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30 Nov 2020

Demons of addiction

At the moment, during my personal devotions, I am reading through Mark's account of the Gospel. Last week I was reading in chapter 5 - the story about the healing of a demon-possessed man in the country of the Gerasenes: a predominantly Gentile area.

As I read, I sensed that the Lord was speaking to me - not about demon possession, but about demonic influence in certain areas. There are private issues involved that I am not at liberty to share, but what I realised was that at least some of what we refer to as "addictions" are the result of demonic influence - and that such influence is as much in need of being cast out as were the multiple demons that possessed the poor man from the country of the Gerasenes. This realisation (dare I call it a revelation?!) has already caused me to pray differently for some of those who are on my daily prayer list, and who suffer from certain addictions!

However, the Lord continued to speak to me, reminding me of a garden analogy. I may clear a patch of ground, rooting out every single weed, regardless of how small it me be. Yet, if I leave it for just a few weeks, I may be assured that weeds will start to grow again! Whether fresh seed be dropped by birds, or blown in on a breeze, the outcome is guaranteed. I then thought of the words of the Lord Jesus: "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first." (Luke 11:24-26).

So is there anything that can be done to stop this kind of situation from coming to pass? Thankfully, there is! In the garden, I must immediately plant my clean patch with good, strong, healthy plants - flowers, vegetables, or whatever. They will be established before the unwanted seeds can make an entrance, and the few that do manage to take root, will be starved of nutrition, and be easily removed. So in the spiritual realm. Paul writes to the early disciples of Jesus at Philippi: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil 4:8). That's what I must do - fill my mind, my heart, my spirit, with that which is good, and upbuilding, and pleasing to Father God. If I do, then those things that cause me harm, that spoil my testimony, that have a negative effect on my life, will be less likely to take root.

Of course, if I am, myself, a disciple of the Lord Jesus, then I also have the assurance, given by the beloved disciple, John: "Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4). The devil, we must accept, is stronger, and more clever, than you or me. Praise God, however, he is not more powerful than the Lord Jesus, Who dwells in each of His disciples by His Spirit.

P.S. I have wondered, for some days as to whether, or not, I should share this post! However, I realised that someone may read it, who is labouring under an addiction of one sort, or another. It is my prayer that any such will find help here - and, of course, if anyone wishes me to pray for them, then I shall be happy to receive an e-mail (using either the e-mail address from which you received notification of the post or, if you came to the blog from another direction, then using the address at the top) in which you share your own issue(s). Please be assured of total confidentiality.

Amazing Grace

In about 1736, a young boy named John Newton went to sea with his father, on a Merchant ship. A few years later, his father retired and, some time after that John was "press-ganged" into the British Royal Navy. Facing intolerable conditions, he tried to desert, but failed. He was punished, severely, in front of the full ship's complement. Eventually, he was able to transfer to a ship that was going to Africa to collect slaves who would be taken to the British colonies in North America. 

Newton hardened himself to the trafficking of human beings and, eventually, became captain of his own slave ship. He denied God and goodness in every way. Even after he was enslaved himself and escaped, he lacked empathy and went back to being a slaver. However, on May 10th, 1748, his life was changed forever. Off the north-west coast of Ireland, his ship encountered a terrifying, violent storm. As it appeared that the vessel would sink, Newton cried out, "Lord, have mercy upon us!" The storm began to die down, and the ship limped into Lough Swilly. 

Newton recognised, and began to reflect upon, God's mercy. It was the beginning of a spiritual journey that led him to faith in the Lord Jesus, the Christ, and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind, at Calvary. He experienced the amazing grace of the amazing God. In time, he left the slave trade, and entered Christian ministry in the Church of England. Although he became a well-known preacher of the Gospel he is, of course, best known for his much-loved poem (later set to music): "Amazing Grace; how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me" - an amazing testimony of his own experience. 

Not all of us go through physical storms at sea. However, each of us does go through the storms of life, when we feel totally overwhelmed by various experiences. Like John Newton, we may cry out to Almighty God, seeking His mercy. 

In the book of the prophet Isaiah, we read these words: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you so that He does not hear." (Isa 59:1-2). 

At Calvary, the Lord Jesus bridged that gap of separation by His sinless sacrifice. As God the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin we respond to that love, and are born again. God the Holy Spirit now dwells within us, and gives us the power to forsake our sin - doing for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves. That is, truly, amazing grace. May it be your experience, today!

13 Nov 2020

Who, then, is beautiful?

A young woman with whom my wife and I are acquainted was, to be polite, of a substantial build! She works in a retail outlet that we have used quite a lot since coming to France, and one that - outwith the restrictions imposed because of Covid-19 - we still visit occasionally. I think that it must have been before the Covid outbreak that we noticed that she was absent from the shop. One of her colleagues, with whom we are also friendly, explained that she was on extended leave as she was having surgery to remove some of the excess weight that she had been carrying.

