Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year

I never used to observe New Year. While others were getting ready to celebrate, I went to bed. I didn't see the point. New Year's Day was just the same as the day before; the only thing that had changed was the date on the calendar.

Then I discovered, to my surprise, that although I didn't observe New Year, God did. I went to a church where they had the habit of holding a watchnight service on New Year's Eve. I found that God spoke to us during the service by leading us to Bible promises to direct us and encourage us in the year ahead.

New Year is a good time for looking back at what you did and what you didn't do. It's a good time for looking forward at what you're hoping to do and what you're hoping not to do. It's a good time for looking backward, looking forward and looking up.

May each one of you have a blessed and a prosperous New Year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The best gift of all

Lee Strobel is a well known American Christian writer. More than 30 years ago he was an atheist, working at that time as a reporter on the Chicago Tribune.

During his time there he wrote a series of articles about Chicago's neediest people. For one of them, he visited a 60-year-old grandmother named Perfecta Delgado, living in a tiny two-room flat with her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny, aged 11 and 13.

Their previous home had been gutted by fire. Here they had no carpet, no furniture except a small kitchen table, and just a handful of rice to eat. The girls had only one short-sleeved dress each and a thin sweater between them. When they walked in the bitter cold to school, one would wear the sweater half-way there, then hand it to her sister to wear the rest of the way.

Perfecta had arthritis and was unable to work. She did, however, have a faith in Jesus and spoke about Him often. She said she was convinced that He had not abandoned them. Though there wasn't much in the flat by way of material goods, there was, somehow, a gentle feeling of hope and peace.

Strobel talked with them, got the material for his article, and went his way.

On Christmas Eve he was on duty in the Tribune newsroom. It was a poor news day; nothing was happening. On a whim, he decided to go back to Perfecta's flat and see how they were doing.

One of the girls opened the door. He could scarcely believe his eyes. Inside the flat there were rugs, roomfuls of furniture, a Christmas tree, presents, piles of warm winter clothes and boxes and boxes of food, all of it sent by people who had read his newspaper article.

What surprised him even more was that Perfecta and the girls were preparing to give much of it away. Why, he wanted to know. "Our neighbours are still in need," said Perfecta. "We can't have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do."

Strobel asked her how she felt about the generosity of the people who had sent all the goods.

"This is wonderful," she said. "This is very good. We did nothing to deserve this. This is a gift from God.

"But it's not His greatest gift. We celebrate that tomorrow. That's Jesus."

Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Legalised euthanasia 'a mistake'

While we are on the subject of euthanasia, Els Borst, who was Dutch Health Minister when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia in the early Noughties, has now said that legalising euthanasia was a mistake, and they should first have focussed on palliative care.

Care for the terminally ill had declined, she said, since euthanasia became legal, and more should have been done to give legal protection to those who wanted a natural death.

In 2008, Dutch doctors reported 2,331 cases of euthanasia, 400 cases of assisted suicide and 550 deaths without request. There is, of course, no record of the cases that weren't reported.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Dutch Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said that even today effective palliative care was not in place in the Netherlands.

The country's politicians had denied there had been a "slippery slope." But how could you say that, he said, when euthanasia was originally only for the terminally ill and was now for the mentally ill and newborn babies?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A new turn in assisted dying battle

An unusual situation has occurred in the UK. For years, proponents of euthanasia have fought to have euthanasia made legal. For years, Parliament has refused to oblige.

Some few years ago, the euthanasia lobby changed tactic. It decided to press for assisted suicide to be made legal as a first step. Several bills were brought forward, but again Parliament declined to change the law.

Brits who wanted help to die travelled to an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland. Technically, relatives who accompanied them left themselves open to a charge of assisting a suicide. Police investigated the circumstances on their return, but none of the relatives were prosecuted.

Then a multiple sclerosis sufferer named Debbie Purdy, backed by the organisation that used to be known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society but changed its name to Dignity in Dying, went to the High Court requesting an assurance that her husband would not be prosecuted if he accompanied her on such a journey. Unsurprisingly, the High Court declined to give her such an assurance, and the Appeal Court agreed with that decision.

She appealed to the House of Lords. Lord Phillips, the senior law lord, announcing the Lords' decision, said the law was unclear and the Director of Public Prosecutions must state in what circumstances he would and would not prosecute. The DPP, Keir Starmer, did so, thus effectively allowing assisted suicide in some circumstances without a change in the law by Parliament.

Lord Phillips said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph: "I have enormous sympathy with anyone who finds themselves facing a quite hideous termination of their life as a result of one of these horrible diseases, in deciding they would prefer to end their life more swiftly and avoid that death as well as avoiding the pain and distress that might cause their relatives."

In the meantime, at very considerable expense, the position of highest court in the land was transferred from the House of Lords to the new Supreme Court, which has Lord Phillips as its president.

Entering into the story at this point is a remarkable lady named Alison Davis. She was born with severe spina bifida. She also suffers from hydrocephalus, emphysema, osteoporosis and arthritis. She is confined to a wheelchair, is doubly incontinent and sometimes has intractable pain. For 10 years she wanted to die and several times attempted suicide until friends persuaded her that her life was worth living.

She went to India to visit seriously disabled children and became "mother" to 130 of them. She established a charity to support them and learned Telugu so she could write to them in their own language. She is a committed pro-lifer and heads an organisation called No Less Human, which stands up for the rights of the disabled.

Ms Davis, backed by the Christian Legal Centre, is seeking to challenge the law lords' decision in the Purdy case in the Supreme Court. She said the DPP's guidelines not only are "unfair, unjust and fatally discriminatory against suffering people, who deserve the same presumption in favour of life as any able-bodied person would automatically receive," but have no place in a civilised society.

Her legal challenge says the "expression of the private 'political' view of Lord Phillips in the Daily Telegraph raises a question of apparent bias" and his personal sympathy invalidated the House of Lords decision. (A House of Lords judgment in a previous case regarding immunity of prosecution of Chile's General Pinochet was set aside because Lord Hoffman, one of the law lords, had links to Amnesty International.)

It further claims that "the decision of the former House of Lords is 'unconstitutional' and usurps the power of Parliament," and calls for the full Supreme Court to reconsider the Purdy case.

