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Monday, March 31, 2008

Thomas Sunday Sermon

The picture above is of Doubting Thomas by Carravagio. Yesterday was what is often referred to as 'Thomas Sunday', and I preached a sermon in the morning at St John's which was based on John 20: 24-29. I thought that I'd share it with you today, so here it is:

THERE’S A BIT OF THOMAS IN US ALL! Reading: John 20: 24 – 29
The other disciples were saying to him (Thomas), “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

When we refer to the disciple Thomas, generally speaking he is referred to as ‘Doubting Thomas’ because of his comment to the other disciples when they told him that they had seen Jesus. He wanted to see Him with his own eyes before he was certain of the resurrection.

What a way to be remembered! Yet, isn’t it true that he demonstrated a basic honesty in his attitude, preferring to verify the fact of the resurrection for himself rather than relying on what others told him? It’s important to understand what Thomas said in context. Thomas, like the other disciples, had come to believe that Jesus was the promised and long-awaited Messiah who had come for the salvation of Israel. Finally, they thought, here was the one person who had been sent by God to set Israel free from the cruelties and oppression of their Roman rulers.

Throughout the three years of His ministry Jesus was gaining more and more popularity, a popularity which was demonstrated so visibly when He rode into Jerusalem on at Passover. Suddenly all the hope and dreams of the people were dashed when Jesus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. The disciples, and those closest to Him in particular, saw the end of the vision that they had believed so fervently in. They forgot that Jesus had promised them that they would see Him again. All they could think of in the midst of their grief and shock was that He had been killed before He could fulfil the promise of their freedom. It seemed that God had betrayed them by supporting Jesus’ ministry with the most miraculous happenings and yet letting Him, in the end, die like a common criminal.

Then, two days after Jesus had been placed in the tomb, some women went to be near where He was buried and found that the tomb was empty. Not only that, they had actually seen Him alive, and rushed to report it to the disciples. Probably at that moment Thomas thought that the whole thing was nonsense, and that the women had been the victims of a hallucination. That evening, whilst Thomas was absent from the group, Jesus appeared to the other disciples. After this, as soon as they saw Thomas they excitedly told him the news that they seen and heard Jesus, yet Thomas found it hard to accept and expressed his doubts.

Yet is it not true that Thomas’ statement was more of an honest statement than anything else? In the light of all that he felt in terms of defeat and disillusionment, was it not far more honest of him to say that he would only believe what he could see with his own eyes, rather than to accept what others wanted him to believe? In fact, can you really blame him at all for his attitude?

I’m sure that many people can relate to Thomas. Sometimes it’s hard to believe, especially when things seem to be going wrong in your life. You do your best to live a good Christian life, doing the right things by others as you believe that God wants and expects of you, and then suddenly, WHAM! It’s as though someone’s hit you right between the eyes! Misfortune suddenly becomes your bedfellow and your life falls apart. It may be the loss of a job, or problems with debt, or problems with a relationship, or perhaps some devastating illness such as cancer, but the result is the same – you question how God could let it happen to you when you’ve been living a good life. All sorts of questions relating to your faith flood in at such times. How easy it is to identify with Thomas at such moments!

Scripture tells us that Jesus appeared again to the disciples after eight days, and this time Thomas was with the others and is addressed directly by Jesus, who tells him to place his fingers in the nail imprints and his hand in His side. Jesus is inviting Thomas to touch Him and believe. Whether Thomas did do this is not recorded, although it’s almost certain that he didn’t. Confronted by Jesus all Thomas can do is to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” It’s important to note that Thomas recognises Jesus as God, as well as proclaiming Him his Lord.

I’m sure that many people are really like Thomas – full of honest doubts, yet many hide their doubts as well. Yet doubt is all part of the Christian’s journey of faith, for it’s when you doubt and question that you reason and seek out truth, and that’s when you grow in your faith. The best way to deal doubt is through prayer, and the best way to do this is to pray with someone who can trust enough to share your doubts with. Their faith will help to strengthen your faith at such times, helping to see you safely through the dark valley of doubt.

The response that Thomas got from Jesus is a comfort to every Christian: "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway." This applies to all of us. We have not had the joy of seeing Jesus face to face, yet we believe in Him, and believe that He is the Son of God and we acknowledge Him to be our Living Lord. What a great blessing this is to us, to know that God is pouring out His goodness upon us! What a wonderful response to our showing faith in Jesus.

Yes, Thomas doubted, but he was honest in his doubting, and Christ met him at his point of need, resulting in a great strengthening of his faith. When we are honest enough to share our doubts and fears with God through the medium of prayer then we will find that Christ will meet us at our point of need too, and we will discover that through that meeting, our faith is strengthened as well.
There’s a little bit of Thomas in all of us, I suspect, but when considered honestly it can be a good thing.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Sad Day

As I write this post this morning the sun is streaming through the house, pushing away the night and doing everything possible to wake people up in a cheerful mood! So why have I headed this post 'A Sad Day'? Well, later on this afternoon I'll be going to a sister church in Liverpool for a Dissolution Service. It's closure has been brought about for several reasons. First and foremost is the condition of the building. Like many of our older churches the congregation has declined over the past few years, primarily due to what is euphemistically referred to as 'natural wastage', but also because there has been an exodus from the area of the building due to impending redevelopment. The majority of the properties in the church vicinity have been closed up because the whole area is scheduled for a major redevelopment. The church building itself is an old building, and there are structural repairs needed that are way beyond the financial capabilities of the tiny congregation, which often is reduced to few more than a handful for the fortnightly services. I'm sorry that the photo is fuzzy, but I've had to lift it from a key-ring!

