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Monday, 28 September 2015

Postscript to 9/11.

No, not the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, but the post that I published here on September 11th, this year!  For some reason (I would be grateful if anyone could e-mail me with a solution - please use the e-mail address above), this blog no longer seems to accept comments, and has not done so for a considerable length of time.  This means that there were no comments directly to the blog.  However, I made the same point on a number of Facebook pages, and was castigated (albeit, mildly!) for my lack of compassion.  At least one brother in the Lord has been treated in much the same way for having made similar points.

However, the news reports that Daesh (aka ISIS) are crucifying thousands in Syria surely makes it clear that, as I have stated often, compassion must be tempered with discernment.  Daesh have made no secret of their willingness to 'use' the genuine refugees as a 'cover' for them to infiltrate Western Europe.  They will, undoubtedly, claim to be Syrian Christians fleeing persecution in order to be welcomed by their intended victims.   This is, to Muslims, "taqiyya" - the use of deceit to gain an advantage over one's enemies.  Muhammad declared, as a justification for murdering unarmed prisoners after offering them safe passage, “war is deceit”. (from the Hadith - collected sayings of Muhammad).  

The tradition continues.  On May 10th, 1994, just a few months after signing the Oslo Accords (September, 1993), the late Yasir Arafat addressed an assembly of Muslims in a Johannesburg mosque where he justified his actions by explaining: “This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Muhammad and Quraysh.” And he concluded by calling on the worshipers “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”

What did he mean?   He was referring to Muhammad having signed a 10-year truce with the Arabian pagan Quraysh tribe in the city of Mecca (the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, 628 AD). At the beginning of the second year of that ten-year period he found a pretext to justify breaking the truce. He pounced on the Quraysh in a surprise attack, conquered Mecca and defeated the Quraysh, who were not prepared for more hostilities since they were honoring the 10-year accord and assumed that Muhammad was too.  Since then this agreement between Muhammad and the Quraysh has been an example for Muslims world-wide of how to trick the enemy in wartime. In other words, Arafat explained to his Muslim audience that he gave his word to President Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin, and signed the Oslo Accords, only because he planned to annul his commitments and attack Israel as soon as it was expedient for him to do so.  He lied to Clinton and Rabin; but once he was out from under the scrutiny of western media and in the comfort of a Muslim group whose support he could assume, he told the truth to his Muslim audience.  Apparently, he was unaware that his speech was being recorded.

The desired policy of many of Europe's 'leaders' (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is an honourable exception!) of 'open doors' is, of course, simply playing into the hands of those terrorists who wish to make Western Europe part of a worldwide Caliphate - with its inhabitants given a simple choice to 'convert' to Islam; pay a special "subjugation" tax (the jizya); or die!

So - if we are disciples of Jesus, let us "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, ..." (Col.3:12).   However, let us neither forget, nor ignore, the words of the Saviour: "... be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matt.10:16).   Let us not be so insistent on being the latter, that we fail to be the former!






Friday, 18 September 2015

When life begins!

About 125 AD, a philosopher named Aristides presented his defence of Christianity to the Emperor Hadrian.  It is quite a long document that deals with the religious history and beliefs of various groups, before turning to those who followed the Way of the Christ.   One of the important differences that he noted between Christians and others concerns their attitude to physical death.  In para. XV, he states "... if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near."

He was, of course, totally correct.  Disciples of Jesus can face death differently from those who do not know Him as their personal Saviour and Lord, because they have a hope that is beyond the grave.   I recall the old saying that "Life begins at 40".  However, for the true child of God, life - new and glorious living - begins at the death of the physical body, when the spirit leaves the body and enters into the presence of the Lord.  That's why they can face death with such confidence, and even joy.  That's why those young Egyptian men who, not so long ago, were forced by cowardly Islamic terrorists to kneel on a Libyan beach to be beheaded, could die with the name of Jesus on their lips.  That's what is meant by the title of a booklet that I have (currently in a box!) - "Death, with a steady eye".  That's why the apostle Paul could write to the believers in the Roman colony of Philippi: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." (Phil 1:21-23).

Even in obituaries, and on headstones, the difference in attitude is often seen.  Believers have not "passed away": they have not been "lost"; they have not even "died"!  No!  They have been "called home"; they are "with the Lord"; to our Salvation Army friends, they have been "promoted to Glory".

