Sunday 30 April 2023

The Lord is my shepherd

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul;
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23. 

In the Gospel of John Chapter 10 Jesus says several times "I am the gate".

In Chapter 10 - 9 He says "I am the gate. Those who come in by me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find pasture."

This seems strange at first. We can understand when Jesus says "I am the Way" or "I am the Good Shepherd"; but gate? What does all that mean?

To understand this we need to visualise how a sheep pen at the times of Christ looked like. It was a circular or square enclosure built out of stone, wooden fencing or just hedges. And it had an opening through which sheep got in and out.

But shepherds in those days were poor people. They certainly would not have the money to build gates at the opening of the pen. They stayed "watching their flocks by night" with their sheep.

The pen looked something like the photo above.

And the shepherd would lie across the opening, sleeping with his sheep, and making sure that none would get out during the night. Also protecting them from wolves or other predators.

So, the shepherd was in fact the gate.

That's what Jesus meant when He said He is the gate.

He protects us from evil and stops us from going astray.

Saturday 29 April 2023

Savings

 

Graffiti seen on wall:

Jesus saves!

Someone wrote underneath it:

He’s lucky – I can’t save a penny on my wages.

Someone else added:

I saved too. Lost it all in the stock exchange crash.

Finally another added:

Save your treasure in Heaven. It will not lose its value and earns good interest.

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Close encounter in my bed

 

I was in  my hotel room in deepest Northern Scotland. Lying on my back in bed in total darkness. It was so dark that I could not even see myself. 

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness around me I still could see nothing. I did not know if my eyes were open or shut. I had to check with my hands.

Eventually, I noticed a red spot on the ceiling above me. It was a very tiny spot of light about 5 millimetres in diameter. It lasted two or three seconds then it went. About a minute later there it was again. A quick flash or red light in the same place for two seconds or so. Then again a minute or so later.

It was like a red star against a sky of total darkness. Always in the same place. Not moving.

I froze in my bed. I would have described it as a frisson going up and down my spine, but I was not in France. Just Scotland.

I thought it was probably a space ship or some UFO in my bedroom looking down at me. We always assume that UFOs are large spaceships as depicted in movies and on TV; but this is not necessarily so. 

What if space aliens are tiny people or creatures only requiring flying saucers the size of saucers?

What if we've been wasting our time looking up to the sky for big ships when all the time they've already been here in tiny craft the size of a small pizza?

What if they are looking at me right now and ready to beam me up to their spaceship? Having made me tiny first of course!

I read somewhere that a spaceship turned a woman's husband into a duck. When she reported it to the police they suggested duck a l'orange for supper.

I eased myself sideways on the bed and reached for the baseball bat I always carry in my luggage for such eventualities. I'm terrified of UFOs and monsters under the bed. I resolved the latter problem by cutting the legs off my bed.

I swung the bat so hard that it knocked something straight off the sky above me. 

I switched on the light and discovered I had smashed the smoke alarm into the next Galaxy.

NOTE: Why don't they put snooze buttons on smoke alarms? 


 

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Who are you?

 

Are you like me and have difficulty remembering faces or names? I often meet people who recognise me and I haven't the foggiest idea who they are. I don't think it's my fault if I don't remember people I met a long time ago in various totally different circumstances. I can't be expected to remember everyone I met. Over the years I must have met at least 25 people.

Steven for instance. Last time I met him was at school when he was 13; and I was 12 and a half. I met him the other day at a Conference where he gave a talk about cockroaches flying in V formation. I recognised his name on the Bill Board advertising the talk. He was now bald and with a red beard and looked totally different from when he was 13. In those days his beard was black.

Only last week a man approached me in the tunnel leading to the railway station and said, "Hi, Victor. How are you my friend? Do you remember me?"

I took out a small mirror I carry in my pocket, looked at it and did not recognise him. I mumbled apologetically and said so!

"I'm Valentine," he said, "from Bolton!"

I looked in the mirror again, shook my head and said, "No, I'm sorry Mr Valentine, I can't recall you. This grieves me greatly because I pride myself in always remembering a name or a face; but in your case I make an exception!"

"Why do you keep looking in the mirror?" he asked.

"I'm so vain; I think this is all about me," I replied as I put the mirror away.

"I'll have to get one," he said, "this way people will remember me." Then he shook my hand and left.

This set me thinking.

Do you know who you are? I am not asking you for your name, or what you look like, or your family lineage, age, appearance, education, life history or whatever.

What I'm saying is, when you look in the mirror what do you see?

Why is it that you have certain views about certain things? Why is it you have opinions on some matters like politics, religion, the environment, climate change, the economy and why cockroaches fly in V formation?

On what do you base these opinions? Is it because of your prejudice or pre-conceived ideas? Something you read or heard perhaps? Or do you follow the opinion of someone else you like or admire? When I was in politics searching for votes, I was surprised at the number of people who said they will vote for a certain party because their parents, grand-parents and family always did so. This may have been right for their elders at the time; but is it still so? Times change, and so do parties' policies and views and its people.

