Saturday, September 24, 2016

RANDOM THOUGHTS


RANDOM THOUGHTS

 


It was great growing up in the Vale of Leven (“the Vale”) during the 60s and 70s. Perhaps it more aptly could have been called “Smollettsville” on account of the Smollett family owning vast tracts of land there back in the day. Indeed, the Vale of Leven town of Alexandria was named after Alexander Smollett, and Renton was named after a daughter-in-law of Jane Telfer Smollett in 1762.





As a kid I used to pick strawberries for Patrick Tobias Telfer Smollett at his Cameron House on the southwest shore of Loch Lomond. He died in 1997. During the late 60s he kindly let me build a pigeon-hut as a young teenager on a piece of his land at the old ruin of Tullichewan Castle. Kilt-clad he would stop his car and come over for a chat whenever he saw me tending to my pigeons. A gentleman. I read a book written by one of his ancestors, one Tobias Smollett. The book, written in 1748, is called “The Adventures of Roderick Random.” There was a road in the Vale called “Random Street” apparently after this novel. Of course, like most of old Alexandria, this street has disappeared forever.

I read “The Adventures of Roderick Random” on a trip to Hawaii my wife and I made back in 2012. Forget about flight movies, I couldn’t put this book down! (Actually, it was a Kindle version.) Anyway, here was this red-headed Scotsman, back in 1748, getting himself into all sorts of exciting, humorous, and romantic adventures. I was riveted to the story while lying soaking up the tropical sun on the golden sands of Waikiki Beach. The bit where the gold-digger Random attempts to visit in person the rich, and as he thought, very beautiful woman in her stately home is particularly hilarious. All is not as it seems. Surely Robert Louis Stevenson got the idea for his “Treasure Island” after reading about Random’s exploits in the Caribbean after he was press-ganged into service on the high seas. Apparently the great English novelist Charles Dickens tipped his hat to Tobias Smollett. Wow!

I finished the book on the flight home from Hawaii wanting more, much more.

On a trip back to Scotland from Australia, I visited the Tobias Smollett monument which, though it used to stand in front of the Renton Primary School, still stands in (the) Renton.
My very good friends, Graham and Jacqui Black visited his grave in Livorno, Italy where Tobias died and was buried in 1771.



(The following is my review of the book on US Amazon):

The Adventures of Roderick Random is a great read! Written in the mid-1700s by a man from the same town in Scotland in which I grew up (Vale of Leven). Smollett has a beautifully descriptive and poetic turn of phrase, is witty, and has an acute eye for human foibles and our fallen disposition. This is Stevenson's Treasure Island and Scott's Rob Roy rolled into one! This novel is surprisingly modern, not in language (which nevertheless is exquisite), but in its vivid description of human nature when faced with feast or famine. Loved it!

RANDOM THOUGHTS


RANDOM THOUGHTS

 


It was great growing up in the Vale of Leven (“the Vale”) during the 60s and 70s. Perhaps it more aptly could have been called “Smollettsville” on account of the Smollett family owning vast tracts of land there back in the day. Indeed, the Vale of Leven town of Alexandria was named after Alexander Smollett, and Renton was named after a daughter-in-law of Jane Telfer Smollett in 1762.








As a kid I used to pick strawberries for Patrick Tobias Telfer Smollett at his Cameron House on the southwest shore of Loch Lomond. He died in 1997. During the late 60s he kindly let me build a pigeon-hut as a young teenager on a piece of his land at the old ruin of Tullichewan Castle. Kilt-clad he would stop his car and come over for a chat whenever he saw me tending to my pigeons. A gentleman. I read a book written by one of his ancestors, one Tobias Smollett. The book, written in 1748, is called “The Adventures of Roderick Random.” There was a road in the Vale called “Random Street” apparently after this novel. Of course, like most of old Alexandria, this street has disappeared forever.

