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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Another year ends!

As I have no idea what I am going to put into this post, I have no idea as to exactly when it will be posted!  However, as I start to type, it is only four hours until "the bells" - the passing of midnight, and the ushering in of a new year.

Perhaps the word on which I might focus is the word 'new'.  I remember, as a child at Primary School, having a 'copy book'.  The idea was that I learned to write correctly by literally copying, on the blank line underneath, the letters that were printed on one line of the book.  Of course, those were also the days of inkwells and pens with nibs!  Nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I would sometimes dip my pen too far into the inkwell and, as a result, have too much ink on the nib.  Then, when I started to write, a big blob of ink would flow from the nib on to the page, leaving a big blot!  I had "blotted my copybook" (and now you know the origin of that particular saying!).  That blot was there to stay.  There was no way in which I was able to get rid of it.  How I longed for a new copybook that would allow me to have a fresh start, away from my earlier mistakes.

Life is a bit like that!  Each of us is continually "blotting our copybook"!  It's generic.  We have inherited it from our first parents, Adam and Eve who, in the Garden of Eden, allowed sin to enter the perfect world that Almighty God had created.   This is why we are born as sinners.  It is our human nature.  We may have to teach our children an awful lot as they grow - but I've yet to even hear of any parent having to teach a child to say 'No'; to be selfish; to 'throw a tantrum'.  You will be able to add to that list without my assistance!

Every day, I 'blot my copybook' - and so do you!  How may I be so certain?  Simply because I know people, and the Bible confirms what I have discovered experientially.  "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." claims the writer of Ecclesiastes (Eccl. 7:20); while Paul writes "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me." (Rom 7:19-20) and, again, "... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Rom 3:23)

What I need is a new copybook; a fresh start; a new life.  And that is what the Lord Jesus offers, and promises, to all who come to Him in repentance and faith, and submit their lives to Him as their Saviour and Lord.  Those who do "... walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:4).

As you approach 2014, may I encourage you to seek the One Who, alone, can provide you with a new copybook for life - and discover that, all along, it is He Who has been seeking you!

A Happy New Year to one and all.  :-)






Saturday, 28 December 2013

New Year Resolutions

With only a couple of days left before the end of this year, I wonder how many have been thinking about their New Year Resolutions?  It's an old tradition - the practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning, an opportunity to make a determined effort to be a 'better' person.  In reality, there is no difference between December 31st and January 1st. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31st.

The Bible speaks neither for nor against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I have only made one that I have managed to keep for more than a few months.  That was when I resolved never to make any more!  However, if a disciple of Jesus does determine to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make? 

Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more; to read the Bible every day; and to attend worship services more regularly. No-one could deny that these are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honour God and grow spiritually, or is it just because you have heard that it is a good thing to do? Even in a more physical situation, why do you want, for example, to lose weight? Is it to honour God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honour yourself?

So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions:

(1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make;
(2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfil the goals God gives you;
(3) rely on God’s strength to help you;
(4) find an 'accountability partner' who will help you and encourage you;
(5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory.

Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to YHWH; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Now that's a good resolution to make - at any time of the year!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

Here I am, in between the early evening Christmas Eve worship service in Wishaw Baptist Church, and the Watchnight Service in Motherwell's Dalziel St Andrew's Church. It was good to see some local visitors at WBC - and even one young girl from Perth (that's the one in western Australia!).  One can't travel much further than that for a Christmas Eve Service!

