Monday, August 31, 2015

A barrier that should not be crossed

Britain is inching towards legalised euthanasia. Make no mistake, Britain will have legalised euthanasia - unless people get their act together and stand up for the laws we already have.

In Holland, where euthanasia is permitted, it is admitted that people are now being killed without a request on their part. In Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, children are able to ask to be killed, and psychiatric patients are being put to death. It couldn't happen here? Oh yes, it could.

Well financed organisations here in favour of euthanasia have decided that assisted suicide should be the first step. There have been umpteen attempts to revise the law in recent years. All have failed - so far. Lord Falconer's assisted dying bill in the Lords ran out of time in the last Parliament. Labour MP Rob Marris has taken up his cause in the Commons. His bill will have its second reading in the next two weeks.

We are told that a majority of people are in favour of allowing assisted suicide. We are fed with a steady stream of high profile stories of a small number of people apparently in desperate straits. Why should they have to go to Switzerland? Why shouldn't they be allowed to decide when to end their own lives, and have help when they need it?

Hard cases make bad law. Permitting assisted suicide would place intolerable pressure on  elderly and sick who feel they are a burden to relatives.

A group of almost 80 doctors have written an open letter to MPs, published in the Telegraph. "We regularly come across patients who feel a burden to their relatives and to society." Assisted suicide proposals, they say, devalue the most vulnerable in society.

Some families would use the law to exert pressure on relatives. "Most families are loving and caring, but some are not. We do from time to time come across cases where there are signs of subtle pressures being exerted. These are difficult to prove, but they can be very real, and we fear that if Parliament were to legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill people, they would be given free rein." 

The discussion and vote at the second reading of the Marris bill is on September 11. September 11 is a Friday. Some MPs leave early on Fridays to go home or to their constituencies for the weekend. A number of MPs have indicated that they will not be there for the vote. If it passes at second reading, they say, it will still be possible to prevent it from becoming law.

But a victory for the pro-euthanasia lobby at second reading would be a tremendous psychological boost and make it much more difficult to prevent awarding the bill further parliamentary time in the future. Write or visit your MP and point out that it is vital to attend the vote. If you require further information, you will find all you need here or here.

Parliament has never hitherto been willing to condone doctors' taking innocent human life. That's a barrier that should never be crossed. What we need is good quality care, not killing.

The law has only to be changed once. If it changes, it will change forever.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Unless you become as little children. . .

Helen Roseveare, born in Hertfordshire, was converted to Christ while a student at Cambridge University. She completed her medical degree, and went to Africa as a medical missionary.

One day they were caring for a woman in the labour ward. Despite everything they could do for her, the woman died, leaving a premature newborn baby and a two-year-old daughter.

They had no incubator - they had no electricity - and although they were on the equator, the nights could be chilly. She asked one student midwife to find a cardboard box filled with cotton wool to put the baby in, and another to fill a hot water bottle. The second girl came back in distress. While she was filling it, the hot water bottle had burst, and it was the last one.

"Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can;" Dr Roseveare told her, "sleep between the baby and the door to keep jt free from draughts. Your job is to keep that baby warm."

Later, the missionary went to pray with some of the orphanage children. Before they began, she told them about the woman, the two children and the hot water bottle.

A 10-year-old girl named Ruth began to pray. "Please, God," she said, "send us a hot water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby'll be dead; so please send it this afternoon. And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl, so she'll know You really love her?"

"Could I honestly say 'Amen,'?" thought the missionary. "I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? And I had some very big 'buts.'" The only way God could answer that particular prayer would be by sending her a parcel from home, and in almost four years in Africa, she had never ever had a parcel from home. Besides, if anyone did send a parcel, who would send a hot water bottle to the equator?

That afternoon, she got a message that there was a car at her front door. By the time she got home, the car was gone, but on her verandah was a 22lb parcel bearing UK stamps. She called the orphanage children to help her open it.

There were brightly coloured knitted jerseys, bandages, soap, and dried mixed fruit. She put her hand in again, and pulled out - could it be? A brand new rubber hot water bottle. The parcel had been on its way for five months. God had prepared it five months before to answer the little girl's prayer "this afternoon."

Ruth said "If God has sent the bottle,He must have sent the dolly too." The girl rummaged in the bottom of the box and brought out a small, beautifully dressed dolly.

"Mummy," said the girl to the missionary, "can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

*Living Faith: Willing to be stirred as a pot of paint. Tain, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2007.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Daniel's 70 sevens (2)

Some Christians will have nothing to do with Bible prophecy, because, they say, they don't know how it will turn out. More about that in a minute.

In Daniel's prophecy of 70 weeks (Dan 9:20 - 27) we said the "weeks" were weeks of years - periods of seven years. Sixty-nine weeks refers to the period from the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Neh 2:5 - 8) to the coming of the Messiah. That leaves one "week" - a period of seven years - still to account for.

There is obviously a gap between Messiah's death and verse 27. This is the church age, not mentioned for two reasons: first, the church was a mystery in the Old Testament; second, this prophecy refers to God's dealings with Israel (Dan 9:24). God dealt with Israel until Israel rejected their Messiah; He will begin to deal specifically with Israel again in verse 27 (Rom 11:25, 26).

Israel is not like other nations: Israel was chosen by God and God's promises to Israel not yet fulfilled are still to be fulfilled (Gen 17:7, 8; Jer 30:18 - 20; 31:10, 31-34; 33:20, 21, 25, 26; Ezek 36:34 - 38).

The Bible says that one of the first events to be fulfilled in the prophetic calendar is the rapture, when the church will be taken from the earth. Some Christians don't believe in a rapture: not believing in a rapture would be difficult in light of such Scriptures as 1 Thess 4:13 - 18 and 1 Cor 15:51 - 53. Some believe the rapture will occur at the end of time: this ignores the doctrine of imminence (Matt 24:42, 44; 25:13; Rom 13:11, 12; Heb 10: 37; Rev 22:20).