So, it's a matter of the inevitable having been faced by the committed few who have laboured on in that place. But it's not all doom and gloom! Far from it! Churches are planted where there is a need as part of a visionary Mission, but, as we see from Paul's example in the Bible, when called to fulfil a Mission it does not mean that the Mission is infinite. With the closure of this church it will mean that the remnant will join with other congregations, taking to those congregations a blessing through their joining.

Sometimes it's hard for us to accept that change is in the order of things, for we are creatures of habit by and large, often preferring the familiar to the new. Yet the need is to embrace the new with the same excitement that children have when they venture out beyond the garden gate for the first time. The most important thing is to ensure that we are always in the Lord's will, fulfilling whatever Mission He has called us to. Age is no barrier to the work, neither is the work necessarily confined to a particular building. These are important facts to understand, and when we do then we see our calling from a different perspective.

The real facts are that there has been a great and faithful witness from this building over several generations. The saints that have fulfilled the 'Call to Arms' over the years have been faithful'
even unto death', and now their task as far as this particular building is over. Yet, for those who make up the remnant, their mission continues. I believe that as long as we draw breath then God has work for us to do. It may be that their new mission is to be Prayer Warriors, . . . who knows what the Lord has planned?

Yes, it will be a sad day in many aspects, but it will be an exciting one as well, for with the casting off of the old, however familiar, comes the birthing of the new. I ask you, dear reader, to join with me in praying for the spiritual well-being of the remnant of that congregation, and praying that they will discover what the Lord is calling them to do in the next phase of their Mission lives.

You can learn a little about the church by clicking here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

And when you pray . . .

I cannot pray 'OUR',if my faith denies others and their need.
I cannot pray 'FATHER', if I do not demonstrate this relationship to God in my daily living.
I cannot pray 'WHO ART IN HEAVEN', if all of my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.
I cannot pray 'HALLOWED BE THY NAME',if I am not striving for holiness with God's help.
I cannot pray 'THY KINGDOM COME', if I am unwilling to accept God's rule in my life.
I cannot pray 'THY WILL BE DONE', unless I'm prepared to submit wholly to God's will.
I cannot pray 'ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN', unless I am truly ready to give myself to God's service here and now.
I cannot pray 'GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD', without expending honest effort for it, or if I withhold the bread I receive from my neighbour.
I cannot pray 'FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US', unless I am prepared to forgive others first.
I cannot pray 'LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION', if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.
I cannot pray 'DELIVER US FROM EVIL', if I am not prepared to fight with my life and through prayer.
I cannot pray 'THINE IS THE KINGDOM', if I am unwilling to obey the King.
I cannot pray 'THINE IS THE POWER AND THE GLORY', if I am seeking power for myself and my own glory.
I cannot pray 'FOREVER AND EVER', if I am too anxious about each day's affairs.
And I cannot pray 'AMEN', unless I can honestly say 'Not MY will,Lord, but THY will be done',
. . . so let it be.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

You've just got to smile at some things . . .

I found this GREAT picture.
I hope it makes you smile as much as it did me!
It just goes to prove beyond all doubt that

Down 'Memory Lane'?

Sometimes I wonder why, the older we get, the more we tend to wander down 'Memory Lane'. I think that often, when we look around in the present, we find much about life that seems too unfamiliar for comfort, and so this turns our thoughts to more comforting times.

So much has changed over the last few decades! Not only have tremendous advances been made in terms of things that are available to people but also there is a massive change in the way that people are. I recall that when I was growing up we would see images in our comics --- remember The Eagle? --- which portrayed the future.Pictures depicting the Space Age would show people with some sort of communication device fixed to their ears. Now we have Bluetooth! Computers, once forecast that only a handful would ever be built in the UK, are now commonplace in almost every home, young and old alike. Digital cameras allow us to take a photograph and upload it to our computer, and then send it by email to someone on the other side of the world, the whole operation taking only a matter of a few minutes. When I was a boy I would have marvelled at the idea of these things, yet never dreamt that they could ever come to reality, let alone be a normal part of everyday life in my lifetime.

Of course, such advances have been made for every generation probably, but sometimes it becomes easy to feel a little left behind by it all, and when that happens then we begin to feel uncomfortable. That's when we retreat a little down Memory Lane! What's happening is that our stability seems to be threatened by the fading of the familiar, and so we attempt to re-establish it by refreshing ourselves with thoughts of more stable days.

How easy it can be, in times such as these, when you feel that society has been turned upside down and inside out, when their is so little respect, when your views appear to count for less and less, to feel insecure about the future. Yet the future is one area that you can find security in! By accepting Jesus Christ into your life and walking with Him every day you find that not only does the present become calmer and more positive, the future is assured and so you realise that there is nothing to fear except fear itself.

