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.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Equality and diversity? Not in the NHS

Victoria Wasteney was a senior occupational health therapist in the NHS for eight years and had an exemplary record. She is also a Christian.

A Muslim colleague often initiated conversations about Victoria's faith. She willingly agreed that Victoria could pray for her when she was upset, and accepted an invitation to a church charity event.

Victoria gave her a book about a Muslim woman who had an encounter with the Christian God. The woman made a formal complaint, alleging Victoria had tried to convert her. Victoria was suspended for nine months pending an internal investigation, then given a written warning for "bullying and harassment." She also had to accept conditions designed to stop her discussing her faith with colleagues.

She took her employer to an employment tribunal partly because she felt it was an issue that needed to be discussed. The tribunal agreed with her employer.

Victoria is now waiting for an appeal.

You may think that a Christian has a right to talk about her faith. Not, apparently, in the NHS.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Destruction of Israel 'non-negotiable'

After Iran and the P5+1 world leaders agreed a framework deal on Iran's nuclear programme, setting the stage for a final agreement in June, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warned US President Obama in a telephone call that a deal based on the framework would threaten the survival of Israel.

"Just two days ago," he said, "Iran said that the destruction of Israel is 'non-negotiable,' and in these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel. This deal would legitimise Iran's nuclear programme, bolster Iran's economy, and increase Iran's aggression nd terror throughout the Middle East and beyond."

Acts of antisemitism outside Israel have reached a record high.

While New York City Council was discussing the destruction of 1.1 million people in Auschwitz, protestors disrupted the meeting with an anti-Israel demonstration. They had perhaps reckoned without councillor David G. Greenfield, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, who put them to shame by revealing the real reason for their anger.

You can see and hear his denunciation in this short video here.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The greatest victory that ever was

A few years ago, I went to a cinema to see The Passion of the Christ. It showed Jesus being tortured in terrible detail. After quite a time, it was obvious the film was coming to a close. I found myself saying to myself "Oh, please let it show the resurrection." It did, briefly. Suddenly, Jesus was standing alive in the tomb.

The crucifixion was a remarkable event. But it would have meant little without the resurrection.

The Bible records a number of times when Satan and his minions attempted to kill Jesus. Every time they failed, for it wasn't His time. Eventually, when the time did come, God handed Him over to His torturers. I imagine hordes of demons around the cross shouting "We got Him!" "We got Him!"

They were used. God used them to produce the most remarkable victory this world has ever known. When Jesus walked out of the tomb, he wasn't resuscitated, He was resurrected. Alive for ever.

He had won forgiveness, redemption, eternal life for as many as are willing to receive it. The kingdom of darkness was defeated. From now on, it would fight a rearguard action, but it would advance only by deceit. Its final overthrow is certain

Jesus Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Unto Him who hath loved us, and washed us from sin, unto Him be the glory, forever. Amen.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Two men: A stark choice

Tomorrow is Good Friday, when we remember how the world did its worst to the Son of God.

When Jesus was tried before Pilate, it was Passover. At Passover it was Pilate's custom to release a prisoner of the people's choice. Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, so he gave the people the choice: Barabbas, a terrorist and a robber, or Jesus.

In those days, Jews didn't have surnames as we know them. They were known as Judah son of Joseph, or Simon son of Jonah. Barabbas means "son of Abba." It can be translated  "son of the father." According to several old manuscripts, his first name was Jesus, a fairly common name in those days. So the people had to choose between Jesus, son of the father, who was a murderer, and Jesus,Son of His Heavenly Father, who came to bring life. They chose the son of Abba.

God was gracious to those people. Jesus died and rose again. So they had the opportunity to repent of their sin, believe on Jesus, and receive forgiveness

We have a somewhat similar choice. Jesus gave His life to be the one and only Saviour. Only the sacrifice of His life was good enough. He was the perfect sacrificial lamb. His blood, and only His blood, is sufficient to wash away our sin. We won't always have the choice, but we do have the choice now.

"As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." John 1:12.

Do it now.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Doctors should 'always care, never kill'

Brittany Maynard was the 29-year-old woman who chose assisted suicide in Oregon rather than suffer a slow decline because of a brain tumour.

