Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Believe me, marriage is worth it

The Marriage Foundation has produced a 2015 election manifesto for all political parties.

(The Marriage Foundation is a UK-based think tank established by Sir Paul Coleridge, then a High Court judge, to champion long-lasting stable marriage relationships and help children by reducing marriage break-up.

Says Sir Paul: "Despite the glossy magazine image of a so-called happy marriage, it does not fall from the sky ready made on to beautiful people in white linen suits. It is hewn out of the rock of human stubbornness and selfishness with cold chisels, and day by day, over the lifetime of the relationship, it involves endless hard work, compromise, forgiveness and love. It is often held together with string and rusty nails but it is, in the end, beautiful and, like everything which is really worthwhile, is worth the investment.")

The manifesto says family breakdown lies at the heart of most of society's social problems, and all political parties should unequivocally support marriage and families. Skills can be learned, support provided, ignorance dispelled and responsibility encouraged.

It suggests five policies which are urgently needed:

A cabinet-level minister for families and family breakdown should be provided.

 A tax and benefits system that supports marriage should be introduced. Britain is almost alone in failing significantly to reward couples who stay together.

Relationships education for both children and adults should be funded and promoted.

Family law should be modernised. The next Government should completely overhaul laws relating to divorce and financial arrangements.

Marriage should be unashamedly championed as the gold standard for all, and entrenched myths, like "marriage is just a piece of paper" and "cohabitation is as stable as marriage" should be eradicated.

Harry Benson, founder of Bristol Community Family Trust and research director of the Marriage Foundation, has it all worked out.

He says that the new tax marriage allowance has finally come into force two months before the end of a five-year Government. The Prime Minister has been very vocal in his support for marriage. Our politicians should be shouting out about this new policy from the housetops.

"But they are not. That deafening silence you hear is the sound of embarrassment about the feebleness of a policy they know is a belated and half-hearted attempt to fulfil a long-standing pledge. . . 

"The scale of the problem is breathtaking. Nearly half of all our teenagers are not living with both natural parents. Picking up the pieces now costs the taxpayer £47 billion per year. That's more than the defence budget, half of the education budget, and up £1 billion on the previous year.

"We desperately need a political consensus that backs marriage without reservation. In order to avoid being in any way judgmental or dogmatic, it must be based on evidence. Successful marriages are the norm. Success outside of marriage is the exception.

"All of the main party leaders are married. They know it's important for them personally. And yet for some of them - no prizes for guessing Nick Clegg - supporting marriage remains 'patronising drivel that belongs to the Edwardian era.'"

The marriage allowance, Benson says, will affect only a quarter of married couples, who will be only £4 a week better off. Any family on low to mid income is receiving tax credits - which means that couples with one child can be up to £7,295 better off apart - or pretending to live apart - up to £9,417 better off if they have two children, and up to £11,059 better off if they have three.

I applaud the Marriage Foundation for their principles. I agree with Harry Benson's remarks quoted above. If I may add a word of advice of my own: Don't let financial differences worry you. Marriage is worth it.
    

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ISIS barbarism: 'Why is the church silent?'

Islamic State militants cut off women's hands and publicly flogged men in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, for using mobile phones, allegedly a violation of sharia law. Thirteen teenage youths caught watching a football match on television were publicly machine-gunned to death.

Fifteen Iraqi women in Mosul had their faces severely disfigured by having acid poured on them after the women were caught not wearing a nijab, covering the full face apart from slits for the eyes. Five Iraqi men were executed in Mosul because their wives did not wear the nijab.

In Syria, ISIS fighters took nine villages, capturing 90 Christians. Some 3,000 fled. Judging by past actions, the men will be beheaded and the women used as sex slaves.

It was reported that the women were sobbing, and asking "Why is the West silent? Why is the church not talking about our persecution?"
     

Monday, February 23, 2015

A 'to-the-death' struggle?

Israel goes to the polls to vote for Israel's parliament, the Knesset, on March 17. One of the big questions is whether Benjamin Netanyahu will be elected for a further term as Prime Minister. Many believe he is God's man for the job; others believe he will be unsuccessful. But all his opponents are not Israelis.

US President Obama has been widely criticised for all the apologies he makes for Islam, the criticisms he makes of Christianity, the fact that he has no time for the Israeli administration, and the fact that he has no time whatsoever for Benjamin Netanyahu.

They are known to disagree over one major issue. Iran is going to have nuclear bombs, and it has sworn to destroy Israel. Obama is negotiating with Iran, and is going to leave Iran free to develop nuclear weapons. Obama refuses to meet Netanyahu. 

House SpeakerJohn Boehner has invited Netanyahu to speak to the joint houses of Congress in the US on March 3 about Iran's nuclear programme and the threat to international security posed by radical Islam - it is said because Boehner considers these things a threat to US national security. "I am going to the Unites States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfil my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country," says Netanyahu.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports that a foreign-funded organisation was bankrolling a campaign to defeat Netanyahu's camp in the Israeli elections. An indication of its generous financing is that it has flown a team of five American campaign experts (including Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign's national field director), who will run the campaign from offices taking up the ground floor of a Tel Aviv office building. Because the campaign doesn't support a specific party - just not Netanyahu's team - foreign funds pouring in are not subject to Israel's campaign finance laws.

Writes repected commentator Caroline Glick: "Obama won't meet Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington when he addresses the joint houses of Congress in March because of Netanyahu's visit's proximity to the Israeli elections. And Obama, of course, believes in protocol and propriety, which is why he won't get involved. No, he's not getting involved at all. He's just sending his 2012 field campaign manager to Israel to start a campaign to defeat Netanyahu. That's all. No interference whatsoever."

Obama has now stopped updating Israel on progress of talks with Iran on Iran's nuclear programme because the Israeli government is using the information "in a manipulative and political way."

