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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Testing love!

In the Tuesday Group at which I share the Word of God, we are working our way through the first letter from the apostle John.  This morning, we continued to look at three tests by which we may receive assurance that we are truly disciples of Jesus.  One of those concerns love - the "agape" that is the very love of God, and that should be seen in the lives of those who claim to be His children.

Of course, when we think of the pure, all-embracing, love of the Lord Jesus we realise how far short we fall of keeping the "new commandment" of which John writes; the "new commandment" that Jesus Himself gave us: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35).

When we moved into our current home in France, I realised that I would need a chain-saw in order to deal with some of the trees in the garden, that required severe pruning.  It works well - as long as there is sufficient oil keeping the mechanism in good condition.  However, that mechanism is fully encased - for the protection of the user as much as for any other reason.  So how may I know that there is sufficient oil inside?  Well, there is a "window" - a gauge - on the outside of the casing that shows me the level of oil within.  If the level in the window is high, then I may be assured that there is sufficient oil in the system.

Do you ever say to yourself, as one who claims to be a disciple of Jesus, "I love the Lord - but I wonder how much I love Him."?   John would tell you to "look at the gauge".  He writes: "He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still." (I John 2:9).  Later, he writes: "By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother." (3:10).  The extent of my love for God may be measured by the extent of my love for my brother, or sister, in Christ!

Again, John makes, and emphasises, the point.  "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death." (3:14).  In what we know as the fourth chapter (but, of course, John didn't write his letters, or his account of the Gospel, in chapters and verses any more than any other Biblical writer - or indeed, than you or me!) he writes: "If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God Whom he has not seen." (4:20).  Indeed, the apostle exhorts us that, if the need arises, "... we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (3:16).

Until you and I are able to pass this stringent test, we have no cause to brag!  All that we can do is to ask the Lord for His forgiving grace in order that we may display a right attitude towards others! Remember, God gauges our love for Him by our love of "the brethren"!

Price Reduction!!!

For the second time, we have reduced the asking price of our residential static caravan in SW France. This is the final reduction!  We are keen to sell - but are not prepared to give it away!!

For the full spec, please click on "April" in the right-hand side, and go to April 22nd (Headed "FOR SALE"!).

Thank you.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Dove-man.

After such a long time in which I have been unable to access the link for a "New Post", I have finally managed to get here - albeit by a roundabout route.  Hopefully, when this post is published, I will be able to continue as before.  If I am not so able, at least I now know the alternative route!

Knowing the route is, of course, of great importance in the journey that we call 'life'! The story is told of a certain guide who lived in the deserts of Arabia - before the dynastic rule of the Saudi family!  This guide was well-known for never losing his way.  His secret was simple.  He carried with him a homing pigeon with a fine cord attached to one of its legs.  When in doubt as to which path he should take, he threw the bird into the air.  The pigeon quickly strained at the cord, in order to fly in the direction of home, and thus led the guide accurately to that destination.  Because of this unique practice, he was known as "the dove-man".

In the spiritual realm, God the Holy Spirit - the heavenly Dove - is willing, and able, to direct those who are have submitted themselves to the Lordship of Jesus the Christ.  You see, before a person is made spiritually alive, that person walks (i.e. lives) "... following the course of this world, ...", lured on by "... the [evil] spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." (Eph. 2:2).  However, after having experienced the regenerating power of salvation, new and different longings are received. The true disciple of Jesus is then made able to do the things that God leads him to do.  God the Holy Spirit continually guides - often through the written Word - regarding the path that should be pursued if the believer wishes to reach the heights of victory, and full blessing.  The danger comes when we cater for the flesh, and stop seeking the will of Father God for our lives!

All of us, who claim to be disciples of Jesus, ought to be "dove-men and -women" - sensitive, and fully responsive to our heavenly Guide of Whom the Lord Jesus said: "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13).

Monday, 9 May 2016

My utmost for His highest.

The heading to this post is also the title of a book of daily readings from the pen of Oswald Chambers - a Scots Baptist minister who was converted, in his mid-teens, under the ministry of Charles Spurgeon.  In 1915, shortly after his marriage, and the birth of a daughter, he volunteered to be a Chaplain to the Army.  He died on November 15th, 1917, in Egypt, as the result of a ruptured appendix - having suffered the extreme pain of appendicitis for three days before seeking medical attention, because he refused to take a hospital bed needed by wounded soldiers.

Physical Energy
The title of Chambers' best-known book is very similar to the motto that, I read recently, was adopted by the artist George F Watts - "My utmost for the Highest".  Possibly Watts' best-known sculpture - done in bronze - is that of a youth astride a horse, and which he entitled "Physical Energy". Apparently, in his preparations, he altered the the pose of the youth's head several times - from a straightforward upright position  to one in which the face of the young rider is no longer looking out upon the world but, rather, upwards towards God.

In Psalm 5:3 the shepherd-king of Israel, David, writes these words to the LORD: "...  in the morning will I address myself to Thee, and will look up." (J.N.Darby translation) - apparently similarly impressed with the need to set his sights on eternal things if he was to properly conduct himself in this present world.

It is said of another painter, the 17th-century portrait artist, Sir Peter Lely, that he made it a rule never to look at a bad work of art as he had discovered, from his own experience, that he would be disturbed and hindered in his own work, by the ugliness that he had seen.  As a result, his own brush would reflect the partially-warped complex that the unworthy scene had produced in his mind!

