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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Give me patience - and give it to me NOW!

Life has been unusually busy these past days - and a dodgy wi-fi connection at the camp-site hasn't helped when trying to catch up with e-mails, news items and, of course, this blog!

We (my wife and I!) had been advised by the Notaire who is dealing with the purchase of our new home in the Dordogne, that the final contract would be signed this morning.  Yesterday, we were to meet with the recently deceased owner's widow, and the Immobilier, to read the utility meters, and ensure that all was as in order regarding the property itself.  We had even arranged to spend a couple of days with friends who are much closer to the house, to save us two consecutive 110 mile (c.170 km) round journeys, each direction taking about 1 3/4 hours.

Yesterday morning, I received a 'phone-call from the Notaire. The widow was feeling unwell, and so the meter reading etc. had been cancelled.  No-one knew what would happen to day.  I can now reveal that she was unable to attend the final signing of the contract, and so we are back at the static, waiting to hear from the Notaire tomorrow.  As if that was not enough, I was also informed that the funds for the purchase have not yet arrived in the Notaire's bank account.  I contacted the bank.  The manager informed me that he is still awaiting confirmation from my Currency Exchange (to confirm that I am not seeking to 'launder' ill-gotten gains!!), and is unable to release the funds until this is received.  As I had received a copy of the e-mail that they had sent him I was surprised to learn that he had not done so - but have just realised that the bank was happy enough to accept a large deposit - without any additional information!!!

So, from a human perspective, we are disappointed, frustrated, angry.  However, as disciples of Jesus, we believe that Father God is in full control.  In my latest book, I have provided an appendix on the Fruit of God the Holy Spirit.  That Fruit is Love - agape love - and it is demonstrated by eight other characteristics.  One of these is patience.

Patience is a character trait that God desires to produce in each one of His born-again children (see Galatians 5:22-23). However, the only way to really learn what it means to be patient is to experience it firsthand. Patience is an oh-so-gradually unveiled gift.

Noah lived in a time when lawlessness and sin were the rule, not the exception. Imagine his reaction when God told him about His plan to destroy humanity! Picture Noah's reaction when God told him to build a boat, giving him specific dimensions and directions! Imagine having to wait 120 years to see it happen! I wonder if Noah ever said to himself, "Okay Lord, things are getting worse instead of better. Aren't you going to execute your plan? After all, it's already been fifteen years!" Thankfully, Noah had learned the lesson of patience.  He trusted God's timing, and was spared from the flood as a result.

Our response when something doesn't happen on schedule indicates how well we have learned to be patient. Maybe God has something better just around the corner (our being led to this particular house is a case in point - but the story is too long for a blog-post!). He will let you know when He is ready - or perhaps when you're ready. 

If you are a praying person, please join with us, and many others, in praying for a speedy conclusion to this matter - and one that will be honouring to God.  I'll let everyone know when the matter is concluded!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A personal testimony.

Some time ago I discovered that, although I had enabled "Comments", none were showing up.  I decided that no-one wished to make a comment about any of my posts!!!   However, one of my brothers wondered why I had not allowed a comment that he had posted to be published!  It appears that I have simply not being advised of comments that may have been made.  If you have made a comment that has not appeared, please accept my apologies - I wasn't ignoring you, or refusing to publish - I was simply unaware of your comment!

Anyway, the comment from my brother is longer than most of my posts.  It is extremely personal, but reminds us that what we see on the surface is not always the whole story!  It also reminds us that Almighty God is interested in each one of us; but that we need to place our trust in Him, regardless of the outcome!

"Growing up with multiple seizures was no picnic. At the age of seventeen, it was 'tough' to say the least. While I had resigned myself to never being allowed to drive, when all my peers were learning and then began driving and talking about their cars, I felt SO isolated. It was just as hard when my friends  three or four years younger than me began learning to drive, and also years later, when my nephews / nieces were learning while I was still depending on public transport or my bicycle. I was a 2nd class citizen, I felt shunned by many of my peers, EVEN in the Church youth group, of which I assisted in leading.

It was at a time like this that I almost ended it all.

I was working at a dead end menial job, listening to my peers talk about their careers and big wages. I was in my mid twenties, still single, living with my parents, many of my peers were dating - well they had their cars, they could find people from different churches; who was going to be interested in someone who had to rely on public transport all the time?.