After this, a wicked world ruler will arise, generally known as the antichrist (1 John 2: 22). He will make a seven-year covenant with the Jews, but break the covenant half-way through. The remaining three-and-a-half years is the great tribulation, known as the time of Jacob's trouble, when the Jews will suffer as they have not suffered since the world began (J er 30:4 - 7; Dan 7:25; 12:7; Matt 24:21).

Hitler destroyed a third of world Jewry in the Holocaust. If we are to believe Zech 13:8, 9, during this period two thirds of the Jews will die. The remainder will come to faith in the Jewish Messiah (Rom 11:26, 27), heralding a millennium of peaceful reign on the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ cannot return to earth until the Jews are ready to receive Him (Hos 5:15; Matt 23:37 - 39).

So should Christians be concerned with Bible prophecy? The prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled so far have been fulfilled in exact detail. Can we not expect the same of the remainder?

The Bible gives us our knowledge of God and His dealings with men. It provides a wonderful history of Israel and the early church. But a quarter of the Bible refers to the future. We need it to make sense of the days in which we live and to understand how we should live in these days.

Of course we are expected to study Bible prophecy. That's what it's there for.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Well, are you?

In his book Crazy Love,* former American pastor Francis Chan tells the story of a businessman named Stan Gerlach.

Gerlach was giving the eulogy at a funeral service when he decided to share the gospel. "You never know when God is going to take your life," he said. "At that moment, there's nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?"

Then he sat down, fell over and died. His wife and sons tried to resuscitate him, but there was nothing they could do.

When the pastor arrived at the family home, his widow and his son John were crying. "Did you hear?" said John. "I'm so proud of him. My dad died doing what he loved doing most. He was telling people about Jesus."

The pastor was asked to give a word to the family and friends. He opened his Bible at Matt 10:32, 33: "Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven."

He asked everyone to imagine what it must have felt like for Stan Gerlach. "One moment, he was at a memorial service saying to a crowd 'This is who Jesus is!' The next, he was before God hearing Jesus say 'This is who Stan Gerlach is!'

"One second he was confessing Jesus; a second later, Jesus was confessing him. It happens that quickly. And it could happen to any of us. In the words of Stan Gerlach," he said, " 'Are you ready?'"

That's a good question.

*Second edition. Colorado Springs, Colorado: David C. Cook, 2013.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

'They taught that they weren't alive'

Stojan Adasevic was an abortionist in Serbia. He worked five days a week, and did 20, 30 or 35 abortions a day. He performed 48,000 abortions, although some say the total was closer to 60,000.

After a time, he started having a recurring dream. In the dream, children and young people were playing in a beautiful field. They ran away from him in fear. A man stared at him in silence.

One night the man spoke. "Why don't you ask me who the children are?" he said. "These are the ones you killed with your abortions." Adasevic would wake up in a cold sweat.

Then one day he was aborting a baby three or four months old. It was the woman's ninth abortion. As he started the procedure, the amniotic fluid flowed out.

He went in with his abortion forceps and pulled out a hand, which he placed on the table. The hand fell on some iodine which someone had spilled. As the nerve endings touched the iodine, the hand began to move.

"It's moving by itself," he thought.

He went in again and pulled out something else. Let it not be a leg, he told himself. It was a leg. He went to put the leg carefully on the table, but there was a bang behind him, and he dropped it. It fell next to the hand, and the leg too began to move by itself.

He went in again, and began to crush everything inside the uterus. When he took out the forceps, they were holding a beating heart. He watched as the heart continued to beat, slower and slower, until it stopped.

He decided he would never do an abortion again. When he told the hospital, they cut his salary by half, fired his daughter from her job, and did not allow his son to enter university.

"They taught that life began with the first cry," he says. "When a baby cries for the first time. That up to that moment, a human being is like any other organ in a woman's body, like an appendix.

"That's why, immediately after birth, children were taken and their heads submerged in a bucket of water. A child would take in water instead of air, and never cry. Terrible, but that's how things were."

Stojan Adasevic is now a pro-life advocate. You can see more details of his story here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Christian preacher on trial for 'hate crime'

On May 18, 2014, James McConnell, pastor of Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast, preached a sermon on 1 Tim 2:5: "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

"There is one God. But what God is Paul referring to?" he asked. It was not, he said, Allah, the god of the Muslims. He went on to talk about the errors of Islam. "Islam," he said. "is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell."

A video of the sermon, like the videos of lots of sermons these days, was loaded on the internet. The Belfast Islamic Centre complained to police. Police began to investigate a possible hate crime.

McConnell issued a public apology to anyone he had unintentionally offended, but refused to accept an "informed warning" from the police. The prosecution service decided he should be charged under the 2003 Communications Act with sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive.

McConnell said the decision to prosecute him and not extremist Muslim preachers in Britain showed that Christians were being persecuted.

"I have no hatred in my heart for Muslims. My church funds medical care for 1,200 Muslim children in Kenya and Ethiopia. I have never hated Muslims. I have never hated anyone. The police tried to shut me up and tell me what to preach. It's ridiculous.

"I believe in freedom of speech. I defend the right of any Muslim cleric to preach against me or Christianity. I most certainly don't want any Muslim cleric prosecuted, but I find it very unfair that I'm the only preacher facing prosecution."

These facts are not new. They have been well publicised, on both sides of the Atlantic. So why do I mention them now? Because later this week is the date scheduled for Mr McConnell's first day in court.

The Crown plans to call eight witnesses for the prosecution. Mr McConnell's solicitor plans to turn it into a landmark trial with a range of political, religious and academic witnesses from across the UK to give evidence regarding freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Hate crime or freedom of speech? It looks like being an interesting case.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Convenient excuses

Planned Parenthood is the largest provider and promoter of abortions in the United States, performing some 400,000 abortions a year - one abortion every 94 seconds. Recently a series of videos has been released of secretly filmed footage of interviews with Planned Parenthood executives.

