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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Philip's egg.

At Café Church, Bergerac, today, my good friend Brian L mentioned that he had read the post that referred to the eggciting Resurrection Day worship service in Dalziel-St.Andrew's, Motherwell, in which the eggcellent minister used some plastic eggs, in an eggsuberantly eggspert fashion, to get the full story of the Day across to the children.

He had intended sharing the following true story at Café Church, but there was so much to be included that he decided that there was insufficient time.  He asked if I would like to share it on my blog, and I am more than happy to do so.  Have a tissue handy!

"He was 9 - in a Sunday-school class of 8-year-olds.  Eight-year-olds can be cruel.

These children did not welcome Philip into their group.  Not just because he was older.  He was 'different'.  He suffered from Downs Syndrome and its obvious manifestations: facial characteristics; slow responses; symptoms of retardation.

One Sunday, after Easter, the Sunday-school teacher led the children in an activity using plastic eggs - the kind that pull apart in the middle.  The Sunday-school teacher gave one of these eggs to each child.

On that beautiful Spring day, each child was to go outdoors and discover, for themselves, some symbol of 'new life', and place that symbolic seed, or leaf, or whatever, inside their egg.

The youngsters gathered round on the appointed day, and placed their eggs on the table, and the teacher began to open them.  One child had found a flower.  All of the children 'oohed' and 'aahed' at the lovely symbol of new life.  In another was a butterfly.  'Beautiful', the girls said - and it's not easy for an 8-year-old to say 'Beautiful'!

Another egg was opened to reveal a stone.  Some of the children laughed.  'That's crazy!', one said.  'How's a stone supposed to be like a new life?'  Immediately, a little boy spoke up.  'That's mine.  I knew that everybody would get flowers, and leaves, and butterflies, and all that stuff, so I got a stone to be different!' Everybody laughed.

The teacher opened the last egg, and there was nothing inside.  'That's not fair', someone said.  'That's stupid', said another.  The teacher felt a tug on his shirt.  It was Philip.  Looking up, he said, 'It's mine.  I did do it.  It's empty.  I have new life because the tomb is empty.'

The class fell silent.

From that day on, Philip became part of the group.  They welcomed him.  Whatever had made him 'different' was never mentioned again.

Philip's family had known that he would not live a long life; just too many things were wrong with his tiny body.  That summer, overcome with infection, Philip died.

On the day of his funeral service, nine 8-year-old boys and girls confronted the reality of death, and marched up to the front of the church building - but not with flowers.

Nine children, with their Sunday-school teacher, placed on the coffin of their friend their gift of love - an empty egg."

Jesus is risen; the stone is rolled away; the tomb is empty.  And because He lives, so do all who have placed their trust, unreservedly, in Him.  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A German take on the Holocaust!

Some posts are longer than others; and so are some video clips.  However, this is well worth watching - all the way through.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Unfair Dismissal!

The following has just been received from Christian Concern - (abridged):

"A Christian nursery nurse has been sacked for gross misconduct from her job in a London childrens nursery after explaining the Bible's teaching on homosexuality in response to a question from her colleague.
Sarah Mbuyi had worked at Newpark Childcare in Highbury, London, since April 2013. She became good friends with a gay colleague and they had frequent conversations about the meaning of Christianity.   

In January 2014, the colleague initiated another conversation with Sarah about Christianity. She said she was unhappy that she couldn't marry her female partner because of the church, and said she thought that God condoned homosexuality.

Miss Mbuyi explained: “When I said no God does not condone the practice of homosexuality, but does love you and says you should come to him as you are, she became emotional and went off to report me to my manager.

"I never ever condemned her, or accused her, but when she asked me directly what I believed, I was open about sharing the Bible
s teaching that homosexual sex (not the people) is wrong. It's clear that this offended her and she was determined to get me sacked, simply because I expressed traditional Christian beliefs."

After a one-sided disciplinary hearing in which Sarah was falsely accused of starting the discussion on homosexuality, nursery directors dismissed her immediately for gross misconduct.  

