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Sunday, 28 May 2017

A Father's love.

My younger daughter has posted, on Facebook, that it is three years since she was diagnosed with cancer. Obviously, my wife and I, and the whole family, are delighted and grateful that she is here to post about that day, that we recall as if it were, indeed, just yesterday!

We sought to support her throughout her treatment, and are grateful that she had noticed the cancer early, and that she received treatment very quickly. As we sat with her during her chemotherapy sessions - which were the most difficult times - I wished that someone would come into the room and say, "Mr Ross, a new treatment has just been discovered. It involves you taking this chemotherapy on behalf of your daughter, with all of its unpleasant side-effects, but your daughter will then be totally free of cancer, for life."  I have absolutely no doubt at all as to my reaction. I would have taken my daughter's place on that hospital bed as quickly as was humanly possible!

Why would I have done such a thing? Why would I have voluntarily experienced all that she was obliged to experience? Simply because of my love for my own child! I am certain, too, that I would not be unique in that. Surely any loving parent would do the same for their offspring!

As I thought about that, earlier this evening, I realised that it is, in a sense, a picture of the love that Father God has for each one of us. We suffer from the most virulent "cancer" of all - cancer of the soul, that the Bible refers to, quite simply, as "sin". There is no cure that mankind has ever discovered, or ever will discover. However, a cure is available. It's a cure that involved Another taking your place and mine - not on a hospital bed, but on a wooden cross, on a hill named Calvary, just outside the old city of Jerusalem. He took our place; He paid the penalty for our sin; He died, in His humanity,that we might have the opportunity to live.

Indeed, there is even more. Paul writes these amazing words: "For our sake He [the Father] made Him [the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [the Son] we might become the righteousness of God." (II Cor.5:21). Now, remember that, in the mystery of the Trinity, the Father and the Son (together with Holy Spirit) are One. So, as God, the Son not only experienced the full weight of our sin, He actually became sin! To use my opening analogy, it is as if I was asked to become cancer, in all of its vileness, in order that my daughter be cured! That is, as the hymnwriter pointed out, "love beyond all measure"!

But just think. If the opening picture that I painted had been true, and my daughter had turned round and said, "Don't bother, dad. I'll just suffer all of this myself, and take my chance on the future." Well, any sane person would have said that she was quite mad! They would say that to spurn my love for her in that way was, itself, unforgivable! Yet that is what so many do to God the Son! "We don't really care about what You suffered for us. We'll just carry on regardless, and take our chance with the future!" Sadly, that future is eternity without Him! But He will never force any of us to do what we don't want to do!

Have you acknowledged your own sinfulness? Have you accepted that you can, by yourself, do nothing about it? Then come to the One Whose shed blood can cleanse the deepest stain. He did it for you! "God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). He loves you, and seeks your love in return. 

If you have any questions that you think I might be able to answer, please use the e-mail address at the top of the page. I don't check that Inbox on a daily basis but, as soon as I read your question, I will get in touch. Just remember, that time is short. We cannot be sure of even the next minute. Come to Jesus now. You'll never regret it if you do. 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Such a little way to go!

The knowledge that circumstances are only temporary can be very helpful. This is illustrated by the story of a girl - we'll call her Mary - who told of the exasperating time she had experienced on a bus. "A big lady came and sat next to me," she said, "taking up so much room that she forced me right against the side of the bus. To make things worse, the parcels she was carrying kept bumping me in the face, and I had to keep dodging them!" Her young brother asked a not unreasonable question: "Why didn't you tell her to move over? After all, you were there first!" Mary replied, with a wisdom beyond her years: "I didn't think that it was worthwhile. After all, we had such a little way to go together!"

The psalmist-king of Israel, David, was very conscious of that same truth when he offered the prayer recorded in I Chronicles 29.  By this time, he was about 70 years of age - something to which I can all-too-readily relate! - and had many memories of successes - and of failures; of joys - and of sorrows. But, as he prayed, he expressed his deep impression of the very brevity of life: "We are only strangers traveling through this world like our ancestors. Our time on earth is like a passing shadow, and we cannot stop it." (v.15; ERV). I am sure that, if that famous figure of old; that man described by God, in spite of all of his failures, as "... a man after My own heart;" (Acts 13:22), could have lived some segments of his life over again, he would have made different decisions, and conducted himself differently! He would have been more pure; more forgiving; more godly; less concerned with worldly achievements; with sensual pleasures; with the petty trivialities over which people quarrel. 