Suddenly you start to look at things in a different light, and then you see far more positive things than negative. Reach out to others in a positive way and they will respond accordingly. Keep saying bad things about the 'youth of today' and you will create a self-fulfilling prophesy as far as your dealings with young people are concerned.

Yes, Memory Lane is a great place to wander down for a change, every now and then, but not to go down it and fail to come back! Whatever happens in the world around you there is always one great piece of stability. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! He never changes towards us. He's always there for us to walk in His footsteps, never alone, but with Him as our companion. What could be more stable and, yes, more familiar, than that?

Talking about Memory Lane, I found this great picture by John Evan's of Coventry Studios. Why not look them up?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm thinking of warmer climes . . .

I woke up to another cold day this morning, and we've even had a few flakes of snow already, although I don't expect that we'll get very much as we lie in a warm basin, which means that we don't usually suffer as much as some parts of the country when the weather turns to whiter times! My son and his family live on the Eastern side of the UK and they were able to build a snowman on Easter Sunday!

Well, I think that that's more than enough about the cold for one day! The more that you think about it, the colder it seems, and so I'm going to think about warmer climes for the rest of the day. That's not difficult to do because I lived in Africa for a long time spending twelve years there, starting in what was Rhodesia, moving through the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia period, and finishing in the early years of Zimbabwe.
I went there at the beginning of Autumn, 1972, and finally left in March 1984, the intervening years adding a richness to my life that I would never choose to have missed. In 1972, Rhodesia had been subjected to economic Sanctions at the behest of the British Government who had cheated the people persistently over the issue of Independence, finally forcing the hand of the Rhodesian government, under the leadership of Ian Douglas Smith, to declare UDI. His leadership is the only leadership of a country that I ever have been proud to have lived under, as generally speaking I have found the majority of politicians to be either afraid to buck the 'Party' line or else more interested in their own advancement and enrichment than any idealistic view of the country that they are voted in to serve. Having said that, i also believe that people generally end up getting what they deserve, by and large. make of that what you will!

My time in Africa was terrific! I integrated into the culture quickly and made friends easily from all walks of life, irrespective of background. My experience in life is that you get what you give, and so if you offer the hand of friendship then, with rare exception, you get the hand of friendship in return.

I worked for several years for Singers, (the sewing machine company), and my join to the African townships on a daily basis, dealing with customers in their own homes. The welcome that I received from the people has rarely been equalled and certainly never excelled. I learned what real dignity was from people who struggled to rise up to the Poverty Level on a daily basis. I coined the phrase, 'Poverty with Dignity' as a result, and will never forget the many kindnesses shown to me by the African people, nor the genuine friendliness that I received from them.

They were good years! Yes, I would agree that I lived a privileged lifestyle by many people's standards, but I also ensured that I gave employment to as many as possible and paid far above the average wage levels. One particular memory is the setting up of a small market garden on part of my 2 acre plot, an enterprise that I went into with an African friend, and which gave employment to two workers. At the weekends, very early in the morning, we would be out pulling, cutting, trimming and washing, the onions, tomatoes and rape, in order to get it to the nearby township market for sale. Our produce was excellent quality and usually we would be completely sold out after a couple of trips with the estate car filled to the brim, and, all in all, it was over and done in less than an hour! Then we would load up chickens to sell and make a couple of journeys with those. It was a fun enterprise that i look back on with much fondness. I'm not sure that my employer at the time would have fully appreciated the extra use that I made of his company vehicle though!

Leisure time was spent often around the pool, lazing in the sun and looking up into clear blue skies, usually with not a cloud in sight. I recall watching the vapour-trails of aircraft high up in the heavens, wondering where they were going to. It was a wonderful life, and one which allowed me to build so many happy memories.

The downside was the dreadful things that happened during the long, drawn-out war, and the atrocities that were committed during that dark and bloody period of the country's history. I finally left in 1984, sad to leave so many wonderful friends behind, but able to see the way that the country was going. I've never been back, nor really wanted to, although I often think about close friends and wonder about whether they managed to survive through all that's happened since. I'll not dwell on that here, for the way that the despot Mugabe has systematically destroyed the country is well-documented.

The point of my recollections today is to remember the warmth of the sun, and especially the warmth of the people. They were, and are, the salt of the earth! You can find out more about Rhodesia here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He Is Risen!

No matter what the weather brings today, sun or rain, warm or cold, even the snow that's been forecast for some parts of the UK, there is absolutely NOTHING that can detract from the most exciting news that ever reached the ears of mankind:

Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord!
Today we celebrate His victory over sin, over death, and over the grave.
Sin could not trap Him!
Death could not destroy Him!
The grave could not Hold Him!
He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
Today, as every day, I proclaim Him to be my Saviour and my Lord.
I pray that you will join me in that proclamation and proclaim Him anew as your Saviour and your Lord!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter's Message

Easter's message can be summed up in the following words:

Good is stronger than evil.

Love is stronger than hate.

Light is stronger than darkness.

Life is stronger than death.

