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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Heaven - or hell?

It started with a Facebook post shared by one of my former pupils. The post gave a list of the good things that were apparently done by the late George Michael, but claimed "Yet today you read comments that he is damned because he was gay. I know in whose company I would rather spend eternity, and which behaviour I consider more "Christian"."

As some might expect, I responded to this! I pointed out that the person who originally penned the piece appeared not to understand what a Christian (better "disciple of Jesus") actually is. Biblically, being a disciple of Jesus means that one has been saved. That salvation, Paul reminds us, is solely and simply through the grace of God - "By grace you have been saved, through faith, not of works lest any man should boast."(Eph.2:8). Let's finish the year by unpicking those words a little.

"By grace ..." I give a full chapter in my book "Great Words of the Faith" (link at top of page: available as a paperback, or a Kindle e-book) to the word 'grace' (23 other important words are also dealt with!). At it's most simple, however, grace refers to my receiving that which I don't deserve; cannot earn; and could never purchase. In other words, grace has absolutely nothing to do with 'me' - what I have done for others; what I have given to others; how I have behaved. It has everything to do with the love of Almighty God, shown supremely in the willing sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ, at Calvary. When Jesus hung on the cross, He was paying the penalty for you sins, and for mine. He was doing what we could never do. He was satisfying God's justice, by the greatest expression of love in the history of mankind.

"... you have been saved ..." Salvation is also dealt with, much more fully, in my book. It is, of course, a concept with which we are all too familiar in a physical sense. There is a fire in a house, or a place of entertainment, or wherever. The Fire Brigade arrives and rescues all who were trapped in the inferno - and the newspaper reports inform us that so many people were "saved".  They were saved from serious injury, or even from death. However, the salvation to which Paul refers is of inestimably greater significance - it is salvation from sin: it's power; it's penalty; and, ultimately, its presence.

"... through faith ..." 'Faith' is actually the first word dealt with in the book already cited. It's something that we exercise every time we board public transport - 'bus, aeroplane, or any other form. When I flew earlier this year, I didn't meet the pilot of the aeroplane; I didn't personally examine the aircraft; I wasn't provided with the opportunity to ensure that it had sufficient fuel in the tanks to make the planned flight. Yet I boarded that aircraft; settled into my seat; and enjoyed the short flight. I trusted that all of those concerned had attended to all of the necessary checks. The writer of the great Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus gave God's definition of the word: "... the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb.11:1). It is taking, on trust, God's own Word about anything and everything!

"... not of works lest any man should boast." You see, if salvation depended on my "works", then the late Mr Michael would be able to claim that he had done more to gain his salvation than I had done to gain mine! And he would be correct. I have never been in the position to give the vast amounts to others that the post that set me off on this claims that he did - and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the claim. I, of course, could then boast that I had given, and done, more than many other people. However, if salvation is NOT about what I have done, then we all stand at the same level. It;s not about me; it's all about Him!

I know very little about George Michael. I am certainly not in a position to state, emphatically, where he will spend eternity. However, I do know this much - if he had yielded his life to Almighty God, through the Lord Jesus, the Christ, and if God the Holy Spirit was living in and through him, then he is already in the presence of that same Jesus. Otherwise, he is not!

Whatever George Michael's eternal destiny, it is now too late to do anything about it. However, for you there is still time. If you wish to make a worthwhile "New Year Resolution", then I strongly urge you to consider your own eternal destiny. While you breathe, there is the opportunity to come before Father God, in repentance and faith, and receive the salvation that was gained for you at Calvary. God the Holy Spirit will then come into your life and help you to become more like Jesus, in the process that is known as 'sanctification' (yes - it is also dealt with in "Great Words"!!). If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me through the contact e-mail address at the top of the page.

May you have a great 2017 - and walk with Him through every day.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Love came down at Christmas.

Human beings have many different ways of indicating their love for one another and, every now and then, someone comes up with a really original idea. I recall reading, many years ago, a newspaper report that told of a young lady who, on her birthday anniversary, received the largest parcel she had ever seen. The delivery men carried it, very carefully, into the house and, with mounting excitement, she began to open it. To her utter amazement - and great delight - the parcel suddenly burst open, and out jumped her boyfriend! He had decided that the best possible gift he could give her, in order to express his love for her, was himself.

For so many, the Christmas season has been wrapped up with ever-increasing commercialisation; with food, and fun, and festivities. However, if we remove the wrapping, we discover that is is, basically, Almighty God - the Creator and Sustainer of all that is - giving Himself in order to show His love for mankind. The angel's message to Joseph was that the Child to Whom Mary would give birth, would be called "Immanuel" - "God with us" (Mt.1:23); while my personal favourite "Christmas text" is found, not in the familiar birth narratives, but in that best-known of New Covenant verses, Jn.3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  And that "eternal life, by the way, is not some "pie in the sky when you die", but something you receive here and now!

"God is Love", John assures us in one of his letters (I Jn.4:16) and, in the Incarnation, He expressed Himself in Jesus, "His indescribable Gift" (II Cor.9:15). Christmas is the beginning of a love story that goes on to Resurrection Day, when the Babe in the manger becomes the Christ on the Cross, suffering and dying for our salvation - and rising from the dead, victorious over death, and hell, and the grave!

Most of those who read this blog will receive a number of gifts tomorrow, each of them an indication of the love of the giver. Be sure that, if you have never received it before, you accept the greatest Gift of all - Jesus, and the salvation He offers.

... and a Christmas thought: Wise men sought Jesus; they still do!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I'm a male today; tomorrow, I may decide to be a female!

The heading is, I hope anyone would realise, something of a parody! However, it would appear that my contemporary society would be willing to accept such a statement. After all, why shouldn't I choose my own identity?!  Tomorrow, I may decide that I am something else; and I may change again on the following day!

I was alerted to this matter by David Robertson - who has been quoted before on this blog.  Last week, he reported that a debate had been held, in the UK Parliament, on a report from the Women and Equalities Committee which was the first "Transgender" debate in the Parliament.  David comments: "As I watched the debate it dawned on me that there really was no debate. A minority of people are going to drive through something that will cause a profound degree of harm within this country and make the fuss over same-sex marriage look insignificant (incidentally one of the reasons I opposed SSM was because I thought it would lead to further consequences such as this. At the time I was mocked for the ‘slippery slope’ argument but it turns out to have been right – we are not on a slope, we are on a helter-skelter to the pit)."

What is "transgenderism"? Well, if I understand the situation correctly, it is a 'popular' term for a recognised condition known as "gender dysphoria".  People who have gender dysphoria feel strongly that they are not the gender they physically appear to be, and the condition was earlier referred to as "gender identity disorder".

Such people require help.  However, there appears to be a move to make "transgenderism" a "norm"! This is, of course, completely contrary to Biblical teaching. In the beginning, we are informed in Gen 1:27, "... God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them." (emphasis added). Each of us is aware that we are born as either male or female, and what we are is defined, physically, by our genitalia! If a person is born with a penis, scrotum, and testicles, then that person is male; if a person is born with a vagina, then that person is female. Sufferers of gender dysphoria, as already stated, claim not to feel comfortable in the body with which they were born, but "transgenderism" is now pushing this so that I may "decide" my own identity, and gender!