They appear to show that Planned Parenthood sells body parts from aborted babies. (American law says "It shall be unlawful.for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human foetal tissue for valuable consideration.")

The latest video to be released appears to demonstrate that Planned Parenthood is guilty of after-birth abortion.

 Two interviewers posing as representatives of a foetal tissue procurement company want to know how many babies are aborted intact. "Probably less than 10 per cent," says Dr Savita Ginde, vice president and medical director of Planned Parenthood, Rocky Mountains. "Sometimes, if we get, if someone delivers before we are able to see them for a procedure, then we are intact."

The website Anglican Mainstream prints the following quotation from Dr Francis Schaeffer:

"Christians have largely shut up their Christianity into a small corner of life, Sunday church or their Bible studies instead of realising that the Lordship of Christ is to permeate the whole spectrum of life. They have coasted along complacently, often serving up such dogmas as 'you can't mix religion and politics,' or 'you can't regulate morality,' or 'we just need to pray and witness to people' - when what they really meant was 'we just don't want to be disturbed.' They were content in their 'comfort zone.'"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Does God answer prayer?

Does God answer prayer?

Course He does. Sometimes in remarkable fashion.

On the fringes of Cairo is a village called Mokattam. It's a garbage village; that's to say a village where live thousands of people who collect the garbage from the residents of Cairo and live off what they find in the garbage they collect. Behind it stands Mokattam Hill.

Some 40 years ago a young man went to Mokattam to preach. Reluctantly, it must be said. There was dirt; there was poverty; above all, there was an overpowering stench from the piles of garbage.The people seemed to him like wild people.

But people were converted: transformed by the love of Jesus. They stopped beating their wives and  children and started to live without drink and drugs. The young man built a church for them out of corrugated iron, roofed with reeds. The only trouble was it became too small. So they prayed.

Building permits to construct a church were virtually impossible to obtain in Egypt, especially for a politically irrelevant group like the garbage collectors. So they prayed some more.

One day some men noticed a hole in the side of the hill above the village. They enlarged it, and peered in. It looked like a large cave. Men and women began to move loose rocks from inside. In total, they manhandled thousands of tons of rock down the hill.

Against all the odds, the government granted the land to the Christians. Egypt is 90 per cent Muslim, but Mokattam is 80 to 90 per cent Coptic Christian. The cave is today the largest church in the Middle East, seating up to 20,000 people.

Do click here and watch a video of thousands of people in the cave church worshipping God with feeling.

"This is our time to change the world," says a priest at the church. "We need to cry, scream, travail and groan, to pray day and night. And the Lord will support this work of the Holy Spirit. We're not just talking about Jesus in words, but also in miracles which will follow our faith, and the world will see and believe and come back to Christ."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Last, but not least

When ISIS published a video in February of men being beheaded for their faith in Christ, it was assumed that all were Coptic Christians from Egypt.

In Egypt they had no work. They had gone to Libya to find work to earn money for their families. There they were kidnapped.

Most were quickly identified from the video. But one, a black man, was not identified until later. His name was Mathew Avairga, and he was from Chad.

According to Voice of the Martyrs, Mathew was not a Christian. In common with each of the others, he was asked on camera by one of his persecutors: "Do you reject Christ?"

Having seen the quiet faith of the others, Mathew decided that he too would be a follower of Jesus. "Their God is my God," he said. Moments later, he was dead.

We are not called to witness, but to be witnesses. May each one of us be as faithful as those young men.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

UK treatment of Christians 'unbelievable'

The British Government is being slated for its callousness towards Christians in the Middle East.

The charity Barnabas Fund has compared the way Britain has treated refugees from Syria and Iraq with the way Jewish refugees were turned back to Europe before the Second World War.

"Britain has exercised a level of callousness in terms of refugees from Syria and Iraq that is unbelievable," it says. "Given the historical connection between the UK and Northern Iraq, whose Assyrian Christians fought for Britain in two world wars and in the interim period, and given that the Iraqi Christians have suffered intensely because of Britain's illegal intervention in Iraq, the British Government has shown them scant regard, compassion or mercy."

The charity says the situation is reminiscent of the US refusal to allow entry to 907 Jewish refugees who sailed from Germany in May, 1939. Forced to return to Europe, many died in the Holocaust.

Church leaders have appealed to David Cameron for Britain to carry out its "moral responsibility" to shelter more refugees from Syria.

Andrew Carey wrote in last week's Church of England Newspaper: "last weekend 50 Syrian Christian families flew into Warsaw, having been chased out of their homes in areas of the country controlled by so-called Islamic State. The Polish and Belgium governments have been among the first in Europe to accept such significant communities en masse. The Christian relief agency, the Barnabas Fund, has indicated that a further 200 families will be settled in Poland. The agency is openly seeking further governments to offer welcome to these vulnerable, persecuted people, but Western European governments, including our own, are resisting doing what is right.

"There are many thousands of displaced Christians in the Middle East. ISIL now has a policy of destroying Christian homes, in addition to its policy of torture, slavery, rape, killing and crucifixion.

"It is a disgrace that the British government will not even consider the case for treating Christians as a particularly vulnerable group of people and offering them asylum. One day we will look back and wonder how we could have observed the attempted extermination of a whole community in the Middle East and done nothing."

Doing the right thing needs to come before political expediency. 

Refugee status is not certain for Christians facing death at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East. The criterion is contained in Statute 6B of the UN High Commission for Refugees, which requires refugees to have "a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion." Unfortunately the UN believes Islam is a religion of peace, and takes no account of the penalties for apostasy.