It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court responds.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The problems with global warming (3)

I have said that I do not believe in man-made global warming. I appear to be in good company. There are many who claim that there is no hard evidence for global warming, and even if there were, for the fact that man is responsible.

Melanie Phillips, for instance, points to the 700-plus international scientists who are critical of global warming theory. They have variously said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is telling lies about the relationship between climate change and hurricanes, that its ice-core research is wrong, and that its statements are "all a fiction" and "the biggest scientific scam ever," with "no evidence to prove that current climate variations are not a natural cycle."

A couple of weeks ago hackers obtained around 1,000 e-mails sent to or received by Professor Phil Jones, director of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia, and published them on the internet. The unit's work has been crucial in building the case for global warming.

The e-mails appeared to show that climate figures had been manipulated. What appeared to have happened was that scientists, rather than base their findings on the figures, had manipulated the figures to agree with what they thought was the case.

I am not an expert on climate. I want to make that quite clear. But there is one thing I do know.

Many years ago, after a worldwide flood, God said "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen 8:22).

That's God's promise.

The trouble is there are a lot of people who think they know better than God does, and even more people who are ready to believe them.

The problems with global warming (2)

Some 15,000 delegates, 45,000 green activists and 5,000 journalists will be in Copenhagen for the UN's climate change conference over the next 11 days.

It is estimated that the Climate Change Act, passed in the UK a year ago, will already cost Britain £18 billion, or £720 for every household in the country, every year between now and 2050. But that, it seems, is not enough.

A few weeks ago British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said negotiators had until the Copenhagen conference to save the world from global warming. The alternative to united action was a catastrophe of floods, droughts and killer heatwaves. The cost of failing to address global warming, he said, would be greater than the impact of two world wars and the Great Depression.

You might have thought the purpose of the conference was simply to consider whatever was responsible. Not so. A treaty had been prepared for signing at the conference, we are told, which would create a new global organisation with power, under the guise of saving the planet, to transfer money from one nation to another, and to enforce the conditions of the treaty.

The goal of the environmental movement, we are told, was to use climate change to bring the nations under the umbrella of an organisation with global governance.

Lord Monckton, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has argued that global warming hysteria was being advanced by the political left to impose global taxes on the United States in pursuit of international control of the US economy under a one-world government to be administered by the UN.

He told the Americans: "I read that treaty and what it says is that a world government is going to be created. The word 'government' actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity.

"The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to Third World countries, in satisfaction of what is called, coyly, 'climate debt' because we have been burning CO2 and they haven't. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement. . .

"Unless you stop it, your president will sign your freedom, your democracy and your humanity away forever."

It was reported that President Obama was "leaning toward not going" to the Copenhagen conference. Then that he would be there for the first days, but not at the end. Last week it was said he would not be there at the beginning, but at the end, when the decisions would be made.

So what will be decided at the Copenhagen conference? We shall soon know.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christ is the answer

What an age we live in!

One afternoon this week I was looking at a few recent news items. The Bank of England had loaned £61 billion of taxpayers' money to two banks without Parliament or the public being told. Representatives of 192 countries were about to meet in Copenhagen to consider spending vast amounts of money to prevent predicted global warming that isn't happening.

In the UK, convicted murderers were being allowed to sleep at home, apparently because of a lack of prison places. People guilty of causing grievous bodily harm, sexual assault and rape, including child rape, were being dealt with by being given a police caution.

Schools were failing to provide adequate teaching. Vast numbers of youngsters were leaving school without an adequate mastery of the three Rs.

On the evening of that same day I attended my first Christmas carol service this year. Standing by a Christmas tree in the bitterly cold outdoors in the centre of a little community not too far from my home with Christians who were singing carols with infectious joy, it hit me afresh.

He came. He did it. He lived, He died and He rose again.

He's alive today. He's coming soon. "Be of good cheer," He said, "I have overcome the world."

If you don't know Him personally, make His acquaintance this Christmas season.

"Come to me," He said, "all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Five minutes to midnight?

Pressure on Israel has been increasing. And Israel appears to be ready to compromise on some important issues.

This week, following pressure from the US, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a total freeze on building construction in Judea and Samaria for 10 months.

The following day Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot announced that the US now wants Israel to release a thousand Palestinian terrorists from prison, allow Palestinian paramilitaries to operate in areas at present under Israeli control, and surrender land in the Jordan valley to the Palestinians - all this before starting talks with the Palestinians.

According to the newspaper, if those talks begin, the US will insist that Israel accept a Palestinian state in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza and ethnically clean those areas of Jews.

Recently US National Security Adviser General James L. Jones said nothing was going to stand in the way of the creation of a Palestinian state. The time had come, he said, to relaunch negotiations without preconditions to reach a final status agreement on two states. He emphasised President Obama's personal commitment to this resolution.

When he was campaigning for the top job at the White House, Barack Obama said "We must isolate Hamas [the Palestinian terrorist organisation in charge in Gaza] unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognise Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements. There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organisations."

That appears now to be forgotten.

Javier Solana, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union, was talking some months ago about imposing a Palestinian state by UN resolution, if necessary without Israel's consent.

Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper says that according to Israeli officials the US was considering adopting a unilateral declaration by the Palestinians of an independent state in the West Bank and Jerusalem, regardless of negotiations with Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is said to have had positive meetings with EU states, including France, Spain, Sweden and the UK, with regard to the plan for the unilateral declaration of an independent state, and he is reported to have said the US did not oppose his plan.

When Israel's Prime Minister visited the US earlier this month, he was granted a meeting with President Obama only at the last minute. He was transported to the White House in a van, instead of the official vehicle which normally takes world leaders to meetings with the US President, and the White House issued no official photographs of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Israel is still faced with the possibility of attack from Iran, whose leadership has promised to wipe Israel off the map. While Iran rushes to stock nuclear weapons, the US and the EU do nothing to prevent it except continue to threaten sanctions.

Iran tests an advanced warhead design as it gets caught shipping weapons to Hezbollah. Syria is reported to give the group operational control over Scud missiles. It's five minutes to midnight.

