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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Sex!

Given my contention of a few posts ago, that the names/words in the 'label list' seem to determine the number of visitors to the blog, and readers of individual posts, it will be interesting to note if there is a significant increase on this occasion!

Anyone who has accessed the blog on the strength of the heading to this post, expecting some salacious snippets of sexual shenanigans, is going to be very disappointed!  However, I hope that you will read on, and even check out some of the previous posts!

Sex, as I was growing up, was a taboo topic.  'Nice' people didn't discuss it; children knew nothing about it.  How things have changed!   On this morning's Today programme, on BBC Radio 4, was the disturbing news that, according to a report by the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England (although it is reckoned that the situation is similar throughout the U.K.), children as young as 12 are carrying out sexual violence against each other!

According to the report, gang rape is not uncommon; almost 40% of the young people who responded to the survey said they knew of cases of youngsters exchanging sex for drugs, alcohol or to pay off a debt; and more than 30% gave examples of girls being used as bait to attract and “set up” male members from rival gangs. 

A separate survey, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, shows that women have caught up with men in the 'sexual revolution' - and have even overtaken them in the case of same-sex relationships - but they are still the ones who pay the biggest price in terms of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.   Four times as many women now report same-sex experiences with other women compared to 20 years ago. They are also starting to have sex earlier in the lives and are having more sexual partners over their lifetime than a generation ago.  However, 10% claim to have been forced to have sex against their will - which I would have classed as 'rape'!

Sex was designed by Almighty God.  Within the confines of marriage, as He ordained it (i.e. between one man and one woman) it is a good activity, free from guilt or shame.  It is the means of procreating the human race, and the family is still the bedrock of society - even although, in certain parts of the world, we seem to be determined to undermine it!

It was, it could be argued, the 'sexual revolution' of the '60s that brought sex 'into the open'.  Since then, we have witnessed a persistent pushing out of the boundaries.  Homosexuality, once considered to be a crime, was decriminalised, then accepted, and is now, by some, viewed as being the equivalent of heterosexuality!

The World-Wide-Web (Internet) has been, and is, a vehicle for much that is good.  Just last evening, I was commenting to a friend that I find it invaluable for research for the writing of books; the preparation of sermons (no scratching my head for hours trying to remember an appropriate illustration/quotation!); the expansion of my general knowledge.  However, it is also the disseminator of pornographic images such as are blamed in the report on the sexual activity of children.  It is little wonder that children act as they do when such images of violent sexual activity is available to be viewed in their own bedrooms.  It is there, it is claimed, that even young boys are 'learning' that females are there to be used for the boy's own sexual gratification. Parents, too, have abrogated much of the responsibility for the rearing of their children to 'professionals' - who are not with them in the home.

The basic problem, then, is in the mind.  When I started taking an interest in computing, I was taught the acronym GIGO - Garbage in; Garbage out.  If I feed my computer rubbish, that is all that it will regurgitate.  The same is true of that most specialised, and powerful, 'computer' - the human mind.  If I constantly fill my mind with garbage, then garbage is what will result in my words, and in my behaviour.  That is the great wisdom of the words of Paul: "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 12:2; emphasis added).

Is there an answer?  Of course there is - although, sadly, those who are the 'trend-setters' and the 'elite' of our society are unlikely to espouse it.  Paul, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, also wrote: "...  whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil. 4:8).

If more of us were to respond, positively, to such a challenge, what a difference it would make to our personal lives; to the lives of our families; and to the very society in which we live.



Sunday, 24 November 2013

It's a matter of pre-eminence!

A.N.Onymous may well be one of the most prolific writers of all time.  The name (in its more familiar form of, simply, "Anonymous"!) crops up all over the place.

I recently came across this poem, penned by the aforementioned author:

Not merely in the words you say;
not only in the deeds confessed;
but in the most unconscious way
is Christ expressed.

Is it, perhaps, that saintly smile?
Maybe the light upon your brow?
Oh no!  I felt His presence when
you laughed, just now.

