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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Incarnation (3)

In this final post on the Incarnation, I want to suggest that the authority of the Incarnation must be accepted!  Already, I can hear some ask: "You want to suggest, and then you speak of compulsion?!"  I guess that that is correct.  Of course, those words may be interpreted somewhat differently!  Let me explain!

We are thinking here of where the real crunch comes; where the rubber hits the road; the crux of the matter.  It is not that mankind can reasonably reject the idea of God revealing Himself; but that mankind does not like the revelation that God made in the Persona (not a typo - see the chapter on "Trinity" in my book - Great Words of the Faith) of Jesus the Christ.  Writing to some early Messianic Jews - Jews who accepted Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah) - the anonymous writer states that "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world." (Hebrews 1:1). 

"He has spoken"!   This means that mankind has to deal with two facts.  The first of these concerns the ignorance that the Christ dispels; the second with the obedience that the Christ demands.  This is what I meant by that statement above.  It's not that anyone is obliged to accept the authority of the Incarnation, but that those who accept the Incarnation find that there is an authority that they must accept!

It was three years ago that I quoted some words of King George V from his first Christmas broadcast to the Nation and the Empire (1932).   However, I don't know in which year it was that he spoke to the children of the Empire, commencing with the words: "Boys and girls, the king is speaking to you."  In the Christ, Almighty God is speaking, and speaking to each and every one of us.  We really ought to listen!

And now, the full text of the poem that George V quoted:

"I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year -
'Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied,
'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than a light, and safer than a known way!'


So I went forth and, finding the hand of God,
Trod gladly into the night.
He led me towards the hills,
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!
What need our human life to know if God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife of things, both high and low, God hideth his intention."

Minnie Louise Harkins (1875-1957)

A happy, and peaceful, 2015 to one and all!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Incarnation (2)

In the previous post, I suggested that the possibility of the Incarnation must be admitted.  Only the most arrogant of people would disagree with that statement.  In this post, I want to further suggest that the necessity of the Incarnation can be asserted.

If we look at human love, we quickly realise that it has the distinctive quality that it is never content to remain unknown - it must reveal, and express, itself; it can do no other.  The apostle John, in his first letter to the church at large makes, and repeats, the basic truth about Almighty God - "God is love" (I John 4:8, 16).  This love is not to the erotic, or sentimental 'love' that is most prevalent in contemporary western society, but is, in the Greek language, agape.  Such love was often described by my former minister, spiritual mentor, and personal friend, the late Rev George B Duncan, as "a minimum of emotion, and a maximum of evaluation".  It is a self-giving love that sees something of inestimable worth in its object.  It is, indeed, the very love of that Almighty God Whom it describes.  Since He is love, we may be assured that God would wish to reveal Himself to the objects of His love!

Human life then determines the manner of such a revelation.  Humanity is the only level of life that mankind can truly understand.  If God wished to reveal Himself, and His love, it is surely not unreasonable to expect that He would do so on that level, and reveal Himself as a Man.

This, as has been sung so often over the past weeks, is exactly what the Christian faith, and the Christmas message, claim that He did.  "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail! the Incarnate Deity. Pleased as Man, with man, to dwell; Jesus, our Immanuel."  And that title "Immanuel" means "God with us". (see Matt.1:23).   Or what about words that are usually sung more quietly, and gently, but that proclaim the same message?  "Love came down at Christmas; Love all lovely, Love divine."

Yes, the Incarnation - the coming of the Creator in the very human flesh that He had created - is not only possible, it also makes perfect sense.  Those of us who believe that it is all wonderfully true can only join the shepherds and, much later (in spite of what nativity plays portray!) the Magi in bowing before the Christ-child in love and adoration.  "O come, let us adore Him - Christ, the Lord."

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Miracle of the Incarnation

One of the familiar Biblical texts that will have been read many times over the past week or so, is John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father."   This is a simple statement of the miracle that lies at the heart of the Christian faith.  As we move, inexorably, towards the end of this calendar year, it is my intention to share a little about it, in three posts, starting with this one.

In this post, I wish to make the point that the possibility of the incarnation must be admitted.  In other words, no-one has the right to say, dogmatically, that it could not have happened.  It is impossible to deny in the light of the limitations of man's knowledge.  We simply do not know everything that there is to know.  That is why billions of pounds are spent, each year, on research of one kind or another.  It is part of our human DNA to constantly seek to learn.  If we knew everything, then there would be nothing left for us to discover!   Ray Comfort, in his book "God doesn't believe in atheists" makes the very point that even if I can claim, honestly, to have 80% of the sum total of the knowledge available in the universe, that would still leave 20% that I did not know.  In that 20% could well be the particular piece of information that I seek.  If I claim, categorically, that the incarnation is an impossibility, I am claiming that I have complete knowledge of the whole of the created universe - and no person has that!

However, not only is the Incarnation - the Creator of all that is, taking upon Himself the very human flesh that He had created, and entering the time-space continuum in which we live out our mortal lives, and which He also created - impossible to deny in the light of the limitations of man's knowledge; it is also impossible to deny on the grounds of the basis of man's knowledge.  All of our knowledge is, initially, revealed knowledge.  By that, I mean that it is revealed through both my perceptive, and receptive, senses.   I depend on them to come to the conclusions that I reach.   I am incapable of 'manufacturing' knowledge; only of discovering what is already there!  Christianity also claims that spiritual knowledge is based upon revelation - in which man is, again, the recipient.

So, however we may look at it; whether, or not, we believe it; the possibility of the incarnation must, by any right-thinking, and fair-minded, person, be admitted!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

"Twas the night before Christmas"   So starts the popular poem that, as far as I know, provided the modern picture of "Santa Claus" - a corruption of Saint Nicholas.   The poem was written at the end of the 18th, or the beginning of the 19th, century and is now a part of traditional folklore.  Of course, it is pure, unadulterated, fiction - the one lie that even the majority of Christian parents happily pass on to their children!

Some 1900 years earlier, a different story was enacted - and this one is fact, not fiction.  In the unimportant town of Bethlehem in the Roman province of Judea, a child was born.  There was, as far as the record goes, nothing special about the birth.  The expression "virgin birth" is a wee bit misleading - it was a virginal conception but, after that, everything seems to nave gone as it would with any successful pregnancy.   What was really special about this Child was that, while he was borne by a young girl (Mary was, in the contemporary culture, probably only about 14 years of age), the husband of that girl, the carpenter Joseph, was not the Child's father.  Indeed, we are assured, this Child had no human father.  His conception was miraculous because it was Almighty God Who caused the egg in Mary to be fertilised, without a male sperm!  This Child was, truly, both human and divine.

And that begs the question: "Why?"   Why could He not have been a 'normal' Child Who was then, as some have suggested, 'adopted' by Almighty God at His baptism?   Why could He not have been a 'normal' Child endued with miraculous powers?   Why did He have to be so digfferent from any other person ever to be born?

The answer is really very simple, and has to do with the reason for His birth.  This was not a child who merely gave great joy to his biological parents.  This was the Child with a special mission - "... to destroy the works of the devil." (I John 3:8).  

One of the songs that, traditionally, is sung at this time of the year, is "Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,"   Unlike many of the favourite carols, it takes us beyond the Christmas story.  In the fifth verse we sing:
          Like Mary, let us ponder in our mind
          God's wondrous love in saving lost mankind;
          Trace we the Babe, Who has retrieved our loss,
          From His poor manger to His bitter cross.

That was how He achieved His purpose.  In Hebrews 2:14-15 we read, "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."   You see, because Jesus rose from the dead, He showed that He was, and is, more powerful than it.  This, in turn, shows Him to be more powerful than the devil - the one who, currently, has the power of death!

I have already commented on the tragic incident in Glasgow, and do not wish to repeat what I said there.  However, we know that, prior to the Rapture of the true Church, each one of us will experience physical death.  This, for many, is something that they try to avoid - even to deny.  But for those who are "in Christ Jesus" (see Eph.2:13, inter al), there is no fear of death.  We are one with the One Who has conquered it!

This Christmas-time, permit me to encourage you to look beyond the tinsel, and the turkey, and the trimmings; beyond the presents, and the parties, and the Perignan.  Look to the One Who truly is the reason for the season - to Him Who loves you, and gave Himself for you.  Look to Jesus - to the One Who alone can save you from your sinfulness.  Kneel, not at the manger, but at the foot of the cross, and own Him as Your Saviour and Lord.