Ms Glick explains: "It is hard to understand either Israel's election or Obama's hysterical response to Netanyahu's scheduled speech without recognising that Obama clearly feels threatened by the message he will deliver. Surrounded by sycophantic aides and advisers, and until recently insulated from criticism by a supportive media, while free to ignore Congress due to his veto power, Obama has never had to seriously explain policies regarding Iran, and Islamic terrorists in general. He has never endured a direct challenge to those policies.

"Today Obama believes he is in a to-the-death struggle with Netanyahu. If Netanyahu's speech is a success, Obama's policy will be indefensible. If Obama is able to delegitimise Netanyahu ahead of his arrival and bring about his electoral defeat, then with a compliant Israeli government, he will face no obstacles to his plan to appease Iran and blame Islamic terrorism on the West for the remainder of his tenure in office."

I shall be praying for the result of the Israeli elections. Either way, I shall be grateful for the promises of God, the God of Israel, who neither slumbers nor sleeps. "He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock" (Jer 31:10 KJV). 
        

Monday, February 16, 2015

Remembering when the fire fell

David Voas is a professor of population studies at the University of Essex. He says the future of religion in Britain is to be found in Islam and the black majority churches.

"Muslims already contribute 10 per cent of British births," he says in a blog for the think tank Theos. "Within several decades Muslims will form 10 per cent of the population, even if immigration came to an abrupt halt tomorrow. Even if half are observant, they will form a substantial proportion of the religiously active population."

Meanwhile, traditional churches with a mainly white base are on the decline. "The future of religion among the white British is bleak. There are charismatic (small c) leaders who can inspire and build congregations, but they are few and far between."

There are Christians who believe that Muslims will take over in Britain - not because of the power of Islam, but because of the weakness of the Christian church.

I am reminded of the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to the early Christian church. There are two things to notice. First,"they were all with one accord" (Acts 2:1). Unanimous, in agreement, in unity, with one mind and purpose.

Second, they were promised power. "You shall receive power," said Jesus, "when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8). Power was what they were promised, and power was what they got.

On that day, Peter preached spontaneously, and about three thousand people were converted (Acts  2:41).

The desire of the Holy Spirit to see souls come to Christ is as great today as it was then. The power of the Holy Spirit is as great today as it was on that day. What He needs is men and women who are sold out to Christ.

Are we content to sit back and see a Muslim takeover? Or are we prepared for God to use us?
       

Friday, February 13, 2015

Intelligence doesn't have anything to do with it

Stephen Fry is an actor, writer and television presenter. His face and fruity voice will be familiar to most.

Fry is a homosexual. He also claims to be an atheist. He has been in the news several times lately: first, because he "married" a young male writer and comedian; secondly because of his remarks in a television programme about the meaning of life. He was asked what he would say when he was confronted by God.

"I'd say bone cancer in children? What's that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is so much misery that is not our fault. It's not right. It's utterly, utterly evil. . . That's what I would say. . . The God that created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac. . . utterly selfish."

The arrogance of the man is staggering.

He has been voted the most intelligent man on television, which goes to show that faith in God does not depend on intelligence, or lack of it. Rather, it depends on an attitude of heart. "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 18:3).

Objections to the existence of God by atheists are not intellectual in origin, but moral. People don't believe not because they can't believe, but because they won't believe. Like the men in the parable: "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 9:14). When there's a clash between faith in God and lifestyle, some find it easier to pretend that God doesn't exist.

God made the world perfect, but He gave man free will. Man chose to sin, and through sin came misery, sickness and sorrow. But God didn't leave man in the mess he had made. He came into the world in the form of His Son, lived a perfect life, then suffered unto death that we might be freely forgiven. We didn't ask for it, we didn't deserve it, but He did it anyway. Amazing love. Amazing grace.

One can only hope that Stephen Fry finds repentance. Having found forgiveness ourselves, could we deny another the same experience?
           

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Separated to the gospel

"We have been made as the filth of the world, the scum of all things," wrote Paul (1 Cor 4:13). The trouble with us is that sometimes we don't want to be as the filth of the world; we want everyone to think what fine Christians we are.

Some years ago, God sent me to work in a steel works. The men in that steel works knew how to give me a hard time.

One morning a young man, his friends around him, was having a go at me. He had an obscene picture he had taken from some pornographic magazine which he held in front of me. "There you are," he said. "What do you think about that, eh?"

Some time later I found myself standing at a bus stop with that same young man. Just the two of us. I didn't apeak to him. If I had been firendly; if I had treated him as a friend, I might perhaps have won him to Christ.

Oswald Chambers points out that Paul described himself as "separated to the gospel of God" (Rom 1:1). I wasn't separated to the gospel. I was prepared to testify to my faith in Christ, but I was still concerned about what people thought about me.

When Paul talked about his conversion to Christ, he didn't say "When it pleased God to show what a wonderful man he could make me." He said "When it pleased God to reveal his Son in me" (Gal 1:15, 16).
       

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Seven million children in danger

Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders met in Bkarka, Lebanon, and called for international support for Christian refugees in Iraq and Syria. They urged Middle Eastern nations to stop funding terrorists, who have displaced over 90 per cent of the region's believers.

They appealed for material aid and medicines. Christian Aid said refugees, left homeless and penniless, are struggling in snow and bitter winter weather.

According to UNICEF, who are appealing for help to provide winter clothing, medicines and food, seven million children are in grave danger.

Film actress Angelina Jolie said she had never seen anything like the suffering in the refugee camps she visited in Erbil. She demanded additional funding for UN humanitarian efforts and urged countries outside the Middle East to offer sanctuary to the most vulnerable refugees, who had been raped and tortured.

Prayer is good, but material aid is needed too. If you want to give material aid, you can do so through Barnabas Fund, 9 - 10 Priory Row, Coventry CV1 5EX, or Open Doors, PO Box 6, Witney OX29 6BR.
    

