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Monday, 30 June 2014

The mind of God.

In his letter to the early disciples of Jesus, in Rome, the apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question: "... who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?" (11:34; see, also, I Cor.2:16).

It would appear from newspaper reports, that the answer to that question is the pop singer, Elton John.

In yesterday's Daily Telegraph, we read his words, spoken on the Sky News' Murnaghan programme: "If Jesus Christ was alive today, I cannot see him, as the Christian person that he was [sic] and the great person that he was, saying this could not happen,"   "He was all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together and that is what the church should be about."

Perhaps the singer should be made aware that, whatever else he is, he is neither a theologian nor one with an understanding of either the Christian faith, or the Greek language of the New Testament!  Permit me to correct some of his erroneous assumptions:

1. Jesus was not a "Christian person".  He was born into the Jewish faith; He lived His earthly life as a Jew; He died as a Jew - indeed, the inscription that Pontius Pilate had placed on the cross read, in three languages: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." (John 19:19).
2. Jesus was not merely a "great person".  He was, and is, Almighty God.
3. It is true that Jesus was "about love and compassion and forgiveness".  However, He was also about sin, and justice, and keeping God's Law.
4. That same Law, that Jesus upheld, makes it quite clear that the homosexual lifestyle adopted by Elton John is an abomination.
5. The 'love' that Jesus was "all about" is, in the Greek language of the New Testament, 'agape'.  The 'love' to which Elton John is obviously referring is the Greek word 'eros'.  The two are as different as chalk and cheese!  'Eros' is sexual love that is, as often as not, little more than physical lust.  'Agape' is the unconditional love of Almighty God - described by my own former minister, spiritual mentor, and personal friend, the late Rev George B.Duncan, as "a minimum of emotion, and a maximum of evaluation".
6. What "the church should be about" is summed up in what is known as 'the Great Commission'.  It comes from the very lips of the resurrected Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matt. 28:19-20).

Of course, Elton John is entitled to his choice of lifestyle.  He is even entitled to promote that lifestyle although, thankfully for the future of the human race, it is a miniscule percentage who allow themselves to be drawn into its perversion.  What he is not entitled to do is to claim, or even infer, that the Lord Jesus would approve of it.  The whole of the written Word of God says differently.

Elton John should also be made aware that the Jesus Whom he so readily 'uses' promised that He would return to judge the world.  On that Day, Elton John may not be smiling!



Sunday, 29 June 2014

An act of true kindness.

In one of my regular e-mails - that have been sadly neglected over recent days - is the following report:

As Israeli soldiers continue with the military operation [Operation Brother's Keeper] in Judea and Samaria following the abduction of three Israeli teens, Israeli doctors of Save a Child's Heart (SACH) continue to save the lives of Palestinian children at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

Since the beginning of Operation Brother's Keeper, three Palestinian children have undergone life-saving heart surgery at Wolfson, eight Palestinian children were admitted, including two urgent cases brought by ambulances from Judea and Samaria and from Gaza, two children from the West Bank will undergo open heart surgery today at the hospital and fifteen children are expected to arrive today to the SACH free weekly cardiology clinic for Palestinian children.

The Israeli medical team of SACH is determined to continue with their activity without letting the situation around interfere or influence them. "Children are children"' says Dr. Lior Sasson, SACH chief surgeon, "for us it doesn't matter where the children come from, every child deserves to receive the best medical treatment and children. from both sides, should't be a part of the conflict".

Before entering the operating room this morning, Dr. Sasson said " We are continuing with our work, this is what distinguishes us as Israelis, the ability to ignore what is happening around and continue with our sacred work of saving children's lives".

This is, surely, an act of true kindness.  It is further evidence as to who are the real problem in the Middle East - and it is not the people of the modern state of Israel!  However, the title I typed in, a few minutes ago, was An act of grace.  There is, indeed, a sense in which that did not require the change that I then made.  So why did I make it?  Well, in my book Great Words of the Faith, there is a chapter on that word as well!  In that chapter, I use the well-known acronym: God's Riches At Christ's Expense.  That is true grace.  It is Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, Who is purity and sinlessness and, above all, love in His very Being providing, through the sacrifice of God the Son at Calvary, all that He is, to sinful creatures like you and me.  