It will be to His eternal glory - and for your eternal good.

A very Happy Christmas to one and all.



Monday, 22 December 2014

The transcience of life.

In an age when we are assured that, at least in the 'developed' world, life expectancy is constantly rising, an event such as that in George Square, Glasgow this afternoon is a stark reminder that there are no guarantees as to how long the individual mortal life will last.

Just one year after the tragic failure of a helicopter over the Clutha Bar, which saw the deaths of nine people, a bin-lorry has crashed and, at the latest count, six people have died, with another eight having suffered serious injury, and an unknown number having sustained non-life-threatening injuries. 

The precise cause of the accident is still not clear, and it would be unwise of me to speculate therupon.  However, with just a couple of days to go before we celebrate the birth of the most amazing Child ever to be born, it is perhaps worth remembering that He came to die; that the Babe of Bethlehem became the Christ of Calvary, taking upon Himself the penalty for your sin, and for mine. 

Why is this important?  Simply because you, and I, and everyone else, is a sinner.  As such, we deserve nothing other than the wrath, judgement, and punishment of Almighty God.   What we need is a sinless sacrifice to be made on our behalf.   And that is the real story of Christmas - that in the persona (not a typo - read my book: Great Words of the Faith; chapter on the Trinity) of the Son, Almighty God became that sacrifice.  Indeed, He became sin, in all of its foulness, and evil, and nauseous disgust (see III Cor.5:21) so that we might be set free, and experience His forgiveness, and His eternal life.  "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23).

Of course, just as with the gifts that most of us will receive on Christmas morning, that gift has to be received, and opened, before it is of any benefit to us.  That's where so many go wrong.   They recognise the Gift, but ignore it! 

So why raise such a subject just now?  Because the only opportunity that we have to accept the Gift is while we are alive in our mortal bodies.   Once that life has gone, our eternal destiny is sealed and settled.   The incident in Glasgow this afternoon reminds us that not one of us knows the moment when our mortal life will end!

It's a sobering thought, and one that is dealt with in God's Word.  Under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, Paul writes: "... in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We beseech you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He [Father God] made Him [the Lord Jesus] to be sin, Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  Working together with Him, 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 5:19-6:3).

If you have not yet placed your trust in Him, please do not put doing so off any longer.  You simply do not know when a vehicle might career off the road, striking you fatally.  If you wish to discuss this on a more personal basis, please use the e-mail address at the top of the page to contact me.  Alternatively, check out some of 'My favourite links'.



Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Christmas Scale

One of the regrets that I have is that we did not have a piano in our home, when I was a child.  I would love to be able to sit down at a keyboard, and produce even pretty standard music!  However, as this clip shows, one does not have to be a virtuoso concert pianist to get a very important message across.  It's only a couple of minutes.  Enjoy!


Thursday, 18 December 2014

One week to go!

Yes!  This time, next week, will be Christmas day.   Only six more shopping days - if one uses Sunday!  For some, it is a time of  unwanted pressure and anxiety: frantic last-minute shopping when a gift arrives from a relative who had been forgotten!  For others, it’s sweet sentimentality: a time for the children; Mary, and Joseph, and the infant in a manger.   For yet others, it’s no more than a mid-winter festival that brings an opportunity for an extra party, or two.

Oddly enough, the verse from the Bible that best sums up Christmas – from a Christian perspective – is one of the best-known in the New Testament.  It’s John 3:16 – “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  That verse speaks to me of three simple things.

There’s a fact – “God loved the world ...”  Not just the nice people; the good people; the charming people; but the world – the unlovable and the unlovely; those who are loved by no-one else; those who never give Him a thought; those who rebel against Him, and use His name as nothing other than a profanity.  Love, according to the Christian Gospel, is the very mainspring of the Being of God.  “God is love”, writes the early apostle, John. (I Jn.4:8,16).  And part of the wonder of this is that it’s not a scientific theory to be changed in the light of fresh evidence or experimentation; it’s not a legal speculation to be argued over in a judicial court; it’s not some popular idea to be maintained only while it’s fashionable.  It’s a Biblical fact - “God so loved the world”.   And it’s the basic message behind this Christmas season.        

But the love, even of Almighty God, if it were merely passive and un-communicated, would not be sufficient.  And so, after directing our thoughts towards the fact, this well-known verse goes on to speak of an act.  “God loved the world so much – that He gave His only-begotten Son…”    And here is the love of God being put into action.  God so loved, that He gave.   And He gave sacrificially – even giving Himself in the Person of the only-begotten Son.

Christmas is traditionally the time for giving.  And isn’t it wonderful to remember that, at the very first Christmas, the greatest and best Gift that could ever be, was given?  God gave His own Son; putting His love into action; giving the very best that He had; giving all that He had.

A fact; an act; and a pact.  That’s the third thing of which that well-known verse speaks.  “... that everyone who has faith in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love; God’s Gift; are not mere handouts.   Free they may be – but the Christian faith teaches that they are only so to those who are willing to enter into a living relationship with that same God through the Son; only to those who have faith in Him; who put their trust in Him; who receive Him with humble and thankful hearts. 

And that’s the true heart of CHRISTmas!

                                                     

                                                       

Monday, 15 December 2014

Santa?

There have been a number of reports, in recent days, telling about the mother who decided to teach  two of her young, and apparently naughty, children a lesson.  She hung a letter - ostensibly from "Santa" - on the fireplace but, when the children opened it, they discovered that it contained the devastating news that it was "certain" that they were on the "naughty list."!

The mother's intention was, of course, that the children might start to behave better in the remaining time until Christmas Day - but she didn't anticipate how seriously the children would take the initial message!

Needless to say, the reports instigated comments from the leftie-liberal-loons.  One person stated, with reference to the mother: "What a nasty bit of goods.  I wouldn't mind putting her on some sort of stop list, but it would harm her kids again (sic)".(emphasis added).  Another wrote, again with reference to the mother: "Pure evil, no wonder kids are manic.(sic)". (emphases added).

Personally, I agreed more with the person who wrote "Absolutely brilliant.  It might, to some of the PC brigade, be cruel but it did have the desired effect.  Well done, Mum!"

However, what about some really radical thinking!   What about thinking right outside the box!   What about explaining to our children (as my wife and I did to ours - with no apparently bad effect) that this person "Santa" is nothing more than an advertising ploy?  That while there was a man named St. Nicholas, who did help some poor people in the area in which he lived, there was no 'magic' sleigh, pulled through the air by 'flying' reindeer, and carrying all of the gifts for all of the children in the world (!) to be delivered in a 24-hour period!  That the real reason why we give gifts to one another at this time of the year is because we are supposed to be celebrating the greatest Gift of all: "God loved the world so much that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever places their trust in Him should not perish but have, here and now, eternal life - that is, the very life of God Himself."

You see, I am convinced that, as children grow older, and discover that "Santa" isn't a real person, they decide that the Jesus bit of the celebration (if they hear about that at all, these days!) is probably no more real.  That, I would contend, is doing our children a real dis-service.

Christmas without "Santa" is perfectly possible.  Christmas without the Christ is totally meaningless!
Absolutely brilliant. It might, to some of the PC brigade be cruel, but it did have the desired effect. Well done Mum.
Pure evil, no wonder kids are manic!
What a nasty bit of goods. I wouldn't mind putting her on some sort of stop list, but it would harm her kids again.
What a nasty bit of goods. I wouldn't mind putting her on some sort of stop list, but it would harm her kids again.
What a nasty bit of goods. I wouldn't mind putting her on some sort of stop list, but it would harm her kids again.
What a nasty bit of goods. I wouldn't mind putting her on some sort of stop list, but it would harm her kids again.
 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Twelve days to Christmas!

No, the heading is not an invitation to sing a well-known song about leaping lords, dancing ladies, and a partridge in a pear tree, etc.  It is just a reminder that there are only twelve more days until that special celebration of the birth of the Christ-Child.  By the way, this post is also the first of the second thousand on this blog - yes, it is post 1,001!

It is also a visual post that reminds us that, without the Christ, Christmas is just another consumer-driven, debt-inducing, party-attending, season of the year.  The video is only 45 secs in length - so do take a look!


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

I'm a chef, as well!

Not everyone who accesses this blog would be expected to know that I commenced my adult working life in the catering trade.  I am, in fact, a fully time-served, experienced, chef having risen "through the ranks", from Commis Chef to Head Chef, and even Chef-Manager!

