Important Information.

STOP PRESS: My first book (the first in a planned series!) is now available in paperback format. :-)
It is being published by AfJ Publications, Glasgow, and sells for £8.99 (for 230 pages). Initially, copies may only be ordered from me (p&p not included - but they may be collected in person!). Please contact me at
author@minister.com
The book is, of course, still available in its Kindle edition.


You'll find it at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009EG6TJW where you may read some sample chapters!

If you haven't got a Kindle (I haven't!), there is a FREE app at
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd?docId=1000423913

I am also considering producing an audio edition. Any feedback as to how welcome this might be would be appreciated, as it would involve a great deal of time and effort!

30% of the profits go to support the persecuted church.




Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Guidance

When I am out in my car, I have a sat-nav (GPS) system to guide me to my planned destination.  (I also have a wife-nav - often more dependable!).   Life, however, does not come with a sat-nav, and knowing which direction to take can be one of the most difficult, and one of the most frustrating, decisions that one has to make on a daily basis.

As a disciple of Jesus, I am particularly concerned that I know God's will for my life.  I have often said that what I would really like is a postcard, delivered every morning.  It would be postmarked "Heaven"; signed "G,O,D,", and have a list of bullet points outlining Father God's will for me for that particular day.  Sadly, that is not the way in which He works.  Guidance comes - but I must be willing to look for it, and able to recognise it when it does!

The long gap in posts has been because my wife and I have been house-hunting - in France.  Although we are normally based in the static caravan that we have in the Gironde area, we are looking for a house in the Dordogne - as close to Bergerac as we can manage.  To facilitate our search - and the countless viewings that were being arranged, we spent a lot of our time stopping with friends who live much closer to Bergerac and, of course, it would have been rude of me to spend too much time in the evenings, ignoring the chat, and concentrating on my computer!

We still haven't found the 'right' house, at the 'right' price, in the 'right' area.  We are convinced that the Lord has a specific property for us - but He hasn't revealed it to us, yet!   We believe that our more permanent move to France is in His will - there have been many confirmations of that, even at times when we were beginning to question it - but to be what we believe He wants us to be, we really do need that house!

So what do we do?  Well, we pray about the situation.  We keep looking at potential houses.  We discuss the various possibilities - with each other, and with trusted friends.   We continue to trust our loving heavenly Father that He will lead us to the right place, at the right time.  On a very practical note, I monitor (usually on a daily basis, ex Sunday) the Pound Sterling to Euro currency exchange rate.  At the moment it is favourable - and it may be that the Lord is simply holding us back until it reaches a level that will allow us to purchase the house of His choosing.

I wonder if you, too, find guidance to be difficult; if you wonder about the decisions that you make; if you long for something clearer, day by day?   I wish that I had a simple solution!   I don't.  All that I can recommend is what my wife and I are seeking to do.  It's called trust, or faith.  However, it is not the faith that is of greatest importance - it is the Object of that faith.  Put your own trust in Him.  Be assured that He does have a perfect plan and purpose for your life.  Then, while doing all that is necessary from your own perspective (like us looking at all of these houses!), leave the final solution to Him.

When I was a young student at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow, so many years ago now, I learned my first Greek language phrase.  It was the motto of the College: "Pistos 'o Theos" - which means "God is faithful".  I proved that, on innumerable occasions.  I am still proving it today.  I commend my faithful God to you - and you to my faithful God!

Friday, 13 February 2015

3 reasons you must not see Fifty Shades of Grey

For many months, now, I have been receiving a daily posting from a Dr Jim Denison.  I have found each of them - even those that referred to matters that were specific to the USoA - to be very interesting.   The following is a direct copy of the post that I received today, and I copy it here (permission granted) with an additional comment of my own.  Please read, and consider very carefully, what Dr Denison says.  I have neither seen the film (or even the 'trailers') nor read the book, but I have no doubt that Dr Denison has based his comments on very reliable evidence.

"Fifty Shades of Grey tells the story of Ana, a college student, and Christian, a successful entrepreneur.  The two engage in a sexual relationship that becomes increasingly abusive.  Tonight, the film version of the novel premieres in theaters, timed for the Valentine's Day weekend.

Please, do not see this movie.  And do all you can to encourage others not to see it.  Why is it so dangerous?  Consider three facts.

One: the movie is pornographic in the extreme.  It is a "terrible" movie, according to The New York Times, with bad writing and awkward dialogue (Us Weekly lists "50 Problems With the Raunchy Flick").  But far worse, it is a porn movie disguised as a romance.  According to The Atlantic, the film shows at least 20 full minutes of sex.