I don't know how those Palestinian children, and their families, respond to the care and expert treatment that they receive at the hands of Israeli medical staff.  I do know that the only way to respond to the grace of God, in Christ, is to submit to His Lordship in our lives.

I've done that  - have you?

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The answer is in the book!

Antony is a delightful young Portuguese boy who regularly visits the elderly couple who live opposite us at our static caravan in France.  If we are around, he usually comes over to us for a chat - in order to improve his English language skills!

Yesterday, as we were chatting, in both English and French (we like to improve our own language skills as well!), a word cropped up that was causing all three of us difficulty.  At last, my wife disappeared - only to return a few minutes later.  "Let's check the book", she said.  "The answer is always in the book."  The book to which she was referring was one of our French/English dictionaries and, indeed, we found the solution to our little linguistic problem.

However, my mind went off at a tangent.  "The answer is always in the book."  I thought of the problems in the world; in our society and culture; in my own family circumstances.   "The answer is always in the book." 

Perhaps the Lord is telling me something!   On Monday, I ended up writing about the Maker's Manual.  Tonight, I'm writing about the Book.  In each case, I am thinking about the written Word of God - the Bible.  It does, indeed, have the answers to all of life's basic problems.  Indeed, it has the answer to life's basic problem (singular!) which is sin.  That's not a word that is considered to be acceptable in our politically correct culture.  However, that does not alter its reality.  Each of us is aware of it, even if we don't accept, or acknowledge, it. 

So what is sin?  Well, there's a full chapter on the subject in Great Words of the Faith (see above!), but it has been put, succinctly, by the authors of the Shorter Catechism: "Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God".  In other words, sin is not just breaking the law of the land; sin is not just something that is sad, or unfortunate; sin is not just something that upsets me.  Sin is failing to do what God expects from me (sins of omission), or doing what God says I ought not to do (sins of commission).

The Bible has the answer.  It teaches that, although I offend Almighty God, His love for me is such that He has already paid the penalty, and borne the punishment, for my sin.  In the Persona (not a typo - see the chapter on the Trinity in Great Words) of the Son, He hung on a cross, dying the death that I deserve to die.  I am totally unable to satisfy the demands of God's law; I can only come, in repentance (yes, there's a chapter on that subject as well!), and faith, and accept the salvation that He offers, in Christ.

Concerned about your sin?  So you should be!  But remember, the answer's in the Book.  Why don't you read it and find out more. 

If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me at author@minister.com   I would not recommend the comment facility on the blog as, since Disqus took it over, I appear to have lost the ability to not display!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Baggage, or blessing?

Baggage has been on my mind quite a bit, over recent months.   First of all, as we prepared our Motherwell house to go on the market, I had to explain to the Estate Agent that the loft, while having provided two bedrooms for my daughters while they lived with their mum and me, the house could not be advertised as having those two bedrooms.  This was the instruction given by the architect when I wanted to convert the loft, almost twenty years ago.  He explained that the space that I wanted to use as a stairwell would not allow for a stairway that met all of the current regulations.  It would be either too steep, or too narrow.  Accordingly, I was advised, I could only advertise a "floored loft with permanent access", and call it "baggage storage space"!  Needless to say, my daughters were not amused to discover that they were merely baggage!

Earlier this week, we travelled back to France.  With the house on the market, we had to empty everything that we were not prepared to leave.  We had borrowed a friend's baggage trailer, and anyone familiar with the song "Granny Fraser's flitting, fae Aboyne tae Aberdeen" would understand why that song was going through my mind! 

Today, I managed to get almost all of the items that we had brought across, and that hadn't already been stored in the static, into the garden shed that we built two years ago.  It was quite a job - and I already know that, when I start work on completing the balustrade around the terrasse, next week, there will be at least one tool that I will require that will be at the back of the shed!  Such is the well-known 'Murphy's Law'!

