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Friday, 27 February 2015

Burdens are lifted at Calvary.


are lifted


Jesus said: "Come to me, all you that labour and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for yous souls. For my yoke is easy, and mt burden is light."    Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Taj Mahal

Here I am a Looe-Nattic in Agra India visiting a tomb of the wife of a famous Indian king. I am as my friends know not much of a historian and am certainly not known for my love of culture and the architecture that goes with it. Therefore I am prone to misunderstand a lot of what I see. I love to look around and people watch but I hate being guided by an expert who wants to show me the finer points of the artistry of such places. Neither am I at all interested in touching the marble resting place of this favoured wife of the king whose name escapes me.In saying all of that I have had an education in coming to this place. 

My problem is that I am a thorough-bred non conformist who is more interested in people than I am the buildings that house them. The church therefore is always the people gathered and not the building however fantastic the architecture might be. People are what God is interested in and not what they might achieve with bricks and mortar. This brings me to the point of this posting:

How do we reconcile what we saw in Agra the town where the Taj Mahal is situated with what we experienced inside??

We spent the night before our visit in a downtown hotel cum hostel (seven pounds per night including breakfast) which gave us the opportunity to look around the town before the big day.

I would not want to degrade the people of the town by even photographing some of the abject poverty that they live in and so I trawled Google images for this photo that demonstrates the comparison. these people live hand to mouth in squalour in view of the most gross of wealth. 

It was interesting in listening to the guide as much as I needed to for politeness sake and discovering a number of things that he applauded but left a bitter taste in my mouth. the first was when we queued up for frisking and checking before entry, women and men separated of course. he told us that 150,000 people are likely to visit this mausoleum per week. My 7,000 Rupees paid suggested to me that would be 105,000,000 rupees per week which translated into the old sterling would be 105,000 quid per week. If that is averaged over the whole year then you do the sums. I am currently at the level of altitude sickness and so my maths have strangely gone into the ether somewhere. so apologies if this does not add up too much! It is an awful lot of money piling day after day and year after year into some coffers somewhere but it does not appear to me that it has any benefit for the people.

This is not the first time that I have observed such disparity and sadly again it was in the hands of a religious groupings. I visited a very poor family in Romania that could not afford a meal on the table but yet they lived literally yards from a great big gold domed church that obviously dripped with wealth. My point is "What does God say about this?"

It is true to say that Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, but from beginning to end of the bible we find that God expects His people to care for the widows, orphans and aliens of their land.  God has given us wealth beyond measure and yet we would rather pour it into mausoleums, churches or even holidays than help the poor out who live next to us.

Visiting the Taj Mahal has made me re-consider what our true purpose is, I am not particularly knocking other religions but am wondering where I might be being as unjust as this seems to me.

Our guide tells us that this burial place was built for the kings favourite of 4 wives, to which I say shame on him as I do to Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and many other  Old Testament greats. God intended it to be 1 man and 1 woman which reflects our relationship to Him and so to glory in the fact that this one man had 3 other women whom he did not favour so highly is not something to be celebrated after all it is illegal today and rightly so. 20'000 people were enlisted to build this marble tomb all by hand. Hammers for some reason for which it is believed to be a virtue were not allowed. It is amazing I have to say, the architecture is brilliant, even though I am not entirely convinced that the towers were designed for aesthetic purposes to be leaning. it looks more like foundation slippage to me, but who am I? When encouraged to lean over and touch the stone of the tomb itself I recoiled as this seemed to me to be a little close to adoration or worship of a building.

However there was something that really impressed me. That was the people inside, they were very much alive. Just like the people on the outside who would not earn enough money in a month to enter into the heritage on their doorsteps, they also are a people whom God loves. He is not interested in only the poor but the rich and the religious of any shade, colour or creed!

How do we reach them for God, it is by the gospel of Jesus Christ who came in order to make a true relationship with God possible. The fruit that God is interested in is people from every nation of the world!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Transport; ancient and modern.

Here we are enjoying a well deserved (in my estimation at least) break in India. It is always good to have family links and as such we have benefited from holidays in Viet Nam, Sweden, Poland, Romania and Teneriffe to name but a few. Some have been working holidays when we have been able to work alongside the church but this one  is a family visit. 

Elaine is a teacher in Mumbai (Bombay to us oldies!) and so we are visiting for just short of a month. We have many exciting plans for our stay but for the moment we are acclimatizing, that is until Elaine finishes work for her half term (even more well deserved, or so she tells me) break. We then fly up to Delhi and on into the Himalaya after visiting the Taj Mahal of course! Maybe there will be more of that to come in another posting.

Now back to the theme of this post. Transport ancient and modern taken from the name of a hymn book of the past: Hymns ancient and modern. It is always interesting visiting new countries and discovering aspects of life in a completely different culture.

The roads of Mumbai are nowhere near as full as the roads of Saigon but they are infinitely more dangerous. In Saigon there are many millions of small motor cycles all travelling at roughly the same speed. To cross the road at first seems to be foolhardy but if you are bold and just step out with purpose and walk across then all of the traffic passes around you quite safely unless you falter or fumble. But here in Mumbai it is different, the horn is more important than the break or steering mechanism. It simply shouts at everybody that you are there and are coming through whether they are in the way or not. There seems to be very few rules other that get to where you are going no matter what. The horn is simply a fashion accessory that you sound as often as possible.

