow the link at the top of the page to the Kindle version.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Been there; done that!

It's always good to be able to listen to those who have already been to the place to which, for example, we plan to go on holiday.  It's always good, before embarking on a particular course of action, to listen to someone who has been through the experience.  To ignore what they say is, at least foolish, and could be close to catastrophic!

In this latest Marriage Minutes clip, Dr Sharon James tells us of the experience of one adult who was raised by a same-gender couple.  Having been there, and done that, he is surely worthy of our attention!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A Royal audience.

I received a letter this morning!  It was from H.M. the Queen!  It was an invitation to a private and personal audience with the monarch!  There would be just the two of us - no foot-men; no aides; no bodyguards.  I was assured that I could raise any matter, however important or however trivial.   I was also assured that there would not be a time limit.  I could spend as long as I wished with H.M. - she would be delighted to have me with her.

Now, of course, that last paragraph is totally fictional - in case anyone hadn't worked that out!  However, if it was true ... ... ...!  I am not an ardent royalist (although I do hold H.M. in high regard), but I would be telling everyone about this amazing honour that had been bestowed upon me.

It is a fact that I am the recipient of an even greater honour and privilege.  Almighty God, the King of kings, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, invites me to meet with Him.  Indeed, I don't really have a specific invitation!  He operates an 'open door' policy.  That means that I may come into His royal presence at any time!   I may bring every matter before Him; I may share my most personal, and intimate, thoughts; I may bring my petitions to Him, assured that He will respond.  Of course, just as would be the case with H.M., there is no guarantee that I will receive exactly what I request.  His wisdom is infinitely greater than mine (or H.M's.!).  He will not give me, or do for me, that which He knows is not for my ultimate good.

One other thought.  If I were to receive that invitation to Buckingham Palace, or Balmoral, or wherever, I would still be attending as a subject of the Queen.  I would still address my royal companion as "Your majesty".  But, when I enter the throne-room of heaven in prayer I come, not only as a sinner (which I am), but as a sinner saved by grace and, wonder of wonders, as an adopted child, able to address Almighty God as "Father" - just as H.M's. children, while still her subjects, may also address her as "Mother".

Do you have that personal relationship with the Lord?  Unlike an invitation to meet with the Queen, it's available to all who come to Him, in repentance and faith (both of those words are explained in my book - see the top of this page!), and accept His offer of salvation (also in the book), through the finished work of the Lord Jesus (Who is the subject of yet another chapter in the book).

If you don't have a relationship like that, may I urge you to deal with that situation while you may.  Please don't think that membership of a Christian fellowship, or even holding office in one, is sufficient.  It's only that personal relationship that enables us to come into His presence now, and to enjoy His presence in eternity (on which there is also a chapter in the book!).

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A lighter moment!

Still, in a particular sense, on the subject of marriage - but the special view of the late George Younce, one of the finest bass voices I've ever heard.  If this doesn't have you laughing out loud, then I suggest that you have your humour hormones checked out!


Friday, 6 September 2013

Bakery That Refused Cake for Lesbian Wedding Forced to Close.

Tolerance is a laudable virtue, and should probably be practised more by most of us.  However, have you ever noticed how often those who shout most loudly for tolerance of their particular point of view, or beliefs, or lifestyle, are the most intolerant of any who have the temerity to disagree with them?

According to The Christian Post, a Christian couple who owns a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, has succumbed to what legal analysts call "economic terrorism" by gay advocates. Earlier this year, the couple refused to bake a cake for a lesbian "marriage ceremony", citing their Christian beliefs. The bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, closed this weekend; the owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, saying that they no longer wanted to operate their business after the harassment they and their regular clients have been enduring because of that decision. Homosexual/lesbian advocates have been picketing the business, making harassing phone calls to the bakery's vendors and partners, and encouraging the boycott of the business on social media channels.

Aaron Klein had said in June. "These people have literally tried to cut any business ties off, through harassment."

A note posted on the door of the closed building on Sunday read: "This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your Religious Freedom is becoming not Free any more. This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve Him with all our heart."

In an interview with Fox News, Aaron Klein explained that he doesn't have a problem serving homosexuals; he just can't support homosexual weddings. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman ... I don't want to be ambiguous in what I stand for." The couple also suggested a double standard exists between the "tolerance" these advocates proclaim and the harassing behaviour they were subjected to because of their faith.