However, I started to think of all of the baggage that I carry around in my life.  The regrets; the hurts; the complaints.  They are things that do nothing for me except weigh me down, and hold me back.  The writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus wrote: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:1-2). 

And, of course, there is no need for me to bear that burden.  That same Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30).

Are you burdened as you read this post?  Are you weary, and bowed down under the weight of your own sinfulness, and sin?  Then why don't you come to the Saviour Who, alone, can provide cleansing and salvation.  John writes: "... if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7 - worth reading the full context!).   That's an amazing statement!   In the context of this post, it means, quite simply, that all of my baggage was dealt with at the cross - as long as I don't keep lifting it up again!

John Bunyan, in Pilgrim's Progress, writes: "So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the tomb, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then said Christian with a happy heart, 'He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.' Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the water down his cheeks.
Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him, with 'Peace be to thee.' So the first said to him, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee'; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with a change of garments; the third also set a mark on his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bade him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the heavenly gate; so they went their way." 

Baggage, or blessing - the choice is yours!

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Manual.

Have you ever noticed that most of the things that we purchase, and that "work", come with a manual?  Indeed, many gadgets come with two manuals - one for the installer, and one for the owner.  These manuals are of tremendous assistance in ensuring that the item to which they refer is kept in good condition; works as intended by the manufacturer; and achieves its maximum 'shelf-life'.

I'm recalling a story from my own Sunday School days (and that wasn't yesterday - or even the day before!) of two men, each of whom bought a brand new car; the same model and specification; from the same dealership; and through the same salesman.  As it happened, the two men both lived on the route that the salesman followed on his way to and from the showroom.  Each day, he would walk past those houses and look, with a certain amount of satisfaction (doubtless thinking of the commission he had gained!), at the two vehicles.

The weeks, and the months, passed.  The salesman made his regular journeys.  He looked at the two cars.  However, after more than a year, he noticed some differences.  One of the vehicles was still sitting in the owner's driveway, looking as if it had just been driven from the showroom.  The other was showing definite signs of rust, with the paint bubbling here, there, and everywhere.  One of the vehicles, if he passed by as the owner was about to drive away, still purred quietly as the driver moved up the gears with barely a sound.  The other vehicle was already beginning to sound like a cement-mixer - and that was while the engine was still idling in the drive-way.  One vehicle hadn't even got a scratch on the bodywork.  The other vehicle had dents, and scratches, and one bumper was hanging lower at the near-side than it was at the off-side.

The salesman knew what had happened.  One owner had obviously read the manufacturer's manual, and followed the instructions.  He had had his car regularly serviced.  He had ensured that it was washed, and polished, and vacuumed on a weekly basis.  He had driven with due care and consideration.  His car was still in excellent condition - body-wise, and mechanically.  The other owner simply hadn't bothered.  The manual probably hadn't been opened, let alone read and the instructions followed.  It looked as if he was a driver who drove without any consideration for kerbs, low walls, or shopping trolleys.  The car was a total mess!

One of my former pupils has just given birth to a little girl.  The comment on her Facebook page reads: "Our beautiful princess [name] was born on the 22nd June at 23:12, weighing 6 lb 8 oz. She's absolutely perfect, and mummy and daddy are in love."   

... she's absolutely perfect ..."  You and I come into the world and, for the vast majority of us, do so both physically and mentally perfect.  However, so many then grow up, and live their lives with no thought for the manufacturer's manual.  Most of us know about it - we refer to it as the Bible.  It contains all of the necessary instructions to help us keep our whole selves - body, mind, and spirit - in the best possible condition.  Of course, as we all know, the unforeseen, may happen - just as a car may be involved in an accident, that isn't always the driver's fault.  However, even then, if the car has been properly looked after, that very fact may well minimise the damage.  So with us, if we have followed the Manufacturer's manual, we may well be able to withstand situations to which we might, otherwise, succumb!

So do reads the Maker's Manual.  It provides all of the guidance you need.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Life - to death - to life!