Throughout today I will be preparing myself for the Easter Service tomorrow. Although there are many special days in the Christian calendar, I think that Easter Sunday is the most important of all, for that's the day when we celebrate the greatest miracle of all --- Jesus Christ's resurrection. Because of this one miracle we know that death has been defeated and that it can have no hold over us. Much more than that even, as if that were not enough in itself, is the fact that we have the opportunity to be redeemed to God when we accept Jesus for who He was and is, claiming the gift of salvation in His name.

The Easter message is one of Love, of Light, of Life. We have the LOVE of God demonstrate to us by Jesus on the cross, the place where love and mercy meet; Jesus the LIGHT of the world, whose brilliance will move every bit of darkness; and LIFE everlasting through Jesus.

Have you logged on to the Voice Ministries website yet to see and hear the Ester message? If you haven't then you need to go there in the next couple of days before it comes off the site. Just follow the link!

I wish you all, dear readers, a truly blessed Easter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring has Sprung - well almost!

Traditionally the first day of Spring starts on the night of 20th/21st March, despite the fact that many will try to convince you that it really commences on March 1st. Right now, as I write this post, it's almost 7.00 am, and cold. It doesn't feel too much like Spring, but that's probably because we have an idealised view of what we expect Spring to feel like. As in so many other instances, we expect Spring to feel like we want it to, rather than as it is.

Now yesterday was different altogether, because it was sunny and reasonably warm, and felt exactly like we think a Spring day should be like.

I wonder what you think about dear reader, when you think of Spring? One of the things that nearly always (well, OK! always) comes to mind for me is a little rhyme that I remember from childhood. It was one of Jimmy 'Schnozzle' Durante's,and it goes like this:

Spring has sprung,
the grass has riz,
I wonder where the boidies is.
The boids is on the wing ---
but that's absoid ---
I always thought
the wings was on de boid!

I moved to my current location ten years ago from Wales, which is a land of culture, magnificent singing, rugby, nationalistic fervour, and sheep. When I say that there are sheep in Wales, I don't mean that there are a few, or even quite a few. It's estimated that the sheep population far exceeds the human one. Of course, where there are sheep it means that there are lambs, and what better sign of Spring than lambs in the fields, frolicking about as though they had springs inbuilt into their legs.

One of the highlights of Springtime for me when I worked at Lake Vyrnwy about 20 years ago as a candle maker, was driving to work through the Dyfnant Forest in the early morning, the early-morning mist often hanging in the trees, and seeing the banks of primroses and the other Spring flowers along the roadside. It never failed to speak to me of the perpetuation of life, for I would ponder so often on the fact that there were flowers there long before I existed, and that they would still be there long after I've ceased to exist, at least, ceased to exist in this life.

Thinking about all of this brings me to thoughts of life's ever-turning cycle. Things grow from seed, bloom for their allotted span and then die, only to be resurrected the in following due season, fresh and new. Roadside flowers that had been spotted and stained by passing traffic, or damaged by insects, are reborn, pristine and excitingly new.

People are like this as well, aren't they. The Easter story of Christ's death and resurrection, of His victory over sin and the grave, reminds me that we too come from a tiny seed. We grow and bloom for our allotted span and then we die. Because of Christ's victory at Calvary we have the opportunity to live again, to be resurrected to a pristine and exciting new life. We don't know the way it will be, but one thing is certain. It will be glorious! All that's asked of us is that we acknowledge Him and give our lives to Him, living life the way that He leads us.

Ah, Easter! What a wonderful time in the Christian calendar it is, for it's the time of the year when, more than any other, we think of the sacrifice that was made for us because God --- our God --- loves us so much!

Tomorrow is Good Friday. Tomorrow we will think of the pain and the suffering, the tears and the crying. But tomorrow will pass and then we will come on Sunday to a time of immense joy as we celebrate the Risen Christ and all that His victory means for those who choose to follow Him. I can't think of a better fanfare for Spring, can you?

Every blessing to you, dear reader, over this Easter period. May it be a time of new life and renewal for you and yours.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

COMMUNICATION: A two-way journey

My earlier blog post about communication set me thinking. What if we had no means of communication at all, how would we survive.

In her book ‘Can’t Wait to get to Heaven’, Fannie Flagg wrote about a boy being given a gift of a red kite by the old lady who took him under her wing. When asked why she’d chosen that particular gift her reply was: “Well, the boy was always looking down, and I wanted something that would make him look up for a change.”

I guess that there are times in everyone’s life when they need to stop looking down and start looking up! The problem is that often there’s nobody around with such a good idea as that old lady had. When someone comes along who can help us to look up though, we see a whole different world, and have a different way of looking at it as well.

The old lady used that red kite as a means of communication with the boy. She would go out and fly the kite with him in her garden, and all the time he was looking up he was seeing life from a new perspective. Life became better, and it was all because someone found a way to communicate with him.

Communication is about more than words. In fact often words can seem too empty to do the job properly. So how can we become better communicators?

I think that the place to start is with the whole concept of communication. Just imagine a world in which communication simply didn’t exist. Imagine all the things we would be without!

· There would be no words and so no books.
· There would be no music.
· There would be nothing but a silence that was interrupted by our own grunts.
· With no conversation, nor the means of it, the human race would die out.
· Without communication we would be incapable of showing, or feeling, love.

