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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Colour blindness

I must confess that, until last evening, I thought that "colour blindness" involved no more than an inability to distinguish between certain colours; and I had never even heard of "Enchroma" spectacles.

However, a video clip on Facebook has set me right. Here is the YouTube link:

I hope that you found that to be as informative - and as moving - as I did! It certainly set my mind off in a particular direction. I recall, away back in the 1970s when I was the minister to St.Andrew's Parish Church in Bellshill, inviting the Rev Dr Leonard Small, who had been the Moderator of the Presbytery of Edinburgh when I was ordained to "the holy ministry of Word and Sacrament", to preach at the first anniversary of my induction to St.Andrew's. When he spoke to the children, Dr Small used the example of colour television, as against the monochrome television that most people still had, to illustrate the difference that becoming a disciple of Jesus makes in the life of an individual - regardless of age.

Life without Jesus is, in fact, colourless. It is bland and, in reality, uninteresting. Now, of course, if one has known nothing else, one is excited by monochrome television, and cannot conceive of anything better - until one sits in front of a colour television screen! William Reed probably did know that he was 'missing out'. He undoubtedly, during his 66 years of life up to the day of the video, heard others speak about these 'strange' concepts of red, and blue; green and yellow; brown and pink; etc. But he could only experience black and white (and. possibly, shades of grey).

Jesus said: "I have come that they (i.e. you and me) might have life in all its fulness". (John 10:10; emphasis added). What He was saying is that, without His input, we merely exist; we do not know what true living is all about. It is NOT about parties, and drugs, and sex, and fast cars, and the latest in computerised technology, and making as much money as possible as easily as possible. Oh, that's how a lot of people see it - but they are living monochrome lives! If you watched the video, you will know that William Reed was gifted a special pair of spectacles - Enchroma spectacles - that, somehow, enable him to now see all of the colours that were hitherto hidden from his sight. That's a bit like responding positively to the message of the Gospel that is summed up in the words of John 3:16: "God loved the world (that's you and me, again!) so much that, in the Persona (not a typo - see my book "Great Words of the Faith", the chapter on the Trinity) of the Son - Jesus - He gave Himself on the cross at Calvary, paying the penalty for your sin, and for mine, and enabling us to know, here and now, His own eternal life." (my paraphrase!).

Many years ago, one of the songs that I sung when on a deputation, had these words:

"Heaven above is softer blue,
earth around is richer green;
something lives in every hue,
Christless eyes have never seen:
songs of birds in sweetness grow,
flowers with deeper beauties shine,
since I know, as now I know,
I am His and He is mine."

It's like receiving a pair of spiritual Enchroma spectacles - and life is never the same.

I am delighted for William Reed. I would be even more delighted to know that he has accepted the Lord Jesus as his Saviour and Lord. I would be delighted to learn that you had done so as well - if you have not already made that decision. As always, if I can be of any assistance, please contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the blog. I don't access that Inbox on a daily basis but, as soon as I access your e-mail, I will respond. Blessings, and shalom.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Evolution - is it reality?!

Okay, later than intended (due to my failure to publish the previous post when I had intended to do so!), a few comments on the film that my wife and I watched at the "Cité de l'Océan" exhibition in Biarritz.

As already stated, the English-language version was narrated by David Attenborough - a convinced evolutionist. This meant that everything was interpreted as evidence for Charles Darwin's celebrated theory. There, of course, is the first problem for what is now known as "neo-Darwinism" - it is a theory! 

Now, I have been challenged on that claim before now. I have been told that the word "theory", when used by Darwin, does not mean what most people understand by it! What has never been made clear to me is what it does mean! The dictionary definition of "theory" will be slightly different depending on which particular dictionary is used. However, the Cambridge English Dictionary states that a theory is: "a formal statement of the rules on which a subject of study is based or of ideas that are suggested to explain a fact or event or, more generally, an opinion or explanation." In other words, a theory is not a proven fact! 

What I found interesting in the film that we watched, was the frequent use of the word "perhaps"! "Perhaps" this happened; "perhaps" that happened; "perhaps" something else happened! However, in the next sentence, that "perhaps" had become an established fact! That, I have to say, is something that I have discovered to be the case, over and over again, throughout a goodly number of years being interested in the subject. 

Science should be, I would claim, a constant seeking after knowledge. "The scientist ... must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors." (J.Robert Oppenheimer; Physicist). True science should look at evidence, not close its eyes to anything that doesn't fit its own particular ideas. A scientific "fact" is something that is both observable, and repeatable. The theory of evolution is neither!