A caterpillar appears to live a life of perfect contentment - provided it doesn't become a quick snack for a passing bird!     However, the life it leads is totally mundane when compared to the life that is to come as a butterfly.  This video clip shows the metamorphosis that takes place as one creature changes into another.


Wasn't that amazing?  It is also, of course, an illustration of what happens to the disciple of Jesus when (s)he reaches the end of this mortal life - either through physical death, or at the rapture.   John writes: "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (I John 3:2); while Paul writes: "So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body." (I Cor 15:42-44)
 
The true disciple of Jesus has an eternal destiny in which (s)he will have a glorious, spiritual, body that is yet 'connected' to the physical body in which they lived out their mortal lives.  The transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is amazing - indeed, beyond comprehension.  The transformation of the believer into a heavenly being, is a trillion times more wonderful!   But although all will live through eternity, only those who have acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus in their lives, will live with Him.  For those who reject, or even neglect, Him, there is only the prospect of eternity without Him.

Have you made your choice?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Answers to Strangers!

Once again, a goodly number have accessed the post with the quiz.  Here are the correct answers (emboldened) with, in brackets, the common link between the other words in the group:

1.   Eagle, Scorpion, Sparrow, Quail, Raven. (birds)

2.   Olive, Fig, Frankincense, Pomegranate, Locust.  (trees)

3.   Romans, Syrians, Hebrews, Galatians, Ephesians.  (N.T. Letters)

4.   Athens, Jerusalem, Philippi, Neapolis, Corinth.  (Greek towns)

5.   Amos, Hosea, Isaac, Isaiah, Jeremiah. (O.T. prophets)

6.   Mark, John, Matthew, Paul, Luke.  (Gospel records)

7.   The Good Samaritan, The Widow's Mite, The Sower, The Dishonest Steward, The Prodigal Son.  (parables)

8.   Philistines, Midianites, Syrians, Babylonians, Nazarites, Edomites.  (Gentile races)

9.   Damascus, Jerusalem, Bethany, Bethlehem, Jericho.  (Judaean towns)

10. Benjamin, Joel, Simeon, Reuben, Dan.  (sons of Jacob/tribes of Israel)

11. Jordan, Sinai, Carmel, Horeb, Zion.  (mountains)

12. Promised Land, Canaan, Egypt, Holy Land, Israel.  (different names for the same land)

13. Finger, Centimetre, Span, Handbreadth, Cubit.  (Biblical measurements of length)

14. Barabbas, Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew, James.  (disciples of Jesus)

15. Titus, Daniel, Ruth, Samuel, Esther. (O.T. Books)

16. Saul, David, Jonathan, Solomon.   (kings)

17. Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Colossians, Proverbs.  (O.T. books)

18. Luke, Timothy, Silas, Stephen, Barnabas.   (companions of Paul)


That's all, folks - at least for now!  I hope that you did well.  :-)

The best-laid schemes ...!

It was the Scottish Bard, Rabbie Burns who, in his poem  On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough (1785), penned the words: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men gang aft agley".  I was reminded of those words yesterday!

The day started as expected when my wife and I took our younger daughter to hospital, for an operation.  Mind you, even that caused a change to our earlier plan.  We had expected this evening, to be stopping overnight with dear friends in Maidstone, Kent, en route to France.  The medical/surgical emergency led to that journey being postponed for a few days, as we went back this morning to collect her, and want to spend a couple of days with her before departing!   

However, it was as we returned from the hospital yesterday, that we received a 'phone-call.   Our elder daughter was heading up to the A&E Department in our local hospital with, it appeared, something stuck in her throat.   That call had hardly finished before we received yet another - this time it was our son-in-law (elder daughter's husband), informing us that the clutch in their car had given up, and that our daughter was making her way to the hospital by bus.  

We had to pass where the (now non-operating) car was, so we stopped to assist in pushing it to a place of greater safety, and less obstruction, and then went up to the hospital.  That involved a long wait - first of all until our daughter was called into the examination rooms, and then while she awaited the arrival of a doctor to provide the aforementioned examination!  By the time we took her back home, it was about 2100 hrs!