The same principle holds true in the pursuit and cultivation of inner purity.  It can be preserved only by refusing to look upon evil. If we fail to fix our attention on the Lord Jesus, and on heavenly things, our imaginations will be poisoned, and our old, carnal, nature stirred to improper action.

It would be good for all of us to make our own motto "My utmost for His highest". If we do, let us remember that nothing keeps the heart so pure, and the hands so busy, as the "upward look"!  There is an old chorus, much-loved by many of my generation, that goes like this: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."    

The writer of the great Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus wrote: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:1-2; emphasis added). 

David also wrote: "I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed." (Ps 34:4-5). 

Whatever the outlook, be sure to maintain the uplook!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Material prosperity - is that the heart of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ?

I have referred to my friend, David Robertson, minister of St Peter's Free Church of Scotland, Dundee, in a previous post.  He has his own blog, and I read his posts with regularity.  There is always something worthwhile to glean from them but, sometimes, he states a matter so clearly and succinctly, that it seems right to republish (with his permission) so that his words reach an even wider audience.

One of the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" preachers has been invited to Scotland, and David has already published an article about this gentleman - the aptly-named Creflo Dollar!   However, the group that has invited Mr Dollar has objected to David's criticism of him.  The following is David's response:

Dear Creflo,
Forgive me for calling you by your first name but since we both profess to be Christian brothers I think it is appropriate. We have other things in common – we were both born in 1962 and we are both pastors in the Christian church. But there I guess the similarities end. You have a church of some 30,000 members, I have one with 125. You have two Rolls Royce’s and a private jet; I have a leased car and pushbike! To you that might sound like jealousy, to me it just indicates the different worlds we live in and the different theologies we have. You of course are a world famous tele-evangelist, with your own ministry and TV show; I am an unknown Scottish Presbyterian minister. So why am I writing you? Why should you listen to me?
Because you are coming to my country in a few weeks, and I have been challenged by the church that is inviting you after I gave a somewhat critical response to a question I was asked from a Scottish newspaper about your forthcoming visit. I then wrote this blog – Why Creflo Dollar is not Welcome in Scotland (   There was, as you might expect, quite a response. I understand that it even made it into your local Atlanta paper, where one of your staff indicated that it was just a little local difficulty, with the implication being that this was some kind of turf war where we were a bit jealous about your coming to another church.
I met with the leaders of that church who invoked Matthew 18 and asked why I had not consulted you first, before writing in public. I told them that I did not think you would even read my letter, never mind respond, but they did not agree and suggested that I was still in the wrong not to do so. I don’t agree with their application of Matthew 18 (see Don Carson on the misapplication of Matthew 18 - but nonetheless I want to respect their desire and write to you.
Firstly I want to apologise if I was wrong in my assumption about your willingness to listen, and also if I have misunderstood your teaching and theology.
Secondly I want to ask you about that theology. I have listened to several of your sermons and it seems clear to me that you specifically teach what is understood as the prosperity gospel, of the ‘name it and claim it variety’. I listened to your latest series on ‘taking authority’ and it seemed to me that you believe Christians have only to ‘take authority’ and claim wealth and health. Could you let me know if my understanding is correct? Did you ask your congregation to finance a $65 million jet for your ministry?
Thirdly, if you do teach this Prosperity Gospel, I would issue a plea to you as a Scottish pastor, who is seeking to communicate the Good News in a society which is increasingly ignorant of Christ, or hostile to him. Please don’t come. Your visit will only cause harm – to the Church, to the culture and to those of us who have to stay and work here. The name of God will be ‘blasphemed amongst the Gentiles because of you’. (Romans 2:24).
Fourthly, if you do come then I would simply ask that you be prepared to discuss/dialogue with myself in public about what the Lord really says and wants. You know how when Peter came to Antioch Paul publicly rebuked him to his face (Galatians 2:11)?  Let's meet and discuss in public.    If I am wrong you can show the church and the world, and I will be corrected and taught the way of God more perfectly. If you are wrong then the same applies to you. What is there for either of us to lose? The God who answers by fire, let Him be God.
I would also like to invite you on your way to Aberdeen to pop in for a wee cup of tea and we could have that same discussion in our own small studios here in Dundee at the Solas Centre for Public Christianity.
If you have a heart for the cause of the Gospel here in Scotland, or for the name and honour of Jesus Christ, then I would urge you to listen to my plea. If you refuse to do so, then I feel bound by my love for Christ and His gospel to do everything that I possibly can to resist the cancerous poison of a false theology which assaults the poor, the weak, and the sick; and which makes a mockery of the cross of Christ. I have no interest in church politics, ‘turf wars’ or any other such examples of the worldly spirit that so often invades the churches. I seek only the glory of Christ and the good of His church.
You are clearly a man with considerable communication gifts – imagine the good that could be done if you used them to preach the Gospel (and yes I am suggesting that if you add to the gospel the whole prosperity doctrine it is not the Good News to the poor that you are preaching)? I look forward to hearing from you ASAP.
Yours in Christ
David A. Robertson
Pastor of St Peters Free Church
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (a small denomination in Scotland with about 15,000 people in 100 churches).
Dundee, Scotland 30th April 2016