Now, for a very long time we have had such facilities as "unisex hairdressers" where I might go in for a short back and sides, and be seated next to a woman having her hair permed. The difference, here, is that the push for "transgenderism" has led to situations in, e.g., the USoA with regard to washrooms, and showers in public buildings and in schools. The attempt by Barack Obama to enforce this was rightly resisted on the very sensible ground that it was "a pervert's charter"! I want to look at females in the washroom, or in the shower at a sports club? No problem - I just declare that I identify as a female, and I have immediate access to such areas!

This, it would appear, is the kind of situation that some in the UK would now like to see introduced! However, some go even further. It has been reported in the main-stream media (and I know that what is published by them is not always absolutely true!) that schoolchildren are being invited to state the gender, and identity, that they wish to adopt! I want to be a female Chinese ballet dancer.  Okay - I come to school tomorrow in a tutu, and with my eyes made up to look like a Chinese person. I also, of course, use the girls' toilets and showers!

All of this, it seems to me, is part of the so-called "sexual revolution"! It is also, of course, the inevitable result of departure from the Maker's Manual! We have had homosexual/lesbian so-called "marriage" foisted upon us; there are already moves to try to normalise polygamy; I read, not too long ago, of a woman who was trying to legally "marry" her dog! Another woman wants to be "married" to her adult son - a relationship that we used to refer to as "incest" but that she referred to as "genetic sexual attraction"! As David Robertson states: "we are not on a slope, we are on a helter-skelter to the pit."

This is a topic that is much too large for simple blog-posts, and I mention it only to raise awareness of it. However, it is a further moving away from the standards set down by the Creator and, I would contend, a further indication that we are in "the last days" when people do what "I" want - regardless of how it affects other people, especially my own family!    

If you wish to learn more, you may read David Robertson's very full contribution at 


Friday, 2 December 2016

So - what IS a "Christian"?

It was a headline in an online newspaper that first caught my eye: "A third of French ISIS fighters were born CHRISTIAN and converted to Islam, expert reveals." (emphasis in the original).

My first thought was, of course, that no-one is "born a Christian".  That, as Jesus pointed out very clearly to Nicodemus, requires that one be "born again"! (See John 3).  My second thought, coming from a Christian perspective, was that no-one is "converted" to Islam. If anything, one would be PERverted to that particular ideology.

So, what is a Christian?  Well, I am not the only preacher to have preached on that question - and on more than one occasion!  I could give a list of criteria that would define a Christian, in Biblical terms - and anything else is, at best, suspect!  My idea was to share some of the points that I have made, in the past, in this post.

Then I read today's 'Daily Article' by Dr Jim Denison - whom I have quoted before in this blog. In it, he refers to a couple who appear on American television.  He states that "Their HGTV show, Fixer Upper, is one of the most popular shows on the network. They are smart, funny, and entertaining. And the good they do in helping couples renovate houses into homes is terrific." We are informed, however, that this couple are "Christians" - and when Jim Denison uses the term, he knows exactly what he means!  He tells us that a reporter from a particular publication asked this couple where they stood on the issue of same-gender "marriage" (my quotation marks), and whether or not they would ever feature a same-gender couple on their show.    

The reporter then turned her attention to the Fellowship of which this couple are a part, carefully editing a sermon by the pastor that he preached on the Sunday after the USoA Supreme Court had declared that same-gender "marriage" was to be legal in all fifty States of the Union. (Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are all officially Commonwealths, but are counted as States for all administrative purposes!).

Now you may be wondering what has all of this to do with the question "What is a Christian?"? Well, Jim Denison makes the point that "Christians facing persecution is an escalating theme today." and, while he readily concedes that "... it is unfair to compare believers facing execution and/or confiscation of their churches and property with believers being ridiculed for their biblical beliefs regarding marriage.", he also concludes that "What the two kinds of persecution have in common is that both intend to pressure Christians to change their convictions."

That, as I read it, gave me a clue to the answer to my question. What is a Christian? A Christian is one who puts Jesus first - every time, in every situation, in every place. I recalled those young Egyptian Coptic Christians, murdered on a Libyan beach simply because they were faithful followers of Jesus. It was reported that they had the opportunity to deny Jesus, and recite the shahadah (the basic Islamic creed). Each one refused, even although they knew that it might be the means of saving their lives. I think of a Pakistani Christian named Asia, who has now spent about seven years in prison because she had the temerity to offer a cup of water to a fellow-worker in the fields, on a hot day. That fellow-worker was a Muslim - and was so offended by this, that Asia was reported under the "Blasphemy Laws" of Pakistan, and sentenced to death! She has been given many opportunities to become a Muslim, and be set free - but she has steadfastly refused to do so.

I wonder where you, and I, if we claim to be disciples of Jesus, stand in our faithfulness to Him? The anonymous (human) author of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus writes: "Consider Him Who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Heb 12:3-4; emphasis added). I wonder if, with the knife-blade of a fanatic already at my throat, I would be as faithful as those young Copts.  I wonder if, after about seven years in prison, in solitary confinement for my own safety, I would still be faithful to the Lord Jesus. I trust that I would - and believe that, if I were to be in any such situation, I would indeed receive the grace that I needed to remember to "... take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Eph 6:13).

Let us never forget those who, on a daily basis, are indeed called upon to show that they are truly His. Let us pray that we, who enjoy so much relative ease in the "west", will be likewise faithful if, and when, real persecution comes to us!



Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Conformity.

Today, as many will know, is St Andrew's Day. St Andrew is the patron saint of a number of countries, one of which is Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland called for this St Andrew's Day to be a national day of Prayer - for the nation of Scotland, but also for the world in general. I know that I was not alone in spending some of today in prayer for Scotland, the rest of the UK and, of course, France.

The denomination kindly provided some specific prayer points that I certainly found to be very helpful.  However, one "bullet point" jumped out at me.  It stated: "Confess sins of conformity to the world and failing to prioritise Jesus Christ over all the world."

I have no doubt that a well-known verse from the Scriptures of the New Testament were in the mind of the person(s) who decided to provide that particular point. Paul, writing to the early disciples of Jesus in the 1st century city of Rome, encouraged them to "... 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 12:2). How often I allow myself to conform in this way, and it is right and proper that I should confess to that, and receive the forgiveness of Father God that has already been gained for me through the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as He paid the penalty for my sins.

However, I remembered that Paul had already written about "conforming", in that same letter. A little earlier he had explained to his fellow-believers that "... those whom He [Father God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He [the Son; the Lord Jesus] might be the first-born among many brethren." (Rom 8:29; emphasis added).

So, it would appear that it is not "conforming" that is the problem - but to Whom, or to what, we conform!

Last evening, we had a number of friends join with us for dinner.  The gathered company included a little boy who is about 18 months old. He and I had great fun - if I did something, he would copy me. One might say that he was "conforming" to what he saw me do. It's a perfectly normal reaction in a child - copying what an adult does. It's how we learn in the early days of our human lives.

