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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Game of Thrones.

The more we look at the world in which we live, the more we might conclude that the people who are corrupt, and violent, and untrustworthy, outnumber those who are not! What else would account for the real-life evil and violence that fills our newspapers, and other news media, and that forms so much of the make-believe world created by the entertainment industry - with the exponential increase in computerised graphics taking the whole genre to a frighteningly new level.

One example of the latter is, I am led to believe, the almost cultic "Game of Thrones". I have never accessed this "programme", and have neither the intention nor desire to do so. However, Jim Denison wrote about it, just last week. In that post he explained that "... Internet reviews are so abundant that it's not hard to identify reasons for the show's enormous popularity. Each of them says something frightening about our culture today.

One: The plots are unpredictably complex. As Forbes notes, "Central characters are killed, psychopaths claim power, weddings become bloodbaths, and bad guys develop consciences as time passes." The show is built on the premise that there is no logic to life, that we live in a chaotic world with no central purpose or direction.
Two: The show embraces amorality. "Good" characters make horrific mistakes, while "bad" characters act redemptively. One psychologist lauds the "progressive tolerance" the show legitimizes. In a postmodern culture that views all truth as personal and subjective, the characters legitimize our rejection of right and wrong.
Three: All sexuality is endorsed. Rape, lesbianism, sex between siblings, prostitution, and other acts so despicable I won't mention them here—all are regular fare. As millions of people watch such perversion, they are desensitized and far more likely to embrace the "sexual liberation" the show articulates.
Four: Violence is normalized. Heads are crushed, people are stabbed through the eye, victims are burned alive, mass murder is depicted graphically. Why is this a problem? Exposure to media violence is clearly linked to violent acts as watching violence changes brain patterns and alters behaviour." (Denison Forum, 13-08-17).
Of course a disregard for God's standards, and the lack of godly fear, are not just modern phenomena that depend on modern technology and communications! The same kind of situation prevailed several thousand years ago, in the time of Noah. Indeed, the situation then was even worse! The only person who found favour with Almighty God was Noah himself. (Gen.6:8)! However, because Noah believed God's warnings about the flood that would destroy human, and animal, life on planet Earth (with the exception of those who were to be in the Ark) he took God seriously and prepared the Ark in accordance with God's directions. 
Noah displayed at least two character traits that should guide your life and mine. First of all, he  "... was a righteous man, blameless in his generation;" and one who "... walked with God." (Gen.6:9). Secondly, when he received a command from God, he didn't organise a consultation; form a committee; or look the other way. He was "... moved with godly fear, ..." (Heb.11:7; ASV) to take action. This "godly fear" was not some kind of cowering dread, but a healthy reverence and respect for the holy and omnipotent Creator.
As various cities around the world are shocked at the deaths and injuries caused by Muslim extremists in just the past few days, are we willing to obey God, as Noah did, and take a stand against the tide of evil in our world? Do we pray for those who have been bereaved; those who are injured, and traumatised? Or are we content that it is NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)?
Of course, as the Book of the Revelation of Jesus, that I am currently using in my private devotions, makes clear, these are all indications that we are in the "end times". That being the case, we should surely ensure that we are ready for the rapture of the saints of God, and that as many others as possible are also ready. Then we can truly say: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev.22:20), and be among those "... who have loved His appearing." (II Tim.4:8). 

Friday, 18 August 2017

Revelation - Part 2

It is highly unlikely that I will be able to publish a post every day until I reach the end of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus, or even until September 24th, but here goes with a second offering!

This morning I read the remainder of what we refer to as the first chapter. Of course, the original was not written in chapters and verses - that was a much later innovation to make it easier for a specific phrase, sentence, or paragraph, to be looked up.

Turning to the margin of my study Bible (a wide-margined one) I have noted, beside vs.12-16:

"Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands One like a Son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round His breast; His head and His hair were white as white wool, white as snow; His eyes were like a flame of fire, His feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters; in His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength."

that this is a word-picture of "The majesty of the King of kings, and Lord of lords. His garments symbolise a Judge-King." He is, indeed, the risen, glorified, exalted Son of God Who has the authority to judge all of mankind - including His own people (see I Peter 4:17). 

The Revelation is, of course, full of symbolism - which is why many today find it difficult to understand, and why so many interpret it to suit their own ideas. In v.20, the risen Saviour refers to "... the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, ..." However, as I have noted in the margin, the word 'mystery' "... is not used in the modern sense of 'something that cannot be understood' (the very opposite of 'revelation'!), but as something that is waiting to be revealed and which will, when correctly explained, convey understanding."

Of course, as I pointed out, yesterday, it was initially sent out to a Church that was undergoing great persecution from the Roman authorities. The late John Stott comments: "The placing of this vision of Christ right at the beginning of the book is significant. This book is an unveiling or revealing. The Christians were a pitiably small remnant, persecuted by mighty foes. To all outward appearance their situation was hopeless. But it is only as Christ is seen for what He really is that anything else can be seen in its true perspective. So for these persecuted ones it was important that first of all the glory and the majesty of the risen Lord be brought out." 

