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Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Devil and Hallowe'en

Hallowe'en has long been claimed as the high, holy day of Satan worship. Portrayed by many as a harmless bit of fun for children, it is actually the day when witches and warlocks gather to praise their leader and extend his work on Earth. Festivities are marked by unprecedented evil and blasphemy, with blood sacrifices and hedonistic practices playing prominent parts.
Regretfully, far to many Christian families participate in the same, with children (and parents, too) dressing up as demons, ghosts, skeletons, wizards, etc. We can only surmise how much pleasure Satan derives from this deception.
Satan, we must remember, is the “adversary . . . [who], as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8), and many times he disguises himself as “an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). We are to “resist [him] steadfast in the faith” (I Peter 5:9), for, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Although Satan is acknowledged to be “the prince of this world” (John 14:30), his doom is sure. “The God of peace shall bruise [literally 'crush'] Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20). He will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone . . . and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).
Until the realisation of that ultimate victory is gained, our mission on Earth is to “turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).
Accordingly, let us strive to see that his harmful influence is thwarted on this, his 'special' day. The children of each community need protection from the evil influences boldly swarming this night. May we, ourselves, not fall prey to his dark deceptions and, especially in the lives of our children, may we focus their attention on the Light - Who is Jesus - instead.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Memories.

"Memories are made of this (sweet, sweet, the memories you gave me)"

Thus we sung when I was much younger (if my memory serves me well!).  It is certainly true that all of us have memories - some pleasant; some less so.  Yesterday, one of my lovely memories was evoked as my wife set out a small jar of apple and bramble (blackberry) jam that a friend had made, and brought as a wee gift when visiting us recently.  My mind immediately went back to my early childhood, when I lived next door to my paternal grandmother.  I remembered sitting down at the table in her front (=only!) room with a large slice of her home-baked bread, spread with her home-churned butter, topped with her home-made apple and bramble jam, all washed down with a glass of the buttermilk left over from the butter churning!  Memories!

Tomorrow, millions of people, all over the world, will remember.  They will break bread together.  They will share in some wine - frequently non-alcoholic.  Some will do so with great pomp and ceremony, in splendid buildings; some will do so simply, and secretly, in a home, concerned lest the authorities discover what they are doing and have them arrested, imprisoned, even put to death.  Some will be doing so as a daily event; some as a weekly one; some as a quarterly one.

But all will remember.  They will remember One Who hung on a cross - His body broken, His blood shed.  They will remember that He did this for each of them.  They will remember that He gave his life that we might have life.  They will rejoice that that which they celebrate is only "until He comes".

For disciples of Jesus - the One Who hung on that cross - the communion service (aka the Lord's Supper; the Eucharist) is a potent memory.  However, it is also a call to examine ourselves - to recognise that not one of us is worthy to approach that Table, and partake of those elements; to rejoice in the grace of God that still invites us.  It's one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith, that it is my recognition, and confession, of my unworthiness that makes me worthy!

May all of us who partake, wherever we may be, and in whatever form the celebration tales, do so to His glory.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Forgiveness

A particularly challenging message at the worship service of Wishaw Baptist Church this morning.  The pastor, Colin Mackenzie, is a fine preacher at any time, but today, he took on a(nother!) difficult topic.  This session, we have been going through The Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by Matthew (Matt.5-7).  For the past few weeks have been concentrating on what is commonly, but erroneously, known as The Lord's Prayer.  Today we came to the petition, "Forgive  us  our debts (trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us.)." (6:12), combined with verses 14 and 15: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Forgiveness, as Colin pointed out, is something that we are always ready to receive - but that we are not always ready to offer! Yet, if we are disciples of Jesus (and I know that many of the regular readers of these posts are!), then we should be forgiving people.  This is not in order that we may be forgiven - that has already been dealt with, by Jesus, at Calvary.  It is a work of God's grace.  If our forgiveness depended on us being forgiving, then our salvation would be changed into one of works!  No, our forgiveness should be a reflection, and a result, of the forgiveness that we have received.