Tyranny abhors a vacuum. While the US and the West dither in Hamlet-like fashion over whatever we shall do in places such as Afghanistan and Iran, the Axis of Evil is in full swing in its plans to destroy Israel and threaten Europe and America. . .

The time for dithering on Iran is over.

Iran is currently engaging in large-scale military exercises to protect its nuclear sites from a possible pre-emptive strike by Israel, and trying to pressure Russia for delivery of promised
S-300 anti-aircraft defence systems, which will make an attack on Iran's nuclear sites so much harder.

Pressure on Israel will continue to increase as Bible prophecy continues to be fulfilled.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting answers to prayer (again)

The Bible tells the story of Hannah. Hannah was dearly loved by her husband Elkanah, but she had a problem. She was barren. She had no children.

Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah, who evidently had no trouble having children, used to mock Hannah until Hannah was throroughly miserable. Why was Peninnah allowed to mock Hannah in this fashion? Because, I would suggest, Hannah needed to get desperate.

When she got desperate, she went to the temple and prayed. She promised if God would give her a son she would give him to the Lord all the days of his life.

When Eli the high priest saw her lips moving and no sound coming out, he thought she had been imbibing a little too freely and told her to leave off the drink. Hannah explained she was not drunk, but had been praying from the anguish of her soul. Eli blessed her, and prayed her prayer would be answered.

When Hannah left the temple, she wasn't sad any more. She knew she had touched home. She knew her answer was on its way.

When the child was born, she kept the promise she had made to the Lord. When the boy was weaned, she took him to the temple and gave him to Eli. The boy, Samuel, became the prophet in Israel. (You can read the story in 1 Samuel.)

There are two lessons from the story of Hannah. The first is that sometimes an answer to prayer can be delayed until it fits in with God's plans and purposes. The second is that sometimes, instead of just putting up with a situation, we need to get desperate. When we pray like we won't take no for an answer, things begin to happen.

Is that OK?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Britain's conspiracy of shame

On the subject of abortion, Chuck Missler, of Koinonia House, suggests that after decades of battling for the hearts and minds of America, the effects of millions of prayers are being felt.

Between faithful crisis pregnancy workers, technology that allows us to look inside the womb, and mothers who have hope for a better way, the tide is turning against abortion in the United States, he says. There are now officially more people in America who call themselves pro-life than pro-choice. . .

Abortion is losing its appeal all across the nation. A Gallup poll in May found that more than half (51 per cent) of Americans polled described themselves as "pro-life" and 42 per cent described themselves as "pro-choice." The self-described pro-lifers outnumbered pro-choicers for the first time since Gallup started polling on this question in 1995. . .

It is good to see hope for America's unborn children after decades of fighting. But the battle is not over. There are still more people who need to come to truly appreciate the value of even the youngest human life. There are millions of little ones still waiting to be born, and there are millions of mothers who will be much better off finding help so they can joyfully hold their babies in their arms. Keep praying.

What we have here in Britain is a Government-led conspiracy to see that abortion is made available to anyone who wants it.

The Government will tell you that an abortion is allowed only "if two registered medical practitioners certify in good faith that continuation of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated." Doctors (some are more conscientious than others, it must be said) sign consent forms at random, sometimes without even seeing the patient - and get paid for it.

Recently the ProLife Alliance won a long, drawn-out legal battle to force the Department of Health to reveal details of abortions carried out between 24 weeks of pregnancy and birth ostensibly on grounds of serious handicap. The Department of Health tried practically every trick in the book to prevent the information being made available.

The alliance said in a statement:

The most significant aspect of the tribunal decision is not so much the ruling re the disclosure of statistics as the damning assessment of the Department of Health's failure to regulate abortion.

The Department bears the full burden of enforcing abortion laws in this country, yet the tribunal highlights the absence of any mechanism for rigorous scrutiny of abortion referral forms, with no audit, spot checks, outside opinion or quality control of the basis for the terminations. It expressed particular concern that decisions were not scrutinised clinically or substantively and that no witnesses were able to point to a case where the diagnosis of a certifying doctor had ever been checked by the Department of Health.

Whilst the alliance is opposed to all abortions, it says, it would argue that at the very least there should be mechanisms in place to ensure conformity with the existing requirements of the Abortion Act.

I look forward to the day when many more people on this side of the Atlantic become seriously concerned about the barbarous practice of killing unborn babies.

You can make a difference

Mrs Mary Fox lived with her 17-year-old son Raum in Bodmin, Cornwall. Raum, who had learning difficulties, was bullied by local youths - to the extent that his mother walked with him to and from school.

On Guy Fawkes night, some youth put a lighted firework through the letterbox of their home. The firework set the house on fire. Three youths were seen laughing and mocking outside the house as flames shot out from the front door two feet into the air.

Raum suffered minor injuries as his mother pushed him through an upstairs window. His mother died in the fire.

What happened to them brings to mind the case of 38-year-old Fiona Pilkington, whose teenage daughter Francecca had severe learning difficulties. Local youths made their lives a misery for years. They shouted obscenities and threw missiles at the house; I don't know what they didn't do altogether. Ms Pilkington made 33 separate complaints to the police. The police and the local council apparently did nothing.

Eventually Ms Pilkington decided she couldn't take any more. She put her daughter in her car, drove to a quiet spot, doused the car in petrol, and with both of them sitting inside, ignited the petrol. Both died in the blaze.

I don't blame the British nation as such for getting into the state that it has, although a nation is made up of individuals, and every individual must be responsible for his own conduct. I don't blame the Government for everything that happens, although the Government has done little to stop it, and much of what it has done has only made things worse.

In large part, I blame the Christian church. I think the Christian church - of which I am a part - has not been what God intended it to be and has not lived as God intended it to live.

Please don't be discouraged. Be encouraged. Decide you are going to be the person God intends you to be and live like God intends you to live, letting your light shine into this nation's darkness so that you will make a difference.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A word from Dottie Rambo

The other night when I tuned in to a Christian TV station there was a recorded interview with Dottie Rambo. Dottie Rambo was a gospel singer who wrote thousands of gospel songs.