You and I may not be undergoing the persecution that believers at the end of the first, and beginning of the second, centuries suffered - and that so many, in some fifty countries around the world, are suffering today - but we, too, need to be constantly reminded of Who Jesus is. He is not merely a great man; an excellent teacher; a good example. He is all of that - but He is also God the Son, the second Persona (not a typo - see my book, "Great Words of the Faith", the chapter on the Trinity) of the Godhead; the Saviour Who voluntarily gave His life that your sins, and mine, might be forgiven.

Of course, that wonderful free gift of salvation, whilst available to all, is only realised by those who come to Him, in repentance and faith, and who seek to live their lives for Him. Have you done that? If not, why not?! It would be the most momentous decision of your life - and the only one, the results of which stretch into eternity.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Revelation - is it really about the future?

Yesterday, I completed my journey through the Book of Psalms during my private devotions. The question, then, is always "To which Book/theme do I now turn?" In the light of the previous post,I found myself, this morning, in the Book of the Revelation! This post is just sharing some thoughts on the first few verses - but I may well return to the Book (at least until Sept 23rd!).

The opening words of the Book are of great importance - but are often quickly skimmed over! They read: "The revelation of Jesus Christ, ..." Did you notice that?  Beside these words, in the margin of the specific copy of the Word of God that I use for my personal devotions, I have noted: "The prime purpose of the Book - a Person, not a prophecy!" Of course, as is not unusual in the words of the Bible, there is another meaning that does not contradict the first, and that is that the revelation being given proceeds from the Lord Jesus - having been given to Him by the Father. However, it is important that, in reading this amazing, and often confusing, Book, that we keep our eyes fixed on Him.

We may also note that, although the Revelation is sent to seven specific Christian fellowships (v.4), it is also meant for any reader: "Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near." (v.3). Those last five words have caused some to doubt the whole Book! If, as is as certain as is possible, John received this revelation towards the end of the first century AD, how could the time be "near"? We are now living at a time more than 1900 years later! Did John get it all wrong?!

The answer, not unexpectedly, is "No! He did not get it wrong." What the sceptic overlooks is the fact that God sees everything from an eternal perspective and, in the light of the very timelessness of eternity, a couple of thousand earth years are as nothing. Peter reminds us to "... not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (II Peter 3:8). This, I would suggest, is not to be taken absolutely literally, but as making the point that our sense of time is not always how Almighty God views it!

Peter's subsequent words are also often forgotten: "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance." (II Pet.3:9). These end times have not yet been fulfilled because Almighty God, in His love, and grace, and mercy, is giving people time to enter into the saving relationship with Him, through the Lord Jesus, the Christ, that is the only assurance of eternal life - rather than eternal damnation.

Finally, for now (!), we must remember that this revelation was given to a church that was undergoing great persecution - the reason why John had been exiled to Patmos. Thus it came as a great source of encouragement to its readers as they (and we) were (and are) assured that, in spite of appearances, God is still on the throne; that Jesus will return as King of kings and Lord of lords. On a day when I have read of the atrocity in Barcelona; at a time when such atrocities have become almost common-place; at a time when there are concerns about an imminent WW III; at a time when disciples of Jesus continue to be persecuted - often in ways that those of us who live in the relative safety of "the west" can barely comprehend - such assurance is just as relevant and encouraging as it was to those who first read the Revelation.

I trust that you are ready for His appearing. If not, then I urge you to do something about it. "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor.6:2).

Monday, 14 August 2017

September 23rd!

It started with a a link that I was sent, that took me to a YouTube video clip, that turned out to be one of many on the same theme! That theme was September 23rd and the claim that some momentous event is scheduled to take place on that date!

If you haven't viewed any of these video-clips, please permit me to save you the bother! According to those I have watched, on September 23rd, there will be the fulfilment of some of the prophetic words from the Book of the Revelation of Jesus:
"And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery." (12:1-2).

We are informed that, on that day, two constellations - Leo and Virgo - will be close to one another, with Leo being above the 'head' of Virgo. This is then interpreted as Virgo being the woman of the prophecy, and Leo being the crown of twelve stars. It is claimed - and I have no reason to disbelieve these claims - that on September 23rd, the sun will be at the head of Virgo, and the moon at the feet of the constellation. This will all be visible because there will be three hours of darkness, just as there was at the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. That I find more difficult to accept!

The constellation Leo, with its nine stars, will form the crown on the head of Virgo. The three "missing" stars will be provided by Mercury, Venus, and Mars being in a conjunction with the constellation.

There will also be a star in the heavens that has only been seen twice before - at the time of Abraham, and at the incarnation of God the Son. This is the "Bethlehem Star", and it has allegedly been around for two years (well, since September 23rd, 2015!).

To be fair, none of the contributors to whom I listened specified exactly what would happen on September 23rd, 2017 - but they are all convinced that there will be a major, and cataclysmic, event.

Okay, let's look a little more closely at some of these claims. First of all, we are actually dabbling in the area of astrology, here. There is one fundamental problem with astrology - it is based, totally, on false premises! It is based on the ancient idea that the sky was a crystal semi-sphere upturned and sitting on a "flat" earth. All of the heavenly bodies moved on that sphere, and all were exactly the same distance from earth. Now, let me add that this is a totally unBiblical picture - but that is another story!

