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.
     

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.