Sarahs dismissal suggests her employers think that expressing Christian beliefs is a legitimate grounds for dismissal."

The Prime Minister has recently appeared to be very keen to give the impression that he is a 'Christian' - yet he has been instrumental in pushing through the redefinition of marriage in order to accommodate a minority within the minority homosexual/lesbian community.  As Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre points out, "... he wants to mould Christianity to his political agenda."!
   
When I was informed that my voluntary service as a Force Chaplain with the Strathclyde Police Force was no longer wanted - because of my own outspoken support, only on this personal blog - I (and others) suggested that this was what would happen if that iniquitous piece of legislation was pushed through.  Sadly, cases such as that of Sarah Mbuyi vindicate that prediction.  However it is, at the very least, interesting that the person who was the Government's main spokesperson on the issue, has already 'fallen from favour'. "... Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Gal 6:7).

Of course, many have tried, over the centuries, to rid themselves, and the rest of the world, of the Galilean Preacher.  All have failed.  Contemporary attempts will fare no better.  Indeed, there is a Day coming - and sooner than many may think - when, " ... at the Name of Jesus, every knee [shall] bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil.2:10-11)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Resurrection Day.

Well, after a lot of travelling; a lot of difficulties; but, of course, the loving hospitality of two dear families, we finally arrived at the static caravan in the Gironde, at 2230 yesterday.  This morning, we woke to the thought that today is Easter Day or, as some prefer to name it, Resurrection Day.

We are delighted that, with the erection of a new Reception at our end of the site, we are now able to access the internet from the warmth and comfort of the 'van.  Of course that will make it all the more difficult to give it up, when we move to a permanent house, in due course!  However, we were able to join with the congregation of Dalziel-St.Andrew's, in Motherwell, for their morning worship service - which is streamed on a weekly basis (http://www.dalzielstandrews.org.uk/watch-live/), and is also available on YouTube - link on the page already given), where the minister is a personal friend of many years, and where our younger daughter is involved in various areas of service.

It was an eggciting service, presented with eggsuberance by an eggspert at the task, who eggsplained all that he was doing, to the children who were present.  (Watch the service in order to understand why I have inserted such an eggsasperating set of eggxamples of 'eggie' comments.  If you don't, then the yolk's on you!).

So what is Easter?  Why give it an alternative title of Resurrection Day?  Well, simply because, just as Christmas is not predominantly top do with the fictional 'Father Christmas' (in spite of the reality of Saint Nicklaus), or the overindulgence in food that occurs - at least in those parts of the world in which such indulgence can be afforded; so Easter is not about chocolate eggs (although the egg is a symbol of new life), or the Easter bunny (there may be a 'creative' link there!).  Both, in fact, have to do with the One Who is truly central at each of those festival times - the Lord Jesus Christ.

At Christmas, we remember His incarnation - Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, taking upon Himself, in the Persona of the Son, human flesh, and living a life like ours, except without sin (see Heb.4:15).  At Easter, we remember that the reason for His coming was that He might "... save His people from their sin". (Matt.1:21).   He did this by paying the penalty that we deserve to pay.  On that first Good Friday, He hung on a wooden cross - not only bearing the sins of mankind upon His shoulders, but actually becoming sin, in all of its foulness, and filth, and revulsion, and detestation (II Cor.5:13).  What an amazing sacrifice - God the Son becoming so disgusting that God the Father, still dwelling in the sinlessness of eternity, could not even bear to look upon the Son, the Beloved.  "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt.27:46).

The enemy, the satan, the devil, together with all of his infernal minions, rejoiced. What he didn't know about was what C.S.Lewis, in the Narnia Chronicles, refers to as "deep magic".  So, having rested from His labours, the Son broke through the physical death that He had truly experienced, in resurrection power. Hallelujah!  As we were reminded this morning, the tomb was empty!

Of course, if we ignore, or reject, all of what Jesus has done, in time; then we have no claim on Him, in eternity.  Let Christian songwriter, Graham Kendrick, bring this longish post to an end.