It was reported, today, in a newspapers, that "SCIENTISTS believe man is on the brink of having an average lifespan of 120 years after major medical breakthroughs." (Daily Express). However, even that is but a moment in comparison with eternity! We should, therefore, place the highest value on spiritual realities. My current "computer wallpaper" reminds me of "... the fruit of the Spirit ..." - "... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;" (Gal.5:22). These are the attributes that we should seek to cultivate in our relationships with others. Remember, we have such a little way to go together!

I also received the following in a regular e-mail, today: "“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.” (Luke 16:22)
Many scholars believe that the episode reported in Luke 16:19-31 actually happened, that it is a true story. If it is a parable, it is not identified as such, and it is the only one in which the name of a participant is given. Christ related the story as if it were true. But whether history or parable, we can learn much from the contrast between these two dramatically different men, their deaths and destinies.
The rich man, of course, surrounded himself with luxury (v. 19) while Lazarus struggled each day just to survive until the next poverty-filled and pain-wracked day (vv. 20-21).
No one can escape the grave, however, and in the passage of time, both died. But, rather than reducing those two different individuals to the commonality of death, their differences actually are heightened. The rich man, “being in torment” (v. 23), was aware of the comfort of Lazarus in “Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22). The interchange between the rich man and Abraham, and the timeless instruction Christ gave, are well known.
Note also the contrast between “carried” and “buried” in our text. The beggar’s body was no doubt unceremoniously dumped into a pauper’s grave, while the rich man’s corpse was placed in a costly sepulchre and his funeral attended by many friends and mourners. But look beyond the earthly spectrum. While the rich man begs for mercy and relief from torment, the poor man’s eternal spirit is “carried” (literally “carried off” or “borne away”) by a convoy of angelic beings into the presence of God, where “now he is comforted” (v. 25). For Lazarus, and indeed for all who die in the Lord, “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54)."

Time, someone has said, is too precious to be spent; it must be well invested! How are you investing your time - today?!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Yom Yerushalayim

As people continue to come to terms with the atrocity in Manchester on Monday evening, we remember that mourning the dead, and being concerned for the injured, does not mean that we have to forget the rest of life. One nation that has experienced what may well be said to be more than its fair share of violence, terrorism, mayhem, and murder, is the tiny State of Israel. However, regardless of what else is happening - within its own borders, or anywhere else - Israelis are about to commence the celebration of Yom Yerushalayim - Jerusalem Day.

So why is this day so important? What is its significance? It is simply the celebration of a very special day in the history of the modern State of Israel. It was fifty years ago tomorrow that the city of Jerusalem was, during the Six Days' War, united for the first time in some 2,000 years.
Nineteen years earlier, the Declaration of the Independence of the new State of Israel was responded to, by the surrounding Arab nations. The invading armies failed to destroy the fledgling State, but Jerusalem, the Holy City, the city that was (and is) central to the identity of the Jewish people, was divided, and control of the Old City and East Jerusalem where the First and Second Temples once stood, was handed over to Jordan - with residents of the Old City being either murdered or expelled. Many of the ancient Synagogues were destroyed; Jews were forbidden to pray at the Western Wall; and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated

However, after 1967's Six Day War, Jerusalem was transferred to Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 2,000 years! The days before the war were a time of intense Arab hostility, with Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) threatening to completely destroy Israel.  
While Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq amassed troops to attack Israel, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike and miraculously defeated the enemy in just six days. Once again, the Jewish People could freely live in Israel's capital, the city in which God chose to dwell.

The prophetic Word was fulfilled: "You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance - the place, YHWH, You made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, O YHWH, Your hands established."  (Exodus 15:17). "Thus says YHWH: 'Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob, and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt upon its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be.'" (Jer.30:18).

Jerusalem is, of course, central to the prophecies of the end-times! The Bible says that in the last days, the nations will come against Jerusalem (see Zechariah 12:3; Ezekiel 38–39)Indeed, the stage seems to be set for this very thing to happen, as much of the world community would like to re-divide Jerusalem, giving the part that Jordan briefly controlled to the so-called "Palestinians".

As this 50th anniversary of the reunification of the city is celebrated, let all of us who love the Jewish nation, be faithful, and fervent, in praying for the peace of the city (Ps.122:6). And let those of us who are disciples of Yeshua, accepting Him as HaMashiach, remember that it is to Zion that He will return: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'

Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of YHWH to Zion. 
Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for YHWH has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem." (Is.52:7-9).

L'chaim Yisrael!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Concert carnage.