American activists claim Christians are not being allowed into the US, while Muslims, who do not suffer the same degree of religious persecution, are allowed to immigrate unimpeded.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A bad mistake of historic proportions, says Israel

So the P5+1 powers, including the US, have signed a nuclear deal with Iran. President Obama says it will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and make the world a safer place. He has promised to use his presidential veto to block any legislation preventing the deal from going forward.

Critics say Iran has scored a huge victory, while the West has caved in on nearly every critical demand. Israel's leaders, of all shades of the political spectrum, have condemned the deal, which they say could endanger the entire world.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in every area where it was proposed to prevent Iran getting nuclear arms capability there were huge compromises. "Iran will receive a sure path to nuclear weapons. Many of the restrictions which were intended to prevent it will be lifted, In addition, Iran will receive a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars which will enable it to pursue its aggression and terror.

"It is a bad mistake of historic proportions. . . When you are willing to make an agreement at any cost, this is the result."

Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, called it "a deal of utter acquiescence to terror and to unrestrained violence." Israelis believe, despite President Obama's denials, that Obama would be prepared to sacrifice Israel for the sake of his agreement with Iran.

So where does all this leave Israel?

There are occasional terror incidents inside Israel, as well as an occasional rocket from Hamas. ISIS have infiltrated Israel, Gaza and Sinai. Hamas is rearming and digging new terror tunnels. Hezbollah could have 100,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon, including a number of long-range systems and systems with increased accuracy, allowing Hezbollah to strike anywhere in Israel and with increased precision.

Israel's Homefront Command has launched large-scale exercises involving military, police, firefighters and national and local agencies to prepare for an attack in the war which Israelis believe must come.

Iran, however, is the greatest threat. Iran has promised to destroy Israel: "Annihilation is Israel's only cure," says Iran's leader.

 Israel has promised it will defend itself by whatever means it finds necessary. We know that because of God's promises to Israel, Israel will never be destroyed. But extensive damage and considerable loss of life are still a possibility.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Is anyone listening?

When sin begins, it doesn't add up; it multiplies. We are living in desperate days. For hundreds of years marriage was only between a man and a woman: it never entered anyone's head that this was in any way unequal.

Now, in the name of equality, the US Supreme Court has followed the UK's example and legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states. (Critics say the Supreme Court justices have ignored the law and the Constitution and rewritten the law according to their left-wing mindset.)

More and more denominations are accepting same-sex marriage. More and more churches are in agreement with divorce and remarriage.

Have you noticed the state of British television? More and more programmes are based on sex. Programme makers appear to be vying with each other to see who can be the more explicit. Blasphemy, which would have been unheard of on television a few years ago, is now the common language on some programmes.

Many would say that legalised abortion is so entrenched that it would be impossible to reverse. The Bible says that nothing is impossible with God. Six hundred unborn babies are being killed each day in the UK.

I am told that some Christian groups are now trying to live outside of society,  without reference to the standards of society around them. Their attitude is incorrect. Christians are meant to take a stand on all these issues.

Corporate prayer is desperately needed.

What is required is not sympathy, but action. Is anybody listening?

Sunday, July 05, 2015

A very modest hero

Nicholas Winton, a 29-year-old stockbroker from London, was planning a skiing holiday in Switzerland. He never got there. Instead he received a telephone call from a friend in Prague: "Come to Prague. We need you." In Prague, he found a refugee crisis.

It was 1938, and Hitler had invaded Czechoslovakia. Many were trying to get out of the country, or at least get their children out. Winton set up an office in his Prague hotel. He was in Prague for only two or three weeks, but on his return to London he worked for eight months in his spare time, raising money, finding foster homes and obtaining travel documents.

 In nine months he arranged eight trains to bring 669 children, mainly Jewish, to safety in England. Many of their families perished in Auschwitz The trains stopped when Hitler invaded Poland and the borders were closed.

For 50 years Winton didn't speak of what he had done, even to his wife. (He had married in 1948.) Then in the 1980s his wife found children's photographs, a list of children's names and addresses and letters from parents in their attic. Word spread. Winton was invited to a television programme as part of the studio audience, and found the programme was about him.

Nicholas Winton died on Wednesday, aged 106.

You can see here a video about his life. It includes a moving moment from the television programme, where the presenter asked if there was anyone present who owed his or her life to Nicholas Winton. It looked like almost the entire room stood to their feet.

He was given a knighthood for his service to humanity, and the Order of the White Lion, the Czechs' highest honour. It is estimated that almost 6,000 people - the children and their descendants - are alive because of Sir Nicholas Winton.

"I work on the motto that if something's not impossible, there must be a way of doing it," he said. 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Mary Jones and her Bible

Mary Jones was born in 1784. She lived with her widowed mother in a stone-built cottage at Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, not far from Cader Idris, in North Wales. Converted to Christ at eight years old, she walked a couple of miles each week to a farmhouse where she was allowed to read the family's Welsh Bible.

She was desperate to own a Bible of her own. They could be bought, it was said, from the Rev Thomas Charles in Bala. Mary saved her pennies for six years. At last, when she was15 years old, she had enough. She walked - barefoot - to Bala, 26 miles away. 

She knocked at Mr Charles' door, and asked him if she could please have a Bible. Alas, they had all gone. Mary burst into tears.

Well, she did eventually get her Bible. But Charles was so moved by her story that he told it to a group of gentlemen in London, who between them started the British and Foreign Bible Society, which now works, it is said, in 200 countries and territories.

If ypu are in North Wales, go to the Bible Society's Mary Jones World in a former church building at Llanycil, a short distance south of Bala on the A494. You will be thrilled again by her story.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A time to live - and a time to die

Growing old has its advantages. The older you get, the more real heaven becomes.

I know that all my sins are forgiven and I have a home in heaven. Let me hasten to say that this has nothing to do with who I am or what I have done, and everything to do with what Jesus did on an old cross two thousand years ago.