So why do I share all of that family news?  Well, as the opening paragraph suggests, none of what has happened in the past thirty-six hours was in our original planning for the period.  However, there is something else.  Anyone who has purchased my book, Great Words of the Faith (either as a paper-back, or as a Kindle e-book), and actually read it, will be aware of the way in which I see the relationship between tome and eternity.  By the way, if you haven't purchased, and read, I would encourage you to do so.  Anyway, although we were 'caught on the hop' with these recent events, Father God wasn't!  Before any of us were even born, He not only 'knew what would, in time, happen', but also, from His eternal perspective, saw it happening!   If that blows your mind, even a little, you really do need to purchase the book!  (Details at the top of the page).

However, this is where the disciple of Jesus may have a deep assurance.   I know that nothing - absolutely nothing - happens, or can happen, without His knowledge and permission.  That's why Paul was able to write those amazing words: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28).

I may not always understand His ways; but I may always rest in the assurance of His love, and of His sovereign power and authority.  May you who read be able to do likewise.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Apology received - and accepted!

Further to my post of Wednesday (q.v.), I am happy to be able to report that the EU official involved has written a letter of apology to the UWI staff writer who reported his crude e-mail to the organisation's rabbinic director, Rabbi Ari Enkin.

Mattia Zilli, the project officer at the European Commission who had sent the vulgar email, wrote:

“Please believe that I have absolutely no feelings against Israel, its culture, language (which I actually find very beautiful), the religion or anything that Israel could ever represent.”

Zilli had, he explained, tried unsubscribing to the UWI newsletter, and had “no idea why it failed.”
UWI checked its mailing system and verified that the “unsubscribe” feature was in working order.
Nevertheless, it appears that Zilli had acted out of sheer frustration and he apologized profusely, claiming Jewish lineage and admiration for Israel.

“I would like to sincerely apologise towards you and anyone who may have felt hurt by my email,” he stated in the letter.  “Apart of having had excellent history lessons and knowing perfectly what Israel and the Jewish (sic) have been going through in the past and are living at present, having myself Jewish origins from my maternal great grandparents and even a menorah standing in my living room (believe it or not), having spent last year a wonderful 11 days’ vacation in Israel, having met some old and some new friends there with which I plan going on holidays this summer if my workload allows.” 

“I have nothing against Israel. Actually all the contrary”, he continued.  “My harsh, impulsive and of course not thoughtful reaction, does first of all not represent in anyway the opinion of my employers, the one of any of my colleagues or even of any of my friends and also last but not least not mine. It was just a stupid impulsive reaction under a state of work stress which of course should not have happened.”

Rabbi Enkin, initially offended by the hateful words in the original email, was happy to hear the apology. “The Torah teaches that we all make mistakes that can be rectified”, the rabbi said, adding that he would be pleased to meet Zilli on his next trip to the Holy Land.   “Israel’s role is to be a light unto the nations,” the rabbi noted, “and there is no better way than to extend an olive branch to those who seek reconciliation.”

It is always good to be able to post good news about Israel, rather than to have to expose the negative propaganda of much of the media against her!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Strangers!

It's been a while since I posted a wee brain-teaser so, for those who enjoy exercising their minds, here is something for you to think about (or, something about which you may wish to think, for the true pedants among us!).

Each of the following groups contains one 'stranger' - someone/something that does not belong in the group.  I wonder how many of them you will detect!   Some are very easy - just to encourage you.  A few are quite difficult - just to test you!  Answers some time next week.