To try to counteract being side stepped when my peers were talking about their cars or careers, I busied myself with preparing the coffee and tea we served and cleaning up afterwards. I then went out to the church hall to find a chair at one of the tables I had previously set up

On one evening I had come out and sat at a table, only to be told by a peer that someone else was going to be sitting there. Moving to another seat, another person asked me why I was sitting in their seat. This happened a third time, and I got the message; and walked out. Fortunately, the other assistant leader noticed  me and followed enquiring what had happened. I explained everything that had occurred. He persuaded me to return back but that he was going to speak to the group prior to me going in. All concerned did apologise profusely.

The evening I am alluding to, I am not sure if something similar had happened at the church youth group or even whether it was that same night, but I, who normally slept very soundly, was having a struggle getting to sleep. I was tossing and turning reflecting on my existence and various instances that had occurred.  It was so bad that, knowing my mother had sleeping pills that were readily available, I contemplated going downstairs, getting the pills and downing them all. 'Everyone would be better off not having to worry about me', or so I thought.

THEN I heard that "still small voice" saying to me "What will your father think when he comes in, in the morning, to get you up for work?" "What will your mum think when she realises it was her sleeping tablets that you used to end it all? She will blame herself for having them readily available and they will blame themselves for not realising anything was wrong. Their lives may be cut shorter than would naturally be, due to the stress of losing a child" Now I loved both my parents and just couldn't put them through that pain, so I decided not to pursue the matter.

For someone whose mind was in such turmoil less than an hour beforehand, I was able to turn over and fell into a deep sleep. Only HE could make THAT happen.

The second encounter was much different and occurred about 6 years later and just twenty one months after I had been married. I had been offered the chance of neurosurgery. HIS timing, not mine. I contemplated the pros and cons of having the surgery and thought "what if?"

What if I DONT go for it.? I would still be taking over 6,000mg of medication per day, I would still be having, on average one seizure every two weeks, I would still be working in my dead end job and still relying on public transport. THEN, in about five years time, I would be thinking "what if?" - what if I HAD gone for it. So, I started to think "what if?"

What if I DO go for it.  There were seven things that could have occurred.

1- As in all major surgeries, I COULD die

2- At the other end of the spectrum, I COULD come out 100% healed

3- I COULD end up paralysed on one side while still having the seizures. (they had to see if they could shut down my brain and restart it again. - had it not restarted I would have had the same effects as someone who had a 'stroke')

4- I COULD end up in a vegetative state.

5- I COULD end up with a vast reduction in the number of seizures

6- I COULD end up with memory loss.

7- Hmmmmmm I can't seem to remember what the last one was. :D

Friends and family, - even strangers to me, were praying about it, and I went in for initial tests to see if I was a suitable candidate, after all, if I wasn't, at least I tried and no harm in seeing the outcome It was while I was in for the tests, that my daily Bible reading was Judges 6, where Gideon feared that he was going to die because he had looked on the face of an angel. I came upon verse 23, and felt that God was speaking directly to me. This verse says "And the Lord said, My peace I give unto you, do not fear, you will not die"

In the hospital ward, I just put my Bible on my lap, and with tears in my eyes, looked Heavenward and said "Thank you Lord"

I started looking at the passage closer and the first thing I noticed was WHO was speaking; It wasn't my dad, it wasn't my neurologist, it wasn't even my surgeon, It WAS however the HIGHEST authority you could get, The LORD, "El Shaddai".

I then started to look at what HE was saying to me and there were three things:

'My peace I give unto you' and when God gives His peace, it's the peace that passes ALL understanding  Phil,4 v 7  "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

From that moment I could feel calmness about the whole ordeal, just as I had felt years earlier when I didn't go for my mums pills and fell into a deep sleep.

The next thing He said was "do not fear"

Well, if I wasn't to fear, then I presumed that I was NOT going to come out of the surgery any worse than I had gone in, SO, 3,4, and 6 (above) were not options to be considered.

Since Phil 1 v 21 reads  "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." I had three possible positive outcomes.  However, I then read the four words "you will not die" - number 1 was out of the running, leaving 2 positive outcomes.  I could end up with a vast reduction in the number of seizures or, I could come out 100% healed.