For me, it's not the truth you teach - 
to you, so clear; to me, so dim -
but, when you're near, you always bring
a sense of Him.

So, from your life, He beckons me;
and, from your heart, His love is shed.
'Til I lose sight of you, and see
the Christ instead.

For those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, those are challenging words - well, certainly to this particular disciple!  How often do others, who do not claim to have a personal relationship with Him, sense His presence when I am around?  Or is it the case that they see no more of Him in me than they do in anyone else?

John the Baptiser expressed what should be the desire of every believer, when he said, concerning the Saviour: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30).  The old preachers would often say -that there are three 'classes' of Christian: third-class, in whom Christ is present; second-class, in whom Christ is prominent; and first-class, in whom Christ is pre-eminent!

May all of us who own His name seek to be 'first-class' disciples - not that we might be more highly thought of, but that all of the glory might go to Him.


Friday, 22 November 2013

What's in a name?

"A rose, by any other name, smells just as sweet", the English Bard has his character Juliet argue, in Romeo and Juliet (Act II; Scene I).  The argument is that the names of things don't matter, only what they "are"!

However, although there is an element of truth in the statement - an 'apple' is the same as a 'pomme', or a 'manzana', or a 'μήλο' (melo) - it is not completely true.  Some names have a meaning that makes them of greater importance than others.

One such word, I would still argue, is the word 'marriage'.  Regardless of the language into which it is translated, it is still the union of a man and a woman, for life, and to the exclusion of all others.  That is so, regardless of the voting decisions of any group of politicians!

Wednesday evening's vote in the Scottish Parliament had more to do with the impassioned speeches of some of the members in the Chamber, than it had to do with reason and common-sense!  Of course, as the last Sunday School teacher that I ever had (by 15 I was considered too old, and had to leave!) often said, "The problem with common sense is that it isn't very common"!

I was unable to listen to all of the debate.  However, it struck me that the strongest pleas came from those who, like the Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, are openly homosexual/lesbian/bisexual.  I didn't pick up on anyone confessing to be transsexual.   It also struck me that those speeches which I heard, from the aforementioned groups were very personal - as Ms Davidson stated in her opening remarks, "... this could be the most personal speech that I will ever make in the Chamber."

Therein, I would contend, lies the problem!  All of those speakers whom I heard supporting the Bill appeared to be doing so from the perspective of either personal choice (to do with their own sexuality), or on the basis of 'equality'.

I fail, utterly, to see why the very fabric of our society should be altered merely to suit the personal lifestyles of certain politicians - politicians who are elected (although, in the List system used by the Scottish Parliament, the majority are not even directly elected, but are put in place by their respective Parties!) to represent the public, not to use their positions of temporal power to achieve their personal ends!

The others, it seems to me, have yet to understand the difference between 'equality' and 'equivalence'!  Yet there is, in fact, a world of difference between the two terms.  To put it simply, 'equality' means being treated the same; 'equivalence' means being the same.

The Civil Partnership legislation gave, and gives, same-gender couples all of the legal rights of heterosexual married couples.  That is equality.   Indeed, they have far greater rights, in law than, for example, two elderly same-gender siblings, or a mother and (full-time carer) daughter, sharing the same family home - but not the same bed!  That same Civil Partnership, we were assured at the time (and that was less than ten years ago!), would not lead to any further demands from the homosexual (etc) community.  Of course, it was politicians who gave the assurance and, as the old joke (with too much truth in it to be funny) asks: "How do you know when a politician is lying?  His lips are moving"!

It is more than interesting that these "representatives" totally ignored the expressed view of almost fifty-five thousand petitioners (almost 670,000 for the whole of the UK - but David Cameron ignored them and realised, too late, that he had made a major mistake!) who were, and are, opposed to the proposal.  They realise that neither two men, nor two women, is the 'equivalent' of one man and one woman - any more than two oranges, or two bananas, is the equivalent of an apple and a kiwi fruit!