It is rare for me to comment in the immediate aftermath of an incident, but I am making this post one of those exceptions.

The latest reports that I have read have stated that 22 people - including children - died as a result of the "suicide bombing" at the end of a concert in Manchester. Accounts of the injuries sustained by many more would suggest that that number may well rise in the next few days.

How does one react to such an atrocity - apparently planned over a number of weeks? One can bring pious platitudes - but they seldom have any positive effect. One may rant and rave - but anger seldom has any positive effect either. One may turn away, simply relieved that one was not personally involved - but that, to me, would be a display of callousness.

It would appear, from reports, that the first problem was inadequate security precautions at the venue. many have complained - sadly, too late - that they were not properly searched; that bags were not even checked. This is, most assuredly, a major factor in such a situation. These large venues need to ensure that their patrons are as safe as is humanly possible - especially when groups such as Daesh (aka ISIS) have made no secret of their intention to inflict mayhem in "western" countries.

Of course, the situation is made easier for the terrorists when we permit a claimed 3,900 who were involved in the conflict in Syria, to return to the UK with no more than "a watchful eye" being kept on them! With numbers like that, it is no surprise that many "slip through the net"!

Another problem is that of the so-called "moderate Muslim". It is reported that "The Muslim Council of Britain said the Manchester attack was “horrific” and “criminal”. Secretary general Harun Khan said: “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next." However, what many decide to ignore is that the terrorists are the true Muslims! Since its founding by the false, paedophile "prophet", Muhammad, the aim of Islam has been the world-wide Caliphate - the whole world under the control of Islam, and under the restrictions of shariah (Islamic Law), by military force where that is deemed to be necessary. So how do the so-called "moderate" Muslims fit in with this, in the light of their pious-sounding comments? They are simply following the example of their founder. It is called "taqiyya" and is the deliberate deception of the infidels (that's all of us who do not profess to be Muslims) in order to further the expansion of Islam and the attainment of that final goal - that world-wide Caliphate.

How then should we infidels - and especially Jews and Biblical Christians - react? We should certainly not shun any Muslims we know. Rather, we should seek to win them over from what is, I firmly believe, a satanic cult. That is not easy - yet there are reports, from many parts of the world, of hundreds, even thousands, of Muslims turning to the Lord Jesus for salvation. We who believe in the power of prayer must engage in that particular activity, faithfully and fervently. However, we must also remember the words of Jesus that His followers be "wise as serpents [whilst being ] harmless as doves." (Mt.10:16). The first is every bit as important as the second.

The government, also, has a major part to play. One of the first responsibilities of any government is the safety and welfare of the people it governs. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the police have extensive powers. Using these powers, people can be detained for up to nine hours, with DNA samples and fingerprints taken, without the need for any reasonable suspicion. If it is considered to be necessary, police may also detain and search an individual, with the aim of determining whether, or not, that person appears to be someone who is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

However, the latest quarterly Home Office report on the use of police powers under the Terrorism Act, which was released in March, shows that there has been a decrease in the use of these powers. This, it has been claimed, is due to pressure from groups like Stop Watch, which argues that they infringe the human rights of Muslims and other communities.

It is my personal opinion, that enough has been done to pander to the alleged "rights" of, particularly, the Muslim community. Those 22 young people and children who were so callously murdered last night, surely had some right to life! However, that right was over-ridden by one man's desire to kill and maim in the name of Islam!

I pray for those who have been bereaved; I pray for those who have been injured; I pray for those who have been traumatised; I pray for the members of the Emergency Services who responded so quickly and so competently. I pray, too, for the perpetrators of all such deeds, in the UK, in France, in other parts of the world; that they may yet be saved by the only blood that was ever shed that has a lasting, and positive, affect - the blood of Jesus the Christ, on the cross at Calvary. In Him, and in Him alone, is found salvation, and the forgiveness of sin. And one doesn't have to be an Islamic terrorist to need all of that!

Friday, 19 May 2017

The emptiness of a Godless life.

There is an old limerick that goes: 

"A cheerful old bear in the zoo
could always find something to do.
When it bored him, you know,
to walk to and fro,
he reversed it, and walked fro and to!"

Perhaps the composer of that bit of doggerel believed that people could learn from the bear. Certainly, bears appear to be content as long as they have sufficient food to eat, and some other bears for company. A lot of we humans could, indeed, learn a valuable lesson from such an example!