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Government to vote on genetically modified babies

The Government is trying to legalise the creation of genetically modified babies. To prevent mitochondrial disease, it proposes creating modified embryos from a minimum of three parents, which would then be implanted by IVF. The proposal is expected to be voted on in the House of Commons this Tuesday, February 3.

Genetic modifications are expected to be passed on not only to the child, but to all future descendants. There is no way of knowing what the long-term effects might be.

The procedure will necessarily involve the destruction of living human embryos.

The procedure is currently prohibited by international law. We would be the first nation in the world to permit it.

The Department of Health is claiming widespread approval for the proposal, despite its own consultation having shown a majority of the public opposed to the idea.

It is not too late to send an e-mail to your MP, asking him or her to vote against the measure.

Ypu can see further details here or here.
       

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Three important questions

When I was a youngster, I wasn't a Christian. But at school - a state school, let me say - we were marched into the school hall each day to stand in line, hands together, for morning prayers.

I clearly remember standing there one day - I would be about eight - thinking "If God made everything, who made God?" The question, of course, is a nonsense. Nobody made God. But at least we were brought up to be aware of God's existence.

Now some children are brought up without a mention of God. People actively engaged in evangelism say it was once possible to start with the story of Jesus. Now they have to go further back, and start with the existence of God.

Not that people can escape it. There is deep down in every person an awareness of God. They can ignore it; they can squash it; they can deny it. But they can't escape it.

"What may be known of God is manifest in them," says Paul in Romans, "for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."

No matter how involved people get in the things of this life, thoughts about God's existence keep pushing up, like grass through asphalt.

There are three questions we all ask ourselves, sooner or later. They are

                                                                            Where did I come from?
                                                                            What am I doing here?
                                                                            Where am I going?

Could any questions be more important than these?
          

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Remembering

It seemed like time stood still yesterday as people remembered the Nazi killing machine on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Hundreds of former inmates gathered there, unable to forget.

At the Museum of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, I remember standing in the Hall of Remembrance, which commemorates the Nazi killing centres where countless thousands died. I explained to the Jewish doorkeeper  that I was not a Jew, but a Gentile. I asked his forgiveness. "Ah,"  he said, "It wasn't just the Jews. It was Communists, prisoners of war. . . "

A gentle man from Poland recalled an incident while an inmate in Auschwitz. As he walked down a corridor, he heard another inmate out of sight singing an aria from Tosca. SS men ran over and the singing suddenly stopped. Later, he asked what had happened. "He was killed," he was told.  

Some Jews became atheists as a result of the Holocaust. "Where was God?" they said. Unfortunately, they had the wrong question. The correct question was not "Where was God?" but "Where was man?"

Antisemitic incidents in the UK last year are set to be the highest in the past 30 years. In Europe, antisemitism is said to be at its worst since the Nazi era. In France, eight synagogues were attacked in one week.

People need to remember that one day everything will be put right. Not a single thing will be forgotten. Nothing is more certain.
     

Friday, January 23, 2015

Frieda's miracle

Frieda Roos van Hessen was born into a Jewish family in Amsterdam. They were not practising Jews: Frieda had been to synagogue only once, for her brother's wedding. But they knew they were Jews.

Frieda had a beautiful singing voice, and decided to become a singer. She trained at Amsterdam Conservatoire, and was soon performing to packed houses. She was chosen to sing the lead in the Dutch version of Disney's Snow White. She was a soloist in a performance of Verdi's Requiem for the Dutch royal family.

Then the Germans invaded Holland. As a Jew, Frieda was forbidden to perform for non-Jewish audiences.

One day a car pulled up at the house where they were staying. Her parents were arrested and taken away. They died in Auschwitz.

Frieda hid in the house and was not discovered. That night, she fled for her life. For the next four years, she hid in eight different locations. She escaped Nazi soldiers eight times. Once she was arrested, then set free again in miraculous circumstances. At one time she lived for months in one room.

Then came the news: the war was over. There was dancing in the streets.

After the war, she met a pastor, who sent a German woman to see her. The woman told her stories of Jesus. "I thought you were an intelligent person," said Frieda. "How can you believe all this nonsense?"

The woman asked her to read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Alone, she read Isaiah 53 and understood not a word. She began to read Psalm 22 and came to the verse which says "they pierced my hands and my feet." She let out a yell. "That's Jesus!" she said. She went back to Isaiah 53. She understood every word. "How could I have lived all these years without this?" she said. "It was like coming out of a dark hole into the light."

She was converted instantly through reading the Old Testament.

Frieda, who lives today in the United States, is now 99 years old, and still active. Her aim: to show the power of the love of Jesus.

Next Tuesday is not only the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but also Holocaust Remembrance Day. You can read about it here and here.

You can see Frieda's testimony, complete with photographs and recordings, here.
          

Monday, January 19, 2015

Suffering for their faith

The past 12 months have seen the highest level of persecution of Christians worldwide in living memory. One hundred million Christians are facing persecution.

Islamic extremists are the main persecutor. In some countries, Christians face imprisonment, torture, rape and death.

More than 70 per cent of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003. More than 700,000 Christians have left Syria since civil war began in 2011.

The organisation Open Doors has published its 2015 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. North Korea tops the list for the 13th successive year. Meeting with other Christians there is virtually impossible. Anyone discovered in unauthorised religious activity is subject to arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture and/or execution.

Next countries on the list, in order, are Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea and Nigeria. You can see further details here.

Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors in the UK and Ireland, says "I am convinced that what happens in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa in the next three years will define the future of Christianity as we know it. We can't afford to sleepwalk through these difficult days. Open Doors isn't saying there should be special treatment for Christians - of course there shouldn't. But there must be equal treatment - the fundamental right to follow any faith, or none."

Tomorrow will be the launch of the World Watch List and a report in Parliament on global persecution. It's not too late to e-mail your MP to invite him or her to attend the meeting.
        

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2,484 killed in Nigeria. Who cares?

