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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Ivy - and sin!

Today, I spent almost five hours in the front garden of our new home in Gardonne.  I knew that there was a well there - as in the front gardens of the next-door-neighbours on either side - and assumed that, like theirs, the top would be plain concrete.  I couldn't immediately tell, as it was covered with ivy - that virulent, pervasive climber that can choke the life out of a tree.  I recalled a little song that my late mother would sing when I was a child:

Dozy dotes, and maresy dotes, and little lamsy tivy.
A kidilee tivytoo, wouldn't you?

It was many years before I worked out that the strange language was really very simple:

Does eat oats, and mares eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.
A kid'll eat ivy, too; wouldn't you?

I would have been delighted if some little lambs, and some kids (as in young goats!) had appeared, today.

However, as I gradually cleared the ivy from around the well-head, I realised that there were a number if similarities between ivy, and sin!  The first one that caught my attention was the way in which the ivy clings to its host - whatever that may be.  As I tugged, and pulled, I found it extremely difficult to get the stems away from the well-head.  I was reminded of the words of the inspired writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus: "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; emphasis added).

That's one of the problems with sin.  The ivy around the well-head didn't all appear overnight.  It will have started as a small plant but, left unchecked, it grew stronger and stronger until it needed such great effort to remove it.  Few, if any, commit serious sins without having first committed sins that didn't really seem to matter.  I wonder if anyone has ever researched, e.g., a bank robber - and discovered that, years before, that person had stolen money from his mother's purse; that he had obtained employment, but had regularly purloined company funds; that he had mugged many a person, and stolen their wallet/purse!

Such criminal activity is, of course, a sin against the other person involved - the victim.  However, Judaeo/Christian teaching is that all sin is primarily against God.  David, the shepherd-king of Israel knew this.  Having entered into an illicit sexual relationship with Bathsheba; and having tried to cover his wrongdoing by having her husband killed in battle; he was confronted by the prophet, Nathan (see II Samuel 12).  He wrote a song to display his repentance and, in it, are these words: "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified in Thy sentence and blameless in Thy judgment.   Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Ps.51:3-5; emphasis added).

David now realised that he had sinned - and done so grievously - but he also knew that while both Bathsheba and Uriah had suffered, it was God's own character that had been besmirched!

You and I are both sinners - every bit as much as David.  We may not have committed adultery, or plotted the murder of another person, but we have broken God's law, and we deserve His just punishment.  That punishment is an eternity separated from Him.  That may not seem important to some, right now.  However, when they stand before His Judgement Throne, and are cast out of His presence, they will wish that they had listened to people like me!

Of course, there is a remedy!  In the Persona (see Great Words of the Faith; chapter on The Trinity) of the Son, He took the punishment that you and I deserve.  He paid the price, that we might go free.  Have you responded to His amazing offer of salvation?  If not, then why not do so right now?  You will find a couple of helpful links if you scroll down and, of course, if I can be of any assistance at that personal level, please do not hesitate to contact me via the e-mail address above.  Remember, like the ivy, the longer you leave it, the more difficult it is to deal with.

"Working together with Him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.  For He says, 'At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.'  Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor 6:1-2; emphasis added).

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Ode to a Scottish summer!

We arrived back in France (despite all of the current disruption!) on Friday evening.  We left weather conditions that were cold, wet, and windy.  By the time we arrived at the static, we were able to enjoy warmth, sunshine,and calm, fine weather!  My little mind went into poetic overdraft so, with apologies to the poet Robert Browning, and to all who are unable to understand the words, here is my little 
Ode to a Scottish summer!

Oh, wha wid be in Scotland
E'en whan summer's here?
Wi' rain aye stoatin' aff the streets;
Wind whistlin' in yer ear.

It's cauld enou' tae chill yer bones
E'en tho' yer well wrapped-up
Wi coat an' scarf, an wellie boots,
An' somethin' warm tae sup.

But, since it is the Glesga Fair
Ye can't expect aught else
As ye go "Doon the Watter"
Tae buy some fresh-boiled whelks.

Aye, summer's fine in Scotland
If ye dinnae need the sun;
An ken' that, wi' yer bestest friens
Ye'll still hae lots o' fun!

Okay - so Robert Browning isn't spinning in his grave with envy, but I hope it brought a wee smile to someone's face!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A new look at the 23rd Psalm!