So what is Christmas all about?  It's a question that has been asked, and answered many times - and that's just by me! For so many, Christmas means little, if anything, other than holidays; fun and festivities; an excuse – as if one were actually needed – for a good booze-up.  For others, it’s a time for the children, for the family, for “..peace on earth, goodwill towards men..” – at least for a couple of days! A poem, written by an old friend of mine, caused me to ask the question – “What does Christmas mean to the Christ, Himself?  What does Jesus think of this season, when we celebrate His birth into the world as a human child?  In other words, “What’s it really all about?”
Perhaps we need to see the whole story!  It starts with the crib in which the Babe was laid. This, of course, is the easy part of the story.  It’s the sweet, sentimental part that surely all, except the Dickensian Scrooges, love. 
Almost everyone has a soft spot for a baby.  And if that baby is born, in seemingly romantic surroundings; heralded by supernatural events; surrounded by gentle animals, by lowly shepherds, by noble kings; with the snow lying softly all around – well, even without Santa Claus and his flying reindeer, who could resist an ‘Oooh!’, or an ‘Aaah!’?
But is that really what it was like in that stable in Bethlehem, some 2,000 years ago?  The answer, of course, is 'No!'  It was not the clean, bright, airy, freshly-strawed, building depicted in so many Nativity scenes, and Christmas cards.  Rather, it would have been a dirty, dark, damp, smelly area, probably underneath the inn itself and, doubtless, in need of a good clean-out.  Not as attractive a picture as the one the sales people like to portray!  More like the pictures we see on our television screens, of refugees, and other types of victim: some of them barely clinging to life: in U.N. tents, or maybe just a ramshackle structure of corrugated iron and cardboard: rain, and mud, and snow, and ice: a lack of fresh, clean water; of nourishing food; of even the most basic sanitary arrangements. No!, not a pretty picture.  But is it not much more symbolic of our sin-ridden world; our sin-stained selves?  And doesn’t the recorded fact that “..there was no room in the inn.” symbolise humanity’s rejection of the very Incarnation of Almighty God?  Now there’s a Christmas thought!
But every good story has a middle as well as a beginning.  And the middle of this story concerns the cross to which the Saviour was nailed.  The Babe in His crib grew, as children do and, in time, He became an itinerant Preacher, preaching a message of repentance for, He said, “The Kingdom of God is among you.”  He preached God’s Word, without fear of man and, as had always happened before – and has always happened since – He became very unpopular with those in authority, the religious leaders of the time.  And so “... they watched Him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might take hold of what He said, so as to deliver Him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.”  And later, we read that “…the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death.”  And, in that way that authority has, they achieved their goal.  After a mockery of a trial; a total travesty of normal justice; we read that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, “…delivered (Jesus) up to their will.”  “And when they came to the place which is called ‘The Skull’, there they crucified Him.”
However, the Cross of Calvary was no cheap Cross.  God, the Son, gave up His throne in glory to come and live in this world of sin, and to give His life “a ransom for many”.  There was nothing cheap about what He did for you, and for me.  And when He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him,it is not to an easy way – but to one that is filled with the light of His Presence, and with opportunities to serve Him.
Yes, the Babe of Bethlehem became the Christ of Calvary.  And if we come only to Bethlehem; if we stop at the manger; we see only the beginning of the story.  Oh, I know that many find it uncomfortable to lift their eyes from the crib, to the Cross.  But we must do so, if we’re going to even begin to see the whole story.  At Bethlehem, we see Love’s Gift; at Calvary, we see Love’s Sacrifice.
However, after the beginning, and the middle, a story has an ending.  And this, the greatest story ever told, is no exception.  So, we discover that there's a crown with which the King will come. 
The Second Coming of the Christ still doesn’t receive a fraction of the attention which is given to the celebrations of His first coming.  And this is understandable.   For the Scriptures make clear that, while at His first coming, Jesus appeared as a helpless Babe, in a fodder-trough, in a byre; at His Second Coming, He will appear in all of His glory, and majesty, accompanied by a mighty shout, the sound of a trumpet, a host of angels.
Two thousand years ago, He came to save; next time, He will come to judge.  And so, people tend to push this aspect of the story to the side.  A little Baby they feel they can handle; but the crowned King of Glory?! – well, now, that’s a different matter altogether!  And man’s ostrich-like syndrome is displayed, as he hides from the fact, in the vain hope that it will go away!
We do ourselves, let alone Jesus, no service at all if we fail to look beyond the coming, to the coming again, and remember that He will return, even as has been promised, to judge, and to rule.  
This is a longer-than-usual post, but I must add the poem that sparked the thoughts that I have shared:
"I see, again, the cradle, Lord, in a far-off stable bare;
I hear, once more, the cattle low as they gather round You there.
They could not have known the noble birth they witnessed in that stall;
How your short life upon this earth was forfeit for us all.
The shepherds came; the wise men, too, in answer to a star.
They saw the King of kings asleep, and spread the news afar.
But now, the Cross looms dark and tall o’er all we do and say,
For Your cruel death, nailed to that wood, grips all the world today.
Its weight, its pain, and all its power – You took upon Your Name; 
The blood that flowed, so long ago, has paid the price of shame.
Your Cross is empty now, I know, for You rose up from the tomb;
A Comforter You promised us, until again You come.
Your love – ’twas shown at Christmas-time, so many years ago,
When You came to earth, a little Child, to set each heart aglow.
It shines in every corner like the star in Bethlehem’s day,
To bring Hope and Faith, and true concern by all, for all, for aye.
The agony of the cross remains – but still its victories stay;
And, because of these, we daily strive to follow in Your way.
Revive in us, today, O Lord, the wonders of Your birth;
Let Your light shine in all, throughout the joyful, happy, mirth.
Help us to bear our cross with strength, assisting where we can
To ease the load, along the road, for all our fellowman.
Be with us now, in that same love so long ago come down.
Teach us to know the wonders of Your Crib, Your Cross, Your Crown."                                             (Alex Thomson, Retired Police Insp.)