We know that this is not so. We know that, apart from our own Sun, the stars are all light-years away (a "light-year" for anyone who does not know, is the distance that light travels in an earth-year. As light travels at approximately 186,000 miles every second, that makes a light-year to be 186,000 x 60 x 60 24 x 365.25 - an amazing 5,869,712,600,000 miles! Actually, as the speed is a little above 186,000 mps, the light year is approximately 6,000 trillion earth miles!). The closest star to our solar system is a faint red dwarf star, Proxima Centauri. It is a "mere" 4.24 light-years away - that's well over 25,000 trillion miles!

When we look at what are called "constellations", we are the victims of a perspective-based optical illusion. Imagine yourself at one side of a very large field. You look at the other side, and you see a horse grazing beside a tree. However, when you walk over to the horse, you realise that it is actually much closer to you than the tree. So it is with the "constellations". The individual stars in any "constellation" are many light years away from one another, and all are many light years away from the Solar System.

That leads us to the next relevant point. Mercury, Venus, and Mars are not stars! They are planets that orbit our Sun. None of them ever "pass through" any constellation. They only appear to do so from our earth-bound perspective! So, if Leo is to have twelve "stars", then these three planets are non-starters! Nor, of course, do either the Sun or the Moon appear at the head, feet, or any other bodily part, of Virgo! We are also informed that Jupiter will be between the "feet" of Virgo, and that it will represent the child to whom she "gives birth".  Of course, Jupiter will not be within thousands of trillions of miles of any star in the "constellation" Virgo!

There is much more, but I hope that the above is sufficient to make clear that I do not accept these "prophecies" with regard to September 23rd. Of course, it may be that, on September 24th, I shall be obliged to "eat humble pie" - that is if I am still around to do so! Let me add a little more. I believe that, if there is indeed some significant event that is going to happen on September 23rd, that any "portent" in the sky will not be a simple alignment of current celestial bodies and/or "constellations" (that do not, in reality, exist). Whatever that sign is to be, I believe that it will be something totally new. However, I also believe that we will not receive any forewarning of it. It will come as a total surprise. Like the Rapture of the true disciples of Jesus, it will happen "... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ..." (I Cor.15:52);  like the Second Advent, when the Lord Jesus returns as King of kings, and Lord of lords, it will come "... like a thief in the night ..." (I Thess.5:2). 

A long time ago, I read some sound advice that I pass on to you: "Live as if He is returning today; work as is He will not return for a hundred years."! If we do that, we will not be sidetracked by attempts to "second-guess" the Omnipotent Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. We will also be ready to meet with Him, whether when He takes us to Himself in the air, or calls us home through that portal that we call physical death.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Prayer works!

On one of my study wall, above a large map of the world, is a wooden plaque that I have had for so long I am unable to recall its origin! It has just three words burned on to it: "Prayer changes things"!

The news of the past few days would certainly give credence to that claim. As some are aware, I have a long-standing interest in the persecuted church, and pray on a daily basis for my brothers and sisters in Jesus who suffer for their faith in ways that I am unable to fully comprehend. One of two specific individuals for whom I have been praying, is 39-year-old Maryam Naghash Zargaran who, in spite of various physical health issues, has spent the last four years in prison in Iran. There were occasions when she was permitted to be taken to hospital - albeit, chained to her bed - but she was then brought back to prison even although doctors insisted that she was not fit for continued incarceration. I, along with many others, was thrilled to learn that Maryam was released from prison on August 1st. 

The second person is a South Korean pastor in his sixties, Hyeon Soo Lim, who holds Canadian citizenship. Although he had visited North Korea on more than one hundred occasions, to do humanitarian work, in 2015 he was arrested, tried, and sentenced to hard labour for life. As anyone with any knowledge of North Korea will be aware, hard labour in the hermit country is no "open prison" life - even for a much younger man. My prayer, for some time, has been that this dear brother would be released, and permitted to return to his family in Canada - in spite of the life sentence. That, I was fully aware, was asking for a miracle. You may imagine my delight to learn that, on August 9th, Pastor Lim had been released and was on his way back to Canada.

Two wonderful "answers to prayer". However, what about others who remain in prison - someone like Asia in Pakistan, arrested and incarcerated in 2009 for the heinous crime of having offered a co-worker in a field a cup of water. The problem was that Asia is a disciple of Jesus; her co-workers were all Muslims. They claimed that her act was insulting to Islam, and she was tried, and found guilty, of "blasphemy"! She continues to await a date - that would be kept - for her final appeal to the Pakistan Supreme Court. I pray for Asia on a daily basis - why has that prayer not been "answered"?

The difficulty, it seems to me, is that so many only consider a prayer to have been "answered" if they get what they want! This, of course, is just silly. When my daughters were young - and even now, as adults in their own right - they did not always have their request fulfilled. However, they always received an answer! Sometimes that answer was, indeed, positive, and the request was granted. However, there were times when they were told that they would have to wait until they were older; and times when they were told, quite plainly, "No!". Always, however, as a loving father, I answered their requests.

Prayer, I would contend, is (as far as requests are concerned - of course, true prayer is NOT a "shopping-list" to be presented to Almighty God!) like that. Sometimes, in His infinite wisdom, God denies me that for which I have asked. His answer is "No!". That means that, whatever I in my human frailty and ignorance, may think, this is not good for me. On other occasions, the answer is "Wait!". I am asking for the correct thing - but my timing is wrong. Praise God for those times when I am walking closely enough to Him that I am in tune with His will, and His timing, and the answer is "Yes!". However, there is no such thing as "unanswered" prayer!