On the other hand, when I observe the world around me - whether I look at the delicate petals of a tiny flower; the exquisite colours and patterns of the wings of some butterflies; the night sky with its myriad of stars, all moving in such a way that we are able to predict where they will be, in our line of vision, in six months' time - or sixty years!; a murmur of starlings performing their aerial acrobatics in the sky above me; an aeroplane taking off from the nearby Bergerac Airport; or a thousand and one other things; I see overwhelming evidence of design, and planning, and creation.

I am, of course, a fully convinced creationist - and I make no apology for being so. I would also claim that I am not some uneducated, mentally retarded, 'brainwashed', person. I have a considerable list of formal academic qualifications, and (for what it's worth!) a reasonable IQ. However, even if one does not accept the existence of a supernatural Being, Who created all that exists by the power of His Word, and to Whom, in the English language, we ascribe the nomenclature "God", I fail to understand how any unbiased, right-minded, person can fail to see order and design all around us.

Of course, "intelligent design" (ID) does raise the question of the identity of the Designer - but that is another issue!

If you have the time, and the inclination (and almost an hour to spare!), I commend this video to you. If, part of the way through, you decide that you don't wish to watch any more, at least scroll to 55'50 - and make sure that you wait until 56'00! You may be surprised!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Evolution, and Reality.

I apologise! It would appear that, having previewed this post on Friday evening, I failed to publish it! Désolé!

My wife and I are currently spending a few days with friends who live in the Basque Region of SW France. When the arrangement was made, we had anticipated time at the beach and maybe even a swim in the sea! Sadly, the weather conditions are not conducive to such activities! :-(

However, we are still able to get out and about and, today, we drove to Biarritz and visited a major exhibition entitled "Cité de l'Océan". It was fascinating, and we learned a great deal about the oceans of the world; the many forces behind wave production; and denizens of the deep of which we had previously been unaware.

Two experiences stood out,especially, for me. One was "Virtual Surfing" - my first ever experience of the use of virtual reality technology. The other was a forty-minute, 3-D film, based on the Galapagos archipelago, and narrated by (in the English language version) David Attenborough. As with the other exhibits, it was totally biased towards the theory of evolution (no surprise there!).

Many years ago, I was invited to produce an article for a German Christian magazine on the subject of "Reality". Having made reference to, and quoted from, figures such as Plato, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, I posed the question: "Is true reality to be found in that dimension that we call the spiritual?" I then suggested that, if the spiritual dimension is indeed the true reality, then it follows that ultimate reality is the Being Who exists eternally; is neither created nor destructible; and who, in the English language, is referred to as God! 

Stephen Hawking has stated, somewhere, that: "The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary. The universe would be completely self-contained, and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE!" Take out the references to "the universe", and replace them with references to God and, with one exception, we would have a not unreasonable definition of the "Immortal, ineffable, God only wise; in light inaccessible hid from our eyes" Who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Christ.

However, that one exception is of eternal significance! It is in the words "... not affected by anything outside itself." Because the core of the Christian Gospel is that Almighty God is affected by something outside Himself. And that something is your sin, and mine. But, being One Whose very essence is love - and neither the sentimentalism, nor the eroticism, that is passed off as 'love' in our contemporary culture; but the unconditional, immeasurable, unending love that is expressed by the Greek word 'agape' - He was not prepared to let our sin cut us off from His love, and from a living relationship with Himself. His justice demanded that justice be meted out; His love took that punishment upon Himself as, in the Persona (NOT a typo - see the chapter on The Trinity in my book: Great Words of the Faith) of the Son, He hung on a man-made cross, and died the death that we deserve. He paid the price that we might go free, and now offers salvation, and real life - "... life in all its fulness." (Jn.10:10).

Virtual reality may be great fun - but it is virtual! It is not genuine; it is fake. Certainly for the disciple of Jesus, true reality is found, as is salvation, only in Jesus the Christ. May this be the experience of all who read these words. It will be for your good; and for His glory.

I'll comment on the evolution film in the next post!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Defending a lion?!

Budding evangelists, and those who wish to witness more overtly concerning the Christian faith, could do a lot worse than take some lessons from that star evangelist, the Apostle Paul.