May each person who reads this post have a wonderful Christmas, centred on the Christ Who is the reason for the season, and a new year filled with His presence in your life.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Emmanuel

Only four more sleeps, as we used to say to twin boys whom we fostered for about four years.  Four more sleeps, and when we awake, it will be Christmas Day!  On Sunday, in Wishaw Baptist Church, we were reminded of those words from Matthew's account of the Gospel - words spoken to Joseph in a dream, as he considered quietly breaking his betrothal with Mary, who was now pregnant: "... an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a Son, and you shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.'  All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel' (which means, God with us)." (Matt 1:20-24).  We looked, specifically, at the Name "Emmanuel", and its given meaning of "God with us".

The clip below shares some words from the great Baptist preacher of an earlier era, Charles Haddon Spurgeon - but in a manner which Spurgeon would not even have imagined!



Friday, 20 December 2013

Ode to Joy

Perhaps it's the approach of Christmas - perhaps not.  However, Flash Mobs appear to be increasingly inventive in their approach.  This is another that is well worth watching.


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Marriage Update.

"God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform;"

So wrote the 18th century English poet and hymn-writer, William Cowper, and it is certainly less than wise to endeavour to 'second-guess' the Almighty!  However, the news this evening is that the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish Parliament met this morning to consider the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill at Stage 2 (Day 1) where amendments 1-47 were debated.

Those amendments included:
  • A statement saying that belief in traditional marriage is worthy of respect in a democratic society;
  • A concept of reasonable accommodation to ensure that, for example, public sector employees are not victimised for belief in traditional marriage;
  • Protecting the charitable status of organisations supporting traditional marriage;
  • Ensuring that no-one would be compelled to be involved in same-sex weddings;
  • Preventing foster carer or adoption applicants being rejected for believing in traditional marriage.
Amendments in each of these five areas were voted against by 4 to 3 on the Committee.

My 'However' is simply this.  During the Stage 1 debate, a number of MSPs declared that they voted in favour of the Bill on the understanding that such amendments would be included.  I am not au fait with the full Holyrood procedure, so it may be that these amendments will also be voted on by the full parliament at Stage 3.  However, if such an opportunity is not given, could it be that their absence will encourage a majority of MSPs to vote against it?!

In military strategy, it is a well-known maxim that losing a battle does not necessarily mean losing a war.  May it be that, in the providence of God, these 'defeats' at Stage 2 will lead to victory at Stage 3?  Let those of us who value marriage as God ordained it, remain faithful in prayer, that it may yet be retained, here in Scotland, as between a man and a woman - and nothing else! 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Down-sizing - or ditching?!

Okay, so we are in the flat.  We have only a few boxes left to unpack - well, only a few that are really urgent!  Problem is, we (Note from my wife: "Change that 'we' to 'I'!!) still have a lot of stuff in the house that we have now left (simply because it has not yet been sold!).

We have also encountered a couple of difficulties with the flat, the worst of which is that the boiler has broken down and is, apparently, beyond repair.  The solicitors are now 'fighting' over who should be responsible for the cost of replacement.  Still, we take comfort from the assurance that not even any of this has caught the Lord by surprise (read the chapter on 'Predestination' in my book Great Words of the Faith).

