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Friday, 16 June 2017

Well, he's a Christian!

One of the headlines in the MSM during the past week - later, understandably, overshadowed by the tragedy of Grenfell Tower - was to do with the resignation of of Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrat party. His stated reason for having arrived at the decision to do so was that he felt it "impossible" to be Lib Dem leader while "living as a faithful Christian" and that he wants "to remain faithful to Christ".


How dare he?! What right has he to seek to live "as a faithful Christian"? I mean, how totally illiberal is that?!!



Being back in the UK for a brief visit, I was able to read today's edition of the free newspaper "Metro". In it, someone named Sophy Ridge defended a TV programme that she apparently hosts - "Sophy Ridge on Sunday". She confesses that, on her programme she "... pressed him for his personal views on abortion. Some viewers believed that I was wrong to do so - that his private belief should remain just that, private. Mr Farron accused me of 'banging on' about his faith. In his resignation statement he said: 'I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and Who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society."


I confess to having had no time at all for Tim Farron and the Lib Dem's insistence that the 2016 referendum result was the result of people not knowing what it was for which they were voting. I was extremely disappointed when he eventually gave in to the badgering and - it is claimed, on the advice of others - declared that the "marriage" of homosexuals or lesbians, is not a sin. In making that statement, he went totally against the teaching of the Bible (although not of certain major denominations!).

Ms Ridge continues, in an attempt to defend herself, by writing that "Voters have a right to know what their political leaders believe in. Gay men have a right to know if politicians believe they are committing a sin when they 'make love' (my quotation marks!), and women who have had abortions have a right to know whether politicians think they have done something wrong." She may have a point! However, when Muslim Sadiq Khan was campaigning for the position of mayor of London, I do not recall any reporter, journalist, or TV 'celebrity' asking him if he believed that homosexual activity is sinful! Considering the treatment of homosexuals - and adulterers (well, the female involved!) - by his fellow Muslims, I wonder what his answer would have been. If he had been interviewed by Ms Ridge, would she have pressed him for a definitive answer if he had prevaricated in the least? Somehow, I think not! It is, and for some time has been, "open season" on those who claim to be disciples of Jesus, while Muslims have become a "protected species"!

My friend, David Robertson, ends his own comment on the Tim Farron situation with these words: 

"Tim Farron has done us all a big favour.

His warm, clear and impassioned plea for religious tolerance is what needs to be said – and acted upon. His example of giving up his role as leader of the party when faced with the choice of his Christian faith or his political career is shining: "I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.  Imagine how proud I am to lead this party.  And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something 'so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all'."
We need Christians who will get their hands dirty and get involved in politics (we really don’t need the opposite – politicians who get involved with and seek to use Christianity for political ends). We need Christians who will be faithful – even to the point of committing political suicide. The love of Christ demands our heart, our life, our all.  And we need a Church which, instead of turning itself inside out in order to fit the culture, seeks to turn the world upside down."
May all of us, who also claim to be disciples of Jesus, be prepared to put serving Him first; make Him our priority; serve Him above all else. Then, perhaps, the world will see that serving Jesus does make a difference - and a positive difference. 
Some eighteen hundred years ago, a man known as Justin Martyr claimed that good Christians make good citizens. Let those of us who follow the Saviour prove him right - whether we are in the political spotlight, or not.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Blood relatives.

Many of us will remember the tradition, in some cultures, of a "blood brother" - with the ceremony of cutting one's arm and mixing the  blood with the blood of another who had also cut his arm. Of course, in a western culture, the expression "blood relative", tends to refer to those who have the same parents, or grandparents, or whatever.

However, on Sunday, I listened to a young Afro-American refer to his brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus as his "blood-brothers and sisters". It was something of a revelation to me! Yet, I realised, instantly, how true the description is!

What is a disciple of Jesus? I have, in the past, preached a number of sermons seeking to answer that very question. Indeed, I suspect that I have dealt with it, over the years, in this blog! However, the very least that one may say is that a true disciple of Jesus is one who has been washed in the sacrificial blood of the Saviour. It is that blood that, "... cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7). It is that blood that is the "crimson flow" of which the hymn-writer speaks: "Oh precious is the flow that washes white as snow. No other fount I know; nothing but the blood of Jesus." (Robert Lowry:1826-1899).