1.   Eagle, Scorpion, Sparrow, Quail, Raven.

2.   Olive, Fig, Frankincense, Pomegranate, Locust.

3.   Romans, Syrians, Hebrews, Galatians, Ephesians.

4.   Athens, Jerusalem, Philippi, Neapolis, Corinth.

5.   Amos, Hosea, Isaac, Isaiah, Jeremiah.

6.   Mark, John, Matthew, Paul, Luke.

7.   The Good Samaritan, The Widow's Mite, The Sower, The Dishonest Steward, The Prodigal Son.

8.   Philistines, Midianites, Syrians, Babylonians, Nazarites, Edomites.

9.   Damascus, Jerusalem, Bethany, Bethlehem, Jericho.

10. Benjamin, Joel, Simeon, Reuben, Dan.

11. Jordan, Sinai, Carmel, Horeb, Zion.

12. Promised Land, Canaan, Egypt, Holy Land, Israel.

13. Finger, Centimetre, Span, Handbreadth, Cubit.

14. Barabbas, Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew, James.

15. Titus, Daniel, Ruth, Samuel, Esther.

16. Saul, David, Jonathan, Solomon.

17. Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Colossians, Proverbs.

18. Luke, Timothy, Silas, Stephen, Barnabas.

Go to it, brainy busy beavers!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Is the EU anti-Semitic?

Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director at United with Israel (UWI), received anti-Israel hate [e]mail on Sunday from an employee at the European Commission, which, according to its website, “is the EU’s [European Union’s] executive body and represents the interests of Europe as a whole.”

Rabbi Enkin, on behalf of UWI, sends out regular emails with newsletters to subscribers only. UWI does not send unsolicited email. The crude hate mail from the EU employee, which contained foul language, was sent to Rabbi Enkin’s personal email address in response to a UWI newsletter.

Signed by Mattia Zilli, project officer, European Commission, Research Executive Agency, the email said, “STOP f…ing writing me about your Zionist bulls..t.”
(The foul language was spelled out in full in the original email.)

Surprised that an EU employee would openly display such vitriol against the State of Israel, UWI emailed Dennis Abbott, press spokesperson for the Marie Curie Actions Programme, apprising him of the situation and asking whether any action would be taken, to which he simply responded, with no salutation: “I’ve asked Mattia to reply to you. Best, Dennis.”

UWI received no further correspondence from Zilli. After investigating further, the organisation noted that Zilli had subscribed to the UWI newsletter back in 2011, and in 2012 he signed a UWI petition against Iran’s nuclear program. Although it is possible that another individual had signed up with Zilli’s name and email address, Zilli had ample time to unsubscribe in a civilised fashion.

The question that one would ask is this: If such an e-mail had been sent to an Islamic Imam, rather than a Jewish Rabbi,what would the result have been?  I suspect that it would have been much stronger than some e-mail correspondence, and the expectation (as far as I can make out, unfulfilled) of an apology!  There would, more likely, have been riots, and the burning of effigies and EU flags.

I am one of those who, if given the opportunity, will vote in favour of the UK leaving the discredited EU.  There are many reasons for doing so (including some 52 million each day!), and they have just been added to!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Rik Mayall (deceased).

I hesitate to write about the sudden, and apparently unexpected, death of anyone, least of all someone as well-known as the late Rik Mayall.  I also extend my sympathy to his family and closest friends, whose sense of loss is keenest at this time because their love was deepest, and most personal.

However, it is a reminder that, as is sometimes said, "We never know the minute"!  I suspect that if, yesterday morning someone had asked Rik Mayall if he thought that obituaries would be being written about him by the evening, he would have laughed.  After all, this is the man who had survived a bad crash on a quad-bike, and is reported as having said, when he regained consciousness after a time when his wife had been informed that the machines that had been keeping him alive for five days, would be switched off in an hour, "I've beaten Jesus Christ"!  This, apparently, referring to the fact that the accident occurred about Easter time.

Well, I am not here to judge the late Mr Mayall.  One Who is perfect in all His ways, and Who, alone, can dispense perfect justice, will do that.  I can only say that the newspaper reports (not that I believe everything that I read in newspapers!) that quote his own words - as opposed to the words that his 'characters' - would indicate that even that experience had not caused him to consider, deeply enough, what happens at the end of our mortal lives.