What a remarkable difference there is in the ways in which a disciple of Jesus, and an unbeliever, look at death!  For one, it is often viewed as a hopeless ending.  For the other, it is seen as a joyous beginning!  Indeed, when disciples of Jesus "die", they have only just begun to live!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Staying in the bubble!

No, the title to this post does not refer to the so-called "Westminster bubble" in which so many UK Members of Parliament appear to reside!  I am no naturalist, but I do know that a little creature, known as the water spider, is quite amazing.  Sometimes called "the frogman spider", it lives in rivers and streams - underneath the surface of the water!

How does this fascinating species survive in its watery environment?  Its secret is that it spins a tough, basket-like, web of silk - almost a little diving bell - and anchors it underwater to plants, or other objects.  Then it captures a surface air bubble, which it pulls down and injects into its underwater 'house'.  This combination of web building and bubble trapping allows the water spider to survive in an environment that would, normally, destroy it.

Disciples of Jesus also live in an environment that could destroy us!  The values, attitudes, practices, and priorities, of the world threaten to drown us - unless we are able to protect ourselves from them.  So how are we to survive, spiritually, in this hostile worldly environment?

May I suggest that we must build a 'bubble' of protection around ourselves by the regular reading, and study, of the written Word of God; by regular prayer; by regular fellowship with other believers; by regular communing with God the Holy Spirit; by always trusting Father God, and obeying His Word?  These activities will protect our minds, and help us to be safe and secure.  Paul writes to the early believers in the great city of Rome: "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom.12:1-2; emphasis added).

As the water spider lives in the water, but is not of the water, so disciples of Jesus must live in, but not be of, the world. (see John 17:16).  Are you building a safe 'bubble'?

Friday, 11 September 2015

Every picture tells a story!

Every picture tells a story - but is every story told by a picture honest and dependable?

A few days ago, a photograph appeared on most, if not all, of the MSM. It was the body of a small child, named as Aylan Kurdi, lying on a beach at the edge of the water. The child was, we were informed, drowned - the tragic result of a rubber dinghy, full of refugees, having 'flipped over' in the sea. The apparently distraught father claimed that his wife and other son had also drowned. They were, he claimed, escaping from the war in Syria. The picture was likened to that of the young girl, running naked along a road in Vietnam, having been (if I recall correctly), the victim of a napalm bombing. That picture has often been credited with having brought about the end of the involvement of the USoA in Vietnam.

I was one of those who was criticised, by dear fellow-disciples of Jesus, for not responding with the demand that the UK take in more refugees.  I was, effectively, accused of lacking compassion.  It appeared that I am a poor advert for Jesus.  My basic response was that compassion sometimes needs to be tempered with discernment.

Later reports would seem to suggest that I was correct!   People have looked again at the picture - and come to the reasonable conclusion that it was all carefully staged (not that I am suggesting that the Vietnamese picture was likewise!).  It has been pointed out that, if that little body had been washed ashore by the waves, it would not have been lying as it is in the picture - almost as if the child had lain down for a sleep.   The father's own story has been found to be filled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.   The latest claim, from a survivor of the capsizing, is that he was actually the 'captain' of the ill-fated little vessel.   It has also been noted that he was able to return to Syria in order to bury the bodies of his family - returning to the very 'war zone' from which he claimed to have fled!  

His own sister claimed, on Canadian television, that he had been in Turkey (it would appear that he had been there for about three years!) and that she had been paying the rent for the family's apartment.   It was she, also, who stated that his desire to get to Europe was motivated by his need for false teeth!   An anonymous blogger has apparently stated that Mr Kurdi had his teeth pulled out when being tortured by the Assad régime in his home country.  It could be asked why he didn't make this 'fact' known, himself, when he first came to the attention of the world's media.

Much more has apparently been unearthed, and it seems to me that there are more questions than answers in this sorry saga.  Of course the death of any child - or any adult - is sad.  Of course one has compassion for those who are genuinely fleeing persecution and violence.  However, there are sound reasons for believing that the majority of those who are currently seeking to enter a number of European countries are not fleeing adverse situations and circumstances, but merely seeking to benefit from what they see as some kind of 'El Dorado'!

I am not one to be taken in by every conspiracy theory - even those put about after the tragic event of fourteen years ago.  However, in addition to the above, the alleged comment by an official of the Saudi Arabian government, that his country (and other Arab, Muslim, countries) do not take in Muslim refugees because they want Europe to be filled with Muslims, is really quite believable!  The dream of many Muslims is the realisation of the world-wide Islamic Caliphate, and they will do all in their power, including lying and deceit, to achieve it.