Dr Luke records, in Acts 17:1-15, two basic requirements for effective sharing of the Gospel message. The first of these is, quite simply, to concentrate on the Lord Jesus:

"Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ'.” (vs.1-3)

It is Jesus Who is the centre of the Gospel message, rather than the benefits He confers. Paul stressed two specific points. First of all, the historic man, Jesus, is the Messiah (the Christ). No one can properly respond to Jesus, the Christ, until they are sure as to Who He is. This requires the study of His claims, and how they were vindicated by His life, and His final triumph over the grave. Secondly, we need to be confident about the theological explanation of why it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.In other words, granted the facts, what do they mean? So the Gospel proclamation must be Christ-centred, factual, and theological.

However, as we read on, and discover that Paul has now arrived in Beroea, we learn the second requirement. That is to use the Scriptures! So we read:

"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so." (v.11)

The Christian message is reasonable, but its reasons should be drawn from the written Word. This is the weapon that God has placed in our hands. This is "... the sword of the Spirit ..." (Eph.6:17). At Beroea, the preaching was made doubly effective because the hearers checked what they heard by the touchstone of God's Word - which was, of course, for them, the Tanakh (the Jewish Scriptures; what we know as the Old Testament!). I suspect that there are many in churches today who have not yet caught on that the early church did all of its evangelisation with just the Old Testament to hand. Check out Peter's great sermon on the first Day of Pentecost of the Christian era (Acts Acts 2:14ff); Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26ff); and note that when Paul writes to Timothy and tells him that "All scripture is inspired by God and[a] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (II Tim.3:16-17) he is referring only to the Old Testament of which, he also states, Timothy has from his childhood, "... been acquainted ..." (v.15). Because of Paul's use of the Tanakh, many believed (Acts 17:12). When our arguments make no headway, the written Word will often strike home, simply because it is the living Word of the living God. There is great power in the Word - power to convict; power to convert; power to construct (or 'build up' - but I do like my alliteration!!).

Even although others distort, dilute, diminish, deny, and even seek to destroy the truth of God's Word, the faith remains unaltered - this "faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude:3).

It was C.H.Spurgeon who once remarked: "Defend the Bible? I would as soon think of defending a lion!" Use the Word to share the Saviour. It's a great combination.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

A principled man!

Prior to the referendum on the United Kingdom's continuing membership of the European Union, I don't think that I had ever heard of the Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Member of Parliament (Conservative) for North-East Somerset. However, his obvious depth of knowledge; his razor-sharp wit; his debating prowess; his ability to make his point in a mature, gentlemanly manner; and his overall demeanour; caused me to look more closely at this man - whose name suggests that he lives in an élite bubble, unaware of the circumstances of "ordinary" people (although that is, quite obviously, not the case!).

I have continued to keep a close eye on "JRM" in the many months since the result of that referendum was announced - even although the government have not yet represented the will of the majority of UK voters. He has become, as many will be aware, the favourite to replace Theresa "Sharia" May(be, maybe not!) as Prime Minister, and has an enviable following in social networking - many of his followers being from the younger generation!

Of course, this has meant that he is suddenly the man every radio and television presenter wishes to interview. One such interview, was on Good Morning Britain, which aired yesterday morning, and in which Mr. Rees-Mogg, in answer to a question, told presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid that he supported the teaching of the Catholic church and opposed gay marriage, adding: “The teaching of the Catholic Church is completely clear.” He was also asked if his opposition to abortion included cases of rape and incest, and replied: “I’m afraid so. Life is sacrosanct and begins at the point of conception, and I think it is wrong.”

My first reaction to the reports of this interview was to be grateful for a modern MP who is not only a man of principle, but who is not going to hide his principles for the sake of "popularity". Of course, the usual leftie-liberal-luvvies went into a hyper-ventilated frenzy of opprobrium. "This homophobe wants to take us back to the 18th century" may not have been said, verbatim - but it sums up a fair number of the comments that I have since read by those who believe that they have the freedom to publicly disagree with JRM's personal beliefs - but who would deny him the right to publicly state them! As has often been said - the most intolerant people are often those who demand tolerance!

Now, let me state clearly that, with regard to matters of theology, I am opposed to certain matters of doctrine that JRM would presumably hold - even marriage is seen by him, as a member of the Church of Rome, as a sacrament. I do not agree with that. However, my mind goes back to when I was a student at the University of Glasgow. The former Trinity College had been "acquired" by the University, and was now the Faculty of Theology. In what was seen, by many, to be a bold move, a priest of the Church of Rome, from the nearby Cardross Seminary, was invited to speak to the new Faculty - staff and students - for the first time in some centuries. I was there, as a rabid evangelical, ready to denounce whatever this man might say that would be in any way opposed to my solid Protestant heritage. I left the lecture, somewhat chastened! I discovered that I had more agreement with this Roman priest than I had with some of my regular lecturers! Since those far-off days, I have counted a number of members, and clergy, of the Church of Rome to be among my friends - including a Prince-Cardinal of the church!