"The price is paid; Come, let us enter in to all that Jesus died to make our own.
For every sin, more than enough He gave, and bought our freedom from each guilt and stain.

            The price is paid, Alleluia!; amazing grace so strong and sure!
            And so, with all my heart; my life in every part; 
            I live to thank You for the price You paid.

The price is paid - see satan flee away; for Jesus, crucified, destroys his power.
No more to pay; let accusation cease; in Christ there is no condemnation, now!

The price is paid and, by that scourging cruel, He took our sicknesses as if His own.
And, by His wounds - His broken body there - His healing touch may now, by faith, be known.

The price is paid; 'Worthy the Lamb' we cry.  Eternity shall never cease His praise.
The church of Christ shall rule upon the earth; in Jesus' Name we have authority."

Have you submitted to the Lordship of the King of kings?  If not, then be assured that there is no better time to do so than now!  Your full salvation is part of that eternal 'package'.  Remember, the price is paid!


Thursday, 17 April 2014

It woz a cat wot did it!

It hit us as soon as we got into the car!  A fragrance; an aroma; actually a vile smell. We immediately knew what it was - feline urine (that's cat's pee to the less sophisticated/more vulgar!!!).  A few days earlier, my wife had transported some 'broken-down' cardboard boxes to the local Recycling Centre.  I remembered that one of them had been standing up against the bin.  It would appear that one of the local cats had taken a liking to it.

We sprayed the inside of the car with air freshener; we left the windows open; the smell lingered on.  I vacuumed the back,where the boxes had been transported; the smell lingered on.  I even shampooed the back of the car; the smell lingered on. Eventually, my wife suggested that the source of the offending pong might not have been a box in the back, but something that one of us had transported on a shoe.  We checked the front carpets.  The one that sits at my dear wife's feet was quickly identified as the culprit!  The front of the car was now subjected to a full valet service - with that particular piece of carpet receiving special attention!  What a difference - and just in time for the long journey to the static, in the Gironde area of France.

As I reviewed the situation, I realised that the whole episode was something of an analogy of life! So often, we are accosted by situations, and circumstances, that we find to be, at the very least,unpleasant.  We turn over a new leaf here; we make a New Year resolution there; we promise ourselves that we will do better. It's all to no avail!  The new leaf is no better than the old; the resolution rarely sees the end of January; we discover that we cannot even keep a promise to ourselves!

What we need to do, of course, is get to the root of the matter; the source of the problem.  We find it identified in the written Word of God - the Bible.  Writing to the believers in Rome, Paul makes the statement that "... all have sinned, and fallen short of the standard that God has set." (3:23).   Sin is the problem - and it effects every single one of us - no exception!

So what can be done?  Well, when my wife and I discovered the source of our little problem, we dealt with it by washing the carpet.  Sin is dealt with in a similar way - but the 'washing' is not with carpet shampoo.  In Acts 22, we have one of the records of the personal testimony of Paul.  In the 16th verse, he shares some words of the Lord to Him: "Have your sins washed away by calling on the Name of the Lord."; while John writes that it is "... the blood of Jesus, His Son, [that] cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7).

As we approach Good Friday, and a time when we especially remember the sacrifice made, for us, at Calvary, may we come to Him, Who alone can deal with our sin and shame - because He has already borne both - and seek His cleansing power. It is only as we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, that we will enjoy His resurrection life - both now, and in eternity!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

You are special.

Whilst browsing through a laptop hard drive, I came across the following - which I appear to have stored without any indication as to its source!  I have made a few amendments, but apologise for any unintended breach of copyright.  If you are feeling low, and nursing a low self-image, these words may help!

In all the world there is nobody like you. Since the beginning of time there has never been another person exactly like you. Nobody has your smile, your eyes, your hands, your hair. Nobody owns your handwriting, your voice. 

You're special.

Nobody can paint your brush strokes. Nobody has precisely your taste for food or music or dance or art. Nobody in the universe sees things in exactly the same way as you do.

You're special.