She appears to have had some times of heartache in her life. Perhaps it was during one of those times that she wrote the particular song she was discussing. I don't know the title of the song; I'm not too sure of the words. But the theme of the song was this: you've come too far to turn back now. You've fought too many battles. You've seen too many victories. You've seen too many suns go down to think about quitting at this stage in the game.

When God had finished sending plagues on Egypt and that colossal number of Israelites was on its way to the Red Sea there was still time to turn back. When the Israelites were camping by the Red Sea and they found themselves trapped between the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh's chariots behind them there was still time to turn back. But once they had crossed the Red Sea on dry land and the waters of the Red Sea had closed behind them, there was no going back.

Ahead of them was the wilderness. It wasn't going to be easy. The difference was that now they had their freedom. In Egypt, their lives had been dictated by the slavemaster's whip. Ahead, their lives would be subject to God's promises.

The Christian life is something like that. When you became a Christian, Paul says, you were delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His Son. It isn't all easy, being a Christian, but it's all glorious. I don't know if it happened that way with you, but when you became a Christian, someone should have told you you were going to be in a battle. "Be strong," Paul told Timothy, "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." The thing is you're on the winning side. "Thanks be to God," says Paul, "who always leads us in triumph in Christ" (2 Cor 2:14).

Starting the Christian life is not enough. We've got to run the race. We've got to finish the course. We've got to cross the line. That's the important thing: that we finish the course.

There may be a Christian reading this who has had a hard time and is feeling ready to quit. Don't do it. God knows where you live. He hasn't forgotten your address. He hasn't accidentally deleted your personal details off His computer database. He has a purpose for your life and He is preparing you for it. The most important deliverance of all may be just around the corner.

Besides, if you have experienced His deliverance and known His love, if you have, as it says in Hebrews, "tasted the heavenly gift. . . become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come," who are you going to go back to?

You mustn't give up. "He who endures to the end shall be saved." You might have a few bumps and bruises by the time you've done, but you need to reach the finishing line. You can't give up. You've fought too many battles. You've been delivered too many times. You've seen too many victories. You've come too far to quit now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The problems with global warming (1)

There always seems to have been someone to tell us either that we are about to enter a new ice age and get ourselves frozen to death or that the ice caps are going to melt, the earth is going to become desert and we are all going to be roasted to a frazzle.

I am old enough to remember how around 1970 Americans like Paul Ehrlich were telling us quite clearly that by the year 2000 there wouldn't be enough food to eat or air to breathe on the planet.

The latest scare, of course, has been man-made global warming. Governments appeared to fall for it. Unfortunately for the environmentalists, the arguments in its favour appear to be losing their potency. The BBC now says that for the last 11 years there has not been any increase in global temperatures. Over the past 11 years, in fact, I believe global temperatures have dropped.

More and more people have begun to see that there is no concrete evidence for man-made global warming, to the extent that environmentalists are no longer talking about global warming, but about climate change. Climate change, of course, includes not only global warming, but global cooling.

An attendee at an environmental conference recently complained that in any other sphere, people wanted to see independent verification of scientific findings; but if environmental organisers said something, it was taken as gospel.

What he wanted to see, he said, was journalists treating "big environmentalism" the same way they treated big politics, big government and big business. By asking the same questions. Like where's the money coming from to promote all this about man-made global warming? And who's channelling it?

Now there are some interesting questions. . .

Some atheists are no longer so sure

Chuck Colson points out in Christianity Today that while Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are producing books promoting their atheism, other British atheists are reconsidering the matter and coming to different conclusions.

Anthony Flew has concluded that evolutionary theory has no reasonable explanation for the origin of life and that atheism is not logically sustainable.

A. N. Wilson noticed people who insist we are "simply anthropoid apes" cannot account for things like language, love and music. That and the even stronger argument of how the Christian faith transforms individual lives convinced him that the religion of the incarnation is true.

Colson, who says faith and reason are not enemies, gets students to write four basic questions on a piece of paper: Where did I come from? What's my purpose? Why is there sin and suffering? Is redemption possible?

On the other side of the paper, they list philosophies and religions and examine how each philosophy or religion deals with the four questions and which best conforms to the way things really are. Students quickly see that only Christianity teaches that humans are created in the image of God and it is no coincidence that Christians have waged most of the great human rights campaigns.

People have a caricatured view of Christians, seeing them as followers, often hypocritical and judgmental, of an outdated book. But an explanation of why Christianity is so reasonable, says Colson, will open the mind, if not the heart, of many a doubter.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A hope worth having

Hope is what keeps people going. People in the Holocaust who lost hope died quickly, they tell me. Countless thousands who continued to hope perished too. But some who dared to hope survived, often in incredible circumstances.

People like Ruth Dobschiner, a nurse in Nazi-occupied Holland who lost all her family in the Holocaust but survived herself as a result of what seemed like a series of miracles. She came to faith while hiding in a Dutch attic. After the hostilities she moved to Scotland, and lived and worked in Glasgow for quite some years.

A couple of years ago I came across a bench dedicated to her name in a National Trust sanctuary south of Oban. I never did find out how it came to be there. One day, perhaps, I will.

Christians who have trusted Christ for His salvation have a hope more certain than the ground beneath their feet. One day this old world might be rolled up like an old blanket, but the hope we have who have trusted in Christ extends clean out of this world into the next.

The book of Hebrews speaks of those

. . . who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the inner part behind the veil,

where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus. . .

This hope, both sure and steadfast, goes beyond the veil into the very presence of God. Jesus is the forerunner. He has entered for us. His presence there is proof that those who own Him will be there with Him.

Whenever I read those words in Hebrews (and sometimes when I don't) I have a picture in my mind. The details may sound a little ridiculous, but the picture as a whole so clearly illustrates the point.

With me is a rope, perhaps of the sort that mountaineers use, but absolutely unbreakable. The rope goes from me up into heaven and over the windowsill of God's throne room (I told you the details of the picture were somewhat unbiblical). At the end of the rope is an anchor, and one arm of the anchor is caught around one of the legs of God's throne.

In other words, only if God Himself is overthrown can the hope He has provided fail.

Now there is a hope worth having.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Middle East tensions increase

Israel's situation becomes more difficult as the days go by. This week the United Nations Human Rights Council discussed the Goldstone commission's report into the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The report accused Israel of war crimes.