Perhaps that is why I was particularly interested in the furore caused by the comment made by Baroness Anne Jenkin that poor people are going hungry because they “do not know how cook”.  She gave the interesting illustration that: “I had a large bowl of porridge today. It cost 4p. A large bowl of sugary cereal will cost 25p.”

Of course, the loonie lefties were falling over themselves with indignation.  What did this toff know about poverty?  When did she have to go to a Food Bank for supplies?  Alright for her with her daily allowance for attending the House of Lords.  So, as seems to happen all too readily these days, the Noble Lady apologised.  

Why?  Her statement was only slightly inaccurate.  She ought to have said that, in many cases, they are just too bone-idle lazy to do so.  After all, cooking a bowl of porridge isn't exactly Cordon Bleu catering!  Yet it is one of the healthiest breakfasts that is available and, as Baroness Jenkin pointed out, is amazingly inexpensive.  The trouble, for too many (but not, by any means, all) of our Welfare State dependents, is that it requires a wee bit more effort than does opening a packet of breakfast cereal with its high sugar and salt content (of course, one ought never to cook porridge without a pinch of salt!).

It certainly seems to me, from my observations, that a considerable number of those on state benefits are among the more obese in our society.  Perhaps some basic exercise (even walking a couple of bus stops, instead of using a bus pass), and some freshly-cooked food (mince steak, potatoes, and fresh veg) instead of processed, and 'carry-out', meals would make a difference.  Of course, that would require taking responsibility for themselves, and not expecting others to pander to their wants!


Monday, 8 December 2014

The search for justice.

It has been one of today's major news items.  A murder trial has ended - stopped by the judge on the ground that the prosecution evidence was not strong enough; indeed, that the evidence of the main prosecution witness was: "improbable, contradictory, even laughable".  The reaction to this situation could not be more different.  On the one hand, there is the grieving family of the murder victim, unable to comprehend how a justice system could allow such a thing to happen.  On the other hand, there is the accused - who, it is now reported, may even be able to sue the authorities for having disclosed certain unsavoury aspects of his private life.

I do not have the evidence before me to comment on the case, or on the decision of the judge.  I am not able to make any comment on the real guilt, or innocence, of the accused.  However, I do know that, instinctively, we long for justice but, so often, seem to be unable to find it.

The wisest man of his day, Solomon the king of Israel, faced similar frustration and disappointment.  He saw that imperfect human beings could never administer perfect justice.  He wrote: "I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness." (Eccl 3:16).

If all that we trusted in was the wisdom and justice of imperfect people, we would lose all hope.  However, Solomon continued: "I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for He has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work." (Eccl. 3:17).

The search for true justice can be satisfied only by trusting the God Who is always just.  One day, as each of us stands before Him, the scales of justice will be perfectly balanced.

I trust that the family of Anni Dewani will look to Him for comfort and for peace.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Personhood, and human rights!

We live in a society, and a culture, in which there is considerably more emphasis placed on "Human Rights" than on personal responsibility.  So, we are informed, violent killers; Islamist hate-preachers; illegal immigrants, including an Algerian illegal immigrant who was barred from seeing his family after threatening to burn them alive – and who won his appeal against deportation on the grounds that he is entitled to a family life; et al, are entitled to their "Human Rights" - regardless of the rights of the community at large!

However, it would seem that at least one group does not have any "Human Rights".  I refer to the unborn!  It has been widely reported that a child who was left disabled because of her mother's alcohol abuse during the pregnancy, is not entitled to a payout from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board because, according to the Court of Appeal, she was "not a person" at the time!  Lord Justice Treacey is reported as having stated that "Parliament could have legislated to criminalise the excessive drinking of a pregnant woman - but it has not done so."

An unborn child, at any stage during the pregnancy, is not a person!  This begs the question: "What is such an unborn child?"   There was a time when many were convinced that it was nothing more than an amorphous mass of cells - the "blob of jelly" to which reference was sometimes made.  However, with the advent of medical, and scientific, techniques such as ultrasound pictures, we now know that, from its earliest days in the womb, what is forming there is a unique, individual, human being!  Have the learnèd judges at the Court of Appeal failed to keep up with contemporary developments?

Of course, as the old adage has it, "It's an ill wind that blows no good" so, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (an organisation that supports abortion for any reason) stated that, "This is an extremely important ruling for mothers everywhere.  Women must be able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies."

Many rightly condemn the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Pol Pots, and others for their activities that led to the deaths of so many.  However, not one of them ever came close to the numbers of unborn children, murdered in their mothers' wombs, almost always because they are seen to be "an inconvenience".

The following is from a letter by Billy Graham posted, a few years ago, on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website:
"Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah.” ... ... ...

"I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle."
Sadly, the same kind of comment could be made about much of the western world.  We stand condemned in the eyes of the Creator and Sustainer of all that is.

However, there is hope!  Writing to the early church, the apostle John states: "This is the message we have heard from [Jesus] and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth;  but 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.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." (I John 1:5-10; emphases added).

Did you notice those words that I have emphasised?  They are the assurance that, if we come to Jesus, confessing our personal sins and sinfulness, then He is able to make us new creations (II Cor.5:17), and to live our lives, ever after, for Him!

If we do so, then we have the further amazing promise: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom 8:1).  That word 'now' is so important.  Salvation, in and through the Christ, is not "pie in the sky when you die"!  It is for here and now.  I have eternal life, in Him - it's not something that I will only receive when I have done with this mortal body.

You, too, may have eternal life.  Not, necessarily, a 'bed of roses' - in spite of what some tele-evangelists appear to promise - but a life that makes Him more important than anyone, or anything else.  If you wish to know more, then please feel free to contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the page or, alternatively, check out some of the links at the bottom right-hand side.

Regardless of the decisions of the UK Court of Appeal, you have been a person since the moment of your conception - and you have been loved by Almighty God since before the world was even formed!!  Now, that's Good News!




Thursday, 4 December 2014

Marriage - the Good News!

Having commented on marriage just a couple of posts ago, I was more than a little interested to read, in the Revival Prayer Bulletin for today, some encouraging news about that God-ordained state.  The item comes from Joel News International, and reads as follows:

"You've probably heard the grim fact: ' half of all marriages end in divorce.'  But what of this 'fact' is actually a myth?  In a recently published book, The Good News about Marriage, best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn presents the results of her 8-year groundbreaking research that reveals that, contrary to popular opinion, most marriages are strong and happy for a lifetime, and 72% of people are still married to their first spouse.

She reveals:
  • The actual divorce rate has never got close to 50%.
  • Those who attend church regularly have a significantly lower divorce rate than those who don't.
  • Simple changes make big differences to marriages.

For too long, our confidence in marriage has been undermined by persistent misunderstandings and imperfect data.  This landmark book helps to bring hope back into the most fundamental of God-given institutions."

If you would wish to access the Revival Prayer Bulletin, please go to www.revivalmedia.org  It is available in a paper version, or online.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Advent.

Sunday, as many will be aware, was the First Sunday of Advent - the season in the Christian calendar during which we prepare to celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation.  That miracle is explained, as succinctly as is possible, by the name given through the prophet Isaiah, and reiterated - and defined -  by the apostle Matthew: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means, God with us)." (Matt 1:23; cf Is.7:14).


But can we unpick that definition a little more?  What does Matthew mean by "God with us"?  Well, the easy understanding is that, in the Persona (see the chapter on the "Trinity" in my book, Great Words of the Faith; - details at top of page) of the Son, Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the great "I AM"; took upon Himself human flesh, and entered the very time-space continuum that He had created.  I am reminded of that great saint of the Old Covenant, Enoch.  I make reference to one of my favourite Old Testament characters in "Great Words", where I write:


"Remember the great old patriarch, Enoch?  I love those words recorded of him in Gen.5:23-24 – “Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.” Or, as the older translations put it, “... he was not; for God took him.” (KJV).


So what happened to Enoch?  Well, what I am now going to share is, I confess, totally speculative.  But I share it with you because I am convinced, not only of its possibility, but of its probability!  I believe that those words are telling us that, every morning, when Enoch awoke, his first words were “Well, Lord, where are we going today; what will we be doing?”  And the Lord told him.  Then, one day, he awoke and, having asked the same question, was told by God, “Today, Enoch, dear friend, you are coming to my place.  Let’s go!”  And Enoch simply walked through that ultra-fine veil that separates time from eternity."   