Are your opinions and decision-making based on research and study that you have done on the matter in question?

Personally, I don't like women who paint their moustache blue. It's just a prejudice. No study or research was involved. But then ... I'm not perfect. Just vain.

Unless you know yourself you'll never get to know yourself.

Sunday 23 April 2023

My Emmaus

 

Just after Christ’s Resurrection, two of His followers were going to Emmaus. (Luke 24: 13-35).

They were totally distraught about Jesus’ death, and even though there was now news that His tomb is empty and that Christ is alive, they were still down-hearted and confused.

Jesus appeared to them on the way. They did not recognize Him. They spoke with Him and told Him their news. They said that their Lord and leader had been crucified, and there were rumours going around that He was alive again.

Jesus did not tell them who He was but explained to them the prophets’ predictions about Him. He walked with them all the way to Emmaus, but still they did not recognize Him. It wasn’t until He broke and blessed the bread that they recognized Him.

Why? I ask myself.

Why did they not recognize Him when they first saw Him, or when He took the time to explain to them the writings of the prophets?

Could it be that their minds were more pre-occupied with their problems and their dilemma rather than listening to Him?

You can just imagine how their mind worked and how concerned they were about their predicament.

Their leader is dead. What are they to do now? Is it all over? Every thing He said and taught comes to nothing? And what of the future? What are His followers to do now?

But aren’t we just the same.

How often do events touch our lives and turn it upside down. Events perhaps of our making, or events that we did not contribute to but they affect us all the same.

And we panic. What are we to do now? What will happen next?

We fear the future, we fear matters getting out of our control and we turn our attention to our problems and our dilemma. Just like those two on the way to Emmaus.

Yet, all the time we are panicking Jesus is there. Walking beside us. Quite literally. Waiting for us to recognize Him, hold His hand in the full knowledge and trust that He will see us through our darkest hour.

It is our doubts, our fears and our worries which prevent us from seeing Him.

Thursday 20 April 2023

Hope Faith Trust

 

So ... the last few weeks have not been well in more ways than one. It started early in March. Apart from health matters other totally unconnected things happened, not of our making, to add to our problems. The road ahead is still not clear.

When bad things happen, as they will sometimes do in our lives, it is important to remember that God is still in control. He allows bad things to happen. He does not make them happen. He allows them because it suits His purposes for us.

Some believe He is testing us. But what is the point of testing us if He already knows how we will react? I believe He allows things to happen so that we remember and we learn by the way we've reacted. Also, our way of reacting may well be a good example for others to emulate.

In our trials and tribulations it is important to have hope that God will see us through. He brought us to this situation for a purpose and He will see us through it.

Also, to maintain our faith in Him. To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1) 

And to trust Him. It is not enough to say to God that we trust Him. Or to convince ourselves that we trust Him. We should act as if we trust Him. Just like a child. He does not say to his parents that he trusts them. His very behaviour and instincts are proof of that.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Internet Problems

 

Hello ... I am phoning you because the Internet is not working again.

Yes Sir, checking your details ... for security purposes do you mind answering the pre-set questions recorded when you first opened the account with us? 

Yes ... go ahead ...

What is the most traumatic thing you ever saw?

My mother-in-law's legs!

Why is that?

She fell off a ladder head first into an open trash container. All I could see was her legs flapping about on top of the bin. I had to pull her out by her legs ... that was very traumatic I tell you.

May I have your Internet password please?

You're a fathead.

What? There's no need to be offensive, Sir.

No ... no ... that is my password ... you're a fathead ... all one word, no spaces, lower case letters ...

I see ... when did you change this password?

A few days ago when the Internet failed the first time and your guy could not fix it. It worked long enough for me to change the password then it failed.

I see ... do you use the Internet a lot?

Only to write my Blog. I have a few readers who visit from time to time and they'll notice if I don't post.

Do you have a fish tank in the same room where the computer is?

No ... why do you ask?

I do ... I find fish very relaxing as they swim peacefully to and fro. Do you like fish?

Only with French fries ...

There ... I think we've restored your Internet line at our end and it should work now. I advise you change your password though!

NOTE: Sorry folks ... Internet still intermittent. I shall try to visit your Blogs if I can. In the meantime, please pray for us. Thanx. God bless.

Friday 14 April 2023

Choice? If only ...

A discussion the other day: What if you could eliminate one characteristic out of human nature, which one would it be?

Someone suggested anger. Someone else said envy … jealousy, hatred, prejudice, fear … and so on.

What if this were possible; what would you get as a result?

A robot. Someone pre-programmed by you with whatever emotions you feel should stay in and which ones taken out.

But God decided differently.

He gave us all these emotions, both positive and negative ones, and with them He gave us a responsibility.

The responsibility to keep them under control and to use them properly.

Even some negative emotions have a purpose if controlled properly and used in the right circumstances. If we didn’t have anger we would not be so disposed to stand up against evil. Fear keeps us from being foolhardy and reckless at times.