However, going back to JRM, I am - as those who know me well would expect me to be - in full agreement with him on these two specific issues. More than that, I firmly believe that, in speaking as he did, he was representing the views of many of the "silent majority" who recognise that the nation has not merely drifted away from its Judaeo-Christian roots, but has been deliberately led away by a succession of governments and others who have been under the influence - and, in some cases, have themselves been active participants - of militant atheists, secular humanists, sexual deviants, and devotees of the so-called New World Order. Certain newspapers have been quick to vilify him. There are those who claim that his views will have totally destroyed any possibility he may have had of becoming PM.

I have now added JRM to my personal daily prayer-list, and will be praying for him and his family that they may know divine protection from those whose metaphorical knives are being sharpened in order to metaphorically stab him in the back. Perhaps you will join with me in doing this!

As usual, my friend David Robertson has published an excellent post on his own blog. You may access it by clicking on this link:

If you have the time, do listen to the video-clips that David has provided. If short of time, then miss out the Ali-G one!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

There's no time like the present!

Have you ever put off making a decision - and, later regretted having done so? I suspect that I am not alone in being able to look back over my life, and have some regrets. In Dr Luke's record of the acts of apostolic men, he tells of one particular man - a Roman governor named Felix.

"... Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but should have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs. After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess; and he sent for Paul and heard him speak upon faith in Christ Jesus. And as he argued about justice and self-control and future judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity I will summon you.” At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. But when two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison." (Acts 24:22-27).

This man, by all accounts, was notoriously ruthless in suppressing opposition. He was also avaricious, and was prepared to curry favour to gain cheap popularity. The historian, Tacitus, writes: "He exercised the power of king with the mind of a slave." Drusilla was his third wife - and she was already an adulteress before she grew out of her teens. It is quite likely that it was this renegade Jewess who prompted Felix to send for Paul. As Calvin comments: "apostates of that sort are tickled by a certain curiosity, rather than moved by a s sincere desire to learn." 

However, neither Felix nor Drusilla had bargained for the kind of talk that Paul gave in their presence. What the apostle knew they most need to hear was not at all welcomed by them, but filled Felix with alarm. Sadly, like so many who come under conviction of sin, by God the Holy Spirit, he postponed any action. "Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity I will summon you." As far as we know, that further opportunity never presented itself! This kind of delay is something against which God warns us in His written Word: "Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts ..." (Heb.3:15).

That decision is one that no individual can afford to postpone. 

We may also see, from Paul's words, that he preached a full Gospel! There is a contemporary danger of cheapening the Gospel message by painting only a part of the picture. Paul spoke, not only of faith in the Lord Jesus, the Christ; but also of justice (God's standard for mankind), self-control, and future judgement. He knew that it is only against this backcloth that the splendour of God's amazing grace may be seen in its true light.

In my personal devotions, I  am still reading in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus, given by Father God, to John. In what we know as chapter 6, we read these words of warning: "... I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich and the strong, and every one, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?” " (vs.12-17).

Don't find yourself in that situation - come to the Son now, and know forgiveness of sin, and new life in Him. It's the most important decision that you will ever make!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


I confess to having recently become a most ardent fan of Amira. If the name means nothing to you, then permit me to enlighten you. Amira Willighagen, to give her her full name, is a Dutch girl of only 13 years of age who, since her appearance in "Holland's got talent", about four years ago, has taken the classical music world by storm. Even at nine years of age, the maturity, tone, and richness of her voice was amazing. In the ensuing four years, it has only improved - especially with her breath control (as this clip displays!)!

Amira really is, in my opinion, amazing! She is extraordinary! I wonder, are you amazed by the extraordinary? Perhaps it is not in the sphere of classical music, but in sport; in culinary art; in literary output; or whatever. 

What about the words and miracles of Jesus, the Christ? Sometimes, is it not the case, that in our relationship with the central Figure of human history, we have developed, if not contempt (and I trust that that is not the case!) but a familiarity that is not too far removed from it?  Sometimes, is it not the case, that we fail to respond with amazement as did the first-century eye-witnesses?

For example, those early witnesses marvelled at His miraculous power. Four friends brought a lame man to Jesus for healing, letting him down, on a pallet, from the roof. "And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” - He said to the paralytic - “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this! (Mark 2:5-12; emphasis added).

