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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Another wee brain-teaser!

The last brain-teaser proved to be very popular.  However, I know of only one person who managed to complete it correctly!  So, for those who like to keep their little grey cells exercised, here is another one - and it's a wee bit more simple (I think!).

The words  below are all anagrams of names of places visited by the apostle, Paul.   Start off by working out as many as you can without any assistance.  Then, if you have access to a Bible map (or should that, nowadays, be 'Bible app'?!!), you should be able check out Paul's journeys.  If you are having a real problem, then the chapter and verse from The Acts of the Apostles, in which the place is named, is given in brackets beside each anagram.

Have fun!

1. SAD MUSCA (9:10);  2. SAIL SAM (13:5);   3. STRAY L (14:8);  4. BREED (14:20);   5. TO CHINA (15:35);   6.  ROAST (16:8);   7. HI PIP PIP (16:12);   8. LOAN THIS CASE (17:1);  9.  HASTEN (17:15);   10. HIT CORN (18:1);   11. SEE PUSH (18:19);   12. I MELT US (20:17);   13. USE AS CRY (28:12);   14. AS RUST (21:39);   15. MORE (28:16).

As before, I'll post the correct answers in a few days' time - so keep checking!


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Thank You, Lord!

It happened in a previous fellowship in which I was a part of the Leadership Team.  During a time of open ministry a young lady, who was a visitor, came to me for prayer.  As she looked up at me with a smile that seemed almost to split her face, I inquired as to any specific reason for prayer, and received the response, "The Lord has blessed me so really wonderfully, and I want to be able to really thank Him."  As I waited to discover the nature of such an obviously enormous blessing, she continued, "He has supplied me with a new pair of sandals.  Now, I just want more of Him!"

Although I knew that most, if not all, of those in the building at the time had wardrobes full of clothing and footwear, I didn't need to look any further than myself to realise how often we take so much for granted.  "A new pair of sandals" - and in Motherwell, in the middle of winter (it was January, as I recall)!  I felt strangely humbled, and honoured, to be permitted to pray with one whose heart was so full of thanksgiving.

There is much for which you and I, if we are genuine disciples of Jesus, can and should offer thanks to God - regardless of our financial, or material, circumstances.  There is the wonder of our salvation; the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit; the assurance of eternity in the Father's presence.  There is the family of the Church; the fellowship of the saints; the freedom to meet, together, with Him.  There is the written Word; the open door of prayer; the fruit, and gifting, of both the Lord Jesus, and Holy Spirit.

It is the constant exhortation that we be thankful, and praise the Lord.  The Psalmists were full of such praise and thanksgiving.  So David sings out, "I will give You thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise You." (Ps.35:18), while the un-named writer of Psalm 105 encourages his listeners to "Give thanks to the Lord, call on His Name; make known among the nations what He has done." (v.1).  Paul, too, says that we should be "... always giving thanks to God, the Father of everything, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Eph.5:20).

Let us, then, be filled with thanksgiving that will lead to praise which, as He is "... enthroned on the praises of His people." (Ps.22:3), will bring us ever more closely into His Presence, there to offer to Him the worship of our hearts and lives.

And a suggestion:  Let us cultivate an attitude of gratitude at all times!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Bearing your cross.

It was a video clip intended to be used to introduce a preached message on Mark 8:34 - "And [Jesus] called to Him the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."   However, it was not one that I would have used.  There are a couple of reasons for that. 

First of all, the 'cross' that was being carried was smooth and light; it was no more than six feet in height (and, I suspect, was not even that!); it was only about thirty inches at the crossbeam.  The gentleman who carried it did so through a variety of scenic backgrounds and, eventually, came to a place where a number of identical crosses were piled up, and where he left that one.  He then returned, unladen, to where he started, and collected another 'cross'.

My second reason is that I am not convinced that Jesus was speaking of a physical 'cross' being carried.  It's a popular notion that has passed into popular language.  If I have a difficulty, I have "my cross to bear"!  So I have to transport my wife to a Christian gathering, at a time at which I had planned to do something else.  Obviously, that's a cross that I have to bear.  Rubbish!  Indeed, double rubbish!!  I am being a husband to the woman whom I love!  It is always my delight to be of help to her.

I'm reminded of the story of the boy, seen by a gentleman, carrying a smaller boy on his back.  "That's a heavy burden you're carrying." said the gentleman.  "That's not a burden," replied the bigger boy, "that's my wee brother!"