I'm not finished yet!

It's perhaps appropriate that this latest Marriage Minutes should be posted just a couple of days after my own 43rd wedding anniversary.  In this video clip, Dr Sharon James provides some insights into the attitude of the UK's Prime Minister with regard to the redefinition of marriage which he pushed through the Westminster Parliament.   His zeal appears to know no bounds, as he assures those who will listen to him that he wants to go even further.  In his own eyes, he's not finished yet - but I believe that, unless he repents, he is finished in the eyes of Almighty God to Whom he is, ultimately, answerable.  He may also find that, at the next General Election, he is answerable to the majority of the electorate who do not agree with his policies in this regard.  Indeed, it may well be that, for the majority of politicians who supported the hasty passage of the Bill through the Westminster Parliament, 2015 will be the year of the General Ejection!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A special day.

Today is a very special day!   It is now a full forty-three years since a vision in white walked up the aisle of St George's-Tron Parish Church building, on her father's arm and, in the sight of God and the gathered congregation, she and I committed ourselves, each to the other, in a covenant relationship that may only be broken when one of us dies.  I have made many wrong choices in my life-time, but that was one that I have never had cause to regret.  The Lord gave me the most loving, faithful, supportive, and encouraging wife that was possible, and I daily thank Him for her.

At sunset, today, the Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashana - will also commence.  This will be a two-day holiday, which will conclude on Friday evening at which time Jews will welcome the first Shabbat (Sabbath) of the New Year.

According to Jewish tradition, God completed the creation of the world on Rosh Hashana. Every year on this day, He takes inventory - an annual accounting. He sits in judgement over all mankind, reviewing the ‘file’ of every human being. He examines our past, our present, and our future. He weighs our actions, our behaviour, and our relationships. He looks to see what direction we are going in. He evaluates what kind of year we are going to have. A true day of judgement. Our lives are in the scales.

Commencing at Rosh Hashana, devout Jews will take part in the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah - the Ten Days of Repentance, leading to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), their most special day in the year.  During this ten-day period, there will be serious self-examination, and an attempt to make peace with any who have been offended during the previous year.

When disciples of Jesus gather around the Lord's Table for the sacrament of Holy Communion, they often read words written by the apostle Paul, to the early church in Corinth (see I Cor.11:23-26).  However, not all continue to read the following verses, as far as v.32.  They include this exhortation: "Let a man examine himself, ..." (vs.28).   How often believers come to the Table without that self-examination!  We are happy to remember what the Table symbolises; we are happy to give thanks for the sacrifice made on our behalf - the ultimate 'atonement'; we are happy to partake of the elements.  However, I am convinced that, when Paul wrote those words he was thinking, as one who had been steeped in Judaism, of that period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur - those ten days of repentance.  I am convinced that he was encouraging his readers to look carefully at themselves, and recognise their complete and utter unworthiness to even handle those elements that speak of the broken Body and the shed Blood of God the Son.

Of course, if he had stopped there, then the sacrament would be a miserable affair!  Praise God, he didn't.  He continued, "... and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup."  You see, it's as I realise my own unworthiness that I am made fit to partake!  If I come, with something of a laissez-faire attitude, assuming that I have the right to do so, then I have no right and, as Paul goes on to point out, I eat and drink judgement upon myself! (see v.29).

So, Shanah Tovah to my Jewish friends - and an encouragement, to all of us who claim to follow the Lord Jesus, to truly examine ourselves every time we come to the Table.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Pandora's box - again!

It was in July that I made reference to 'Pandora's Box'.  Regretfully, as Dr Sharon James explains in this latest Marriage Minutes video-clip, the consequences of the UK Government's steam-rollered legislation that changed the definition of marriage, are already being seen.  The difference between Pandora's Box, and this legislation is that, in the case of the latter, the results were warned of for many months before the matter was 'debated' in the Westminster Parliament.  Those responsible for pushing through this legislation will, unless they repent, answer for their defiance of that which was ordained by God at the creation of the human race.  Meanwhile, we may have to put up with the ever-increasing demands of those who have deliberately chosen a perverse, and unproductive, sexual life-style.