What a difference it would make in, and to, my life if I was to be as faithful in copying Jesus as that little boy was in copying me last evening! Yet Paul says that this is what I have been predestined to do! Now, I can accept that - and despair. I can look at myself, and easily recognise how poor a copy of Jesus I am! However, I can also accept that, if Father God has said that I shall be like the Son - then I shall be! The transformation will not be completed until I reach Glory - but the process is already in operation! As a friend from 'way back used to put it - "I'm still a work in progress"! (For more on this - what theologians refer to as "Sanctification" - read my book "Great Words of the Faith"; details above!).

So, to Whom, or to what, do you conform - or, at least, seek to conform? It's a question that only you can answer - but it's a question, the answer to which has eternal consequences!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Apartheid Israel!

It was a Facebook post by a friend of one of my former pupils, who had been on my own "Friends" list for a number of years.  It was, basically, a 'tongue-in-cheek' comment on the late Fidel Castro, using a reported quote from this former President of Cuba.

However, some of the following comments that appeared to be praising this "great humanitarian" led me to give some of "the other side" of the story!  This, in turn, led to the former pupil informing me that I am a "pro-Zionist" who supports the bombing of innocent civilians, including children, by apartheid Israel!

That probably wasn't a wise move on his part!  My response was as follows - in case any of my blog readers think as he does!  I typed:

If that is directed at me (I was absolutely certain that it had been - but one must be careful!), you need to do some serious research on the State of Israel - and not be hoodwinked by the pro-'palestinian' propaganda that is spouted by the MSM (main stream media, in case you are unfamiliar with the abbreviation).

Just to get you started - If Palestinians were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down its arms, there would be no Israel.  It would be so very helpful if the 'Palestinians' were to stop firing rockets at israel; stop digging tunnels that are intended to enable their 'soldiers' to infiltrate Israel; and stop teaching their children to "kill the Jews" (that, of course, is not confined to 'Palestinian' authorities).

There is NO apartheid in Israel!  Have you ever been there? Have you seen, for yourself, this apartheid to which you refer? Do you know how many Arabs are Members of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament)? By the way, do you know how many Jews are involved in the political leadership of any Arab state?! (The answer to that question is easy - less than 1!!) Do you know how many Arabs are members of the IDF (the Israeli Defence Force)?  Do you know how many Arabs hold top positions in the Police, the Military, in Institutes of Higher Education (and as teachers in primary and secondary education - teaching Jewish children!), in Medical Institutions and Hospitals?

Do you know how many 'Palestinians' work in Israel - because the wages and conditions are better than anything they can obtain in 'Palestine'?  Do you know how many 'Palestinians' bring their children, and other relatives, to Israeli hospitals for treatment - free of charge? Can you provide a figure for these "innocent men, women, and children being bombed and daily harrasses or being evicted out of their homes"? Do you know how many rockets, bombs, sidearms, etc were found in 'Palestinian' hospitals and other public buildings? Are you aware of the 'Palestinian' strategy of firing their rockets, indiscriminately, at Israel - from areas of civilian population?  Do you really understand the definition of "apartheid"?  Indeed, do you know the meaning of "Zionist"?  You really should go beyond the Daily Record (a Scottish tabloid newspaper that caters for the less educated in Scottish society!) for your information about the world!

I then pointed out that, so far, 37 Arab Muslims (at least some of whom, and probably all of whom, are 'Palestinian' Arabs) have been arrested over the arson attacks that have destroyed hectares of forest in Israel.  I suggested, from another perspective, that he check out the Arab countries that do practice apartheid towards Jews!  For example, Jews are not even allowed to permanently reside in Saudi Arabia, Libya, or Jordan - and I suspect that any Jew would be refused entry to Iran!

If there ever was to be a "State of Palestine" (for the first time in the history of the world!), it has already been made clear that it would be "ethnically cleansed" of any Jews!

Well, I could have gone on - and could go on.  However, I do hope that anyone who has bought into this hype about Israel being a modern South Africa will begin to realise that nothing could be further from the truth.  There are no "Jews only" forms of transport. There are no "Jews only" beaches. There are no "Jews only" cafés or restaurants.  There are no "Jews only" washrooms.  Indeed, according to Kenneth Meshoe, a South African politician, any attempt to compare Palestinians’ experience in Israel with the former racist regime is offensive to individuals who suffered under the system of racial separation.  He said that, on a trip to Israel, "I deliberately looked for anything that looked like apartheid. I took a bus to the center of Jerusalem, but blacks, Jews, Arabs and everybody else all sat together. Swimming at the Dead Sea was mixed. I looked for the ‘black only’ beaches, but there were none. Arab school teachers stood in front of Jewish classes! That would never have happened under apartheid."

Apartheid Israel? - it simply doesn't exist!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Growing through adversity!

A number of my friends on the social network, Facebook, post many beautiful pictures and video-clips of nature in all of its beauty. However, that same nature wonderfully testifies that adverse conditions are often valuable in the development of some types of trees and other plants.  While fire is one of the greatest enemies of a forest - ask people living in California, and certain parts of Australia, for example - it actually helps certain kinds of seeds to grow. I am reliably informed that the cones of some pine trees do not open until they are touched by the flames.

This can also be true for the disciple of Jesus, whose faith and character are often strengthened by life's trials. Some of the strongest believers of whom I know are in what we refer to as "the persecuted church"; and it was the early church father, Tertullian who, in his book "Apologetics", claimed that "The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the church".  Certainly, persecution quickly rids the church of nominality. No-one who does not have a true saving faith in the Lord Jesus is going to admit to being "a Christian" if his/her physical life is at stake. Alternatively, the true disciple looks "... forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb 11:10). 

The story is told of a distinguished botanist who was exiled from his native land, but who obtained work as a gardener. On one occasion, in the middle of winter, his employer received a valuable plant but was unfamiliar with its nature and needs. He placed it in the hothouse where, under the glare of the sun, it began to wilt. As it appeared to be dying, the new gardener was instructed to examine it. Quickly identifying its origin, he explained to his employer: "This is an arctic plant, which cannot possibly thrive in this tropical heat."  He then took the plant outside and exposed it to the frost, whilst heaping ice around the pot.  Before long, the plant regained its health, and flourished.

Christian character is developed in many ways. Some believers, when they are placed in the comfortable and sheltered atmosphere of earthly warmth, pleasure, and luxury, begin to lose their spiritual vitality. On the other hand, if they are faced with the icy winds of life, and chilling temptations, they soon revive and renew their strength.  Others find, in the heat of trials, the pressures need to awaken them to a true sense of values. Paul wrote: "... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Rom 5:3-5). 

It all depends on the root system.  Whether it be a plant, or a believer, it is the life that is in the roots that makes the difference.  So Paul prayed for his brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, in Ephesus: "... that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God." (Eph 3:17-19; emphasis added); while his exhortation to the Colossians was: "As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Col 2:6-7; emphasis added). 