John Donne wrote that: "All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." He recognised the need for good communication between human beings if they were to function as they were intended.

The Bible teaches us that ‘man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.’ In order to live our lives in a manner that’s pleasing to God we need to communicate with Him through the medium of prayer. Like all communication, prayer is a two-way happening. To pray without believing that God is listening to you becomes nothing more than a meaningless babble that will have little more than a placebo effect. For prayer to become meaningful then you need to pray believing that God hears you, that He will answer you, and you must also listen to what He says to you, remembering that communication is about much more than simply words alone.

· When you take a walk in the country then God communicates with you through the scenery, reminding you of his greatness in Creation.
· When you hear a beautiful piece of music that stirs your soul, then God is speaking to you through it.
· When you see a beautiful picture that fascinates and holds you, then God is speaking through that as well.
· When you love someone deeply and when you are loved deeply too, then God speaks to you through those feelings, reminding you just how much He loves you.

For the greater part of my life I’ve been involved in communicating with people through the gift of writing, whether it be prose, verse, or song. Many of the people who will read my work will never meet up with me, yet the communication is still there. Through the words that I write they will find a way to communicate with others and, more importantly, they can find a medium through which God can speak to them.

Greg Scheer — the composer with whom I write most of my songs — and I, have never met, yet we meet up in a sense through the words themselves. We are on a similar wave-length, and that’s because the words and the music of the songs communicate, linking us together.

Communication. The tool that enables us to live side by side, cheek by jowl, comfortably. Without it we are empty, devoid of feelings and without companionship. Without it we would be lost, for without communication we would be out of touch with God. And life without God would be meaningless and empty.

Let’s think about the way that we interact and communicate with others, for when we do then not only their lives are changed but ours also. A kind word, a smile, a look, a touch. These are all ways to reach out and touch people’s lives. In our hands we have a powerful tool that can bring about change through all these ways.

OK! So I've posted another poem . . .

I've just posted another verse as part of my Easter message postings, and I make no apologies for doing so! I've been blessed with the gift of writing verse for nearly sixty years now, and I've always found it a great way of communicating my deepest thoughts in a readable manner.
After all, isn't communication one of the most important things in life? I think so, for where would we be without it? We would be living in a silent world with no words, and so no books; no music; no interaction of any kind, because every time that one human being interacts in any way with another then it's a form of communication, after all.
This has all the signs of drifting into a philosophical discussion which is not what I intended to do, so I'm going to break at this point, before it gets any deeper! The point that I want to make really, is just that we all communicate in different ways, and one way which I feel comfortable with is through the medium of verse and song. So, dear reader, if you sometimes think that I use verse a little too often, just be thankful that I'm trying to say something and go along with me, even if only to humour me!
Seriously though, I just hope you like the way I write this Blog, 'cos if you don't then I guess that eventually I'll no longer be communicating, which takes me right back to that philosophical point that I started getting sucked into before.


Blood-red On Green
High on the hill see the cross,
flanked by thieves on either side:
sobbing flesh and crying souls,
out of the dark my Lord’s voice cried:
“Father, forgive them,
they know not what they do”
from He who gave His life for you.
darkness deepens to the end,
yet still I see no tears,
only tears of blood and sweat
that, throughout the coming years,
we all may look and not forget.
Please say that it was not in vain
that God should give His Son,
to cleanse our guilt, to heal our pain.
Please let it be, lest I forget,
that on my knees, in looking down
in all humility, may I look up
and say,
“My God, will you forgive me still?”

© Copyright 2006 Colin Gordon-Farleigh

Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy Week

Good Friday

This darkest day,
So full of deepest sorrow;
Yet all was giv’n
That we might live tomorrow.
My Lord hung there,
Upon the cross at Calv’ry;
He bled and died,
To pour on us His mercy.

Man’s darkest deed,
God’s plan for man’s redemption;
Christ’s dying breath,
Forgiveness and exemption.
The world stood by,
His body cut and bleeding;
His mother watched
And heard His final pleading.

How could they know
That God had planned this dying?
As they gazed on
Through eyes so dim with crying.
The skies went dark,
It seemed sin won the vict’ry;
Oh, darkest hour,
Upon the cross at Calv’ry.

Yet now we know
That death was there defeated;
For sin had lost,
Lord Jesus was triumphant.
Upon that day,
That dark day full of sorrow,
Our Saviour died,
That we might live tomorrow.

© 2008 : Colin Gordon-Farleigh (March 2008)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I was handed this Prayer yesterday . . .

Jesus, may all that is in You flow into me,
and may Your body and blood be my food and drink.
May Your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with You by my side enough has been given;
may the shelter I seek be the shadow of Your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
but hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings shed Your light and love.
Keep calling me until that day comes
when, with Your saints, I may praise You for ever.

Skills of the young Entrepreneur !

Our youngest boy is almost 14 and has, for some time, shown off his skills as a budding Entrepreneur when it comes to food at school. Recently he sold one of his lunchtime ham rolls for £1. Considering it was free to him that wasn't bad! He obviously wasn't that hungry that day!