I read “The Adventures of Roderick Random” on a trip to Hawaii my wife and I made back in 2012. Forget about flight movies, I couldn’t put this book down! (Actually, it was a Kindle version.) Anyway, here was this red-headed Scotsman, back in 1748, getting himself into all sorts of exciting, humorous, and romantic adventures. I was riveted to the story while lying soaking up the tropical sun on the golden sands of Waikiki Beach. The bit where the gold-digger Random attempts to visit in person the rich, and as he thought, very beautiful woman in her stately home is particularly hilarious. All is not as it seems. Surely Robert Louis Stevenson got the idea for his “Treasure Island” after reading about Random’s exploits in the Caribbean after he was press-ganged into service on the high seas. Apparently the great English novelist Charles Dickens tipped his hat to Tobias Smollett. Wow!

I finished the book on the flight home from Hawaii wanting more, much more.

On a trip back to Scotland from Australia, I visited the Tobias Smollett monument which, though it used to stand in front of the Renton Primary School, still stands in (the) Renton.
My very good friends, Graham and Jacqui Black visited his grave in Livorno, Italy where Tobias died and was buried in 1771.

Friday, September 9, 2016

I REMEMBER...


I Remember

Do faces and places stick in my mind like flies to a strip of flypaper hanging in an old butcher’s shop? How do I remember what I remember? How many megabytes or gigabytes of memory do I have? Why do some memories fade as I grow older? Some things I can’t remember while other things I can’t forget. Why do songs and smells sometimes trigger memories? A lost love? A lost loved one?

Our Maker created us with the ability to remember things, including Himself: ‘Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”’ Ecclesiastes 12:1. However, rather than remember, unless He converts us, we go through life trying hard to keep a lid on our knowledge of God (Romans 1:18). Yet it is hard not to remember Him, because He gives us so many reminders of Himself. Everything we smell, taste, touch, hear and see is revelation of the Creator. We exist because He exists. We remember because God remembers.

However, when it comes to God, is our flypaper too full of flies for any memory of Him to stick? Or are we not, as the Bible says, simply suppressing the knowledge of God, just as we try to do with any bad memory? He made us in His image, yet He had to send His Son into the world to remind us what He looks like! ‘The Son is … the exact representation of His being’ Hebrews 1:3. ‘Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like’ James 1:23-24. We have forgotten what God looks look like, and, we can so quickly forget what we ourselves look like. What’s wrong with us? Well, it is only when He converts us that we remember what God and we ourselves really look like.

Understanding what Christ did on the cross has been referred to derogatorily as ‘butcher shop theology’, wherein the Old Testament Temple sacrifice of every animal culminated in the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross as a substitutionary atonement. However, in Christ’s ‘butcher shop’ there hangs no flypaper clogged up with flies. For the believer, it is as when God had finished with sending His plague of flies on Pharaoh and his household: ‘Not one remained’ Exodus 8:31a. Not one fly. God is very exact!

I remember when I was converted in my early thirties being amazed that I could remember so much of what the Bible taught. I had never been that interested in God’s Word until then, but had read bits and pieces here and there and had heard stories as a child at school and in the Boys’ Brigade. Nothing had seemed to stick. But it all came flooding back to me! That putrid strip of flypaper hanging in the centre of my mind was taken down and thrown out along with my sins! I was transformed and my whole mind was renewed. No flies on me! For, ‘God made Him who had no sin to be sin [i.e., a sin-offering] for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ 2 Corinthians 5:21.

I remember that it is Christ that saves me and not I myself. I remember what I look like, a sinner saved by grace alone. Dear reader, ask God to remove that old flypaper strip from your mind. Remember Him.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Meeting Jesus at Glasgow Airport


I read a book called “Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport” (Richard Mouw). The scene when I was departing Glasgow airport to return to my adopted Australia reminded me of this book that addresses how Calvinists live in accordance with their worldview.

My wife, two brothers, a sister, and their partners, and a nephew and I were all sitting in a circle in bucket seats having a coffee before my wife and I were to take to the skies after spending a month with them in Scotland.

I’m usually nervous about flying (and/or roller-coaster rides!), so I welcomed the conversation I had with my eldest brother as a nice distraction. The dialogue went deep. I felt as if I should have been engaging with the others too, but my big brother had my almost undivided attention. He wanted to get the (Dooyeweerdian) point across that theology and its propositions is not God, but only one of many pointers to God. In other words, we can become guilty of confusing a signpost for the actual destination, an analogy for the reality.