We were directed to the parable of the Kingdom, recorded in Matt.18.  This was given in response to Peter's question as to how many times he ought to forgive someone.  The big fisherman seemed to think that seven would be an adequate number.  Jesus' answer was, effectively: "There is no limit!"   And, of course, the example is there for us to follow.  There is no limit to the forgiveness of God.   That is Good News for many.  There are those, I believe, who have lived lives that they now acknowledge failed to meet their own standards, let alone those of their Creator.  They want to enter into a relationship with Him, but feel that He would not want to reciprocate.  Let me assure any such, on the authority of the Word of God, that He longs to welcome you, and embrace you, and cleanse you, and love you, and own you as His child.  Like the father in the well-known parable of the prodigal (wasteful) son, who was watching and waiting for his wayward son to return to his home, Father God is watching, and waiting, for you!  

All that you need to do is to take Him at His word; come to Him in repentance and faith; and feel the warmth of His presence enfold you.  Of course, that is only the beginning!  You then have to acknowledge His Lordship over your life.  It's a life of obedience, and submission.  You will fall, and fail, again and again.  But here's a thing - as you confess your sin, He is faithful and just to forgive you, and to cleanse you afresh from all unrighteousness. (see I John 1:9-10).  And He'll do it, not just seven times; not even just seventy-seven, or seventy times seven; but as often as it takes, until you leave your sin-tainted body behind, and enter eternity, and His nearer presence, in which sin cannot exist.

Are you prepared for what can be the greatest adventure of your life?  The choice is yours.  May yoiu make the right one!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

It's time to die!

I suspect that it is a common trait in mankind, and has been since the beginning - a desire to know what the future holds.  However, I do wonder how many wish to know the exact time of their physical death!  Yet this, apparently, is the purpose of a new timepiece - not yet on the market.

The Tikker watch will, reportedly, arrive with an instruction manual, and a questionnaire designed to estimate how long the wearer is scheduled to live. Once this expiration date is determined, it can be programmed into Tikker. The death watch then literally counts down the seconds to the wearer’s demise  while, simultaneously, displaying the current time.

It's an interesting concept.  However, it leads to a number of thoughts.  The most obvious one is that it does not, indeed, cannot, take into account accident, disease, or violence.  The second is that only the One Who, from His vantage point of eternity, sees all of our time simultaneously, knows the precise moment of an individual's death.

However, the third point, and that which is given by the creator, is that it could make the wearer more conscious of the brevity of life.  The professed idea behind the watch is "... to encourage wearers to realize their life has an end date and that they should make the most of their lives while they have them."

Writing to the early disciples of Jesus in Colosse, Paul encouraged them to "Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time." (Col. 4:5).  To the Corinthian believers he wrote: "Working together with [Christ], then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.  For He says, 'At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.'  Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor. 6:1-2).

There are many references in the written Word of God to time, as we experience it.  The Bible is clear that time is has a beginning.  For example, in the soaring benediction at the end of Jude's pastoral letter, we read: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of His glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever." (Jude 24-25; emphasis added).  That it has an end is clearly implied by Paul: "... He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Eph 1:9-10; emphasis added).

Of course, even Albert Einstein worked out that time has a beginning and an end and, to the best of my knowledge, not even as eminent a physicist as Stephen Hawking has disagreed with his conclusion.  It is, in fact, created.  The important thing is to use it wisely, not to 'count down the days'.

The hymn-writer wrote: "My times are in Thy hands.  My Lord, I wish them there."  At some point, each one of us will die - regardless of any Tikker watch - or time will end.  Be certain you are prepared for what comes next - and it isn't annihilation!

Monday, 14 October 2013

He knows, y'know!

Many years ago, there was a British comedienne (and one was even permitted to use a feminine form of the word!) named Hylda Baker.  In one of her acts, she had a 'partner' - a very tall lady whom the audience knew as 'Cynthia'.  Cynthia towered over Hylda Baker, who presented a monologue that seemed to go on forever.  Much of the monologue concerned poor Cynthia, who stood there, never uttering a word, but with a 'hang-dog' look.  Hylda's catch-phrase, as she would look up at Cynthia (who did no more than nod), was "She knows, y'know!"  