It reminded me of something that used to happen when I was 16, and employed as the junior in a men's clothing shop. Every day I used to go down the road to Furze's Cake Shop and Tea-rooms, either to buy cakes or to have lunch, and in the process I became very friendly with the staff. As a hungry, growing youngster, it's always a good idea to cultivate friendships where food is concerned! Whenever we had the two Window Dressers at the shop I would be sent down the road to buy cakes which, upon my return, would be paid for by the Window Dressers. off I would go, returning five or ten minutes later with a bag that was bulging with fancy cakes and buns, usually at least half-a-dozen. I would be given payment --- usually about 2/6d (probably about £3.00 at today's values) --- and we would all enjoy the cakes with our cups of tea. What I always failed to mention was that they were yesterday's cakes, and I had bought the bagfull for about ONE SHILLING!
Oh, Well! You have to start to make your million somewhere don't you!

Friday, March 14, 2008

So, what does it mean to you?

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, and all that it implies to Christians around the world. Here in the UK many churches and chapels will greet visitors to their services who feature in the lists of those who attend only on what they regard as 'Special Occasions', yet is it not true that EVERY service is a special occasion?

Of course nowadays the numbers get fewer rather than increase, largely because of the efforts by successive governments to secularise society and sideline Christianity in their attempts to win the votes of the huge numbers of non-Christians, particularly amongst the immigrant population. The fact that our society has a Christian-Judeo base seems to be irrelevant.

A week today will be Good Friday. When I was growing up, and indeed for much of my life, this was always a day when shops were closed and it was treated as the Holy Day that it is. It's the occasion for the world to remember all that God has done for mankind; the occasion when He suffered the most abominable pain at the hands of His own creation --- man; the occasion when God's love was poured out upon the world in a demonstration of utmost sacrifice. This was not for the benefit of the few but of the many, for God's love embraces mankind in its entirety. Jesus died to conquer sin for everyone, believer and non-believer. The difference comes when people choose to acknowledge Him as their Saviour and accept Him as their Lord. God's forgiveness is not selective. It offers people of every race, every colour, every religious group, the same opportunity to come to Him through Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
How sad then, that so much of what is regarded as the 'civilised' world chooses to reject God's undeserved offer of reconciliation and redemption. This Good Friday the shops will open across the United kingdom by and large, and their owners will be rubbing their hands together to the tune of the cash tills as people rush to spend, spend, spend. Many stores will have 'Special Offer' signs plastered across their windows, in the stores, and in their advertising programmes in the lead-up to Holy Week. Many of their customers will be the same people who pay a guest visit to church on Easter Sunday. Make of that what you will!
As we celebrate Palm Sunday we will recall Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the way in which the people waved palm branches as they shouted out 'Hosanna!' at the top of their voices. They feted Him as a king on that day, yet only a few days later the same people were almost certainly amongst those who cried at again at the top of their voices, only this time it was the phrase 'Crucify him!' that spewed out of their mouths.
So, here's a thought or two for the coming week:
What does it all mean to you, personally?
What will you be (metaphorically at least) shouting out on Palm Sunday?
What will you be doing this Good Friday?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The following was written so long ago when I was just a young boy of 14, and it commemorated the death of my eldest brother at the tender age of 23yrs. It's featured on my Meditation CD In Praise of Him and also in my book which accompanies the CD. It's also been published at various times in different church magazines. It's always been special to me because, apart from the commemorative point, it also takes me back to a time of innocent youth.

A Prayer
O Lord, I come to Thee
On bended knee,
To this Thy shrine,
This holy place of Thine,
To pray.
To pray for peace,
That war may cease,
And that all mankind
Will not be blind to God.
I thank You for the things You’ve done
Throughout the day, each little one
I treasure dear. So Lord,
Please hear my prayer to You.
Forgive me for those things done wrong,
I’ll try, as I’ve tried all along,
To do Thy will:
And I’ll try still,
Until I die.
Copyright 2008 Colin Gordon-Farleigh

Please feel free to publish this in your church bulletin. All I ask is that you let me know that you've done it via the comments on this blog.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lessons to Learn!

One of the things that I've found in life is that, if you are discerning, nothing happens without reason. There are lessons that can be learned in every situation, no matter how stressful or how tough the situation might be at the time. Yesterday morning I was booked to preach at a chapel about 30 miles from my home and knowing that the traffic can often be a problem I set off early. A few days earlier I'd been sent a note by the pulpit secretary to say that they were looking forward to my coming, and she included a map with directions to get there safely. In my wisdom, because I knew that I had been to the chapel once before --- albeit a long time ago --- I didn't take the map with me 'cos I knew the way.

The service was due to commence at 10.30 am, and, thanks to an easy road-trip, I duly arrived about 9.50, leaving me plenty of time to sit in my car and quietly offer up prayers for every aspect of the service, and asking God to ensure that I was able to impart His message in a meaningful way.

About 10.20, with no sign of anyone arriving at the chapel, I began to have qualms about where I was. I checked with various people, but unfortunately nobody could enlighten me. Finally, at 10.25 and with just 5 minutes to go before the service was due to commence, I discovered to my horror that I was waiting outside the WRONG chapel! I should be at another chapel about 3 or 4 miles away. Talk about a STRESSFUL situation!