I asked my brother if the Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (i.e., the famous “This is Not a Pipe”) painting illustrated what he was driving at. The point being that an actual pipe and a painting of a pipe are two different things. We discussed how God reveals Himself by way of analogy, i.e., through the things He has made and also what He has said in written revelation, the Bible.

We sipped on our coffees as airport announcements interrupted our verbal interaction. As the precious minutes ticked away, lest I missed his (or Dooyeweerd’s) point, he put his hand on my arm and referred to the Bible passage where Jesus said to Martha after her brother Lazarus had died, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” My brother said that Martha was thinking in terms of theology, i.e., propositional truth. She knew about the resurrection that will take place at the last day. This is what the Bible teaches.

However, Martha was missing the point, a major point. And, so that I would not miss it too, my big brother began yanking on my arm while saying the words Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection…” Jesus was saying that He is not a theological proposition, a painting of Himself, a signpost, a mere analogy. He was saying, I AM the resurrection!”

Wow! I felt as if I really met Jesus at Glasgow Airport.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

TRUTH



Truth
‘Tell the truth and shame the devil’: an adage all ought to live by. Hugh Latimer said it was a common saying in his day in 1555, and William Shakespeare immortalised it in Henry IV in 1597. Shakespeare also wrote, ‘Honesty is the best policy. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself.’ Of the devil and lies? Jesus says that the devil ‘is the father of lies’ John 8:44b. Thus, as Satan opposes Christ, so a lie opposes truth. Contradiction is the habitat of lies. This is where the head devil and his cohorts live.
When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate (or was it the other way round?!) He said, ‘“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate” John 18:37b-38a. Jesus says that God’s Word, i.e., the Bible, is truth (John 17:17) and that He, Himself, is the Truth (John 14:6). After His resurrection Jesus berated a couple of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. He said to them, ‘“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself’ Luke 12:25-27. And, to those opposing Him He said, ‘“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies”’ John 8:44. Thus, Christ Jesus is the Truth, as is the Bible that reveals Him as such.
Enter Postmodernism, i.e., the devil’s latest strategy in his war on truth! Postmodernism can be hard to define, but at its base it is a rejection of absolutes, including God and His Word. Postmodernism is happy with contradiction, such as its dogmatic mantra: ‘There is no such thing as absolute truth!’ To which Christianity responds by asking Postmodernism, ‘How can this be true since this is an absolute statement?’ Thus, ‘In war, truth is the first casualty. Aeschylus, Greek tragic dramatist (525-456 BC). Which war? The war being waged by the devil (and those he has blinded) against God and His Anointed (i.e., Christ), (see e.g., Psalm 2:1-3 & 2 Corinthians 4:4).
The war was begun by Satan who subsequently deceived Eve who in turn offered her husband, Adam, the forbidden fruit which he willfully ate. Thus, Adam consciously joined the devil in rebellion against God. How did the serpent manage to pull it off? By asking a very pointed question, ‘Did God really say?’ Genesis 3:1. Questioning God and His Word, Adam and Eve set themselves up as the arbiters of truth, not God. Like Postmodernism, they rejected absolute truth and made it relative, i.e., relative to themselves. Regardless of contradiction, one person’s truth is as good as any another’s – as far as it agrees with the Postmodernist narrative of no-absolutes! However, Jesus makes an absolute statement by saying, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ John 14:6. As does His Apostle Paul, ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ Acts 4:12. The truth is that, ‘For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil’ 1 John 3:8. Thus, the Truth will shame the devil!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

JEFF'S STORY: Fugitive to Freedom

(Now available as an eBook:

https://www.amazon.com/JEFFS-STORY-Neil-Cullan-McKinlay-ebook/dp/B01J7M72FC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469734422&sr=1-1&keywords=Jeff%27s+Story%3A+Fugitive+To+Freedom#navbar



Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Jeff was now forced to live on the streets for weeks. He began sleeping in old vehicles and living off food scraps. Sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile Bible verses with some of the tragedy of things that take place in the world. However, the following verse rings true when viewed in its proper context,

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging bread.[1]

The Lord knows His own and He provides for them. He gets us through – somehow. Sometimes it’s only when we have crossed over on dry ground and have reached the other side that we can turn just in time to see the sea engulf our troubled past along with the bloodthirsty enemies that pursue us. Thus the hand of God gives us a reassuring wave.