I was informed that I was a suitable candidate by my neurologist, was sent home until they were ready for me. I was actually looking forward to having it performed. A few weeks later, I was called back to the hospital.  I was at such a peace, that on the morning of the surgery, when the orderlies were bringing the breakfast around for the fellow ward buddies, I started joking with them, acting out a parched man in a desert "water, water" They couldn't understand how I could be so upbeat minutes before going under the scalpel.

Ten hours later I came out of surgery, was transferred back to my ward, then released from hospital 11 days later - which just happened to be 'Mother's Day'.

Now, 24+ years later, not on any meds, driving and in a career I love, - being able to help people, some of whom have seizures, have had strokes or acquired brain injuries. I love my work but all this would have been missed if I hadn't had that initial 'still small voice' experience and had ended it all, or if I hadn't gone in for the tests and received the assurance from El Shaddai."

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Life on Mars!

"Its near perfect design and shape means it must be the result of intelligent design and certainly not a trick of light and shadow" (Paranormal Crucible web site computer narration).

An interesting comment, I hope you will agree!  It refers to a pyramid-shaped  object, photographed by the Mars "Curiosity Rover" - the unmanned space vehicle, placed on the surface of the Red Planet, by NASA (North American Space Administration).  According to those who believe that there was (or still is!) civilised life on Mars, it is clear evidence of an intelligence that designed, and built, the "structure".

Perhaps it is; perhaps it is not.  What I find fascinating is that the majority, if not all, of those who would make this astounding claim, will still insist that the universe itself is merely the result of random chance events over billions of years!  They will insist that the complexity of the eye - mammal, fish, or insect - "just happened" in a series of "evolutionary" changes (for which there is absolutely no evidence of which I am aware!).

If one is prepared to examine the subject with a truly open mind, one quickly realises that there is, indeed, design and purpose behind all that we see and experience - on planet Earth, and beyond!  The only question is:"Who designed it all"?

The Old Testament book of Genesis (Beginnings) gives a clear and simple answer: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen.1:1).  Those who refuse to accept that simple statement do so, not on the basis of what they claim to be "scientific evidence", but because they are not prepared to accept the very existence of One to Whom all of mankind is ultimately answerable.  They demand 'evidence' for the existence of God, unable, or unwilling, to recognise that such evidence is all around them.

Whether we examine the immensity, and the regularity, of the cosmos; or whether we marvel at the workings of DNA; we are surrounded by evidence of intelligent design - and only the blinkered will claim otherwise.  

However, the most amazing thing is that this wonderful Creator of all that is, desires to be in a loving relationship with weak, sinful, human beings such as you, and me.  To make that possible, He took upon Himself human flesh and, in the Persona (not a typo - see my book: "Great Words" - details above - and the chapter on "Trinity") of Jesus of Nazareth, lived a human life - yet without sin, in any shape, manner, or form. (see Heb 4:15).  Out of that great love for us, He even went to the cross, becoming sin for us, and dying the death that we deserve. (see Rom.5:8; II Cor.5:21; inter al).  Before He breathed His last, he uttered a great shout of triumph - in the Greek language in which the New Testament is largely written, the single word "Tetelestai" - "Finished!" (Jn.19:30).  He had completed the amazing work of salvation, and the way had been opened for those who come to Him, confessing their sins, repenting of those sins, and seeking His help through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, to come into the presence, and know the fellowship, of that same Creator God.

Have you made that move?  He is ever waiting - but not for ever!  "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor 6:2; emphasis added).

He has been my Saviour, and Lord, and Friend, for more years than I care to consider.  I have often let Him down (and still do!); but He has never let me down.  I commend Him to you and, as always, if you think that I may be able to be of help at a personal level, please feel free to contact me via the e-mail address at the top of the page. 


Saturday, 20 June 2015

A voice from the Kirk.

I have already made some comments about the direction in which, after the last General Assembly, the Church of Scotland has gone.  However, one minister has analysed the situation much better than I could ever have done.  I reproduce the first part of his message here, and provide a link for those who wish to read all of it.  Doing so is heartily recommended!

My Statement to the Church of Scotland

by jeromeobrien

What would you say of a Parliament that passed legislation directing that ALL traffic was to drive on the left side of the road, but added, that it was also permissible for road users to drive on the right hand side if they wanted to and no penalty would be incurred? What would you say about parents who said to their children that the rules of the house were XYZ, but the children were welcome to do the exact opposite, that was fine, no problem, the parents would allow that? What do you say of a church that agrees truth, and then allows its members, no, its pastors, shepherds and leaders to ignore that truth?

