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.




Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Ten Words (9)

The penultimate of the Ten Words (Commandments) gives the instruction: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." ( Ex 20:16), so has to do, basically, with truth.  This, of course, is no more, or less, than we would expect from the God Who, in His incarnation, stated: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;" (John 14:6).

Warren Wiersbe (one of my favourite contemporary commentators) writes: "Speaking the truth.and honouring promises, is the cement that holds society together.  To tell lies in court is to undermine the very law itself, which explains why Moses required the witnesses to be the executioners in capital crimes (Deut.17:6-13).  It's one thing to lie; but quite something else to kill in order to protect your lie.  The commandment also prohibits slandering people." (in loc).

Lying, of course, is increasingly common in our contemporary society.  In the UK, a General Election is in the offing, and politicians of every political shade and hue, are making promises galore.  Yet, in so many cases, they already know that what they are saying is a lie.  Mind you, an increasingly sophisticated electorate is increasingly sceptical of promises - especially those made by the 'traditional' parties who have shown, in the past, how little store they put by this commandment!  In spite of the efforts of bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority (in the UK), manufacturers continue to make exaggerated, or misleading, claims about their products.  On the Internet, there are those who lie about their own identity in order to entrap an unsuspecting child for their own paedophile purposes.

Lying has almost become an accepted way of life.  Oh, I know that many of us would only admit to what we, euphemistically, refer to as "little white lies".  However, if truth be told (!), a lie, is a lie, is a lie - regardless of its alleged colour!   Our world is accurately described by Isaiah's description of ancient Israel: "No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity." (Isa 59:4).

The final point made by Dr Wiersbe, is of great importance.  Sometimes, we do not consider gossip and slander as lying.  After all, we are just passing on what we have been told!  Perhaps that is the problem!  Or we may allow others to make assumptions that are, themselves, untrue.  I confess to that sort of behaviour myself.  I know that I have often been very good at "telling the truth" - but ensuring that it is not "the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."!

Is there an answer?  There is.  Paul urged Church members in Ephesus to "... put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." (Eph 4:24-25).

God wants us all to commit ourselves to truth and reflect it in everything we do. That is why He commands us: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour."

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Ten Words (8)

As we draw close to the end of this brief look at each of the Ten Words (Commandments) given by Almighty God to the Children of Israel, but applicable to all of mankind, we reach the eighth one.  As with number six, it is very short: "You shall not steal." (Ex 20:15).

This is, surely, a very simple commandment to understand.   It means that I ought not to rob a bank; mug an old lady and take her handbag; remove goods from a local shop without making the required payment; break into my neighbour's home and help myself to his belongings.

Well, it certainly does mean all of that - but it also means much more!  For example, if my employer pays me to work from 0830 until 0530 (with appropriate breaks!), but I arrive late, or leave early, I have stolen my employer's time.  If I falsify my income tax returns, I am stealing - not from the government (which actually has no money of its own!), but from other taxpayers who will, eventually, be required to make up the shortfall thus caused, or from genuine benefit recipients who will have their benefits cut!   If I am a self-employed workman, and I bill a householder for better materials than the ones I used, I have stolen from that householder.   Politicians who deliberately abuse the expenses system are stealing from those who, in fact, employ them.

As a disciple of Jesus, I may even be guilty of stealing from God!  Speaking through the Old Testament prophet, Malachi, God says: "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.  From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, 'How shall we return?'  Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you.  Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing." (Mal. 3:6-10).

Tithing - the giving to God of one tenth of our material blessings (for the Children of Israel that was, in the main, crops and animals; for us it is more likely to be a wage/salary/pension/benefit) was part of the Old Testament law, and there are Christians who insist that it does not apply to them.  I beg to differ!  Jesus' own words to the scribes and the Pharisees were: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Matt. 23:23).  Those words at the end would indicate that He was not condemning the practice of tithing, but telling them that they had even greater responsibilities that they were neglecting, while tithing even garden herbs!  

Then, we read that, speaking to His disciples, He said: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:17-20).  In other words, He was saying that we should give more than the tithe - what many refer to as the 'love-gift'.