Jeff had to negotiate the sinking sands of life in a nation at war with itself. Implosion! Says Jeff,

At the age of nine or ten years the Rebels were recruiting and I was living on the street at that time. I had nowhere to go and I had no food to eat. I was so tempted to join the Rebel Forces because I saw a lot of my age group and also friends of mine on the Rebel’s side.

            We can only say that the hand of God stayed Jeff. A roof over your head, food to eat, friends and an AK47 to shoot people with! Who could resist?

            And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.[2]

Just like those kids in the couple of movies we mentioned earlier (i.e., Machinegun Preacher and Blood Diamond), the Rebels would drive around with dilated-pupiled kids on the backs of pick-up trucks armed to their baby teeth with guns and supplied with reality-distorting drugs. Jeff witnessed the damage done, the brutality, the carnage. He saw man’s inhumanity to man,

I saw dead bodies lying all over the place, on the street, on the beaches and on the sideway of the road. I also saw Rebels arguing about the sex of a pregnant woman’s baby and I watched them murder her just to check the sex of the baby! How evil can man be? As a kid seeing all those things at that time has made me numb to any situation because I have seen enough. Sometimes I feel like the world we are living in has no more good in it, because the evil is more than the good.

            The depth of human depravity is a bottomless pit full of scorpions and venomous serpents! Evil curiosity killed the woman, that poor pregnant and helpless woman. Torturous! Murderous! Atrocious! Diabolical! And it would seem that a babe in its mother’s womb is only as safe as the restraint of evil in the world. Lord, help us!

Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.[3]

However, Jesus says to those who belong to Him, i.e., He says to all of God’s children,

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.[4]

At this time Jefferson’s natural dad started searching the streets for his son.

[1] Psalm 37:25 KJV.
[2] Matthew 6:13 KJV
[3] Romans 4:15-18 KJV.
[4] John 16:33b KJV.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Future


The Future

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future…’ (Gaither), so goes the chorus of an assuring hymn. Jesus “holds the future” because God is the God of time, past, present and future. The Triune God pushes time forward as He keeps it ticking as He drags it behind Him. The resurrected and ascended Jesus awaits the arrival of the final destination of all things (including you, me and death): ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive …Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death’ 1 Corinthians 15:22;24-26 NIV. No matter how long dead you are, you’ll be made alive in the future!


It’s not hard to see that the Christian has a far different take on the future than everyone else. For the Christian the future is all about the resurrected Jesus putting death to death on the Last Day and then living with His resurrected people forever on the resurrected (i.e., renewed) earth. We see then why Christianity lives or dies by Christ’s resurrection. That’s why the Apostle says, ‘If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile…’ 1 Corinthians 15:17a. For the Christian living in the present the future is tied to an event in the past. Without the physical resurrection of Jesus the Christian has no future. But again, as the Apostle says, ‘But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ 1 Corinthians 15:20.

The Christian would much rather look into God’s Word than gaze into a crystal ball. Therein God says, ‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure”’ Isaiah 46:9b-10. Jesus holds the future, not the fortune-teller. And He says, ‘Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’ Matthew 6:34. Therefore, whether it’s the near future or the far future it all belongs to Jesus.

There are three main views (each with variants within) that Christians hold regarding what the Bible says about the future: Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. (The word ‘millennium’ means a thousand, as in a thousand years. See e.g., Revelation 20.) The first view holds that things on earth will progressively grow worse before Jesus physically returns to set up a thousand year ministry, a “Millennial Reign.’ The second holds that Jesus will come back only after there has been a thousand year (or an extensive) period of peace of earth. And the third view is that things will carry on pretty much in the same dismal state until Jesus’s Second Coming. The first and the last views are pessimistic about the present and the near future. However, all three are optimistic about the distant future.

Why the different schools of thought? You may as well ask: Why the different Christian Denominations?! However, every Christians is agreed that, ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun, doth his successive journeys run; His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, Till moons shall wax and wane no more.’ Isaac Watts (1674-1748).