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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.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

What price life?

This is the blog post from David Robertson that I thought that I had simply "Shared" on Facebook! However, only my own comment explaining why I had done so has appeared in the public arena! 
I share it here so that it may reach as wide an audience as possible. As always, he expresses my own sentiments better than I can do myself! Well worth the read. 

The Real ‘Dirty Deal’ – Abortion, Northern Ireland, the BMA, Killing white babies and Sacking the Disability Commissioner 

Wheeling and Dealing

Politics is all about deals and compromises – especially if you have a minority government, like the current UK situation. In such circumstances in order for a government to get their programme through there has been a great deal of wheeling and dealing. The Democratic Unionist Party are masters at this and as a result they have got the people of Northern Ireland a good deal. Despite the faux pas outrage of Labour and the SNP you have to admire the DUP for doing what politicians are supposed to do – get the best for their electorate.  And of course Labour and the SNP are being hypocritical as they too were previously prepared to work with the DUP as this clip so brilliantly puts it.

The Real Dirty Deal

But there was a real dirty deal done today. Labour’s Sheila Creasy took the opportunity offered by the vote on the Queens speech to put forward an amendment offering women in Northern Ireland, free abortions on the NHS in England and Wales (the Scottish government had already said they would do the same).   Northern Ireland does not permit abortion except is cases of danger to the mothers life and serious dangers to mental health.   It is a devolved matter and therefore has nothing to do with the UK parliament – which did not stop Labour promising to impose a liberal abortion law on Northern Ireland.  The Supreme Court recently decided that it was not a human right to have an abortion and that it was up to the Northern Ireland Assembly to determine about abortion.  The UK government were opposed to offering free abortions but because they feared that several Tory MPs would support the amendment the government, wanting to avoid defeat on this amendment, found the money to make that offer.

There are so many things that are illogical and immoral about this decision.

We are told this is an issue for justice. Where is the justice for the unborn child?  Parents occasionally show me the photo/scan of their child at 12 weeks in the wodownloadmb.  You can see the limbs, the features of a human being.  But people want to say that she is an it.  That he is not human but just a lump that can be removed.  The fact is that it is not just the woman’s body – there is at least one other human body involved.

We are told that the NHS is desperately short of money. Why then can £1 million be found to provide for babies to be killed?  People are rightly angry and asking about the justice for the 80 who died in the Grenfell tower fire. So why are we not upset that the UK government just offered to pay to kill around 1,000 Northern Irish babies in the womb in English hospitals?
We are told that the fact that the DUP are opposed to abortion is a sign that they are backward and out of step with everyone else.  Are Sinn Fein for abortion – given their Catholic roots? What about all the Labour MPs who are Catholic? Are they too spineless to stand up for their faith?   What is progressive and forward thinking about killing children in the womb? And why stop there? Why not have post-birth abortion if parents don’t want to keep their babies?

The BMA Betrayal

But it wasn’t only the politicians who were engaging in this culture of death – the BMA (British Medical Association) were joining in. BMA Votes to Decriminalise Abortion
In a decision that I suspect does not reflect many of the views of its members, but rather the politics of its leadership, the BMA this week voted to ask the government to decriminalize abortion. What many people do not realize is that abortion is illegal in the Dr-Peter-Saunders-Care-Not-Killing-AllianceUK – except when two doctors agree that the health of the woman or the baby is in danger (the latter part always confused me – killing someone to improve their health doesn’t really work logically!). The BMA in seeking to change that are in effect seeking to permit abortion on demand up to birth. If you really need to know what is wrong with this, my good friend Dr Peter Saunders sets it out clearly – Why Decriminalising Abortion is Harmful
The fact is that the BMA have gone against the Hippocratic oath – – “Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion”. They have gone against every principle of medicine, justice and humanity – just to go along with the current political and culture of death zeitgeist.

The Depths of Meduza

There was one other abortion story this week – which reaches even lower depths. The feminist magazine Meduza had an article that argued that white women should have abortions in order to bring justice to non-whites! I had assumed it was a spoof but apparently not. Abort White Babies
White women: it is time to do your part! Your white children reinforce the white supremacist society that benefits you. If you claim to be progressive, and yet willingly birth white children by your own choice, you are a hypocrite. White women should be encouraged to abort their white children, and to use their freed-up time and resources to assist women of color who have no other choice but to raise their children.