Enoch knew the reality of "Emmanuel" - God with us!

But "Emmanuel" doesn't just refer to the presence of God; it also refers to the purpose of God.  You see, He came among us not as some cosmic experiment, but for a definite, and specific, reason.  He came, so that He could live among us; experience all that we experience ("yet without sin": see Hebrews 4:15); and, at the end, take upon Himself the punishment that we deserve - bearing "... our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." (I Peter 2:24).  He came in order that sinful people like us could know His eternal pardon - and His eternal life!


Christmas is the time, for so many, when gifts are given and received.  Indeed, for too many in the western world, that is now all that it is!  Yet the majority will ignore the greatest Gift of all - salvation through faith in the Lord, Jesus the Christ: an act of divine grace that we can never, ever deserve.
The Gift is available to all.  However, like any gift, it may be rejected. 

It would be my longing that all who read this post would accept that Gift.  If anyone requires further, more personal, help then please feel free to contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the page.  I only check that one a couple of times each week, but I shall respond.  Alternatively, there are some useful links in the right-hand margin of the blog.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

St Andrew's Day

I wonder if I am alone in sometimes wishing that I was "someone else"?   Not that I have any desire to be one of the modern, so-called, 'celebrities' - whether in the world of sport, or of entertainment, or of business.  No, when I think like that, I want to be a Billy Graham; a Luis Palau; a John Wesley; a Martin Luther; even a Peter, or a Paul!

Of course, such idle dreamings are exactly that - no more, and no less.  I have not been gifted in the same way as these men were/are.  I believe that I may have been used by God, just as they have been - but not to the same extent.  That's why their names are known to history; mine is confined to family, friends, and acquaintances - and a few Christian fellowships!

Today is November 30th, the day in the Christian calendar dedicated to St. Andrew, one of the first of the disciples of Jesus, the Christ, and the patron saint of Scotland (as well as Greece, and Russia).  According to John, it was Andrew who first introduced his brother, Simon, to Jesus, (John 1:40-42) and Jesus gave Simon that name of Peter, a rock: an indication of what he was to become, but certainly not what he was then.  I find that to be very encouraging!  God sees you and me, not as we are but as what we may, by His grace, become.

Peter became one of great leaders of early Christian community.  He wrote two of the letters that have been preserved for us in the Bible.  But without Andrew, there might not have been a Peter.

Some may recall the old Negro spiritual that says:  “If you can’t preach like Peter, if you can’t pray like Paul; just go and tell your neighbour, and say Christ died for all.” (There is a balm in Gilead).  And it may be that, by the grace of God, it is your neighbour who will then be the Peter, or the Paul, or the Billy Graham.

Tradition says that Andrew was crucified – but on a cross shaped like an X.  That’s the origin of the Scottish national flag, the Saltire.  The story is that, before a battle with an English king, Angus mac Fergus, king of the Picts – the people who lived in the lowlands – had a dream in which Andrew appeared and promised him victory.  During the battle, a Saltire cross was seen in the sky and this encouraged Angus and his troops.  After his victory, Angus ordered that the Saltire be the badge of the Picts.

Andrew is a saint – but according to the New Testament, so am I, and so are you if you belong to Jesus.  A little boy was asked to explain what a saint is.  He remembered that, in the church building his family attended, there were stained glass windows with pictures of some of the saints in the Bible, and how beautiful they looked when the sunlight shone through them.  So he answered that a saint is somebody that the light shines through!

Jesus said: “I am the Light of the world”.  But the only way in which some will see Him is if we allow Him to shine through us! 

You and I may never be a Peter, or a Paul – but we may be an Andrew, letting the light of the Lord Jesus shine through us, that others might come to know Him, and receive Him as their own Saviour and Lord.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Marriage!

Marriage is in the air!  In the past couple of weeks, we have attended the Christian wedding of the daughter of good friends; three of my former pupils have been married (two of them to each other!); and I read about a couple, Mr and Mrs Chand, who have just celebrated their 89th wedding anniversary!  That makes my wife and me, after a mere 44 years, still 'learners'!  By the way, the photograph that accompanied the newspaper article suggests that they are a very happy couple - and could still have a few years to go!  Next week, we attend another Christian wedding in Aberdeen, and next spring I know that another of my pupils is being married, and a couple of Christian friends will also be "tying the knot"!

So what is this marriage business?  I think that it was Groucho Marx who stated that "Marriage is a great institution ..." but went on to ask "... but who wants to live in an institution?"  Mae West, I believe, made a similar comment.  Of course, in a number of countries, marriage has been redefined - almost to the point of allowing it to mean whatever someone wants it to mean.  One report that I did not mention above, was of a man who, allegedly, was 'married' to a tree!

"Marriage," I used to say, "is a state of life provided and initiated by God.  It has been blessed by the presence of Jesus Himself at the marriage is Cana of Galilee.  In Holy Scripture it is commended as honourable in all, and the marriage union is seen as a symbol of the union of loyalty and love that exists between Christ and His people.  ... ... ...
"It was given for the sake of the life-long companionship, help, and comfort that husband and wife ought to have of each other.
"It was given so that family life may continue, and that children, who are a gift from God, may be brought up in the love and security of a stable and happy home.
"It was given for the welfare of human society, which can be strong and happy only where the marriage commitment is kept and honoured."

Now, of course, the marriage service that I conducted was much more than those words - but those are the words that provide the basis of marriage - certainly from a Christian point of view.   I would sometimes point out that a truly Christian marriage is like a triangle.  The base line of that triangle joins the husband and the wife.  One side joins the Lord to the husband; the other side joins the Lord to the wife.  Now, in any marriage, there will be - especially in the early years as the couple learn to adjust to, and live with, one another - difficulties.  That base line may sometimes crack.  However, as long as the sides remain strong, the triangle stands.  It is only if one, or both, of the sides fractures, that the triangle collapses.

What I am saying is that a solid relationship with the Lord, while not offering a 100% guarantee, will increase the possibility of a strong, stable, marriage that is honouring to Him.   What I am not saying is that only truly Christian marriages can last - the Chands are proof of that!

I do pray for the couples of whose marriage plans I am aware.  None of us may have a marriage that lasts as long as the Chands (death usually takes one partner before the other), but all of us who are married are able to work at our marriages and, with God's help, to make them a good example to those around us.  In our current 'western' society, such examples are needed!


Saturday, 22 November 2014

How to preach the Word of God.

Another bus journey, yesterday - to Coatbridge - meant another opportunity to read a couple of chapters of my current reading material on the life and work of George Müller.  This time, the topic that spoke to, and encouraged, me was that of the proclamation of the Word of God.

In my mind, I went back (too!) many years to my time at the Bible Training Institute, in Glasgow.  It was during the summer between the two academic years that I received a very clear call to pastoral ministry.  This meant that, when students gave their testimonies as to what the Lord had done with them during the long break, I had to say that I would be going to University as I was going to be a minister, here in Scotland!

There were those who were not impressed!  They were going to leave all of the comforts of home, and go to foreign countries in which they would have to learn a language that was totally alien to them, and where they would not have running water, electricity, television, and a host of other items and utilities that we took for granted in our home countries.  My response to that particular criticism was that they would also be sharing the Gospel message with those who did not know it at all, and who would be more willing to acknowledge their own sinfulness.  I would be preaching before people who thought that having their name on a congregational roll was sufficient to ensure their eternal future in heaven!  I would have to convince them of their sinfulness, and of their actual need of a Saviour!

The second criticism came from, I confess, just one of my fellow students.   Tony was a Welsh Pentecostal.  He could not understand why I needed all of this university education that I was going to undertake.  All I needed, as far as he was concerned, was a Bible, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, I still possess a book that he gave to me in order to help me to 'see the light'!

My response to Tony was simple.  I explained that, if he was going to be preaching in a Mission Hall somewhere in the Welsh valleys, then that might well be all that he would need.  He might not have, under his ministry, many who were wise according to worldly standards, not many who were powerful, not many who were of noble birth. (see I Cor 1:26).  However, if I ended up in a parish ministry, I would not only have many who were unconverted, but unaware of the fact; I would also be more likely to have the local schoolteacher, the doctor, the solicitor, and others of similar educational background.  "Now," I would continue, "if I preach Christ crucified, 'a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles' (I Cor 1:23), such a person may look, with disdain, at my Diploma of the Bible Training Institute, and think 'If you had had the sort of education that I have had, you would not believe such nonsense'.  However, if that person knows that I am standing there with similar qualifications to those possessed by him/her then, at the very least, that particular argument/excuse is removed."