The council heard wildly antisemitic diatribes from Muslim nations. It also heard testimony that "the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."

The council approved the Goldstone report by 25 votes to six.

To give you an idea of the impartiality involved here, the Human Rights Council, in setting up the commission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, had called for "an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip."

In other words, Israel was condemned before the "independent, international fact-finding mission" began.

There has been rioting in Jerusalem in recent days.

In 1996 Israel decided to open an archaeological tunnel near the Western Wall. Palestinians claimed it was an attempt to attack a mosque on the Temple Mount and used it as an excuse for a season of violence, with Palestinian security forces, armed by Israel, opening fire on Israeli soldiers.

In 2000 Palestinians used the excuse of a visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon - a visit that had been agreed in advance with the Palestinian Authority - to start the second intifada, years of terror which left 1,500 Israelis dead.

This time Palestinian authorities claimed, without any evidence, that Israelis were seeking to worship on the Temple Mount and called Palestinians to flood the Temple Mount to protect the mosque there. Masked Palestinians threw stones at Israeli police; 18 policemen and 15 protesters were hurt.

Fatah leaders called on European governments and the US to condemn Israel's imaginary provocations. European governments - it would be funny if it weren't so serious - demanded Israel end its bad behaviour, and the US demanded that Israel explain itself.

There were claims that it was an attempt to start a third intifada. If it was, it doesn't seem quite to have caught on - yet.

The world has discovered that Iran had a further nuclear processing plant it hadn't got round to telling the International Atomic Energy Authority about. This was said to be proof that Iran intends to produce not nuclear energy, as it has always claimed, but nuclear weapons. Iranian president Ahmadinejad, who has promised to destroy Israel, remained defiant and Iran continued to test rockets which can reach Israel.

Israelis have said that if nothing is done to stop Iran producing nuclear weapons Israel will have to attack Iran's nuclear sites by the end of the year. No one seems to be doing anything effective to stop Iran's march to nuclear capability.

Meanwhile, Ray Gano provides more evidence of the Obama administration's pro-Arab sympathies and lack of concern for the Jews.

The Jews recently celebrated some of the most important days in the Jewish calendar - Rosh Hashanah, the 10 Days of Awe and the Day of Atonement. The United States Consulate in Jerusalem - Israel's capital - made no mention on its website of the Jewish festivals, but included greetings from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the US Consul General to the Muslims for the celebration of Eid.

Consulate staff explained that they are the US representative to the Palestinian Authority, while the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv is the US representative to Israel.

There is only one problem with that. The website of the embassy in Tel Aviv didn't mention the Jewish holy days either.

A tragedy 15 times over

According to the Daily Mail, a woman has admitted having had 15 abortions in a period of 17 years. The woman, an academic prodigy in her teens but from a troubled family, said the abortions were "an act of rebellion."

It's interesting that her abortions were punctuated by several attempts at suicide.

An abortion is decided on usually not to save the life of the mother, but for selfish reasons, like "My boyfriend told me I had to get rid of it," or "Having a baby now would ruin my career" or "This really isn't the right time for me to have a baby just now."

The tragedy is that each abortion takes a human life - a life given for a purpose. Each tiny person in the womb is a unique individual with a unique personality and a life never to be repeated.

While we are on the subject, if you would like to hear a magnificent pro-life song beautifully sung, click here. I really would encourage you to listen to this.

If you happen to be reading this and you are hurting or in need of help because abortion has touched your life, click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

There's a reason for it all

People with a "Where did Cain get his wife from?" kind of mindset who like to try to disprove God's word point out that if Eve was the mother of all living, then in order for humankind to continue, one of her sons must have married his sister, which was a sin.

That's where their logic comes unstuck. It wasn't a sin.

When Adam and Eve were created, their genes were perfect. The genes of their children would be near perfect.

By Moses' time, hundreds of years later, some defective genes would have got into the gene pool. It was then that God decreed that a person was not to marry a near relative.

If I were to marry someone outside my own family, their genes would be different to mine. A defective gene in me would be likely to be overcome by a good gene at the same point in my spouse, so that our children would not be affected.

If I married a close relative, our genes would be similar. A defective gene in me would be likely to be matched by a defective gene at the same point in my partner, so that our children would be genetically defective.

The more you understand about creation, the more you see the wisdom of God.

A nation's children betrayed

You may forget all the splendid words about education from the Government. Britain's children have been betrayed.

I remember with affection some of the teachers I had as a youngster. Like the teacher in my last year of junior school. Not only was she the school's headmistress; she also taught singlehandedly all the subjects to all the pupils in their last two years of junior school all jammed into one class. She had a cane but never used it. Discipline was never a problem. The children in her care were taught, and she had the best exam results in town.

It was in the 1960s that teachers began to introduce ideas and methods of teaching that everyone seemed to know were crazy except the teachers. As a result, examinations had to be downgraded and three-year university courses extended to four.

We have now got to the point where 63 per cent of white boys from low-income families and 54 per cent of black working-class boys can't read or write properly at age 14. English grammar is not considered important. Children are not taught to spell. Schools are now getting young teachers who can't teach children to spell because they can't spell either.

A leading exam board found last year's GCSE candidates didn't know how to write a letter. Undergraduates are arriving at university unable to write an essay. A study of students at Imperial College, London, found the English of British students was worse than the English of overseas students. British students made three times as many grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors as students from Singapore, China and Indonesia.

According to Harriet Sergeant in the Daily Mail, a third of all 14-year-olds have a reading age of 11 or below. One in five has a reading age of nine. Cuba, Estonia, Poland and Barbados have higher literacy rates than Britain.

Education in the UK is based on ideology, not evidence of what works. School inspectors no longer concentrate on the basics, but have to check that schools are complying with educational ideology and the latest Government initiative.

Because there is little incentive to learn, almost 60,000 children in England skip lessons every day. Boys aged between 10 and 16 commit 40 per cent of all street crime, 25 per cent of thefts from properties, 20 per cent of criminal damage and one third of car thefts, and all of them during school hours.