In all time there has never been anyone who laughs in exactly your way.  You're different from any other person who has ever lived in the history of the universe.  You are the only one in the whole of creation who has your particular set of abilities.  Nobody in the universe can reach the quality of the combination of your talents, your feelings.  Until the end of time, no one will ever walk, talk, think or do exactly like you. 

You're special. 

You're rare and in all rarity there is enormous value and because of your great value the need for you to imitate anyone else is absolutely wrong. You're special, and it is no accident that you are. Please realise that God made you for a special purpose. He has a job for you to do that nobody else can do as well as you can. Out of the billions of applicants, only one qualified. Only one has the unique and right combination of what it takes and that one is you.


You're special.

Indeed, you are so special that, if you were the only human being ever to have sinned; and you had committed, in your whole life, only one sin, Jesus - God the Son - would still have gone to a cross, and died, just for you!  Now that makes you really special!

It was Humpty Dumpty!

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." (Through the Looking Glass; ch.6)

We seem to be living in an increasingly Humpty Dumpty world.  As a "child who was born on the Sabbath Day" (well, it was actually a Sunday - but in the little rhyme, the two terms are synonymous!), I was always happy to claim to living up to what I was supposed to be: "bonnie, and blithe, and good, and gay".  However, I am less likely, today, to refer to myself by that last adjective.

Likewise, politicians in a number of parts of the world have, recently, redefined the word 'marriage'.  All that it now means is that two (for the moment!) people declare love for one another.  There is no need for even the possibility of procreation; and there are still questions as to what would constitute grounds for divorce!

Even as long-standing a word as 'evolution' seems to be able to change (or ought I to say, evolve?!) its meaning.  I have been reading up on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) with regard to getting more 'traffic' to this blog.  In one article, I read: "Thus, through evolution, smart engineers at the engines devised better ways to find valuable results that searchers would appreciate and enjoy."

Two things jumped out at me.  First of all, there was the interesting juxtaposition of 'evolution' and 'devised'.  Surely, I asked myself, the whole point of evolution is that it is the result of random choices made over a very long period of time?!  If something is 'devised', that clearly implies that there has been forethought, planning, design.  It certainly doesn't sit well with a notion of random choice.

Nor should it.  The second thing that I saw was the reference to "smart engineers".  That suggests a certain level of intelligence - certainly not a mindless, chaotic, series of accidentally fortuitous circumstances!

Of course, this is the point made by the proponents of ID (Intelligent Design) - that there is abundant evidence in the known universe for us to be able to postulate a creative, intelligent, mind behind all that is. As the old advertisement, for something or other, had it: "You know it makes sense!" 

Speaking, by telephone, with a very dear friend in the south of England, earlier this evening (or last evening, if one wishes to be pedantically accurate - it is now past midnight!) we discussed, among other things, this very point.  Charles Darwin confessed that his theory with regard to the origin of species was flawed by the failure to discover fossil evidence of any of the necessary 'intermediate' creatures.  However, more than 200 years after his birth, and more than 150 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, such evidence is still notable by its absence.

Another problem, recognised by Darwin, concerns the eye.  He wrote: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”  Indeed, the thousands of elements in the single-lens eye must all be in position, and working correctly, for that eye to have any vision.  Take away any of the elements, and the eye simply doesn't function!

Evolution is, in fact, a pseudo-science that provides a philosophical framework for those who refuse to admit the existence of a Creator to Whom we are all, ultimately, accountable.  It is the refuge of those who are like the Biblical 'fool' who says in his heart, "There is no God"! (Ps.14:1).  By the way, the Hebrew word used (nabal) refers to someone who is 'empty-headed' in a morally deficient sense, not to someone who is intellectually wanting.

Praise God, He has not left Himself without witness, and the day is coming - perhaps sooner than many think - when at the Name of Jesus (Who, of course, is God the Son) every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (see Phil.2:10-11).

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Hidden creatures - revealed!