I recall the story - which I believe to be true - of an Episcopal Bishop in, if memory serves me well, Dublin, in the 18th century. A sceptic challenged him about prayer. "What you consider an answer to prayer is just coincidence", he claimed. The bishop was a much wiser man than I am. Instead of entering into a debate on the subject (as I would undoubtedly have done!), he merely responded: "You may be right. All that I know is that when I pray, the coincidences happen; and when I don't, neither to they. So I'll just keep on praying, and thanking God for His coincidences"!

If you are a praying person, who believes in the power of prayer, then be encouraged that no prayer reaches the Heavenly Father that is not answered in accordance with His perfect will, knowledge, and purpose. Do pray for those in the persecuted church. When some of them are interviewed by "westerners" that is their constant request - not that their suffering should cease (they may not have a Bible, or even be fully literate, but they will know the words of James: "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." [1:2-3]) but that we should remember them in prayer. 

Remember, too, those other words of James that: "The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects." (5:16). You and I have no righteousness of our own - but if we are truly "in Christ Jesus", then we are clothed with His righteousness - and that assures that we are accepted by the Father, and our prayers will rise to Him as incense.

Let us pray!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Everlasting life!

There is a Greek story of a goddess who fell in love with a mortal. The problem, of course, was that they both knew that he would eventually die, while she enjoyed immortality. The goddess went to Zeus, the chief god, and asked if she might be granted a request. Zeus agreed - but told her that she could have only one request granted, and was never to come back for another. Happily, the goddess agreed - and asked that the object of her love be granted everlasting life. Zeus granted her request, and the couple were married.

At first, all was well. However, as the years passed, they realised that they had made a major mistake. The husband lived on - but he kept getting older. His body deteriorated; his mind became fuzzy; while his wife lived on in her eternal youth. The point of the story, one may assume, is that everlasting life - in itself - is not something to be desired.

That story came to mind when I read a newspaper headline, earlier today: "Scientists find way to STOP ageing in development which could lead to everlasting life." Now, to be fair, they do claim to have found a way by which the actual process of aging may be stopped. It's all to do with telomeres - fragments of DNA which cap both ends of each chromosome and protect against the wear and tear of natural ageing. However, even the thought of "being around", in this human life, for thousands of years, is surely off-putting! And, of course, there is the practical consideration of population growth!

It may be more than coincidence that I came across that headline, and article, so soon after my previous post on the Final Frontier! Perhaps the Lord is speaking to someone specifically through this blog! Are you concerned about death? It isn't unusual! However, for those who have come, in repentance and faith, to Jesus the Christ and received the new life that He offers, there is no need to fear. He offers us, here and now, "life in all its fulness" (Jn.10:10) and, when our mortal life has ended, a continuing life in His nearer presence. It's not "everlasting" life, but "eternal life" - the Life of God Himself. and it is something that we enter as soon as we accept the gift of salvation that Jesus gained for us on the cross at Calvary.

Have you accepted that gift? If not, why not?! Perhaps you think that you are not good enough! Well, I'll not argue with you on that score! You see, neither am I! Paul wrote to the Roman believers (!) that "all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one;' " (3:9-10) and, again, that "... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (3:23).

That's why he made clear, in his letter to the Ephesians, that it is "... by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -" (2:8). This year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,and one of the great principles of the Reformers was "Sola gratis" - "Grace alone". Taste of that grace for yourself - you will never regret it, and you will know life that is truly rewarding (although not necessarily easy!), and that will be yours for all of eternity!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Final Frontier!

I suppose that I was, in its early days, a bit of a "Trekkie" - a fan of the TV series Star Trek. Some will recall the opening words: "Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 5 year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life, and new civilisations: to boldly go, where no man has gone before."

"Space. The final frontier"! Yet, is it? Many years ago, I regularly purchased copies of the Readers' Digest Condensed Books. They looked good on my bookshelves, but I never got around to reading them - until now. Over recent months I have read about a dozen - with three/four (condensed!) books in each volume. Today, I completed a true story, written by a medical doctor. The story is entitled "A Parting Gift" and recounts the short life of a boy named David who died, at eight years of age, from leukemia. Having had, myself, a cousin (who was, in effect, the sister I never had) who died from that same cancer of the blood cells, I was especially interested.

However, it was what Dr Sharkey learned, herself, that touched me most. The prologue reads: "During ... five years Dr Sharkey battled with every weapon at her command to save his life and, through helping David and his family cope with tragic illness, she finally confronted her own deep fears about death."

So, is space the "final frontier"? In one sense, it may well be. But, of course, few - if any- of us will have the opportunity to explore it. Death, on the other hand, comes to each one of us - at least until the Rapture (you may read more about that in my first book: Great Words of the Faith - details at the top of the blog!). So, might it be more relevant - and of greater importance, to consider death to be the true "final frontier"?