Two: the plague of pornography is an epidemic in our culture, and this movie will make things far worse.  GQ, a magazine not known for biblical morality, recently cited reasons readers should quit watching pornography immediately.  Among them:
  • Porn damages the brain.  Scientists at Cambridge University recently determined that people addicted to pornography show similar brain activity to alcoholics or drug addicts.
  • Porn motivates people to seek new sexual partners.  This is an example of the Coolidge Effect, or novelty-seeking behavior.
  • Porn use escalates.  In one study, 64 percent of porn viewers reported that their tastes in porn had become more extreme or deviant.
  • Pornography saps energy.  In the same study, 67 percent reported an increase in energy levels and productivity when they stopped viewing porn.
Fifty Shades of Grey will spread the plague of porn to even more people.  Don't be among them.

Three: the movie glamorizes and normalizes sexual abuse.  One study concluded that nearly every interaction between Ana and Christian was emotionally abusive, including stalking, intimidation, and isolation.  It also noted pervasive sexual violence, and that Ana exhibits classic signs of an abused woman.  A second study showed a correlation between those who read the novel and developing an eating disorder, having abusive romantic partners, engaging in binge drinking, and having five or more sexual partners before the age of 24.

The executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation calls the movie "a sensationalized lie, telling women that they can, and should, fix violent and controlling men by being obedient and devoted, and that, somehow, this is romantic.  It is no surprise that Hollywood is betting millions of dollars that now is the right time to offer sexual abuse and sexual violence against women as mainstream entertainment."

God tells us to "flee from sexual immorality" (I Corinthians 6:18).  The psalmist prayed, "Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways" (Psalm 119:37).  Job said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes" to refuse sexual sin (Job 31:1).

Let's make the same covenant today.  Please, do not see this movie."
[Jim Denison, Ph.D., is founder of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a non-sectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth. For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum.]

I know very little, other than the title of the original book when it was published, about 50 Shades.  However, what I also find to be of some concern is the revelation that the main character and, if I understand the situation correctly, the character responsible for the seduction, and for the instigation of the sexual abuse, is given a name which is, I would argue, not very common in English-language speaking countries - "Christian"!  I merely wonder if there is, in fact, a hidden agenda here that aims to bring into disrepute anything that connects with the Name that is above every name, even the Name of Jesus, the Christ, Whose followers were called "Christians", firstly in Antioch (Acts 9:26).

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Regrets?

Tomorrow, DV, I will once again celebrate the day of my physical birth!  Okay, when I say "celebrate", I really mean "remember"!   No big party; no special meal; not even a cake!   Just my wee wife and me, here in the static, spending another evening together.

I've had quite a few of these birthday anniversaries and, as I look back over my life, I've had quite an interesting one.  Of course, as with (I would think) everyone else, I have a number of regrets.  There have been decisions made that I have wished I had not made; there have been choices made that I have wished I had not made; there have been things done that I wish that I had not done.

The other side of that is that there have been other decisions, choices, actions, that I have not regretted, and do not regret.  The most important of those was made just a few days before I celebrated my physical birth for the fifteenth time (Feb.9th, to be precise!).  That decision was to yield my life to the Lord Jesus, the Christ, and to seek to serve Him for all of the days that He would grant to me.   As I have, of course, often said, I doubt that I fully understood the import of that decision, at that time.  However, I can happily testify that I have no regrets about having made it.  I have often -all too often - let Him down; but He has never let me down.  I have found Him to be completely, and utterly, trustworthy; totally dependable; and the best Friend that anyone could ever have.

Another decision about which I have no regrets is the one that took place some ten years later when I asked a certain young girl if she would condescend to be my wife.  Thankfully, she made the decision to do so - and we are now in our forty-fifth year of marriage.   Yes, we have had our 'ups and downs'; but she has been a faithful, supportive, encouraging, loving wife - no man could ask for better.  I loved her then - or so I thought.  Actually, as the years have passed, I have discovered that I didn't really know what love was, all of those years ago.  I love her, now, far more than I would even have thought possible on that evening when I made my marriage proposal.

Nor have I regretted our decision to have a family.  We have two daughters of whom I am so very proud.  They are very different from one another, in many ways; but each is "the fruit of my loins", and is greatly loved by their dad.

I wonder, as you read this post, if you have ever taken time to look over the decisions that you have made - like myself, some that you will regret, and others that you will not.  It is, I would suggest, a salutary experience to take the time to do so.   When you do, I trust that you will be able, with me, to give thanks to Almighty God for His guiding hand upon your life.   My first excursion into tertiary Education was my attendance at the Bible Training Institute, in Glasgow.  The motto of the College was (in transliterated Greek!) "pistos ho Theos".  In translation, that means "God is faithful".  That is certainly my testimony; I trust that it is yours, also!

Monday, 9 February 2015

A good legacy.

Earlier today, one of my Canadian friends posted a video-clip on Facebook.  Well worth watching!


 
As a retired teacher, I loved it. The teacher in the clip and I had so much in common. Even with the going to the toilet (UK-speak for the bathroom: if it doesn't have a bath, it isn't a bathroom!!!). In my case, I pointed out that, in their teens, they ought to be able to exercise a certain amount of control over their bladders; that they had regular intervals in which to attend to such bodily functions; and, when a girl insisted that it was "that time of the month", I let her know that I was noting the date, and that she would not get away with that excuse for at least another four weeks!

