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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Promises, promises, promises!

Having arrived back in Wishaw late last evening, I was able to listen to the 'Today' programme, on the radio, this morning.   There was an interview with the leader of the Conservative Party, Mr David Cameron (I confess that I am not always as polite as that when referring to him!).  It was, as one might expect in the run-up to a General Election, all about what the Coalition Government had achieved, and what the Conservatives would achieve in the next Parliament, if they were given an absolute majority.

There was, for me, a problem.  All that I can see that the Coalition Government achieved - with the support of almost all of the other Parties in Westminster - was the redefinition of marriage (in spite of the overwhelming opposition to it throughout the country); an increase in the numbers of immigrants (illegal, and legal); an increase in the national deficit; and the run-down of the military.   In fact, I cannot think of anything positive that was achieved by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government in their five years of office.

However, the next five years will be different, Mr Cameron assured listeners.  He made one promise after another - on job creation; on housing; and, of course, on the deficit!  He is not alone.  All of the political parties that made up the last parliament are making their promises - promises that, in my experience, are forgotten no more than thirty seconds after they gain power!

This time, however, there is a genuine "new kid on the block".  I refer to UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party).   Obviously, I have no way of ensuring that, given even the balance of power in a 'hung' parliament, they would produce the goods any more than the current parties.  It's just that they have about them what J.B.Phillips might refer to as "the ring of truth"!   I look at Nigel Farage; I listen to his words; and I have that gut-feeling that this is a man who is not out to produce carefully-crafted (by 'spin doctors'!) sound-bites, but who actually means what he says!  That, I would suggest, is refreshingly original in modern British politics!   Disciples of Jesus often ask about which political party best represents Christian values.  I am no expert in the field, but I would say that UKIP is streets ahead of the others at this time.  When Mr Farage, or any of the other UKIP spokesmen/women make a promise, I actually believe them!  As far as the others are concerned, I see only attempts to convince the gullible to continue to support them!

The Bible, too, is full of promises/prophecies.  Indeed, someone has counted more than 3,500 of them!  Many of these have already been kept (fulfilled).  For example, the prophet Isaiah informs us that the Messiah would be conceived and born of a virgin (Is.7:14).  Of course, some non-Christian scholars have challenged this interpretation. They say that the Hebrew word 'almah', which is the word that English-language Bibles often translate as 'virgin', actually means no more than 'young maiden' or 'young woman'. It should be noted, however, that the Old Testament uses the word to refer to young, unmarried women, and that unmarried women were, culturally and religiously, expected to be virgins.  It should also be noted that the Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew writings into the Greek language (the Septuagint), used the Greek word 'parthenos' - which can only mean 'virgin'!    A later prophet,Micah, also revealed that Messiah would be born in the relatively insignificant town of Bethlehem (Mic.5:1-2).

In this Holy Week, as we anticipate the special remembrance of the crucifixion, and the resurrection, of the Lord Jesus, we may be encouraged by the fact that those events, too, were prophesied.  Read Isaiah 53 - it foretells the suffering of Messiah, and even His death by crucifixion - some 700 years before the event! Jesus, Himself, assured His first disciples that, although He would be killed, He would rise again from the dead (Mk.9:31).   In Acts 1:8, the coming of God the Holy Spirit is promised - a promise that was fulfilled on the first Day of Pentecost of the Christian era.

There are also promises that have yet to be fulfilled.  After Jesus had been taken from the disciples, Dr Luke records that "... while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven'." (Acts 1:10-11).   As one studies the signs that, we are assured, will precede and accompany that momentous event, we may easily come to the conclusion that His return is imminent.  The promise will be kept, of that we need have no doubt.  Politicians may easily, and thoughtlessly, make and break their promises.  But the Word of God is settled and sure, and He is faithful!

So, however you decide to vote on May 7th (if you are eligible to do so!), be sure that you have cast your personal vote for Jesus - by confessing your sinfulness, and sins; by repenting of those sins; by accepting the salvation that He won for you, at Calvary; and by telling others of His great sacrifice, made for each one of us.  He has promised that, if you do, then He will stand beside you before the Father - the only Advocate you need; the only Advocate there is!  

And He keeps all of His promises!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A new home.