Or, perhaps, I don't like my job.  However, I need it in order to pay the bills.  Accordingly, it's a cross that I have to bear!  Once again, rubbish!  It's a necessity; it's something I chose; if I'm so unhappy, I should be considering changing it.  But it's no cross.

I might sum it up by suggesting that just because something that is expected of us rubs against our grain, or causes us some inconvenience, doesn’t mean that we are fulfilling the call to take up our cross!

So what is Jesus saying?  May I suggest that He is referring to commitment?!  It was His commitment that took Him to Calvary - commitment to the will and purpose of the Father.  That's why it must be a daily occurrence.  Every day I need to commit myself, afresh, to Him.  For some, for example those in the persecuted church, this will mean physical privation.  For others, it will simply mean standing up for what is right in His sight.  But it is not the result of my commitment that is my cross; it is the commitment itself.

Are you taking up your cross, on a daily basis, and following Him?   Is your commitment to His service renewed every day?   Only as it is, will you be able to fulfil the prayer of Richard of Chichester, to know Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly, day by day.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill (2)

I may not be known to many, but I am certainly known to my MSPs and, indeed, to my representative in the Westminster Parliament as well.  I only wish that others, who are just as capable as I - and many who are more so - would take the time and effort to contact their political representatives and remind them that, in a democracy, that is exactly what they are - representatives of the people who elected them to high office!

Following the letter below that I sent out at the end of last week, I received a couple of responses that sought to show that my concerns were unfounded.  This is a copy of the response sent to those responses!

"Dear [name]

Thank you for your prompt response.

I appreciate all that you have written.  However, I am still concerned about, for example, the list of "corporate parents", in Part 7 of the Bill, who will, as I understand the situation, be able to provide a "nominated person" for every child.  I accept that a Health Visitor has a part - one would claim, an important part - to play in the early days of a child's life; that a schoolteacher will be keeping an eye on all of his/her charges and be in a position to raise any legitimate concerns.  This kind of scenario is not the issue.

However, when I see that, e.g., the Chief Constable of Police Scotland is on the list, I wonder exactly what is going on!   Is my grandchild of six years of age deemed worthy of police attention without any misdemeanour having been committed?  If he does happen to commit a chargeable offence, will not the police be automatically involved in any case?

You kindly refer me to the Pilot Project in the Highlands, but fail to mention that some 8,000 children (approximately 20%) have plans that are led by social workers or head teachers!  Is this truly indicative of the level of poor parenting in that area of our land?

I would respectfully suggest that this Bill, like so many pushed through by this current government, is poorly thought out, and may well lead to a plethora of unintended consequences.  As I have already urged, please vote against this Bill - at least Part 3, and its associated Part 7.

Kind regards."

Let more of us ensure that our elected representatives are aware that they are answerable to us, the electorate.  Please check out this blog for any future, contentious, issues.  There are a number 'in the pipeline'!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill

On Wednesday of this coming week (19th), the Scottish Parliament will consider, at Stage 3 (the final debate and vote) the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.  This is a Bill that, if enacted, would allow the appointment of a 'named person' for every child in Scotland, who would have powers that could be used to over-rule decisions made by the biological parents.  This is a matter of great concern to many, and the following is a copy of the e-mail that I have sent to my own MSPs.  I would encourage others to contact their MSPs as well.  Please feel free to use any of the information that is below, but do not simply copy and paste the e-mail.  It's not that I would be complaining about any breach of copyright (!), but simply that if a number of identical communications are received, then only one is considered!

"Dear [name]

As you are aware. I have been concentrating, recently, on other matters.  However, I am now obliged to turn my attention to The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill and, in particular, Part 4.

It would seem to me, and to many others, that this section of the Bill, if enacted, has the potential to undermine parents and carers - particularly if the 'named person' were to disagree with the parents or carers over a matter concerning the up-bringing of the child.  Even as august a body as The Faculty of Advocates raises similar points regarding a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In their submission to the Education and Culture Committee they add that the Bill “dilutes the legal role of parents, whether or not there is any way that parents are fulfilling their statutory responsibilities. It undermines family autonomy.”

The Law Society in Scotland similarly notes that the proposals could potentially breach European Human Rights Law on privacy and family life, stating that, “there is scope for interference between the role of the ‘named person’ and the exercise of a parent’s rights and responsibilities.”

There is also the matter of data protection.  Under current legislation, information can be shared without parental consent only if there is a danger of “significant harm”, but the Bill, if enacted, would enable data to be passed on to a named person without permission if there is a perceived risk to a child’s “well-being” [26.3,4.(a)]. What constitutes “well-being” is, obviously, subjective and could lead to unnecessary investigations into a child’s personal life.  This could well have the, I would hope unintended consequence, of parents, in the case of an accident involving their child, being deterred from taking the child to a hospital, or even to their GP's surgery, because they were afraid that they would become embroiled in the care system.