Praise God, therefore, that He is the One Who is ultimately in control!   His Kingdom is within His people and will, many of us believe, be consummated soon.   Then will come to pass the vision granted to John: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.'   And He Who sat upon the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'" (Rev 21:1-5).  Hallelujah!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

What's on the inside?

I was just a laddie when my granny bought me my first "Wagon Wheel" biscuit.  It was about 3" (75mms) in diameter - and possibly a little more! - and almost ½" (13mm) thick.  A real treat!

Nowadays, I could almost manage a full Wagon Wheel in two bites!  I haven't checked, but I suspect that, even allowing for the difference in the value of money over the decades involved, it actually costs more!  The wrapper, last time I looked, hasn't changed - but the product has.   

At least I can see, as soon as I lift it up, that my Wagon Wheel is not as good value as it once was.  However, here are many products, in the grocery range, where manufacturers are selling us less, for more, but in a package that is designed to fool us into thinking that we are getting what we always got!   Often, for example, the carton is the same size - but now contains considerably more air, and much less product!

How something is wrapped doesn't always show us what is on the inside.  That is true of people as well.  We may wrap ourselves up in the same packaging, every day - nice clothes; big smile; friendly attitude - yet be less than we appear to be.

The Old Testament prophet, Samuel, was sent to the home of a man named Jesse, in order to anoint a king for Israel to replace Saul.  Each time Jesse paraded one of hos sons before the prophet, Samuel was impressed by his looks; his build; his obvious physical strength.   However, each time, God told him that this was not His chosen one.  "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (I Sam.16:7).  Samuel was interested in the packaging; YHWH was interested in the contents!   Eventually, Samuel had to ask Jesse if he had any other sons.  Young David was sent for from his task of shepherding - and Samuel was told that this was God's choice.  The LORD knew that David had what it took to be king of Israel!

We live in a world that often measures the value of products - and people! - by their packaging.   However, let's not become preoccupied with outward appearance - and neglect what's on the inside!  In God's eyes, it's the contents that count.  Surely we should follow that example!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Forty-five years - and still going strong!

This evening, my wife and I paid our first visit to the local Pizzeria, here in Gardonne.  The occasion was the celebration of our forty-fifth wedding anniversary, and we are looking forward, as the Rapture is delayed, to many more.

Sadly, we are part of a relatively small number of our own generation to have reached such a milestone.  Marriage has been constantly downgraded over the past thirty years - at least in the UK.  It saddens me that so many, today, are unwilling to enter the bond of marriage; and that so many who have done so are now on their second (or even third!) spouse.  It is even more sad that so many of those people would claim to be disciples of Jesus, and that too many (in my, I believe Biblically-based, opinion) are even in positions of leadership, and pastoral responsibility, within the Body of Christ.  If I find all of that to be so sad, I wonder how Father God views it!

Marriage - and I refer only to the God-ordained union of a man and a woman - is an honourable estate.  It was given, I used to say in the Christian marriage service that I conducted, for the benefit of society which can be strong only where the marriage bond is held in honour.  It was given for the mutual help of the two persons involved.  It was given in order that children, who are a gift from God, should be raised in a stable environment, with a role model of each gender.

Marriage ought not to be, I believe, a temporary state until we find out if we are suited to one another.  That is the purpose of courtship and engagement.  It should not be entered into solely on the basis of a physical attraction - although such a physical attraction will be there.

When it comes to divorce, and remarriage, I do not even need to turn to my Bible - with different interpretations of certain passages being offered.  I simply need to go back those 45 years to the day of my marriage.  As my then fiancée and I stood before our minister, we each promised, God helping us, to be faithful to one another for as long as God gave us life.  We entered into a covenant relationship - with each other, and with Almighty God.  He, and He alone, may break that relationship.

Now, please don't misunderstand me.  I am not suggesting that our married life has been a constant 'bed of roses'.  We have had our ups and downs.  We have had our differences of opinion.  But our common love for the Lord has held us together better than Superglue!

Does this mean that disciples of Jesus who are remarried divorcees, or those who are living together without the commitment that marriage brings, are grieving Father God?   Unless they repent, and deal with the situation, I believe that this is so.  It is certainly, I am convinced, a matter for which they will have to answer when they stand before the Judgment Seat of the Christ.