They were awestruck by His presence. After the record of the Transfiguration, we read that: "... when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw Him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to Him and greeted Him." (Mark 9:14-15; emphasis added).

They were astounded by His extraordinary knowledge. "And when Jesus had finished these parables, He went away from there, and coming to His own country He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?" (Matt.13:53-54; emphasis added).

Sadly, some who were astonished by Jesus' words and works later became offended by His teachings, and turned away for Him in unbelief. However, for others, their amazement led to faith, and new life, and worship.

How long has it been, I wonder, since you and I have been truly amazed by the live of Jesus; by the thought of His atoning sacrifice; by the evidence of His wonderful care? May we join our voices with ".. the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!” (Rev.5:11-13).

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Don't miss the flight!

A little earlier, I was speaking on the 'phone with my younger daughter. She was in the Departure Lounge at Glasgow International Airport, awaiting her call for the flight that would take her to her holiday destination. As we ended the call, I commented: "Don't miss the flight!"

As I made that "throwaway" comment, I realised that it was more significant than had been intended. I thought of all of the speculation about what may happen on Sept. 23rd - now less than four weeks away. By the way, "Answers in Genesis" have published their own response to the many questions that they have received about this date. You may read that response at

I liked their final point - a point that I made when I posted on the subject almost a fortnight ago: "People who get excited about supposed signs miss the point that Jesus made (Matthew 24:36–51). Instead of setting dates, we ought to be ready for His return at any moment. Are you ready?"

My daughter had certainly made certain that she was ready for her flight. She was at the airport in plenty of time; she had checked her boarding pass; she had handed over her hold baggage; she had checked that there was nothing that was forbidden in her cabin baggage; she had already made her hotel reservation.

We have no way of knowing what, if anything, will happen on September 23rd, 2017. However, there is one certainty - that a day will come, and perhaps it is sooner than many suspect, when: "... the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the shofar (ram's horn) of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord." (I Thess.4:16-17). 

On that day, it will only be those who have prepared who will rise. That preparation involves an acceptance of my own sinfulness, and the confession of my sins. I involves the acceptance that I can do nothing about my sin, that separates me from the heavenly Father; that my "... iniquities have made a separation between [me] and [my] God, and [my] sins have hid His face from [me] so that He does not hear." (Is.59:2). I then need to believe, and accept, that in Jesus, the Christ, Father God has paid the just penalty for my sins, and that submitting myself to Him, as Saviour, and as Lord, makes me justified in the eyes of the Father.

If I have not taken those steps; if I have not accepted that it is "... by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph.2:8-9), then I am going to miss that flight - not to a holiday destination, but to my eternal destiny!

So, are you ready? Have you made all of the necessary preparation? Please, whatever you do, "Don't miss the flight"! Be able to sing, with the Gaither Vocal Band (Bill Gaither, Mark Lowry, David Phelps, Guy Penrod):

Friday, 25 August 2017

Seven lessons from seven letters!

Having completed, in my personal devotions this morning, chapters 2 and 3 of the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John, I want to share just a little about them. These two chapters contain the seven letters to seven different Christian Fellowships, sent by the Lord Jesus and, while one may preach a sermon on each them (and I have done so, on more than one occasion), I want to share just one lesson from each that will, I trust, prove to be of some help, encouragement, or even challenge, to those who read this post!

1. The church at Ephesus

The main lesson here is that this was a church that was "resting on its laurels." Having commended them, the Saviour then shows that He knows all about them: "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (2:4).

How easy it is, at the beginning of any project, to be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. However, as days become weeks; weeks become months; and months become years; some of that excitement and enthusiasm fades. In a specifically Christian context, this surely applies to the devotion to the Lord Jesus that is often so characteristic of the new believer. Sadly, some can "get into a rut" - even in Christian service. They go through the motions - but it is all a routine, without true love and fervour.

One of the lessons from the Lord's letter to the Ephesians (and Paul's letter majors on the same theme!) is that we must keep the fire burning brightly, if we are to serve fully, and faithfully.

2. The church at Smyrna 

The main lesson here is that appearances can be deceiving. However, for Smyrna, the deception is on the positive side: "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) ..." (2:9). This group of believers were apparently weak and without influence. They were a very small minority. Yet - they were rich with regard to eternal matters. It is so easy for a minority (and true disciples of Jesus are certainly a minority in the UK at the present time!) to lose heart; to imagine that their cause is hopeless; that they might as well submit to the current "zeitgeist". 