To that Parliament, I would say that they are inviting traffic chaos and harm, and I would probably not drive on their roads, nor would I encourage others to do so. In all likelihood, I would encourage them not to.

To those parents, I would say that they are failing in their moral responsibility, and that they were inviting their children into a world of shifting and irrelevant parameters.

To that church, I would say, “You are broken”.

At the General Assembly, on Saturday 16th May, was the culmination of a long internal conversation that the Church of Scotland has been engaged in. To its credit, it has not rushed into this conversation and it has taken its time over it (even though it was forced into it by the actions of a few). But this past week, it crossed a line that it has been skirting along for some time.

In summary: last year, 2014, the General Assembly provisionally agreed a law and there were two essential parts to it as follows:
  1. The historic and current doctrine and practice of the Church in relation to human sexuality and their application to the ministers and deacons of the Church are hereby affirmed (for the avoidance of doubt, the Kirk understands this to mean that human sexuality is to be expressed in the relationship of one man and one woman in a committed union called marriage and its ministers, etc. are bound to follow that);
  2. In recognition of the diversity of views within the Church about the historic and current doctrine and practice of the Church in relation to human sexuality and their application to the ministers and deacons of the Church and in the interests of the peace and unity of the Church, departure from the practice of the Church shall be permitted to Kirk Sessions and they shall be entitled to call ministers who are in same sex civil partnerships (in other words, Kirk Sessions need not abide by the now accepted understanding or practice of human sexuality).
I say that this was provisionally agreed. The General Assembly sent this proposed law down to all the Presbyteries of the Church to consider and to reply whether they were in agreement with it or not. 31 approved the law, 14 did not. Though that is a 2 to 1 difference, the actual numbers of those voting were much closer i.e. 1,380 for and 1,160 against.

So this law came back to the General Assembly, and on the 16th May, by a vote of 309 for and 189 against, the law was passed.

To that church, I say “You are broken”.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Encounter with Jesus.

The next (third) volume in my "Getting to know you ..." series of books, is expected to be on great prayers that are recorded in the written Word of God, the Bible.   However, I also hope, at some stage, to publish a volume with the same title as the above - dealing with some of the people who met the Lord Jesus when He walked this Earth, and based on a lesson series that I used with S2 (c.13 years old) pupils in Lesmahagow High School when I taught there for about twenty years!

One of the themes that I would expect to develop in that book, is the necessity of having a life-giving encounter with Jesus.  It is the only encounter which, if treated as He would desire, brings assurance of real life in the here and now, and of even 'more real' life in the hereafter!

The story is told of a young man who worked on a farm.  This was in the days when he was expected to "live-in" during the week, but was allowed to go home on Saturday evening in order that he might spend Sunday with his family.

One Saturday, he had to attend to a lot of extra work, and it was quite late before he could set off for his parental home - some five miles away, along an unlighted, country, road.  At first, he was quite content, stepping it out, and whistling to himself.  However, as the lights of the farm faded behind him, and as no others took their place, he became less happy.  For a time, "Fear" became his companion as he looked this way, and that, imagining all sorts of shapes lurking in the shadows.

Suddenly, out of the inky darkness ahead came a loud , clear, voice: "Is that you, Johnny?"  It was his father, coming to meet him, and to guide him safely home.  No longer was he afraid, for his father was with him!

How wonderful it is to be in God's family - to be one of those who have been, in Jesus' own words, "born again"; who have received new life in Him.  Members of that family have the assurance that, no matter how dark the hour, the Father is waiting to see us through.  Each of us may say, with Jesus, "... I am not alone , for the Father is with me." (John 16:32).   Even when we come to the darkness of "... the valley of the shadow of death ...", we need "... fear no evil ..."(see Psalm 23), for He is with us to guide us safely home.

Another wonder is that even if we have not yet accepted His offer of salvation, in Jesus, we may still turn to Him and be assured that He will meet us on the road; that we may have an encounter with Jesus that will bring us into the family.  Have you done that?  Will you do that?!  You'll never regret it if you do!

Friday, 12 June 2015

The point of tension!