Of course, it is a subject about which people, in general, tend to avoid talking. When we do, we use euphemisms: "So-and-so has 'passed away'"; " I 'lost' my grandfather (etc)"; "Did you hear that Jimmy has 'kicked the bucket'?" So why should this be? It certainly was not the case in an earlier generation. Dr Sharkey writes: "I've stood before century-old (this was in the early 1980s) paintings showing deathbed scenes and thought how different those scenes were from what usually happens now when someone dies. In those days, no one kept family and friends away or asked them to step outside as the moment of death approached. In the old pictures, instead of the anonymity of a hospital room, there are always people grouped around the dying person. Death was important and something one's whole life moved toward, something one prepared for. People thought and talked about it openly. It was accepted; it was not a sign of anyone's failure."

I suspect that the problem for most of us, concerning death, is the "unknown" factor - and there is always an element of fear in the unknown! Yet for the disciple of Jesus, the Christ, there is no such fear. He is the only One Who has suffered death - even death on a cross - and risen from the grave (okay, the tomb, before some purist takes me up on my terminology!), never to die again (Rev.1:18). However, in John chapters 13-17, which is sometimes called the "Upper Room Discourse", Jesus gives comfort to His disciples by telling them two things. First, He told them that His death was to be the means by which they would dwell with Him forever. Second, He told them that during the time of His physical absence He would be even more present with them through the sending of His Holy Spirit, to dwell not only among them, but within them (see John 14:16-31; 16:7-15).

Paul wrote: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.(Phil.1:21-23; emphasis added).

On my Study bookshelves is a slim booklet by the late Rev. Tom Swanston, entitled "Death with a Steady Eye". At the end of the booklet, he writes: "The illustration on the front cover of this booklet suggests men facing a firing squad. Three are blindfolded, perhaps by choice. The other faces death with a steady eye. He out of the four is not afraid. Who is this man? ... he is the man in Christ; the man who has hope for his future (Jer.31:17). ... ... because he has learned what so many fail to learn, that Jesus teaches us to die well because He teaches us to die safely. His own death was a safe death, since He died without sin of His own. That death becomes our safe death exactly because the sin with which He died was ours. ... For those who apprehend this and make it their own there is nothing to fear."

We will either face our own death with fear or with faith. It all depends on our response to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told His disciples that He is the way, not just a way to heaven. Our response to the death of the Lord Jesus, the Christ determines our response to death, especially our own. Those words of the Lord Jesus, recorded by John, are the solution to the fear of death. I pray that you will trust in Him, in His death for your sin and in His resurrection that ensures eternal life for His own. Death will no longer be your enemy, because the death of the Saviour overcame death and its terror, to all who believe in Him.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Temple Mount Tensions

The past week has seen a great deal of violence in, and around, the area of the Temple Mount, in the true capital of Israel, Jerusalem. The MSM tend to be, in general, guilty of an anti-Israel bias, so I offer you the link below that will, I trust, provide a more accurate perspective on this situation.

It has been published by CUFI (Christians United for Israel).

It has just been pointed out to me that the link is not operating correctly! However, if you "copy and paste" then that seems to do the trick! I apologise for that. :-)

The story of Charlie Gard has been tragic from start to finish.

The heading is taken from the Leader Comment in a national newspaper - and one can surely understand the sentiment expressed. The article states:

"No-one can fail to have been touched by the agony the family of the 11-month-old baby has gone through.
The situation that Charlie’s mother and father faced was every parent’s nightmare.
One of the saddest aspects of the case was that Connie Yates and Chris Gard found themselves caught up in a high-profile legal battle which must have made it even harder for them to cope with their awful situation.
In the end, they lost their legal battle and they lost their son. Their hopes for experimental treatment, for Charlie to be allowed to die at home, and finally for him to continue to receive life support in a hospice for several days were all dashed.
Great Ormond Street Hospital has said it will examine what it can learn from the case.
It is difficult to see how the ultimate outcome could have been avoided, but it is clear there was a breakdown in trust between Charlie’s parents and the doctors an early stage.
In the end, it was decided the loss of the child could not be feasibly prevented, but the parents’ heartbreaking experience was worse than it should have been."
However, in what may be considered a sign of the times, I did not notice any comment regarding the spirit of this child? Is this because there are fewer of us who believe that physical death - whether it comes in the womb (abortion), or when one is a centenarian - is not the end? 
When I learned of Charlie's death, I started to sing: "Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast. There, by His love o'ershaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest". Because I have no doubt at all that, for that child who had not even reached the first anniversary of the day of his birth, the words of Paul are totally applicable: "... to depart and be with Christ, ... is far better." (Phil.1:23). Yes, I believe, firmly, that Charlie Gard is in the presence of the Heavenly Father, and that His eternal destiny is assured! "On what grounds?", someone might well ask. My response would be: "On exactly the same ground as anyone else - the amazing grace of God."

I sometimes tell the story of the man who died and - because it is just a story! - arrived at the Pearly Gates. He was met there, of course, by Peter (such stories usually major on popular opinion, rather than strict Biblical truth!) who, surprisingly, was holding a clip-board. 

"Name?", asked the apostle. 

The man gave him the information. 

"Ah, yes," said Peter, "you are on the list. Now, all that you have to do is to gain 100 points in order to gain access to heaven." 

"And how do I do that?" enquired the man.

"Not a problem", responded Peter. " Just tell me why you should be allowed to enter through these gates!"