When 17 people were killed by Islamic terrorists in France, the leaders of something like 40 nations - with the notable exception of President Obama of the USA - gathered in Paris to protest Islamic terrorism.

Last year 2,484 were killed in Nigeria as a result of Islamic extremism, the highest total of any nation in the world. This year hundreds more have been killed already. Men, women and children, hunted down, shot, drowned or burned alive. Who cares about them?

Among politicians, a few individuals have expressed concern. Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary - his father was a Church of Scotland minister - has expressed concern. He promised that a Labour Government would appoint a global ambassador for religious freedom to tackle the persecution of Christians worldwide.

But it seems that for the majority of politicians, Islamic extremists in Africa can do what they like. Words, perhaps. But actions?

Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors in the UK and Ireland, says: "Responding to a question from MPs about whether in light of increasing persecution now was the time to appoint an ambassador for religious freedom to campaign for religious freedom internationally, the UK Deputy Prime Minister has just responded confirming that, 'while it is necessary to keep an open mind' about whether more should be done to protect Christians, the UK Government would not be making the appointment.

"Of course that appointment wouldn't have changed the world on its own, but it would have been a step.

"Meanwhile the church is experiencing persecution on an unprecedented scale. Time is running out. Surely we need to move beyond 'keeping an open mind' and do something?"

There are things that can be done. For instance, the UK pays £249 million in foreign aid to Nigeria each year.
        

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Jesus the Son of God?

A Muslim challenged me to produce a single example in the Bible where Jesus Himself claimed to be the Son of God. How about Mark 14:60 - 62:

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Do you answer nothing? What is it these men testify against you?"

But he kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, saying to him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"

And Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
 
 In Exodus 3:14 God revealed His name to Moses: 

And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
 
 Dr Henry Morris says there are seven "I ams" in the book of Genesis; 21 (3 x 7) in Exodus; seven in Psalms that speak of the future sufferings of Christ; 35 (5 x 7) in Isaiah; 70 (10 x 7) in Ezekiel; 21 (3 x 7) in Jeremiah; 21 (3 x 7) in the smaller prophetic books; 154 (22 x 7) in the prophetic books as a whole; and seven in the book of Revelation.

In John's Gospel, Jesus uses seven "I ams" with descriptions of Himself to explain His ministry. He says "I am the bread of life" to explain that the manna in the wilderness is a picture of the Messiah. Every one who seeks Him will find Him; whoever partakes of Him will never hunger; each one has to seek Him for himself; every one finds sufficient for his salvation.

The seven "I ams" are I am the bread of life (John 6:48); I am the light of the world (8:12); I am the door of the sheep (10:7); I am the good shepherd (10:11); I am the resurrection and the life (11:25); I am the way, the truth and the life (14:6); and I am the true vine (15:1).

Somebody said that whatever the spiritual question, the answer is Jesus. Would you agree?
     

Thursday, January 08, 2015

First birthday for baby saved from death

Mrs Mhairi Morris, of Crawley, West Sussex, was 20 weeks pregnant when her waters broke. She was taken to East Surrey Hospital, where a consultant told her her baby was a "non-viable foetus."

She says the consultant told her there was nothing he could do about it, and she would have to go to theatre. Mrs Morris felt so long as the baby was alive, she had to give him a chance. When she declined an abortion, the consultant rolled his eyes.

Doubting her resolve, Mrs Morris researched her condition on the internet, and found it was possible to carry on with her pregnancy. She was placed under the care of a woman consultant, who "kept writing 'termination of pregnancy' on my notes."

The baby was born at 25 weeks. He is now a beautiful, bright-eyed boy, and has just celebrated his first birthday.

An NHS Trust official said Mrs Morris had been given a range of options.

With abortion being so easily available, it seems the nation has lost its respect for human life.

Suppose assisted suicide were legalised. Then where would we be? 
    

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Billy Graham (96) plans for 2015

Billy Graham, who is 96, used to make a long list of New Year's resolutions, but got discouraged when he didn't keep them. So this year he's concentrating on just one: to become more and more like Christ.

"To be like Christ," he says, "means to be like Him in behaviour - rejecting sin, living pure and godly lives, and sharing His love with others. It also means to be like Him in character - in love and peace and patience, and all the other fruit of the Spirit

"If you've never invited Christ to come into your life, do so today. Then ask Him to help you become more like Christ this year, as you submit to His word and follow Him."

Not a bad resolution for a 96-year-old. Not a bad resolution for someone of any age, come to that. 
     

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Palestinians fail in their UN bid

The Palestinians failed in their bid for a Palestinian state at the UN.

Palestinian leaders, who have refused to negotiate with Israel, went unilaterally to the United Nations with a request for the UN to recognise a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria - the so-called West Bank - and part of Jerusalem, requiring the Israelis to leave by 2017.

Eight nations voted in favour of the Palestinian resolution in the UN Security Council, leaving Palestinians one vote short of the nine they required. (If they had received the nine votes, the bid would not have succeeded. The US would likely have used its veto.)

The eight who voted in favour were Russia, China, France, Jordan, Argentina, Luxembourg, Chile and Chad. France's vote was a surprise: France had previously promised not to vote against Israel. The US and Australia voted against. The United Kingdom abstained.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said the resolution was "deeply unbalanced" and included "unconstructive deadlines that take no account of Israel's security concerns." She said the US voted against it "because we know what everyone here knows as well: peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must come at the negotiating table."

The Palestine Authority's representative Riyad Mansour said "The result of today's vote shows that the Security Council is clearly not ready and willing to shoulder its responsibilities in a way that would. . . allow us to open the doors to for peace."

Israel's representative Israel Nitzar said "The Palestinians have found every possible opportunity to avoid direct negotiations with Israel. They have engaged in a never-ending string of political games, and now they are parading into this council with preposterous unilateral proposals. I have news for the Palestinians: you cannot agitate and provoke your way to a state."