Some time later, we called in and, to our delight, she had returned. "Quelle différence !" (What a difference!). Here was this relatively slim young woman looking as happy as could be. It must have been "pre-Covid", because I know that we hugged!!! 

Then some time later again, after the first 'lockdown' in France, I happened to call into the shop. Our friend was, again, missing. I made enquiries, and learned that a customer had insulted her with a comment about her size, in such a way as to cause her emotional problems. 

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. I have seen photographs of females who are, allegedly, "the most beautiful women in the world"! But that is only the opinion of the person who produced the photographs. I have my idea of what a beautiful woman looks like - but a tribal chief in Samoa has a totally different idea as what constitutes real beauty! 

In Genesis 24, we read that Abraham, knowing that he was near to the end of his earthly life, charged his senior servant, Eliezer, that he would not allow Isaac, the son of the promise, to be married to a Canaanite woman, but that he would go and find a wife from among Abraham's own kindred. Eliezer assured Abraham that he would do so, and set off with suitable gifts for the young woman he believed that YHWH, his master's God, would provide.

He asked for a sign: "Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the maiden to whom I shall say, 'Pray let down your jar that I may drink,' and who shall say, 'Drink, and I will water your camels' - let her be the one whom Thou hast appointed for Thy servant Isaac. By this I shall know that Thou hast shown steadfast love to my master." (Gen 24:13-14).

The young woman to whom he was directed was named Rebekah, and she was "... very fair to look upon," (v.16|). But physical beauty was not the crucial point for Eliezer. His prayer gives us an important clue as to the kind of beauty he sought for his master's son. Common courtesy would have prompted Rebekah to provide drinking water for a stranger - but to water camels was a different matter altogether! Ten thirsty camels could drink up to 210 gallons (more than 950 litres!). Rebekah clearly had a servant's heart. She was, in the eyes of others, a physically beautiful young woman. However, she was also  a young woman of beautiful character - and that is much more important. 

The cowboys of the "Wild West" allegedly had a saying about females: "Looks don't last; cookin' do!". There is a lot of truth in that! 

Proverbs 31:10ff is a description that I have often applied to my own dear wife. In v.30 we read "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Of course, the same is true of we males!

Who, then, is beautiful? Those who reflect something of the beauty of the Lord Jesus in their lives; who display His character through their own; who draw others to Him by who they are.

Do you display this kind of beauty? Do I? That's perhaps a question worth pondering! 

7 Nov 2020

The Ultimate Physician

Covid-19 notwithstanding, 21st-century medical science is amazing! Physicians are able to cure many illnesses, both mental and physical; surgeons can perform surgery that, even a few decades ago, would have been considered impossible; therapists can assist in recovery using equipment that can sometimes appear to have been developed by science fiction aficionados. However, only the Lord Jesus can bring about the healing that makes 'bad' people 'good'! 

My former Professor of New Testament at the University of Glasgow, the Rev. Dr. William Barclay, tells of a conversation he had with a noted psychiatrist - and one who recognised his own limitations! "All that a psychiatrist can do," said the doctor, "is strip a man naked until you get to the essential man; and if the essential man is bad stuff, there's nothing you can do about it. That's where you come in!" Prof. Barclay later commented: "I think that he meant that this is where Jesus comes in!"

In Luke's account of the Gospel record, he shares the situation regarding a man named Zacchaeus.  You may read the story in Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was a 'bad' man who needed, not medication, or surgery, or therapy, but inner healing. He was, Luke tells us that "... he was a chief tax collector, and rich." (Luke 19:2). This latter fact is not surprising since, as a chief tax collector, he was able to 'take a cut' from what his subordinates had collected - always more than what the Roman authorities demanded! He was, indeed, a very wealthy man!

However, he appears to have heard about this wandering Teacher, Jesus of Nazareth and, for whatever reason, he wanted to see him. Unfortunately for Zacchaeus, he was a man of great wealth, but small stature. He wasn't the only person in Jericho who wished to see Jesus! Now, if he had been a butcher, a baker, or a pottery maker, people would gladly have ushered him to the front of the crowd. But a tax collector - a chief tax collector?! No way! What was Zacchaeus to do?! 

He did something that must have raised quite a few eyebrows! He climbed a conveniently-situated sycamore tree! To help us to realise what this meant, think of your local Provost, or Mayor, in full ceremonial robes, doing the same thing! To most people, it would probably be quite shocking! But, in this situation, not to Jesus!  He stopped, just under the tree; looked up, and said: "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today." (Luke 19:5). Zacchaeus hurried back down to the ground - as quickly as his flowing robe allowed him! - and Jesus went to his house.

This, to the crowd, was an even bigger shock than seeing Zacchaeus climb the tree! Luke writes: "And when they saw it they all murmured, «He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.»" (Luke 19:7). Zacchaus was a very happy man - or was he? 