No-one is going to pretend that there are not cases in which a child needs to have an adult, other than the biological parents, involved in its care.  Indeed, during the twelve years in which my wife and I fostered, the majority of the children for whom we cared would have been thus classified.  However, this is, thankfully, a small minority.  Do you really want to see parents who are perfectly adequately looking after their child(ren) have their position usurped by the State!

Just last month, prominent Human Rights lawyer Aidan O Neil QC said that it is “startling” that the proposal “appears to be predicated on the idea that the proper primary relationship that children will have for their well-being and development, nurturing and education is with the State rather than within their families and with their parents”.

I am also concerned about Part 7 of the Bill and the concept of "Corporate Parents" - especially given the vast array of persons who would come under that description, as outlined in Schedule 3.  Once again, it would seem to me, this is an attempt by the Scottish Government to undermine perfectly good and responsible natural parenting in a manner that is worthy of Plato's Republic!

I am asking, therefore, that you either oppose the Bill in its entirety, or that you support any amendment that would remove Part 4 and, even Part 7.
Yours sincerely,


For those in the Motherwell and Wishaw Constituency, the MSPs are:

Mr John Pentland, MSP    john.pentland.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Mrs Clare Adamson, MSP   clare.adamson.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Mr Mark Griffin, MSP    mark.griffin.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Mr Richard Lyle, MSP  richard.lyle.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Mrs Margaret McCulloch, MSP   margaret.mcculloch.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Miss Siobhan McMahon, MSP  siobhan.mcmahon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Mrs Margaret Mitchell, MSP   margaret.mitchell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Mr  John Wilson, MSP  john.wilson.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Thursday, 13 February 2014

I believe.

It's been some time since I published a poem/song post!  As I attended to some clearing-out, I came across the following - from when my wife and daughters and I would go out on deputation, and provide some musical input.

I can't take the credit for the first two verses (!!), but the third is a verse that I was inspired to add to the well-known song.  For the record (no pun intended!), my favourite version of the original is by the '60s group, The Bachelors.

"I believe for ev'ry drop of rain that falls, a flower grows;
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows;
I believe for everyone who goes astray,
Someone will come to show the way.
I believe; I believe.

I believe, above the storm, the smallest prayer will still be heard;
I believe that Someone, in the great somewhere, hears ev'ry word;
Ev'rytime I hear a new-born baby cry, 
or touch a leaf, or see the sky;
I believe; I believe.

I believe that Jesus went to Calvary, to die for me;
I believe He rose again, up from the grave, triumphantly;
I believe He's waiting here, for you, tonight
to make you His, and give you life.
I believe; I believe."

By the way, if you wish to hear The Bachelors, there is a YouTube clip at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d_TFZ9yaKg

Monday, 10 February 2014

Alone, yet not alone!

It was one of my former pupils who had the words posted on Facebook as a poster (which she had not written).  I have taken the liberty of correcting the various grammatical mistakes!   It reads:

"I've been stabbed in the back by those I needed most;  I've been lied to by those I love; and I have felt alone when I couldn't afford to be.  But at the end of the day I had to learn to be my own best friend, because there are going to be days when no-one is going to be there for me but myself."

I found such words to be very sad, especially as I was reading them just a few hours after the evening fellowship time at Wishaw Baptist Church.  We are seeking to find ways of impacting the local community, and one of the points made was how lonely many people are in our contemporary society.

It has been claimed that two of the greatest problems in our contemporary Western culture are forgiveness, and loneliness.  I may deal with the former in a subsequent post but, in this one, I want to share a few thoughts about loneliness.   Even the Lord Jesus, in His humanity, understood loneliness.  He said to His disciples, as recorded in John 16:32, that "The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave Me alone ; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me."   "... alone; yet ... not alone,"!

Most folk are aware that loneliness is not the same as isolation.  I may be in the middle of a large city - and be completely alone.  Conversely, I may be in the middle of the Sahara desert - and not be alone!  Jesus gave us the clue - "... for the Father is with Me."

As a disciple of Jesus, I believe, firmly, that my Father God is omnipresent.  That simply means that He is everywhere, simultaneously!  It doesn't make logical sense to us - but He is God, and that is enough.

Jesus, Himself, said to His disciples "... lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matt.28:20).   In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament, we find the Psalmist asking "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?  If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Thy hand shall lead me,and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Let only darkness cover me,and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to Thee,the night is bright as the day;for darkness is as light with Thee." (Ps. 139:7-12).