Although the majority of Americans support Israel, relations between US President Obama and Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu are at their lowest. The US State Department last year cited Israel for "unacceptable behaviour" more times than anyone except Syria, Iran and North Korea. President Obama is said to be campaigning against the selection of Netanyahu as Prime Minister at Israeli elections in March.

While Hamas is stockpiling rockets and building new tunnels in preparation for the next war against Israel, the General Court of the European Union decided to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organisations.
       

Friday, January 02, 2015

The battle goes on

2014 was a difficult year, with civic rights and freedoms being attacked and secular humanists seeking to bury every public manifestation of Christianity. 2015, with thousands of children being reported for playground banter and the reports passed to education authorities and Ofsted inspectors, doesn't look like being much different.

Home Secretary Teresa May has announced extremist disruption orders to counter Islamic extremism - but which could penalise criticism of same-sex marriage or sharia law.

The Liberal Democrats, who favour liberalisation of drugs laws, want to enforce sex education - possibly with sexually explicit materials - for children as young as seven. The battle against legalised abortion continues in Northern Ireland. With reports of as many as one person in 33 opting for death in Holland, where euthanasia is legal, Lord Falconer still wants assisted suicide to be legalised in the UK.

But the Government has done a partial U-turn with its instructions to promote "British values" in schools. Faith schools were being told they must be tolerant of other faiths and staffs were to be prevented from teaching that certain lifestyles were wrong.

Christians protested. There were challenges from MPs and the prospect of a judicial review. The Church of England said Government plans were "negative and divisive" and increasing Government involvement in schools risked turning Ofsted into a "schoolroom security service."

New guidance to all schools now says achools are required to respect people, not beliefs, and no additional equality duties are required. Unfortunately, Christians say that Ofsted is not following the guidance in many cases.

The price of freedom, said someone, is eternal vigilance. Dare I wish my readers a blessed, prosperous and fruitful new year?
    

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A few facts and figures

The Christmas and New Year holiday seems to be time for quizzes and things. So let's have a quiz.

Here's the first question. How big is the universe? Well, consider.There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy. (There are an estimated 100 to 200 billion galaxies.) The average distance of each star from its nearest neighbour is 37 trillion miles. If you were to travel through space at five miles a second, travelling 37 trillion miles would take you more than 200,000 years.

God, who created the universe, is greater than it all. (If God exists, why doesn't He reveal Himself? He has revealed Himself. He has revealed Himself, for instance, in creation. Perhaps God wants people to choose to follow Him. There is all the evidence that people need.)

How big are you and I? There are more than seven billion of us on earth at this time. Tiny specks in a vast universe. But each of us fearfully and wonderfully made. And each one of us infinitely precious.

So precious that when we went adrift, God was willing to give His own Son. Our righteousness was no longer good enough, so God allowed His Son to die so we could share His righteousness. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. If we decide to believe on Him as our Lord and Caviour.

The choice is ours.
 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A new job for grandmother, 95

Mrs Connie Vitolo, who is 95, lived in New Jersey in the United States. Until she had a nasty fall, and moved to live with her daughter Anne in Virginia.

Having lost her own home, depression set in. One day she prayed to die.

Anne knew this wasn't right, and prayed that God would give her mother a purpose for living.

He did. Mrs Vitolo began to crochet blankets for an orphanage in India. "She really has a lot of Joy just doing this," says Anne. "She can do it all day and she doesn't get tired."

Before starting a blanket, Mrs Vitolo prays. Having started a blanket, she prays "Jesus, don't let me die before I finish my blanket."

Ranjit Abraham lives in India. His father, a pastor, founded 17 orphanages. On a trip to the US, Ranjit visited Mrs Vitolo to say thank you. He gave her a big hug, and she showed him a pile of multicoloured blankets ready to go. 

"What that lady is doing is amazing," said Ranjit. "It's something that is giving her life and is breathing in life and nurture to a child in another country."

"Jesus has a purpose for us all," said Mrs Vitolo. "But I never thought He had a purpose like this for me. I'm very happy, and honoured and humble. Jesus, I love You. I thank You and praise You all my days. Until the day I come home."
        

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

One of the greatest stories ever told

Bible literacy is diminishing. The Bible Society arranged a survey on the story of the Nativity. People 55 and over gave the most correct answers.

Ninety per cent said there were three wise men who visited Jesus. The Bible doesn't say how many there were. Only three per cent got the right answer.

Eighty-four per cent said Mary travelled to Bethlehem on a donkey. The Bible doesn't say how Mary travelled.

Thirty-five per cent said Mary and Joseph were married when Mary found she was pregnant. They weren't. They were betrothed. Only 30 per cent got the answer right.

Forty-two per cent believed Jesus was born on December 25. The Bible doesn't give a date. The date of a pagan festival was chosen to celebrate His birth.

Interesting? Listen to James Catford, Bible Society group chief executive: "The Bible could be lost to future generations unless we all take action. That's why in the week  leading up to Christmas and beyond, we are encouraging parents to leave a little time in their annual celebrations to help pass on one of the greatest stories ever told."
         

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Good questions. Do we have some good answers?

Christianity is the most widely persecuted faith in the world, and four-fifths of this persecution is at the hands of Muslim jihadists, Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream and director of academic affairs at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, says in the latest issue of Evangelicals Now.

He asks some pertinent questions:

Should persecuted Christians move from the Middle East? Should they suffer in silence, resist or retaliate? What is the difference between being prepared for martyrdom or for genocide? How chould the church respond to the violence that intends to uproot whole Christian communities from their homelands?

He adds some interesting facts:

The plight of persecuted Christians is often misrepresented by western media. Archbishop Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria, writes: "It is wrong to claim that insurgency in the north of Nigeria is fuelled more by poverty than by Islamic extremism. Poverty does not explain the killing of 40 schoolchildren - Muslim children - in Potiksum. Boko Haram and its kind delight in massacres, slaughters, rape and murders. This is not the face of poverty, but of radical Islamist jihad."