I doubt that anyone who reads my blog is guilty of any criminal act that would break this commandment.  However, could it be that all of us need to examine our lives to see if we are stealing from our fellow-man in less obvious ways?  Could it be that we need to examine our lives to see if we are stealing from Father God?  It's worth thinking about!







Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Ten Words (7)

As we come to the seventh of the Ten Words/Commandments, we come to the second of those to which the Lord Jesus made specific mention in the Sermon on the Mount.  The commandment reads: "You shall not commit adultery." (Ex 20:14).

This, of course, is always the difficult one when teaching children!  Sadly, there are - in my opinion - far too many children who are the product of broken homes because one, or other, of their parents didn't abide by this commandment. 

Putting at its simplest, this commandment is saying that husbands and wives must be faithful to one another - and to the vows they took at their wedding (certainly if it was a Christian wedding service).  And, in spite of what I have stated in the previous paragraph, there are many who can claim, with absolute honesty, to have honoured those vows.  Men and women were designed, by our Creator, to be together, and to need each other. Marriage is a natural union of a man and a woman - and only of a man and a woman - and was divinely ordained and established by God from the very beginning of mankind. His laws, and in particular this Seventh Commandment, authorise the marriage relationship and establish it as the foundation of the family, which in turn stands as both the foundation, and also the most important building block, of human society.

Adultery is the violation of the marriage covenant by wilful participation in sexual activity with someone other than one's spouse.  But, of course, the Lord Jesus took it much further!  His words are "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt 5:27-29).  That is a whole different story!   Just as I may be able to say that I have never murdered anyone, but cannot say that I have never been angry, and felt like murdering a lot of people; so, although I may be able to claim that I have never committed the act of adultery, there is no way that I can claim never to have looked at another woman with a physical desire in my heart.  Indeed, I have often confessed, from platform and pulpit that, according to Jesus' stricter interpretation, I am a serial murderer and a serial adulterer!

Now, let me make clear that this is not a prohibition on appreciating the physical beauty of a member of the opposite gender.  If that were the case, I wouldn't even be married!  It is the allowing that natural attraction to develop into a desire that is prohibited, that is the problem.

So why would the Creator give this commandment?   Far be it from me to suggest that I 'know the mind of the Lord' (see Rom.11:34).  However, I would suggest that one reason is the sanctity of the family.  I have already referred to the number of broken homes that are the result of an adulterous relationship involving one, or other, of two spouses.  Not only do they suffer, but any children of the marriage suffer also - torn between two people, both of whom they love!

The adulterer him/herself may suffer psychologically.  "He who commits adultery has no sense;
he who does it destroys himself." (Prov 6:32) are words worth pondering (and, of course, they apply to both genders!).

However, I suspect that the main reason why Almighty God gave this commandment is because, as Paul writes: "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Saviour.  As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.  'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'  This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." (Eph. 5:21-33).  The marriage covenant is a picture of the relationship that the Lord Jesus has with His own people.  We tamper with it at our peril!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Ten Words (6)

The sixth of the Ten Words/Commandments is one of the shortest.  It reads, quite simply: "You shall not kill." (Ex 20:13).  However, it might be, more accurately, translated - as is the case in some of the more modern versions - "You shall not commit murder."  In other words, this commandment has to do with the deliberate, and malicious, taking of the life of another human being.

Life, of course, is a gift from God.  This is why we speak of the process of conceiving children as "procreation" - from the Latin pro =  "in place of, on behalf of" (proconsul, pronoun) + creare  = "to make, bring forth, produce, beget".   In the act of sexual intercourse, a man and a woman are working with Almighty God in the bringing into being of a new human life.  Because life is a gift from God, only He may legitimately take it away.

Of course, this does not include a situation of self-defence; defence of the realm; or the judicial execution of the death penalty.  Indeed, Ex.21:12ff expressly states that there are occasions on which a man must die!   Even before the giving of the Decalogue, we read that God said to Noah that "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed ; for God made man in His own image." (Gen 9:6).

This is also one of the commandments specifically referred to by the Lord Jesus.  In that collection of His teaching that we know as The Sermon on the Mount, He says: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Matt 5:21-22).  In other words, although I may be able to say that I have never been responsible for the deliberate taking of the life of a fellow human being, that is not enough.   I would need to be able to claim, with absolute honesty, that I have never (as in 'not ever'!) been angry with anyone!   From a personal point of view, having spent a total of 25 years teaching Secondary School pupils (aged 11-18) I have to confess that, in Jesus' terms, I was a serial killer!