I thought of those words when I read a daily contribution to my e-mail Inbox, this morning.  The passage of Scripture to which reference was made was II Samuel 7:18-29, and the words that 'jumped out' at me are in v.20 where King David says, in prayer, "You know what Your servant is really like, Sovereign Lord." (NLT).

"You know what Your servant is really like,"  It's quite a thought!  Most people don't know what I am "really like".  I have a 'public persona' that they see - but the real me is, so often, something totally different.  However, God sees me as I really am.  He knows me better even than I know myself!

In Deut. 29:29 we read these words of Moses, the servant of God: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God; ..."  Now I know the context of those words, and am aware that they don't refer to the knowledge the Almighty has of me (and of you!).  However, is it not true that He does know the 'secret things' of our hearts; the things that we would prefer others not to know; the things that would make us ashamed of they were to become public knowledge?

I have often said that my problem is my mind.  I have reasonable control of my actions, and of my speech.  My mind, however, is a totally different kettle of fish!  Is that why Paul, writing to those early disciples of Jesus, in the great city of Rome, urged them "... to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:1-2; emphasis added)?

Of course, the wonderful thing is that, even although He knows me so very well; even although He sees me as I really am; even although He is aware of my every fault and failing; He still loves me with an everlasting love (see Jer.31:3).  "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ... ... But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5:6,8).  That's the sort of love that surely demands a positive response.  If He could love me like that, then surely the least that I can do is to respond with the love of my own heart, weak and imperfect 'though that is. Amazingly, He accepts even that love!  "For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." (Ps.103:14).   He understands that I am still confined in this sinful body of flesh.  He understands that, like Paul, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. ... ...; [that] I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members." (Rom 7:15, 21-23).

The hymn-writer, William Cowper, spoke for many of us when he wrote:
"Lord, it is my chief complaint
That my love is weak and faint;
Yet I love Thee, and adore,
Oh, for grace to love Thee more!"

They're words worth echoing - and, I am convinced, they bring joy to the Father's heart.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Should I be dishonest?!

The heading is a serious question.  I have discovered something of a moral dilemma.  You see, I find that when I post something that refers to, for example, 'homophobia', or someone like, for example, Richard Dawkins, then the number of people who access my blog increases - sometimes quite dramatically.  This, I know, is because I add these names as 'labels', and Search Engines kindly direct those who are looking for them to my blog - among many other web-sites.

So I have this dilemma.  Should I take advantage of this situation by posting items that are fully Gospel-orientated; that promote those issues that are of particular importance to me; but that have no reference at all to either Mr Dawkins, 'homophobia', or any other 'magnetic' label - and then use such labels merely in order to increase the number of visitors?!

Of course, the answer is simple.  Unlike Oscar Wilde, who is reported to have said "I can resist anything, except temptation", I have God the Holy Spirit indwelling me, providing me with that very strength to resist any temptation that the devil places in my way.  Of course, as a mortal being, still living in my sinful body, I often fail to resist successfully.  Indeed, if I am honest, I sometimes don't even try very hard to resist.  However, the message of the Christian Gospel is "... that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (I Tim 1:15).  It is a message that assures me that "...  the blood of Jesus ... cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7).  It is a message that encourages me that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9).

What is required of me - and of you - is that we accept our own inability to deal with our sinful natures; admit that Jesus, has dealt with them on the cross; come to Him, in faith and repentance, for the full salvation that He offers; and share with others what we have done.

It's that simple - and that profound!  And, as you come to Him, "... the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith," (Heb. 12:2) you will begin a new life - as if you had been 'born again' (see John 3:16) - that will be the very life of Almighty God manifesting itself in you.  That will not be just life, it will be "life in all its fulness" (Jn.10:10).

Well, as I have already made mention of two particular 'topics', I may legitimately add them to the labels for this post.  I trust that no-one will be upset to discover the somewhat tenuous link.  I trust, even more, that someone may read the post, and come to the Saviour, Whom to know is life eternal.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Homophobia?!