So there you have it: negative and positive emotions and a responsibility to control them.

Phew … I’m suddenly tired with all these responsibilities!

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Praying for others

 

Prayer is the greatest gift we can give to, or receive from, others.

When we pray for others we are in effect putting in a good word for them with God. We are interceding, or mediating, or pleading on their behalf. We are asking God to help them in their current difficulties.

This shows a generosity of spirit in us; it also shows our Faith, since we would not be praying if we did not believe that there is Someone listening and ready to answer our pleas.

Often, we are the answer to someone's prayers, without us realising it.

It could be in the supermarket, the street, Bible Class, in church or anywhere else. We just happen to be there and meet someone in need, in despair, afraid, worried or in some distress; and we are in a position to help. God put us there in answer to that person's prayer. How we react is up to us.

When I visit your Blogs, to me you are more than names on websites. Each individual is leading their life with your own hopes, aspirations and wishes for you and your loved ones. And I take the opportunity to pray for each one of you and yours.

I hope you do the same when you visit me here. Thank you.

God bless.

Sunday 9 April 2023

Easter 2023

 




Tuesday 4 April 2023

Jesus, remember me ...

 


Jesus remember me ...
When you come into your kingdom.
FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE

 

Sunday 2 April 2023

Lenten Reflections

Then they threw their cloaks over the animal and helped Jesus get on. As He rode on, people spread their cloaks on the road. When He came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of His disciples began to thank God and praise Him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen. “God bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory to God”

This is the story of Jesus as He enters Jerusalem in triumph. Yet this very crowd which praises Him now will soon be shouting “crucify Him, crucify Him!” Why did they change their mind so quickly? Was it because of fear of the Romans and the power of the high priests? Or were they just fooled to believe and shout what others wanted them to?

How about us today? Do we shy away from proclaiming our Christianity? Do we set a good example by the way we live?

While they were eating Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples, “take it,” He said, “this is my body”. Then He took the cup, gave thanks to God and handed it to them, and they all drank from it. Jesus said, “this is my blood which is poured out for many. My blood which seals God's covenant”.

It was at this very meal that Jesus predicted that one of His disciples would betray Him. Later He tells Peter that he too will deny ever knowing him.

Today we face so many temptations which can lead us astray from God. Let us pray that we do not give in to these temptations and in so doing we betray Jesus once again.

He went a little farther on, threw Himself face downwards on the ground and prayed, “My Father if it is possible take this cup of suffering from me; yet not what I want but what you want”.

Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him and although He asked his Father to take away all the suffering and the cruel death He was facing, He then accepted His Father's will for our sake. How often do we pray, “Thy will be done”? Do we really mean it or do we mean, “Thy will be done as long as it is what I want”?

Jesus was still speaking when a crowd arrived led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. He came up to Jesus and kissed Him. But Jesus said, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you betray the Son of Man?”

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. But how about us? Do we too not betray Him when we miss an opportunity to proclaim our Christian beliefs? When we shy away because we're too frightened that people will mock us and laugh at us when we witness for Jesus.

When they had finished mocking Him they took off the purple robe and put His own clothes back on Him. Then they led Him out to crucify Him.

On His way to His Crucifixion the most pain that Jesus felt and suffered was on His shoulder. That's because where the heavy wooden cross rubbed on his skin and hurt and cut into his skin all the way to the bone. It was a very heavy cross indeed because it carried all of our sins.

Jesus said, “forgive them Father, they don't know what they are doing”.

It is very difficult when we're hurt to forget and forgive. The memories linger on, they don't go away, and we often remember the pain and hurt caused to us. When Jesus sees the scars in His hands, in His feet, and in His side, He too remembers and He forgives once again.

“I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised.”

“He has been raised”. This is the central message of Christianity and no matter what gloss or interpretation modern society wants to put on it, they may say it was all symbolism, it's not meant to be believed as it was written, it's just a story; the reality of Christianity is that Jesus, the Son of God, came on earth as a human being, He died and He was raised again.

“And I will be with you always to the end of the age.”

These words are very meaningful to me and they should be meaningful to all Christians because this is the promise made to us by Jesus when He was raised to Heaven after his Resurrection. He did not leave us. He is with us here today now. He is only a prayer away if we believe Him and trust Him. 

NOTE: Intermittent internet connection here. I may not be able to post or visit your blogs. Sorry.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Faith and Action

 

What does it mean to be a Christian? To have Faith?

We proclaim we are Christians, we go to church on Sunday, other days even, we pray, and we fast perhaps. But is that enough?

When we get to meet God, will we say: “I helped in church every week. I cleaned the church and arranged the flowers. Please let me in Heaven.” or “I served on the church council for years, I was responsible for the readers’ rota and I read in church on Sundays many times. I typed and printed the weekly church newsletter. Please let me in.”

Is this what it means to be a Christian?

Or should we be a channel of His peace as St Francis of Assisi prayed? Or help the poor and destitute as Mother Theresa did?

"My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead." James 2:14-17.