The Minister of State for International Development. Desmond Swayne, said in the House of Commons that Christians who argue that the jihadist's violence stems directly from Islam were talking manifest nonsense. He refused to recognise any claim of vulnerable religious minorities for help beyond generalised humanitarian help. This notion collapses under its own contradictions.

Bishop Nick Baines of West Yorkshire and the Dales said we must continue to pray, continue to give, to lobby politicians and to engage with the media. Were we content to live in a country that refuses to address the question of asylum for people who have lost everything and have nowhere to go back to?

We must make clear to churches, says Canon Sugden, which organisations are definitely supporting persecuted Christians. Government-supported agencies refuse to discriminate, and Christians get left out. Christian organisations that attempt to fill the gap left by political intrigue include Barnabas Fund, Open Doors, Aid to the Church in Need, World Vision and Andrew White's FRRME. Organisations such as Christian Aid and Tear Fund are constrained bv the Department for International Development's strings, often resulting in non-Christians getting help from all over and Christians getting little or nothing.

Finally, says Canon Sugden, an important expression of our compassion would be to welcome those who needed asylum into our homes and churches - and press the Government to give them entrance visas. One family per church would meet a major need. When he suggested it in a sermon in his church, he had three offers at the end of the service.

So - what are we going to do to help?
     

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nazi SS officer's son who loves the Jews

Werner Oder was brought up in Austria. His father was an SS officer, whose job was to train einsatzgruppen, army units whose job it was to murder Jews.

"The Bible," Werner says, "says very clearly that those who curse the Jews will be cursed by God. That curse manifested itself in our life in the most terrible way. We encountered chaos in our home; anger, violence, hatred. Antisemitic language was normal.

"My life was going down the same road. I became angry, violent, very aggressive. People who just slightly offended me I calculated coolly at home how to kill them.

"A person said to me one day 'Werner, the way you're going, you have got two choices. You're either going to prison for life or you're going to hell for ever, so what are you going to do about it?'

"One night I had this terrific demonic manifestation in my life. I thought I was going to die. I cried out to God - the God who didn't exist, the God I didn't know about. I said 'God, I don't want to die. I want to live.'

"God answered. He sent me an evangelist. He told me Jesus is the Son of God, who loved me and died for me on the cross, and if I put my trust in Him He would forgive my sin and set me free from all evil. From that day on I put my trust in Jesus. I was changed."

Werner started to attend a Roman Catholic church. One Sunday morning as he sat in church, he had a revelation: Jesus is Jewish.

"I thought who is God? Do we know His name? I suddenly realised it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. God is the God of Israel.

"I realised that Jesus Christ was never His name. That's a Greek translation.

"His mother Mary was never called Mary because she was never a Catholic. She was a Jewish woman from Nazareth, who had a revelation from the angel Gabriel. who told her she had a son named Yeshua, who was to be the Saviour of the world. This was the beginning of my love for the Jewish people.

"I couldn't do anything about the people who were murdered, but I had this horror when I discovered what took place. I felt someone ought to come from the Nazi world to at least apologise. This is a very benign term - how  can you apologise? - but at least I wanted to be a friend to the Jewish people. . . "

You can see the whole of a remarkable interview here
      

Monday, December 08, 2014

Schooldays, witchcraft - and George Fox

Twenty-five miles from here as the crow flies is a hill that can be seen for miles around, when it isn't raining. (A local saying has it that if you can see Pendle it's about to rain, and if you can't see it, it's raining already. A scurrilous statement, that.) I went to school within a mile or two of the hill's Big End, and on Saturdays I climbed its slopes and tramped its length.

It's probably best known for its connection with the Pendle Witches (or the Lancashire Witches, as author Harrison Ainsworth called them). Four hundred years ago, Pendle was considered a wild and lawless region, "fabled for its theft, violence and sexual laxity, where the church was honoured without much understanding of its doctrines by the common people."

Roger Nowell of Read Hall, JP for Pendle, was investigating people failing to attend  the Church of England when he received a complaint that John Law, a pedlar, had been injured by witchcraft. Law appears to have suffered a stroke shortly after an argument with one Alizon Device. Alizon Device, being investigated, made claims about a rival family.

The magistrate's inquiries led to some 11 people being sent to Lancaster Assizes and one to York Assizes in 1612 to answer charges of causing harm by witchcraft, Ten were sentenced to death by hanging. They were apparently poor uneducated people who earned a living by begging, home cures, threats and extortion. Except for one, Alice Nutter, the widow of a prosperous farmer, who is believed to have been a Catholic and it is said may have declined to give evidence in her defence for fear of incriminating other Catholics.

The trial became the best known of all British witchcraft trials, largely because of an account of the trial, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, published by the clerk of the court, Thomas Potts.

Fortunately the hill has some more godly associations. George Fox. founder of the Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, realised that it took more than going to Oxford or Cambridge to make a minister, and he had scant respect for "steeple-houses," for the church, he said, was the people, and their head was Christ. Born the son of a godly Leicestershire weaver, he was constantly on the move, exhorting people to repentance and "turning people from darkness to light." 

He arrived in Pendle around 1651, when he was about 26 years old. He had already served two periods in prison because of his outspokenness. He writes in his Journal:

"As we travelled we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering on Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered. As I went down, I found a spring of water in the side of the hill, with which I refreshed myself, having eaten or drunk but little for several days before."

Jesus said "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).

George Fox was a good example, would you think?
  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

When politicians act like kings

Laura Perrins has a good memory. She remembers younger days, when she used to play "If I were king." It's a game where you get to do lots of stuff and impose your will on the world - without the consent of the people.

Why are British voters so disenchanted with politicians - of whatever stripe? Why are the ruling elite, both Conservative and Labour, scratching their heads wondering why the hoi polloi are so fed up with their ruling? In a perceptive piece at Conservative Woman, Ms Perrins attempts an answer.