Today, we received an e-mail from a French Immobilier (Estate Agent; Realtor), letting us know that the offer that we had submitted for a house, here in France, had been accepted.  Because of the manner in which the French conveyancing system works, it will take about three months to complete the transaction, but at least the searching is over.

Although we have had a number of disappointments, property-wise, over recent months - both in selling and seeking! - this house actually exceeds our expectations and, for that, we are truly grateful to God.

A new home!  I suspect that it is almost always an exciting prospect.  Although we have been advised that nothing in France is really "sealed, signed, and settled" until one has the keys in one's hands, we are confident that, having brought us this far, the Lord will not let us down!  Having said that, we have asked many praying friends to continue to uphold us in prayer, that there will not be any obstacles on the path.  If you are not on our mailing-list, please take this as an invitation to join with them!

Of course, this will just be a temporary home.  "What?", I can almost hear some exclaim.  "You've just has an offer accepted, and you are thinking of moving again, already?!"   Well, no.  That is not exactly what I am thinking.  My mind is going, rather, in the direction of the well-known song, made famous by the late Jim Reeves, the first, and last, verses of which are:

"This world is not my home I'm just a-passin' through;
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door,
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Oh Lord, You know I have no friend like you.
If heaven's not my home then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door,
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore."

You see, for the disciple of Jesus, there is the promise of the Master: "In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also."  (John 14:2-3).

That's a promise that is available to all who come to Him in repentance and faith, accepting the salvation that He gained for us, at such great cost, when He hung from that "old rugged cross" at Calvary.  It's a promise that I, and billions of others down through the millennia, have claimed for ourselves.  It's a promise that can only be claimed for oneself.  It's a promise of eternity (timelessness, not 'endless time'!) in His nearer presence.

I wonder, how settled are you in your earthly dwelling - be it a palace, or a hovel?   May I encourage you to consider that the time will come, without any doubt, when you will be obliged to leave that home?    Whether you leave with a furniture van, or in a hearse, is the only variable!  If I may be of any assistance in pointing you, at a personal level, to the One Who, alone, has opened the way to heaven, then please feel free to e-mail me using the address at the top of the page.  Alternatively, there are a couple of useful links further down the page (right-hand side) that may be helpful.

This world is not my home - is it yours?!

Sunday, 22 March 2015


It's been a busy few days - attending a Fellowship Group, an all-day Seminar, and Café Church fellowship Lunch and monthly gathering - interspersed with some house viewings - all in Bergerac and its environs.  Our sincere thanks to the Coles for providing the hospitality that saved us countless 104-mile round trips from the static!

The one thing that stands out from all of that is, in fact, something of which we were reminded at the Seminar.  Apparently, only about 4% of disciples of Jesus are called and equipped to be evangelists.  However, when it comes to being a witness, the number rises - to 100%!

So what is a witness?  In legal terms, a witness is someone who tells what they know.  What they think, or what they have heard someone else tell, is irrelevant, and any jury would be instructed to disregard such "second-hand" testimony.  They are not allowed to share an opinion (unless called as an "expert witness" for that very purpose).  A witness is someone who "tells it as it is".

Sometimes, in a Christian context, that 'telling' will be vocal.  Someone will ask a particular type of question (perhaps to do with morals) and, in my response, I will be 'witnessing' to the Gospel truth.  More often, however, we are witnesses by the manner in which we live our lives.  Annie Flint (1862-1932) knew that, and was inspired to write a poem:

Christ has no hands but our hands, to do His work today,
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way.
He has no tongue but  our tongue to tell men how He died,
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible, the careless world will read,
We are  the sinners' gospel, we are the scoffers' creed.
We are the Lord's last message, given in deed and word,
What if the type is crooked, what if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy, with other work than  His,
What if our feet are walking, where sin's allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking, of things His lips would  spurn,
How can we hope to help Him, and hasten His return?

I wonder if you find those words as challenging as I do?  When we live, and behave, just as our unsaved friends do, we are doing them no favours.  When we criticise, and complain, we are being no different than the unsaved.  When we spend more time on worldly pleasures than we do in His service, and in seeking to know Him better, then we are allowing ourselves to drift away from Him - and the one who delights in that is the enemy, the satan!