To some, of course, there is total annihilation - we simply cease to exist in any shape, manner, or form.  To others, we are judged according to our good works.  If we have enough of them to cancel out our bad deeds, then we are okay; if not, we are in trouble!  To yet others, we keep returning to this planet, in different forms dependent upon our previous life, until we eventually reach the stage at which we are able to be released from that cycle of life-death-rebirth, and are absorbed into the 'oneness' that is the universe.

The Christian Gospel is, I firmly believe, the only message that brings genuine peace at such a time.  It tells me, quite simply, that I can never earn enough 'good points' to gain eternal life in that dimension that we refer to, in the English language, as 'heaven'; or that we will ever achieve 'nirvana'.  Instead, it makes an offer - a stupendous offer!  It tells me that I am a sinner, without any hope in myself.  But it also tells me that the righteous Judge has already, in the Persona of the Son, paid the penalty for my sin.  What I need to do is to acknowledge that, and accept the salvation that is offered to me through, and in, Him.  I am then adopted into the family of Almighty God, the Creator, and Sustainer, of all that is and begin, here and now, the eternal life that is His life.

It''s an amazing offer - and it is an offer of love and grace and mercy.  If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact me by leaving a comment (that will not be published!) with a contact e-mail address, and I will be delighted to be of assistance.

"God loved the world so much, that He gave Himself, in the Persona of the Son, that anyone who places their trust in Him will not perish, but have, here and now, eternal life."

Then, and only then, will you be able to meet death, whenever it comes, knowing that you are in the One Who defeated it, almost 2,000 years ago.  Hallelujah!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

What's in the glass?

Most of us, I suspect, are familiar with the comparison between the optimist and the pessimist that involves referring to a glass tumbler as being either half-full (in the case of the optimist), or half-empty (in the case of the pessimist).  Same glass; same amount of liquid; totally different perception.

However, a glass full of liquid may be used to make an additional point.  As we remembered, yesterday, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, I was reminded of the story (which I believe to be true) of a nurse in a service-men's hospital who complained to a doctor that she had been treated rudely by some of the patients.  "Thank God for that!", he exclaimed.  "What do you mean?" Chaplain inquired the nurse, in astonishment.   "Well," explained the Chaplain, "if you are holding a glass, and someone knocks against you, all that can spill out is what is already inside.  When people misjudge us, and persecute us, we soon reveal what is in our hearts.  If we are Christ-filled, and governed by God the Holy Spirit, we will manifest the gentleness and meekness of our Saviour.  In fact, father God may even allow us to be pushed around, and mistreated, in order that unsaved people may be astonished at His grace, as we overflow with love and forbearance."

Sometimes. we too meet various trials and difficulties, but James, writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, tell us to count them "... all joy ..." (1:2).  Knowing that God perfectly directs our lives, we should praise Him, rather than complain.  Seeming difficulties then become opportunities; the testing of our faith produces Godly patience; and, as Godly patience has its full effect, we will "... be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:3-4).  Paul writes that "... we have blessed those who cursed us.  We have been patient with those who injured us.  We have replied quietly when evil things have been said about us." (I Cor.4:12-13).

It is said of John Bunyan - who knew his share of suffering for the Gospel of Jesus the Christ - that he actually revelled in cruel mockings, and severe trials, because they gave him opportunity to show his love for Jesus, and to display God's grace.

In the church that is persecuted in some fifty countries today - persecuted in ways that we who are privileged to live in places that know a relative freedom of belief, cannot even begin to comprehend - the request that comes to us is not that we pray for release from persecution, but that we pray that these dear brothers and sisters in Christ will bear a good witness to their persecutors!

Are you irritated, grumpy, and full of complaints when the going gets rough?  Or do you welcome these experiences as a challenge, and count them "... all joy ..."?   Of course, if we have Jesus on the inside, we can stand any kind of trouble on the outside, because He has promised, "I will never fail you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:5).

So, what's in your glass, as you read this post?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

And the bad guys are ... ... ?