Let no one think that he can get to heaven because of the good life he has lived or the good deeds he has done. If that were possible, Christ would not have needed to have died. Let no one think that salvation is automatic. Like any other gift, it has to be received.

But let no one who has believed on Christ as Saviour for his salvation doubt that Christ has paid the price in full.

There was a time in my life when heaven was something in the distant future. Having received God's forgiveness, I did not fear death, but if I am honest, I might have feared the process of dying.

No more. I realise the time will come when I no longer wish to stay here. At a moment of God's choosing, I will stop breathing and pass from here to there. I hope people won't grieve. I will be as much alive as ever I have been; in fact, more so.

The Bible doesn't tell us everything about heaven, but it tells us sufficient.

Heaven is a place of beauty. It's a place of service. A place of infinite creativity. A place of wonderful relationships. A place of surpassing joy.

"You will show me the path of life;
   In your presence is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures for evermore"  Psa 16:11.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A matter of life and death

Three sets of circumstances seem to have found their way into the news in recent days.

The first happened at Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing, West London. After suffering an abortion, a woman is said to have collapsed on the floor, hyperventilating due to bleeding from a tear in her uterus. She was discharged a few hours later. She fell unconscious in the taxi and was pronounced dead at hospital.

A doctor and two nurses have been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.

The second occurred at Peckham in Lopdon. A woman who was 32 weeks pregnant was attacked in the street and kicked in the stomach. She was critically ill in intensive care. The baby died.

A 21-yar-old man, said to be the woman's ex-boyfriend, was charged with destroying the life of a child capable of being born alive.

The third circumstance was an announcement that so-called emergency contraception is now legally available nationwide to girls under the age of consent.

The drug, called ellaOne, can be offered under the NHS to any girl of reproductive age if it is stocked at the pharmacy. It is said to be effective up to five days after sexual intercourse.

The circumstances are different, but all have one thing in common - a lack of respect for unborn life. Some years ago, it is most unlikely that any one would have happened. Now the process of change is almost complete.

Soon I will be the criminal. For trying to force women to have babies. For daring to question a woman's "right to choose." For standing up for the lives of innocent unborn babies.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Muslim thousands turn to Christ

More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the 13 years since 9/11 than in the entire previous 14 centuries of Islamic history, according to missionaries in the Islamic world. They say many Muslims are questioning their faith.

In his book A Wind in the House of Islam,* David Garrison says we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history. Because converts to Christianity can face the death penalty, it is impossible to know how many new believers in Christ there are in the Islamic world, but he estimates there are currently between two and seven million.

The book, the result of two-and-a-half years of research, involved travelling more than 250,000 miles to conduct interviews with more than 1,000 people.

Whereas Muslims once came to faith in Christ one at a time, he claims to have found 69 movements - a movement is defined as a group of more than 1,000 baptised believers or 100 new churches within a Muslim community - started in the first 12 years of this century. This compares with virtually no movements of converts to Christianity in the first 12 centuries of Islam.

The converts he met included many senior religious leaders. In 2011 he met with 20 leaders from a fundamentalist Muslim people group. Nineteen of them had been baptised. Seventeen of them were imams. Three were women.

He asked why they had not left their community to form a church. One of the women said: "When God wanted to reach men, He became a man. If God had wanted to reach hyenas, He would have become a hyena. If we want to reach our own people, we've got to stay in our community to reach them." They were willing to pay the price, even if it meant death, to bring others to Christ.

The following day he met a sheikh who had led 400 other sheikhs to Christ; 300 of them had been baptised.

Lucinda Borkett-Jones, writing in Christian Today, quotes Garrison as saying that violence in Islam is not new. What is new is that when believers experience this violence they can turn to the internet or turn on the television and see the alternative: Christian evangelism in their own language. Bible translation, multimedia evengelism and the growth of international travel have facilitated the change.

One man found Christ after reading a translation of the Koran in his own language. He went on to see 33,000 people come to faith in Christ by encouraging them to read the Koran in their own language.

A group of converts in Central Asia tell each other: "If you're persecuted, just thank God you haven't been beaten; if you've been beaten, thank God you haven't been thrown into prison; if you're in prison, thank God you haven't been killed; if you've been killed, thank God that you're with Jesus in heaven."

Christians need to stop fearing Muslims, says Garrison. "This is not the day to fear, fight, hate or kill Muslims. This is the day of their salvation. If you want to be on God's side this day, be a part of what God is doing."

*A Wind in the House of Islam, by David Garrison. Monument, Colorado: WIGTake Resources, 2014.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How God answered Izabella's prayer

Izabella was brought up in communist Rumania, where no one was allowed to go to church, no one was allowed to own a Bible, and no one was allowed to talk about God. (Funny how people say there is no God. If there were no God, people wouldn't have to try so hard to disprove Him.)

When Izabella was seven, she and her brother found a Bible under the floor. They didn't know what it was. They took it out and read it. They'd never heard such stories before. A few years later, a friend invited Izabella to a little underground church. She pleaded and pleaded with her father to allow her to go. Finally, he said that she could. In the meeting, the pastor read from a book, and she recognised the story. She was so excited. 

There was no electricity most nights, so the children had to go to bed when it got dark. Except when it snowed. Then it wasn't quite so dark, and the children were allowed to play outside.

"I want to learn how to pray so I can start praying for snow," Izabella told the pastor. "Izabella," he said, "just talk to God as though He is your best friend. Tell Him what's on your heart, and He will answer."

That night, Izabella prayed. The next morning, she rushed to the window. No snow. November and December came. Still no snow. She was so disappointed."Did you know that this prayer thing doesn't work?" she said. "Izabella, God always answers prayer. You are expecting beautiful white snow to fall from the sky, but maybe God has something different in mind," the pastor told her.