Yesterday, my wife and I drove down, via Manchester, to Maidstone, Kent, where we spent the night with dear friends prior to crossing the Channel (La Manche!) in the very early hours of tomorrow (Saturday), leaving at 0030!.

As we drove down through Scotland, and northern England, I was struck by the number of wind turbines that were standing there, in the calm, almost totally still, weather conditions, with not even a hint of movement from their massive, propellor-like, vanes.  I have always thought of these monstrosities as a blot on so much of the landscape, but now they were showing themselves to be absolutely useless.  They were not generating a single watt of electricity.  They were merely taking up space!

Of course, I am aware that, as the wind strength increases, then the vanes begin to turn, increasingly quickly (although, if the wind is too strong, then the turbines must be turned off, lest the vanes spin off and cause much damage!) and that they would, then, be generating power at a substantial rate.  However, with no force coming against them, they just stood there - achieving nothing!

I suddenly found myself thinking of so many "church members"in the affluent western church.  Looking important, as they make their way to their particular meeting-place each Sunday (or less often!), they are achieving nothing!  Their idea of the Christian faith is built upon social requirements, rather than upon a living relationship with the Creator, through the Son, in the strength of the Spirit.

Then I thought of those in what we refer to, simply, as "the persecuted church".  They know what it is to face up to challenge, to hardship, to adversity.  They have experienced, and continue to experience, the harsh wind of secular humanism blowing hard against them.  And the result?  They grow!  It is in such difficult circumstances that their trust in the Lord Jesus is purified - as gold in the refiner's furnace.

The last thing that I want, for myself or for those who are nearest and dearest to me, is the same kind of physical persecution that is suffered by my brothers and sisters, in Christ Jesus, in North Korea; in northern Nigeria; in Iraq; in Iran; in a total of more than fifty countries around the world.  However, such persecution could well come!  If it does, I predict two things - (a) there will be droves of people who will leave the church (whatever the denomination) as quickly as they possibly can.  They will be those who like to look good, and who are content to stand up in the calm, but who have no personal relationship with the Lord, and no true allegiance to Him; (b) the church will grow!  This is the experience in countries in which disciples of Jesus are persecuted.  As someone has said: "A faith worth dying for is a faith worth living"!

A minister with whom I worked, a long time ago, had a background in engineering.  He was constantly reminding me that "the point of tension is the point of growth."  I have never been absolutely sure what that means in engineering terms, but I do know that is has been shown to be true in terms of church growth.   If, and when, real persecution comes to "the west", I trust that those who follow this blog (and its writer!) will be found among those who are, if necessary, "faithful unto death". (Rev.2:10).

Monday, 8 June 2015

My Best Friend.

It has been brought to my attention, by some of my fellow-Facebookers, that today is National Best Friend day.  I am blessed by having so many people who could warrant that title - not least my wonderful wife.  However, my best forever Friend is Jesus.  He is always there for me, whatever happens.  He never has, and never will, let me down (even although I am continually disappointing Him).  He is the only Friend Who is even able to go through that human experience that we call 'death' with me.

Yesterday, my wife and I visited a very dear friend of many years standing whose wife of 58 years died while we were last in France.  He gave me the following, that he received from the Lord in the middle the night, some time ago.  I share it as a tribute to both him, and the One of Whom it speaks - my very best Friend.

"The Lord is my Shepherd - isn't it good to know that I have a King Who sits on high, keeping an ever-watchful eye on me; One Who never sleeps or slumbers?

"I shall not want - Now, that's good to know, and very reassuring - for has He not promised to meet my every need?

"He makes me lie down in green pastures - After having fed me from the fat of the land, He grants me rest - that He may renew my strength as I continue to walk with Him

"He leads me beside still waters - He provides refreshment through His Word, as He refreshes my soul.

"He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake - He leads me in His ways.  Should I step out of line, He rebukes and restores me, bringing me back into line. ("righteousness" means right living according to His Word.)

"Even 'though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil - It takes light to cast a shadow.  As I walk through this troubled world, I walk in the shadow of this world's ways.  Isn't it good to know that His light overcomes the darkness?  Whom should I fear?

"For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they strengthen me - 'I will never leave you', says the Lord.  'I will go before you.  Come, follow Me.'  Your rod and staff strengthen me as You shield and protect me beneath the wings of Your protection.