The mother-in-law of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has been allowed to enter Israel for medical treatment.  On Tuesday, The Associated Press (AP) reported that Israeli authorities had allowed the mother-in-law of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh into the country for medical treatment.

Maj. Guy Inbar, an Israeli spokesman, stated that the 68-year-old woman was allowed to enter from Gaza on Monday to receive treatment for cancer, at a Jerusalem hospital. A relative in Gaza confirmed she was in Israel.

The announcement followed Haniyeh's resignation as Gaza’s prime minister Monday in the wake of the formation of a new unity government between Hamas and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

This is not the first time that a relative of Haniyeh’s has been taken to Israel for medical treatment. In November, his grand-daughter was brought there, in a critical condition with a serious infection of the digestive tract which affected her nervous system. She was returned to Gaza a day later, after Israeli doctors concluded they were unable to help her and, sadly, she died a short time afterwards.

The anti-Israel media never seem to notice these simple humanitarian acts and gestures on the part of Israel - even towards those whose constantly call for her destruction and, indeed, annihilation!  Yet the demonstrable fact is that Israel regularly allows medical patients from Gaza to cross into Israel for treatment - from 40 to 70 people per day. This has gone on even as the Hamas leadership threatens Israel with genocide and terrorists from the region launch thousands of rockets towards southern Israel.

Of course, in all of this, it is obvious that it is the Israelis who are the 'bad guys' ... ... ... or is it?!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Is it evolution?

This morning, I went to my doctor's surgery to provide a regular blood sample.  I can't recall ever having a problem with such a procedure and, indeed, for many years was a regular blood donor.  I am well used to having a needle inserted into my arm, and a quantity of that precious commodity extracted.

This morning, however, I noticed a difference.  Instead of the needle being almost as thick as a kitchen skewer, it was a fine as a strand of copper wire from a multi-strand cable.  It was in my arm before I even realised it! 

Later, I found myself thinking about the manufacture of such a needle.  I was aware that there had to be a hollow centre to it, and wondered at the skill and technology that made it possible for such a "pointed tube" to be produced.   Then I realised!  It had obviously evolved.  The surgical steel which had evolved from base components (which had evolved from ... ?) over many billions of years had, over many more billions of years, accidentally formed itself into a long rod.  Then, over billions more years, and another series of random mutations, it had evolved a central core, changing it from a rod into a tube.  A few billion years after that, it started to divide into short lengths and, over the past few billion years, each length evolved an exceedingly sharp point.

Of course, anyone with at lest two brain-cells capable of being activated simultaneously, would immediately see that the previous paragraph is a load of absolute rubbish.  Such a person would know that that the fine needle that was inserted into my arm had been designed, and manufactured, by an intelligent being using quite sophisticated machinery.  Even the transformation from a thicker needle to the fine one, required a great deal of skill - and, of course, the fine one is still a needle!

Yet many with the ability to understand that, still insist that all that exists - from the lowliest, single-cell, amoeba to the most complex of organisms, is the product of blind chance!  Yet even that amoeba has an amazingly intricate system that no mere human could ever hope to replicate.  Of course, one would also note that even after (allegedly) billions of years of so-called 'evolution', an amoeba is still ------------ an amoeba!

The reality is that humanistic evolutionism is simply an excuse to reject the whole concept of a Being Who is above and beyond anything that we mere mortals can even begin to imagine, and Who is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is.  He is the Uncreated One Who inhabits eternity; He is the Infinite One Who dwells outwith time; He is the Pure and Sinless One Who cannot bear to look upon iniquity.  Yet, out of His great love for us, He entered this time-space continuum in which you and "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28), in the Persona (not a typo - see the chapter on 'The Trinity' in Great Words of the Faith) of the Son; living among us, and experiencing all that we experience, "yet without sin". (Heb.4:15).  The promise is to all, that if we place our trust in Him, repenting of our sin and submitting to His Lordship in our lives, then we may know the wonder of a personal relationship with Him - that will continue after our physical death, into the timelessness of eternity.

Evolution!  I wish that I had the same level of faith that it must take to believe that that is the answer!