Well done to those who managed to find all twelve creatures! :-)

Here is the solution:

1. The Bowling Club at the Green will do very well.                                (owl; bat; dove).

2. If Roger will go at once, it might do good.                                            (frog; goat; dog).

3. Are you as sure as I am that he noticed the sign at the entrance?      (ass; hen; gnat).

4. She came late, but I want you to be early.                                           (camel; ant; bee).

Keep checking the blog.  There isn't a puzzle every week, but there may well be something to encourage you to think of what, to some, is the greatest puzzle - life itself!

Friday, 11 April 2014

From the mouths of babes!

Okay!  The young girl in this video is, in fact, 12 years old.  But she is not an adult.  Yet she speaks on an emotive subject with passion, with articulation, and with evidence of having done more research than many who write comments on online newspaper fora.

It's a five-minute clip - but it's well worth watching, right to the end.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Shining for Jesus.

In Wishaw Baptist Church, our motto for this year is taken from Paul's letter to the disciples of Jesus in the ancient Roman colony of Philippi.  This meant that it was a place in which the majority of the inhabitants were more Roman than people who lived in Rome!  Our motto is from 2:15-16 where we read (NIV): "shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the words of life"

Evangeline Booth, daughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, used to tell of an experience that she had at the end of an exhausting day's ministry (no. physically undemanding, internet ministries in those far-off days!).  Someone came to ask her if she would spare a few minutes to see a particular gentleman.  When she appeared to hesitate, the messenger became quite insistent, explaining that the man had travelled a long distance just to meet with her.  "By all means, then", replied the evangelist, "bring him to me."  "He can't come to you." was the answer.  "He is 94 years old!"

Miss Booth quickly made her way to where the old man was seated.  As she greeted him he told her, "I was the lamplighter for your father when he held his first meeting under shelter.  Afterwards, he placed his hand upon my head and said, 'Always be a lamplighter for Jesus'.  I want you to know that I followed his advice, and have sought to be a shining witness for my Lord."

We may aspire to a great many tasks, and desire to occupy various places of responsibility in God's plan but, basically, we are to be light-bearers - "shin[ing] like stars in the universe as [we] hold out the words of life"  Jesus not only said of Himself,  "I am the Light of the world" (Jn.8:12); He also said to His disciples, "You are the light of the world."! (Matt.5:14).  As the moon reflects the glory of the sun, you and I, if we claim to be His disciples, are called to reflect Him, and to allow His light and life to shine through us. We are to keep our lamps trimmed, not allowing them to go out (see Matt.25:1-13).

We may sing songs like "Shine, Jesus, shine" with as much gusto as we can manage. However, it is as we shine for Him, in our daily lives, that we will have an impact for Him on those with whom we come into contact.  Keep your light shining, and He will put it where it can be seen!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

And when I die?

Two news items caught me eye, yesterday.  One was, of course, the death of Peaches Geldof; the other of a less well-known Debi Gibson.

Peaches Geldof's death is, as far as I can ascertain, being investigated by Kent Police  as "non-suspicious but unexplained and sudden".  However, it was one front page that caught my eye.  Underneath a photograph of Ms Geldof and her late mother, Paula Yates, was the caption: "Together again", with its implication that, now that both are dead, they are, somehow, "together".

Debi Gibson is not dead - yet!  However, it is reported that she has only weeks to live, after refusing to wear protective goggles on a tanning bed left her with a fatal eye cancer, that has also spread to her liver.  Debi, who lives with partner Darren Gibson, said: "They told me I was going to die. It was horrendous but I came to terms with it. My daughter knows mummy is going to heaven."

Peaches and Paula are "together again"; Debi's daughter "knows mummy is going to heaven."

So what is it about death, or the onset thereof, that suddenly causes people who apparently have shown no particular interest in any afterlife to (a) assume that it is, after all, a reality; and (b) that they, or their loved ones, are all going to be in the better aspect of it?

To the best of my knowledge, every belief system that postulates an afterlife, other than Christianity, does so on the basis of the individuals 'good works'.  In Islam, for example, it is believed that we each (certainly, every Muslim!) have an angel on each shoulder - one totting up our good deeds; the other totting up our bad deeds.  If the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds then, when we die, we go to paradise.  If the bad deeds outweigh the good deeds ... ... !!!   The problem with such a 'system' is that, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, then none of us live lives that would assure us of paradise, heaven, or nirvana.