So, where does that leave us?   Well, we are also exhorted, in the New Testament: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:21).  Writing to the Galatian believers, Paul says: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2).     Jesus, again in the Sermon on the Mount, says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt 5:9); and "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, ..." (Matt 5:43-44).

What that would seem to suggest is that Father God wants us to go far beyond not committing murder.  He wants us to actively treat even those who choose to hate us as respectfully as possible, and do all within our power to live in peace and harmony with them.  "Strive for peace with all men , and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14).

To accomplish this we must respect this wonderful gift of the precious possession of human life.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Ten Words (5)

Whilst it may be argued that each of the Ten Words (Commandments) impinges on our relationship with our Creator God, the first four are specifically so.  The remaining six serve as the standards of conduct in areas of human behaviour that generate the most far reaching consequences on individuals, families, groups and society.  In other words, the first four commandments have to do, primarily, with my relationship God-ward; the following six with my relationship man-ward.

Commandment number 5 deals with the most basic human relationship, and is the second that is framed in a positive fashion.  It reads: "Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you." (Ex 20:12), and Paul points out that "... this is the first commandment with a promise." (Eph 6:2).

So what does this commandment mean?   In a world in which many who are able to do so spend small fortunes to keep themselves looking as young as possible while, at the same time, seeking (and, in some countries, succeeding) to legalise euthanasia/assisted dying/suicide, these words may sound strange.  Why should one be concerned about parents and, by extension, other elderly folk?  Such a question would not have occurred to the children of Israel.   Alan Cole writes: "This commandment is part of the general attitude of Israel to old age (as symbolising and, ideally, embodying the practical wisdom of life) commended throughout the Old Testament (Lev.19:32), and found in many other ancient peoples, notably the Chinese." (Tyndale O.T. Commentaries; in loc).

We should honour our parents as those responsible for our existence.  We should honour our parents for the care that they gave to us when we were unable to care for ourselves.  We should honour our parents for the good example that they provide for us.  Sadly, we live in a generation, and culture in which not everyone would recognise such reasons for honouring their parents.  There are, in my opinion, far too many who do not have any relationship with one/both of their biological parents.  It is quite tragic when that is the case because the child is an orphan.  It is even worse when the child has been, effectively abandoned by the parents.  Many parents, in our 'advanced', 'civilised', 'developed', western culture do not care adequately for even the youngest of children.  Indeed, there are millions of mothers who, every year, are responsible - with the willing assistance of others - for the deaths of their children by murder in the womb (aka abortion!).   One doesn't have to read too many news reports to discover that there are many parents whose only example to their children is negative. I wonder if this is why we are experiencing an unprecedented breakdown in, not only family life, but also society as a whole? 

So, how do we honour our parents?  May I suggest that we do so by showing them love, and care; by providing for them in their old age; by recognising their continuing contribution to society in general.  When I was sharing these commandments with secondary school pupils in their early teenage years, I would suggest that it might involve such simple act as keeping one's bedroom tidy; offering to wash up after a meal; volunteering to take the dog for a walk.

Of course, there are parents who are extremely difficult.  However, honouring even such should be our default position.  We may then claim the promise that "our days may be long".  For the children of Israel, this would have been understood in straightforward physical terms, and would have been applied to the land of Israel.  Today, I believe, we may rightly spiritualise the promise.  The honouring of parents is a Christian duty (Eph.6:1; cf I Tim.5:3-4, 8), and those who do so may anticipate, not simply length of days in this world, but the eternal day in the next!  It isn't the whole of the Christian life - but it is an important component part.  Jesus, Himself, affirmed the commandment.  "And He said to [the Pharisees and the scribes], 'You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!  For Moses said, 'Honour your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die'; but you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, 'What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) - then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on'." (Mark 7:9-13).

It is also worth remembering that the way in which we treat our own parents, and older folk whom we know, may well be the way in which, if we are spared to old age, we will be treated.  We really do "reap what we sow"!