I still believe that.  I know that the Lord used uneducated fishermen to preach the Gospel.  However, I know that He also used Paul who, as Saul of Tarsus, was educated in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).  Paul's intellectual qualifications were, in his day, beyond reproach!  Of course, I have always sought to remember that not everyone has had the privilege of the education that has been granted to me.  So, I have always endeavoured to use words that do not require a double doctorate in divinity and theology to be understood.  Indeed, that was the thinking behind the series of messages that I shared, in the late 1970s, with the congregation of Bellshill: St.Andrew's, and which became the basis for my first book (details at the head of the blog!).

All of this came back to me as I read these words concerning George Müller.  "He had yet to learn how the enticing words of man's wisdom make the cross of Christ of none effect, and how the very simplicity that makes preaching intelligible to the illiterate makes sure that the most cultivated will also understand it, whereas the reverse is not true." (op.cit., p.43).

May such a message be taken to heart by all of us who are privileged to minister the Word; and always, to His glory.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Today, my wife and I travelled, by bus, to Livingston.  The journey lasts for about an hour, so she advised me to take a book to read.  The book that I was almost finished reading had only a chapter left, so that wasn't going to be of any use.  I quickly scanned my bookshelves - and spotted a book that I had acquired (I suspect that it was a 'freebie'!) some time back, but that had since been neglected.  It is a book that tells the story of George Müller of Bristol (although he was Prussian by birth and upbringing).

It is also a book that has already grabbed my attention, and already has a number of passages highlighted.  Very early in the narrative, we are provided with a brief synopsis of the subject who was born in 1805, and who departed this earthly life in 1898 - a true 19th century man.  The final part of the synopsis reads: "... the last six years were used of God in mellowing and maturing his Christian character."  So, a man of God, whose name has become almost a by-word for believing prayer, and who was in his 93rd year of mortal life when he was called home, was mellowed and matured in his Christian character in the final six of those years!

Actually, when I gave the matter some further thought, I realised that the idea isn't really so strange!  Although not yet close to the age at which George Müller was promoted to glory, I am certainly past the fresh flush of youth - both physically and spiritually!   However, it is as I have become less young (I refuse to be 'old'!) that I have found myself drawn closer to the Lord, and spending more time in His Word, than I have ever done before.  How mellow and mature I am becoming is something that others are better equipped to judge.

Why should this be?  Well, I speculate!  However, I suspect that it has something to do with the increasing awareness that I am closer to my heavenly reward today than I have ever been before!  Now, I know that that has always been true, but I seem to be becoming increasingly aware of it.  And not simply aware of it, but looking forward to it with increasing anticipation. 

I have a regret.  That regret is that I have waited so long to reach this stage.  By the way, I am not claiming anything even remotely like 'perfection'.  I may joke about that ("I used to be conceited, but now I'm perfect", etc.) but I am fully aware of the reality.  However, as a 'one-liner' that came to me, many years ago, puts it: "In this world, I shall never be sinless but, by the grace of God, I may sin less!"   When I confess my sin during my private devotions, and receive the forgiveness that has already been gained for me at Calvary, I also ask that the Lord would continue His work of sanctification in me.  (That, by the way, is a word that means, basically, being made more like Jesus.  I deal with it more fully in the first book in the "Getting to know you" series - details in the heading to the blog!).

It is unlikely - although not impossible (the Lord has a great sense of humour!) - that I will ever enjoy the spiritual stature of a George Müller.  However, I will be content to walk a little more closely to my Saviour each day.  My advice, and encouragement, to others is not to leave it until you are my age.  Spend more time with Him, now.  Read your Bible (or listen to recordings!) in a systematic way.  Ask yourself questions about the passage that you have read - "What does this passage teach me about the character of God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, all three?"  "What is this passage saying to me as an individual?"  "Is this passage pointing out a specific sin that requires to be dealt with?"   Don't 'say prayers' - pray!   Keep a list of prayer subjects for daily prayer; another one for weekly prayer (and the day of the week on which those people will be prayed for, or situations prayed about!).  Spend a few minutes, at the beginning, moving into His presence.  It all helps to draw you closer to Him - and that can only ever be for your good!

You will be blessed - you can't be otherwise.  I encourage you to do it - you know it makes sense!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Public Morality.

When the morality, and personal behaviour, of public figures is questioned, there are always those who insist that "as long as they can do the job".   However, increasing revelations of historic paedophilia, and other forms of sexual abuse; of the fraudulent claiming of expenses; of the abuse, and misuse, of power and authority; lead me to believe that the public should actually take greater care in checking out the personal morals, and behaviour of those whom they elect and who, in turn, are often in a position to influence the promotion of those in, for example, the judiciary.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics state that the numbers of homosexuals and lesbians etc., in the United Kingdom, is 1.6% of the population.  I have looked, but have been unable to find, figures for the number of parliamentarians who are openly in one of the sexually-deviant groups but, with 650 members in the UK Westminster Parliament, any number over 10 is higher than the national average.  I think that I can safely say that there are more than 10 openly homosexual/lesbian members in the Lower House!  I have often wondered if this was a major factor in the passing of The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, 2013, in spite of the clear majority of the general public were opposed to the measure.  Too many had a vested interest - either for themselves or their friends!

So, perhaps this is why we should, indeed, check out the morals, sexual preferences, ethics, and anything else about those who represent us.  Otherwise, we may continue to place, in positions of influence and authority, those who hold views that are diametrically opposed to the majority.  It is one of the reasons why I am currently supporting The United Kingdom Independence Party.  It's not simply because I am opposed to the European Union.  It's not because I would not still prefer an overtly Christian Party in charge (I doubt, in all honesty, that that will ever happen).  Its because they appear to be the only viable Party that holds to at least some of the policies that I can, in conscience, support.

It's now only about six months to the next U.K. General Election.  Let us be careful how we vote.  Remember, we often get the government for which we have failed to pray!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The end of life.

Quite a number of recent posts have been on the topic of abortion - the deliberate killing of an unborn human being.  This evening, I want to go to the other end of the Journey of Life spectrum, and look at another emotive issue that is currently very topical - assisted dying (aka assisted suicide/euthanasia).

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;" states Shakespeare's heroine figure in his play Romeo and Juliet.   So, whatever name is given, and has been given, over recent decades, the common denominator, in this situation, is the deliberate taking of a fully adult life, for whatever reason.  By the way, I do not propose going into a discussion on etymology, especially with regard to the strict definition of euthanasia (from the Greek!).

Yesterday, the UK House of Lords debated the Bill that has been brought forward by Lord Charlie Falconer.   This Bill seeks to “enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life”.   Of course, there have been a number of attempts to legislate in favour of the right to end one's own life in recent years - at least one previous one also being in the name of Charlie Falconer.   Thankfully, each one has been defeated, but the assisted suicide and/or euthanasia supporters keep coming back with the sort of determination that one often wishes was seen in other areas of politics!

Often, some recent high-profile case, in which there has been a lot of public sympathy for the person who wishes to end his/her own life, is used by the 'suicide lobby' (to use a convenient shorthand expression!).  One that may well have been raised in the House of Lords, yesterday, is that of Brittany Maynard, the young woman from the USoA who travelled from her home state of California, to the state of Oregon, in order to legally kill herself!   However, emotional cases do not lead to good legislation!   Thankfully, for every Brittany, there are hundreds of others who do not take the 'easy' way out!  There were many who shared their stories on social media, but I didn't notice their stories receiving the same publicity in the main-stream media!

However, away from the individual cases.  What about the general picture?  It is interesting that all of the professional medical bodies are opposed to the sort of legislation that Charlie Falconer and, in the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie, wish to see enacted.   However, that is not really surprising! Do assisted suicide supporters really expect doctors and nurses to be able to assist the suicide of one patient, then go on to care for a similar patient who wants to live, without this having an effect on their ethics or their empathy? Do they realise that this reduces the second patient’s will-to-live request to a mere personal whim—perhaps, ultimately, one that society will see as selfish and too costly? How does this serve optimal health care, let alone the integrity of doctors and nurses who have to face, and live with, the fact that they helped other human beings kill themselves?