What is also interesting is that it is not, as the media have persistently portrayed, only 'religious' people who are opposed to this redefinition of marriage.  Prominent homosexuals have voiced their opposition - including Rupert Everett (actor), and David Starkey (academic); or their indifference - Alan Bennett (playwright) has stated that he isn't bothered, and doesn't even know anyone who cared, one way or another!   Indeed, even the (largely tax-funded) homosexual rights organisation, Stonewall, didn't start pushing for the redefinition of marriage until after Civil Partnerships had been introduced!
Paddy Manning, a homosexual commentator, writing in the Irish Daily Mirror, said that with same-gender marriage, the state remakes the institution as “an anything-goes irrelevant partnership agreement between adults”.  He further commented that same-gender  marriage “asks us to ignore reality and children’s rights”, and stated that “I’m a gay man, I’m not a victim and I reject this notion that traditional marriage should be drastically altered for some fantasy.   He said that Civil Partnerships are sufficient. Of course, he was writing within the context of the Republic of Ireland having announced that, in 2015, it is giving all of its citizens the opportunity to vote in a referendum regarding the redefinition of marriage to include two persons of the same gender.  Jim Eadie (SNP) provided the debate with the views of three (3) of his constituents (none of whom actually elected him!) out of the hundreds that he claimed he had received urging him to support the Bill.  It would be of great interest to know how many requests he received urging him to oppose it!  I wondered, too, if those who support the Bill are so convinced that they have the electorate on their side, why we were constantly refused the very referendum that the Republic of Ireland is being given!
Of course, the Bill has two further stages to go though and so, although the signs don't look good, I am one who will continue to campaign, and pray, that it will be defeated.  What if it passes all stages, and is enacted?  All that I can say to that is that this is not human beings seeking to change that which was introduced by human beings - such as the Butter and Margarine Act, 1907!  This is human beings flying in the face of the Creator, and Sustainer, of all that exists, and Who ordained, from the beginning, that it should be a man and a woman who come together for their mutual comfort (strengthening);  for the procreation of children (a definite 'no-no' for same -gender partners!); and for the good of society.  Those who are supporting this measure, or who have supported it in the Westminster Parliament, will ultimately answer to Him - and "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb 10:31).

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I have just applied for a job.  I have been informed that the salary is £60,000 per year (plus expenses).  I have decided that that is not a good enough package.  So, what do I do?  Being a person of reasonable intelligence, I cancel my application, and look for a job that will pay me what I consider myself to be worth!

Unless, of course, I am an Honourable Member of the Westminster Parliament!  Yesterday, I listened to the news report concerning the former Labour MP, and Minister for Europe in the B.Liar government, Mr Denis McShane, who has offered a 'Guilty' plea to the charge of having fraudulently claimed almost £13,000 in 'expenses'.  Regrettably, I didn't catch the name of the person who spoke during the report, and who seemed to be suggesting that if MPs were paid a "reasonable" salary, then there wouldn't be the temptation to fiddle their expenses!

My first thought was that £60,000 is a more than reasonable salary for the majority of the British population.  I certainly never earned that amount, or even its contemporary equivalent, at any time during my working life!  And, of course, MPs know the salary level, and other conditions, when they offer themselves for election.  The old adage has it: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!"  We might amend it slightly and inform those MPs who feel themselves to be so hard done by that "If you can't stand the heat, don't bother entering the kitchen in the first place"!

My second thought was that "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (I Cor. 10:13).  The thing to do with temptation is to resist it!  My personal Bible reading, today, was from Luke 4 - his account of the temptations of the Lord Jesus.  Jesus resisted temptations that we will never face.  None of the rest  of us is sinless - but that doesn't mean that we have to knuckle under when the enemy of souls shouts.

Perhaps if MPs were to seek the help of God the Holy Spirit in resisting any temptation to defraud their employers (that's the taxpayers, by the way!), they might discover that He would, indeed, strengthen them to do so.  Of course, if they were to seek His guidance in all matters, the UK would be a much better governed country than it presently is!

Friday, 15 November 2013

"A horse, a horse, my dinner is a horse"

Apologies to the English Bard and, if you are a vegetarian, you might wish to read something else!