The Metro may be a free newspaper, but it often contains some very interesting articles.  Yesterday was such an occasion.

The central "Metro in focus" item concerned phobias.  In the course of the article, in both the text and the graphics, a number of phobias were identified.  Some of them are probably well-known, but there were others that were certainly new to me!  Did you know, for example, that Siderodromophobia is a fear of rail travel?  In the UK, I thought that it was just the cost of some season tickets that brought on a panic attack!  Or were you aware that Batophobia is, not the fear of flying mouse-like creatures that may, or may not, wish to suck all of the blood from one's body, but a fear of tall objects.  Not many Batophobes heading to the Shard then!  I even discovered that Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13.  As I celebrate my birthday on the 13th (Feb, if anyone wishes to send a card, or even a gift!), I am glad that I am not Triskaidekaphobic!

The article made the simple, but profound, point that phobias are irrational.  Now, it also went on to say that the person experiencing it is not.  York-based Dr Paul Blenkiron, an NHS consultant psychiatrist, and cognitive behavioural therapist (somebody's got to do it!) states: "The person who's got the phobia usually knows that it's irrational or out of proportion to what's going on."  The advice given is to move toward one's phobia, confronting it step by step.  For someone suffering from the well-known arachnophobia, this could mean starting off by hanging a picture of a spider in their home, before moving on to getting up close to the real thing in a pet shop - or in the bath!

One so-called phobia that was conspicuous by its absence, was 'homophobia'.  Now there may well be such a phobia, but it is certainly not that which has been adopted by the media, and those with more of an axe to grind than they have a classical education!  If someone refers to me as a "homophobe", they are using the term to signify that I hate those of a homosexual inclination.

It is a false use on two counts.  First of all, my attitude towards homosexuals (include lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals) is not a phobia of any sort.  I do not have any irrational fear of any of them!  Secondly, it is patently untrue.  I abhor their sexual proclivity; I condemn their often militancy; I object to the way in which certain politicians seem to be prepared to bend over backwards to placate them.  But hate them?  Most certainly not.

One homosexual, well known to readers of the online (Glasgow) Herald newspaper suggested yesterday, in a comment, that Christian churches are not welcoming of the LGBT community.  He also suggested that, if they were, then they might have higher cash incomes!  I responded, as I tend to do (!):

"I suspect, Mr Otton, that you would find that you were made very welcome. However, your sexual proclivity would not be condoned, and you would be made aware that it is sinful in the sight of God. You would also, I trust, be assured that if you repent, and confess, and accept the salvation that was won for you at Calvary, then you will discover that "... if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (II Cor 5:17).

This is not "therapy". It is a work of God the Holy Spirit in the life of any individual who is willing to submit. Others have discovered the reality of it; you may do so as well. You remain on my own daily prayer list."

Phobias - all too real for many.  Homophobia - there's really nothing of which to be irrationally afraid!

By the way, for those who might be interested, here are some more of the real phobias mentioned in the Metro article:

aerophobia - the fear of flying; anthropophobia - the fear of people; belonephobia - the fear of needles; oneirophobia - the fear of dreaming; gephyrophobia - the fear of bridges; coulrophobia - the fear of clowns; emetophobia - the fear of vomiting; ophidiophobia - the fear of snakes; ailurophobia - the fear of cats; automatonophobia - the fear of puppets; dendrophobia - the fear of trees; hastenburaphobia - the fear of grass; agarophobia - the fear of crowded places.  So, what's your phobia?  Feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Information, Education, Entertainment.

Listening to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, this morning, I was informed that the latest Director-General of the organisation, Lord Tony Hall, was announcing that he wanted to see changes in the Corporation.  He wanted, I was assured, to return to the days of "information, education, and entertainment."