Indeed, a report in The Telegraph, on Thursday, stated that "One in 10 British people believe elderly people should be offered a “reward” if they opt for assisted suicide, new polling suggests."  Now, apart from the fact that, if the 'reward' is only to be offered posthumously, it is going to be of little satisfaction to the recipient, why should anyone wish to be rewarded in this way?  By the way, the suggested 'reward'  was "a martini and a medal"!  I'm teetotal; and I would prefer to wear a medal on my own chest - while standing up!   The report continued: "Anti-euthanasia campaigners said the finding was “chilling” evidence of deep-seated prejudice towards older people from a small but significant minority of the population."   Chilling, indeed.

What is needed is more, and improved, palliative care.  The Hospice movement does a wonderful job - I know, I have visited enough of their establishments! - but it is limited in its scope because, as a charity, it depends on the donations of supporters.  As I type, I am thinking just how far the latest demand from the EU - £1.7 billion - would go to providing that desired level of care.  However, all that will happen is that it will be wasted on an already corrupt and bloated administration!

The debate, yesterday, went on for longer than was expected, and there was no formal division.  However, it is reported that the majority of those who spoke did so in opposition to the Bill.  For this, at this stage, many of us are truly thankful.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Prayer

As I appear to be unusually busy this week - who said that retirement was a dawdle?! - I am cheating a little this evening by posting some quotations, about prayer, from Charles H Spurgeon, the great 19th century Baptist preacher.

The story is told that, when visitors came to the Metropolitan Tabernacle from the pulpit of which he preached for 38 years, he would mention the modern heating system.  He would then ask if they would like to see the power-house.  The answer was always in the affirmative, as people were intrigued by the thought of a boiler-system that could provide heating for such large premises.  Spurgeon would take them to the basement and, opening a particular door, would proclaim, "This is the power-house of the Metropolitan Tabernacle!"  On looking in, the visitor(s) would see people, on their knees, praying passionately.

Spurgeon was a man of prayer himself. Throughout his entire ministry many hearers remarked that they were moved by his preaching, but yet still more affected by his praying. The famous American evangelist D. L. Moody, upon returning home after his first visit to England, was asked: "Did you hear Mr Spurgeon preach?" Moody replied: "Yes, but better still, I heard him pray."

So, a few prayer-linked quotation from one, often referred to as the prince of preachers, but who said that what the church needs, rather, is princes, and princesses, of prayer.   Some things do not change!

"If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ."

"A prayerful church is a powerful church..."

"I have not preached this morning half as much as I have prayed.  For every word that I have spoken, I have prayed two words silently to God."

"Until the gate of hell is shut upon a man we must not cease to pray for him. And if we see him hugging the very doorposts of damnation, we must go to the mercy seat and beseech the arm of grace to pluck him from his dangerous position. While there is life there is hope, and although the soul is almost smothered with despair, we must not despair for it, but rather arouse ourselves to awaken the Almighty arm."

"My own soul's conviction is that prayer is the grandest power in the entire universe; that it has a more omnipotent force than electricity, attraction, gravitation, or any other of those secret forces which men have called by a name, but which they do not understand."

Let us pray!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Femininst votes against girls!

If Victor Meldrew was a real character, he would surely be uttering his famous catch-phrase: "I don't believe it!"

Yesterday, in the UK House of Commons, the Abortion (Sex-Selection) 10 Minute Rule Bill was debated and put to a vote.   This was a Bill, in the name of Fiona Bruce, MP, to make illegal abortion on the basis of the gender of the unborn child.  As was well publicised last evening, the 10 Minute Rule Bill was supported with a vote of 181 for and 1 against.  If I understand the situation correctly, this allows it to go forward to it's currently scheduled Second Reading in January.

However, many were asking that the one person who voted against the Bill be named (and shamed!).  I am happy to now be able to do so.  The one MP who voted, effectively, to allow the abortion of unborn females simply because they are female, was the well-known feminist, and former actress, Glenda Jackson.

Does Ms Jackson not see the irony of her situation?  Someone who would claim to have fought for the rights of women; who castigated the late Margaret Thatcher (after her death) for not having been feminist enough; is apparently happy to see little girls murdered in their mothers' wombs, simply because they have the potential only to become women!

Now, of course, it may be that, like Mrs Thatcher after the death of her beloved Denis (she was at least feminine enough to keep a husband for life - something that Glenda Jackson has patently failed to do!) Glenda Jackson is suffering from the early stages of dementia, and did not realise that she had walked through the 'wrong' lobby.  If that is the case, then she does have my sympathy - and my relief that she has already stated that she will not be standing at the next General Election, as she will then be 80 years of age.

However, if that is the case, perhaps she should just stand down now, and not allow herself another six months of 'wrong' decisions! 

It may be that I am totally misreading the situation, and I will be sending this post to Ms Jackson to enable her to respond, if she so wishes.  However, if I am correct in my analysis, then she came across, yesterday, as an arch-hypocrite in a gathering that is not short of them.

On a more general note, it is worth remembering that if our own mothers had had an abortion, we wouldn't be here!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Do true disciples of Jesus need material evidence?

One of the online magazines that I regularly receive had an interesting article in today's issue.  The heading was certainly one that caught the eye: "How babies were made in Jesus' time."   I reckoned that I knew the answer to that one - in the same way that they have been made since Adam and Eve!

However, the article, by Andrew Lincoln of the University of Gloucestershire, was actually about the virginal conception of the Lord Jesus, and the source of the male-provided 'Y' chromosome!  There is an opportunity for comment, and the first two comments referred to Ron Wyatt (of whose existence I was previously unaware!) and his alleged discovery of the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant which, according to the two commenters, had traces of the dried blood of Jesus on it - blood that was tested and showed that it only had the mother's chromosome! 

Now, I am not in a position to comment on Ron Wyatt’s findings, other than to say that, apart from anything else, I can think of no reason why the human blood of Jesus would be found on the Ark! However, I wonder about the relevance of any of these alleged discoveries – finding Noah’s ark; the Shroud of Turin; finding the Ark of the Covenant; etc.

When the resurrected Jesus made His first appearance to the disciples (John 20:19), Thomas was not with them. He was informed, later, and responded that without ‘concrete’, material proof, he would not believe!

Eight days later, Thomas was with the others, and Jesus appeared again. He invited Thomas to check out the evidence as he had wanted. Of course, brought face-to-face with the risen Saviour of the world, and King of the universe, Thomas could only fall to his knees in worship. (v.28).  Jesus’ following words are very enlightening: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’” (v.29). I would respectfully suggest that those words could be interpreted as, “Blessed are those who have no material evidence, but who still believe”!

In other words, whatever alleged material evidence is produced, real faith does not require it!  

I saw another reference, yesterday - to LGBT people.  It suddenly struck me - I am an LGBT person!   For those who are astonished that I should make such a statement, let me quickly assure them that my sexuality is not in question.  It's just that I realised that those letters, in that order, have an immediate connection to Paul's words in Rom.3:4 - "Let God Be True though every man be false, ..."!  I'll stand on that LGBT statement until the day I die or am raptured!  Hallelujah!

Friday, 31 October 2014

"Hallowe'en" - is it an acceptable Christian celebration?

"Ghoulies and Ghosties, And Long Leggedy Beasties, And things that go Bump in the night"

I don't know the origin of that well-known phrase - but it does seem appropriate for a post for October 31st!   But the question in the heading is a serious one.   It has concerned me, for many years, that not only do many parents, who would claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus, the Christ, dress up their children, on this evening in the year, in weird and wonderful costumes and, in some cases, permit them to go out knocking on other people's doors, hoping for a reward of sweets or cash; but that even some congregations and fellowships that bear the name of the Christ, put on a special "Hallowe'en" party for their children at this time of the year!

Are they all wrong to act in this way?  Or is it perfectly acceptable - and I am just an old fuddy-duddy?

Well, let's look at the topic.  First of all, note the way in which I spell the word.  That apostrophe stands for the letter 'v', so the word is really "Halloweven" or, more fully, "Hallowed (Holy) Evening".  Now, that certainly makes it sound as if it could be a Christian festival.  Au contraire, mes amis (I am in France at the moment!).  Halloween and its practices are Romanist and Pagan in origin.  “In its strictly religious aspect, this occasion is known as the vigil of Hallowmas of All Saint’s Day, Nov. 1, observed by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Pope Gregory III (731 to 741 AD) assigned this date for celebrating of the feast when he consecrated a chapel in Saint Peter’s basilica to all the saints. Gregory IV extended the feast to the entire Roman Catholic church in 834 AD” “There is little doubt that the Roman Catholic church sought to eliminate or supplant the Druid festival of the dead by introducing the alternative observance of All Saint’s Day on Nov. 1.” (Encyclopedia Britannica).