I am, of course, making reference to the news that the Princess Royal has dared to even suggest that there may be nothing wrong with the human consumption of horse-meat!  I can only agree.  It was a few years ago, while my wife and I were on holiday in France, that we noticed that particular commodity on special offer at the local supermarket.  We knew that horse-meat was considered to be a delicacy by the Belgians, but had not realised that it is also eaten by the French.  It is somewhat expensive but, with the special offer, we decided to 'give it a go'.

It was delicious!  So much so, that we are forever looking out for a similar special offer, as we would be delighted to have it again.  Lean, tender, and full of flavour, I would recommend it to any human carnivore.

There is, of course, an element of controversy with regard to the human consumption of animal meat.  In Gen.9:3, we read these words of God to Noah, after the Flood: "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and, as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."   That seems clear enough.  The prohibition of certain animals (and fish, and fowl) came later and may be seen as very wise hygiene regulations as all of the creatures that were declared to be terefah (forbidden) are 'dirty eaters' that would, particularly in a nomadic, desert, culture, be more likely to carry bacteria that would be harmful to the human body.  However, there are those, even from within the Christian culture, who maintain that the next verse effectively forbids the eating of animal flesh.  It reads: "Only you shall not eat flesh with its blood."  It is true that meat that is totally cleared of blood would be somewhat insipid, and I have even read that this verse shows that the preceding verse actually refers to animals like lizards, and that Noah was being given permission to eat reptilian eggs!  This interpretation is based on the Hebrew word remes which does refer to reptiles - but which also refers to other creatures as well!   Lesson - don't use so-called 'proof texts'!

Jesus taught that it was permissible to eat all foods.  In Mark 7:19, the evangelist records His rebuke of certain Pharisees, and comments "Thus He declared all foods clean" (i.e. kosher = permitted).  Dr Luke tells us of a vision given to Peter, in which he was convinced that "What God has cleansed, you must not call common" (Acts 10:15).  Now this vision was not primarily a lesson on the acceptability of animal meat for food, but was preparing Peter for his visit to the Gentile centurion, Cornelius.  However, the lesson is implied that, under the New Covenant, all meat is available to us to eat.

So, when I have the opportunity to do so, I will enjoy some horse steak - and will give thanks to the One Who provides for all of my needs, and so much more besides!


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Charity should begin ... ... where it is most needed!

So, "Hurrah!" for the UK.  Through its government, and announced by its Prime Minister, it is immediately donating no less than £6million (some reports speak of £10million) to provide much-needed relief for the hurricane-stricken Philippines.  It certainly sounds impressive to those of us who are unlikely to earn even £1million in a full lifetime.  And the need is certainly obvious.  The pictures that we have seen on our television screens, and in our newspapers, are of total devastation. 

However, before we pat ourselves (or the government) on the back too much, let us remember another donation in the form of foreign aid.   India is receiving a £1.6billion package of aid, over a period of eight years (an average of £200million each year!), and that in spite of the fact that it recently spent at least £52million (accurate figures are difficult to come by!) on a space exploration programme to Mars!  At the same time, many of its citizens (some would claim that it is a clear majority!) live in abject poverty, not a great deal, if at all, better than the current living conditions of those survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

Obviously, I am not privy to the goings-on of national governments, but it seems to me to be something of a travesty that such a large sum should be given by the British taxpayer to a country in which the elite, reportedly, drive Rolls Royce Phantoms (the most expensive car in the Rolls Royce 'stable'), Ferraris, Aston Martins, and even the Bugatti Veyron, with an eye-watering price tag of almost £1.5million; while a relatively paltry £6million is provided for the saving of human lives.

Perhaps it is, indeed, time for the whole British foreign aid programme to be looked at more carefully, to ensure that any such aid goes to those who truly need it - and not to fund the lavish lifestyles of the political elite, of despotic rulers, and of unnecessary space programmes!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

In Remembrance

Today has been Remembrance Sunday, and tomorrow is Armistice Day.  It's the time of the year when we remember those who died in the service of their country - not only in the two World Wars, but in many conflicts since.  We remember those who face death on a daily basis, in lands far from their homes. We remember those for whom this is a very poignant time of the year, as they remember loved ones who have died in the theatre of war. 