"I wasn't expecting this." said the man. "However - let me think - oh, yes; I was a loving husband and father to my wife and children."

"That's good." came the reply. "That gets you 5 points."

"Hmm", said the man, thoughtfully, "and I also attended my church regularly."

"Good!", said Peter, "That gains you another 5 points."

The man scratched his head. "Oh, for the last ten years of my life, I was an elder in the church."

"Excellent," replied Peter, "That's worth a further 3 points."

"Does my regular tithing help?" asked the man.

"It most certainly does." said Peter. "That gets you a further 3 points."

"So how am I doing so far?" came the (understandable?!) question.

"Let's see", said the apostle, doing some quick addition, "you now have 16 points."

"Oh dear," said the man, "only 16! At this rate it will take the grace of God to get me through!"

"100 points!" smiled Peter. "Welcome!" "

It's only a story - but there is a very real truth contained in it. Paul again: "... by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph.2:8-9).

Do you know that grace? Have you thrown yourself, fully, on the mercy of Almighty God? Or are you labouring under the delusion that you can, by doing all of the right things (in your own eyes!) God will be "obliged" to let you enter the heavenly realm? 

Of course, there are good works that we must do - but they are the result of our salvation, not the means of it! Paul continues, in that letter to the disciples of Jesus, in Ephesus: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (v.10).

Please don't put the cart before the horse! Come to Him, in repentance and faith, and receive His wonderful gift of salvation, fully paid for by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus at Calvary.

As always, if you think that I may be able to be of any personal assistance, please feel free to contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the blog. I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Innocent Israelis are under attack!

Many will be aware that this year has seen the 50th anniversary of the "Six Days' War" in which the State of Israel - some would say miraculously - defeated the combined forces of the surrounding nations of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. After just six days, Israel had taken possession of the Gaza Srip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank (of the Jordan), East Jerusalem ( making the city united, and under Jewish control for the first time since 70AD), and the Golan Heights. It was one of the most amazing military successes of modern times.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for the Children of Israel over the past fifty years. They have been subjected to continuing terrorist attacks on a daily basis - from rocket attacks to so-called 'lone wolf' attacks. There has also been the constant political terrorism of, e.g., the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies as they have sought to re-write history and claim that the land of Israel really belongs to the so-called "Palestinians". Of course, as any student of history is aware, there has never been a "Palestinian" nation. Those who go by that name are, largely, Jordanians - and all are Arabs. The name of "Palestine" was given to the area as a deliberate insult to the Jews as it is derived from the name of their ancient antagonists, the Philistines (Goliath being, probably, the best-known!). In the 2nd century CE, the Romans crushed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba (132 CE), during which Jerusalem and Judea were regained and the area of Judea was renamed Palaestina in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. Originally, of course, the area was known as Canaan. I should add that the appointment of Nikki Haley as the US Ambassador to the UN has seen a new support for Israel that was clearly absent during the tenure of Obama as President of the USoA! She is an intelligent, and highly articulate, woman who has been standing up for Israel since her appointment.

The MSM (Main-stream media) have also played their part in the constant attack upon Israel by either failing to report the atrocities that continue to be perpetrated against them on a daily basis or, perhaps worse, by making the perpetrators out to be the victims! 

In my own small way, I wish to redress the balance, and give the following brief reports of atrocities committed over the last week. Most of these have not been, and will not be, reported by the MSM.

On Friday night, Israelis suffered another shocking, horrific terror attack in which three family members were slaughtered at the Sabbath table in their home.

This follows the brutal Temple Mount attack which killed 2 Israeli policemen. Yesterday, rockets were being fired into Israel from Gaza. And just today, another stabbing in central Israel.

The Temple Mount war is still raging with violent riots in Jerusalem, as Muslims object to metal detectors installed to prevent more attacks. Although knife attacks, shootings and car-rammings have tragically become common in Jerusalem, attacks in the Temple Mount area are very rare.

Since the onset of the most recent wave of terror, there have been over 1000 terror attacks against Israelis although, as already stated, most don't make the news.

Every single Israeli man, woman and child is a target for a brutal stabbing, shooting or car-ramming attack.

So-called "Palestinian" incitement to terror - including that by senior members of the "Palestinian Liberation (!!) Organisation" has reached new heights, fueled by the outrageous, deadly use of social media.

Terror and fear are rampant throughout Israel as "Palestinian" terrorists dramatically increase their brutal attacks upon the citizens of Israel.

As a disciple of Jesus, I support the Jewish nation, remembering that Jesus was born - in His incarnation - into a Jewish family; was raised as a Jewish boy; was recognised by many as a Jewish Rabbi (teacher); and, at His death, was proclaimed to be "King of the Jews". I do not, necessarily, support every decision of the government of the modern State of Israel, but I do support the people who live there.

If you stand with me in this, please ensure that you keep yourself apprised of what is really happening, and helping to publicise the truth that, alone, will counteract the false propaganda of those who are opposed to Israel.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Growth, and maturity!

Two, totally unrelated, matters from this morning. First of all, our younger daughter contacted my wife to inform us that one of her former flat-mates had just given birth to a beautiful daughter - and that the baby was to be named after our daughter!