One day, people started running in the street. There must be something at the grocer's. Perhaps oranges or bananas! Izabella and her brother rushed to join the queue. But people were running past the grocery shop.

Big lorries arrived. When the backs were opened up, there were lots of colourful boxes. A lady came up and said "This is yours." "What do I have to do?" said Izabella. "Nothing," the lady said. "It's just yours, totally yours." They were shoe boxes of presents from Samaritan's Purse, a foreign charity.

"Is there anything I can pray with you for?" the lady asked."Would you pray with me for snow?" The lady didn't ask any questions. She just did it.

Izabella fished among the gifts in the box and took out a transparent globe. She didn't know what it was for. A boy shook her arm as she held it. It began to snow. It was a snow globe.

Suddenly it hit her. This was a moment she would never forget. There was a God! He'd been drawing her to Himself since she was seven. He had been looking after her all these years. And He did answer prayer!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Daniel's 70 sevens (1)

Daniel chapter nine contains one of the most remarkable prophecies jn the Bible. It was given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel told him:

"Seventy weeks are determined 
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.

"Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.

"And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And to the end of the war desolations are determined.

"Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate." 

The "weeks" are weeks of years - periods of seven years. So from the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of Messiah the Prince was to be a total of 69 weeks, or 483 years. Taking a biblical year as 360 days, that would come to 173,880 days.

In a book The Coming Prince, published in 1894, Sir Robert Anderson, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, theologian and author, said Ahasuerus' command to rebuild Jerusalem (Neh 2:5-8) was made on March 14, 445 BC.

Christ always refused efforts to proclaim Him king until the time  came for Him to fulfil Zech 9:9: 

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey."

Assuming Christ began His ministry in AD 28 (Luke 3:1) and He died at Passover, then the date of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem would be April 6, AD 32. Adding extra days for leap years, March 14, 445 BC to April 6, AD 32 is - 173,880 days.

The crowd rejoiced and praised God as Jesus approached Jerusalem, but when He saw the city, He wept. The reason? "Because you did not know the time of your visitation" (Luke 19:44). He foresaw the destruction of the city and the Temple, accompanied by the slaughter of countless thousands.

You will need to refer to Anderson's book to check the accuracy of his calculations - but the accuracy of the prophecy is remarkable

Notice that this Old Testament prophecy says that Messiah had to come before the destruction of the Temple. The Temple was destroyed in AD 70.

We have accounted for 69 of the 70 weeks. Which leaves one week still to be accounted for.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Learning to make a difference

Civil war in Syria is now in its fifth year. Nobody knows how many people have been killed. Estimates vary from 100,000 to 300,000. Half the population of Syria have fled their homes. ISIS now controls half the territory of Syria.
The little girl in the picture is four years old. She has never known anything but war. When the cameraman pointed his camera at her, she automatically lifted her hands in a gesture of surrender.

What sort of a world do we live in?

A fallen world where wickedness can flourish.

But what can I do? I am a committed born-again Christian.

Above all, pray. Prayer works. "Call to me," God says, "and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you did not know" (Jer 33:3). The Bible is so full of stories of answered prayer and Jesus spent so much time teaching on answered prayer that it's a wonder people don't pray more often. God spared the children of Israel as a result of Moses' prayer. (You can read the story in Ex 32:9 - 14.)

It's all right for Moses. But what about an insignificant person like me?

You are not insignificant. You are a child of the King. It is not by accident that you are a Christian. And it is not by accident that you are living now, at this time. Just as the wicked have freedom of choice, so do you. Only you can decide to pray. God is deeply concerned. Ask Him to put some of His concern in your heart, so you can pray heartfelt prayers.

But I don't know enough about how to pray.

You can read all the books on prayer and know all there is to know about prayer, but it won't be any good if you don't pray. Let Him teach you. Begin to spend time in God's presence. Be content to wait. He will give you prayers to pray that He is waiting to answer. Never doubt that your prayers are heard.

One more thing. Now is the ideal time to start.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Scotland says No to assisted suicide

The Scottish Parliament has again rejected a bill - by 82 votes to 36 - which would have allowed people with a terminal illness to seek help to end their lives.

Had the bill succeeded, Scotland would have been the first part of the UK to legalise assisted suicide.

The bill was originally brought forward by the late Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who died last year. It was taken up by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

It would have allowed assisted suicide for mentally competent adults from 16 years old with "a terminal or life-shortening illness" or a "progressive and terminal or life-shortening condition" who had "concluded that the quality of their life is unacceptable."

A Holyrood committee concluded that the bill contained "significant flaws," but said the full parliament should decide. The Scottish Government did not support the bill. MSPs had a free vote.

Gordon Macdonald, convenor of Care Not Killing in Scotland, commented: "Vulnerable people who are sick, elderly or disabled can so easily feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to end their lives so as not to be a burden on others. Parliament's first responsibility is to protect the vulnerable. That is what has happened."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Popularity? No thank you

Jesus wasn't looking simply for believers. He was looking for disciples.There is a significant difference between the two. Some people are content just to "believe." Some are happy just to believe and go to church on Sunday. But from Jesus there always comes the call to follow Him.

Jesus said (in Luke 9): "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."

And in Matthew 10: "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. . . He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."

A remarkable story is told of an unnamed African Christian who was told to renounce Christ or he would be killed. He refused to renounce Christ, and was martyred. The following was later found affixed to the wall in his room:

I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished with low living, sight-walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits and popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognised, praised, regarded or rewarded. 

I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer and labour with power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, meander in the maze of mediocrity. 

I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, prayed up, paid up and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me.

And when He comes for His own, He will have no problems recognising me - my banner will be clear.

When it came to it, he didn't have to make a decision. His decision had already been made. 