Who needs a Disability Commissioner?

Finally another note on the same issue – The Times reported that Lord Shinkwin, who is Britain’s disability commissioner has been fired from his role. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had decided that his role was no longer needed.   Lord methodesundaytimesprodwebbinea272442-58eb-11e7-806b-08bec0454923Shinkwin had argued passionately for equality for the disabled, including in the womb. Hence he needed to go. Because as I pointed out in this article in the Scotsman – Human rights are determined by the elites and are not subject to challenge. Some people have more rights than others. The child in the womb and the disabled do not share the same human rights as others (and I suspect that the poor, the elderly and the sick had better watch out as well).

What can we do in the midst of such rampant evil?

We must stand for the truth. We must speak up for the weak and defenceless.   Something which the church at its best as always done.   Traudl Junge (Hitler’s’ secretary) tells us what he thought about this Christian tendency.
“Sometimes we also had interesting discussions about the church and the development of the human race. Perhaps it’s going too far to call them discussions, because he would begin explaining his ideas when some question or remark from one of us had set them off, and we just listened. He was not a member of any church, and thought the Christian religions were out-dated, hypocritical institutions that lured people into them. The laws of nature were his religion. He could reconcile his dogma of violence better with nature than with the Christian doctrine of loving your neighbour and your enemy. ‘Science isn’t yet clear about the origins of humanity,’ he once said. ‘We are probably the highest stage of development of some mammal which developed from reptiles and moved on to human beings, perhaps by way of the apes. We are a part of creation and children of nature, and the same laws apply to us as to all living creatures. And in nature the law of the struggle for survival has reigned from the first.
Everything incapable of life, everything weak is eliminated. Only mankind and above all the church have made it their aim to keep alive the weak, those unfit to live, and people of an inferior kind.” (Until the Final Hour –p108)
Indeed. That is our aim.  To keep alive the week, those others consider ‘unfit to live’ and ‘people of an inferior kind’.   We are Christians.  We recognise that all human beings are made in the image of God.  All life is precious to us. On that we will not compromise or do deals. In the words of a far greater German than Hitler –  “here we stand, we can do no other”!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Good, or Evil?!

As I sit typing this post, I am amazed that it can be - and is! - read by people from all over the world; people whom I have never met, and am unlikely ever to meet. Of course, this same technology permits what is known as cyber-bullying, that has led to the suicidal deaths of many. It permits the ready availability of pornographic images of the most despicable kind, that lead to broken relationships, and to sexual activity of the most depraved types. It permits violence to be freely displayed, leading to acts of violence of all kinds.

When radio was first introduced, many disciples of Jesus said "It's evil! The satan is the prince of the power of the air." Some were so against this new invention (discovery?!) that they would not even countenance its use in the proclamation of the Gospel! What would some of them have thought about television - and the internet?!

Johannes Gutenberg, the "father of printing" was working one day, in his cell in the Monastery of St. Aborsgot when he seemed to hear a voice warning him that the power of his invention - the printing press - would enable bad men to propagate their wickedness, and that posterity would curse its inventor! He took a hammer, and broke the type into pieces. It then seemed that another voice spoke. It urged him to persist in perfecting his invention, and declared that although it might be used for evil, the Lord would also make it the fountain of infinite good, and that right would ultimately triumph.

The printing press, in itself, was neither good nor evil - and the same thing is true of radio, television, cinema, the internet, and almost any other invention/discovery that you may care to name. It is their usage that determines if they turn out to be a benefit, or a curse! [If you haven't already done so, you might consider signing the petition at ]

We are living at a time of unprecedented advances and developments. The question is; "What are we going to do with the fruits of all of this progress?" The same nuclear power that provides electricity, can also be used to destroy whole cities. The choice is ours! So, rather than condemn something because it is new, let us determine, with God's help, to use whatever He places in our hands - for good rather than for evil.