I have also realised that it is something of an illustration of the Christian life!  When a person submits to Jesus, and accepts Him as No.1 in their life, they are 'born again'.  That's a Biblical expression that means that they have started a completely new life.  It's Jesus' own words: "Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.'" (John 3:3).

I suggest that it's a bit like moving house.  When we make that submission, we have to get rid of a lot of old 'baggage'.  The writer of the great Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus encourages us to "... lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:1-2).

However, we don't merely need to clear out the old, sinful, baggage that we have carried around, perhaps for many years.  We also have to be aware that,contrary to what even some preachers claim, following Jesus is not guaranteed to be a 'bed of roses'.  Indeed, the Lord constantly made that clear to those who heard Him speak.  "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:11-12; emphasis added).  Perhaps we in the so-called 'developed' world have much too easy a life as those who claim to be followers of the Way!  In some fifty countries around the world, that is certainly not the case! (see some of the links below).  I sometimes wonder what would happen in, for example, the U.K. if we were suddenly to be faced with the persecution that is common-place in those countries!  I suspect that many would be withdrawing from 'church membership' - perhaps even some of those who were preaching on the previous week!  By the way, please do not make the mistake of thinking that such a thing would not happen here!  Watch the trends!

Down-sizing, and dealing with difficulties.  Part and parcel of moving house - and part and parcel of the new life, in Christ, to which all are called, even if so many reject, or ignore, that call!



Friday, 13 December 2013

Apology

It has come to my notice that, for some time, comments on my posts have not been published!  This evening, I accepted another one that has not appeared on the blog.  If there is a 'blogspot expert' who can advise me as to what may have gone wrong (and how I may rectify it!), I would be very grateful.

In the meantime, my thanks to all who do comment, and my assurance that only offensive, or nasty, comments are never published.  I value the support that I receive - even if your comment has not appeared on the blog!

A new home!

Yesterday, 20 years and two days since we moved in, my wife and I left our Motherwell home to move "up the road" to Wishaw.  It's not only a house move, it's a 'downsizing' - and that's the difficult part!  It's not the excess furniture that is the problem - most of it has an alternative home already ear-marked.  It's not the 'when did we last use that?' kitchen utensils and gadgets that are causing difficulty.  It's not even the clothes (although my wife is dropping very strong hints about the number of neck-ties that I possess!).  No, for me, the problem is books!  I am a confessed bibliophile!  I have managed to dispose of most of my non-theological books, but thinning that lot out ... ... ce n'est pas facile, mes amis!

We had looked at a number of flats (apartments), but this one seemed to 'fit the bill' and, with our offer accepted, and a relatively small mortgage (plus personal loans from a couple of friends), we arranged the move - and are happy to report that all went well.  Of course, we could be emptying boxes well into the new year!

In his second letter to the early church at large, the apostle Peter writes: "I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me." (II Peter 1:13-14; RSV).  The word translated "body" is the appropriate form of the Greek word "skenoma".  That word means 'an encampment'.  Figuratively, it refers to the the tabernacle (tent) in which the presence of YHWH met with the High Priest of the Children of Israel, as they wandered in the wilderness after their miraculous escape from Egypt, and prior to their entry to the Promised Land.  It also refers to the body, as residence of the spirit.  Indeed, the A.V. translates the word as 'tabernacle'.

What Peter knew was that he would not always be in this mortal tabernacle.  He knew that he would soon be leaving it - and going to a new home!  Had not Jesus promised: "In my Father's house are many rooms (mansions); 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).

The late Jim Reeves used to sing, "This world is not my home; I'm just a'passin' through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue."  Paul wrote: "We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (II Cor 5:8).

So perhaps moving into a new home is a particularly good time to contemplate that final move.  You see, each of us will, whether we realise it or not, make that move - either when we meet with physical death, or when the Lord calls His own to meet Him "in the air". (see I Thess.4:17).  The only question is "Where will your eternal home be?"!