Could you make a decision like that? Could I?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Petition for 'gay cake' company

You may have heard that the McArthur family, who run Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland, are committed Christians. When they were asked to bake a cake bearing the slogan "Support gay marriage," they declined, as the slogan was against their deeply held beliefs.

They were taken to court in Belfast by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland (with £40,000 of public funds), accused of discrimination.

Judge Isobel Brownlie upheld the Equality Commission. She accepted that Ashers had "genuine and deeply held" religious views, but they were conducting a business for profit and were not a religious group. They had unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff - homosexual activist Gareth Lee - on grounds of sexual discrimination.

Daniel McArthur, Ashers' general manager, said they were extremely disappointed. "The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign, no matter how much they disagree with it. Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can't be right."

They are considering an appeal.

I am delighted to see that a petition has been started asking Tesco to continue selling products from Ashers bakery. (Homosexuals, in their usual mean-spirited fashion, are evidently trying to close Ashers on their own.) You can see the petition here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Two anniversaries on the same day

There are at least two reasons to remember tomorrow. First, tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday.

Pentecost Sunday commemorates the day the Holy Spirit came and filled the early Christian disciples. Those early believers were aware of Christ's crucifixion to pay the price for man's sin. They realised He was the Son of God. They knew He was risen from the dead. They were ready to go out and preach the glorious good news. Well, almost.

Jesus had said "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). But He had also said "Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). So they waited.

On Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit came. A multitude gathered to see what the commotion was about. Peter stood up and preached, and about three thousand were converted to Christ.

The wonderful thing is that the same experience is available today. Peter said (in Acts 2:39): "For the promise is to you" - those who were there that day - "and to your children," - those who were to come - "and to all who are afar off," - those in Manchester, and Medjugorje and Milton Keynes; and as though to make it perfectly clear - "as many as the Lord our God will call." If you are called to God's salvation, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is for you.

Second, tomorrow is the anniversary of the conversion of John Wesley. Wesley, one of 19 children, went to Oxford, belonged to the Holy Club, and was ordained to the ministry of the Anglican Church. He went to Georgia as a missionary, and returned considering himself a failure. "I went to America to convert the Indians;" he wrote, "but, oh, who shall convert me?"

He was impressed by the conduct of Moravians on board ship, and on his return to London made the acquaintance of some Moravian believers. Then came May 24, 1738.

"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in  Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." He was 34 years old.

He went on to ride an estimated 250,000 miles and preach an estimated 40,000 sermons. He preached, it is said, "as though he were out of breath in pursuit of souls."

The Methodists have lost much of their power since those days. Methodist churches in England are closing in numbers. But God is still able to call others like He called Wesley. "I will build my church," said Jesus, "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18).

A beauty of the Bible is that it tells us about the past, the present and the future. Many Christians are suffering a hard time at the moment. But the Bible tells us how things end up. We win.

Monday, May 18, 2015

You believe in traditional marriage? Watch out

The Coalition for Marriage has published a leaflet outlining 30 cases of individuals or groups who have been "punished" for "believing in traditional marriage."

Each case is documented and carefully referenced. The 30 cases are said to be a small minority of those that have occurred. The vast majority are from the UK.

"Those who believe, teach and practise traditional Christian teaching on marriage, relationships and sexuality are. . . going to find themselves increasingly on the wrong side of the law as this new political correctness is taught in schools, enforced by the constabulary and judiciary and promulgated by the media, in Parliament, through celebrity culture and inevitably in our churches," writes Peter Saunders.

"Our first priority in opposing its pernicious influence must be to ensure that our congregations - and especially our children and young people - are firmly grounded in biblical teaching and also well briefed in how to argue against the new agenda. It is a task that will require clarity, compassion, and, above all, courage.

"The enemy's goal is to undermine real marriage and the family. We must resist him with every fibre of our being - through speaking up for the truth and by faithfully upholding God's model in our personal lives and Christian communities."

An organisation known as ILGA - the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - is a worldwide federation of 1,100 member organisations from 110 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights.

Its European wing maps the LGBT status of every European country, including the UK. It gives the legislative objectives achieved and those still sought, in great detail.

Northern Ireland still does not recognise hate crime on grounds of gender identity and has not yet legalised same-sex marriage. Scotland has not yet criminalised hate speech on grounds of sexual orientation. But overall the UK bridges not yet crossed are very few.

Says Dr Saunders: "The ILGA is building a similar legal analysis for every nation on earth and its member organisations are working collaboratively to achieve every legislative objective.

"Some may say 'so what?' Why shouldn't LGBT people have the freedom to have what they are calling for?

"But the problem is that legal rights for some constitute legal duties for others. Gay rights were once a concession. They then became an expectation. Now it seems they are a requirement. What began as 'accept me' quickly became 'affirm me' and then 'celebrate me. . . or else.'

"Those who resist being coerced to deliver on the LGBT agenda pay a heavy price - not just ridicule and marginalisation, but legal sanctions - dismissal, fines, imprisonment, gagging and being driven from the public square. These activists will not tolerate disagreement or dissent. Every knee must be made to bow, to recite the mantras and creeds and to grease the LGBT machinery."

The three main political parties all pledged in their election manifestos to do more for LGBT rights.

"They are full of specious euphemisms which cleverly disguise the realities for those who will not play ball," says Dr Saunders.

"The Conservative manifesto trumpets its pride ijn legalising same-sex marriage and promises more: 'Our historic introduction of gay marriage has helped drive forward equality and strengthened the institution of marriage. But there is still more to do, and we will continue to champion equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. We will build on the posthumous pardon of. . . Alan Turing. . . with a broader measure to lift the blight of outdated convictions of this nature.'

"The Labour manifesto speaks of combatting 'homophobia'. . .

"The Liberal Democrat manifesto boasts about 'marriage liberalisation'. . .

"It is clear that the Tory Government after the General Election will be actively advancing the LGBT agenda."