As we continue our prolonged move to France, there is a lot of clearing out being done (more, I must confess, by my wife than by me!).  In doing so, earlier today, I came across the following.  I have no idea from whence it came - it is just a printed sheet of A4 paper, with nothing else on it - but I reckoned that it is worth sharing.  I apologise, in advance, for any unintended breach of copyright and, if anyone does know the origin of the piece, and informs me, I will endeavour to obtain permission for publishing it here.  I should add that the original uses the AV/KJV; I am using the RSV!

The Lord is my Shepherd, - that's Relationship!
I shall not want; - that's Supply!
He makes me lie down in green pastures. - that's Rest!
He leads me beside still waters; - that's Refreshment!
He restores my soul. - that's Healing!
He leads me in paths of righteousness - that's Guidance!
for His Name's sake. - that's Purpose!
Even 'though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, - that's Testing!
I fear no evil; - that's Protection! (and Assurance! - added by me!)
for Thou art with me; - that's Faithfulness!
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. - that's Discipline!
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; - that's Hope!
Thou anointest my head with oil, - that's Consecration!
my cup overflows. - that's Abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; - that's Blessing!
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord - that's Security!
for ever. - that's Eternity!

Of course, to experience the benefits, we must know the Shepherd!  If you don't already do so, but would like to know more, there are a couple of useful links further down the page and, of course, you are welcome to contact me at author@minister.com


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Sunday shopping!

One of the items in the recent UK Budget was the proposal, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to relax restrictions in Sunday Trading.  This was in spite of a pre-election commitment made "on behalf of the Prime Minister." when, in April, a representative of the Conservatives wrote to campaign group Keep Sunday Special saying: “I can assure you that we have no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws."

I seem to recall that, when the regulations were relaxed, in 1994, it was on the basis that we should have a "continental Sunday"!  However, having spent a considerable, and increasing, amount of time in France over the past twenty years, and some time in a number of other countries in continental Europe, I see no indication of "Sunday Trading" being the norm!   Indeed, apart from some of the larger supermarkets, one would have great difficulty in finding any shop open on a Sunday in 'my' part of France - and even they usually only open in the morning.

It is interesting, is it not, that medical and physiological experts have 'discovered' that human beings need one day in seven in which to relax, in order to avoid physical and/or mental breakdown.  They probably spent hundreds of thousands of pounds, sterling, on the research that led them to that conclusion.  They only needed to read the written Word of the Creator: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days YHWH made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." (Ex 20:8-11).

Isn't it interesting that all of the other important time markers in human life are clearly based on astronomical and terrestrial constants. The day, for example, is the duration of one rotation of the earth on its axis; the year is the duration of one orbital revolution of the earth about the sun; the month is the approximate interval between new moons; the seasons are marked by the equinoxes and solstices.

But the week has no astronomical basis whatever! Yet we order our lives in a seven-day cycle, doing certain things on Monday, certain other things on Tuesday, and so on through the week. Furthermore, the common pattern is one of six normal working days, then a day of rest or change, then six normal days again, and so on, with the special day regarded as either the last of the seven preceding it, or the first of the seven following it.  This is strong evidence to support both the existence of the Creator - and His creation!

However, I must make one observation.  That concerns the number of people, certainly in the areas in which I have lived in the UK since 1994, who cannot wait for the worship service to end - so that they can get round to their local supermarket to purchase the items that they 'forgot' to buy on Saturday; or that they just couldn't be bothered going out to buy!  That number includes, I regret to have to say, many who would class themselves as true disciples of Jesus!

If those who seek to worship God are so readily caught up in the 'god' of consumerism, then we have little about which to complain if the world not only opens its shop doors on the Lord's Day, but even insists that we (if we are in the retail business) work on that day!

Perhaps if believers were to so organise their lives that they had no need for Sunday Trading, then there would not be sufficient business to make it worthwhile for shops to open!  Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matt 6:24; NIV).   Some need to heed the words of that great leader of the Children of Israel, Joshua: "... choose this day whom you will serve, ..." (Josh 24:15).   On the Day of Judgment, it will not be George Osborne, or David Cameron, to whom we will have to answer, but Almighty God Himself!  

Now that's maybe a thought worth pondering!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Wheat - and weeds!

Today, my wife and I drove up from our static caravan in The Gironde (S.W.France) to Arques (close to Calais) - a distance of some 475 miles (almost 800 kms).  As we did so - leaving the warm sunshine of the South-west for the colder, dull, windy weather of Pays de Calais - we passed, not only field after field of regimented rows of vines, but also many fields of golden grain.  As we sped past one particular field, I saw something of which I had often read but, as far as I can recall, had never before seen!

The high grasses at the roadside, combined with the speed at which we were travelling, meant that I cannot be absolutely certain that the main crop in the field was wheat.  However, there was no doubting the large clumps of green growth that towered above the grain.  They were certainly weeds!