Meanwhile, I am so glad that the Lord gave me the woman He did give me to be my wife; my companion; my lover; the mother of my children; my constant support and encouragement; and so much more besides.  Every day, I thank Him for her and, as already stated, I look forward, as the Rapture is delayed, to many more years with her - loving one another; caring for one another; sharing with one another; being with one another; and serving Him, both as individuals and as a couple, for as long as He gives us strength and opportunity.

If you are married to your first spouse, regardless of the current length of your marriage, I trust that you are able to say the same!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Prayer - in time, and eternity!

This afternoon, I took the back off a clock that no longer kept good time.  However, it also had two dials in addition to the main clock-face - a thermometer, and a hygrometer.  The body of the clock I consider to be quite attractive so, rather than throw out the whole piece, I removed the back; disconnected the hands; took out the clock mechanism; and was left with a hole in the middle of the dial!  That didn't look too good.  What should I do?  In a flash of inspiration, I went to where I knew I had some "Praying Hands" stickers - black on a gold background - and stuck one of them across the centre.

I do hope that some folk, when visiting me in my (still to be organised!) study, will look at the object on the wall, and ask why there are no hands for the clock, but Praying Hands in the centre!  The answer, of course, will be that it is always time to pray!

Prayer is of great importance to the disciple of Jesus.  When I was invited, earlier in the year, to bring the message to L'Église Évangélique Libre de Bergerac (The Bergerac Free Evangelical Church), I did not know if I would be invited again, this year.  The message that I brought was on "The Cost of Prayer".  Shortly afterwards, I was asked to bring the message again.  This time, I spoke on "The Importance of Prayer".  I am due to speak on Sept.13th.  The message will be based on "The Prayer of Jabez".  So, without any prior planning, I will have brought a brief series on Prayer!  [By the way, if anyone wishes to listen to any/all of those messages, recordings may be found at http://www.eel-bergerac.fr/apercu.htm].

Then, in yesterday's regular 'Cultural Commentary' from Dr Jim Denison (which I only got around to opening today!) he states, having referred to two passage in the Book of the Revelation given to John: "Think about it: God turns your momentary prayers into eternal incense that rises before him in heaven. That means your prayers today can affect events yesterday, since God knew yesterday you would pray today."   

Dr Denison continues by quoting from C.S.Lewis: "We can at noon become part causes of an event occurring at ten a.m. . . . My free act [of praying] contributes to the cosmic shape. That contribution is made in eternity or 'before all worlds'; but my consciousness of contributing reaches me at a particular point in the time-series."

He (Lewis) explained: "We must not picture destiny as a film unrolling for the most part on its own, but in which our prayers are sometimes allowed to insert additional items. On the contrary, what the film displays to us as it unrolls already contains the results of our prayers and of all our other acts.

"There is no question whether an event has happened because of your prayer. When the event you prayed for occurs your prayer has always contributed to it. When the opposite event occurs your prayer has never been ignored; it has been considered and refused, for your ultimate good and the good of the whole universe."  [You may see the full article at https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/14f8dbd09dba1113] 

So prayer is not only important, and effective, within the time/space continuum in which we live and move and have our being.  It may also be seen as being important from an eternal perspective!  I wonder if that is behind the old 'jingle' - "Satan flees, when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees"!

Do you pray?  How much of your time do you invest in prayer?  Is prayer merely an "Emergency" button; or is it regular, intimate, communion with the Sovereign Lord of all that is?

"Let us pray" may be a useful way in which to introduce corporate prayer at a church worship service.  However, for the individual disciple of Jesus, prayer should be as normal as breathing - and it is, in fact, more important!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Dordogne Haiku!

As we drive around the south-west of France, where we now live, my wife and I are often surrounded by vine-yards - field after field of vines, now heavily-laden with grapes that will soon be harvested and, eventually, become fine wines.  The rows are perfectly straight.  The vines are kept well-trimmed - the same height and width all along each row.

It was some weeks ago that my 'poetic' mind came up with a brief stanza:

Regimented rows of vines;
Standing tall and straight
Like Guardsmen on parade
On the Queen's official birthday.

Vineyard in Gardonne.
However, as I continued to reflect on those words, I remembered the Japanese poetic form of the 'haiku'.  This is composed of just seventeen syllables, in three groups - five, seven, and five.  In the English language the groups are usually presented as three lines.  So, having made some changes to my original verse, I present my Haiku to the Dordogne.  The picture, by the way, is the field of vines directly opposite our new home.  Beyond the trees is the river Dordogne, from which the Département takes its name.

Haiku to the Dordogne.

Regimented rows,
Like Grenadiers on parade.
Vines in the Dordogne.