The second was in my personal devotions during which, at present, I am reading through the Book of Psalms. This morning I was reading in Psalm 120, and also noting the comments made by Warren Wiersbe - currently my favourite contemporary Bible Commentator.

Ps.120 is the first of a group of psalms - 120 - 134 - known collectively as the Pilgrim Psalms, as it is believed that they were sung by those making their way to Jerusalem for one of the major feasts of Judaism. This would have been an arduous journey, made on foot, climbing up to the Holy City after maybe weeks of travelling from whichever part of the Roman world they now knew as home.

In his general introduction to the group, Dr.Wiersbe writes, concerning current disciples of Jesus: "Too many believers today want to be 'settlers', not pilgrims and strangers (Heb.11:8-10, 13-196; I Pet.1:1, 2:11). We are happy enough to settle down in our comfort zones and live as though Jesus never died, Jesus is not coming again, and our lives will never end. We are guilty of what Eugene Peterson calls 'the tourist mindset', content to make occasional brief visits with the Lord that are leisurely and entertaining, all the while conforming to this world and enjoying it. (See A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, IVP, p.12). Our citizenship is in heaven (Luke 10:20; Phil.3:20; Heb.12:22-24), and that should make a difference in our lives on earth. We need to 'feel temporary' as we make this pilgrim journey called life."

So what is the connection between the birth of a baby, and Dr Wiersbe's comment? We received a photograph of the newborn child, lying peacefully as a newborn child tends to do. She will be fed and clothed by her mother (with, I would expect, assistance from her husband, the baby's father). She will 'Goo', and 'Ga', and everyone will say how cute she is.

However, imagine if, in ten years' time, that child was still lying in a cot; still being clothed and fed (and having nappies changed) by her parents; still able to make no other sound than 'Goo' and 'Ga'! That would no longer be a cause for great joy; that child would no longer be cute; that would be considered, by most, to be a tragedy. The beautiful baby that had failed to grow.

That, of course, is exactly what Warren Wiersbe is referring to in the life of a disciple of Jesus. It is, sadly, all too common for people to be born again of God the Holy Spirit; to have repented of their sins and sinfulness; to have received the new life that is available through faith in the Lord Jesus, the Christ; to have been baptised; to have become members of a particular fellowship of God's people - but never to have grown spiritually; to still be spiritual infants, dependent upon others to feed them in the things of God; unable to walk the walk of faith in a meaningful, and challenging,way. They are immature; their witness is compromised; they blow hot, and cold.

In a couple of weeks' time, I expect to be preaching on the power of the totally surrendered life - the life that is fully committed to Jesus. However, there is no power in a baby. It is at the mercy of its own environment - although, thankfully, that environment is usually provided by loving parents. Someone once said, concerning disciples of Jesus, that there are three types of Christian. There are third-class Christians, in whose lives Jesus is present. That is good. Then there are second-class Christians, in whose lives Jesus is prominent. That is better. Finally, there are first-class Christians, in whose lives Jesus is pre-eminent. That is best of all.

So, where do you fit in? Are you a spiritual babe; a third-class Christian? Or are you soaking yourself in the written Word; spending time in prayer to the heavenly Father; and showing, in your daily living, that Jesus is pre-eminent in your life? Do you have that 'tourist mindset'; or are you "... look[ing] forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb.11:10), that is "... eternal in the heavens." (II Cor.5:1)?

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Tour de France

Yesterday, and today, my wife and I have been involved in distributing Christian literature to those who came to watch the Tour de France cyclists arrive in Bergerac, and depart from Eymet. I am not even going to attempt to work out how many miles we have walked over the two days!

However, it was watching those cyclists that made me remember how much disciples of Jesus may learn from such sportsmen. Little wonder that Paul uses the Games as one of his own many illustrations of the genuine Christian life.

For example, as I watched those riders power their way into Bergerac, I was instantly aware that this was not a bunch of men out for a casual bicycle-ride together. They were putting everything they had into their attempt to be first to reach the finishing post for that stage - or, at least, to make the best showing of which they were capable. Not for the first (or last?!) time, I had to ask myself if I am truly giving 100% of myself in the service of the One Whom I call Saviour, and Lord! 

Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi: "Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus." (3:13b-14). He probably had a picture of the marathon in his mind when he wrote those words - but they would have applied equally well to the Tour de France!

Of course, those cyclists didn't just decide, on the day before the race commenced (in Düsseldorf!) that they would enter! They had spent the previous months - perhaps years - in training for what is the greatest sporting event in the world. The sheer logistics of the Tour make my own head spin! 

Paul, writing to his "son in the faith", Timothy, encouraged him to "… exercise yourself spiritually,"; "…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;";  "Train yourself in godliness;" (I.Tim.4:7). And what sort of training is that?   Well, the word ‘godliness’ is really a contraction, a shortened form, of ‘godlikeness’.  So the apostle urges us to train ourselves in godlikeness – we are to be like God!  And what is God like?  We could go on forever describing the greatness of God; His majesty and power; His holiness; His wisdom; His grace and mercy; all of His divine attributes.  But John, in his 1st letter, describes the character of God - God in essence - simply and succinctly, in the familiar words, "God is love". (4:8, 16).  "God is love" – and if we would be like Him, then we must love like Him; loving so much that love and ourselves are inseparable; that when those who know us best think of the one, they immediately think of the other.