So, if you are a disciple of Jesus reading this, don't shrink from the hardships and difficulties of life. By the grace of God, you may gain spiritual stature, even through adversity - and all to the glory of His Name. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Marriage!

On Saturday, my wife and I were privileged to be present at the marriage of two lovely young disciples of Jesus, to one another.  It was, of course, a French wedding - the third that we have attended during this calendar year.  With more than 46 years of marriage behind my wife and me, I have a more than passing interest in the institution of marriage, and want to share some thoughts on the subject, here.

Marriage, as I shared in the Christian Marriage Service that I conducted in my days as a parish minister, "... is a state of life provided and instituted by God. It has been blessed by the presence of Jesus Himself at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. In Holy Scripture it is commended as honourable in all, and the marriage union is seen as a symbol of the union of loyalty and love that exists between Christ and His people.

"It is, therefore, not to be undertaken lightly or unadvisedly, but thoughtfully and reverently, and as before God, and with due consideration of the reasons for which it was given to us.  It was given for the sake of the life-long companionship, help, and comfort that husband and wife ought to have of each other.  It was given that family life may continue, and that children, who are a gift from God, may be brought up in the love and security of a stable and happy home.  It was given for the welfare of human society, which can only be strong and happy where the marriage commitment is kept and honoured."

It is, to me, a matter of great sadness when couples who have entered into such a union decide, for whatever reason, to break it.  Especially in a Christian marriage, the union is a covenant relationship that includes Father God - and only He can break such a union (which He does by the death of one of the couple).  This is why, the immediate words following the exchanging of vows, and rings, are: "What God has joined together, man must not separate."

An illustration that I have used for years was, not too long ago, expanded by a friend.  It concerns what I refer to as "the eternal triangle".  That is, in secular terms, a reference to "husband, wife, and the other man/woman".  However, I think of it as the husband, the wife, and Father God.  Imagine the triangle standing on its base. The couple are at opposite ends of that base-line.  Father God is at the apex, and the other two sides of the triangle connect Him with the husband and wife.  If, at any time, there should be a crack in the base-line, then as long as the other two sides remain intact - in other words, as long as each spouse maintains their relationship with God - the triangle will stand upright, allowing time for the crack in the base-line to repair.  It is only when one of the sides is broken that the whole edifice comes crashing down!

That was as far as I used to go.  However, a friend who was in a group with which I was sharing that, added to it. She pointed out that, if the couple each move up "their" side then, as they draw closer to God, they also draw closer to one another!  I love that extra dimension to the picture.  It is, I believe, the secret of a truly happy marriage.

My young friends who were married to one another on Saturday, both love the Lord, and each loves the other.  It is my prayer for them that, as they live their lives for Him, so they will indeed be drawn ever closer to Him, and to one another, and be a shining example to all who know them, of what a truly Christian marriage can be like.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Trumped!

So - the fat lady has sung; the votes have been counted; the people have spoken. Contrary to what the pollsters had predicted; contrary to what the MSM had pushed; contrary to what the establishment had expected; Donald Trump has trumped Hillary Clinton, and is now the President-elect of the USoA.  In January, all other things being equal, he will be sworn-in as the 45th man to enter the Oval Office, and take his place as President. Whatever else may be said, it is clear that "the establishment" has, once again, suffered a bloodied nose.

I have always stated that I had no time for Donald Trump the billionaire, who seemed to think that he could ride rough-shod over anyone and anything, simply because of his great personal wealth. However, I have also been constant in my belief that, given the stark choice available (and none of the other candidates actually counted in the final ballot) then I would have been obliged to cast my vote for Trump.

So what may we expect from President Trump after he is officially inaugurated on Jan 20th (D.V.)?  I suspect that there will be some surprises, in that he will begin to fulfil the promises he made!  You see, he is not a professional politician who will, as an Obama advert stated about a certain Mrs Clinton: "say anything and do nothing" (2008 Democratic Primaries)! I also believe that his Vice-President will most certainly hold him to his word!

Dr Jim Denison, CEO of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, has written a paper on the Trump victory. The first point he makes concerns the USoA Supreme Court.  He writes: "Mr. Trump could nominate as many as four justices to the Supreme Court. The late Antonin Scalia's seat will be the first to be filled. If Mr. Trump nominates and the Senate confirms a conservative justice, he or she will join Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas to compose a four-justice conservative bloc. Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer will remain a four-vote liberal bloc, with Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. However, Ginsburg and Breyer are eight-three and seventy-eight years old, respectively. Assuming they retire during his administration, Mr. Trump could then nominate young justices to form a six-vote majority for decades to come. If Anthony Kennedy retires (he is eighty years old), Mr. Trump could create a lasting seven-vote majority. In addition, he will be able to fill nearly one hundred vacancies in the federal district and circuit courts, with more to come during his term."

Such appointments would have a major effect on the whole Justice system of the USoA that would, in my opinion, be for the good.  "As the Supreme Court hears cases regarding abortion, transgender rights, marriage, and a host of other social issues, its ideological composition is of crucial importance ..." (JD; op.cit.).

Of course, there is a sense in which Mr Trump's "trump card" was the outgoing President, Barack Hussein Obama! This man, who campaigned eight years ago with the slogan "It's time for change" failed utterly to fulfil the high hopes that so many had in him. He turned out to be like so many modern preachers - all talk, and no substance!  (What was it he said about Hillary Clinton?!!!).  The cliché at the time, which became more relevant later, was about how he campaigned in poetry but would govern in prose. Some prose can be magnificent: but not his!

Mr Obama is clever, and has a way with words: but his words contain little. He entrances audiences, both in his own party – which is why he beat Hillary Clinton, arrogant and boring then as now, for the 2008 nomination - and then in the wider electorate. His failure to deliver was, surely, part of the reason why voters were ready for a real change - a man who was not a part of the establishment, and who is not in anyone's pocket!

What does the disciple of Jesus, who could not support Donald Trump (and there were many!) do now. May I suggest that they do what those of us who were so anti-Clinton (fraud, sleaze, partial-birth abortion, deceit, lies, dubious (and very large) cash donations, etc.) that we came across as Trump supporters will be doing? Paul exhorts us, in his first letter to Timothy:"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (I Tim 2:1-4; emphasis added).  Yes, let us pray for Donald Trump as he takes on the responsibility that comes with the high office to which he has been elected.

It may well be that, as He said to Ananias concerning that arch-persecutor of the early church - Saul of Tarsus - the Lord is saying of Donald Trump: "... he is a chosen instrument of Mine ..." (Acts 9:15); that Trump is, in fact (and as was prophesied before the election!), God's man for the moment. He has used unbelievers in the past; He can use an unbeliever today. Of course, there have been reports, that appear to be credible, that Donald Trump has been converted. If that is so, then he will need our prayer-support even more as the enemy endeavours to pull him back!

The next four years, should the Lord tarry that long, should be very interesting. However, let us remember that the Sovereign God of the universe is still on the throne - and is working out His own purposes, in His own way, to His own glory!





Sunday, 6 November 2016

In control!