But back to the theme, there all sorts of modes of transport seen just in the time it takes to drink a customary double espresso. The man above waved and encouraged me to take the photo of him with his lovely fruit. Then there were the boys carrying wood:

An action man on a kite:

A family outing to the beach:

Or a truck on the beach:

 And many many more modes of transport ranging from very and primitive to up to date and very expensive vehicle as seen in the richest areas of London. A truly cosmopolitan mix of ancient and modern. I would ask the Indian government to protect this culture that they have developed please do not be tempted to bring n the sterility that we have in the UK where individualism is hard to find end even then is under threat from the safety lobby. there is something good about seeing and experiencing such variety.

This brings me to the real purpose: It is easy to be out with the old and in with the new people. This is especially true with the church. We so easily fall for the lie that would tell us that everything old is irrelevant and of little or no use today. The church has fallen hook, line and sinker for this where music is concerned. At times it seems to me that we would rather sing little love ditties to Jeesus (yes this Jesus seems to have 2 e's in His name!) than sing the rich words of the past simply because the tune is modern. I am certainly not saying the all modern songs fit into the ditty category but many do. Graham Kendrick along with Stuart Townend (along with many others) have written magnificent words and tunes that equal anything written in bygone days.

Here is one I took last year of Start Townend in Keswick.

As always the church very quickly polarizes and is guilty of this as far as music is concerned. Many have adopted the mindset that we must be modern for the young people, whilst others believe that if it was not written at least 100 years ago then it is not worth the paper that it was written on. we can soon find where a church is on this music-scale by reading their adverts. Contemporary usually means modern only and traditional reformed would mean Christian Hymns or even Psalm only. either extreme viewpoint to me is bonkers, the exponents of which are guilty of what i would urge the Indian authorities not to do with their culture. such churches have thrown the baby out with the bath water. There is in reality truth in the arguments on both sides and if you want to know where I fit  into the argument I will confess to being closer to the Christian Hymns brigade but am not fully a devotee of the fashion. I love some of the modern songs and hymns (especially if the Jesus they speak of has only one e to it!)

 Look at these words and be amazed:

In Christ Alone.

In Christ alone my hope is found.
He is my light, my strength, my song,
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground.
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace.
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease,
My Comforter, my All in All.
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save,
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied.
For every sin on Him was laid.
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth in glorious Day,
Up from the grave He rose again,
And as He stands in victory.
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns, or calls me home.
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Written by Stuart Townend.

Amazing words and tune, it really does not matter when it was written if it causes you to worship Christ alone!

Does it?

Friday, 13 February 2015

Don't be afraid to care.

Again I have the opportunity to quote from the lyrics of one of the greatest albums ever released. I had the privilege of hearing  Pink Floyd perform Dark Side of the Moon a year before it was released on album and have to say that I was slightly disappointed when I first heard the recorded version. The live version was I thought even better. But there you are!

All of these years on and I am still listening to Pink Floyd. In fact as I sit here now Dave Gilmour is thrilling my ears as I listen to his solo album "On an Island."

If you have not heard it I suggest you get hold of a copy and sit back and wonder at the magnificence of good ole Dave's playing. It was Gilmour who sang the words this posting is named after. The song was:

Breathe (Waters, Gilmour, Wright)

Breathe, breathe in the air. 
Don't be afraid to care. 
Leave but don't leave me. 
Look around and choose your own ground. 

Long you live and high you fly 
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry 
And all you touch and all you see 
Is all your life will ever be. 

Run, rabbit run. 
Dig that hole, forget the sun, 
And when at last the work is done 
Don't sit down it's time to dig another one. 

For long you live and high you fly 
But only if you ride the tide 
And balanced on the biggest wave 
You race towards an early grave. 

The song really is dark and the whole album somewhat depressive in it's message which causes me to make contrasts between what the world offers and what we can have through faith in Jesus Christ.

I was thrilled and amazed recently at the news that a young man from Torpoint went into a church to ask the pastor how he might find God. He had explored other religions and world philosophies and found them impotent in offering hope of relationship with the creator. But too him there was a dissatisfaction with life and he knew that there must be more to it than simple philosophy and doing your best in the hope to please some deity on high. As faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins was explained and during a period of days pondering the gospel message the young man recognised that relationship with God was possible but only for those who are free from sin. That is an impossibility for all people because whether we like it or not we are born in sin and we are unable to change that fact. But the young man had been taught rightly in that he understood his dilemma but could trust in the sacrifice of Jesus made on the cross in order that He might take our deserved punishment as if He was the guilty one and then exchanging our hopelessness for His rightness! That requires us to admit that we are sinful and to prayerfully in humility ask the Only One who can deal with it to forgive us and to help us to live a life that honours God. The bible calls this being born again. 

As with our first birth there has to be breath to keep us alive. One of the most nervous moments for a mother is the time it takes for a new born baby to take it's first breath. When it does rejoicing is the order of the day a new life is being lived. From that moment on we are all afraid tp care who God is but when we are born again we:

Breathe and we are not afraid to care for God who is now our Saviour!

I am not sure at this moment how I might apply the rest of the lyrics but it is a great tune anyway!