As it was I arrived there only one minute late, but to a chapel that was full, and many of whom were stressed to think that I wasn't going to arrive. From then on, once I'd had a chance to gather myself into a calmer state, all went well. They were a great congregation and the Lord certainly blessed my ministry with them.

So what's the lesson to be learned from this? Well, this is what I shared with the congregation about it.

Life itself is a journey, commencing with our entry into this world. Our journey will end in one of two ways; either we will reach the end of our natural life and pass away, or Jesus Christ will return before that happens and those who have chosen to commit their lives to Him will be called to the kingdom. This means that ultimately we will either live with God or without Him, which I believe is a good definition of the difference between heaven and hell.

Obviously then, this means that what happens to us between these two points of arrival and departure is extremely important. We have important decisions to be made, decisions which will determine where we end up. We have a map of how to get to our destination for the Bible contains all the directions that we need to arrive where we should safely. Of course, the problem comes about when we don't bother to follow the instructions or simply give them a cursory glance and assume that we know all the answers. Maybe, as is often the case for many, the assumption is simply that tomorrow will be okay to make my decision, there's plenty of time left!

The real answer is that we never know just how much time there is at all, and for that reason we must ensure that we are ready and equipped for our journey at all times. We need to have studied the map and ensure that we are definitely headed in the right direction. Jesus said that He was the Way. He also points out that there is no other way to get to God the Father other than by Him. To leave the decision until tomorrow is the action of a foolish person, for one day there will not be any more tomorrows. The time to check the map and make your decision is NOW, TODAY!

You see, the answer to my problem yesterday was a simple one. If only I'd checked the map of directions that were so thoughtfully provided, carefully, and not assumed that I knew the right direction, then several people, including myself, would have been saved from a lot of stress. On the other hand, if the situation had not been as it was, then I would not have been able to share it with you today dear reader!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

LYRA : The new CD will soon be here!

I heard from LYRA in Russia the other day to say that the new CD which they have been working on for the past year is finally finished and in the post to me. I'm so impatient to hear it! They are a fantastic group of singers, and the CD, which is called 'Beautiful Sound', showcases four of the best singers in the whole choral group. Tonight I received an email from Andrey Sysoev, the Director of music, in which he said that he thought the song Benediction, in which my words are set to music composed by Greg Scheer, could become the "World hymn of the Church", and goes on to say that it will surely be played on the radio and the TV. He says a lot of other great things as well which gave me a real lift. That's why I wanted to share the news with you, dear reader. My picture shows the new CD cover. The Cd will be available via the Sheer Joy Music website shortly after Easter.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Oh No! The boat's leaking!

People find God in the strangest situations! They travel along through life with scant regard for spiritual matters, possibly even denying that God exists at all, when all of a sudden they are pulled up by a short, sharp, shock! They find themselves in the position of needing help desperately and they suddenly remember something that they have heard in their past, even though they might never have realised that they were listening.

When faced with an impossible --- and usually life-threatening--- position, they suddenly cry out instinctively for God to help them. Of course, to the Atheist, this poses a problem in itself as they question where the cry came from. After all, if there is no God then it means that there is also no hope! For the Agnostic it's a pretty good time to fall off the fence that they've been sitting on and make certain that they fall on the right side! Their minds can be made up in an instant and then they can be free to cry out to God for help in the knowledge that He really is there to hear them when they do.

But is the right time to acknowledge God at the point when your boat is actually sinking? Surely it would be better to wise up right now and discover the message of love that brings salvation with it. In some ways the message of the Gospel might be understood as a wonderful love letter, not one which is sloppy at the edges, but one that speaks of unconditional love, salvational love and redeeming love, for God sent His only Son Jesus, the Messiah, on an errand of loving mercy. God wants everyone to return to Him; to come in from the cold; to end their time of straying.

Maybe you know someone who realises that there's a leak somewhere but believes that it's just part of the inevitable progression of life in general, and so refuses to address the situation. If they leave it indefinitely then they'll end up in a situation such as the boat is in at the top of this blog! Perhaps all they need is a gentle LOVING nudge to get them moving in the right direction, and maybe it's up to YOU to be the one chosen to do the nudging.

Jesus commanded us: 'Love one another just as I have loved you.' That means that we'll have to do a fair bit of nudging as we travel through life, but in the end it will all have been worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A few thoughts on Inheritance . . .

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about being the next-of-kin for an elderly member of my congregation who had passed away. I should, perhaps, say sadly passed away, but the sadness would reflect what I felt for myself rather than considering the reality of her passing. She had a tremendous faith, a very strong belief in both God and salvation, the latter of which she had secured through her faith in the former, and through her acceptance Jesus Christ.

I have learned that she has left me a small bequest --- an inheritance --- and this has made me think about the inheritance that we should all bequeath. In the bible, Peter writes the following in verses 3 to 6 of chapter 1: (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

When we know that someone whom we care about had a right relationship with God in and through Jesus Christ then we should rejoice in their hope of salvation according to the promises contained in Scripture, even though we may feel saddened at the fact that they have moved on out of view as far as we're concerned in this life.