"In a democracy," she says, "we have the illusion of the elite representing our views, but in vast policy areas, this is not reality. The political parties campaign on major policy areas, but once in power they seem fixated on discrete but important changes, especially in social policy.

"What the voters are really saying, I believe, is that something is not right. They are saying 'This is not what I signed up for'. . . These voters believe they are living in another country.

"One of Cameron's seminal comments was 'If I were king I would spend an inordinate amount of parliamentary time redefining marriage. When I finish I will eat lots of pizza and ice cream at a gay wedding and fly the rainbow flag from government buildings. I can do this - because I am king!'

"Now, it may be the case that lots of people have no problem with this, but I am pretty sure that they do have a problem with gay marriage being used as a way to hammer home the progressive liberal agenda on any dissenters. So Christian bakers who refuse to bake gay cake must be run out of town - or at least forced to pay compensation for holding fast to their view that marriage is between one man and one woman. It is pizza, ice cream and gay cake for all - or else!

"This is followed by the unbelievably patronising mantra that schoolchildren must be 'prepared for life in modern Britain.' We all know 'modern Britain' means whatever the ruling elite want it to be. . . The test, now administered by Ofsted, is meaningless but very dangerous dross - a power grab by those who get to be king every day. . .

"This is what the British voters have been subject to by those who like to play at being kings. No wonder many believe it is time for the guillotine."

Incidentally, it has been discovered that only a third of schools now stage a traditional nativity play. The rest favour modernised versions with fairies, aliens, lobsters, spacemen - and Elvis. Small wonder a recent poll showed that 36 per cent of children didn't know whose birthday they were supposed to be celebrating at Christmas.

What are tea towel manufacturers going to do if children stop wearing tea towels for headdresses in the annual Christmas extravaganza?
     

Monday, December 01, 2014

Nicky Morgan takes on faith schools

Education secretary Nicky Morgan is taking on Britain's faith schools by ordering them to teach children to be tolerant of other religions and respect lesbian, homosexual and transgender relationships.

Schools have been warned that those that fail to follow new rules on "British values" would be judged inadequate and would face closure.

Trinity Christian School in Reading, which had an excellent report in 2013, has been told representatives of other faiths should be asked to lead assemblies and lessons, and staff should be prevented from teaching that certain lifestyles are wrong.

At an Orthodox Jewish primary school, a girl aged nine was asked if she understood how babies were made and whether she knew any homosexual people. A Jewish high school has been placed in special measures and rebuked by Ofsted for failing to promote "British values."

A consultation on school regulations during the summer was criticised for being too short and falling largely in school holidays. The new regulations, requiring all schools to actively promote "fundamental British values," were issued in September.

In a letter to Nicky Morgan last week, Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, said of 35 maintained schools and academies inspected without notice since the beginning of September, 11 were not preparing pupils for life in Britain. They included schools that were not teaching respect for and understanding of the various faiths found in Britain, and schools that were not developing pupils' awareness and tolerance of communities different to their own. He said he intends to meet with education leaders from the different faith communities over the next few weeks to discuss Ofsted's inspection frameworks and guidance.

Christians are up in arms. They recognise there are many non-Christian religions in modern-day Britain, but they have different truth claims and cannot be all lumped together in a multi-faith mishmash.

Colin Hurt, director of the Christian Institute, says "The new rules are being used to compel religious believers to actively promote beliefs and lifestyles with which they profoundly disagree. There is vast scope for school inspectors to hassle individual schools, including any state or private school with a Christian ethos.

"The Government claims the changes are in response to the 'Trojan Horse' allegations in Birmingham. But it has now become clear that these school standards were in the pipeline in 2013 - long before the situation in Birmingham was uncovered in 2014.

"The new rules are divisive and are a powerful tool to promote secularism. . . They are promoting intolerance and disrespect for people with traditional religious beliefs."
     

Friday, November 28, 2014

The woman who came back to life

A remarkable story from the United States.

Forty-year-old Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro had been delivered of a healthy baby in a routine caesarean section when there was an unexpected complication. An amniotic fluid embolism in her bloodstream stopped her heart. Doctors say the condition is almost always fatal.

A team of more than a dozen doctors and nurses fought for 45 minutes to save her. They took turns to give CPR and gave repeated electric shocks. Nothing worked. Eventually the doctors stopped all lifesaving procedures. They told relatives there was nothing more they could do. Ruby's husband, mother and sister said their goodbyes and left the room.

They were about to record the time of death when Ruby's heart started beating again. Her family were praying in a room nearby when a nurse came in. "Keep praying," she said. "Her heart just started." 

When Ruby came round, despite being without heartbeat for 45 minutes, there was no trace of brain damage. There were no burns from the repeated shocks and there was no bruising from the CPR.

Then Ruby remembered what she thought was a dream she had had while she was unconscious. She met her late father, who told her it was not time for her to die.

"It was a complete miracle," said nurse Julie Ewing. "It was answered prayer. We were all there. We all witnessed it."

According to the doctors, there was no explanation for her heart starting beating again. Said Dr Amthony Dardano, president of the hospital's medical staff: "There's very few things in medicine that I've seen, working in the trauma centre myself and doing all the things that I do, that really were either unexplainable or miraculous. When I heard this story, that was the first thing that came to my mind."

Later, Ruby went back to the hospital with her baby for a tearful reunion with the doctors and nurses. "All I know is that I'm grateful to be here," she said. " I don't know why I was given this opportunity, but I'm very grateful for it."

You can read the full story here.
  

Monday, November 24, 2014

The best is yet to come

My father had a James autocycle. He rode it to Blackpool one day to find some accommodation for our annual holiday. For some reason, he didn't find any. On the way back, he got lost. He wound up in a little village, where he saw a sign in a front room window: Apartments. He went in and booked.