"You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows - No matter how hard times are, I will overcome in His strength.  Darkness always gives way to light.  As my cup overflows, so I should be brimming over with the joy of the Lord.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life - I accept His anointing, as He pours continuous blessing upon me.  Yes, God Is good, all the time.  His love is unsurpassable, and His mercy assured, to those who love Him.

"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. - What a thought!  What a promise given to all believers!  Has He not promised to prepare a place for me, and to take me to be wherever He is?  No one knows, fully, what it is like - but I, for one, am looking forward to it!"

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Walking with God.

One of my favourite Old Testament characters is Enoch, the father of the better-known Methuselah, of whom it is written: "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Gen.5:24).  I believe that those words are telling us that, every morning, when Enoch awoke, his first words were “Well, Lord, where are we going today; what will we be doing?”  And the Lord told him.  Then, one day he awoke and, having asked the same question, was told by God, “Today, Enoch, dear friend, you are coming to my bit.  Let’s go!”  And Enoch simply walked through the veil that separates time from eternity – a veil that is so fine that it makes gossamer look thick and heavy by comparison; but a veil that is so strong, that not even the combined force of all of the world’s nuclear weapons could even dent it.
There are, I would suggest, three questions that we may legitimately ask about Enoch - the answers to which can apply to you and to me today.
The first question is "When did Enoch walk with God?"  We discover that it was during a most evil time in the history of mankind.   A great-grandson of Enoch was a man named Noah and, by his time, "YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Gen. 6:5).  As I read, watch, and listen to, our contemporary news reports, I see a similar world today.  I see cruelty; I see greed; I see fraud and deceit; I see wickedness in high places; I see men with men, and women with women, in unnatural relationships; I see rebelliousness against God in what could be unprecedented measure.  In a word or two, I see sin rampant in society in every part of the world.  I see a world that is ripe for a similar judgement as that exercised against the generation of Noah.  For Enoch, it was a difficult time to maintain fellowship with God - yet it was also a time when the importance of "walking with God" cannot be over-emphasised.  The same, I would contend, applies to us.
 Our second question could be "Where did Enoch walk with God?"  It was on this same planet Earth that we inhabit - an Earth filled with violence; an Earth that is well described by those words already quoted.  Yet it was in the midst of such a world; in the midst of a decaying, immoral, godless, generation that Enoch enjoyed this fellowship with Father God.  Did he realise that such fellowship; such sweet communion; was his only defence against the moral, social, and spiritual pollution that surrounded him?   I would contend that this is our only defence in the world of today!
Thirdly, we may ask "Why did Enoch walk with God?"  Could it be that he was aware that judgement was near?  Could it be that he was looking for God to act?  Could it be that he knew that only divine intervention could deal with the world that was around him?  We are informed that "... Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 14-15).  In other words, he warned his contemporaries about the judgement that would befall them if they continued in their sinful ways.  Are we warning those in whose midst we live, in the same way?

"By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God." (Heb 11:5).  By faith in what, or whom?  You see, the amount of our faith is of little importance (see Matt.17:20).  The object of our faith is what matters.  Enoch's faith was in the One with Whom he had walked for as long as he could remember.  Where is your faith?  Where is mine?  Are we "walking with the Lord"?  Are we expecting His imminent return?

Those who walk most closely with Him, and who work hardest for Him, watch most for Jesus' return!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Today's news - centuries ago!

In my personal devotions, I have just commenced reading through the Letter from the apostle Paul to the fledgling church in Rome.  Of course, this is not the first, or even the second, time that I have read through that most theological of the letters.  But one of the wonderful things about the living Word of the living God is that, regardless of how often we have read a particular passage, there is something new that jumps out at us as we read that passage again!

This morning, I read Rom.1:24-32.  Here it is:

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them

Perhaps you should read those words again!  Remember that they were written almost 2000 years ago - but they are as up-to-date as tomorrow's newspaper!  Paul is describing, quite simply, a society that has abandoned God!  Lest anyone be deceived into thinking that this was no more than the ranting of a Pharisaically-minded religious nut-case, I refer you to the works of men such as Petronius, Seneca, Juvenal, and Seutonius.  These are not familiar names to most of us, but they were all Roman  philosophers, historians, poets, and/or satirists (Seneca was actually born in Spain, but raised in Rome) who lived at the same time, or shortly after, the apostle.  Each of them, in his extant writings, fully supports Paul's grim description.