This letter is an encouragement to perseverance. Perhaps that is why the Lord exhorts them: "Do not fear what you are about to suffer." (2:10) - words that are undoubtedly much more meaningful to those in the persecuted church of some 215 million people in more than 50 countries worldwide - and assures them that even our testing is under His control, and limited according to His will. (see the rest of v.10).

3. The church at Pergamum

This is a church that compromised. Oh, the letter starts off with commendation that shows that even the death of one of their number had not encouraged any other to deny the Lord. However, Jesus goes on to say "But I have a few things against you ..." (2:14-15). What He had against them was the tolerance (now where have I heard that word before?!) shown to heretical teachers. I have written in the margin of my Bible: "Even a church that withstands external pressure may be infected by internal heresy. The same is true of an individual!"

The lesson we may take from this letter is that it is always dangerous to compromise. Yet, as I look at so much of the established denominations in the UK, I see a great deal of compromise; and, sadly, I see a lot in the lives of individuals as well.

4. Thyatira

Here, again, is the accusation of compromise. However, it is towards the end of the letter that we read: "... I am He Who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve." (2:23; emphasis added). I was involved, recently, in an online discussion with a gentleman whom I have never met, and whom I may never meet. He was objecting to another contributor's reference to 'good works' in the context of the Christian faith. Now, I agreed fully with him that it is "... by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph.2:8-9). However, I had to point out to him that Paul continues, in that same letter: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph.2:10; emphasis added).

Our good works do not, and cannot, save us. Only the shed blood of the Lord Jesus is sufficient for that. However, I am saved to serve - and that involves the good works that Father God has prepared for me. When I stand before the Judgement Seat of the Christ, I will be judged according to what I have done "... in the body". (II Cor.5:10).  The apostle also writes that: "... no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I Cor.3:11); but continues: "...each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done." (v.13 - read the whole passage!)

So, one major lesson from this letter is the need to remember that being"in Christ" and with Him in me, is not an excuse to sit back and do as little as possible!

5. Sardis

This letter begins, in some ways, in a similar manner to that to the church at Smyrna - but it is a mirror image! "I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead."! (3:1). Appearances are, once again, deceptive. This time, however, external activity is covering up internal decay, and even death. This was a church that had grown comfortable, and content, and was living on the reputation of former days. My marginal note here is that "It is possible to be active without being saved", and I refer to Matt.7:21-23.

The lesson from this letter is , surely, that we should not allow ourselves to become so comfortable in our churches, and in our personal lives as disciples of Jesus, lest we find ourselves shrivelling up and dying!

6. Philadelphia

If I could choose to be a member of any of these seven churches, this would be my choice! The believers in Philadelphia was a church that seized its opportunities. It is the only one of the seven that receives no criticism whatsoever. It was not a powerful church in worldly terms, but it was a faithful church. "... I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My Name." (3:8). This is why the Lord has set before them an open door (v.8) - the symbol of opportunity! It is surely true that, those who are faithful in small things are given greater responsibility. That is certainly one of the lessons from Jesus' parable of the Talents (see Matt.25:14ff).

One lesson from this letter is that we should seize every opportunity for service that the Lord lays in our path. Indeed, we should be constantly looking for such opportunities for service, that others "... may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt.5:16).

7. Laodicea

This is the church that was so mediocre, the Lord was ready to spew it out of His mouth - in other words, He was saying "You make me sick!" (3:16). What a sorry state this church was in! They said: "... I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing;" (3:17); but the Lord saw that they were "... wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (v.17). What an indictment for a group of people who claimed to be disciples of "... the faithful and true witness ..." (3:14)!

When I read about this church, I find myself thinking of the so-called "mega-churches" that seem to abound in our own day - and I wonder is the Lord saying the same thing about some (if not all) of them! However, note that certain familiar words are from this letter: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears M y voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me." (3:20). These words, used so often in evangelistic rallies, were spoken to a church! My marginal note: "The tragedy: Jesus, the Lord, the Light, the Life of the church is locked out." However, there is always hope. So, in v.19 we read: "Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent." The footnote that I have written for that verse reads: "The Lord still loved these 'lukewarm' believers - but chastens as a sign of that love" cf. Prov.3:12; Heb.12:6ff; (inter al)."

And one lesson? We must always beware that we do not spend so much time building our own 'kingdom', that we forget the Kingdom of God.

Seven lessons, from seven letters. May they be blessed to the hearts of all who read them.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Game of Thrones.

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

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

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

Friday, 18 August 2017

Revelation - Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Revelation - is it really about the future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 14 August 2017

September 23rd!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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