I also encouraged my charges to think; to consider evidence; not to be biased. I taught them the difference between asking "Can I ...?" and "May I ...?" - even 'though I was not their teacher of English! We had a lot of fun in class - but they knew where I had drawn the line (and it was I who drew it!). What did I make - I endeavoured to make well-rounded, positive, contributory, well-mannered, members of society

The result?! Some 80% of my Facebook contacts are former pupils - and only at their request! Actually, I have almost 100 who have made the request but whom I have not accepted - either because I don't recall them or, in some cases, because I recall them only too well! I have had pupils contact me to apologise for their deviant behaviour in my class - indicative, I would hope of their having absorbed something positive, even if it didn't blossom for many years.  There are some with whom I meet, from time to time, for a coffee (or, in my case, usually a Green Tea!).

The moral - for any adult who is involved with youngsters? You never know the effect that you are having on young, impressionable, minds - so be careful! Let them see, in you, "... whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious," whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise. (see Philippians 4:8). You will have no regrets!

Friday, 6 February 2015

The best-laid plans ...!

The heading is, of course, from the poem by Rabbie Burns - To a Mouse, (1786). It tells of how he, while ploughing a field, upturned a mouse's nest. The resulting poem is an apology to the mouse, and the heading continues: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley, [often go awry].  An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, for promised joy."

Those are words that have been much on my mind in recent days.  As I type (and, as an aside, I downloaded a 'secure' programme, a couple of evenings ago, in order to be able to open up a file sent by a fellow clergyman - and ended up with a totally unresponsive laptop.  I have spent a lot of the time since in refreshing the machine; downloading software available on the internet; and wishing that I had access to the software discs that are in the flat in Wishaw, while I am in the static in S.W.France!) we (my wife and I) are going through a difficult time with regards to the Lord's guidance.  Indeed, this has been the case for some months. 

The original 'plan' (ours!) was that the house in Motherwell would be sold by June 2014.  In a difficult housing market, this was to be the ultimate sign that we were in the Lord's will regarding our move to France.  That plan went well "a-gley"!  As many are aware, the house didn't sell until November - and we didn't have access to the funds until the latter half of January!   Of course, that was another part of the 'plan' that went "a-gley".  We received some £30k less than we had expected - and £45k less than the valuation!   The knock-on effect is, of course, a reduced number of euros available for a purchase here - even with the improved exchange rate!   That, in turn, means that we are experiencing some difficulty finding a suitable property in the greater Bergerac area, at a price that we can currently afford.  Indeed, we are already looking further afield, while still keeping an eye out for possibilities within that greater Bergerac area.

It's all to do with guidance.  I have been known, often, to say that what I want is a postcard delivered to me each morning.  That postcard would be postmarked "Heaven"; signed "Father God"; and would have a list of 'bullet-points' providing me with my 'guidance' for the day!   Regretfully, in His own wisdom and economy, Father God doesn't work like that!

So, how does He work?  I would suggest that He does so in a number of different, but complementary, ways.  What I wish to do must be in accordance with His written Word - the Bible.  In other words, I cannot say that I believe that the Lord is guiding me to rob a bank.  This is the same Lord Who, as we noted a few posts back, prohibits the taking of that which is not my own.  Secondly, it must be in line with the gifting with which He has provided me.  By that I mean that there it would be stupid of me to arrive at the A&E Department of a large hospital and inform them that the Lord had guided me to assist with emergency admissions!   Mind you, even if qualified, I would hope that proper checks would be made before I was allowed near to a patient!  Thirdly, I should take into account the counsel of trusted Christian friends, who know me, and who will pray the situation through with me.  Finally, I must take account of my personal circumstances.  By that, I mean that I would be foolish to think that the Lord was calling me to Japan.  My fluency in the French language may still leave a lot to be desired - but even basic knowledge of Japanese is totally foreign to me (no pun intended!).

Where does this leave us?   Well, we know that Father Good has a plan for our lives - individually, and as a couple.  We know that He is Sovereign over all that He has created.  Therefore we may trust Him to take us to where He wants us to be; in order that we may do what He wants us to do; at the time that He wants us to do it!   We are assured of His love, and His care.  Therefore, "we do not lose heart" (I Cor.4:1).

Perhaps you are going through a similar situation, in which all of your carefully-laid plans appear to be unravelling!  May I commend to you the same Father God?  Place your trust in Him to guide you through this present circumstance, and throughout your whole life.  That starts with the admission that you are, in His sight, a sinner; that there is nothing that, alone, you can do about that; that you deserve nothing but His wrath and punishment.  That, one might say, is the 'bad news'!  The Good News is that He has already, in the Persona (remember, that is not a typo!) of the Son, paid the penalty.  That means that His perfect justice is satisfied, by an act of His perfect love.  It means that you, and I, may accept that wonderful sacrifice, and we may go free!   Oh, and because that is God's plan, it never goes "a-gley"!