The village had two buses a week: one on Tuesday afternoon, and one on Thursday afternoon. If you missed the one on Tuesday, you had to wait until Thursday. On our holiday, my parents were bored to death. I thought it was marvellous. I revelled in the fields, the farms with their young calves and the stream running through the village with fish in it.

In those days, it was customary to have one week's holiday away each year. Almost no one had transport. You walked through the streets to the railway station and pushed your way on to a packed train, suitcases in hand. Most people went to Blackpool. The adventurous might decide to go to Morecambe. If you thought yourself a cut above the rest, you would go to Southport. Only company directors and Woolworths managers, it seemed, went to North Wales.

All that changed for me when I was 15 years old. I went on a coach tour to North Wales. The coach went along the A5 across North Wales. I sat by the window, captivated by the countryside. I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful.

I have had quite a lot of holidays since then. I have often thought I would like to see Israel again before I die. It doesn't look like I am going to manage it now. It doesn't much matter; I will see Israel again. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns and brings us with Him, He will reign in Jerusalem. We will reign with Him.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And he who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except himself.

He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God.

 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed him on white horses.

Now out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should strike the nations. And he himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

And he has on his robe and on his thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS
AND LORD OF LORDS.
                                                                                                                   Rev 19:11 - 16.

Blessed and holy is he who has a part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
                                                                                                                   Rev 20:6.

There's something to look forward to.
        

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How a Muslim found peace

"I grew up in a Muslim family. I became a very, very strict Muslim, because of the thirst and hunger I had for the Creator. I used to think that His name was Allah. In my wildest imagination, I couldn't imagine that that's not true."

This is the remarkable testimony of a young Muslim.

"I always had a love for God. I really wanted to get to know Him. They told me if you read Koran over and over and over again, you get extra credit. If you wake up early in the morning and read Koran over and over, that really will give you extra credit. That never made me closer to God. I was always so hungry and thirsty and desperate to know God.

"For 12 years I was pursuing God, but I couldn't have a close relationship with Him. I gave up. I was so angry.

"I went to this hotel in Cyprus. I saw a Bible. I said 'Can I read it?' He said 'You can have it.' I began to read the Bible. Jesus was popping out of the Bible. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I think it was the third night I was reading the Bible. I read that Jesus was the Son of God. That made me so angry. I threw the book at the wall. 

"I didn't touch the Bible for three years.

"I went to this school and my teacher started to talk to me about Jesus. I couldn't believe that God is love because I never received love from God. I was a slave of God.

"I felt that I need to pray to Jesus. I asked a friend of the teacher's how can I pray. She said 'I receive you as Lord of my life. I accept your forgiveness. I accept you as the Son of God.'

"I said 'Jesus, I don't believe that you are the Son of God. I really don't. But if you are the Son of God I want you to come to my life. I don't believe your blood has any power to forgive my sin at all, but if your blood has any power to forgive my sin, I accept it.'

"I went to church. I went to church as a Muslim, but as a Muslim who was so disappointed. The pastor was preaching. I couldn't understand his preaching because I didn't have any knowledge of Bible.

"I saw a man standing behind pastor. I asked myself 'Who is this?' A voice inside of me said 'Jesus.' He walked inside me physically. Fire came all over me. My whole body was on fire. This hand came and touched my heart.

"She said 'Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?' I said 'No, I don't. Now I believe that Jesus lives and He came to me personally. But Son of God? You need to convince me.' And I saw Jesus in heaven and He was standing on the right hand of the throne.

"He started to pour His Spirit all over me. He convinced me without saying anything. My heart knew He was the Son of God. I ran to the hotel and got to my knees. It was the most wonderful, the most beautiful moment of my life. I never had peace before. It was like I was swimming inside peace.

"If you don't have peace, if you have never received love from God, try Jesus. He will give you love. He will give you joy. He will give you peace.

"If I die today I know He is waiting there for me. I am going to jump into His arms. I am going to dance with Him. He is my closest friend. If you don't have peace, let Jesus come and turn your world upside down, and introduce Himself to you - as Love."

You can see the full testimony on video here.
   

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Happy birthday then

Today I am 80 years old. I don't really know how I got here, to be honest. The last 20 years seem to have snuck by when I wasn't looking.

Admitted, there have been signs. Young women have started to offer me their seat on buses, and I have become a depository for old age jokes. Like The older I get, the more time I spend thinking about the hereafter. I walk into a room, and stand there wondering what I'm here after.

You know the sort of thing. 

Looking back over the years, I marvel at God's grace.

Recently I heard a wonderful testimony from a dear woman busy in God's service. When she was younger, she didn't need God. She was all right. She went to church twice a year, and besides, she had a GCE in religious studies.

The first time she went into an evangelical church, she couldn't wait to get out. But she was back the week after. And the week after that. Until she found God and was wonderfully filled with the joy of the Lord.

I was like that. I didn't want God. I wasn't hurting anybody. All I wanted was to be left alone to get on with my life. God spoke to me for months before I let Him into my life. And all He wanted to do was to make me His and bless me beyond anything I'd known.

We're all of us rebels, you see. Adam started it, by deciding he wanted to be able to make his own decisions. without God. And we kept it up. We're all sinners, you see, if only because we haven't given God His rightful place in our lives.

Even after I invited God into my life, I made mistakes. But that was all right too. He's a Father of the perfect kind. 

He's made changes in my life. For the better. He's made me more like the person He intended me to be.

If there's anything commendable in my life, it's not me. It's Him.
    

Friday, November 14, 2014

So how did we get in this state?

Where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old. . . But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities come from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different. This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

In light of recent events. . . terrorists attack, school shootings etc. . . I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. . . The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbour as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about, and we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "We reap what we sow."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it. . . no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

The above was written and recited by Steven Levy on America's CBS Sunday Morning Commentary. It could apply equally to the UK.

Just thought you might like to think about it.