The prophet Haggai, whose prophetic book is found in the Tanakh (the Old Testament in the Bible), lived at the time when the Children of Israel had returned from the Babylonian exile, and he discovered that man cannot find happiness when he lives at the level of even the highest animal. His contemporaries ignored the fact that the Temple had not been rebuilt (Note to the so-called Palestinians, and the members of UNESCO - this was a long time before the false 'prophet', Muhammad had even been born!), although they had provided, for themselves, finely constructed houses, and occupied themselves with worldly affairs.

However, their harvests were poor; their clothing was inadequate; and their wages failed to keep up with the rising costs that resulted from inflation! The prophet uttered the word of YHWH: "You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes." (1:6). The prophet told them to re-examine their priorities, as they were reaping a harvest of unhappiness by putting selfish pleasures first.

Whenever people forget the Lord, and concern themselves with the pursuit of material and sensual things, they are - at least in the long run - poorly rewarded. The rich find little true satisfaction in their abundance, and the remaining multitudes, who are not even particularly rich, end up discontented, disillusioned, and bored with life. The reason for this is that God made us in His own image, and for His glory, and we can never find true joy until we obey the instruction of the Lord Jesus to: "... seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, ..." (Matt.6:33). Only then will we sow and reap abundantly, and eat and be truly filled. Augustine said: "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You." A modern version of that says "There's a God-shaped blank in every heart that only God can fill."

If you are aware of an emptiness in your life, that the so-called pleasures of life are failing to satisfy, then I commend the Lord Jesus to you. He came, He assured us, that you "... may have life, and have it abundantly." (Jn.10:10). That life - eternal life - is available to you, today.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Die spending it!

Although I read the Bible on a daily basis, and although I read plenty of "theological" books, I also enjoy reading a good mystery story, or a thriller. In the story I started to read during "gouter" this afternoon, one of the characters provides the line: "I made my money, and it's all mine. I'll spend it all before I die!"

I am unable to recall the precise wording on a tee-shirt I saw someone wearing, a long time ago. However, it was along the same lines (and those of the heading to this post). It is, undoubtedly, a very natural idea. If I have worked hard to amass a fortune (I haven't, by the way - amassed a fortune, that is!), then it seems only fair that I should enjoy the fruits of my labour, and spend that fortune on myself - doesn't it?!

There is, of course, one major flaw in that attitude - not one of us knows, for certain, when we are going to die! If I had £1million in my bank account, and I want to spend it before I die, then I had better be quick about it. I may die in my sleep tonight; I may be hit by a speeding car, tomorrow; a meteor might, even as I type, be hurtling through the earth's atmosphere, heading directly towards my home, and I have only another 75 secs to live. I suspect that it would be difficult to spend even £10, never mind £1million, on oneself, in 75 secs!

Space, we were told in the early series of Star Trek, was the final frontier for mankind. Not quite true. From a purely human perspective, we know a great deal more about space than we do about death. It is, in our contemporary society, the "taboo" subject. Many refuse to use the word at all! Their loved one has not "died", but "passed away", or "passed over", or simply "passed"; or they have "kicked the bucket", or are (if the funeral, and a burial, have taken place) "kicking up the daisies"!

At least a part of the reason for this is the fear we tend to have, of the unknown. What happens when we die? Is it a case that, as the humanist atheist would have us believe, that we simply cease to exist, and return to the basic elements of which we are composed? Or, perhaps, as those who believe in the concept of reincarnation would claim, that we return in a different body - that may, or may not, be human - depending on how well we have lived this current life?

The Bible says, quite simply that "... it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment," (Heb.9:27). This life is not a rehearsal - it's the real thing. However, that same Bible also makes clear that there need be no fear. Why? Because death, and hell, and the grave have been defeated! At Calvary, just outside the ancient city of Jerusalem, almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son, was crucified for your sins, and for mine. That, in itself, is an amazing truth. He paid the penalty that was, and is, deservedly mine! However, that wasn't the end. For, on the third day, the tomb in which His dead body was laid was found to be empty! He had been raised from the dead, and ;lives forevermore.

This is why the genuine disciple of Jesus has no fear of death. There may be concern about the process of dying, that can often be a long, drawn-out, painful experience. But death itself? Paul wrote: "'O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor.15:55-57). That whole chapter is actually well worth reading!

There is another common saying that "There are no pockets in a shroud", i.e. when I die I will leave behind as much as Bill Gates - everything! (Okay - so his 'everything' will be somewhat more than mine! But you get my point?!). Jesus said: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt.6:19-21). All that I can "take with me" is what I have sent on ahead - my life given over to His control, as I accepted, by faith, the salvation so graciously provided by Him. (see Eph.2:8).