I am so glad that, almost 55 years ago, I committed my life to the Lord Jesus.  I know that I have failed Him often over those decades.  But I also know that He has never failed me and that, as I come to Him, and confess my failings, and shortcomings; my inability to meet even the standards I set for myself, let alone the standard of perfection set by Almighty God; my sinfulness, and sins; "He is faithful and just, and will forgive [my] sins and cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9).  However, I also know that "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (I John 1:10).
Do you have that prospect of a home in heaven; of an eternal day in the wonderful, glorious, awesome presence of the Lamb of God?  If you don't, then why don't you consider, right now, His offer of full salvation.  It's an offer that beats all of the 'special offers' that the world offers, especially at this Christmas season.

He said, "Come to Me , all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30), and "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me; and him who comes to Me I will not cast out." (John 6:37).

Will you take Him at His word?  Will you?  You'll never regret it if you do - and you'll have a new home waiting for you, that will be yours throughout eternity!










Thursday, 12 December 2013

Flash Mob!

"Flash Mobs" have become relatively common but, every so often, one comes across one that is a step above the rest.  I believe that this is one of those.

If this doesn't bring an emotional tear to your eye, play it again!


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Now that's how to live!

Came across this in today's Inbox, and decided that it is well worth sharing!






A challenging thought for all of us!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Where have all the flowers gone?

That old song from the 60s came to mind when I read one of my e-mails a few minutes ago.  However, I changed the words, ever so slightly, to "Where have all the Christians gone?"

The catalyst for that thought was this message from Open Doors - one of the organisations that supports persecuted Christians in many countries around the world.  You may find out more about them by following the link further down on this page.  The start of the message was:

"Tomorrow, thanks to the incredible 309,195 people who signed the Save Syria petition, the voice of Christians in Syria will be heard at the UN and in capital cities around the world.

We stand amazed and humbled. A wonderful 309,195 people in 99 countries around the world - including 74,002 from the UK & [the Republic of] Ireland - have signed the Save Syria petition. Each one has said that they want to stand alongside the church in Syria, ensuring that Christians there have a voice and are not forgotten.

Please join us in praising God for this wonderful response! Thank you so much to all of you who signed and encouraged friends, family, church and even people on the local high street to sign too!"

It was those numbers that hit me!   74,002 from the whole of the British Isles!  That is out of a total population of approximately 65 million!  Now, of course, that includes children, as well as people who would not sign anything unless their own life literally depended on it.  However, if we deduct even 50% that still leaves more than 32 million - which would mean that only one person in approximately 440 cared enough to add their name in support of those who are suffering so much in Syria, even as I type.  

I thought a little more.  If even less than a quarter of that 50% were Christian, we have a scenario in which, if my calculations are correct, only 1 in 100 (1%) of people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ signed.  Let's be very generous, and assume that half of them didn't know about the petition (in which case I would encourage them to forget East Enders, Corrie, and the X Factor, and check up on what is happening in the world beyond their own living rooms!).  However, that would still mean that only 1 in 50 (2%) could be bothered.

So forgive me if I am not as "amazed and humbled" as are the good folk at Open Doors.  Personally, I feel rather ashamed that so few in the British Isles were willing to support Syria in a time of great need.  I won't even start on the rest of the world!

If you didn't sign, then I urge you to pray - with passion, with persistence, with pertinacity. 

Oh, and do look out for further opportunities to support those who suffer privations such as most of us can barely imagine.  You know that you should!


Saturday, 7 December 2013

Of cars!

On our way back from neighbouring Wishaw, late this afternoon, my wife had to visit a couple of shops.  My presence not being required, I sat outside, in the car, and listened to some good music emanating from the ICE equipment (how many understand the acronym?).

After the first stop, as I indicated that I was pulling out on to the main road, I realised that the power-steering was not operating, and that the battery icon was showing on the dashboard display.  I drove round a corner for my wife's next stop, and had a look at the battery connections.  All appeared to be well.  I nursed the car back home as, one by one, additional icons lit up, and various functions ceased to operate!   Having 'home-start' cover on my breakdown plan, I then 'phoned for assistance.  When the young gentleman arrived, he quickly informed me that the alternator had packed in!

