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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Temple Mount Tensions

The past week has seen a great deal of violence in, and around, the area of the Temple Mount, in the true capital of Israel, Jerusalem. The MSM tend to be, in general, guilty of an anti-Israel bias, so I offer you the link below that will, I trust, provide a more accurate perspective on this situation.

It has been published by CUFI (Christians United for Israel).

http://www.cufi.org.uk/news/temple-mount-tensions-timeline-of-the-facts/

It has just been pointed out to me that the link is not operating correctly! However, if you "copy and paste" then that seems to do the trick! I apologise for that. :-)

The story of Charlie Gard has been tragic from start to finish.

The heading is taken from the Leader Comment in a national newspaper - and one can surely understand the sentiment expressed. The article states:

"No-one can fail to have been touched by the agony the family of the 11-month-old baby has gone through.
The situation that Charlie’s mother and father faced was every parent’s nightmare.
One of the saddest aspects of the case was that Connie Yates and Chris Gard found themselves caught up in a high-profile legal battle which must have made it even harder for them to cope with their awful situation.
In the end, they lost their legal battle and they lost their son. Their hopes for experimental treatment, for Charlie to be allowed to die at home, and finally for him to continue to receive life support in a hospice for several days were all dashed.
Great Ormond Street Hospital has said it will examine what it can learn from the case.
It is difficult to see how the ultimate outcome could have been avoided, but it is clear there was a breakdown in trust between Charlie’s parents and the doctors an early stage.
In the end, it was decided the loss of the child could not be feasibly prevented, but the parents’ heartbreaking experience was worse than it should have been."
However, in what may be considered a sign of the times, I did not notice any comment regarding the spirit of this child? Is this because there are fewer of us who believe that physical death - whether it comes in the womb (abortion), or when one is a centenarian - is not the end? 
When I learned of Charlie's death, I started to sing: "Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast. There, by His love o'ershaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest". Because I have no doubt at all that, for that child who had not even reached the first anniversary of the day of his birth, the words of Paul are totally applicable: "... to depart and be with Christ, ... is far better." (Phil.1:23). Yes, I believe, firmly, that Charlie Gard is in the presence of the Heavenly Father, and that His eternal destiny is assured! "On what grounds?", someone might well ask. My response would be: "On exactly the same ground as anyone else - the amazing grace of God."

I sometimes tell the story of the man who died and - because it is just a story! - arrived at the Pearly Gates. He was met there, of course, by Peter (such stories usually major on popular opinion, rather than strict Biblical truth!) who, surprisingly, was holding a clip-board. 

"Name?", asked the apostle. 

The man gave him the information. 

"Ah, yes," said Peter, "you are on the list. Now, all that you have to do is to gain 100 points in order to gain access to heaven." 

"And how do I do that?" enquired the man.

"Not a problem", responded Peter. " Just tell me why you should be allowed to enter through these gates!"

"I wasn't expecting this." said the man. "However - let me think - oh, yes; I was a loving husband and father to my wife and children."

"That's good." came the reply. "That gets you 5 points."

"Hmm", said the man, thoughtfully, "and I also attended my church regularly."

"Good!", said Peter, "That gains you another 5 points."

The man scratched his head. "Oh, for the last ten years of my life, I was an elder in the church."

"Excellent," replied Peter, "That's worth a further 3 points."

"Does my regular tithing help?" asked the man.

"It most certainly does." said Peter. "That gets you a further 3 points."

"So how am I doing so far?" came the (understandable?!) question.

"Let's see", said the apostle, doing some quick addition, "you now have 16 points."

"Oh dear," said the man, "only 16! At this rate it will take the grace of God to get me through!"

"100 points!" smiled Peter. "Welcome!" "

It's only a story - but there is a very real truth contained in it. Paul again: "... 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).

Do you know that grace? Have you thrown yourself, fully, on the mercy of Almighty God? Or are you labouring under the delusion that you can, by doing all of the right things (in your own eyes!) God will be "obliged" to let you enter the heavenly realm? 