All very well and good.  However, I do wonder who will be keeping an eye on the custodians of British Broadcasting?  "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" as the Roman poet and satirist, Juvenal, asks in his Satires.  I regret that a lot of the 'information' that I receive from the BBC is not worth the time spent listening to it.  The questions that are asked by journalists often seem to be nothing other than time-fillers.  Politicians, in particular, appear to be unable to give a straight answer to a straight questionThey have their 'Party-piece' prepared, and that is what they are going to say - that, and nothing else!  This morning, Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was asked repeatedly why he thought that UK house prices were so far above the former standard of 3.5 times annual salaries.  Perhaps I dozed off (I didn't!) but I am still awaiting his answer.  However, I think it was three times that we were informed that the Coalition Government's "Help to Buy" scheme would assist those who were able to afford mortgage repayments, but who couldn't save the required deposit,and didn't have wealthy parents to help them out (unlike, it seem, most of those in senior political positions!).  So much for information!  I would also mention that one has to be careful when listening to news and current affairs, programmes.  sadly, even the BBC is rarely neutral in its stance!

So, what about education?  There are, I would claim, some good educational programmes broadcast by the BBC on both radio and television.  Regretfully, they take up a relatively small spot on the 24/7 broadcasting schedule, and many of them are broadcast at what may be referred to as "unsociable hours".  Of course I am aware that most homes have recording devices, and much is available on iPlayer.  However, I doubt that I am the only person in the country who prefers to watch/listen to initial broadcasts.  I would also claim that a fair percentage of "educational" programming is either Open University, or travelogue documentaries.

That leaves us with entertainment.  It's a somewhat subjective word.  One man's humour is another man's boredom.  I know that when I hear clips from the average 'stand-up comedian', I am less than impressed!  I tend not to find most of the 'soaps' and their ilk to be particularly entertaining.  "Reality shows" are, to me, anathema; while watching people cook, with hair (and, in some cases, beard!) flowing all over the place offends me greatly on a professional basis.  Perhaps it's an age thing, but it seems to me that some of the 'oldies' can still entertain more than the 'modern' offerings.

So what will be different under the new D-G?  I would respectfully suggest to his Lordship that he go back to the inscription that was placed above the entrance of the original Broadcasting House.  It read: "This temple of the arts and muses is dedicated to Almighty God by the first Governors in the year of our Lord 1931, John Reith being Director-General. And they pray that good seed sown may bring forth good harvest, and that all things foul or hostile to peace may be banished thence, and that the people inclining their ear to whatsoever things are lovely and honest, whatsoever things are of good report, may tread the path of virtue and wisdom." (emphasis added).

Now, that would make a real difference to both programming, and to its overall effect on the nation!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Freedom of Speech - it's for all!

The London School of Economics is not a place I've ever visited.  Indeed, I have always thought of it as being something of a hot-bed for radical socialism!   It came as a surprise, therefore, to read that, at a 'Freshers' Fair' on Thursday, members of its atheist society were forced to cover up satirical T-shirts depicting Jesus and Mohammed.  Security guards and Students' Union officers threatened two representatives of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student society with expulsion after several students complained about the shirts, which featured characters from the 'popular' “Jesus and Mo” web-comic.

Stephen Evans, of the National Secular Society, said: "There is something very disturbing about the curtailing of free speech on university campuses simply on the grounds of claimed offence. Being offended from time to time is the price you pay for living in an open and free society. If any religion is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation.".   On Friday, that champion of free speech (for himself!), Richard Dawkins, waded into the row, describing the SU reps as “sanctimonious little prigs”. He tweeted: “I'm "offended" by backwards baseball caps, chewing gum, niqabs, "basically" and "awesome". Quick, LSE Student Union, ban them all.”

It's interesting that it is often people like Richard Dawkins and the National Secular Society who are at the forefront of attempts to stifle Christian comment.  Many will recall that, in July, the progress of a pro-children campaign stalled after a truck carrying two of its mobile billboards was vandalised and the driver of the van displaying them was threatened, in central London. The "GayMarriageNo Thanks" group released billboards aimed at highlighting the fact that children do better with married birth parents, and arranged for the poster to be driven around London on an advertising truck over two days. However, after the driver received abuse and the truck carrying the billboards was vandalised, the advertising company, Adtrailers Ltd, informed Alan Craig, campaign director for GayMarriageNoThanks, that they were “unable to send out the advertising truck today following yesterday’s campaign day. Unfortunately the driver out yesterday received threats, the truck was vandalised and there have been several offensive complaints received.” A company representative also informed Mr Craig that people had made personal threats by email, and over the 'phone, which were “horrific”, “violent stuff” and “the worst I have known”.