This set me off in another different, albeit similar, vein of thought. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour then we have the assurance of our own salvation. We have been offered and have accepted the most wonderful and priceless gift in the whole of creation, and what's more it's FREE! We have also been instructed by Jesus, through Scripture, that we should share the knowledge acquired with this gift with the rest of the world, meaning at least those with whom we have any sort of relationship, however brief it may be. The priceless Gift of Life, (for that's what it is!), is ours to share, not to lock away never to see the light of day for fear of it being lost or stolen. This is one gift that we have for ever, no matter how many times we share it with others. In fact when we share it something wonderful happens to us, for in the sharing our own faith grows and strengthens.

The Bible refers to this gift as an inheritance. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an inheritance it means a thing that is inherited. To inherit is to receive assets or a title at the death of the previous holder. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes that we are children of God, and reminds us that it means that we are joint heirs with Jesus if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him (Ch.8 : vs.17). This means that, together with Jesus Christ, we will inherit the Kingdom of God.

When I was growing up life was simpler. Generally speaking, we new our limitations and our boundaries, and we understood the order of things. This was irrespective of whether we actually agreed with them or not. We grew up in an environment where we were taught to show respect --- to others, to property, to opinions, and to ourselves. We were taught about God the Creator and about Jesus the Redeemer. We grew with a knowledge of right and wrong, some instilled some seemingly inborn. And we respected those boundaries, recognising that they were there for a good reason, and growing up into adulthood, we found that we had benefited from all that we'd been taught, even those portions of our learning that we later rejected in whole or in part.

The following, headed 'My Beliefs', was written by a 13-year old boy as part of a school exercise:
  • I do not believe in any religion or any god. I was christened after I was born but I do not follow Christianity in any way.

  • I believe in reincarnation when you die, that you come back in a new life as a person or another living thing.

  • I believe that religion in whole starts off many Wars and arguments. Without Religion the world would probably be a peaceful place.

  • I believe that everybody should treat people equally, no matter what colour or race they are.

The world has changed since I was a 13-year old, for at that age I would never have considered writing anything like this. Irrespective of the various rights or wrongs, imagined or perceived, in our upbringing, years ago we benefited from the inheritance passed down to us through our parents, our teachers, the church, and the variety of other people and organisations that influenced our lives. Children today are the victims of a hedonistic society which strives to find ways for the individual to satisfy their own desires with scant regard for others. So often parents, following the well-trodden path of trivial pursuit, fail their children, believing that it's someone else's responsibility to teach their children morals and ethics. Teachers are fearful of losing their jobs if they dare to go against the system and actually punish children for doing wrong --- in fact we are told that we should not use the word wrong as it is a negative word that will affect the child's upbringing. What they fail to point out is that you can affect a child's progress in a positive way by directing them to understand the difference between right and wrong. Then there's the church. Well, generally today the church fails miserably at influencing people or situations because it's like a lion that not only has no teeth but also fails to roar above a whisper anymore.

What all this means is that our children today, and for the past generation, have largely lost the inheritance which is theirs to claim. They've lost it due to our carelessness rather than to their own disinterest, for it is the average voter that has allowed our governments to enact laws which they claim protect human rights yet which, in reality, protect the opinions of the few against the rights of the majority. In many parts of the civilised (so-called) world it is against the law to teach children about God in school, yet perfectly okay to teach them about the perversions that exist in our society which are regarded as an abomination by God.

We should act before it's too late altogether if we really care about the situation, and if we truly believe as we profess to. Politician's can be changed by voters, and they should be made very aware of this. They are there to represent our views, not just the views of a party.

It's time for Christians everywhere to put on the whole armour of God and get marching. The battlefield is set; the front-line is marked; the enemy is with us. Let us reclaim for our children the inheritance that has been stolen from them by stealth and deceit!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Not a 'meme' list, more of a 'youyou'!

I've just watched a good film called 'The Mighty Ducks' which is a 'feel-good' movie about a junior league ice hockey team. I like 'feel-good' movies! I also liked The Bourne Supremacy and enjoyed the action in it. Probably top movie for me over the last few years has to go to the Lord of the Rings trilogy which I thought was absolutely amazing!

Whoops! It's starting to become a 'meme' list isn't it? What I'd really like to know is what your favourite film of the last couple of years is. Let me know so that I can post your choices and make up a 'youyou' list. It's up to you dear reader, so get commenting!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Today is St David's Day, which means that it's a very special day for the people of Wales, the Land of Song, culture, and many other things of which we are justifiably proud. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales. He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the 6th century. During his life he was the archbishop of Wales, and was one of many early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain.You can find out more about our patron saint by following this link. For people all over the Welsh nation it will be a day of singing, a day where the national emblem of Wales 'Y Ddraig Goch', (the Red Dragon), will be even more in evidence than usual, on flags, car stickers and jewellery.

The Welsh are a proud people. Proud of their heritage, proud of their language, proud of their land, all of which are very justified feelings! In recognition of this day I'd like to share a few pictures with you, dear reader, of our wonderful land. That's why today's post is headed 'Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!' or Happy St David's Day!