Could this be the real answer to loneliness?  Not depending on myself, but enjoying the constant company of a loving heavenly Father - always, and everywhere!  Of course, He has to be my Father - and that is only possible as I come to the Son, the Lord Jesus, in repentance and faith, and submit myself to Him, as I receive the promised presence of God the Holy Spirit Who will make me more like Jesus.

"Are you lonesome tonight?", as the late Elvis Presley used to sing.  Then I commend my wonderful God to you - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He will not only assure you of His constant presence, but will also never 'stab you in the back', nor 'lie to you'.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Nigerian Christians killed in Boko Haram attacks.


No fewer than fifty countries are on the World Watch List of places in which disciples of Jesus are subject to persecution.  These range from North Korea, which has the dubious distinction of having been at the No.1 spot every year since the List was first published, twelve years ago, to Niger which, this year, is at No.50.

In thirty-six of those top fifty countries, Islamic extremism is the main driving force behind the persecution.  The most violent region is probably Africa's Sahel belt, which runs from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east.  In that region, some 20% of the world's Christians meet some 14% of the world's Muslims.

Of course, one of the reasons for this persecution is the growth of the Church, and persecution actually remains one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities!  The famous observation of Tertullian that, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," has a depth of insight which is all too often lost on Western believers today.

As an individual, I am unable to pray on a daily basis for each of those fifty nations.  However, I concentrate on a much smaller number (a tithe, for those who may be interested!), and pray for others when they are mentioned in the various prayer diaries of which I make use.  One of my 'regulars' is Nigeria where the main (but not only!) extremist group is popularly known as Boko Haram - which translates as "Western education is forbidden"

Both Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), and the BBC, report that at least 22 Christians were killed by members of Boko Haram on Sunday, Jan. 26th, when the Islamists attacked a church in Waga Chakawa village, located in Adamawa state. Another 25 from the village were killed while fleeing their homes, which the attackers had set on fire. The Islamic militants locked Christians inside the church, set off bombs and shot people or cut their throats as they tried to escape through windows. They held residents hostage and burned the church and houses throughout the village during the four-hour attack. Later that day, Boko Haram killed at least 52 more people who were shopping at a market in Kawuri village in Borno state. VOM contacts in Nigeria said as many as 200 Christians have been killed by Boko Haram since the Jan. 26th attacks.

If you are a praying person, please join with me in praying for peace for the bereaved; healing for the injured; and an end to such mindless, and wanton violence in Nigeria, and so many other countries.  You may wish to access some of the organisations that support the persecuted Church by using the links further down the page. 

"I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart;"

It was probably a military strategist who first made the comment that it is possible to lose a battle, yet still win the war!  Certainly, if my understanding is correct, the loss of the vote on the redefinition of marriage, at Holyrood, on Tuesday evening, was only a battle.  The Equality Act 2010 will require to be amended before the Scottish Bill becomes law.  This, it would appear, is being taken as read.  However, it must, I believe, be amended at Westminster, and I just wonder if the recent de-selection of Conservative MP, Tim Yeo - who is reported as having said that it was his support for the redefinition of marriage in  Westminster that lost him the fresh nomination - will be causing others to give more serious consideration to their own positions!

Be that as it may, to bring (I trust) a smile to your face, take a couple of minutes to watch this video.  You'll see that joy in the heading, clearly expressed by a bunch of folk, covering a fairly wide age spectrum, as they publicly confess that Jesus, the Christ, is their Saviour and Lord.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Judgement!

Only minutes after having published the previous post, I opened one of my regular e-mails and read  these words:

God's patience and mercy stretch beyond any patience or mercy we show others. He will pursue us until we either respond to Him or make ourselves unreachable by our own choices and hardness of heart. Then God's judgement is swift and sure. The only safe course is to turn to God before our stubbornness puts us beyond redemption. 

Where is Scotland, this evening?!

18 who did not bow the knee to the 'cool' perversion of political correctness.

The Scottish Parliament has spoken - but it does not reflect the beliefs and desires of the majority of the population of Scotland.  By 105 votes to 18, it has passed the Bill that will redefine marriage - except that, to the majority, it will do no such thing.  It all boiled down to a failure to recognise the difference between equality and equivalence (see my letter to Mr John Pentland, MSP, below).  However, there were eighteen brave persons who showed that they could not be browbeaten into subjection on such an important issue.