I know that the incident took place some time ago - but I don't recall either Mr Dawkins, or the National Secular Society, championing the cause of free speech, or referring to the perpetrators of the vandalism, and the threats, as "sanctimonious little prigs”!

It's the same old story - those who shout the most loudly about tolerance and free speech for themselves, are often the first to deny either to those who happen not to agree with them!  It's a pity that they don't analyse the old adage: "What's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander"!



Saturday, 5 October 2013

Letter from Israel.

It is no secret that I am a supporter of Israel.  I may not agree with every decision made by the various governments of the modern State of Israel , but, then again, I don't agree with every decision made by successive British governments - yet still consider myself to be as patriotic as the next man (and more patriotic than some of those in government!).

I am happy, therefore, to share part of an e-mail that I received from a Jewish friend, in response to one that I had sent to him.  In the light of the increasing isolation of Israel, by the international community, it makes very interesting reading.  Remember, the following is not written by a politician; it is not written by a journalist; it is not even written by a rabbi.  It is written by a retired gentleman who is enjoying a winter holiday in the land of his ancestors.  It is written by a contemporary eye-witness.  It is written as thoughts to a friend.  I believe that all of that gives it a credibility that many of the media reports seem to lack!

"I have received your e-mail whilst I am enjoying the sunshine and blue sky of Netanya, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, only 8 or so miles from the West Bank.... Now here's a thought ...  From a high floor of a multi-storey building I can see Tulkarm  in the West Bank!!  Hence Israel's preoccupation with security and the future of the West Bank.  Who wants Hamas on its doorstep ?  Even Egypt fears them because of their radical extreme Sharia regime record of judicial murder and intimidation. In fact Egypt has blocked all clandestine tunnels it can find allowing "free" movement between Gaza and Egypt.....in effect Egypt has blockaded Gaza but you don't hear anything of that in the Western Media, yet the opponents of Israel ignore the fact that humanitarian supplies are still reaching Gaza from Israel on a daily basis and  truckloads are getting through from Israel but not from Egypt.  Nor do you hear any outcry that Spanish checkpoints are now delaying movement of traffic for as long as three hours across the border to Gibraltar .... and just for political, not for security, reasons, whereas when Israel does it for security reasons and in doing so still apprehends persons with malicious intent, yet there is a wild outcry against Israel from people who ideologically oppose Israel's very existence." (emphases added).

Friday, 4 October 2013

God's Under the Bed

I wonder if this will make others think, and be thankful, as much as it did me?

"My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that's what I heard him say one night. He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped outside his closed door to listen. "Are you there, God?" he said. "Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed." I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room.

Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humour. I realised for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in. He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labour. Apart from his size (he's 6'2"), there are few ways in which he is an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7 year old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas, and that aeroplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realises he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, returning to eat his favourite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the entire scheme are laundry days, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05 eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores. And Saturdays -- oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day my dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. "That one's goin' to Chi-car-go!" Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.

I don't think Kevin knows anything exists outside his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn't know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth or power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. He recognizes no differences in people, treating each person as an equal and a friend. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others.

His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere.

And he trusts God. Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God -- to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an "educated" person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions. It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap -- I am. My obligations, my fears, my pride, my circumstances -- they all become disabilities when I do not submit them to Christ.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of the Lord. And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realise that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won't be surprised at all."

Thursday, 3 October 2013

One rule for one ... ... !!!