The concept of sitting pupils in rows of desks facing the teacher is widely considered too didactic, Ms Sergeant writes. Now, most primary schoolchildren sit at tables scattered about the classroom, as I saw for myself when I sat in on one class for a week in the East End of London.

On my table, the three children giggled, kicked each other and chatted. Their attention lay on what was in front of them: themselves. Somewhere on the periphery of our vision, the teacher walked about, struggling to keep order. Somewhere else, behind our heads, hung a whiteboard with work upon it, gleefully ignored by my table.

When I blamed the children's poor discipline and concentration on the layout, the teacher looked at me with horror.

'The pupils are working together, directing their own learning,' she said emphatically. . .

Children are now expected, for example, to be 'independent learners' in charge of their own education. ('Why do teachers keep asking me what I want to learn? How am I supposed to know?' one boy asked me in exasperation.)

Something needs to be done before the next generation comes along. Among other things, beginning to teach five-year-olds and six-year-olds to read would be a good thing.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Grace, grace, such wonderful grace

Susan Atkins, a follower of cult leader Charles Manson who confessed to stabbing heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate to death in 1969, has died after almost 40 years in prison. She was 61, and had brain cancer.

Her mother died of cancer when Susan was 15. Her father was said to be an alcoholic. While still in her teens, she was dancing in topless bars and using drugs. Then she met Manson.

Over the years she apologised many times for her actions and claimed to have found forgiveness in Christ. The last words she said in public were "My God is an awesome God."

Many people believe she did not deserve forgiveness. They are right. We are all sinners, and none of us deserve forgiveness. If we are forgiven, it is not because we deserve it, but because of God's wonderful grace.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Changed in the twinkling of an eye

It's remarkable how people will believe anything except the truth.

People who have no time for the Bible say they have discovered from a calendar of the ancient Maya civilisation of Middle America that the world is due to end on December 21, 2012.

Television channels are talking about it, books are being written about it, websites are discussing it and Hollywood is making a film about it.

I am told by people who study such things that the Mayan calendar does not say that the world will end, but suggests that because of the position of the planets in the solar system at that time there will be terrifying repercussions down here, with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and worldwide disasters. Some are now saying that life down here will end at that time.

Now I believe in Bible prophecy. After man first sinned, for instance, the Bible said that there would come a Saviour, divine, eternal, born of a woman, in Bethlehem, from the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of the tribe of Judah, of the house of David, at a time in accordance with the prophecy of Daniel. He would be despised and rejected of men, would die for the sins of the people, would be buried in a rich man's grave and would be resurrected. It happened. Other Bible prophecies have similarly been fulfilled.

Now does it not seem to you that if Bible prophecies that have been fulfilled have been fulfilled in such exact detail, then Bible prophecies which have not yet been fulfilled will be fulfilled in the same way?

There is one event prophesied in the Bible in greater detail perhaps than any other. (Whole chapters are devoted to it.) The Bible says that Jesus will come to earth a second time, not at the end of the world but at the end of this age, to deal with all those living who have not repented of their sins, to set up His earthly kingdom and to reign and rule, not just as King of the Jews, but as King of kings and Lord of lords.

We are not to set dates for His coming, but we are given signs of the time of His coming. There will be earthquakes, famines, wars and rumours of wars (Matt 24:6, 7). There will be signs in the sun, in the moon and in the stars, with men's hearts failing them for fear (Luke 21:25, 26). There is no reason to suppose this is countless years away.

The apostle writes in 2 Tim 3:1 - 5: "In the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power."

What period of time does that remind you of?

Now there is one thing that is to happen before Christ returns with His saints and His feet stand again on the Mount of Olives (He will return, the Bible says, to Jerusalem). He will take all those who belong to Him to be with Him.

This is described in 1 Cor 15:51, 52: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." We are told to be ready for that day.

It is described again in 1 Thess 4:13 - 18:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you should sorrow as others who have no hope.

If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Therefore comfort one another with these words.

My favourite bit there is the last part of verse 17: "And thus we shall always be with the Lord."

What a prospect!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wanted: a second William Booth

Britain, alas, seems to have done it again. The Daily Mail reports:

A vast study of youngsters' wellbeing in 30 industrialised nations ranked Britain among the worst for health, lifestyles and school standards relative to public spending levels.

Under-age teenagers in Britain are more likely to get drunk than those in any other country, and the proportions of teenage mothers and single-parent families are amongst the highest in the survey.

In "risky behaviour" - a combination of drinking, smoking and teenage pregnancy - Britain's performance is worse than all nations other than Turkey and Mexico.

Educational achievement is low given the billions poured in by Labour, with more than one in 10 youngsters aged 15 to 19 not in school, training or work. This is the fourth highest rate in the 30 countries. Only Italy, Turkey and Mexico perform worse. . .

The report, published by the economic think tank the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, compared data from 30 leading countries on children's welfare. . .

Teen drunkenness, as measured by the number of youngsters aged 13 and 15 who have been drunk at least twice, tops the league table at 33 per cent.

By an apparent coincidence, the letters page in the same issue of the same newspaper contained a letter from a Derek Hanna, of Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim. It said:

One of the nation's greatest sons, William Booth, once said: "The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, politics without God, salvation without regeneration and heaven without hell."

No wonder the nation is in such decline and the future looks so bleak.

The only hope, the letter said, is that God will raise up another William Booth. Or another John Wesley.

May it be so.

No feet, no footprints

It would be difficult to find someone these days who hasn't heard of man-made global warming, polar bears under threat and the need to reduce carbon footprints to save the planet. Forgive me if I sound flippant in talking about it: frankly, I don't believe it. (Actually, I hear the climate is getting colder.)

A British population control group has had an idea: stop babies being born so they won't be able to produce carbon footprints. The Optimum Population Trust from the London School of Economics points out that a lot of births are unplanned.

A report commissioned by the trust claims that contraception is almost five times cheaper than conventional so-called green technologies, so the trust is calling for birth control to be included in funding for climate change in order to reduce the number of unintended births.

Said Anthony Ozimic, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children: "Whatever the evidence regarding man-made global warming, the right to life and the right to found a family are fundamental, universal human rights enshrined in legally binding international conventions. Will the members of the Optimum Population Trust please tell us which of their children should not have been born in order to save the earth?"