This is the wonder of the Christian Gospel.  It freely acknowledges that we are all unable to meet the standard that God has set.  (I can't even meet the standards that I set myself!).  "... for everyone has sinned;" writes Paul, "we all fall short of God's glorious standard." (Rom.3:23; NLT).   That means that I an totally unable to help myself.  My only hope is that another comes to my rescue.  And that, as many of us will be remembering in a special way over the coming days, is exactly what that same Almighty God has done, in the Persona of Jesus, the Son, the Messiah.

He came into this time-space continuum in which we live out our mortal lives, as a helpless Infant (Incarnation - the Christmas story).  He lived among us, as a Man among men.  He took my (and your) place on the cross - dying the death that I (and you) deserve, that I might know His resurrection life, here and now.  It's called grace'.

Of course, there is a 'catch'.  This is not some kind of auto-response.  I must make the conscious decision to come to Him, and accept the salvation that He offers.  This involves openly confessing my sins, and my sinfulness to Him.  It involves accepting that I am totally unable to do anything about them.  It involves acknowledging that only He is capable of doing anything about them, and that, on the cross at Calvary, He did it.  It involves submitting to Him as Lord of my life.

I have no idea as to the spiritual state of either the late Ms Geldof, or Ms Gibson.  I do know that, without Jesus, any of us go to a lost eternity - timelessness separated from God, but now aware of His existence, and of what we have missed.

If you were to die moments after you have read this post, are you certain that you would be 'going to heaven'?  Are you?  If not, then I recommend that you "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near." (Isaiah 55:6); change your ways, and banish the very thought of doing wrong.  Turn to the LORD, that He may have mercy upon you; yes, turn to Him, for He will forgive generously. (see Is.55:7).  You won't regret it - either here, or in eternity!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Hidden creatures.

In a topical message - in the light of the release of the film, 'Noah' - we looked, this evening, in Wishaw Baptist Church, at some of the lessons that may be learned from the true story, as found in the Biblical book of Genesis.

Maybe that's why, as a wee brain-teaser, I've decided to post the following.  Enjoy - solution in a few days' time.

The names of Biblical creatures are hidden in the following sentences (no doublers!!).  For example, "Deborah, are you going to the shops?" contains the word 'hare'.  The names of three creatures are similarly hidden in each of the sentences.  Happy hunting!

1. The Bowling Club at the Green will do very well.

2. If Roger will go at once, it might do good.

3. Are you as sure as I am that he noticed the sign at the entrance?

4. She came late, but I want you to be early.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Are you looking for a pony?

My apologies to any who regularly check out this blog, that this is my first post for this month!  Regretfully, I have been working on the house that we have just placed on the market, and have been reminded of the old Latin motto: "Tempus fugit" (Time flies!).

However, I trust that this will keep you going, for now!

I suspect that most of those who know me well would agree that I am an optimist.  My glass is always half-full, rather than half-empty.   This morning, during my private devotions, the little booklet I am currently using as an aid had this amusing story.

Once upon a time (as I cannot vouch for the total authenticity of the tale!) there were identical twins.  One of them was "an optimist, whose motto was 'Everything's comin' up roses', and the other [was] a pessimist, who always expected the worst. [so they were only physically identical!]

Their parents took them to a psychologist, hoping to balance out' their personalities.  He suggested that, on their next birthday [anniversary!], they put each in a separate room to open their gifts.  'Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford,' the shrink said, and give the optimist a box of manure.'  The parents dad as he suggested.  When they peeped in at the pessimist, they heard him complaining, 'I don't lie the colour of this toy.  I don't want to play this game.'

Next, they looked in and saw the optimist - smiling, throwing manure up in the air, and shouting, 'You can't fool me.  With this much manure, there's got to be a pony'!

Being an optimist may not get you the pony - but it's a healthier attitude to carry through life (and, who knows, that pony might even, one day, appear at the door!).