I have just read an article from one of yesterday's newspapers, regarding the now-ended Conservative Part Conference:

"'Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, dead, dead, dead," scream the protesters as they file past the Midland hotel in Manchester. It is a cruel greeting for the Conservative party as it gathers in this most un-Tory city. "Filth, you're a waste of space, a waste of oxygen," they shout at the shiny young delegates as they pass. I suggest to a policeman that this constitutes intimidation, especially the bloke in the "Kill Tory scum" T-shirt who is filming people as they enter the secure zone. "We have to protect people's right to protest, but it's a fine line," he admits."

Now, I am fully aware that there are differences, sometimes significant differences, in the law in Scotland and that of the rest of the UK.  However, it is not only in Scotland that street preachers of the Gospel are being arrested for Breach of the Peace, so-called 'homophobia' (I wish that some people would work out the etymology of that over-used word), or whatever a local police officer decides is appropriate.

So the question must be asked.  If the police have a duty to protect people's right to protest, why does that not seem to apply when the person in question is 'protesting' about the normalisation of homosexuality, or the increasing sinfulness of our contemporary society?  The old proverb states that "What is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander".  I'm going to be writing to my own (Labour) MP, and to my MSPs, about this.  May I encourage others to do the same?

Being Jesus-like.

I'm no fan of Ed Milliband, Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition in the UK House of Commons.  I disagree with his, and his Party's, basic policy of 'spend your way out of debt' - which has always seemed to me to be the equivalent of 'eat your way out of obesity', or 'dig yourself out of a hole'!  However, whatever the actual truth of this week's Daily Mail article concerning the late Mr Milliband, Senior, I join even the Prime Minister (for whom I have little other than contempt) in applauding said Ed for his spirited defence of his father.  I know that, if anyone were to attempt to besmirch my own late father, I would do all in my power to defend his memory.  I would expect no less of any loving son (or daughter) and, in that single episode, Labour may not have gained a vote, but their leader has certainly risen a notch in my personal estimation.

Mr Cameron has, of course, been in the news this week as the Conservative Party Conference was held in Manchester - sometimes described, by those who live south of Watford, as "the North"!  Indeed, I recall, from many years ago, a Conference that was organised by The Evangelical Alliance.  As a minister, and member of the Alliance, I received an invitation! :-)  Unfortunately, the event was taking place in London, so I was not in a position to attend.   Some months later, I read that the Conference had been such a success, and demand had been so great, that it was going to be repeated "in the North".  Before I read any further, I started asking myself where it might be - Glasgow; Edinburgh; Perth; Dundee; perhaps even Aberdeen, or Inverness?   You've guessed - Manchester!   I did write a strongly-worded letter to the EA, and that was that ... ... ... ... until some years later when I was invited to be a speaker at the annual Spring Harvest event that was held, for a few years, in Ayr.  At a pre-event meeting, speakers were all asked to introduce themselves.  When it as my turn, I did so.  Immediately, one of those from the front said "Ah, you're Brian Ross.  You know we still think about you, and your letter, every time we plan anything in Manchester!"   'Nuff said! 

Anyway, back to Mr Cameron.   In a radio interview, he was asked if he knew the cost of a budget-priced sliced loaf.  He hadn't a clue!   He went on to say that the reason he didn't know is because he has a bread-making machine, for the use of which, he even purchases a premium-priced flour.  One Opposition MP is quoted as saying, "He is so out of touch, he is almost a parody of himself."   It's difficult to argue with that!  Apparently, Mr Cameron's good (Eton) friend, the Lord Mayor of London, commented that he knew the price of a good champagne!   "With friends like that ... ... !!!

This week, I see a lot more of Jesus in the Jewish Labour leader, than I do in the "I'm a Christian, just not a very active one" Prime Minister.  Jesus was concerned for the honour of His Father.  As we were reminded, in Wishaw Baptist Church, on Sunday, that model prayer that He provided for His disciples begins with the words "Hallowed (holy; distinctive; separate) be Your Name".   He also knew what it was like to be one of us.  He took upon Himself human flesh becoming like us in every respect, "yet without sinning" (Heb.4:15).

He is a Leader Who is worth following, whatever the cost.  He gave His all for you, and for me.  What are we prepared to give for Him?