That reminds me of a married mother of three children I knew of who became pregnant a fourth time. She went to see her doctor and explained that she didn't really want more than three children.

"Well, let's see," said the doctor. "Of the three children you have at home, which one shall we get rid of?" The woman was horrified.

"Well," said the doctor, "the one you have in the womb is just as alive as the other three, so why not get rid of one of the older ones?"

The woman put away all thoughts of an abortion. She is now an active pro-lifer.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Obama, Israel and the Palestinians

I understand that when Barack Obama became US President he gave himself two years to resolve the Israel/Palestinian issue. There's optimism for you.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who became Israel's Prime Minister not too long ago, was said not to favour a two-state plan. Israel was under pressure from the US to agree to just that.

After careful consideration, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would agree to two states on two conditions: first, that the Palestinians would recognise the Jewish state's right to exist, and second, that the Palestinian state would be a demilitarised state so that it would not be able to attack Israel.

The Palestinians' response was not long in coming. Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas, said the Israeli leader's speech "torpedoes all peace initiatives in the region."

Another Abbas aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said recognition of Israel's Jewish character was a demand for Palestinians "to become part of the global Zionist movement." Hamas said the speech reflected Mr Netanyahu's "racist and extremist ideology."

Kifah Radaydeh, a Fatah official, rather let the cat out of the bag. She said the Palestinian Authority will resume violence and terror against Israel when Fatah is "capable" and "according to what seems right." "It has been said that we are negotiating for peace," she said, "but our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; our goal is Palestine."

At its recent conference in Bethlehem, Fatah, the so-called moderate wing of the Palestinians - perhaps emboldened by encouraging sounds from President Obama - embraced the Aksa Martyrs terror group as a Fatah organisation, endorsed the use of terrorism against Israel, demanded that all terrorists be released from Israeli prisons as a precondition to "peace" talks and decided that their national enterprise would not be achieved until not only Judea and Samaria but the whole of Jerusalem was cleansed of Jews and under Palestinian sovereignty.

President Obama does not have much cause for optimism. There are 22 Arab nations surrounding Israel with a combined population of more than 300 million, compared with Israel's five million Jews - a ratio of 58 to one. The Arabs have 5,300,000 square miles of land, compared with the Jews' 8,000 square miles - a ratio of more than 660 to one. But they are not concerned with the land they have. They want the bit Israel has.

In considering the issue, there are a number of other things to think about. First, the US has placed extreme pressure on Israel to cease building of any kind on land it hopes will be given to the Palestinians for a Palestinian state. (Imagine being told by another nation when you are able and not able to build on your land). Such building is said to be a stumbling block to peace. The real stumbling block to peace, however, is not Israeli building but the fact that the Palestinians refuse to accept the right of Israel to exist.

Second, Benjamin Netanyahu is pressured to negotiate with the Palestinians. How do you negotiate with someone who refuses to accept your right to exist and is still sworn to destroy you?

The third and most important fact is one that politicians of all kinds appear either to deny or to ignore. In the Bible, God calls the land of Israel "my land," a phrase He does not use to describe any other portion of land on the planet. The Bible makes it clear that God has given the land for an everlasting possession to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants - in other words, the Jews.

Try Gen 17:7, 8, 19 -21; Gen 28:13 - 15 and Gen 35:9 - 15. Or 1 Chron 16:15 - 22. Or Psa 105:8 - 12.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Well done the NHS

Britain's National Health Service has had some criticism recently, and often deservedly so. But the NHS does provide free treatment where it's needed, and sometimes it does an excellent job. Where praise is deserved, praise, as well as criticism, is in order.

Scott and Michelle Stepney, who live in Cheam in Surrey, had a four-year-old boy when Michelle found she was pregnant with twins. At 19 weeks of pregnancy, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Current medical practice was immediate surgery, which would end the lives of the babies but virtually guarantee the mother's long-term survival. Michelle was given a stark choice: choose between her life and the lives of the babies.

Scott and Michelle spent the next few days in a turmoil of indecision. Scott wanted his wife alive. Michelle was hysterical with grief.

"I had my son Jack, who I adored," she said, "but these babies were already part of me. I had seen their faces on the scan. I was their mother. I was meant to protect them. How could I agree to their deaths just to save me? It felt like agreeing to murder."

Michelle pleaded with her cancer nurse at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Surrey for further help.

The Royal Marsden has an MRI scanner that is not only one of the most powerful in the country, but can provide clear close-up images.

According to the Daily Mail, 30 specialists, including obstetricians, gynaecologists, pathologists, surgeons, psychologists and a pioneering radiologist, armed with an extremely clear scanned image which showed where the tumour was and what type it was, met together to consider Michelle's case.

They devised a radical programme of low-grade chemotherapy which it was hoped would contain the development of the tumour without harming the babies until the babies were big enough to be delivered by Caesarean section. Michelle agreed to the programme.

At 33 weeks, Michelle went into premature labour and gave birth to twin girls, weighing 3lb 11oz and 3lb 5oz. She then had a hysterectomy.

Now two years later, the two girls are fine and Michelle doesn't have cancer. She is subject to six-monthly check-ups, but the cancer is gone.

Three lives saved, you might say, and a very grateful family.

Like I said, credit where credit's due.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Living with Big Brother

The United Kingdom is becoming more of a Big Brother state by the day. The Government has brought 3,500 new offences into law in the past 12 years.

Town hall officials, I'm told, now have a legal right to enter your home to see what you're up to. A request is made every minute to snoop on someone's phone records or e-mail accounts; laws designed to combat terrorism are being used by local councils to spy on people suspected of things like fly tipping; and CCTV cameras are everywhere.

Once upon a time, the local council removed your rubbish as a service to the public. Now householders appear to be here to serve the local council. We have four differently coloured wheelie bins at our home, and town hall despots have been issuing fines to old people for putting the wrong piece of rubbish in the wrong bin.

These are serious matters: something needs to be done. But it's important we don't become paranoid about it. So I was still able to enjoy the joke at Vital Signs' blog.

An old farmer named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in West Texas when suddenly a brand new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me one of them?"