Any barrister will tell you that there are good witnesses, and there are bad witnesses.  The same is true for the confessed disciple of Jesus.  I am either a good witness - in which case the praise and glory go to Him; or I am a bad witness - in which case the fault is entirely mine.   Only one thing is certain - I am a witness.

If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, then you are also a witness.  Are you a good one - or a bad one? 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Only God can make a tree!

It would appear that I am going through a "secular poetry" phase as, once again, I make reference to a poem.  This time it is the poem "Trees", written by Joyce Kilmer at the beginning of the last century, but made famous when, set to music, it was sung by the famous American negro bass singer, Paul Robeson.

The words of the poem are:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

I wonder if Joyce Kilmer knew any New Testament Greek!  If she did, then she may have been making quite a theological statement in that poem.  What I mean is that the Greek word from which we derive the English language word 'poem' is 'poiema'.  This word occurs only twice in the New Testament writings - in Romans 1:20, and in Ephesians 2:10.   

In the first of those references, we read, "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."  The context of these words is that if showing that no one has any excuse for not accepting the existence of Almighty God - the evidence is all around us, for those who have eyes to see.  In this verse, poiema is translated “things that have been made.”  All that we see around us - and all that is unseen - is testimony to the creativity and power of Almighty God.  The Psalmist-king of Israel knew this: "The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display His craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world." (Ps 19:1-4; NLT).  If a poem - a mere ordering of certain words - requires a poet to create it, how much more does this amazing universe in which we live?!   And, of course, as Joyce Kilmer makes clear in her closing stanza, while mere humans are capable of penning a poem, only God can "poiema" a tree.

The second reference reads: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  The context, here, is of salvation.  Paul reminds us that it is "... by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8-9).  In v.10, the word poiema is translated "workmanship".  How amazing this is!  What the apostle is saying, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, is that those who have appropriated that wonderful grace of God, are God's 'poem'!  A life once dead in sin, now born again and walking in good works is God’s greatest poetic masterpiece of all!  Only He can "poiema" a lost soul; transforming it into one redeemed by His grace.
Are you one of God's poems?  Are you?!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

What is love?

According to the songwriter, "Love is a many-splendoured thing"; "the April rose that only grows in the early Spring.  It's "nature's way of giving a reason to be living; the golden crown that makes a man a king"!

One of the best video-tapes (remember them?) that I used in school lessons, was about love.  I would sometimes give advance warning of that showing - it did tend to whet the appetite of certain members of any class!   Of course, my pupils had their own ideas as to what defined 'love'.  They tended to range from those with a definite sexual connotation (perhaps with the idea of 'shocking' the teacher!), to "warm feelings towards another", or "being willing to put others first".

One of our difficulties is that we use the word "love" in so many different ways.   I love a glass of IrnBru, but not in the same way as I love to watch a beautiful sunset.  I love dogs, but not in the same way as I love my friends.  I love my daughters, but not in the same way as I love their mum - my wife.

The Greek language, as many are aware, has no less than four different words, each of which is translated into the English language by the single word "love".  The most important one, and the one used over and over again in the New Testament, is "agape".  This has nothing to do with the soppy, sentimental, psychological sensation of a Mills & Boon novel.  It has nothing to do with my physical appetites.  It has nothing to do with the most amazing earthly vistas.  It doesn't even have anything to do with my human friendships.  I could argue that there is something of it in my relationship with my wife and daughters - but even that would be an insufficient definition.  Perhaps the best way in which I have ever heard it explained was by my former minister, spiritual mentor, and dear friend, the late Rev. George B Duncan of St.George's-Tron Parish Church, in Glasgow.  He defined "agape" as "the minimum of emotion, and the maximum of evaluation."

"Agape" is, simply, the love of Almighty God - shown to sinful people like you, and me!   "God loved the world (i.e. its people) so much that, in the Persona (not a typo!) of the Son, He died on a cross; taking your place, and mine; paying the penalty for our sin; even becoming 'sin' for us; that all who come to Him, in repentance, and faith, may know full and complete forgiveness and, here and now, begin eternal life".  (see John 3:16).

John wrote: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (to satisfy the righteous wrath of God the Father against rebellious, sinful, humanity) for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (I John 4:10-11).