Does the thought of death cause you dismay? Then come to the One Who has conquered death, and let Him lead you through the remainder of your mortal life. You'll never regret it, if you do.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Lessons on the road!

This morning, my wife and I set off to the home of friends, who are dairy farmers. We had been before, but I had failed to "mark the spot" in the sat-nav, so we were following written directions. All did not go as planned!

En route, we were held up by two different sets of roadworks, and then by what looked to be a quite serious RTA (road traffic accident) although, at least, only the one vehicle appeared to be involved. I thought of life and the way in which, however well we plan, there are unexpected obstacles that hold us back.

I remembered Joseph, whose story is recounted in the Old Testament book of Genesis. He certainly had his life all mapped out. Listen: "Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they only hated him the more. He said to them, “Hear this dream which I have dreamed: behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him yet more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind." (Gen.37:5-11).

Of course, as many who read this will be aware, that is not what happened - at least, not immediately! Young Joseph was sold into slavery by his elder brothers; he was falsely accused of sexual assault, and thrown into jail. I suspect that anyone would agree that those were big obstacles to his dream! Of course, that is not the end of the story (well worth reading it all: Gen 37-50), and Joseph's dreams did, in fact, come true!

We continued our journey but, at a particular roundabout, roadworks obscured a sign and we went off on the wrong road! We had travelled about two miles before accepting that we had made a mistake but, when we did, we fed some information into the sat-nav and that got us back on to the right route.

That's a bit like life as well, is it not? We make a mistake, but carry on regardless - because we may not have realised that a mistake was made! However, when we do work out that there is a problem - and one of our own making - often, if not always, the best thing to do is to turn around and go back to the place at which the mistake was made. The Biblical word for that, in spiritual terms, is repentance. It's an absolutely necessary pre-requisite to salvation. It was the proclamation of John the Baptiser: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt.3:2). It was the core message of the earliest preaching of the Lord Jesus: "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was the message preached by the apostles: " Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, ..." (Acts 3:19). It is the message that is proclaimed by true disciples of Jesus, even today. Have you repented, and turned from your sinful way of life, trusting in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for your salvation, and the empowering presence of God the Holy Spirit to help you live your life for Him?

The third lesson from the morning came to me when a small bird - probably a sparrow - flew right across the pathway of the car, only inches above the ground. I hope that I didn't hit it but, if I did, then I would claim that it was to blame! You see, it didn't have to be flying at that level. It was perfectly capable of flying high in the air, well away from the dangers of road traffic.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, concerning those who trust the LORD: "... they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eaglesthey shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." (40:31; emphasis added). The disciple of Jesus need not linger in the lowest places. We may not be able to, physically, fly unaided. However, spiritually, we may soar above the temptations of the enemy - if we are willing to do so!

It was an interesting journey, this morning, with three clear lessons provided. I trust that one, or all, of them may be of help to you as you travel life's journey, and that you may be doing so in the company of the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the best Companion you will ever have!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Independence Day - in Israel.

Today, in Israel, is known as Yom Ha’atzmaut. It is the anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of
Independence in 1948. It is officially observed on the 5th of Iyar according to the Hebrew calendar, although this date is often adjusted by a day or two in order to ensure that the Yom Ha’atzmaut festivities and the Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) commemorations, that take place the day before, do not interfere with the observance of Shabbat. Today was the 69th anniversary of the establishment of the new State of Israel in fulfilment, many are convinced, of the Biblical prophecies concerning the nation - cf. Amos 9:14-15; Ezekiel 37:10-14; Jeremiah 16:14-15 et al.

However, there is another prophecy that is being fulfilled before our eyes. In Gen.18:17-18 we read these words of YHWH (the covenant name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob): "YHWH said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." (emphasis added; see also 22:18, 26:4).