Bud looks at the man quizzically, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and smiles. "Sure, why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone and surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an e-mail on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC-connected Excel spreadsheet with e-mail on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturised HP LaserJet printer, turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"Well, that's exactly how many animals I've got," answered Bud. "So I guess you can take one of 'em if you want."

He watches the young man select the animal closest to him and looks on with some genuine consternation as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Bud says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back that animal?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a bureaucrat working for a government agency," says Bud.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required," answered Bud. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of dollars worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; but you don't really know a thing about how working people make a living. You certainly don't know nothin' about cows, that's for dang sure."

"How can you say that?" said the exasperated politician.

"Well, you see, feller," answered Bud, "this here is a herd of sheep.

"Now, will you give me back my dog?"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A matter of definition

What is a Christian? A Christian is someone who goes to church. No, that can't be right. A Christian might well go to church, but going to church doesn't make someone a Christian.

Well a Christian is someone who lives a good life and tries to help others. No, that can't be right either. A Muslim could do that. Or a Buddhist. Or an atheist.

Then a Christian is someone who believes in God and believes the doctrine of the church. Well, not necessarily. Some people have been brought up in the doctrine of the church and they've not been Christians. They've been scoundrels.

Then what is a Christian? Here is a definition I like. A Christian is someone who knows Jesus, who loves Jesus and who serves Jesus.

Christianity isn't just a religion, it's a relationship. Before the Fall, Adam had fellowship with God in the garden. Then Adam sinned, and sin broke the connection. Jesus lived a perfect life and died to pay the price of sin, to make a way through Christ for man to come back into a personal relationship with God.

A Christian is someone who has realised that Jesus is alive. (Remember, the early Christians had trouble convincing people that Jesus was alive.) A Christian has had a meeting with Jesus in which he has given his life to Christ and Christ has changed his life, and continues to change it.

A Christian is someone who has realised he was a sinner without a Saviour, a sheep without a shepherd. A sheep who has chosen to come through the Door back into the sheepfold. A sinner who has come home.

The good news is that whosoever will may come.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hoping for heaven?

I hear that some people around here are saying that it is impossible to know that you are going to heaven.

That's not true.

You can know that you are going to heaven without a shadow of a doubt. Not because of what you are or what you've done. Those things won't get you to heaven. But because of what Jesus did for you by dying in your place on an old rugged cross two thousand years ago; because you have believed it and received it and because you are trusting in His unshakeable promises. Look at the Scriptures, like John 3:36; 5:24; 10:27, 28; 14:1-3; Rom 10:9; 2 Tim 1:12; 1 John 2:3 - 5, and be encouraged.

I have a growing conviction that there two things that we ought to be doing in these days. The first is fulfilling the Great Commission: going into all the world and preaching the good news of the gospel.

The second is living in the light of eternity. It seems to me that there are a lot of Christians who know that their sins are forgiven, know that they are going to heaven, know that their future is secure, but who are living entirely for this life, with little or no thought of where they are going to be or what they are going to be doing in eternity. This life is short; eternity is a long time. This life is preparation for what's to come.

My friend Denny Hartford is an American, a Christian and a pro-life activist. He writes a regular blog. He gets more done in a day than I do in quite a bit longer than that (but then he's a few years younger than I am). Among other things, he helps out as a teaching pastor at a church in the city where he lives.

On Sundays, the church normally meets just once, as I understand. But recently he invited the congregation to join him on Sunday evenings in a series of studies based on a remarkable book called Heaven by an excellent Christian author named Randy Alcorn. What a wonderful idea for a church!

If there isn't anything like that at your church, why not start a similar study at home with your own family? I don't know if they will have the book at your local Christian bookstore, but I notice they have it at Amazon.

Some Christians believe that when they die, they are going to heaven for ever. Other Christians point out that there's going to be a new earth, and suggest, on the basis of Rev 21:1 - 3, that God's ultimate purpose is not to get people to heaven, but to get them to the point where He can come down to earth and dwell in the midst of His people. And where, they might ask, are you going to be when Jesus comes to earth a second time, as He promised (1 Thess 4:17; Jude 14)?

But if we talk about those things, it's going to have to be another time. . .

Saturday, August 08, 2009

How you can prove the existence of God

When Frederick the Great asked for proof of the existence of God, someone said to him "Sir, the Jews." So the story goes.

The Old Testament tells how God made the Jews His own chosen nation. One thing He required of them was obedience. If they were not obedient, He said, He would scatter them through the nations of the earth. They were not obedient, and God kept His promise.

No other people have ever lost their nationhood and their land and retained their national identity. Within two generations, all the people who have lost their land have been assimilated into the nations around them. But after two thousand years of exile, the Jews are still Jews.

The same God who promised that He would scatter the Jews also promised in the Old Testament - not once, but multiple times - that He would bring them from the east, the west, the north and the south back to their own land.

The Jews are the only people in world history who, having lost their land and their statehood, have gone back to their own land and become a nation again, rebuilding the old cities, calling them by their old names, even speaking their own language. Israel became a nation again in 1948.

"Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once?" Isaiah asks in Isa 66:8. If it's Israel it can.

And how about this, in Amos 9:14, 15:

"I will bring back the captives of my people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,"
Says the Lord your God.

The surrounding Arab nations have made war against Israel in 1948, in 1956, in 1967, in 1973. Each time Israel has been completely, hopelessly, utterly outnumbered. Each time Israel has fought back and won.

You can't explain the Jews without God.

Now God Himself challenges you to prove Him. See Isa 44:6 - 8:

"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
'I am the First and I am the Last:
Besides me there is no God.
And who can proclaim as I do?
Then let him declare it and set it in order for me,
Since I appointed the ancient people.
And the things that are coming and shall come,
Let them show these to them.
Do not fear, nor be afraid;
Have I not told you from that time, and declared it?
You are my witnesses,
Is there a God besides me?
Indeed there is no other Rock;
I know not one.'"

Notice "Who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order. . ." In other words, who can tell not only what has happened, but what is going to happen in the future, and be right every time? Only the One who can see the end from the beginning.

When He writes down centuries ahead of time what's going to happen and it happens just like He says, that's proof that God exists.