I suspect that most of us have done it - intended to click on one link on the computer screen, and accidentally clicked on the one above/below it!  It happened to me earlier today, and I ended up with a message about conspiracy!  However, I noted down the three questions that were asked on the sound-clip, as I have different answers to them!  Here they are:

1. Who really controls the world?

According to the theory - and, in human terms, it may well be true - it is a group of "Big Banks" and transnational companies.  However, when I open the pages of my Bible, I discover that this is not actually the case!  I read, for example, that "... The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against YHWH and His anointed, saying, 'Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.' He Who sits in the heavens laughs; YHWH has them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them in His fury, ..." (Ps 2:2-5).  Later on, in the same Book of Psalms, we read: "For dominion belongs to YHWH, and He rules over the nations." (Ps 22:28).  Just one further quotation from the Psalms: "The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; He is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise Thy great and terrible name! Holy is He!   Mighty King, lover of justice, Thou hast established equity; Thou hast executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Extol YHWH our God; worship at His footstool! Holy is He!" (Ps 99:1-5; emphasis added). 

Yes, make no mistake about it.  The One Who really controls the world is the One Who created it!

2. Who is pulling the strings?

Well, that question is actually answered in the response to the first one!  However, "pulling strings" suggests a more personal aspect.  The old Book of Proverbs has this to say: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of YHWH that will be established." (Prov 19:21).  Writing to the Ephesian disciples of Jesus, almost 2,000 years ago, Paul could say: "In Him, according to the purpose of Him Who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory." (Eph 1:11-12; emphasis added).  Again, writing to his fellow-believers in Rome, he could give the wonderful assurance that: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28; emphasis added).

Now, let me make clear that I am not suggesting that we are all like puppets, with Almighty God as the puppet-master!  We have been given the wonderful privilege - and awesome responsibility - of free-will.  I make decisions, on a daily basis. Sadly, it is often the case when time shows that IO made a wrong decision!  But this does not affect the overall plan and purpose of God. He, from His vantage point of eternity, sees every decision I make before I have made it and, in ways that are totally beyond my puny understanding, works them into His ultimate plan for me, and for the whole of creation!  By the way, there is much more on that topic in the chapter on "Predestination" in my book "Great Words of the Faith". (see above).

3. Who is hiding behind the curtain?

That has to be my favourite question of the three!  The Biblical "curtain" was the one in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple, that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.  It was through this curtain, or "veil" that the High Priest alone was permitted to go - and only on one occasion each year (the day of Atonement; Yom Kippur) after special sacrifices and other rituals.  Iyt was "behind the veil" that the Shekinah (the visible manifestation of the glory of God) was seen.  It was the veil that kept that awesome sight from mortal men.

When Jesus of Nazareth breathed His last as He hung on a cross at Calvary, we read "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom;" (Matt 27:51).  In other words, the barrier that symbolised the separation between God and mankind was removed - and removed from above! The way was now open for us to enjoy direct access to the Father - without priest, or sacrifice, or a keeping of the Law.  So, the anonymous writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus could write: "Therefore, brethren, ... we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, ..." (Heb 10:19-20).

Who is hiding behind the curtain?  No-one!  The way is open; the veil has been torn; through the shed blood of Jesus, I can enter the presence of the Creator of all that is.

I confess to actually enjoying reading some of the conspiracy theories that abound, today. One or two of them even have that "ring of truth" about them.  But when it comes to the sovereign power of God, and my access to Him through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus - and, of course, His glorious resurrection! - then it is no theory. All of that, and more, has been confirmed by billions down through the centuries, and even millennia.

Of course, the real question is: "What have you done about it?!  Have you come, in repentance and faith, to this same Jesus; seeking forgiveness for your sins, and entering into a new life through, and with, Him?  If not, why not?  I commend Him to you - and will happily provide any help that I can. There are also a couple of useful links further down the page.  Do use them!

Friday, 4 November 2016

Michael Bublé

It is now almost three years since our younger daughter informed my wife and me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, due to prompt action, excellent medical and surgical treatment, and the prayer support of countless people, she is still alive and well - and just about to celebrate another birthday anniversary!

Our family situation, as with that of the majority of such situations, didn't "hit the headlines"! None of us is a so-called "celebrity". But today's reports that Noah, the three-year-old son of well-known singer Michael Bublé, has been diagnosed with cancer show that even the rich and famous are not immune to such circumstances.

I know very little about Michael Bublé.  However, I find it interesting that he is reported as having said: "Luisiana [his wife] and I will devote all our time and attention to help Noah to get better, for now suspending our professional activities. During this difficult time, we ask you to pray for him and please respect our privacy. We have a long road ahead and we hope that with the support of our family, friends, fans around the world and our faith in God, we can win this battle."

"... we ask you to pray for him ..." "... our faith in God, ..." What do such words mean to this man and his wife? I don't know. I hope that they mean as much to him as they did to my wife and me in our own situation. We had many friends praying for our daughter; our faith (and hers!) in Father God did not waver. That doesn't mean that the time leading up to her operation; the operation itself; the course of chemo-therapy that she had to undergo; and the succeeding course of radio-therapy; were all plain sailing. They were anything but! I would suspect that Michael Bublé would, as I would gladly have done in my own family's case, take all of the treatment himself if it would still lead to the cure of his son.

We live in a fallen world.  It's a world in which sin has taken, and continues to take, a terrible toll. However, it is still, as the song proclaims, "my Father's world". His love for you and for me was, and is, such that He did take our place - in the Persona (not a typo - see my book "Great Words of the Faith"; details above!) of the Son Who paid the penalty for our sin so that we might go free. As I put it to a group of English-speakers here in France, just a week or so ago: "He made the Son of His love (His 'only-begotten' Son) to be the object of His wrath, so that the objects of His wrath (you and me) might become the sons of His love!" That goes way beyond taking medical treatment for a dearly-loved child!
 
Of course, if it had been possible for me to take the treatment, and my daughter to have been declared free of cancer, but she had rejected her dad's offer, not only would she have had to go through the treatment herself, but she would have been considered to be totally mad! Yet so many either reject, or neglect, the wonderful offer of full salvation that is made to them.

Have you even considered your eternal destiny? It is in your hands. I can only tell you about it, and recommend my Saviour to you. Will you turn to Him, right now? Will you? You'll never regret it, if you do!


Monday, 31 October 2016

Indestructible!

At the end of the week, I finished reading a fictional book based on a submarine that was reckoned to be close to indestructible!  Of course, there is no man-made object, of which I am aware, that is truly so.  However, there is something that I know is, in reality, indestructible - the written Word of God: the Bible!

When all other volumes have perished in the coming renovation of this planet - "... the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up." (II Peter 3:10) - God's Word, alone, will be preserved: "For ever, YHWH, Thy word is firmly fixed in the heavens." (Ps 119:89). 