So, how has this prophetic word been fulfilled? Well let me share just some of the achievements of the nation of Israel, since 1948 - and remember that, during that whole 69 years, she has had to deal with the enmity of most of the surrounding nations - with Iran, in particular, making no secret of its desire to see the nation destroyed, and every one of the Children of Israel dead.
  • .
Did you know, for example, that 
  • Israel designed the airline industry’s most impenetrable flight security system;
  • Israel is the only country in the Middle East that based its principles of government on both democratic liberal values and on the values of the Biblical prophets;
  • Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth;
  • Israel has the world’s second highest per capita rate of published books;
  • Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees;
  • Israel has more museums per capita than any country;
  • Israel developed the cell phone, Windows NT and XP operating systems, Pentium MMX Chip technology, the Pentium-4 microprocessor, the Centrino Processor, voice mail technology, and AOL Instant Messenger ICQ;
  • Israel has the highest per capita rate of home computers in the world;
  • Israel designed and implemented the Iron Dome Defense system;
  • Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees in the world;
  • Israel is second in the world in the number of start-up companies behind only the U.S.of A.;
  • Israel has the world’s largest per capita number of biotech start-ups;
  • Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce;
  • Israel is a world leader in water renewal, recycling, desalination, and solar heating;
  • Israel invented the drip irrigation system used around the world;
  • Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for ;breast cancer
  • Israel’s Given Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill that can view the small intestine from the inside to detect for cancer and digestive disorders?
On top of all of that, there is the almost unbelievable improvement in the natural environment where one can see the fulfilment of yet other prophecies. In Isaiah 35 we read: "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon." (vs.1-2). And when will this amazing transformation take place? When "... the ransomed of YHWH shall return, and come to Zion with singing;" (v.10). In other words, when the redeemed Children of Israel return to Jerusalem, and the land that YHWH promised to their forefathers.

Of course, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) executive committee, in its great wisdom (sarcasm should be noted!) decided today in another politicized, anti-Israel decision regarding Jerusalem, that everything Israel does in Jerusalem is illegal. As in the case of past anti-Israel resolutions, the text was authored by Arab states. No hint of bias there, then (further sarcasm!). Let those of us who love Israel, and the Jewish nation, pray for the nation, and against every anti-Semitic move by those who wish only her demise.

L'Chaim Yisrael!

Monday, 1 May 2017

So - IS homosexual sexual activity a "sin"?

I do try to produce my own posts for this blog, and have, only occasionally, reposted material from someone else. However, in a departure from that, I am posting a second offering from David Robertson, minister of St.Peter's Free Church of Scotland, Dundee, as he writes much more eloquently than I. I have left the links that he provides as live links so that those who wish to follow up any of the points made may do so.

The post is, again, longer than those that I normally publish, but is well worth reading to the very end.

It's the burning question of the British General Election.   Our society is obsessed with sex, and especially homosexuality. Or at least that our journalists give that appearance. They seem to think that it is their responsibility and duty to ask any politician who is a Christian what they think of gay sex. Of course they don't ask Sadiq Khan, or any Muslim politician – but that’s another story!
This weekend they have been particularly busy. After the Tim Farron debacle, we have seen the resignation of the Conservative MP Andrew Turner, and Theresa May being asked by Andrew Marr "is gay sex sin?"
Liberal Democrats annual conference 2015
Tim Farron 
Andrew Turner, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, expressed the view in a question-and-answer session in a local school that he thought homosexuality was wrong downloadand dangerous for society. The Guardian  were quick to pounce.  This of course is to commit the unpardonable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy State. Our media are absolutely certain that to say gay sex is a sin, is itself the unforgiveable sin. Labour’s election chair immediately pontificated - “There is no place for bigotry and hatred like this in modern society and no one holding these views is fit for public office.”    Mr Turner has resigned. The thought police have done their job.
Amidst the general outcry and faux pas outrage as the shibboleth question of our culture is used to discriminate against anyone who dares to think differently, there have been occasional glimpses of sanity and light. Nick Cohen’s fascinating article in the Guardian on Tim Farron for example.  Defend Tim Farron, a True Liberal even if it makes us Quesy Amongst many other good points he pointed out the stunning hypocrisy of our politicians:
Jeremy Corbyn worked for Iranian state television and spoke at Khomeinist ralliesin London. Everywhere he went, he looked a willing collaborator with a regime that flogs and executes gay men, treats women as second-class citizens and imprisons trade unionists.
If Corbyn was questioned on this, which he never is, he might say he does not approve of every aspect of Shia theocracy. But he worked for it, and was paid by it, and never found the courage to speak out on Iranian television for the victims of its oppression. A liberal society that condemns one politician who bothers God, but gives a free pass to another who works for a queer-bashing, queer-killing regime is so lost that it may never find its way home again.