One of the pieces of literature that was being distributed had, on the front, the words "You can be a winner!" In the Tour, there is a winner for each stage, and for various other categories during the 23 days before the final sprint up the Champs-Élysées in Paris. However, there is only one person who can wear the coveted Yellow Jersey at the end of the race. For disciples of Jesus, however, everyone is a winner.  I haven't checked what the final accolade is in the Tour de France. However, I know that it will be something that will, sooner or later, perish.

Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds them that "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." (I Cor 9:25-26).  And that imperishable prize that is promised is nothing less than “life; fellowship with God, in Christ; the love of God, shed abroad in the heart; the peace of God (that) passes all understanding.” (William Hendriksen)  And the promised prize isn’t just for this life, but also "…for the life to come", making it, quite literally, of infinitely greater value than any medallion of whatever precious metal.

"… I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day." (II Tim 4:7-8). May each of us, who claim to be His disciples, have the same confidence as we run the race of life in His name, and to His glory.  

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Am I a mum, or a dad?!

Just returned from a relaxing week at our favourite camp-site - so all relaxed and ready to go. The first thing I notice is an online newspaper headline: "British man makes HISTORY: Hayden Cross gives birth to baby girl."  

I was immediately reminded of a situation, many years ago, in which a 15/16 year-old girl in one of my classes in school insisted that men could have babies - because she had seen Arnold Schwarzenegger have one in the film "Junior"! She was not the brightest pupil in a low-ability class -and even her peers were (metaphorically, if not literally) "rolling in the aisles!"

This, however, is not a film, but real life! A man, has given birth to a baby! 
Except, of course, that a man has not done so. My Postgraduate M.Sc. is not in biology - but even I know that a man is, biologically, incapable of bearing a child. A man does not have a womb! Then, as I read on I discovered that "Former Asda worker Hayden Cross is legally a man, having begun hormone treatment after being born a girl." "Legally a man" - but still with those internal physical requirements that are part and parcel of a female of the species! The article even makes the point that the person involved "had asked the NHS to freeze his eggs". Sorry - only females produce eggs! 

I read on, and discovered that the person involved "... told The Sun on Sunday: 'I faced the prospect of not becoming the man I am supposed to be, physically, or a dad. So I didn’t feel like I had any choice but to have a baby now then get back to transitioning'."

The picture gets a little clearer. This is NOT a man! It is a woman who has decided that she would prefer to be a man and, in our brave new world in which, it would appear, almost anything is possible, she has decided to go for "transitioning", "gender realignment", or whatever relevant terminology one wishes to use. A woman - a human being born with the specific internal organs of a female - has given birth. I've got more news for those who are excited by the this particular news - it happens thousands of times, all around the world, in any twenty-four hour period! 
However, I also read that there are suggestions that men who have "transitioned" to be women, may have wombs implanted in their bodies! I am not even going to begin to go into the potential difficulties here. I will only point out that, to the best of my knowledge, the female bone structure is different to that of a male in order that a womb can grow. Will these 'men' have all of that done - and, it is also suggested, through the taxpayer-funded NHS?!
Where do we go from here? The Biblical position is perfectly clear - "... God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen.1:27). "This", writes Dr Peter Saunders, "is perfectly consistent with what we see in nature – male and female are different - genetically, hormonally and physically. Researchers have identified 6,500 genes that are expressed differently in men and women." That is no mean number!

Dr Saunders also points out that "... we must appreciate that we live in a fallen world where our collective rejection of God (Genesis 3) has affected the human race at all levels - physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual - so we should expect to find conditions like intersex and transgender. People affected by these conditions are often deeply hurting, and we need to treat them with the love and respect we would show to any human being made in God's image. We are all tainted by the consequence of the fall, and we are all sinners in need of God's forgiveness."  

He then goes onto claim that "... we must not capitulate to transgender ideology. Loving people does not mean affirming their false beliefs, using their chosen names, admitting them to their chosen facilities.allowing them to compete as the opposite sex in sports events, and offering them hormones and gender reassignment surgery. That is not love - it's actually a form of abuse. You might get called a transphobic bigot, or worse. But the Bible, science, and common sense, are on your side. God created us male and female. It's really that simple."

His penultimate point is that "... we must grasp the Gospel opportunity transgender[ism?] presents. Jesus welcomed everyone but, in so doing, He did not endorse all of their beliefs and behaviour. Rather, He called them to repentance and faith - to a life of obedience enabled by [God] the [Holy] Spirit, to be transformed by the renewal of their minds (Romans 12: 1-2). And He called them to find their identity, not in their chosen gender, or anything else, but in Him."  

Finally, he suggests that we need to get informed better about the issue, and offers some helpful links:

Gender Dysphoria – CMF File 59 – Rick Thomas and Peter Saunders
True to Form – FIEC Primer Issue 03 – Various authors
Transgender – Talking Points - Vaughan Roberts
Sexuality and Gender – The New Atlantis – Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh

These are serious matters and, I believe, they deserve our close attention. The most unloving thing that one can do to a person is, surely, to allow them to continue in what one believes is harmful behaviour. May we who hold to Biblical standards be able to speak, in love, a warning to those who would seek to go against their Creator.