In his book "The Divine Origin of the Bible", Dr. R.A.Torrey, the American evangelist, and pastor, writes: "The omnipotence of the Bible against all man's attacks is one of the many proofs of its divine origin. It is not only the most intensely loved Book in the world, but it is also the most bitterly hated. When men discovered that it condemned sin, laid human pride in the dust, and demanded renunciation of worldliness and the self-life, they rebelled against it.  Their resistance has been determined, relentless, and even violent. All attempts to assign the Scriptures to oblivion, however, have failed. Celsus tried with the brilliance of his genius; Porphyry assailed it with the depths and subtlety of his philosophy; and Lucian attacked it with the keenness of his satire - all were equally unsuccessful. Diocletian, the ruler of the world's mightiest empire, exerted all the power of Rome against the Bible. He issued edicts that every scrap of it should be burned, but his scheme failed. Then he commanded that all who possessed it should be put to death but, again, his plan did not work. For nineteen centuries every device of destruction that human philosophy, science, and reason could bring to bear has been arrayed against the Scriptures; yet the Bible stands absolutely unshaken today."  

Those words were published more than a century ago - but they remain true! Almighty God has made His written Word to be indestructible!

Wise man (and women, and young people!) will heed its teachings; the foolish will, one day, regret their continued rebellion against it.  It is God's Word - penned by men, but inspired by Him.  As such, it shall live forever!  It is the only material object that is eternal.  Jesus said: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Mark 13:31).  

Do you know this Word? Do you read it on a daily basis? It is food for the spirit, and will show you the way of salvation!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

POTUS

For those who may be unfamiliar with the acronym, it stands for "President of the United States". This office is generally recognised as being the most influential in the "free" world - which is why so many, outwith the USoA, are so interested in its holder.

After a Facebook entry, there were those who concluded that I was a supporter of Donald Trump. That was not, strictly speaking, true.  It just happens to be the case that I am vehemently opposed to Hillary Clinton - and there isn't really any other choice. Apart from the sudden death of one of them, or some major divine intervention, either Trump or Clinton will be declared to be the 45th POTUS on Nov.9th, 2016.

I, of course, do not have a vote in this presidential election.  However, many of those who read this blog do have such a vote. I wish to provide three reasons why, if I did have a vote, I would be casting it in favour of Donald Trump!

First of all, let me make clear that I do not hold Donald Trump in very high esteem. He has shown himself, over and over again, to be boorish; loud-mouthed; amoral (if not immoral); and totally lacking in public speaking ability.  In almost any other situation, he would not receive one iota of support from me.

Having said that - and this is one reason for voting for him - he is not in anyone's pocket. As far as I know, he inherited his business empire from his father, but it has made him a very rich individual, who has provided the greater part of the financial support for his campaign.  This means that he is not beholden to anyone; he would not have to dish out "favours" to financial backers; he would have a level of independence that no POTUS had enjoyed for a very long time.  

His competitor, on the other hand, has been the recipient of millions of dollars in support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, to name just three.  Now, of course, Clinton is not so stupid as to have these amounts paid directly into her campaign fund!  Oh no!  They are paid into the Clinton Foundation - an organisation that, as far as I can make out, is run by the Clintons, for the Clintons!  Not that Clinton rejects financial support for her campaign, from Islamic donors. According to the Middle East Forum’s “Islamist Money in Politics” (IMIP) project, which has released the names of the top-ten recipients of 2015-16 campaign contributions from individuals who subscribe to the same Islamic supremacism as Khomeini, bin Laden, and ISIS, Clinton is at the top, raking in $41,165 from prominent Islamists. This includes $19,249 from senior officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), declared a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates on November 15, 2014.  (For full details of all Islamist contributions, click here… http://www.islamist-watch.org/money-politics/recipient/141/).  Does any sensible person think that these "donations" all come without any "strings" attached?!

The second reason why I would vote for Trump is his choice running-mate - the man who, in the event that Trump wins, would be the Vice-President, and the man who would take over if the President should die - however that might happen.  This man is Mike Pence, currently Governor of Indiana, and a sincere disciple of Jesus. Indeed, he appears to be many of the things that Trump is not - which would make him a good "counter-balance" to any wild ideas that the new President might seek to introduce.  He is a qualified attorney and has experience in government at Congressional level.  He opposes - as does Trump - the late-term, and partial-birth abortion procedures that Clinton supports.  Indeed, Clinton's relationship with "Planned Parenthood" should make anyone who seeks to follow the teaching of the One Who said "Allow the little children to come to me" very concerned indeed.  If you are unsure as to what is involved in these particular procedures, do take time to check them out!  Clinton's choice of running-mate is a man who agrees with her on such matters.
The third reason I would offer for voting for Trump is that he is not a "career politician".  He has never held public office before, at any level.  All of the criticisms that are levelled at him are of things that he said, and allegedly did, as a private citizen.  That does no make any of them acceptable - but we, quite rightly, demand a higher standard of behaviour from our elected representatives.  I suspect that, if elected, and with a good VP, Donald Trump could surprise a lot of people!
I could go on - Trump has never, as far as I know, been charged with the leaking of state secrets.  He has never boasted about getting a self-confessed rapist of a young teenager "off the hook"!  His physical health appears to be good - unlike Clinton's.  He certainly hasn't been accused of having an ear-piece during national debates - a means of having answers and information fed in from some back room!  He also has a nice sense of humorous timing.  I think that my favourite moment in the debates was when Clinton made some comment asking what would happen of Trump was in charge of the legal system. His instant response: "You would be in jail." was classic!
As a disciple of Jesus, I believe firmly that God is in control, and that nothing can, or will, happen on this earth without His knowledge, and permission. If Clinton emerges as the victor in this presidential race, I will see that as a judgement on the government and people of the USoA.  I trust that they will be spared such a judgement - and that Donald Trump, with all of his faults and failings, will be the next POTUS.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Power v. Pardon!

I have just looked at some amazing photographs of butterflies and some other insects, on Facebook.   The colours; the designs; in one case, the transparency; of those little creatures is beyond verbal description.  When we look at the world of nature is is, indeed, full of wise design.  The bird is a clever architect; the beaver a skilful builder of dams; the silkworm is a superb weaver; and even the spider is a remarkable net-maker!  There are also, in the natural world, many intricate checks and balances that speak of a great, directing, Intelligence.

But not only is there great beauty, and order in the world that we experience, there is also great power.  The earth quakes on the ocean bed - and a might tsunami surges towards land where it destroys all in its path, for sometimes miles inland.  A tornado rips through a town, and leaves only havoc in its wake.  Wind and wave have created many strange formations in the rocks that are all over the planet.

Of course, we may also look out from Earth, and marvel at the night sky - with its thousands of stars visible to the naked eye; and millions more that require optical assistance in the form of great telescopes.  We are informed of the mind-blowing distances between these stars, and from the Earth - distances so vast that they are measured, not in miles, or nautical miles, or kilometres, but in "light years".  A light-year, of course, is the distance that light travels in one earth year - at a speed of more than 186,000 earth miles every second!  That gives us a measurement of almost six trillion miles!

However, while God's grandeur, knowledge, and superior mind are displayed in the wonders of His creation, they reveal neither His heart nor His full personality - nor do they tell mere mortals like you and me, how we may ever make contact with such an all-powerful Being!  Nature, in all of its vastness, and beauty, and power says nothing about the need of sinners such as you and me - pardon; forgiveness; the removal of guilt.