However, the popular secular observance of Halloween, falling on the night of Oct. 31, is derived from the rights of the Druids celebrating the day of Samhain, the so called “lord of death”, when the “lord of death” called together the souls of the wicked who had died during the past year. The theme of harvest, which runs through modern Halloween celebrations, comes from both the old Druidic celebrations and the old Roman festivals in honor of Pomona, goddess of fruit, brought to Britain during the Roman occupation.  This is the reason why an apple is a traditional 'gift' to those who go around knocking on doors and demanding "trick or treat"! 

Of course, the “trick or treat” concept implies the threat of force and violence. Surely, to teach children such attitudes and concepts is completely contrary to the teachings of the Lord Jesus, the Christ.   The very word "trick" implies "deceit".   Do we really wish to encourage our children to be deceitful?   Is there not enough of that particular commodity going around already?

Paul advised some of the early followers of Jesus to "... have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Eph.5:11).  He told another group to "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thess.5:22; emphasis added).  He advised young Timothy that "... the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."  (I Tim.4:1).

Perhaps it is time for all who truly love the Lord Jesus, and who have received His salvation from sin through the shedding of His precious blood at Calvary, to take a stand on this issue.  Perhaps, next year, more congregations and fellowships will do what I know some already practice - a "Festival of Light" as an alternative to the secular Halloween activities.  Perhaps Christian parents will seek to instil the love of God into their children's hearts and minds, rather than the symbols of death that are so common at this time of year.

By the way, today is also celebrated in the Reformed (Protestant) Church - particularly the German Lutheran Church - as Reformation Day. This commemorates Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517, thus provoking a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

Now there might be a better cause to celebrate!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Euthanasia - gone berserk!

I have never tried to hide my total opposition to both abortion and euthanasia (aka assisted suicide/dying).  I have signed petitions; written to MPs and MSPs; published posts on this very blog; and written letters to various newspapers.   I thought that I was fully aware of most of the issues involved.  However, I have just read an extremely disturbing report on LifeNews.com   I have been unable to confirm the report but, if this is true, then the UK Justice system has, in my opinion, reached a new low.  I have edited the following for the sake of comparative brevity.

"Nancy Fitzmaurice, born blind with hydrocephalus, meningitis and septicaemia, could not walk, talk, eat or drink, the Mirror reported.  Her health was so poor she required 24-hour care and was fed, watered and medicated by tube at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Her health deteriorated and, as she grew, she would scream in agony for hours despite being given morphine and ketamine.

Her mother, Charlotte Fitzmaurice Wise, knew the pain her daughter was suffering was too much for the 12-year-old to bear. She deserved to be at peace and had the right to die, knew her heartbroken mother, who had given up work as a nurse to be with her. (emphases added).   …“The light from her eyes is now gone and is replaced with fear and a longing to be at peace. “Today I am appealing to you for Nancy as I truly believe she has endured enough. For me to say that breaks my heart.  …Her application was granted immediately, setting a precedent. It is the first time a child breathing on her own, not on life support and not suffering a terminal illness has been allowed to die in the UK. (emphasis in the original).

The judge praised Wise for her “love and devotion” towards her daughter… which was shown by her fight to kill Nancy. The judge ruled that she had no quality of life anymore, and therefore, she should be killed by refusing to give her any food or water until she died. It took her 14 days to die. Wise claimed that she wanted to end her daughter’s suffering and give her death with dignity, but she chose to do that by making her daughter suffer a slow, agonizing, painful death. How does that make any sense? (emphasis added).

Dehydration and starvation is horrible for a person to endure. The body is about 60 percent water, and under normal conditions, an average person will lose about a quart of water each day by sweating and breathing and another one to three quarts by urinating. In the heat, and under more difficult physical conditions, that amount increases.  If it’s not replaced over time and dehydration becomes severe, cells throughout the body will begin to shrink as water moves out of them and into the blood stream, part of the body’s efforts to keep the organs perfused in fluid. “All the cells will shrink,” said Jeffrey Berns, president-elect of the USoA National Kidney Foundation and a nephrologist at the University of Pennsylvania, “but the ones that count are the brain cells. They don’t operate normally when they’re shrinking.” Changes in mental status will follow, including confusion and ultimately coma, he said. As the brain becomes smaller, it takes up less room in the skull and blood vessels connecting it to the inside of the cranium can pull away and rupture. … Victims’ kidneys may shut down first, as they continue to lack access to both water and salt. The kidneys cleanse the blood of waste products which, under normal conditions, are excreted in urine. Without water, blood volume will decline and all the organs will start to fail. Kidney failure will soon lead to disastrous consequences and ultimately death as blood volume continues to fall and waste products that should be eliminated from the body remain.  In addition to all of those, of course, there are the natural pangs of hunger, and the total lack of nutrition.

So to end a person’s supposed suffering — a person who is not terminally ill, is not on any life support, and can breathe on their own — we must make them suffer a slow, painful, horrific death. But only if they’re disabled, apparently.  ... because this girl, a child, is severely disabled, it’s considered acceptable. Putting a bullet in her head would have been kinder, because it at least would have been immediate. But then we can’t tap dance around the fact that what this mother did is murder.

Wise assumes, as many people do, that a person wouldn’t want to live in such a way. But no one knows how her daughter felt about her quality of life and whether or not she wanted to live. No one knows how her daughter felt in those 14 days that she was being starved and dehydrated. And no one cares. Nancy Fitzmaurice was disabled and could not speak, so she was brutally, cruelly murdered, with the permission of her government. And notice that the suffering Wise spoke of repeatedly was her own, not her daughter’s. She couldn’t bear seeing her daughter like that. She was going through “torture” watching her daughter in pain. So she petitioned the court to get permission to force her daughter to die a slow, painful death instead of seeking palliative care.

It’s become appropriate in the United Kingdom to kill a person now because it’s too much of a hassle to keep them alive. It’s legal for parents to murder their children because they’re disabled, because they can’t speak for themselves, because the parent has decided that their lives are not worth living anymore. And we call it death with dignity."

Is it too much to suggest that this tragic situation is the result of abortion being so accepted as a mother's choice.  Now, we have slipped into the idea that a mother can have her child killed - her choice, not that of the child. Last century, there was an organization that not only advocated the "mercy killing" of the disabled, but also carried it out. They were known as Nazis. 

If anyone can provide confirmation of this report or, indeed, evidence to refute it, please let me know by e-mailing me at the address at the top of the page.  Thank you.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Shalom.

This evening, at Café Church (now known as Café Christian Fellowship), Bergerac, I had the privilege of bringing the message.  It was based on John 20:19-31, and was titled Being a Peacemaker.  We looked at the wonderful Hebrew word, 'shalom', which is translated 'peace' in English-language translations.  The Greek word in the passage that we read is 'eirene' - but that word is translated by 'shalom' in the Greek-language version of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament).

Okay, so that's the linguistic introduction!  'Shalom' is, however, much more than 'peace' in the sense of 'absence of hostility.  It is, in fact, the peace of Almighty God - an absolute, and total, contentment - and it's available to you, and to me!  It's a personal peace.

However, it is also a relational peace.  I quoted Charlie Brown (from the Snoopy cartoon strips) this evening.  In one particular strip, he said: "I love this beautiful world that God has made.  It's just the people I can't stand!"  I also quoted the older 'jingle': "To be above with saints we love, will be the purest glory.  To be below with saints we know - well, that's a different story"!   Most of us live in some sort of community or other, and it's important that we develop a strategy to cope with this togetherness.  At least part of that strategy is given by the Lord Jesus in the passage.  It's to do with forgiveness!  Is it easy?  Absolutely not!  But if we are partakers of the 'shalom' of God, that will make it easier!   If we are at peace with ourselves, we can be at peace with others, and we can gladly forgive.

The third aspect of 'shalom' is the eternal one, as we find ourselves at peace with God.  That, after all, is the most crucial objective of the coming of the Lord Jesus into the time-space continuum in which we live out our mortal lives.  Paul wrote: "... if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them..  And He has committed to us, the message of reconciliation." (II Cor.5:17-19).  Indeed, it is out of His forgiveness of us, that we are called to forgive those around us!