The same blood is necessary for all, and available for all. It is necessary because "... without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb.9:22). It is available for all because "... Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;" (I Peter 3:18).

This, of course, ties in with the whole idea of disciples of Jesus being brothers and sisters; adopted into the family of Father God. We are "... all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal.3:28). I now realise that we are "blood relatives" - not because we have shed our own blood (although so many in the persecuted church in more than sixty countries around the world, are faithful to the Christ, even to the shedding of their blood, and physical death), but because, on a hill called Calvary, almost 2,000 years ago, He shed His.

Are you my blood-brother/sister? Please don't be put off by what you know (or even think you know!) about me! Look to Jesus "... the pioneer and perfecter of our faith Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb.12:2). If you are washed in His blood, then you are His blood brother/sister also. Now that is something really worthwhile!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

It would be nice to be able to claim that the heading to this post is original! It isn't - but it surely sums up the results of Thursday's General Election from a Conservative Party perspective. When Mrs May(be; maybe not) decided (having constantly said that she would not do so) to go to the country, the Conservatives had a substantial lead, in the polls, over Labour. During the campaigning period, the PM seemed to work hard at reducing that lead - and, in that she did have considerable success! The result is that we have a minority government in Westminster, dependant upon the DUP to survive! Now, if "the big fella" (aka the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley, decd.) was still in charge, that would be, in my opinion, a much more interesting situation!

So what went wrong? Well, political pundits have been speculating on that for more than 24 hours and, from the perspective of most (all?!) of them, their conclusions may have much validity. One could say, fairly, that the PM was badly advised. It might be claimed that she ought not to have called the General Election in the first place. Many believe that she is as dithering, and useless, a PM as she was Home Secretary. "She was a dreadful Home Secretary, she has been a dreadful Prime Minister and dreadful election party leader who ran a dreadful election campaign." (Melanie Phillips). There are those who claim that the Labour campaign was much better than anyone had expected - and, of course, the sudden "illness" of the Shadow Home Secretary, and her immediate replacement, was certainly a master-stroke!

However, if we step back, and seek to look at the situation from a different perspective, is it possible that we are simply seeing the hand of Almighty God in all of this? I believe that this is most certainly the case. The big question, in my mind, is: "Is it the hand of judgement on a nation that has turned its back upon Him, and departed so far from His ways?" As I read that the Episcopal Church (ought that word to be placed within quotation marks?!) in Scotland has joined the Kirk in its acceptance of so-called "marriage" for homosexuals and lesbians - with the Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow stating that: “it's time for the church to celebrate what is celebrated in secular society” (rather than seeking to challenge secular society with the full Gospel of the Lord Jesus, the Christ); as I see the increasing marginalisation of the Judaeo-Christian heritage that has shaped so much of our nation's history; as I watch, with great sadness, the deliberate corruption of children with "transgenderism" being introduced to even primary schools; as I am aware of the way in which Islam is constantly deferred to (not least by the current PM, especially when she was HS!); I am inclined to answer that question positively. 

So what do we do in such a situation? Thankfully, it is not without precedent. As we read the pages of the Tanakh (the "Old Testament") we discover that the nation of Israel often came under the judgement of Almighty God. (see, e.g. Isaiah 5:5-7). This should not have surprised them! Words that are often quoted out of context are "... if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (II Chron.7:14). But, as always, context is important! So we read in the previous verse, the words of YHWH: "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, ..." In other words, the promise is a response to a nation that has suffered judgement. 

The following verses are also important: "... if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from the land which I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which is exalted, every one passing by will be astonished, and say, ‘Why has YHWH done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they forsook YHWH, the God of their fathers, Who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this evil upon them.’” (vs.19-22).

In days past, we had leaders who were neither ashamed, nor afraid, to call for a national day of prayer for the nation. I know that, in a number of church buildings, on Thursday, people were gathering to pray - not for any particular party or individual, but that God's will might be fully accomplished. I choose to believe that His will is, indeed, being fulfilled in this day and age, as in any other.

In my personal devotions, every day, I pray for this nation and its leaders. I pray that the Lord will raise up men and women of faith and integrity to positions of secular power, and influence, and authority. I pray that the nation will be hauled back from the brink of godless disaster. I pray that it will become a nation in which the Name of Jesus is respected by all, and honoured and exalted, by many.