Teresa Maydownload-1 was very clear on the Andrew Marr show. Is gay sex a sin? No.   She couldn’t answer why people use foodbanks but on that one issue she knew the answer. Pinknews, the Guardian and the Twitterati were waiting to pounce if she had got it wrong.
The "is gay sex a sin?" question is the shibboleth question of our culture. It is the equivalent to the “have you stopped beating your wife – yes or no?" question. You say yes and you admit to having previously beaten your wife. You say no and you admit to currently beating your wife.
How would I answer this question?   Let’s imagine…..
Journalist:   Is Gay sex a sin?
  • What a fascinating question! In one sense I'm glad you asked it – because it appears as though you accept the whole idea of sin. Of course I'm not very sure what you mean by the question. Are you asking is gay sex harmful? Well you can go and do your own research and you will find that there are a considerable number of STDs and other harmful side-effects of gay sex. After all that's why we just had the Scottish government say they are going to fund the prep drug in order for it to prevent gay men who have multiple partners and engage in unsafe sexual health practices contracting HIV. But I suspect that's not what you're talking about.
I suspect that you are asking is gay sex wrong or immoral? And again that is a very interesting question. Because it presupposes that there is right and wrong. Before I answer that question I would need to ask you if you thought there was any sexual practice that was wrong?
Journalist: I'm the one asking the questions. Why can't you just give a straight yes or no answer?
  • And because I'm the one actually answering, I'd like to know what you are actually asking!   I suspect you're not really asking a question at all – you're just making an accusation, looking for a cheap headline, trying to stir up some kind of fuss. But given that you're an intelligent man do you think it possible that we could have an intelligent discussion? So could you answer my question? Then I promise you I'll answer yours.
Journalist: Obviously there are some sexual practices that are harmful and abusive and therefore wrong.
  • Thank you. Again that is very interesting. How do you know? Who determines what is harmful and abusive? Is being married to 3 women right or wrong? Should you ask Boris Johnson or Nick Clegg if adultery or having multiple partners is right or wrong? What does that have to do with their politics? Why should sex with a 17 year old be right but sex with a 15 year old be wrong? Is bestiality wrong? Incest? Or sex in the middle of the street? Who determines what is right and wrong?
Journalist: Society and the law.
  • But who are society? And who makes the law? By definition it would appear that the rich, the elite and the powerful are those who make the law. What if society decides one day that homosexuality is wrong, would that make it wrong? What if society decides that the Jews need to be removed? Or the Chinese enslaved? Or babies in the womb killed? Who determines what is right and wrong?
Journalist: Now we are getting way off the subject! What is your answer?
  • Actually no. Now we are getting to the very heart of the subject and so I will give you my answer.
I am a Christian. I am an IKEA Christian. What I mean is this. I'm not a very practical person and so when I go to IKEA and buy a chair, I come home and I'm the type of person who counts all the screws, reads all the instructions and follows them to a T. In other words I obey the maker's instructions. To me that's the same with life. My basic position on homosexuality is this:
  • Homophobia in any form is wrong for any Christian. Why should we be afraid of a sexuality - or indeed of any person or group of people? As a Christian I fear only God. I regard all human beings as made in the image of God and all are to be treated with love and respect whatever their ‘sexuality’. I know that there are many people who struggle with issues of identity and sexuality and I don’t think the solutions are as simple as people often make out. But to discriminate, bully or abuse anyone because of perceived sexuality is wrong.

  • God made us as sexual beings and gave us the gift of sex to be used within the context of marriage, and only within the context of marriage. Marriage of course being between a man and a woman. This was done for mutual benefit, the procreation and upbringing of children, and the good of society. Any sex, of whatever type, out with the sacred bond of marriage is wrong. You use the word ‘sin’. Sin is that which goes against what God desires. It is not living up to his standards, or deliberately going against them. In a confused and broken world we are all sinners, whatever our sexuality. That's why we need the Christian gospel, but is also why we should not throw away the laws of God, including the laws on marriage, which are given for human flourishing and benefit.

  • You may disagree with this. But you need to remember that this is the foundation upon which our Judaeo-Christian Western civilisation has been built. Please don't call me a bigot, or imply that I am somehow backward because I don't accept your ill thought out and ultimately harmful view of human sexuality.

  • Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you have a fully thought out, through and worked out philosophy of human sexuality and what it means to be a human being? Maybe you have examples of societies where the Christian view has been rejected and those societies have flourished? Or maybe what you are proposing is some kind of liberal fantasy that is never actually been worked out in reality?
Journalist:   But what about Teresa May? She is a vicar’s daughter and a Christian. Are you saying she is wrong?
  • She is completely wrong. And it’s not just me who says that. The orthodox Christian view is the view of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, Islam and most Protestant churches, including at least officially the Anglican church (although I grant you that in the latter case that doesn't mean all that much!). I'm not in a position to comment on Theresa May's Christianity. For all I know it could be the cultural type, or the therapeutic deistic type, she may even be a confused believer.   I cannot judge her, but I can judge her comments.
Let me explain it this way. In the early years of the Christian church there arose a severe persecution by the Roman Empire against the Christians. Why? The Romans were usually pretty tolerant about different religions, so why pick on the Christians? It is because Christianity challenged the sexual, societal and political views on which the Roman Empire was built. Christians didn't kill their own unwanted children, they didn't sleep with whoever they wanted, they didn't engage in temple prostitution or other forms of sexual immorality. And when they were asked to bow the knee not only to Jesus, but also to Caesar, they refused. And so they were slaughtered. They could so easily have said we will bow to Caesar in public, but in our own hearts and in our own gatherings we bow only to Jesus. But they refused to do that.   Today modern Western society is regressing, not progressing, to a Greco/Roman/Pagan view of the world. Sadly there are many ‘Christians’ who are just going along with the flow, and many who either don’t see it or have just given in to the bullying and pressures that come from that. But not all of us have bowed the knee to Baal.
Journalist: But what harm does it do? Why not just live and let live?
  • Again what a fascinating question. Because that is precisely what you are not allowing us to do. If a Christian does not accept your view of human sex and sexuality you mock, intimidate and bully in order to exclude. You won’t let us have our views (the views on which this society was built) and be involved in public and civic life. Remember the quote above ““There is no place for bigotry and hatred like this in modern society and no one holding these views is fit for public office.”  You call us bigoted and hateful because we uphold the teachings of Jesus Christ!

  • To be honest it's not so much that we are concerned about ourselves – we won't obey you, whatever you say! In a world of illiberal conformism, we are the real radicals! We are concerned about the victims of a sexual philosophy (and I’m not talking here particularly about homosexuality which is only a minor part of this) that causes so much harm.   Do you know what the biggest problem in our society is? It's not whether people think gay sex is or is not a sin. It's the destruction of the family. The state will never replace the family as the basic building block of society. But the shallow, selfish and superficial view of sex as a recreational pastime to be indulged in by whoever, with whomever and wherever you want, has created chaos - especially amongst the poor. That's why we have so much homelessness, broken families, STDs, and even in the 21st-century the return of slavery in Britain - the vast majority of which is sex slavery. When I look at the sex obsessed, disease ridden, pornography swamped, perverted, cheap and abusive society we have become, where prostitution is now termed ‘sex work’, I don’t see a great deal of positive fruit from this new sexual philosophy – do you?
Can you see why I'm upset? I find your line of questioning and the general mockery and smug superiority of our cultural elites really depressing. You don't debate. You don't discuss. You assume, and in your blindness you cannot see the harm you are doing to all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable. Your middle class bourgeois morality inherited from Bertrand Russell, the Bloomsbury group and the so called sixties sexual revolution, may be fine for the wealthy, but for the poor and our society as a whole it has been a disaster.
I guess you have to answer to your bosses (I’ve had many journalists who have said that they can see my point and even basically agree with it, but they would not dare write anything outwith the party line – as you say ‘it would be more than your job is worth’! So much for critical thinking and freedom of the press!). But one day you will have to answer to a greater than your editor, or even than your peers and family.   One day we will all stand before God and he will ask us what we have done with all the tremendous gifts he has given us - life, beauty, music, art, sex, food, science etc.   And, because we suppress the truth by our own wickedness and think we can make it on our own; we will have to admit – we’ve screwed it up. We’ve screwed up our lifes, we’ve screwed up God’s planet and we have created a hell on earth.   Unless of course there is another way – which there is….and that is the way of Christ.
So sorry for the length of this answer – but yes given all that is said above – gay sex, like heterosexual sex outwith marriage, is sin – but its just one of many many sins we all commit. Anything outwith the revealed will of our gracious and loving God is sin.  To ignore this is like buying a petrol car and deciding that you can’t see any harm in filling it with diesel.   I know there are a lot more questions that arise out of this but that will have to wait for another day.   Thanks for listening to me….lets see how you turn that into a 100-word soundbite!
Footnote:   Of course the above conversation would never happen – because our media generally operates in a circular vacuum with little thought given to the deeper issues of life. Some day, somewhere, someone is going to make a stand and challenge the current zeitgeist…meanwhile we just pray and watch Romans 1 being acted out in our midst.