The annoying thing about that news is the fact that it was replaced, in France, in July - at what was, to me (and my local mechanic) an exorbitant cost.  The car is only five years old, with a mere 51,000 miles on the clock, so I am more than a little peeved.  The alternator will have to be replaced - I need the car - but the question then is: do I keep paying out from a limited cash supply, or do I replace?  I try to be a good steward of my finances, and would want to make a wise decision, and one that would be honouring to God.

Of course, any financial decision can be tough.  Billy Graham is recorded as having said "If a person gets his/her attitude toward money straight, it will help to straighten out almost every other area in life."!  In doing some clearing out, this evening, I came across some ideas worth considering when faced with decisions regarding money:

Check to ensure that you are following God's priorities.  Are you giving to Him, and to others? (I Cor.16:2).  Are you taking care of family needs? (I Tim.5:8).  Are you taking care that money doesn't control your life? (Lk,16:13).

Research the situation. Consider all of the options, and the pros and cons of each one.

Ask God for wisdom.  Pray, pray, and then pray some more.  He will direct you as you submit to His will in your life. (Prov.2:6).

Trust God, and make the decision.  I recall,many years ago, a friend who had not long been converted speaking with me.  In the conversation regarding a potential initiative by the fellowship with which he had become involved, he informed me that the Lord had spoken to him.  "He told me," he went on," that it was time to stop praying, and start obeying."!  Often, we must use the wisdom and knowledge that we have gained - and commit our decision to Him.

Whether, or not, the decision is a financial one, obedience to God nurtures a growing 'love-and-trust' relationship with Him.  Each decision may be seen as an opportunity to draw closer to Him.

Got a decision to make?  Don't forget to allow the Lord to be a major part of your decision-making process!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

The major news item, all day today, has been the death of Nelson Mandela.  Mr Mandela has been a very significant figure on the world stage since his release from prison in 1990.  He was instrumental in bringing apartheid to an end, and was the first indigenous President of South Africa.

Tributes have been flowing in from all over the world, as well as from within South Africa, and one would not deny that many of them are well-deserved.  However ... ... ...!!

As news of Mr Mandela's death broke, hundreds of South Africans filled the streets around his home in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, many singing songs of tribute, and dancing.  One, reportedly, carried a sign saying: "He will rule the universe with God." .    Others have spoken of him as having been "the saviour of South Africa", and many have commented on his capacity to forgive.

In just a couple of weeks' time, much of the world will celebrate Christmas.  For many, that celebration will be more of a 'winterfest' than anything else.  However, there will be those who will remember that, over 2,000 years ago, Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, entered our time-space continuum as a human child, in an obscure little country on the edge of the Roman empire.  "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail! the incarnate Deity."   And that was not the end of the story.  Because that Child grew to manhood and, after a public ministry of about three years, was crucified by the Roman authorities, at the instigation of the Jewish hierarchy.

This was, of course, the Man known as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah.  It is He, and He alone, Who will rule the universe with the Father (see Rev.5:13, inter al); He, and He alone, is the Saviour of South Africa - and of the whole world (John 3:16-17); He was able to say - as He hung on that cross, aware that He had only to say the word, and the Father would send more than twelve legions of angels to rescue Him (Matt.26:53) - "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34).

Some, who have not been caught up in the adulation of the late Mr Mandela, have pointed out that he had been a terrorist (remembering that one man's terrorist is another man's 'freedom fighter'!), and that we should be remembering those for whose deaths he was, directly or indirectly, responsible.  However, when it comes to Jesus, He alone was able to ask even His enemies: "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8:46).  Even one of those crucified alongside Him recognised this: "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"  But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong."  And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."  And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43; emphasis added).

Two other things need to be emphasised.  The first is that death could not hold Jesus.  He rose from the dead, victorious over it, and hell, and the grave.  The second is that He is coming again.  There will be a second advent - perhaps much sooner than many expect - when He will come, not as a human infant, but as King of kings, and Lord of lords.

May all who access this blog "... abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming." (I John 2:28).

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Black Nativity

When I was a child, the big treat at Christmas and New Year was a visit to both the circus and the pantomime.  Life has changed!  Today, children want something much more sophisticated.  At the same time, many parents want to provide their offspring with something wholesome, in a culture in which there is so much that is anything but!