Before her death she made two videos which went viral on YouTube. Not surprising, says the bioethics group BioEdge, as a professional story-telling consultant was employed as part of a multi-platform media campaign directed by a public relations firm on behalf of the assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices.

BioEdge quotes Ryan T. Anderson, of the Heritage Foundation:

"Allowing physician-assisted suicide would be a grave mistake for four reasons. First, it would endanger the weak and vulnerable. Second, it would corrupt the practice of medicine and the doctor-patient relationship. Third, it would compromise the family and intergenerational commitments. And fourth, it would betray human dignity and equality before the law. . .

"Doctors should help their patients to die a dignified death of natural causes, not assist in killing. Physicians are always to care, never to kill."

Here is a video by Maggie Karner, a woman with exactly the same complaint as Brittany Maynard, pleading with her not to take her life, but live. It is worth watching. You can see it here.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Deciding what's important

I have the idea there's going to be a General Election shortly. Politicians are going at it hammer and tongs on television, and people are being canvassed for their opinions on this, that and the other. I expect candidates will be knocking at my front door shortly.

They say the most important matter is the NHS, and after that, the economy. They are not the only things that are important.

David Cameron's Government, in redefining marriage as it has stood for centuries, has done the nation a grave disservice.

Eric Teetsel, director of the Manhattan Declaration ("A Christian manifesto in support of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and religious liberty"), puts it well: "As a Christian, I believe homosexual sex is one of the many forms of sexual activity God prohibits. Biblical norms are not arbitrary, but are based on God's design for human flourishing. Sin isn't just bad. It is harmful. Conversely, a life aligned with biblical principles will be prosperous.

"From this perspective, a person in a same-sex relationship is committing self-harm. Love for my neighbour compels me to fight against that harm, and to point the way towards life more abundant.

"The same applies to public policy. When our laws conform to biblical principles of justice and morality, we can expect society to thrive. When they don't, we can expect the opposite. Although you certainly don't have to be a Bible believer to understand marriage, basing public policy on a lie that contradicts God's design is a bad idea, and destined to fail catastrophically."

Marriage breakdown is causing social upheaval. Almost half of teenagers are not living with both natural parents.The results of family breakdown are costing £47 billion a year.

John Smeaton has worked for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children for 40 years, latterly as chief executive. He says evidence shows that marriage as an institution is fatally wounded by redefining it to include same-sex couples. "Those who suffer as a result are, above all, children. We are sacrificing children on the altar of adults' 'sexual rights.'

"Pro-life movements worldwide must work tirelessly to defend marriage and the family. The pro-lfe movement cannot possibly succeed in its efforts to end abortion if the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, is destroyed."

So here are the questions I am preparing for election candidates: "Before I vote, can you tell me if you support the appointment of a families' champion at Cabinet level? What view do you take of same-sex marriage? And" - for good measure - "where do you stand on abortion?"

Monday, March 23, 2015

Martyr's mother: I'm glad he kept the faith

You may have read about it. Islamic State militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians on a beach in Libya. Christians find it difficult to find employment in Egypt. These had gone abroad to find work.

The mother of one of the martyrs, Milad Makeen Zaky, says she is grateful her son stayed faithful to his Christian faith to the end. "From his childhood, he was going to Sunday school, reading the holy Bible, attending the prayer meetings in the church continuously. We thank God he kept the faith."

There is one thing that is difficult to understand. Prime Minister David Cameron says Islam is "a religion of peace" and Islamic State fighters are "not Muslims," but monsters. UK immigration minister James Brokenshire says terrorism and extremism "have nothing to do with Islam." French president Francois Hollande is quoted as saying that the Charlie Hebdo murderers "have nothing to do with the Muslim faith."

The point is that they are Muslims. And they do what they do precisely because of their Muslim faith. Why do politicians say things that surely they themselves don't believe?

Can it be because they find it more convenient to do so?

While we're on the subject, do watch the video of a 10-year-old Christian Iraqi girl in a refugee camp in Erbil who was forced to flee her home in Qaraquosh when Islamic State militants took over. She tells how she forgives them. It is reported to have reduced her interviewer to tears. You can see it here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Yells, jeers - and tears

A pro-life counsellor tells why she does what she does.

She was helping others look after an open-air pro-life display. Three young women decided to sit nearby and started yelling and making fun of hem. One of them shouted "Hey, I wanna talk to you, anti-abortion person."