Why is it so important?  Because marriage, between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, for life, is the bedrock of any civilised society.  It is the only union that is capable of procreation, and the continuation, for as long as time exists, of the human race.  This is true whether, or not, one is a religious person, let alone a disciple of Jesus.

Of course, according to the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary, Alex Neil: “We have always maintained at the heart of this issue there is one simple fact: a marriage is about love.”  Sorry, Mr Neil, but such a statement is, to put it mildly, gushy garbage.  Of course a marriage ought to have love at its heart, but there is much more to the institution than that.  There is commitment; there is mutual support; there is, above all, and uniquely within a heterosexual relationship, the conception of children - without the need to go to a third party for assistance.  Of course I know, as we were frequently reminded over the past year or so, that there are heterosexual couples who are either unable, or unwilling, to have a family.  These, however, are a small minority.  Within a homosexual/lesbian relationship there is no possibility.  The number of men who are capable of bearing a child with another man is absolutely zilch/zero - and the same is true of two women.  At the very least, and from a non-religious perspective, it is an anthropological phenomenon that affirms that marriage is actually about the sanctioning and recognition of new biological, sexual and physical unions of men and women; the way human societies order, structure, promote and protect mating, motherhood and procreation, attaching fathers to children and their mothers, providing an ordered context for sexual activity, rooted in the protracted and intense needs of mothers and infants and in securing the future of society.

So what happens next?  I imagine that we will have to wait and see.  Of one thing I am certain, that the homosexual lobby will not be satisfied with what they now have (although I will be happy to be proved wrong!).  There will be appeals to the European Court of Human Rights as soon as a member of the Christian clergy refuses to 'marry' a homosexual couple.  It is unlikely that  any Muslim Imam will have the same problem!   It will be then that the current Scottish government will realise how totally useless are their assurances that individual members of the clergy will be 'protected'.

However, anyone who has read the chapter on Predestination in my book, Great Words of the Faith, will know that this evening's vote did not surprise the Eternal Creator of all that is.  He is still on the throne of heaven and, as the old adage had it: "Man proposes, but God disposes."  Could it be that all of this is a judgement on a society and culture that has moved far from the faith of its fathers?  Paul's words to the early believers in Rome, which you may read at Rom.1:18ff, are a valid commentary on our modern, 'progressive' society.

Those of us who are disciples of Jesus will continue to pray - that the relevant law will be repealed, and that God will have mercy on an apostate nation.

Monday, 3 February 2014

A strange dream!

The great Methodist preacher, John Wesley was, at one time, quite biassed concerning denominationalism.  However, it is recorded that, one night, he had a dream in which he found himself at the gates of hell.  Seizing the opportunity, the preacher asked the one who was guarding the gate, "Are there any Presbyterians in there?"  "Yes", came the straightforward reply.  "And what about Anglicans?" he asked.  "Yes" was, once again, the reply.  "Any Congregationalists, or Baptists, or Romanists?" was the next question and, yet again, the answer was a simple "Yes".  Wesley hesitated for a moment before asking, hopefully, "Of course, there are no Methodists!"  To his dismay, he was assured that there were!

Suddenly, his dream changed, and he found himself at the gate of heaven.  Once again he asked "Are there any Presbyterians here?".  "No" was the reply on this occasion.  Down through the list he went, each time receiving the same answer.  Eventually, he came to the question that interested him most.  "Are there any Methodists here?"  He was shocked to receive the same answer, "No!"  "Well then", he asked, "just who is in heaven?"  "CHRISTIANS!" was the jubilant response.

On my Grammar School blazer were two very specific items - the badge, and the label.  The label contained some very important information, such as the type of material, the cleaning instructions, and the size of the garment.  However, as in any school, there were many different labels.  What was more important was the badge, as it showed the specific school which I attended, and to which I 'belonged'.  What is interesting is that it was only the badge that was displayed on the front, breast-pocket of the blazer.  The label, with all of its useful information, was tucked away under the collar, or in the inside pocket.

Disciples of Jesus, too, have both a badge and a label.  Our labels - our denominational 'tags' - provide some very important information as to what we believe concerning such matters as the proper subjects for water baptism; church government; and the provision, and use, of the gifts of God the Holy Spirit.  However, what is of much greater importance is the badge - Christian - which proclaims "Whose we are, and Whom we serve." (Acts 27:23).

Let us be sure that we obey the command of Jesus, as recorded in John 13:34 (go on; look it up for yourself!) toward all who love and serve Him, in spirit and in truth - those who gladly display the badge - and not just those with whom we share a label!

Surely our fellowship should extend not only to those who share our creed, but to all of those who sincerely love our Christ!