I find myself thinking, on this day, of those lives that were lost.  In the two World Wars alone, more than 12 million died while on active service.  And I don’t know how many civilians died; how many were left permanently disabled; how many were badly wounded – physically, psychologically, and emotionally.  And, of course, it doesn’t include those who died in all of the other conflicts – from Korea to Iraq and, currently, Afghanistan.  They paid – willingly, or unwillingly – the highest price, that their nation might be protected from its enemies. 

But I also reflect on the lesson that ought to have been learned.  On June 28th, 1919, the League of Nations was established to ensure that the carnage of 1914-18 would never be repeated.  Twenty-six years later, on June 26th, 1945, just a few weeks after the end of the war in Europe – a war which, by the establishment of the League of Nations, ought never to have taken place, the Charter of the United Nations was signed by the representatives of 50 nations.  The lesson had now been learned?  One doesn’t have to be a student of history to know that the evidence of the past 68 years says, “No!”
 
I can recall the Suez crisis of the mid-fifties; the terrors of the EOKA campaign in Cyprus; the atrocities of Mau-Mau tribesmen in Kenya; Vietnam; Biafra, N.Ireland; the Falklands; Iraq; and, still, Afghanistan. 9/11; 7/7; car bombs; suicide bombers.  A seemingly endless list.  One conflict after another, as man continues to demonstrate his inhumanity to man.  And still, we haven’t learned that fighting brings no lasting solution.  A lesson that ought to have been learned but that, demonstrably, has not been.

But for many of us, not even that is the whole story!  Because as I reflect on the lives that were lost, and the lesson that ought to have been learned, I cannot help but consider also the Lord Who has loved.  In former years, and within the memory of many of us, one of the strongholds of the Christian faith was this land that we love, and in which many who visit this blog dwell.  Indeed, historically, Scotland was known as “The Land of the Book” – and that Book was the Bible.  And there are those who would claim that, as a nation, we have known a special measure of the gracious protection of Almighty God.

But what has been His return?  Has His undeserved love for us led us to show love and gratitude to Him?  Sadly, all of the available evidence would suggest not.  It would appear that this nation, that once honoured and revered the very Name of God; that once worshipped Him both in church building and in the home; that sought His guidance; that lived in the light of His truth; has now, to a very large extent, turned its back on Him.  And is it possible that this departure from His statutes has contributed to the state of the nation as we see it today?

And at a personal level – because a nation is made up of individuals – there are many who, in times of stress, and crisis, and difficulty, have called upon His name.  And they have made promises – “Get me out of this situation, God, and I’ll ... ...” And, often to their own amazement, He has responded positively.  But when the situation is resolved; when the crisis is over; when the difficulty has been overcome – the promise, and the Lord to Whom the promise was made, are forgotten: at least until the next emergency!

Remembrance Sunday.  What do we remember?  May I suggest those three thoughts for your consideration and reflection?  That we remember the lives that were lost, and be grateful for those who died that we might enjoy the measure of freedom that we do.  That we remember the lesson that ought to have been learned, and seek to learn ourselves from past experience.  That we remember the Lord Who has loved, and respond to His love with the love and submission of our own hearts.  And to Him be all the glory, and honour, for ever.


Saturday, 9 November 2013

To die, or not to die?

To die, or not to die?  That's a big question.  For most of us, the answer is that we wish to live for as long as possible.  However, it would appear that some of the world's legislators think differently!

At the moment, in the UK, two pro-euthanasia Bills are making their way through two different legislative bodies.  In the House of Lords, Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords earlier this year, although it is yet to be scheduled for its second reading.  In the Scottish Parliament, Margo MacDonald, MSP, is making yet another attempt to legalise euthanasia by a different name, as she presents her second End of Life Assistance Bill.