Another songwriter claimed that "Love makes the world go round".  In that, there may even be an element of truth - as long as we think of the highest form of love, God's love, the love that is His very essence.  May all who read this post experience that love, for themselves. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Looking up!

Although our former home in Motherwell is now the legal property of someone else, I pass it on a regular basis as I travel between that town and our current (Scottish) home.  My feelings are mixed!   As I pass, I can see some of the changes that are already being made to what was my home for twenty years.

There are, however, at least three things that I doubt will be changed - the three Velux windows that I installed many years ago.  This was all part of a major project to convert the loft area into two bedrooms - one for each of my daughters - and a 'common area' for use by both.   I still recall having fitted the first Velux, and lying down on the newly-installed bed, admiring my handiwork!   As I did so, even the Tower Block of flats across the road disappeared from view.  All that I could see was the sky, with the clouds drifting by.

It was the sort of view that dear old Noah had from the ark!  He had been instructed, by God, to make only one window in that massive, box-shaped, structure - and that was to be in the roof.  There was only one direction in which to look, and it was UP.  In fact, the opening was nothing more, or les, than a skylight towards heaven!

If there had been windows in the sides of that strange, multi-storied, craft then the righteous old patriarch would have been tempted to gaze on the devastation and destruction that was all around him as the flood waters rose.  The sight would certainly have filled him with sorrow and, later, as the ark floated on the surface of the heaving waters, with no landmark to be seen, might also have filled him with alarm.  The Lord knew this and so, in order to guard His obedient servant from such distressing thoughts, He endsured that he could only gaze heavenward.

We, too, are surrounded by despair; by political and economic chaos (in spite of the Chancellor's fine words!); by ever-decreasing moral standards; by violence and depravity that causes us to wonder if things can get any worse (they can - and probably will!); by exploitation, and greed - a stormy world of sin and death.  In all of this, we need to constantly 'look up', rather than let our hearts be troubled by external circumstances (cf.John 14:1ff).  The grace that is needed will come from above - as will our Saviour,Whose return is clearly predicted and, many of us believe, gloriously imminent.

"Looking Up" helps us to keep everything else in the perspective of eternity, and enables us to carry on with joy and assurance.  In a 'one-liner' that I picked up many years ago: "When the outlook is dark, try the uplook!"

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


In my personal devotions, I have just started to read through the Gospel according to Luke.   This is, of course, not the first time that I have read through this book, penned by a Gentile medical doctor, writing as one who has carefully researched his material, for the immediate benefit of someone named "Theophilus"(which may be the name of a specific individual but which may also, according to a translation of the Greek, be a general 'title' - "lover of God"), all under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.  However, as so often happens when one reads the Living Word of the Living God, a word; a phrase; a sentence; jumps out in a way that had not been noticed on any previous occasion!

This morning, my allotted passage was Luke 1:39-80, and the little phrase that stood out was at the beginning of the newly-pregnant Mary's song of praise when she visited her older relative, Elizabeth - herself miraculously pregnant with the child who would be known as John the Baptiser.  That song is commonly referred to as "The Magnificat" (from the Latin translation), and the first sentence commences: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, ..." (Luke 1:46-47).

Saviour!  This is a wonderful title for God.  Mary's words are a reminder that He is a personal Saviour.  He is the Saviour of all who accept that they are sinners deserving nothing but His wrath, and judgement, and punishment; who recognise that there is nothing that they can ever do about that; but who also accept the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, as he paid the price for their sin.

Of course, He is also "... the Saviour of the world." (John 4:42).  However, this is not to suggest that all will be saved!   What it shows is that His work on the cross is sufficient for all - but it is only efficient for those who believe.

There are many, even today, who are willing to accept that Jesus of Nazareth was a good Teacher - and He was.  There are many who believe that if we all lived by His teaching, the world would be a much better place - and it would.  The Bible teaches, clearly, that He was Almighty God, having taken on human flesh, that He might save us from the penalty, the power and, ultimately, the presence, of sin.  This is teaching that is "... sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (I Tim 1:15).

Be sure that you know Him as your personal Saviour, and Lord, and be able to echo the words of Mary: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, ..."    It will be for your good, and to His eternal glory.