In Matthew 13:24ff is recorded one of the parables of the Lord Jesus.  In it He refers to weeds that are growing in the midst of wheat.  The parable is one that is illustrating the Kingdom of God - on earth.  So how may it be interpreted?   The usual interpretation is that the weeds (more properly a degenerate type of wheat) represent hypocrites in the church. Strongly resembling Christians in their experience, and, in some respects, their lives, it is well-nigh impossible to distinguish them from genuine disciples of Jesus, nor can they be separated until it is done by Father God at the day of judgment.

How may I be assured that I am wheat, and not weed?  By living my life in full accordance with the written Word of God; by walking closely with my Saviour; by confessing every sin, and claiming the forgiveness that was gained for me, at the cost of the precious blood of Jesus, at Calvary; by keeping in touch with my Heavenly Father, in prayer; by reading His Word, and studying it, to the best of my ability.

The great day of Reaping is, I am convinced, very close.  It is certainly closer, today, than it was yesterday.  Let us be certain that we are gathered into the Father's granary - and not cast off to eternal damnation!

Friday, 10 July 2015

A matter of credentials

I was reading, last evening, of an official in a college who, for eleven years, impressed his colleagues as s highly qualified, and faithful, administrator.  He did his work so well that, when the opportunity for a promotion appeared, he was considered to be the favourite to be offered the position.

The, an unexpected background check was made on all employees.  To everyone's surprise, no documentation could be found for either the man's Master's degree, or his Doctorate.  He was called to a special meeting and, when advised of the problem, excused himself from the room in order, he informed the others, to get the transcripts.  He didn't return!

Just as this administrator in an educational facility was able to deceive his colleagues, so spiritual counterfeits are able to deceive their friends within the Body of Christ, the Church.  They arrive with cleverly-faked credentials of belief, and may remain undetected until the Final Judgment.  Of course, if the College authorities had made the relevant checks on the administrator before employing him, he would never have been employed.  Likewise, true disciples of Jesus need to follow the example of the Bereans (see Acts 17:10-11), and check all things by the written Word of God.   This is, sadly, a situation that I have experienced, recently, in a Fellowship with which I am involved.

We need the help of Father God in relating to those who may be counterfeits (see Matt.7:15).  However, we need also to know our own hearts so that we don't make false judgments about others!  We then need to be aleet as we wait for God to make the final judgment.

May He grant us the grace and the wisdom to be faithful, and wise.

Monday, 6 July 2015

New Beginnings

After a number of last-minute hitches, and delays, I have just sent out, to our Annual Newsletter mailing-list, the exciting (for my wife and me!) news that we have completed all of the legalities in our purchase of a house in France.  It has been an exhausting, sometimes, frustrating, time-consuming matter - but it is done!

Why have we made such a move when we are no longer in the first flush of our youth?  Simply because we believe that this move is in the Lord's will.  What He has planned for us is, of course, still to be discovered, but we have learned, over many years, to take one step at a time.   It will be difficult to leave the static caravan (mobil-home) that has been our French 'base' for three years - but as soon as we have it emptied of items that have been stored here, it will go on the market, and we trust that someone else will have as much pleasure as we have had when it is purchased (sooner, rather than later, we trust!).

This is, of course, for us, a time of 'new beginnings'.  Beginnings are of extreme importance.  How often, as a child, and a young man, I was taught by my parents to "Start as you mean to continue"!   I am thinking of a man named Abram, who lived some 4,000 years ago in that part of the world known, today, as southern Iraq.  At God's call, he left all that would have been his and, with his wife, his nephew, and his flocks and servants, he set off for an unknown (to him) destination.  The whole story is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis (Beginnings), chapters 12-25, and is well worth reading.   That was a new beginning for Abram (better known by his later name of Abraham) and, from that new beginning came the whole nation of Israel - a nation that many have tried to destroy, but that continues to exist, and flourish, in spite of their attempts!

We are not going to be the progenitors of a new nation - but we believe that the Lord has a specific plan for us as we settle in to our new home.  We believe, too, that He has a specific plan for your life - but you have to be willing to listen to Him if you want to discover it!

Are you ready for new beginnings?  It can be scary; but it can also be exciting!   And, of course, the greatest 'new beginning' is the new life that is promised to all who come to Father God in faith; accepting the salvation that is offered through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus; and opening themselves up to the daily guidance of God the Holy Spirit.  If you want to know more, please contact me - or even check out a couple of "My Favourite Links" (scroll down!).