Permit me to recommend this year's "must-see" film - Black Nativity.  Here is a trailer, together with some additional comment.

If I were to become a Christian!

One of the aids that I use in my personal devotions is a Prayer Guide produced by the Revival Prayer Ministry.  Yesterday and the day before were covered by one item - about the Christian church in South Sudan.  I was struck by a quote from Bishop Elias Taban of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  He said: "In my area of Africa, many people think they are Christians because they have a Christian name.   Sadly, many have not heard or understood the message of salvation."
Equally sadly, the same thing could be said of many living in Scotland, the rest of the United Kingdom and, indeed, any part of the world today.
Over the years during which I have been publishing this blog, I have dealt with the question "What is a Christian" on more than one occasion (use the 'search' box at the top left-hand corner of the blog to remind yourself of what I wrote!).  This time, I want to ask what becoming a true Christian - a follower, and disciple, of Jesus the Christ - will bring to you if you are willing to surrender to Him; commit yourself to Him; and seek to show your love for Him by obedience to Him.
It will, first of all, be the greatest discovery you will ever make! Sir James Young Simpson, the discoverer of chloroform – a tremendous benefit to those who had to undergo all kinds of operations and amputations – was asked during his own last illness, ‘What do you consider to be your greatest discovery?’  Back came the answer, without moment’s hesitation – and there was no mention of chloroform!  “On the morning of Christmas Day, 1861," he said, "I discovered that I was a sinner, and that Jesus Christ was my Saviour.”
You see, it's only when I realise that I am a sinner, and am unable to do anything about it - regardless of the number of New Year's Resolutions I may make - that I will seriously even look for a Saviour.  The wonderful discovery that James Simpson, and every other true disciple of Jesus, made is that Jesus can be, and is, that Saviour.  Through Him, and Him alone, my sins not only can be, but are, forgiven!  John assures us that "... if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7).  Did you notice that?  It's all sin!  That includes even the sins that I have not yet committed!  Now, to begin to grasp something of the dynamics of that, one needs to have some insight to the relationship between time and eternity.  Much too big a subject for a blog post but, if you are really interested, I devote a full chapter to the topic in my book, Great Words of the Faith - details above!
My sins are forgiven, through Jesus; and my life is changed, by Jesus.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (II Cor 5:17).  But yielding your life to the Christ, you will discover, is also the greatest decision that you can ever take. It is one that involves accepting His salvation.  It affects the whole person – body and spirit; what we become here and now, as well as where we shall spend eternity.  And, in accepting His salvation, I find that I am accepted for His service.
I love those two little verses in Mark’s account of the Gospel.  Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and they told [Jesus] about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.” (1:30-31; NKJV)  Saved – to serve.  When I accept Jesus as my Saviour, I acknowledge Him as Lord.  It’s no longer what I want to do that’s important, but what He wants me to do.  And, for some, most amazing thing is that there’s so much He does want us to do!
Finally, there is in store for you, if you decide to follow Jesus, the greatest difference anyone can ever know.   If everyday decisions can make the differences they do to your life and to mine, how much more can one as momentous as accepting God the son as your Saviour, and Lord - and Friend!  He gives you a new start in life. 
If you have discovered that when Paul says that “…all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal;” (Rom.3:23; LB), his “all” includes you; but you have also discovered that “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (I Tim 1:15; TLB), and have now decided to surrender to His loving control; then the change in you is so radical that it can only be compared to being born all over again – a new birth; a completely new start.  
However, that's not all.  He gives you, not just a new start to life, but also a new life with which to start!  Instead of stumbling along in darkness, you walk in light with Him.  From being in bondage to sin, you are set free from its penalty, its power and, ultimately, its presence.  Instead of being tormented by a guilty conscience, you have peace with God through the Son, and the very love of God fills your heart and life.  In receiving Him, you change from being a creature of God to being a child of God, adopted into His family.
The greatest discovery that anyone can make; the greatest decision anyone can ever take; the greatest difference anyone can know.  Why not make that difference yours, right now, just where you are, by quietly handing yourself over to the Saviour.  He is waiting for you to trust Him, and He will never disappoint you.  Will you let Him be your Saviour, and Lord, and Friend?  Will you?  You’ll never regret it if you do.