I have a quotation in an old set of Daily Bible Reading Notes that reads: "Not a whisper of forgiveness comes to us from the blue heavens above us, or from any of the works of the Almighty around us.  His infinite, all-pervading Spirit cannot be comprehended.  The thought of this powerful Being brings fear to our hearts.  But when God comes near in the Person of the perfect Man, speaking of love, pardon, and adoption into His family, then the guilty dread flees away, and the love which casts out fear takes its place.  Now this is what we see in Jesus Christ - God manifested in the flesh." (Robert Boyd; emphasis added).

"Can't I worship God in the green fields, or on the rolling waves, or in the grandeur of the mountains?", someone might ask.  I suppose that you can - but it is unlikely that you will!  For centuries, the inhabitants of parts of the African continent sat at cannibalistic feasts surrounded by natural scenery that surpasses most of what you and I regularly experience, in beauty and in grandeur - yet nature, in all of its splendour did not lead them to the true God, the Creator, and Sustainer, of all that exists; the One Who, in the Persona (not a misprint - see my book on "Great Words", the chapter on The Trinity!) of the Son, came into this world, this planet Earth, this mere speck in the vastness of the universe, to die on a cross so that those who place their trust fully, and unreservedly, in Him, might be saved.  As I shared, yesterday morning, with some friends, "He made the Son of His love to be the object of His wrath, so that the objects of His wrath might become the sons of His love!"

Nature speaks of power; but it never speaks of pardon.  If you would know that forgiveness, you must come to Him, Who alone can meet your deepest need.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Change!

The following words "jumped out" at me as I read the regular bulletin from Dr Jim Denison that arrived in my Inbox today.

"The best way to deal with a changing world is to depend completely on an unchanging God."

We live in a world that, certainly for those of us who dwell in the so-called "western world", experiences change exponentially!   I am of a generation that can recall 78 rpm records.  Then there were 45 rpm, and 33 rpm (long play - maybe six tracks on each side!).  Before I knew it, recording was being done on tapes - that came in reels from about 3" in diameter to about 6"+ in diameter.  I had barely become accustomed to that medium, before cassette tapes became all the range.  Then it was Compact Discs (I still recall the "Tomorrow's World" programme that 'introduced' them!), and Mini-discs.  My "studio" was filling up - with equipment and recording/playback media that was still perfectly functional, but was already "historical"!  

Now, of course, everything is done with MP3 files, and I can store hundreds of tracks on a mere 1Gb memory stick that is smaller than my thumb!  And all of that has only to do with recording and playing back of sound!

If we look at the world of transport; of communication; of politics; of almost anything one cares to name; then, as the hymnwriter so succinctly put it: "Change and decay in all around I see"!

So Jim Denison's words are a timely reminder.  "For I the Lord do not change;" (Mal 3:6), is the word of Almighty God to His chosen people - the Children of Israel.  When we turn to the writings of the New Testament, we read that: "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with Whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17); and, of course, the well-known words from the unnamed (human!) author of the letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever." (Heb 13:8).

It is a simple fact of life that the vast majority of us like to have at least a large element of stability in our lives.  We may sometimes (often?!) complain about the humdrum existence we think that we are living - but we don't really want upheaval - in our homes; in our families, in the workplace; in the church.  

Yet, even within the visible church, is there not a hankering after novelty?  We want to hear the latest "great speaker".  The "new song" must be sung this Sunday.  I have to have the most up-to-date Biblical app on my smartphone (actually I don't even possess one of these gadgets!).  We are constantly veering round in our faith and life, following the latest "new belief," accepting every modern idea, or doubting some established Christian teaching - like children, "... tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles." (Eph 4:14).

Could it possibly be that many of us, in our Christian lives, are not seeking the stability that we are offered?  One of my favourite verses from the Book of Psalms reads: "He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." (Ps 40:2).  "He ... set my feet upon a rock" - that's stability!  The psalmist-king, David, continues: "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in YHWH. Blessed is the man who makes YHWH his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods!" (vs.3-4).  It is as I am standing, solidly upon the Rock (Who is Christ Jesus) that I can be stable - and may attract others to Him.

We have a stable, unchanging, dependable God.  Let us be more stable as we follow Him.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Clothes!

It was a sad morning!  For the first time in many months, I felt obliged to put on a pair of working jeans instead of the shorts that have been my attire in the garden, and the house, for a long time.  It was simply the case that, although there was not a cloud in the sky, and the sun was beaming, there was a wee chill in the air.  Mind you, by lunchtime I was ready to revert to shorts, as we sat outside for our mid-day meal!

Clothes!  We all use them - basically because of culture and climate!  They do have uses.  As I dug out some old rose bushes, I was glad that I was still wearing the jeans.  Those thorns can be quite sharp!  

I was reminded of a verse in Paul's letter to the Christian believers in ancient Rome.  He encourages his readers (and that includes disciples of Jesus, today!) to: "... put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Rom 13:14).

The word translated "put on" (endusasthe) refers to putting on of clothes.  But why would Paul tell us to put on Jesus as we put on our clothes?!  Well, here are some of the reasons why we put on clothes, that might provide some clues.  We put on clothes, first of all, in order to cover our bodies. In Gen.3:1-7, we read about the entrance of sin into the perfect world that Almighty God had created. When they realised what they had done, Adam and Eve "... sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." (v.7).  This action is often interpreted to refer to nudity, as if that was the great sin!  Not so!  It has really to do with sin.  This was man's attempt to cover his sin by his own works – sewing the fig leaves together.  But Heb.9:22 makes clear that “... without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” and, in Gen 3:21 we read that: "... YHWH Elohim made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them."  In order for that to have been done, an animal had to die - the first death in creation!

You and I born as sinful human beings.  Like Adam and Eve, we need to have a covering for our sin.  Like them, we often try to make up our own covering.  But it's of no use.  Father God sees right through us!  So how can my sin be covered?  “... put on the Lord Jesus Christ ...”!  I need to be covered with His righteousness; I need to be so surrounded by His presence so that, when the Father, in judgement, looks at me, He sees, not my sinfulness, but the Son’s sacrifice and shed blood.  I need to “... put on the Lord Jesus Christ, ...”

But we also put on clothes in order to protect our bodies.  Father God’s words, after mankind had allowed sin to enter, and spoil, His good creation were, concerning the earth, “... the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, ‘though you will eat of its grains.” (Gen 3:17-18).  And so, man found that an apron of leaves that was the work of his own hands, would not be sufficient.  They might have covered his immediate nakedness; they might have satisfied his desire to cover up his sinfulness; but they would do nothing to protect him from the thorns and thistles that now surrounded him or, as his descendants migrated to colder climates, from the lower temperatures.  He discovered that he needed not only covering, but also protection.

And so it is with Jesus.  We don’t just need to be covered with His righteousness; but also protected by His power.  We need to be, not just saved; but also sanctified.  We don’t just need forgiveness for all of our past sin, but also the strength to resist the temptations that we meet, day after day – the spiritual thorns and thistles that crowd into our lives.  We need to “... put on the Lord Jesus Christ ...”