Of course, there are good works that we must do - but they are the result of our salvation, not the means of it! Paul continues, in that letter to the disciples of Jesus, in Ephesus: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (v.10).

Please don't put the cart before the horse! Come to Him, in repentance and faith, and receive His wonderful gift of salvation, fully paid for by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus at Calvary.

As always, if you think that I may be able to be of any personal assistance, please feel free to contact me using the e-mail address at the top of the blog. I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Innocent Israelis are under attack!

Many will be aware that this year has seen the 50th anniversary of the "Six Days' War" in which the State of Israel - some would say miraculously - defeated the combined forces of the surrounding nations of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. After just six days, Israel had taken possession of the Gaza Srip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank (of the Jordan), East Jerusalem ( making the city united, and under Jewish control for the first time since 70AD), and the Golan Heights. It was one of the most amazing military successes of modern times.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for the Children of Israel over the past fifty years. They have been subjected to continuing terrorist attacks on a daily basis - from rocket attacks to so-called 'lone wolf' attacks. There has also been the constant political terrorism of, e.g., the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies as they have sought to re-write history and claim that the land of Israel really belongs to the so-called "Palestinians". Of course, as any student of history is aware, there has never been a "Palestinian" nation. Those who go by that name are, largely, Jordanians - and all are Arabs. The name of "Palestine" was given to the area as a deliberate insult to the Jews as it is derived from the name of their ancient antagonists, the Philistines (Goliath being, probably, the best-known!). In the 2nd century CE, the Romans crushed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba (132 CE), during which Jerusalem and Judea were regained and the area of Judea was renamed Palaestina in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. Originally, of course, the area was known as Canaan. I should add that the appointment of Nikki Haley as the US Ambassador to the UN has seen a new support for Israel that was clearly absent during the tenure of Obama as President of the USoA! She is an intelligent, and highly articulate, woman who has been standing up for Israel since her appointment.

The MSM (Main-stream media) have also played their part in the constant attack upon Israel by either failing to report the atrocities that continue to be perpetrated against them on a daily basis or, perhaps worse, by making the perpetrators out to be the victims! 

In my own small way, I wish to redress the balance, and give the following brief reports of atrocities committed over the last week. Most of these have not been, and will not be, reported by the MSM.

On Friday night, Israelis suffered another shocking, horrific terror attack in which three family members were slaughtered at the Sabbath table in their home.

This follows the brutal Temple Mount attack which killed 2 Israeli policemen. Yesterday, rockets were being fired into Israel from Gaza. And just today, another stabbing in central Israel.

The Temple Mount war is still raging with violent riots in Jerusalem, as Muslims object to metal detectors installed to prevent more attacks. Although knife attacks, shootings and car-rammings have tragically become common in Jerusalem, attacks in the Temple Mount area are very rare.

Since the onset of the most recent wave of terror, there have been over 1000 terror attacks against Israelis although, as already stated, most don't make the news.

Every single Israeli man, woman and child is a target for a brutal stabbing, shooting or car-ramming attack.

So-called "Palestinian" incitement to terror - including that by senior members of the "Palestinian Liberation (!!) Organisation" has reached new heights, fueled by the outrageous, deadly use of social media.

Terror and fear are rampant throughout Israel as "Palestinian" terrorists dramatically increase their brutal attacks upon the citizens of Israel.

As a disciple of Jesus, I support the Jewish nation, remembering that Jesus was born - in His incarnation - into a Jewish family; was raised as a Jewish boy; was recognised by many as a Jewish Rabbi (teacher); and, at His death, was proclaimed to be "King of the Jews". I do not, necessarily, support every decision of the government of the modern State of Israel, but I do support the people who live there.

If you stand with me in this, please ensure that you keep yourself apprised of what is really happening, and helping to publicise the truth that, alone, will counteract the false propaganda of those who are opposed to Israel.

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.