The words are a warning to all people, and all ages - but they seem to apply, particularly, to our own generation.  Whether it is the sexual immorality that has become so acceptable in so much of the western, "developed" (!) world; or the heartless ruthlessness of the so-called Islamic State and its associated groups; we see, around us, a world that seems to be dashing headlong into moral, social, and spiritual, decay and destruction.

So what can anyone do?  The answer, of course, is already provided for us.  Paul writes, further on in the same letter: "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in  Whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood, to be received by faith." (Rom 3:21-25).Christ Jesus,

You and I may not indulge in the excesses to which Paul has already referred.  But that does not make any one of us sinless - and we know it!  However, Father God has paid the penalty for your sin, and mine, in the Persona (see "Great Words" above!) of the Son.  The price is paid, and I may go free.  The prison door is open, and I may walk out.  However, I may also remain in my sin - and face His judgement!

What will you do?  I encourage you to: "Come to Him , to that Living Stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and, like living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (I Peter 2:4-5).

As always, if I may be of any assistance at a more personal level, please feel free to contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the page.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Ruby memories!

As mentioned, last week, it was exactly forty years ago, on this date (it was a Sunday in 1975!), that I was Ordained to the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacrament, in Gilmerton Parish Church, Edinburgh, by the Rt Rev The Presbytery of Edinburgh, the Very Rev Dr Leonard Small, CQH, being the Moderator of the Presbytery.

There were, as one would expect, a number of questions asked of me, by Dr Small. One, however, has stuck in my mind over all of those years.  The question was:

"Are not zeal for the glory of God, love to the Lord Jesus Christ, and a desire for the salvation of all people, as far as you know your own heart, your great motives, and chief inducements to enter into the office of the Holy Ministry?"   To that question, I responded: "They are".

In my mind's eye, I can still see Dr Small standing in front of me.  Indeed, I can still hear his distinctive voice in my mind!  When he came to that question in particular, he looked me straight in the eye and I can assure you, I sensed that if I had been the least bit false in my response, he would have had the discernment to denounce me, there and then!

So, apart from suffering a severe dose of unadulterated nostalgia, why would I want to share all of that on my blog?  Simply because I believe that, whether entering the ordained, pastoral, ministry or not, those first three parts of the question are ones that every disciple of Jesus should be able to answer in a positive fashion!

"Zeal for the glory of God"  The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: "What is the chief end (prime purpose) of man?"  The given answer to that question is: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever."   So, the first responsibility of human beings is to bring glory to God.  To do so with zeal is to do so with conviction, and passion, and enthusiasm.  I wonder, if you are a disciple of Jesus, do you serve the Lord in such a way?  It's a good "self-examination" question!

"Love to the Lord Jesus Christ"  Remembering that Jesus is the Second Persona of the Trinity, we may note His own response to a lawyer who asked Him: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matt 22:36; inter al).  That response was: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." (Matt 22:37-38).  His love for you, and for me, is beyond our human comprehension - but we may love Him with all that we have, and are, in gratitude for all that He is, and does.

"A desire for the salvation of all people."  It was Amy Carmichael, founder of the Dohnavur Fellowship in South India, who had a dream (check: that led her into her life's work.  Under her direction, Dohhnavur was transformed into a sanctuary for over one thousand children who would otherwise have faced a bleak future. She often said that her Ministry of rescuing temple children started with a girl named Preena. Having become a temple servant (i.e. prostitute) against her wishes, Preena managed to escape. Amy provided her with shelter, and withstood the threats of those who insisted that the girl be returned either to the temple directly to continue her sexual assignments, or to her family for more indirect return to the temple. The number of such incidents soon grew, thus beginning Amy's new ministry. When the children were asked what drew them to her, they usually replied: "It's love. Amma (Amy) loves us."  We may not all be called to the kind of service to which Amy Carmichael devoted her life but, if we are true disciples of Jesus, we should certainly have a similar love for people, and a desire for their salvation - even if it means sacrifice on our part!

Forty years! It's a long time.  How I have really maintained my Ordination vows is for the Lord to judge.  But I trust that I have, in some measure, shown that my response to that particular question was true.  Can you say the same thing?!