Covered; protected; and then a third reason for putting on clothes occurred to me.  For is it not true that we also put on clothes in order to enhance our bodies – to make us ‘look better’?  Even a person of very plain looks may, if well and properly dressed, look more attractive.  Just think of the popularity of various ‘makeover’ reality shows on TV!  And, of course, even a person endowed with natural good looks can be strikingly beautiful, or handsome, when dressed with equally good taste.  “Clothes maketh a man” (Shakespeare) – and there is more than a grain of truth in that!

Of course, it would be unfair to directly compare me with, say, Tom Cruise (he wouldn’t stand a chance!!).  The only valid comparison is between me poorly-dressed, and me well-dressed.  It's the same in the spiritual realm.  The life of one who having confessed their sin, and repented, is following Jesus, changes – and does so for the better.  Putting on Lord Jesus Christ has made that life more attractive than it was before; the person is different.  But beware of making a comparison with someone else!

Clothing: something with which each of us very familiar: used to cover; to protect; to enhance our bodies. 

The Lord Jesus Christ: One of Whom we are all so very much in need – the need to be covered with His righteousness; protected by His power; enhanced with His beauty.

Have you “... put on the Lord Jesus Christ ...”?  Have you?

Friday, 7 October 2016

The way of the cross.

While speaking with a friend, earlier this week, he made the point that too many in the church today don't preach the Gospel of salvation.  "All that I hear", he stated, "is that we should 'love one another' and be nice, kind, people.  That," he said,"is not the Gospel."!

He certainly had a point!  We may learn a number of things about the Gospel of salvation by observing the actions of the two who were crucified with Jesus.   For example, it is possible to want salvation, and yet not experience it.  Luke provides the record: "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, 'Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!'" (Luke 23:39).  

Paul assures us, in his letter to the infant church in Rome, that "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom 10:13). Why, then, was this particular man lost?  We may see three reasons:
1. he was thinking only about physical deliverance;
2. his plea was not genuine.  Luke informs us that he "railed" at the Lord Jesus. That's a word that may be defined as "reviled or scolded in harsh, insolent, or abusive language."  Some other translations use terms such as "scoffed" (NLT); "hurled insults" (NIV); "spoke insultingly" (Darby).
3. he didn't want salvation by the way of the cross.  He cried out: "Save Yourself and us!'".  What he didn't realise was that if the Lord Jesus had come down from the cross, He could not have rescued others!  

Again, writing to the Roman believers, Paul assures them that "... God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8; emphasis added).  The anonymous writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus tells us that "... without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb 9:22; emphasis added).

Yet, in spite of these clear instructions in the written Word of God, many appear not to want anything to do with the message of the needed sacrificial work of the Christ. They call it a "bloody" Gospel - and it is!  They would rather talk about Jesus' life, teachings, and example.  Now, it is true that the Saviour's life is important; His teachings are an absolute storehouse of wisdom and truth; His example is worthy of being followed by all.  However, it is not only through His life, but also His death and resurrection, that salvation and forgiveness can be offered to a guilty world.

The other malefactor came as we all must come - in humility and faith.  Luke continues the record: "But the other rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.'  And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'" (Luke 23:40-42).  What a difference in attitude!  And he received a response from the Saviour: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:42).

If you wish to reach heaven, you cannot avoid the way of the cross.  It's the place where, as Graham Kendrick reminds us in one of his songs, "wrath and mercy meet" - where the sins of the world, and the love of Almighty God, met in the redemptive encounter.  It is only "... the blood of Jesus, His Son ...", John reminds us, that "... cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7).

Have you been "washed in the blood of the Lamb?"  Have you come by the way of the cross?!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

It's a "Fall"!

It would be interesting to know how many of my readers would recognise a "pulpit fall"!  It is a piece of material, usually embroidered, that hangs over the lectern (the 'shelf' on which a Bible usually rests) in a pulpit in a traditional Christian church building.  Modern lectern falls can be extremely complex, and beautiful, but the one with which I was brought up (and that I do not recall ever having been changed) was a simple embroidery of three letters - 'I'. 'H', 'S'. 

There are two suggestions as to the meaning of the letters. The first is that they are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in the Greek language - the Greek letter 'e' looking like a Roman letter 'n'. This, of course, would mean that the letters were actually 'i', 'n', and 's'.

I have always accepted the alternative - that they stand for the Latin phrase "Iesus Hominum Salvator", meaning "Jesus, Saviour of men".  However, I like to play with letters and words and realised, a long time ago, that if I changed the order of those three letters, some useful thoughts were generated.

If I change the order to "HIS", I am reminded that I belong to Him!  It's good to "belong".  The need to do so appears to be part and parcel of our human nature. That's why there are so many organisations, societies, and groups. People want to belong; to be able to share with others of like mind.  However, belonging to Almighty God is of a different order altogether!  What a wonderful privilege to be able to come into the presence of the Creator of all that is - and address Him as "Abba" (Can be translated "Daddy".  It is the word that a Jewish child would use to address its natural father).

Reversing "HIS" leads me to "SIH".  This reminds me that I am Safe In Him. When I was a child, I always knew that as long as my dad was around, I was safe. He was the one to whom I looked if I had a problem; if there appeared to be danger. Of course, my dad was just another human being, with all of the natural limitations that are our human lot. My heavenly Father has no such limits (although there are certain things that Almighty God cannot do!!).  My natural father provided me with physical safety; my heavenly Father provides me with safety that goes beyond this mortal realm!

"HIS"; "SIH"; and then there is "IHS" - which takes us back to where we started! However, in this order, I think of being "In His Service".   I suppose that it is a kind of logical progression - if I am HIS, and I am Safe In Him, then the very attitude of gratitude on which I posted a couple of weeks (and posts!) ago will surely wish to be expressed in serving Him.  How do I do that?  Well, we all have different areas of service that depend on our natural talents, and spiritual giftings. To give a very simple example, my wife would be hard pressed to preach a series of sermons; while I would be equally hard pressed to lead worship with a guitar in the way that she does.  Yet each of us is serving Him, our Saviour and our Lord.

Of course, each of us who owns His Name is serving Him in one particular way that is common to us all.  That is the area of witnessing.  If I am known as a disciple of Jesus, then I am a witness - whether I wish to be or not.  The only question is: "Am I a good witness, or a bad one?"  When others look at me, do they see any difference between me and the rest of the people whom they know - and who make no Christian profession?  Do I ensure that I spend time with fellow-believers, discussing spiritual matters with them?  Whatever I am doing, reading, watching, am I comfortable in the knowledge that He is there with me - or would I be embarrassed and ashamed if He were to appear, physically, at my side?

Being a disciple of Jesus (as opposed to being a "church member", or even a "church office-bearer") is demanding.  He never promised anything else!  What He did promise is that if we deny Him, He will deny us!  That denial can take many forms.  It is as likely to be by my actions, as by my words!

Are you a disciple of Jesus?  Then you are HIS; you are Safe In Him; I trust that you are truly In His Service.