She went over. The woman couldn't put her words together, stringing together question after question. "OK," she said, "just tell me why you're here. Like why do you hate abortion?"

As the woman grew more and more upset, the counsellor could tell the woman had had a personal experience with abortion. "Well," the woman said, "I think women should be able to kill it if they don't want it."

"So you think it's human then, and you recognise abortion is killing something?"

"No, it's just blood. Seriously, I know. I had an abortion." She grabbed her phone and held it to the counsellor's face. "See, it's just blood."

She had taken a photo of her own aborted baby. The baby was 15 weeks old. She turned to another photo. "Actually, you can see a leg and a foot in this one." You could, too.

The counsellor began to cry. She apologised to the woman, and said she couldn't help it. The woman's eyes welled up with tears too.
The counsellor gave the woman her telephone number and the address of a pregnancy counselling centre she could  contact for help when she was ready.
"I am confident that she will seek post-abortion healing," said the counsellor. "I trust God will take care of her. I will pray for her every day, as I know she is grieving.

"This is why I do what I do."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Child sex exploitation: We're to blame too

Realisation is beginning to sink in.

When the news broke about the sexual exploitation of young girls, vast numbers of them, by Asian gangs in Rochdale, in Rotherham, in Oxfordshire, it was a matter of finding someone to blame. It was the Muslim culture. It was the police, who hadn't done their job. It was social services, who didn't care.

There was criminal activity. Of that there is no doubt. The police had failed to take action, as a result of decisions by senior police officers. Social workers had chosen to ignore the situation, for whatever reason.  But it's now admitted that society was to blame too in making it possible. Society. That's you and me.

We said yes to easy divorce. We pretended cohabitation was as good as marriage, when all the evidence was to the contrary.

There was never enough sex education. We insisted  - and still insist - on explicit sex education to younger and younger children. We failed to prevent access to pornography. We provided free contraception and the morning-after pill for children long before they were old enough to consent to sex. When children became pregnant, we provided free abortion, and counsellors to see them through the abortion process so their parents wouldn't have to know.

We are reaping what we have sown. We have scorned Christian principles and gone for the opinions of secular humanists who pretend to be experts.

It's too late to undo the damage that has been done. But it's not too late to start again - with principles that work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A remarkable change of opinion

Fiona Bruce, a former lawyer, entered the House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 2010. She is pro-life. In November last year she proposed abortion law should be clarified to make it clear that abortion purely on the ground of the child's sex is illegal.

The Abortion Act did not specify this, because scans to determine sex were not available when the law was passed. The Government insisted that sex-selective abortions were illegal, but the British Medical Association and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said such abortions were sometimes justified. Sex-selective abortions were happening.

Ms Bruce's bill was passed by 181 votes to 1. Quite a majority. The BBC said it was unlikely to become law because of a lack of time.

On February 23 this year, Ms Bruce proposed the measure as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill. The amendment was defeated by 292 votes to 201. A review of sex-selective abortion was agreed on instead.

What happened in the meantime?

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper wrote to Labour MPs saying new legislation was not needed, and attempts to outlaw abortion on grounds of gender could have "troubling consequences."

Labour MP Robert Fiello said "It is concerning that an amendment that clarified what should be the law anyway is meeting with such vehement opposition. The reasons they have given are scaremongering nonsense."

 "Given how modest the amendment was, the sudden defeat was very strange indeed," wrote Dr Tim Stanley in the Telegraph. A number of charges had been made by MPs against the amendment that were based on either misunderstandings or outright falsehoods. "On the day of the vote, according to sources present, Ms Cooper stood by the entrance to the lobby telling MPs that 'We are voting no on this one.'"

Her office claimed she had not said this, but confirmed that she was strongly opposed to the amendment, and also favours putting "buffer zones" around clinics to stop people protesting outside them. (A campaign named "Back Off" has been organised to prevent people offering help to women approaching clinics. Not all women want abortions. Some do not see any other option.)

In the two weeks since the vote, I have pondered the change of mind. The abortion lobby generally favours abortion at any time for any reason. I am forced to the opinion that those in favour of abortion consider any attempt to change the law an attack on their efforts to achieve that goal. .

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


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."