I suspect that he was, in fact, overwhelmed with guilt when Jesus looked up and told him that He was coming to his house. Jesus had reached into what that psychiatrist had referred to as "the essential man" - what Zacchaeus really was, stripped of his fine clothes; his luxurious (by contemporary standards) home; his great wealth. The evidence for this is that, as the day progressed, he "... stood and said to the Lord, «Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.»". (Luke 19:8).  That was a sign of true repentance, and a willingness to make full reparation. So, Luke's record ends: "And Jesus said to him, «Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.»" (Luke 19:9-10).

"Today salvation has come to this house, ..." As Jesus spoke those words, Zacchaeus was spiritually healed. Only the Ultimate Physician can do that. And what He did for Zacchaeus, He can, and will, do for you. You may not have the same wealth that Zacchaeus had. You may not exercise the greed that he had exercised. But, like him - and like me! - you are a sinner in the sight of Almighty God. That is the essence of your being. It's in your DNA. The Psalmist-king David penned these words: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Ps. 51:5). That is not making a comment on the act of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife in a Biblical marital relationship! It is merely making the point that, from the moment of my conception, I have been a sinner!

Are you aware of your sinfulness? Are you experiencing guilt? That is because God the Holy Spirit is working in your life. Yield to His prompting, and allow the Ultimate Physician to perform His amazing surgery of the soul.  It will be for your eternal good; and to His eternal glory.


31 Oct 2020


The following arrived in my Inbox, last week. This is a translation of the original French, and required some modification, but I hope that it gets the main idea across! It doesn't just apply to the 'oldies' among us. Even the younger folk may benefit from reading - and applying - it.

« The day has barely started and ... it is already six in the evening.

Monday has barely arrived ... and it's already Friday ... and the month is already over ... and the year is almost over ... and already 40, 50 or 70 years of our lives have passed ... and we realise that we have lost our parents, friends ... and we realise that it is too late to go back ... !!

So ... let's try anyway, to make the most of the time we have left ...

Let's not stop trying to participate in the activities that we like ...

Let's put some colour into our greyness.

Let’s smile at the little things in life that bring peace to our hearts.

And, despite everything, we must continue to take advantage of the time that remains to us with serenity. Let's try to eliminate the "after" ...

I will do it after ...

I will say something after ...

I'll think about it later ...

We leave everything for later as if "after" was ours.

Because what we do not understand is that:

afterwards, the coffee cools down ...

afterwards, the priorities change ...

afterwards, the spell is broken ...

after, health passes ...

afterwards, the children grow up ...

afterwards, the parents get old ...

afterwards, the promises are forgotten ...

afterwards, day becomes night ...

afterwards, life ends ...

And that "after" is often too late!

So ... let's leave nothing until after ...

Because by always waiting until after, we may lose 

the best moments,

the best experiences,

the best friends,

the best family!

The day is today ... The moment is now ...

Not one of us is at an age when we can afford to postpone what needs to be done right away until tomorrow.

Perhaps if you have read this post you will wish to share it.

Or maybe you will leave it for ... "after"!

And, then, you will never share it. »

All of that reminded me of a poem that I have also used when speaking about procrastination (putting off until 'tomorrow' what should have been done today). It reads like this:

‘Tomorrow’, he promised his conscience,
‘Tomorrow, I mean to believe.
Tomorrow, I'll think as I ought to,
Tomorrow, the Saviour receive.                                                                                               
Tomorrow, I'll conquer the habits                                                                                                                That hold me from Heaven away.’                                                                                                                But ever his conscience repeated                                                                                                          One word, and one only – ‘Today!’

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
Thus, day after day, it went on.
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
’Til youth, like a vision, had gone;
’Til age, and his passions, had written
The message of fate on his brow;
And forth from the shadows came Death,
With the pitiless syllable, ‘Now!’”                      (Author unknown)

Paul wrote, very simply: "... we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For He says, "At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation." Behold, now is the acceptable time ; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor. 6:1-3; emphases added).

While I was still teaching, I attended the funeral service of one of my pupils - a lad of about 16 years of age. Shortly after I retired, I attended the funeral service for a former pupil - a lad of about 18/19 years of age. Earlier this year, I was informed of the death of another former pupil - a young man of about 40 years of age. Death, sadly, is no respecter of age. For any one of us - including me - today may be our last day in the mortal bodies we currently inhabit.

This is why there is an urgency in the Gospel message. This life is not merely a 'rehearsal'. This is "it"! Those who die without the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour, go to a lost eternity. It is only thse who are "in Him" who are assured eternal life in His presence. 

Don't leave it until "tomorrow", or "after". Do to now! If I may be of any help, please feel free to contact me by e-mail, at the address given at the top of the page.