Jesus said: "Blessed (and the word means 'Happy'!) are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God."(Matt.5:9).  But I can't be a peacemaker if I don't know peace with God myself!

Shalom!  It's a great word: speaking of peace within, as I experience forgiveness of my personal sins; peace with others, as I am enabled, by the grace of God, to forgive them in turn; peace with God, as I am reconciled to my Father in heaven, through the precious blood of Jesus, shed for me at Calvary.

Do you know that 'shalom' in your own life?  If not, do you long to experience it?  I would be delighted to be of some assistance to you.  Please feel free to contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the page.  Alternatively, if you go to 'My favourite links', you will find a coupls of links that may be of help.

Blessings, and shalom.

Friday, 24 October 2014

I don't believe it!

Apologies to TV character, Victor Meldrew, for the heading!  However, I have just received a comment on a friend's Facebook page, that was directed at me, and which I can't recall having had said to me ever before.  It was just two words long: "Damn you!"

Now, if I have your attention, I must add that it was not said in any nasty way.  The reason behind it was that our mutual friend had put up one of these "Check your IQ" posts and I had come up with a nice 132 (placing me, I was assured, in the top 2% of the population.  And many of you think that I am just a pretty face!).  The other person had only managed 118.  My friend, by the way, managed 122, but these 'tests' are not always 100% accurate themselves, and even IQ isn't all that it is sometimes cracked up to be!

Of course, the Bible has a particular slant on knowledge.  In the ancient book of Proverbs, we read that: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;" (Prov 1:7).  It must be noted that the Hebrew word translated 'fear', has nothing to do with being afraid, but refers to having a healthy reverence for Almighty God.  So, true knowledge, according to the written Word of God, begins with our relationship with Him!  That relationship can only be based on our relationship with the Lord Jesus, the Christ, God the Son [for an explanation of the Trinity, see my book: details at the top of the page!].

But there is also wisdom - and the two words are not synonymous!  The same book of Proverbs has much to say about wisdom, also: "Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold." (Prov 3:13-14).

I have known many who have a great deal of knowledge; I have known fewer who have real understanding; I know only a few who have wisdom.  It is something that comes, usually, with age and experience.  That is perhaps one reason why the agèd apostle, Paul, writing to his son in the faith, Timothy, and advising him with regard to the running of a fellowship of disciples of Jesus, told him: "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, ..." (I Tim 5:22).  In other words, he was not to 'promote' those who had only recently become followers of Jesus to positions of responsibility within the Church - an injunction, I would add, that ought to be taken to heart in our contemporary society!

So, I have (allegedly) an IQ of 132.  Very nice.  But do I have Godly wisdom?  That is of much greater importance.  And what about you?!

It should, perhaps, be noted that the book of Proverbs (and, indeed, the whole of the Bible) has many more references to both 'knowledge' and 'wisdom'.  It would be a worthwhile study to look at all of them - over a period of time.  Doing so might even help to make one wise!




Saturday, 18 October 2014

Rites of Passage.

In my teaching career, one of the units taught to S1 pupils concerned Rites of Passage.  This refers to the four major events in a person's life that are celebrated, in some way, by every culture known to mankind.  These are Birth, Coming of Age, Marriage, and Death.

These are also areas that, in recent decades, in some of the more 'civilised' nations in the world, have become increasingly under attack from a secular, atheistic, humanism that would have us all made in its own image - rather than in the image of the Creator God Who is responsible for our very existence.

Birth.  It was in 1967 that abortion became legal within the UK.  Since then, around 10 million babies have been callously murdered in the very place in which they ought to have been best protected - their mothers' wombs.  And that is in England, Scotland, and Wales alone!  By the way, if you missed my brief series on abortion - "Womb - or tomb?" - you can scroll down to the Blog Archive; click on "August", and then scroll down to Tuesday, 19th for the first article.  Birth, in far too many cases, is not being celebrated - it is being prevented!

Coming of age.  It is the case, as I type, that it is when one reaches the age of 18 years that, in the UK, one is considered to have 'come of age'.  Of course, as my pupils were quick to point out, the age varies for different activities - from joining the Armed Forces, to purchasing alcohol, to acquiring a mortgage.  However, for at least two - maybe three - generations, we seem to have been encouraging our children to 'grow up' far too quickly.  Beauty Pageants, at least in the USoA, for toddlers - dressed up by their mothers in 'sexy' outfits (must be some sort of paedophile 'heaven'!), to Clubs and bars being frequented by children who have barely left puberty, to 'under-age' sexual activity.  And much of this with the knowledge, and tacit approval, of parents/guardians!

Marriage.  In the UK, with the honourable exception of N.Ireland, marriage has been redefined as being the union of any two persons, regardless of gender.  This has been, effectively, a response by politicians to a sustained lobbying exercise by those representing (according to recent National Office of Statistics report) a mere 1.6% of the population.  A massive petition opposing the move, in both Westminster and Holyrood, was ignored.  Of course, it is arguable, given revelations since, that the reason for that is that the percentage of those who practise deviant sexual relations, is much higher in government circles than in the population at large!  Now, I read that an OFSTED inspection in a Jewish school resulted in pupils feeling bullied, and traumatised, by the questions asked - questions such as "Do you know that it is acceptable for two men to be married to one another?"  Marriage, instead of being a relationship in which a man and a woman fulfil God's plan for them, and produce a family (something that no two people of the same gender can ever do, on their own!), has become a declaration of deviance that is sanctioned by the state.

Death.  There was a time when death came to most people before they reached 80 years of age.  Today, in the western world, more and more people are living to be centenarians.  At least, that is what we would like to think.  However, the constant push by some for the legalisation of euthanasia, and assisted dying/suicide, shows that death is becoming a marketable commodity - think Dignitas in Switzerland, or the whole situation in the Netherlands!   The tragedy of such a situation was shown by a newspaper report just a few days ago: 

"An elderly husband and wife have announced their plans to die in the world's first 'couple' euthanasia - despite neither of them being terminally ill.
Instead the pair fear loneliness if the other one dies first from natural causes.
Identified only by their first names, Francis, 89, and Anne, 86, they have the support of their three adult children who say they would be unable to care for either parent if they became widowed.
The children have even gone so far as to find a practitioner willing to carry out the double killings on the grounds that the couple's mental anguish constituted the unbearable suffering needed to legally justify euthanasia.
… The couple's daughter has remarked that her parents are talking about their deaths as eagerly as if they were planning a holiday.
John Paul [their son] said the double euthanasia of his parents was the 'best solution'.  'If one of them should die, who would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us,' he said. 'It would be impossible for us to come here every day, to take care of our father or our mother.'"

One commentator has responded like this:  "I wonder why no one considers the fact that the reason some elderly parents may experience “mental anguish” is that they have come to the sickening realisation that their grown children would rather find an executioner to dispatch them, than take on the responsibility of caring for their parents. Imagine the thoughts of a mother realising that the child she fed and rocked to sleep, played with and sang to, would rather have her killed than care for her; that their relationship really does have a price."
When I consider all of that, I confess to being glad that I am now out of the RME classroom.  My fear is that those who are in may be pushing the kind of agenda that is mirrored above!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Minor changes!

Two changes to the blog have occurred over the past couple of weeks.  The first was the realisation that the visit counter had disappeared.  That is something that probably isn't of any interest to anyone other than me!

However, in my endeavour to reinstate it, I also managed to delete the Disqus gadget that had taken over the Comments facility.  Regretfully, this has meant that all previous comments appear to have disappeared!  I don't know the source of the Disqus embedded file, so I am unable to restore it - and to see if the comments are restored at the same time!  If anyone does know how this might be achieved, I am always open to good advice!

I have also been having difficulty inserting a fresh counter.  I have been unable to find the code that I was using - which could mean that its provider has closed down, and that that is the reason for the sudden disappearance of the counter!    I did note the last figure, and have another means of checking the visits to an individual post, so I can make a fairly accurate guess at the current number.  If anyone can direct me to a straightforward counter, that allows a start number to be inserted, I would be grateful for that also.  I have tried one - but it hasn't appeared, and an e-mail to the provider has elicited a zero response!

At least I am able to keep posting, so do keep looking - and encourage others to do the same!