When such legislation is being considered, the proponents place a lot of weight on the circumstances of a few high-profile cases that are judged to be capable of producing great sympathy for the individuals concerned.  What is not explained, by the supporters, are the additional ramifications - or, perhaps, they have not sufficiently thought the matter through!

It was in 2002 that both The Netherlands and Belgium legalised the taking of another person's life, at that person's request and with their permission (voluntary euthanasia), provided that the person is legally competent and "... in a medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident". (from the Belgian legislation).  Euthanasia is also allowed in certain of the United States of America, in Canada's Quebec Province, in Albania, and in Switzerland while, in some countries, it is not legal - but a 'blind eye' is turned to it.  Assisted suicide is slightly different, but the end result is the same!

Those who oppose the legalising of euthanasia/assisted suicide may cite perfectly valid religious reasons for their position.  However, there are many who also oppose it on the basis that it could be the thin end of a wedge.  Recent news would suggest that they are correct to have such fears!

It would appear that it is not uncommon for the mentally ill to be euthanised (involuntary euthanasia).  This is already happening in both The Netherlands and Belgium with, in the case of the latter, organs being harvested from the victims. In Switzerland, the Supreme Court declared it to be a constitutional right for the mentally ill to be offered assisted suicide; while Quebec's new euthanasia legislation apparently allows the (involuntary?!) euthanasia.

Those of an earlier generation may well be hearing alarm bells ringing.  This deliberate killing of the mentally ill - and those considered not to be of any 'use' - was a policy of Hitler's Nazi administration. Aktion T4 was the name used after World War II for the 'euthanasia programme' during which physicians murdered thousands of people who were "judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination". The programme officially ran from September 1939 to August 1941, but continued, unofficially, until the end of the Nazi regime in 1945.

Could such a situation re-occur in the 21st century?  Sadly, it is not impossible.   Earlier this year, witnesses appeared in the upper house of the Belgian parliament to discuss a proposal allowing euthanasia for children.  Already, under the current law, there is an exception to allow children, of at least fifteen years of age, to be euthanised, if they are “legally emancipated” from their parents.  However, Socialist Party Senator Philippe Mahoux, one of the architects of the 2002 law, is now seeking to broaden the law to include all children of any age with a serious and incurable disease and a sound mind.

With all of the, understandable, emphasis on marriage over the past year, the euthanasia Bills have received little publicity.  However, it is at our peril that we ignore the attempts, by some, to 'play God'.  It was interesting that, when Prof Stephen Hawking - himself, previously, an opponent of euthanasia - recently declared a change of mind, British paralympic star Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson criticised him, saying that weakening the law would reinforce prejudices against disabled people.

To die, or not to die?  It's much too important a question for the answer to be left to mere mortals!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Life a guddle?

The etymology of the word 'guddle' is unknown to me.  However, I am all too aware of its meaning!  Frequently, I find myself in a guddle and, as my wife would readily confirm, my study is in a state of perpetual guddle.

The word means 'confusion', 'mess', 'chaotic'.  However, in my opinion, 'guddle' is a much more expressive word that nay of those (or any other synonym!).

Of course, the real guddle for many is life itself.  They find themselves in a state of permanent confusion - unsure of what they're doing; uncertain of where they're going; sometimes unclear as to what they've really achieved in life.  Some, sadly, turn to drugs (legal or illegal) in a vain attempt to get out of the mess they're in.  Others get caught up in gambling.  Some even take their own lives.

The saddest thing of all is that there is an answer.  It's a completely new start; a clean slate; a fresh beginning.  It's available to all who truly want it.   It costs nothing to receive, because the price has already been paid.  However, when one takes that step, and begins that new life, the cost is everything!

I refer, of course, to the salvation that is available to all of those who come to Father God, confessing their sins and their sinfulness, claiming the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as the payment for those very sins, and yielding themselves to His Kingship in their lives.  It's seldom an easy life, but it's one in which He takes the guddle, and exchanges it for His peace and Presence. 

That's an offer that is well worth considering!