Will you join with me in praying in such a way? Perhaps, if we do, we will discover that the Lord Who judges is also loving and merciful and gracious - and be, once again, the recipients of that love, and mercy, and grace. It will be for our good - and for His eternal glory.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Tee-shirts, and answers!

We (my wife and I) are now back in Scotland for just under two weeks, in order to spend some time with our family, and to meet up with as many friends as we can fit into the time available. On the ferry from Dunkerque to Dover I noticed a gentleman of mature years wearing a tee-shirt on which was emblazoned the statement "I am liable, at any moment, to break into a conversation about motorbikes." The words may not be totally verbatim - but the message was clear. This was a man who is passionate about motorbikes!

I found myself thinking, first of all, of the reaction of different people to his tee-shirt slogan. There would be those who, like himself, are motorbike enthusiasts. I can imagine that they would be delighted to enter into conversation with him - sharing their own knowledge and experiences, and listening to his. A second group might have a mild interest in motorbikes, and they would undoubtedly have questions that they would wish to ask of someone so obviously involved in the world of biking. A third group, I suspect, would run a mile just to get away from this obvious motorbike fanatic/extremist!

Then I had a further thought! What if those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus were to wear tee-shirts that proclaimed: "I am liable, at any moment, to break into a conversation about Jesus" - or words to that effect? The probability is that we would be faced with similar responses. There would be those who are fellow-disciples, and who would be delighted to have a chat with us, sharing our common experience of the way in which the Lord has worked - and continues to work - in our lives. There might be some who have been wondering about the Christian faith, and who would be glad to have the opportunity to speak with us, and ask some questions. There would certainly be those who would run a mile to get away from such "religious extremist Bible-bashers"! There would also be those, I regret to have to say, who would ridicule us, or even attack us, because of our stand for Jesus.

However, we would certainly have made clear that we are "..not ashamed of the gospel:[knowing that] it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, ..." (Rom.1:16). Of course, we would also have to ensure that we are "... prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, ..." (I Peter 3:15).

And now, the answers to the Pentecost quiz:

1. (b)
2. (b)
3. (a)
4. (c)
5. (c)
6. (b)
7. (a)
8. (a)
9. (c)
10. (a)

I hope that you did well!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Birthday Anniversary Quiz!

Former pupils who happen to check out this blog will appreciate the title. I always pointed out that, physically, we have only one birthday - the day of our physical birth. After that, we celebrate the anniversary of that day, usually on an annual basis (although one does eventually reach a stage at which the numbers don't really matter, and the day is little different from any other!).

Tomorrow is the celebration of the Jewish festival of the Day of Pentecost (Shavuot), the first if which in the Christian era is generally considered to be the day on which the Christian Church was born. It was as Peter preached his Biblical message on that day that 3,000 were saved.

So, here is a wee quiz to check what you know about the first disciples of Jesus!

1. The disciples of Jesus started preaching about Him
       (a) the day after He died;
       (b) shortly after His death;
       (c) years later.
2.  Their first message was that
       (a) Jesus had been wrongly convicted;
       (b) Father God had raised Jesus as Lord and King;
       (c) people should love one another.
3.  They started to preach after
       (a) God the Holy Spirit came upon them;
       (b) a democratic vote;
       (c) their leaders had decided that the time was right.
4.  They asked their hearers to
       (a) accept that they were right;
       (b) be more religious;
       (c) allow Jesus to change their lives.
5.  When the authorities told them to stop, they
       (a) did what they were told;
       (b) organised a mass resistance movement;
       (c) prayed, and then continued to preach.
6.  Their message was based on
       (a) inner experience;
       (b) facts about Jesus;
       (c) philosophical ideas.
7.  Their preaching was accompanied by
       (a) miracles;
       (b) impressive arguments;
       (c) mob hysteria.
8.  The disciples were noted for
       (a) their love for one another;
       (b) their exclusivity;
       (c) their financial acumen.
9.  Their enemies accused them of
       (a) being old-fashioned;
       (b) being narrow-minded;
       (c) turning the world "upside-down".
10. There members were from
       (a) every social class;
       (b) the ruling classes;
       (c) the well-educated people.

Okay, see how you get on. I shall endeavour to publish the correct answers within the next few days!