Might I point out that just 1.5% of the UK population is homosexual or bisexual?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A very worthwhile job

Maggie Gobran is a Coptic Christian. She was brought up in Egypt, the daughter of a wealthy physician. She had maids, wore the latest fashions, holidayed in Europe, bought clothes in Paris. She had a good education, and became a marketing executive and a college professor.

In her mid-thirties, with a husband and two children, Maggie felt the need to choose between living the rest of her life in self-pleasing and doing something more worthwhile. She felt the call to full-time service.

In Cairo there are garbage villages. Fifty thousand people live in them in shacks among piles of rotting garbage, some seven or eight to a room, many with no water or sanitation. They are known as garbage people.They collect the garbage from Cairo's residents and exist off what they find among it.

They live in sewage, disease and overpowering stench. Almost half the children there will die before they are five years old. Many of the people are illiterate; some have never travelled on a bus or slept in a bed. Violence and sexual abuse are commonplace.

Mama Maggie, as she is known, began to visit the garbage villages. In 1989 she founded Stephen's Children, a charitable organisation. Now hundreds of workers and volunteers help with food, clothing, free medical treatment, education and vocational training.They serve 30,000 poor families every day. Mama Maggie builds kindergartens, schools, community centres, children's camps and homes for boys and girls.

She rises to pray at 3am. During the day, you will see her in a garbage village. washing children's feet and assuring them that they are loved. Often, she disappears to a monastery in the desert to seek God's face on behalf of the children.

"I want to go on with our work for the poor more and more, until it spreads all over Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world, to make a better place for humanity - especially the children," she says.

"This is the real love story. The one that lasts for ever."

In recent years of political turmoil in Egypt, churches have been burned to the ground. Christian homes and businesses have been torched. Christians have been killed. Many have been kidnapped for ransom.

One man's house was surrounded one dark night by a mob with long knives challenging him to come out so they could kill him. The man stepped out into the street. He focussed on one young man in the mob. "Why do you hate me?" he said. He looked the young man in the eye. "I don't hate you," he said. "I love you." The mob slowly melted away into the darkness.

Mama Maggie has been advised to leave Egypt for her own safety. "Jesus would not leave," she says. "He would stay with His people. I must do the same."

Mama Maggie's story is the subject of a new book, Mama Maggie: The untold story of one woman's mission to love the forgotten children of Egypt's garbage slums, by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn. Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2015.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A question of mathematics

What evidence is there that the Bible is divinely inspired?

That would have been a good question to have asked Ivan Panin. (Or not, depending how much time you had to listen to the answer.)

Panin was born in Russia in 1855. Exiled as a young man for activities against the Czar, he studied in Germany, then moved to the United States. He was a brilliant mathematician, with a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek.

One day he discovered, apparently by accident, remarkable mathematical structures in the Scriptures. Hebrew and Greek did not use figures, but letters of the alphabet to indicate numbers (aleph equals one, bet equals two, etc).

Take the first verse of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In Hebrew, in which it was originally written, it has seven words. They have a total of 28 letters (4 x 7). The first three words have 14 letters (2 x 7). The last four words have 14 letters (2 x 7). The fourth and fifth words have seven letters. The sixth and seventh words have seven letters.The three key words have 14 letters (2 x 7). The number of letters in the four remaining words is 14 (2 x 7). The numeric value of the three nouns totals 777. The numeric value of the first, middle and last letters is 133 (19 x 7). The numeric value of the first and last letters of all seven words is 1393 (199 x 7).

Seven in the Scriptures speaks of divine perfection. The word seven is said to appear 287 times in the Old Testament (41 x 7). The word seventh is said to appear 98 times (14 x 7). The word sevenfold appears seven times. The word seventy appears 56 times (8 x 7).

Similar structures occur throughout the /Scriptures, and are so complicated they could not have been placed there by human hand.They occur only in the Bible, and not in any other literature, including the Apocrypha.

Panin's discovery led to his conversion to Christ. He spent the rest of his life producing 43,000 pages of closely written notes on his discoveries. Before he died in 1942, he challenged anyone to disprove his findings. He had no takers.

Bible numerics is a fascinating subject. If you wanted to know more, you could start by googling Ivan Panin.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Christian? 'Intolerant, superstitious and backward'

Christians are the sort of people who built our civilisation, founded our democracies, developed our modern ideas of rights and justice, ended slavery, established universal education and who are now in the forefront of the fight against poverty, prejudice and ignorance.

Yet Christians have been swamped with such a tidal wave of prejudice and negativity that to call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to declare yourself intolerant, naive, superstitious and backward. And invite pity, condescension or cool dismissal.

So says former Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

How did it come to this?

"The contrast between the Christianity I see our culture belittle nightly and the Christianity I see our country benefit from daily could not be greater," writes Gove in the Spectator.

"The reality of Christian mission in today's churches is a story of thousands of quiet kindnesses. In many of our most disadvantaged communities it is the churches that provide warmth, food, friendship and support for individuals who have fallen on the worst of times. The homeless, those in the grip of alcoholism or drug addiction, individuals with undiagnosed mental health problems and those overwhelmed by multiple crises are all helped - in innumerable ways - by Christians.

"Churches provide debt counselling, marriage guidance, childcare, English language lessons, after-school clubs, food banks, emergency accommodation and sometimes most importantly of all, someone to listen. . .

"Belief in the unique and valuable nature of every individual should make us angry at oppression, at the racism which divides and the prejudice which demeans humanity. And it was deep, radical Christian faith which inspired many of our greatest political heroes - Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Lincoln, Gladstone, Pope John Paul II and Martin Luther King. There should be nothing to be ashamed of in finding their example inspirational, the words and beliefs that moved them beautiful and true."

Parliament may have its share of black sheep. But thank God, say I, for someone who is a Christian and is not afraid to say so.